That’s tough for the defending champion in the men’s NCAA tournament.
Arkansas’ 72–71 victory over Kansas extended a remarkable streak of national title winners. The Jayhawks are now the sixth straight national title winners heading into the first weekend of the NCAA tournament next year.
The last defending champion to advance to the second weekend of the tournament is Duke in 2016. The Blue Devils were the No. 4 seed that season and defeated No. 13 UNC Wilmington and No. 12 Yale before losing at No. 1 Oregon. Sweet 16. Since then, tournament performance for the defending champions has been as follows:
2017 Villanova: They lost to No. 8 Wisconsin in the second round as the No. 1 seed.
2018 North Carolina: They lost to No. 7 Texas A&M in the second round as the No. 2 seed.
2019 Villanova: They lost to No. 3 Purdue in the second round as the No. 6 seed.
2021 Virginia: They lost to No. 13 Ohio in the first round as the No. 4 seed.
2022 Boiler: They lost to No. 8 North Carolina in the second round as the No. 1 seed.
2023 Kansas: They lost to No. 8 Arkansas in the second round as the No. 1 seed.
Kansas kept Arkansas at an arm’s length during the first half before the Razorbacks’ chaotic style began to give the Jayhawks real fits. The foul-field game featured 23 fouls, with four players fouling out and another four ending with four fouls.
The foul-fest necessitated that the game be decided at the free-throw line. Ricky Council IV of Arkansas made five free throws in the final 24 seconds and made four straight after getting a key offensive rebound after a missed free throw.
If Kansas was going to make a deep run in this year’s tournament, it was going to be with a team that was eerily similar to the one that cut the Nets in 2022. Jalen Wilson averaged 20 points a game this season as Kansas’ leading scorer. 11 on average a season ago. With players like Ochai Agbaji and Christian Braun in the NBA, freshman Grady Dick and Texas Tech transfer Kevin McCullers took on bigger roles and big man KJ Adams went from five minutes a game this year to 27 years ago.
That rebuilt team was really cool. Kansas won the regular season Big 12 title again but showed some lapses down the stretch that were exposed twice by Texas in the span of eight days. A talented but underrated Arkansas was also a poor matchup for the Jayhawks as Hogg was able to match up well with Kansas across the court and put pressure on the Jayhawks in the second half.
Here’s what else you need to know to catch everything big happened on the third day of the men’s and women’s NCAA tournament.
Princeton continues race for No. 15 seed
With a 78–63 win over Missouri, Princeton became the third No. 15 seed to advance to the Sweet 16 in as many years.
The defending Ivy League champions completely dominated Missouri on the glass and held the Tigers to 15. Princeton also made 12 3-pointers and hammered Missouri’s zone defense in the second half. A Missouri team that relied on turnovers and outside shooting did not force Princeton into any hard possessions and shot poorly from 3.
Four No. 15 seeds have made the Sweet 16 in the history of the Men’s NCAA Tournament, and all of them have made it in the past decade. The Florida Gulf Coast was the first in 2013, before Oral Roberts in 2021 and St. Peter in 2022.
Peacock was the first No. 15 seed to make the Elite Eight when they defeated Purdue a season earlier. And it’s not hard to see how Princeton could do that if they keep rebounding against both Arizona and Missouri.
Louisville avoids 12-over-5 upset on third
Louisville narrowly avoided becoming the third No. 5 seed to receive a No. 12 seed in the women’s NCAA tournament.
The Cardinals won 83–81 after Drake scored 54 combined points in the fourth quarter. Louisville clinched a slow game with 20 seconds left when Hailey Van Lith converted another -1 to give the Cardinals a 4-point lead.
Van Lith scored 26 points on 10 of 20 shooting from the field as Micasa Robinson added 14.
Earlier in the day, Florida Gulf Coast defeated Pac-12 tournament champion Washington State, 74–63, as Sha Carter scored 24 points and grabbed six rebounds. The Eagles upset came just before Toledo took down Iowa State 80–73. The Rockets pulled away from Iowa State in the second quarter and kept the Cyclones at bay in the second half thanks to some exceptional free-throw shooting.
big comeback day
A two-point lead in the women’s NCAA tournament was not as secure as it usually is on Saturday.
