The Best and Worst from Day 2 of March Madness


No need for a lead-in, let’s get right to it.

The 3 Best March Madness Games Of Day 2

1. (10) Colorado 102, (7) Florida 100 (South)

From the moment the brackets were unveiled six days ago, this was a game that jumped off the page (assuming Colorado was able to advance out of the First Four) as a potential shootout. It certainly did not disappoint.

Colorado’s shooting numbers: 63.0 percent from the field, 60.0 percent from three, 84.8 percent from the free-throw line.

Florida’s shooting numbers: 51.5 percent from the field, 44.0 percent from three, 86.4 percent from the free-throw line.

At one point in the second half, Colorado scored an absurd 16 times on 18 possessions to build what seemed to be an insurmountable 94-81 advantage. Then Walter Clayton Jr. and Florida hit the turbo boosters and roared back to create the most thrilling finish of the tournament thus far.

Clayton drilled a triple to get the Gators within three with 37.6 seconds to play.

And then he tied things up at 100 with an absolute bomb two possessions later.

This set the stage for someone on Colorado to play hero. Naturally that someone was the Buffaloes’ leading scorer, KJ Simpson.

Maybe a little push off, but that’s ok. No one’s ever criticized Jordan for doing it. Not once.

The game marked the first time that two teams have scored over 100 points in the same NCAA tournament game since 2005 … and that game, a West Virginia win over Wake Forest, went to double overtime. All told, it was the 21st game in tournament history where both teams hit triple digits, and the first time it’s happened in regulation since 2004 (UAB 102, Washington 100).

With this win coupled with the Buffs’ triumph over Boise State in Dayton on Wednesday, Colorado has now won multiple games in an NCAA tournament for the first time since 1955. A win Sunday over Marquette would send them to the Sweet 16 for the first time in the tournament’s modern era.

2. (13) Yale 78, (4) Auburn 76 (East)

At the same time Florida and Colorado were shooting it out in Indianapolis, Auburn and Yale were trading body blows in Spokane.

The Bulldogs rallied from a 10-point deficit midway through the second half to stun one of the pre-tournament Final Four favorites and secure just their second NCAA tournament win. The victory also marked Yale’s first win over an SEC opponent since 1969.

It did not come without some anxious moments in the closing seconds.

Yale could not grab a defensive rebound to shut the door on the Tigers, and wound up surviving via a handful of missed free-throws and a flurry of desperate Auburn shot attempts in the game’s closing seconds that could not find the bottom of the net.

Yale’s John Poulakidas was the hero of the day, pouring in a game-high 28 points and hitting big shot after big shot in the game’s closing minutes. He finished 10-of-15 from the field and 6-of-9 from the three-point line.

The defeat was yet another March gut-punch for Auburn, which has been knocked out of the tournament in the opening weekend in each of the last three seasons. The Tigers haven’t been passed the second round since their run to the Final Four in 2019.

Things were supposed to be different this year, as Bruce Pearl’s team entered the Big Dance ranked No. 5 overall on KenPom, and coming off of an impressive run to the SEC tournament title.

Adding insult to injury: Auburn had been 11-0 in NCAA tournament first round games before Friday.

3. (9) Northwestern 77, (8) Florida Atlantic 65 (OT) (East)

The line between March immortality and March oblivion is so razor thin. Take, for instance, the case of Florida Atlantic.

A year ago, FAU appeared to be a minute away from a one-and-done performance in its second ever NCAA tournament appearance. The ninth-seeded Owls wound up advancing by a single point thanks in large part to some awful decision-making by their opponents, 8th-seeded Memphis, and a highly questionable jump ball call in the game’s closing seconds. Dusty May’s team, of course, wound up riding that wave of good fortune all the way to the Final Four, where they wound up coming one shot away from playing for the national title.

Fast-forward a year and the Owls found themselves in a nearly identical position: Playing in an 8-9 game, in a one possession contest in the final minute, and with essentially the same roster they had the season before.

This time, FAU was the team that did the slipping up.

