Xavier, Pittsburgh kicks off the action


When Sunday’s NCAA Tournament business closes, the men’s Sweet 16 will be set while the women will have half of the Sweet 16 field decided.

Already, two No. 1 seeds have been knocked out on the men’s side, highlighted by No. 1 Purdue’s stunning loss to No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson. Now FDU aims to do what no 16 seed has ever done: Reach the Sweet 16.

The Knights will try to make it happen on Sunday (7:45 p.m. ET, truTV) against Florida Atlantic, a mid-major powerhouse that is 32-3 on the year after the dramatic win over Memphis. But first, No. 11 Pitt and No. 3 Xavier get the party started at 12:10 PM ET on CBS.

The women’s action gets underway with the defending champions, as No. 1 South Carolina tries to go 34-0 against South Florida (1 p.m. ET, ABC). Iowa standout Caitlin Clark then takes the national stage in the next game on ABC, as her No. 2 Hawkeyes take on No. 10 Georgia.

Think you have what it takes to beat your friends? Test your college basketball skills (or luck) here with USA TODAY’s Survivor Pool. Bookmark our page too!

MEN’S TOURNAMENT: Complete points and schedule

WOMEN’S TOURNAMENT: Complete points and schedule

SATURDAY’S GAME: Get all the action for men and women

In its Round of 64 win against No. 6 Iowa State, No. 11 Pittsburgh allowed a game-high 41 points. In the round of 32, it’s a different story. No. 3 Xavier had scored 42 points at the 5:01 mark … of the first half. The Musketeers have opened up a 48-34 lead at the half on a fierce 19-of-36 performance (52.8%) from the field.

A big part of the difference has been from beyond the arc, where Xavier has converted half of its 14 attempts. In particular, guard Adam Kunkel is on fire, going a perfect 5-of-5 from 3-point range, with a team-high 15 points. Forward Jack Nunge is right behind him, with 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting.

The Panthers started hot, but then cooled off, getting outshot by a 27-16 margin to end the half. Xavier guard Souley Boum, who led the Musketeers this season with 16.5 points per game, has yet to score a point and is 0-of-6 from the field, making matters even more concerning for Pittsburgh.

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The first game of the day, a matchup in the men’s bracket between No. 11 Pittsburgh and No. 3 Xavier, tipped just after noon Sunday. And if the offensive pace at the start is any indication of what’s to come the rest of the day, the scoring will show.

The Musketeers were the leading scoring team in the Big East this season and have separated from Pittsburgh midway through the first half, opening a 28-18 lead. Xavier went on a 14-3 run and is shooting 57.1% from the field on 12-of-21 attempts. Guard Colby Jones and forward Jack Nunge each have eight points to lead the Musketeers.

Pittsburgh is shooting 7-of-16 from the field, at a 46.7% clip.

The game also provides an interesting bit of nostalgia and familiarity as Xavier head coach Sean Miller starred at guard for the Panthers from 1987-92, starting 124 of the 128 games he played.

All season long, this promised to be the most wide-open NCAA men’s tournament in a generation. Bluebloods weren’t so blue. The top ranked teams had obvious deficiencies. The combination of an extra COVID year for older players, an out-of-control transfer environment and a number of freshmen largely unready for prime time meant teams’ fortunes fluctuated from game to game, week to week.

Here we are, almost done with the first weekend of March Madness, and there’s an important question to ask: Who’s going to win the national championship?

Perhaps it is better to say it another way. If you’re still alive by Sunday night in this crazy tournament, go ahead and dare to dream. Even you, Princeton. That’s really what’s going on.

Dan Wolken

No, you are not seeing double.

Indiana and Miami will play each other in the second round of both the men’s and women’s tournaments. The men’s game is Sunday night in Albany, New York, while the women’s teams meet Monday in Bloomington, Indiana.

“It’s cool. I mean, what a great situation,” Miami women’s coach Katie Meier said. “I know our athletic director was on a plane going back and forth with somebody from Indiana, too.”

The NCAA does not keep track of how many times schools have played each other in each tournament, let alone in the same round. But suffice it to say, it hasn’t happened often. Meier had been asked about the potential for the double dip before Saturday’s game, but she would not answer and jinx herself. Good, as the Hurricanes fell behind by 17 before rallying to beat Oklahoma State.

