(Phatzradio Sports / NCAA) — And then there were 24. Here’s what went down in the first half of the Round of 32:
Upsets, at last
Message received, Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig. We’ll stop doubting you. Wisconsin is Sweet 16-bound for the fourth straight time after upsetting defending champion Villanova on Saturday, 65-62.
Since 2014, Wisconsin has knocked off five top-two seeds in the NCAA tournament.
There was more. No. 11 Xavier, which lost six games in a row and its star point guard during a February stretch, demolished Florida State by 25 in your surprise of the tournament. And in case you were wondering: The last perfect bracket in our challenge game busted.
It lasted a few hours longer than 2016’s.
Villanova reminds us how hard it is to repeat
The Wildcats have a Naismith candidate in Josh Hart, a late-game assassin in Kris Jenkins and a top-five coach in Jay Wright. If anyone was poised to repeat, it was them.
No dice. No team has repeated in the past 10 years. Two have in the past 44.
Hart had some key turnovers against Wisconsin. Jenkins went 4-for-22 in two tournament games. Wright made a questionable decision Saturday to call timeout with 3.4 seconds left. NCAA.com’s Mike Lopresti bids farewell to the defending champs.
The Round of 32 concludes today with 8 games
• 12:10 — (2) Louisville vs. (7) Michigan (CBS) WATCH LIVE
• 2:40 — (2) Kentucky vs. (10) Wichita State (CBS) WATCH LIVE
• 5:15 — (1) Kansas vs. (9) Michigan State (CBS) WATCH LIVE
• 6:10 — (1) North Carolina vs. (8) Arkansas (TNT) WATCH LIVE
• 7:10 — (3) Oregon vs. (11) Rhode Island (TBS) WATCH LIVE
• 7:45 — (3) Baylor vs. (11) USC (truTV) WATCH LIVE
• 8:40 — (2) Duke vs. (10) South Carolina (TNT) WATCH LIVE
• 9:40 — (3) UCLA vs. (6) Cincinnati (TBS) WATCH LIVE
Can another double-digit seed make the Sweet 16?
Kentucky vs. (10) Wichita State — John Calipari can’t be in love with this Round of 32 matchup. Gregg Marshall has his best offensive team ever at Wichita State, which has a higher KenPom ranking than its seed. That said, UK handed the Shockers their only loss of the season in the 2014 NCAA tournament.
Oregon vs. (11) Rhode Island — The Rams’ veteran frontcourt of Kuran Iverson and Hassan Martin could give Oregon trouble. The Ducks are without starting center Chris Boucher, who has a torn ACL. Iverson and Martin combined to score 29 points against Creighton.
Baylor vs. (11) USC — The Trojans continue the First Four winning tradition. Two of the most athletic squads in the nation square off here; USC had only three wins against the field coming into the tournament, but knocked off SMU in a thriller in the opening round.
Duke vs. (10) South Carolina — The Blue Devils are rolling right now, but the Gamecocks are fresh off their best offensive performance of the season. Sindarius Thornwell can put up 30 on anyone.
Nice knowing ya, Coach
Life comes at you fast. Friday, Brad Underwood coached Oklahoma State in maybe the most entertaining game of the tournament. Saturday, he was hired by Illinois.
Underwood led the Pokes to a 20-13 record in his first (and only) season after OSU won 12 games in 2015-16. This time last year, he was coaching Stephen F. Austin in a Round of 32 clash against Notre Dame. Illinois got itself a good one.
Mark your calendar
Sweet 16 begins: March 23
Elite Eight begins: March 25
Final Four in Phoenix: April 1-3