Leading by two with 26 seconds to play, Florida Atlantic’s Vladislav Goldin strode to the free-throw line with a chance to make it a two possession game. He missed the front end of a 1-and-1. Northwestern’s Brooks Barnhizer then tied things up on a layup that … could have been defended better.

(In an odd twist of fate, Florida Atlantic head coach Dusty May actually played high school basketball for Barnhizer’s father at Eastern Greene High School in Indiana.)

FAU had one last chance to end things in regulation, but Johnell Davis — no stranger to late-game heroics throughout his college career — oddly approached the game’s final four seconds as if he had a full shot clock to work with.

No one knew it at the time, but that was essentially the game.

Northwestern dominated the overtime period, as graduate transfer guard Ryan Langborg outscored Florida Atlantic by himself, 12-7.

This is Northwestern’s third trip to the NCAA tournament, and the Wildcats are now 3-0 all-time in first round games. They’re also 0-2 all-time in second round games. If Chris Collins and company are going to take the program somewhere it’s never been, they’re going to have to go through No. 1 overall seed UConn on Sunday.

For Florida Atlantic, it’s an unsatisfying end to one of the rarest of college basketball occurrences: A mid-major program that goes on a deep run in the NCAA tournament and then returns its head coach and nearly all its players for the season after. Now, May is almost certainly headed to a bigger program, something that can likely be said for players like Davis, Goldin and Alijah Martin as well.

The 5 Teams That Won It The Best

1. Clemson

Heading into Friday afternoon’s game, 11-seeds that were favored to beat 6-seeds had been 11-1 all-time in those games, with 10 of those wins coming by double-digits (the most recent being Oregon’s 87-73 win over South Carolina on Thursday). Adding to the odds stacked against Clemson — a 2.5-point underdog against Mountain West tournament champion New Mexico — was the fact that all three six seeds playing on Thursday lost their first round games against 11-seeds.

Naturally, Clemson went out Friday and kicked the ever living shit out of New Mexico for 40 minutes straight.

The Tigers thoroughly dominated on both ends of the floor, but especially on defense, where they held the Lobos to their worst shooting performance this season — 29.7 percent from the floor and 13 percent (3-for-23) from beyond the arc. Chase Hunter paced Clemson’s offensive effort with 21 points and six assists.

How quickly do things change in March? The last time we saw New Mexico it was winning four games in four days to conquer the tournament of a conference that placed six teams in the field of 68. The last time we saw Clemson they were losing by 21 to Boston College in their first game of the ACC tournament.

Mere days later: Clemson 77, New Mexico 56.

2. James Madison

James Madison springing the 12/5 upset on Wisconsin wasn’t shocking in and of itself. The Dukes looking like the vastly superior team from basically the opening tip until the final whistle was certainly something of a surprise.

JMU didn’t trail for a single second on Friday, rolling to a 72-61 win over a Badger team that had seemed to find its best self last week at the Big Ten tournament. The Dukes were more physical, more aggressive and more confident for all 40 minutes of play. They stole the ball from Wisconsin 10 times, forced 13 turnovers in 36 possessions, and held the Badgers to 26.0 percent shooting from the field.

“They were just the more aggressive team,” Wisconsin guard Chucky Hepburn admitted. “They kind of just shocked us to start the game and we didn’t handle it very well.”

So now the James Madison Dukes, who just dispatched of a team from Madison, will move on to face Duke in round two. If ever there were a time to square off against a star player named James, it would be in next week’s Sweet 16.

Some of us … SOME OF US … might be feeling just a bit better today about our pre-tournament prediction of a certain team becoming the first 12-seed to ever crash the Final Four. But that’s just some of us.

3. UConn

The reigning national champs and this tournament’s No. 1 overall seed left no room for drama in round one. UConn shot a scorching 68.8 percent in the first half, led 52-19 at the break, and cruised to a 91-52 win over Stetson, which was making its first NCAAA tournament appearance.

The win was the Huskies’ most lopsided NCAA victory since beating Chattanooga by 56 in the first round of the 2009 tournament.

Naturally, Danny Hurley was pissed.

