Saturday’s March Madness: Cinderella race ends for No. 13 seed Furman

There’s an implicit but unspoken agreement between underdogs and the month of March: Most dreams come with quick expiration dates. And two days after the biggest win in school history, No. 13 seed Furman arrived on sale date with a 75-52 rout at the hands of fifth-seed San Diego State.

Where the Paladins were able to exploit Virginia’s weaknesses in a 68-67 upset on Thursday, they were overwhelmed by the Aztecs in nearly every aspect of Saturday’s game. San Diego State, known for its stout defense, held Furman, who had averaged 81.7 points this season before the loss, to its lowest single-game total of 2022-23.

Furman shot just 32 percent from the field (while the Aztecs hit 50 percent of their shots) and 23.1 percent from 3-point range. For the season, Furman had shot 48 percent overall and 34 percent from 3-point territory.

Furman never led after the midpoint of the first half, and Jalen Slawson, the Southern Conference player of the year, was in foul trouble for much of the second half before breaking out with just 8 points.

“They kept us from driving, kept the ball out of the paint, kept a really strong floor and played really hard,” Slawson said.

It was a complete and impressive performance by the Aztecs, who advance to their first round of 16 appearance since 2014, where they will play the winner of Alabama and Maryland on Friday.

Paladins, meanwhile, will take with them indelible memories and stories they’ll tell friends and families for the rest of their lives.

“It’s an incredible story,” Furman coach Bob Richey said, “and I couldn’t be more proud of our team, at a time when I’m extremely disappointed that we didn’t advance. But it’s very hard not to draw back the lens a bit and still see what that group was able to achieve.

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Indiana’s rout of Tennessee Tech put all four No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Women’s Tournament into the second round, perhaps highlighting a reality that has changed in recent years:

While a 16-over-1 March Madness upset is extremely rare, it’s probably even harder to pull off in the women’s tournament right now than it is in the men’s.

A night after the Fairleigh Dickinson men delivered the best of those festivities over No. 1 Purdue, the Indiana women rolled past Tennessee Tech by 30 points, 77-47, joining fellow No. 1s South Carolina, Virginia Tech and Stanford in the second round. All four teams, playing with home court advantage, won with ease to start the tournament, with Virginia Tech winning by the shortest margin of 25 points over Chattanooga.

On Saturday, the Hoosiers pulled away in the second quarter, outscoring Tennessee Tech 21-9 in the period, shooting a blistering 58 percent for the game as their lead grew and grew. Sydney Parrish led with 19 points.

The men’s tournament had gone without a No. 16 beating a No. 1 before 2018, but it has now happened twice in the last five tournaments. A similar upset has happened only once in the women’s tournament since it expanded to 64 teams, when No. 16 seed Harvard beat top-seeded Stanford in 1998.

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Harvard came into that game feeling like it deserved a higher seed, while Stanford lost two key players, Vanessa Nygaard and Kristin Folkl, to serious knee injuries the week before the game.

To beat a No. 1 women’s team playing at home, or even a No. 2 — that has never lost to a No. 15 — might require a similar series of circumstances. — Oskar Garcia

Men’s tournament

18.10, TNT

Princeton on Thursday became the 11th No. 15 seed to knock off a No. 2 seed and the first since all the way back to … 2022, when St. Peter’s stunned Kentucky. The Tigers shot just 4 for 25 from 3-point range and attempted just five free throws, but they scored the final 9 points of the game to secure the upset of Arizona. In the round of 32, they will face the Tigers of Missouri, who easily dispatched No. 10 Utah State. Missouri showed stifling defense and won by turnover margin.

20.40, TNT

Northwestern won its second tournament game in program history Thursday, 75-67, against Boise State. Boo Buie had 22 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists for the Wildcats. UCLA beat UNC-Asheville, 86-53, in the first round. The Bruins had injury concerns heading into the game: Guard Jaylen Clark is out for the tournament with an Achilles tendon injury, and big man Adem Bona is still nursing a shoulder injury. Bona was available for the game but did not play.

Women’s tournament

5:30 p.m., ESPN2

Baylor had a streak ending the season: Beginning on January 28, the Bears won three, lost four, won another three and then lost two. But Baylor is playing in its 19th straight NCAA Tournament, having won it all in 2005, 2012 and 2019. Alabama went 19-10 on the season and finished fifth in the SEC, although the Crimson Tide lost its last four games. This game could come down to the performances of the two first-team all-conference guards on the floor: Baylor’s Sarah Andrews and Alabama’s Brittany Davis.

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7 p.m., ESPN News

Colorado (23-8) finished third in the Pac-12 and is headed to its second straight NCAA tournament after missing out since 2013. Middle Tennessee finished the season on a 10-game winning streak, including the three games in Conference USA Tournament. MTSU was ranked No. 25 in the final Associated Press poll but received only a No. 11 seed in the tournament, so they were a popular pick for the upset: 32 percent of public brackets on ESPN picked the Lady Raiders and The Athletic gave them a 45.4 percent chance of winning the match.

10 p.m., ESPN

Texas started the season ranked No. 3 in the Associated Press poll, but the Longhorns lost three of their first five games while their star point guard, Rori Harmon, was out with a foot injury. Texas came back to tie with Oklahoma for the Big 12 regular season title. East Carolina is playing in just its third NCAA tournament, the last in 2007, when it was also seeded No. 13. The Pirates earned their spot by winning the American Athletic Conference tournament.

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