Bronson Koenig puts Wisconsin back in Sweet 16

Notre Dame wins on volleyball type tip-in with 1.5 seconds left

As part of a record six teams from one conference entering the Sweet 16 portion of the NCAA Tournament, it goes to show you how the cream really does rise to the top.

At Brooklyn, Notre Dame and Stephen F. Austin were hooked in a barnburner, a real donnybrook.  In the end, one guy from the Fighting Irish didn’t have much scoring output all season scored probably the biggest basket of his life.

Trailing 75-74 with 17.5 seconds left, Notre Dame grabbed a Lumberjacks rebound and left the ball in the capable hands of point guard Demetrius Jackson.  Jackson drove to the basket and missed the shot.  Senior Zach Auguste was on the spot for a rebound, but missed off the right side of the rim.  Following the arc on the ball, Rex Pflueger batted the ball up in the air like a volleyball and it curved just enough along the upper right corner of the square and it went in with 1.5 seconds left.  SFA missed on a half court shot and the buzzer and the Irish survived 76-75 to reach consecutive Sweet 16 appearances since Digger Phelps guided Notre Dame in the late 1970’s.

Even New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was quite impressed after this back-and-forth affair.

“It just doesn’t seem real.”

Rex Pfleuger reacting to CBS reporter Allie LaForce moments after tipping in a rebound for the game-winning basket at the Brooklyn pod

Buddy Hield wins his final game in the state of Oklahoma

The All-American candidate was held to 7 points at halftime, but exploded for 29 in the second half.  His 36 is the tournament’s high scoring mark thus far after Oklahoma survived a brief scare from the 10 seed in VCU, 85-81.

Also in Oklahoma City, Northern Iowa acted like Purdue on Thursday.  The Panthers gave the game away to Texas A&M by committing four turnovers late in regulation.  Consider these numbers for a moment:  The Aggies trailed by 12 with 44 seconds left and were down ten with less than 30 seconds remaining.

After UNI’s Jeremy Morgan converted on two free throws, Admon Gilder managed to get a rebound bucket off an Alex Caruso miss from long distance.

UNI still led 69-59 with 31 seconds left when the Panthers called time out.

On the next possession, Daniel House made a layup after Gilder stole the ball from Morgan.  UNI 69, A&M 61 with 25 seconds left.

This is where things got crazy…

The hero from Friday night, Paul Jesperson then lost the ball and Jalen Jones cruised for a fast dunk.  UNI 69, A&M 63 with 21 seconds left.

Wyatt Lohaus made a bad pass and consequently, A&M made another three–this time from Daniel House off a nice feed from Caruso.  UNI 69, A&M 66 with 19 seconds left.

Klint Carlson temporarily stopped the bleeding in reestablishing a two possession lead with 18 seconds left as UNI continued to lead 71-66.

Alex Caruso then made a driving layup and was later fouled by Jesperson.  Caruso made one of two free throws to cut the lead to two at 71-69.  Wes Washpun tried to draw a foul, but the ball was stolen with four seconds left and Admon Gilder made another driving layup to even the score at 71 with two seconds left in regulation.

The first overtime as both teams scored 12 points each.  In the second overtime, it took 1:50 of the 5 minute period for anyone to score a field goal.  Foul trouble would finally doom the Panthers and A&M sealed the game with a few free throws.  Final score was A&M 92, UNI 88.

Wisconsin back in familiar territory

New coach Greg Gard had two options, and the best option helped the Badgers upset Xavier in St. Louis.  Poor Bill Murray, looking stone faced to the TNT cameras moments after all of the Wisconsin players jammed veteran guard Bronson Koenig after making a right baseline corner three pointer as time expired in a heart-pounding 66-63 upset.  Koenig made a career high six three pointers, two of them in the final 15 seconds which included the game winner.  Up next for the Badgers on Friday night will be Notre Dame in Philadelphia.

Elsewhere, the rest of the games were won by the higher seeds…

In Brooklyn, the day started out with Iowa running out of gas early and often and Villanova feasted on taking advantage of many Hawkeyes turnovers in a rather easy 87-68 pasting of the once invincible Iowa Hawkeyes.

In St. Louis, Middle Tennessee State missed on 8 of their first 11 attempts from three point territory and that famed Syracuse zone forced the Blue Raiders to be turned blue in the face as the Orange simply squeezed out any hope of a 15 seed advancing for the second time to the Sweet 16 round as Syracuse won handily 75-50.  Most experts and many bloggers including myself were very skeptical about the Orange even reaching this tournament–but just like Wisconsin found a way to win when the chips were down.  Up next for the Orange is a date with another fellow double digit seed in Chicago with the 11 seed of Gonzaga.

In Spokane, Maryland broke open a close game after halftime and cruised past the Rainbow Warriors of Hawai’i 73-60.  With Hawai’i’s staff and players having not been home since March 1, I am sure they will finally get a major welcome home once they return to the Island.  What a run they had in earning their first ever Tournament win in school history to cap things off.  This is the Terrapins first Sweet 16 trip since they were in the ACC back in 2003 and Kansas will be their next opponent in the South Regional on Friday night at the KFC-Yum! Center in Louisville.

The final game of the night had Oregon making some key defensive plays down the stretch to hold off a gutsy group from St. Joseph’s in a tense 69-64 final.  The Ducks will square off on Thursday in Anaheim against the defending champs from Duke.

So, there you have it.  We started with 68 teams, but after these last four crazy days and nights–the field has been cut from 64 down to 16.  Six teams reside from the ACC, which is a new record breaking the old one of five schools that was previously held by the Big East many years back and tied by the ACC in 2015.

See you all on Thursday night with recaps from Louisville and Anaheim.

The final TV schedule for both CBS and TBS will be given shortly.  Enjoy your week, and thank you so much for reading.

 

 

 

 

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