That’s tough for a defending champion in the men’s NCAA tournament.
Arkansas’ 72-71 victory over Kansas extended a remarkable streak for the reigning national champions. The Jayhawks are now the sixth straight national title winner to be eliminated on the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament the following year.
The last defending champion to advance to the third weekend of the tournament is Duke in 2016. The Blue Devils were a No. 4 seed that season and beat No. 13 UNC Wilmington and No. 12 Yale before losing to No. 1 Oregon in the Sweet 16. Since then, the tournament performances of the defending champions have gone as follows:
2017 Villanova: Lost in the second round to No. 8 Wisconsin as the No. 8 seed
2018 North Carolina: Lost in second round to No. 7 Texas A&M as No. 2 seed
2019 Villanova: Lost in second round to No. 3 Purdue as No. 6 seed
Virginia 2021: Lost in first round to No. 13 Ohio as No. 4 seed
2022 Baylor: Lost in second round to No. 8 North Carolina as No. 1 seed
2023 Kansas: Lost in second round to No. 8 Arkansas as No. 1 seed
Kansas kept Arkansas at arm’s length during the first half before the Razorbacks’ chaotic style began to give the Jayhawks real offense. The error-filled game featured 23 errors as four players were fouled and four others finished with four errors.
The foul party made it appropriate for the game to be decided at the free throw line. Arkansas’ Ricky Council IV made five free throws in the final 24 seconds and made four straight after getting a key offensive rebound on a missed free throw.
If Kansas were to make a deep run in this year’s tournament, it was going to be with a team that barely resembled the one that cut down the nets in 2022. Jalen Wilson averaged 20 points per game this season as Kansas’ leading scorer after averaging 11 for a season ago. With players like Ochai Agbaji and Christian Braun in the NBA, rookie Grady Dick and Texas Tech transfer Kevin McCullar played big roles, and big man KJ Adams went from five minutes per game a season ago to 27 games this year.
The rebuilt team was very good. Kansas won the regular-season Big 12 title again, but showed some mistakes down the stretch, getting swept twice by Texas in eight days. A talented but underachieving Arkansas was also a bad matchup for the Jayhawks, as the Hogs were able to match up well with Kansas all over the court and pressure the Jayhawks in the second half.
Here’s what you need to know to catch all the big things that happened on the third day of the men’s and women’s NCAA tournaments.
Princeton continues its run for the No. 15 seed
Princeton became the third No. 15 seed in as many years to advance to the Sweet 16 with a 78-63 win over Missouri.
The Ivy League champions absolutely dominated Missouri on the glass and took 15 back for the Tigers. Princeton also made 12 3-pointers as it blasted Missouri’s zone defense in the second half. A Missouri team that relies on turnovers and outside shooting didn’t force Princeton into any sloppy possessions and shot poorly from three.
Four No. 15 seeds have made the Sweet 16 in men’s NCAA Tournament history, and they’ve all done so in the last decade. Florida Gulf Coast was the first in 2013 before Oral Roberts in 2021 and St. Peter’s in 2022.
The Peacocks were the first No. 15 seed to reach the Elite Eight when they took down Purdue a season ago. And it’s not hard to see how Princeton could do the same if they keep coming back like they have against both Arizona and Missouri
Louisville avoids a third 12-over-5 upset
Louisville narrowly missed being the third No. 5 seed to fall to a No. 12 seed in the women’s NCAA Tournament.
The Cardinals beat Drake 83-81 after a fourth quarter that featured 54 combined points. Louisville took the game off a slick layup with 20 seconds left when Hailey Van Lith converted an and-one to give the Cardinals a four-point lead.
Van Lith scored 26 points on 10-of-20 shooting from the field as Mykasa Robinson added 14.
Earlier in the day, Florida Gulf Coast beat Pac-12 tournament champion Washington State 74-63 as Sea Carter scored 24 points and grabbed six rebounds. The Eagles’ upset came just before Toledo took down Iowa State 80-73. The Rockets pulled away from Iowa State in the second quarter and held the Cyclones at bay in the second half thanks to some phenomenal free throws.
A day of big comebacks
Double-digit leads weren’t as assured as they usually are Saturday in the women’s NCAA tournament.
