Did you already lose out on the $1 billion perfect bracket challenge? If so, you’re not alone, as Thursday’s second round NCAA men’s basketball tournament play was a bracket buster’s delight all around, including some nail-biting games that could have dramatically altered the landscape for the remainder of “March Madness.”
There were a number of upsets, including South 11th seed Dayton hitting a buzzer-beater with no time left on the clock to defeat sixth seed Ohio State, 60-59; West No. 12 North Dakota State likewise getting a three-pointer by Lawrence Alexander in the waning moments to secure an overtime session - and eventually a victory - over fifth-seeded Oklahoma, 80-75, and East 11th seed Harvard University maintained a steady, if slender lead throughout their contest with sixth seed Cincinnati to outlast the Bearcats, 61-57. For Harvard, it’s their second victory in the tournament and only the second time an Ivy League team has won NCAA tournament games in consecutive years since Princeton in 1983-84.
For Crimson head coach Tommy Amaker, it was a sweet return to the tourney, and one that has caught the eye of other teams - one being Boston College who, after releasing head coach Steve Donahue this past week, are reportedly planning to approach Amaker after the season to secure him as Donahue’s replacement.
There were also games that were very near upsets. East No. 7 Connecticut needed an extra frame to subdue a seemingly relentless tenth-seeded St. Joseph’s squad, 89-81; West 13th seed New Mexico State, who scored only 20 points in the first half, charged back to force an overtime session with the Aztecs of San Diego State, but eventually came up short, 73-69, and the fifth seed Saint Louis Billikens also needed overtime to defeat the momentum-charged North Carolina State Wolfpack, 83-80.
North Dakota State had, in the last minutes, sustained the loss of arguably its best player, Taylor Braun, to fouling out. But after the Bison secured the win, he was effusive about his teammates picking him up - particularly guard Lawrence Alexander who, before hitting the three that tied the game at 66, told Braun that he’d be on the wing if he needed him. And the resulting three set the stage for a gutty overtime win by NDSU.
For Dayton, the Flyers’ Dyshawn Pierre was fouled attempting a three-pointer with less than a half-minute remaining and proceeded to hit all three shots from the foul line. Ohio State’s Aaron Craft, with 17 seconds remaining, charged the court and lobbed in a reverse-layup to put the Buckeyes ahead, 59-58. Then, with seconds remaining, Dayton guard Vee Sanford banked in a shot to secure the Flyers’ victory, 60-59. It was a wrenching loss for the Big Ten team that had won its first fifteen games of the season handily, but had suffered considerable inconsistency in the second half with its conference schedule. Ohio State has now lost in the first round for only the third time in 26 tournament appearances.
As to the remainder of the field, high seeds moving on included South top seed Florida, who fought off a scrappy Albany team, 67-55; Midwest second seed Michigan, who outlasted Wofford, 57-40; South No. 3 Syracuse, who decimated Western Michigan, 77-53; Midwest fourth seed Louisville, who beat 13th seed Manhattan; East No. 4 Michigan State, who handily defeated Delaware, 93-78, and East second seed Villanova, who easily won over Milwaukee, 73-53. The winners will now advance to the third round, which starts on Saturday.