NCAA Tournament Rewind Day 3: Defending champion Villanova eliminated
First major upset
Usually, March Madness fans don’t have to wait till Saturday for the first major upset of the tournament, but that was the case this year.
What wasn’t unusual about No. 8 seed Wisconsin beating No. 1 Villanova 65-62, however, was a No. 1 seed losing in the Round of 32. The Wildcats’ loss marked the fourth time in the past five years a No. 1 seed has dropped in the Round of 32, and since 2010, top seeds have come out unscathed of the first two rounds in only 2012 and 2016.
The Badgers won on a brilliant baseline drive by senior Nigel Hayes, who entered the game Saturday with 15 NCAA Tournament games under his belt. His experience showed on the game-winning bucket.
As there was originally on Selection Sunday, controversy surrounded Wisconsin’s seeding after their upset win.
The loss marked the first major upset of the tournament and an early exit for the defending champion Wildcats.
This led to a tweet of the infamous “Crying Piccolo Girl” from Wisconsin.
Northwestern kid becomes the latest NCAA Tournament meme
“Crying Piccolo Girl” may have some competition.
Everyone tuning in for Northwestern vs. Gonzaga took to Twitter the second a young Northwestern fan was caught on camera screaming in agony after a call by the officials.
First, everyone asked for Twitter to deliver.
Veterans of the trade, however, knew it was only a matter of time.
Sure enough, there he was.
Northwestern made a comeback after Gonzaga had an 18-point lead at halftime, but a controversial no-call for basket interference led to a technical foul being called against Northwestern head coach Chris Collins, and momentum swung back in Gonzaga’s favor.
No. 2 seed Arizona had a scare against No. 7 seed Saint Mary’s but their dynamic duo of freshmen made big plays in the second half to pick up a 69-60 win and advance to the Sweet 16.
Lauri Markkanen had 16 points and 11 rebounds and his largest contribution would be defending Saint Mary’s center Jock Landale in the second half. Landale was having tremendous success against Wildcats bigs Dusan Ristic and Chance Comanche, but Markkanen faired much better, blocking the Gaels’ leading scorer twice and playing great post defense.
Rawle Alkins wouldn’t have as impressive of a line, but every play the freshman wing made felt huge. Most of his six points, two rebounds, two steals and one assist came a time when Arizona desperately needed them.
He exited the game with a finger injury in the first half but returned with 3:43 left in the first half and Arizona would go on a 53-36 run from that point on.
Game of the weekend
The last game of the night was the best of the first three days of the tournament.
No. 4 seed Purdue blew a 19-point lead in the second half to No. 5 Iowa State but managed to survive and hold on to advance to the Sweet 16.
At one point, Iowa State was a huge underdog.
Down 58-39 with 14:24 left, the Cyclones’ epic 34-13 run completed their comeback with 3:11 to go.
The game also featured a duel between two of the best big men in the tournament, Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan and Iowa State’s Deonte Burton.
Burton was a madman in the second half, scoring 13 points and throwing down a monster tomahawk dunk.
He finished with 25 points and four rebounds, but he would be bested by Swanigan, who cemented his status as a Wooden Award finalist. He scored 20 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and dished out seven assists, perhaps the best stat line in the first three days of the tournament.
Swanigan’s key bucket late helped the Boilermakers survive for an 80-76 win.