No. 9 Miami came back from 17 points down at halftime to beat No. 8 Oklahoma State 62-61. The Cowgirls had a shot at the buzzer to win after a five-second layoff in Miami, but it bounced harmlessly off the rim.
Hours later in Seattle Regional 3, No. 7 Baylor erased an 18-point Alabama lead in the second quarter and won 78-74.
Baylor trailed 22-4 at the end of the first quarter before cutting the lead to 11 at halftime. The Bears then dominated the fourth quarter and took the lead with 3:30 to go on a 3-pointer by Sarah Andrews. Alabama scored six straight to retake the lead before Baylor scored seven straight points in the final 53 seconds to win.
Miami’s comeback tied for the fifth-largest in women’s NCAA Tournament history before Baylor’s comeback jumped into a tie for third.
We also can’t forget about Ohio State. The No. 3 Buckeyes trailed No. 14 James Madison 35-19 with 4:01 left in the second quarter before coming back in the second half and outscoring the Dukes by 30 points the rest of the way. Ohio State beat JMU 80-66 as Cotie McMahon had 18 points and Jacy Sheldon scored 17.
UCLA holds off Northwestern
No. 2 UCLA held off Northwestern’s upset bid in a 68-63 win over the Wildcats.
The Bruins shot 50% from the field as Northwestern never led after taking a 3-0 lead to start the game. Tyger Campbell was a perfect 12-of-12 from the free throw line and Jaime Jaquez scored 24 points for the Bruins.
However, there is some concern for UCLA. The Bruins got Adem Bona back into the starting lineup on Saturday, but guard David Singleton appeared to roll his right ankle severely in the final minute while turning up the court. Singleton was helped off the court after writhing in pain, although he was able to put weight on his leg.
A Singleton absence in the Sweet 16 and a potential Elite Eight matchup would be huge for a UCLA team that is without Jaylen Clark due to a lower leg injury.
Maddy Siegrist dominates
Villanova’s Maddy Siegrist entered Saturday’s first-round game against Cleveland State as the leading scorer in the nation at 29 points per game. She easily surpassed that average with 35 points in Villanova’s 76-59 win.
Siegrist leads the nation in field goals made by the team and is second in field goal attempts per game. She was 15 of 28 from the field as no other Wildcat had more than 10 shots.
Villanova made sure to make a statement early, outscoring Cleveland State 42-21 in the first half. The margin was 29 at the end of the third quarter, but Siegrist ended up playing all but four minutes.
The win sets up a matchup with Florida Gulf Coast in the second round on Monday.
Rick Barnes is looking for its first Elite Eight since 2008
Rick Barnes is in his 36th season as a head coach at the top level of college basketball. His teams have won 778 games during those 36 seasons, and he has coached 20-win teams in 23 of those 36 seasons.
Still, Barnes has never found much success in the NCAA Tournament. His teams are consistently very bad against the spread in the postseason and have only made one Final Four. That came in 2003, when Texas made it to the national semifinals.
And Barnes’ last Elite Eight appearance came five years after that with the Longhorns in 2008. Since then, Texas and Tennessee teams coached by Barnes have made nine NCAA tournament appearances. But none of these teams have won three games in any of these appearances.
Tennessee has a strong chance to win three games in 2023 after a 65-52 win over Duke. The Vols got 27 points from Olivier Nkamhoua and simply outmuscled the Blue Devils on the glass. And thanks to Purdue’s upset loss to Fairleigh Dickinson on Friday, Tennessee will have to beat either the Knights or Florida Atlantic next Thursday for a chance at Barnes’ second Final Four.
Furman cannot advance to the Sweet 16
Furman’s NCAA tournament run ended on the first weekend.
The No. 13 Paladins stunned Virginia on Thursday, but were dominated by No. 5 San Diego State in the first game of the day on Saturday. The Aztecs won 75-52 as their stifling defense held Furman to just 32% shooting from the field.
JP Pegues hit the game-winning shot against Virginia and was just 3-of-15 from the field against San Diego State. The Aztecs had four players in double figures and shot 23 of 38 from inside the arc.
San Diego State snapped the Mountain West’s NCAA Tournament losing streak with its win Thursday and is now in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2014.