Sweet 16 berths on the line


The first eight bids to the Sweet 16 in the men’s NCAA tournament will be locked up Saturday, while the women’s tournament concludes in the first round.

Furman and Princeton took the sports world by storm Thursday with upsets of No. 4 Virginia and No. 2 Arizona, respectively. Both are in action again with the 13th-seeded Paladins kicking off men’s action against No. 5 San Diego State at 12:10 p.m. ET (CBS). The 15th-seeded Tigers will face Tigers of a different stripe at No. 7 Missouri at 6:10 p.m. ET (TNT).

On the women’s side, No. 1 seed Indiana is in action after top seeds South Carolina, Virginia Tech and Stanford took care of business on Friday. The Hoosiers begin Day 2 of the women’s first round at 11:30 a.m. ET (ESPN2) with a matchup against No. 16 Tennessee Tech, which beat Monmouth in a First Four matchup on Thursday.

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MEN’S TOURNAMENT: Complete points and schedule

WOMEN’S TOURNAMENT: Complete points and schedule

Saturday’s winners earn a spot in the Sweet 16, and the eight games feature some of the best teams and players in college basketball. Three No. 1 seeds are in action, and the spotlight is on first-team All-Americans Jalen Wilson of Kansas and Alabama forward Brandon Miller, and potentially Houston’s do-it-all guard Marcus Sasser.

Here is the list of Saturday’s eight matches, ranked according to how noteworthy they are.

  1. No. 4 Tennessee vs. No. 5 Duke (2:40 p.m. ET)
  2. No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 8 Maryland (9:40 p.m.)
  3. No. 7 Missouri vs. No. 15 Princeton (6:10 p.m.)
  4. No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 8 Arkansas (5:15 p.m.)
  5. No. 1 Houston vs. No. 9 Auburn (7:10 p.m.)
  6. No. 2 UCLA vs. No. 7 Northwestern (8:40 p.m.)
  7. No. 2 Texas vs. No. 10 Penn State (7:45 p.m.)
  8. No. 5 San Diego State vs. No. 13 Furman (12:10)
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– Scooby Axson

In case you missed it Friday night (although we can’t imagine how), Purdue became just the second men’s No. 1 seed to fall to 16 since the bracket expanded to 64 teams in 1985, when Fairleigh Dickinson shocked the nation with a 63-58 upset.

If there’s a winner besides current Fairleigh Dickinson players and first-year head coach Tobin Anderson — not to mention every single FDU graduate and fan — it’s likely Virginia coach Tony Bennett, who now isn’t the only coach to lose to a No. 16 seed. . Yep. Talk about a club you don’t want to join.

But perhaps the biggest winners are college hoops fans. That we’ve now seen two 16-seeds beat 1-seeds in the past five years is proof that parity continues to grow in men’s college basketball, making the NCAA Tournament more unpredictable and ultimately more fun.

—Lindsay Schnell and Paul Myerberg

Lior Garzon’s initial excitement during Sunday’s selection show was about Oklahoma State receiving the No. 8 seed in the NCAA Women’s Tournament over No. 9 Miami (Fla.). It took the junior forward less than a minute to realize that not only were the Cowgirls dancing, they were headed to Bloomington, Indiana, where her younger sister, Yarden Garzon, is a freshman guard for No. 1 seed Indiana.

At their respective schools through Ra’anana, Israel, the Garzon sisters never discussed the possibility of ending up in the bracket together until Sunday, but they knew it could at least be in play. Indiana tips off against Tennessee Tech at 11:30 a.m. ET, followed by Oklahoma State-Miami at 2 p.m.

Thursday’s reunion at the team hotel marked the first time the sisters have seen each other since Yarden visited Stillwater, Oklahoma during winter break.

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“I’m really excited to see her play,” said Lior, who is averaging 11 points and shooting 43 percent from the bench.

As for the possibility of a matchup between Indiana and Oklahoma State — and Lior was quick to point out that they still need to win their first-round games — it would mark the first time the sisters have gone head-to-head since they played in a club game shortly before Lior went to the USA.

—Brian Haenchen, Indianapolis Star

15-seed Princeton dominated inside and threw the South Region into chaos with an upset of Arizona.

Maybe this wasn’t exactly like when the Tigers pulled off a memorable upset of UCLA in 1996, when they were seeded 14th and beat the third-seeded and defending champion Bruins 43-41. There were more violations, and given how common riots are now, it probably didn’t shock too many people. But it’s still a big deal. And it’s just the second tournament win for Princeton since that game. The Tigers beat UNLV in the first round in 1998.

—Lindsay Schnell

Princeton might have pulled off the biggest upset Thursday, but 13-seeded Furman’s upset of No. 4 Virginia was a fun (unless you’re a Cavaliers fan, of course) start to the 2023 men’s NCAA Tournament.

It’s been a long wait for Paladins men’s basketball fans. It had been more than 40 years since Furman was last in the tournament, and over 45 years since its last March Madness victory.

The American Heritage College Dictionary defines a Paladin as a “paragon of chivalry” or “a heroic champion.” A Paladin was also one of the 12 legendary peers or knight masters present at the court of Charlemagne, or Charlemagne, in the 8th century.

— Jordan Mendoza

Alabama’s biggest adversary may be exhaustion from endless chaos

The director of athletics gave a statement at half-time. The most scrutinized 20-year-old in basketball couldn’t make a shot before eventually going to the bench to rest a sore groin. Walk-on no one had heard of until Wednesday night threatened to sue the New York Times. And the coach loses his mind on every dribble for two straight hours of a game he was close to losing.

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In other words, it was just another day in Alabama basketball.

—Dan Wolken

It backfired spectacularly.

Just five days after Marcus Sasser strained his groin in the semifinals of the American Athletic Conference tournament, he was back in the Cougars’ starting lineup Thursday night. For a first-round game against a No. 16 team.

To the surprise of almost no one, Sasser didn’t even make it to halftime. Now, top-seeded Houston might not make it to the second weekend, let alone the Final Four in its hometown.

—Nancy Armor

Houston entered the NCAA Tournament with the No. 1 ranking in the USA TODAY Sports coaches poll, despite losing the American Athletic Conference championship game just before the bracket unveiling on Sunday.

The Cougars, who were without leading scorer Marcus Sasser in the loss to Memphis, retained 21 of 32 No. 1 votes to fend off second-ranked Alabama. The Crimson Tide received eight first-place finishes after winning the SEC title in impressive fashion on Sunday.

Houston handled Northern Kentucky in its first-round game, while Alabama routed Texas A&M Corpus Christi in its tournament opener. The Cougars collide with No. 9 seed Auburn on Saturday, while the Crimson Tide takes on 8-seed Maryland.

—Eddie Timanus

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