No. 9 Miami came back from 17 points down at halftime to defeat No. 8 Oklahoma State, 62–61. The Cowgirls had a shot at the buzzer to win after Miami committed a five-second violation, but it bounced harmlessly off the rim.
Hours later, in the Seattle Regional 3, No. 7 Baylor overcame Alabama’s 18-point lead in the second quarter to win 78–74.
Baylor trailed 22–4 at the end of the first quarter and led by 11 at halftime. The Bears dominated the fourth quarter and took the lead with 3:30 to go on a 3-pointer by Sarah Andrews. Alabama scored six straight field goals to take the lead, with Baylor scoring 7 straight points in the final 53 seconds to seal the win.
Miami’s comeback tied for the fifth-largest tournament total in women’s NCAA tournament history, before Baylor’s comeback tied for third place.
We also can’t forget Ohio State. The No. 3 Buckeyes trailed No. 14 James Madison 35–19 with 4:01 remaining in the second quarter before coming back and outscoring Duke by 30 points the rest of the way. Ohio State defeated JMU 80–66 as Coty McMahon had 18 points and Jesse Sheldon scored 17.
UCLA holds Northwestern
No. 2 UCLA stopped Northwestern’s upset effort in a 68–63 victory over the Wildcats.
The Bruins shot 50% from the field as Northwestern never led after taking a 3–0 lead to start the game. Tiger Campbell was 12-of-12 from the free-throw line and Jaime Jaquez scored 24 points for the Bruins.
However, there are some concerns for UCLA. The Bruins got Adam Bona back in the starting lineup on Saturday, but guard David Singleton looked like he seriously rolled his right ankle while taking the court in the last minute. Singleton was helped off the court after moaning in pain, although he was able to put weight on his leg.
UCLA head coach Mick Cronin said of the injury, “He didn’t break his ankle, which I was worried he did.”
The absence of a singleton in the Sweet 16 and a potential Elite Eight matchup will be huge for a UCLA team that is without Jaylen Clark due to a lower leg injury.
maddy segrist dominates
Maddie Siegrist of Villanova entered Saturday’s first-round game against Cleveland State as the leading scorer in the nation with 29 points per game. She easily surpassed that average with 35 points in Villanova’s 76–59 win.
Siegrist leads the nation in field goals made and is second in field goal attempts per game. She was 15 of 28 from the field as no other Wildcat had more than 10 shots.
Villanova outscored Cleveland State 42–21 in the first half and was sure to make a statement early. The margin was 29 at the end of the third quarter, yet Siegrist finished the game with all but four minutes left.
The win sets up a matchup with Florida Gulf Coast in the second round on Monday.
Rick Barnes looking for Elite Eight ahead of 2008
Rick Barnes is in his 36th season as head coach at the top level of college basketball. His teams have won 778 games in those 36 seasons and he has coached 20-win teams in 23 of those 36 seasons.
Yet Barnes never had much success in the NCAA tournament. His teams have been consistently very poor against post-season dispersal and have only made one Final Four appearance. That came in 2003, when Texas made it to the national semifinals.
And Barnes’ most recent Elite Eight appearance came five years after that in 2008 with the Longhorns. Since then, Texas and Tennessee teams coached by Barnes have made nine NCAA tournament appearances. But none of these teams has won any match in three matches.
Tennessee has a great chance to win three games in 2023 after a 65-52 win over Duke. The Vols got 27 points from Olivier Nakamahaua and beat the Blue Devils on the glass. And thanks to Purdue’s upset loss to Fairleigh Dickinson on Friday, Tennessee must beat the Knights or Florida Atlantic next Thursday for a spot in Barnes’ second Final Four.
Furman can’t advance to Sweet 16
Furman’s NCAA Tournament run ended the first weekend.
The No. 13 Paladins stunned Virginia on Thursday but dominated No. 5 San Diego State in the first game of the day on Saturday. The Aztecs won 75–52 as their stout defense held Fuhrman to just 32% from the field.
JP Pegs hit the game-winning shot against Virginia and was just 3-of-15 from the field against San Diego State. Four Aztecs players were in double digits and shot 23-of-38 from inside the arc.
San Diego State broke the Mountain West’s losing streak in the NCAA Tournament with its win on Thursday and is now in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2014.