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Top-seeded Indiana had rolled earlier in the day while IU and Miami’s men’s team clinched the spot Friday.

“We’re looking forward to playing Indiana,” Meier said, “and hopefully the Canes come out on top in two.”

Nancy Armor

This was a tournament to remember for the Ivy League even before Princeton’s men reached the second round.

This is the first year that Ivy’s teams have won first-round games in both tournaments. A day after the Princeton men stunned Arizona, the 10th-seeded Princeton women upset NC State on Friday night on a 3-pointer with seven seconds left.

“We watched (the men) in the locker room right before practice,” Julia Cunningham said Friday night. “Watching them, all the coverage they get from the media, it was so well deserved. We looked at each other and thought, we’re next, now it’s our turn.

“It’s special,” she added. “A special week to be a tiger.”

Nancy Armor

How many teams do you want in your Sweet 16? We’ll find out who will advance after Sunday’s eight games with some of the highest seeds still standing after a crazy and unpredictable start to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

But we’ll all be paying attention to the outlier, as No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson looks to build off of Friday night’s historic upset of No. 1 Purdue with a second-round matchup against No. 9 Florida Atlantic.

But remember this: Of the eight games played on Sunday, six have the highest possible seed – No. 6 vs. No. 3, No. 5 vs. No. 4 and No. 7 vs. No. 2.

Here’s a list of Sunday’s games ranked by how watchable they are:

1. No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson vs. No. 9 Florida Atlantic (7:45 p.m. ET)

2. No. 5 Saint Mary’s vs. No. 4 Connecticut (6:10)

3. No. 6 Kentucky vs. No. 3 Kansas State (2:40)

4. No. 3 Baylor vs. No. 6 Creighton (7:10)

5. No. 3 Gonzaga vs. No. 6 TCU (9:40 a.m.)

6. No. 7 Michigan State vs. No. 2 Marquette (5:15)

7. No. 5 Miami vs. No. 4 Indiana (8:40 a.m.)

8. No. 3 Xavier vs. No. 11 Pittsburgh (12:10 p.m.)

– Paul Myerberg

With its upset of No. 1 seed Purdue, the Knights gave the Northeast Conference their first win in the first round of the NCAA men’s tournament in four decades. But the Knights wouldn’t be here without Merrimack, which won the conference title but was ineligible due to its move to Division I — NCAA rules say a school must sit out four years after such a move.

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So Merrimack coach Joe Gallo and the rest of the team stayed home and watched Fairleigh Dickenson pick Purdue — and big man Zach Edey — apart. So is there jealousy among its northeastern enemies?

“To quote my 6-year-old, ‘Dad, we beat them, so we want them to win,”’ Gallo told CBS Sports. “People have been tough on our league all year, too, so I’m happy for the win .”

Heather Tucker

The UMBC Twitter account finally has a best friend. It is the Farleigh Dickinson men’s basketball team’s Twitter account. What do they have in common? They both thrive on creating absolute chaos and breaking brackets.

The UMBC Twitter account celebrated Fairleigh Dickinson’s win over Purdue, which likely ruined many men’s NCAA tournament runs. The FDU Twitter account caught wind of this and declared their new friendship together.

It was always going to be hard for UMBC to find someone who understood that. After all, it’s not often you get a 16 seed upsetting a 1 seed. UMBC was the first men’s program to do so when it knocked off No. 1 Virginia in 2018. But if there’s anyone who understands the feeling, it’s FDU.

Mike D. Sykes II, For the Win

Houston entered the NCAA Tournament with the No. 1 ranking in the USA TODAY Sports coaches poll, despite losing in the American Athletic Conference championship game just prior to the unveiling of the brackets last 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 earned eight first place finishes after winning the SEC title in impressive fashion.

Houston handled Northern Kentucky in its first-round game and Auburn in its second-round game, while Alabama routed Texas A&M Corpus Christi in its tournament opener. The Crimson Tide knocked off No. 8 seed Maryland late on Saturday.

—Eddie Timanus

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