NCAA Tournament scores, winners and losers: USC and UCLA win to give Pac-12 three teams in Elite Eight – CBS Sports
It’s been well-documented by now just how wild the NCAA Tournament has been. All you need to do is look at the Midwest Region, where No. 12 seed Oregon State has advanced to the Elite Eight, to know there has been some havoc wreaked in this tournament by unexpected contenders.
But for all the chaos we’ve seen, three of the four. No. 1 seeds are still standing for the Elite Eight. Gonzaga and Michigan did not just merely advance on Sunday but actually dominated quality foes to keep their special seasons afloat. With fellow No. 1 seed Baylor also in the Elite Eight, this NCAA Tournament has proven just how dominant that trio has been at the top of the sport this season.
The three appeared destined to secure No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament for weeks before Selection Sunday, and they all employ similar formulas. Each rely heavily on veterans, have more than just a single star player and are generally excellent 3-point shooting teams. Though No. 1 seed Illinois was upset in the second round, the Illini’s peers are still dancing, and Sunday’s results suggested the top dogs still have plenty of fight left.
But the No. 1 seeds aren’t the only group of three dancing on. More on that in just a second as we get to winners and losers from Sunday’s Sweet 16 action.
Winner: The conference of champions
The Pac-12’s “conference of champions” nickname gets used as a punchline, but the league’s success in this NCAA Tournament is no laughing matter. Even with its best-seeded team, No. 5 seed Colorado, exiting in the second round, the conference has thoroughly outperformed every other league in the tournament. No. 6 seed USC, No. 11 seed UCLA and No. 12 seed Oregon State are all dancing on to the Elite Eight. No other league has more than one team remaining.
If Alabama had beaten UCLA, both the SEC and Pac-12 would’ve had two teams in the Elite Eight. But the Bruins notched yet another huge victory for the conference.
UCLA’s NCAA Tournament run just crossed from impressive into the territory of legendary with a thrilling 88-78 overtime victory against No. 2 seed Alabama. The Bruins have now won four games in the NCAA Tournament after losing last season’s leading scorer, Chris Smith, to injury after just eight games this season. Even without Smith and five-star point guard Daishen Nix, who opted out of his letter of intent to join the G League, this team has pressed on. In just two years on the job, Mick Cronin has made UCLA a team to fear again, and with top-50 prospects Peyton Watson and Will McClendon on the way, it seems like UCLA is poised to keep rising. But this run is not over just yet.
Loser: The Tide recedes
Alabama received attention all season for its willingness to take — and ability to make — a ton of 3-pointers. What we failed to discuss with this team, however, was free-throw shooting. But basketball is a game of fundamentals, and the fundamental element of free-throw shooting failed this team when it mattered most on Sunday. The Crimson Tide made just 11-of-25 free throws for the game and just 2-of-8 over the last 7:26. After shooting a respectable 71.9% entering Sunday’s game, the collapse at the line was surprising. That’s the sort of think that will haunt you for an entire offseason.
Winner: Gonzaga’s balance on display
When your leading scorer takes just one shot in the entire first half and you’re up by 10 points on a quality opponent, that’s one sign you may have a well-balanced team. That was the case for Gonzaga on Sunday, as it dominated on the perimeter and in the paint for an 83-65 victory over Creighton. Corey Kispert scored just two points in the first half while Drew Timme and Andrew Nembhard scored 12 apiece. In the end, Gonzaga’s five starters each scored between nine and 22 points as the Bulldogs advanced to the Elite Eight with a relatively painless performance that showcased once again just how balanced this team is.
Loser: Creighton goes cold
Creighton never led during its lopsided loss to No. 1 seed Gonzaga on Sunday, but halfway through the first half, it was only a three-point game in favor of the Zags. Led by a hot start from Bluejays star Marcus Zegarowski, Creighton was — against all odds — hanging around.
But as it learned the hard way in a hurry, Gonzaga is … different. It closed on a 16-8 run to finish off the half. Then coming out in the second half, it really turned on the jets, as Gonzaga more or less put the game out of reach and within its grasp relatively early.
“The start of the second half was huge for us,” said Creighton coach Greg McDermott. “We really felt like for us to have an opportunity we had to win that first four minute timeout, and instead they were able to take that lead from 10 to 14. Then it’s an uphill battle against a team like that.”
Exacerbating the sluggish second half start was Creighton’s putrid, uncharacteristic shooting. After making three 3s in the opening 10 minutes of the game, the team made just two 3s over the final 30 minutes of action, finishing 5-of-23 from distance.
“We had some decent looks,” McDermott said. “We talked all week like ‘you have to score to play with Gonzaga.’ And we just didn’t score enough.”
Winner: Michigan dominates the paint
Michigan entered Sunday’s Sweet 16 showdown having made nine 3-pointers in a first round victory over Texas Southern and 10 in a second round win over LSU. But the No. 1 seed Wolverines came by their 76-58 victory against Florida State on Sunday in a different way: Michigan outscored the Seminoles 50-28 in the paint. In fact, the Wolverines’ starters combined for just one 3-pointer in the game and the Wolverines shot just 3-of-11 from beyond the arc in total. Center Hunter Dickinson and forwards Franz Wagner and Brandon Johns Jr. combined for 41 points.
The game was a great example of why Michigan is so dangerous. Even without much working from the outside, the Wolverines still managed to dominate a quality foe with its deep group of scorers comfortable with attacking at different levels.
Loser: Florida State’s surprising dud
After an impressive second round thrashing of Colorado, Florida State was a trendy pick to upset Michigan. But this Seminoles squad picked the wrong time to struggle shooting the basketball. With Michigan dominating the interior, FSU needed to get hot from beyond the arc to have a chance, but it made just 5-of-20 tries from 3-point range. For a team that entered ranked 16th nationally in 3-point shooting percentage at 38.2%, an 0-for-7 first half was just too much to overcome.
It was still a great season for the Seminoles, but this loss will leave fans still wondering what the 2019-20 team might have accomplished in the NCAA Tournament. That team was 26-5 when the season was canceled, and it had a pair of first-round draft picks in Patrick Williams and Devin Vassell.
It shouldn’t be too difficult for Indiana to rally its fan base behind new coach Mike Woodson, a former head coach of the Knicks and Hawks and current Knicks assistant. He was a legendary player for the program under Bob Knight and could, theoretically, do with Indiana what Juwan Howard has done with Michigan. Howard is a former Wolverines star with a long NBA resume who has guided Michigan to the Elite Eight in just his second season as coach.
But Woodson is pretty clearly the fallback plan for Indiana after the Hoosiers reportedly pursued Celtics coach Brad Stevens and Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann.
There is also a big difference in the condition of the programs Howard inherited at Michigan and what Woodson is walking into at Indiana. Howard succeeded John Beilein, who left on his own accord for the NBA after three straight runs to the Sweet 16 or deeper. By contrast, Woodson will be inheriting a roster that is in shambles after Archie Miller’s firing this month sent several players to the transfer portal. Could Woodson work out, sure? But IU fans are in for frustration if they try and compare his timeline for success with what Howard is doing at Michigan.
How much is an NIT title really worth? It’s hard to say, because there appears to be little correlation between winning the NIT and then parlaying that into great NCAA Tournament success the following year. But after Sunday’s 77-64 NIT title victory over Mississippi State, there is no denying that Memphis has momentum. The Tigers won 11 of their final 13 games, and their two losses in that stretch were by a combined five points to a Houston team that is playing in the Elite Eight. If Memphis had won either of those heartbreaking games against Houston, it likely would have made the NCAA Tournament field. But hoisting the NIT trophy is a decent consolation prize for a team that looks ready to turn a corner in coach Penny Hardaway’s fourth season.