UConn’s last seven NCAA tournament victories have come by an average of 22.7 ppg. None of them have come by fewer than 13 points.

4. Grand Canyon

Just as it was in the day’s other 12/5 upset, Grand Canyon simply looked better from start to finish against its better-seeded foe. The Lopes used their slashing offense and superior athleticism to pull away from Saint Mary’s early in the second half and then coast to a 75-66 victory, the program’s first ever NCAA tournament win.

GCU’s backcourt is good enough to go head-to-head with just about any team in this tournament, and that’s primarily due to the presence of Tyon Grant-Foster. The senior guard, who had stints at Kansas and DePaul (as well as a 16-month period on the sidelines because of heart issues) before arriving in Phoenix, scored a game-high 22 points while also pulling down seven rebounds.

The Lopes now get Alabama and the nation’s No. 1 scoring offense on Sunday.

5. Baylor

The Bears put to bed any hope of Colgate pulling off its first NCAA tournament win in program history by knocking down 16-of-30 shots from beyond the arc, good for a sizzling 53.3 percent.

“Hopefully, we saved a couple of made threes for the next game, because 16 for 30 is pretty efficient,” Baylor head coach Scott Drew said after his team’s 92-67 win.

After building an early 22-point lead, the Bears then turned their attention to the inside, where they were able to dominate the undersized Raiders. Baylor shot 57.9 percent from the field for the game. Senior forward Jalen Bridges led the way with 23 points.

The 5 Biggest Disappointments

1. Auburn

One of the biggest rationales behind the notion that UConn got dealt the toughest region in the tournament was the presence of Auburn as the Huskies’ 4-seed.

The Tigers entered the tournament at No. 4 on KenPom, every other advanced metric loved them about just as much, and they had just rolled to an SEC tournament championship where they won their three games by an average of 18.3 ppg.

Thanks to some poor choices (more on that later), equally poor defense, and some horrendous late-game execution, Auburn is no longer a team the reigning national champions have to worry about it.

2. Grambling State

I’m not saying you had to beat a top-seeded Purdue team in the first round again, but you couldn’t have at least put a little scare into them? Couldn’t have given us a little Gardner-Webb versus Virginia in 2019 moment?

It just would have been nice. That’s all I’m saying.

In all seriousness, congrats to the Tigers on their first NCAA tournament appearance and their first NCAA tournament victory in program history.

3. Wisconsin

We already mentioned it earlier, but the Badgers got straight up punked by James Madison for 40 minutes on Friday night. There was never a single moment, let alone a stretch of time, where the Big Ten tournament runners-up looked like the superior team.

It’s now been seven years since Bucky has advanced to a Sweet 16.

4. New Mexico

The only 11-seed to lose this year, and just the second favored 11-seed ever to lose in the first round. And they did it by 21 points.

No fan base deserves to finally get over the hump and into the Sweet 16 for the first time (in the tournament’s modern era) more than Lobo fans do. It’s going to happen at some point.

5. Nebraska

It was between Nebraska and TCU for the final spot, but we have to go with the Huskers since they were an 8-seed and the Horned Frogs were a nine.

Texas A&M entered the NCAA tournament ranked 343rd out of 362 Division-I teams with a team average of 28.4 percent from behind the three-point line. Nebraska allowed that same team to drill 13-of-24 shots from beyond the arc and hang 98 points on them. That was all she wrote.

5 Day 2 Cheers

1. The 2-seeds

Each of the last three NCAA tournaments had seen not only a 15-seed upset a 2-seed in the first round, but all three of those 15-seeds go on to advance to the tournament’s second weekend. Those three trips to the Sweet 16 (and one trip to the Elite Eight) make up 75 percent of the occurrences where 15-seeds have won multiple March Madness games.

Maybe all of that attention had this year’s crop of 2-seeds on high alert. Or maybe they were all just way, way better than this year’s crop of 15s.

Whatever the reason, No. 2 seeds had zero trouble advancing to Saturday and Sunday in 2024. Like, none.

Sometimes there are consequences for a particularly wacky couple of weeks of conference tournaments. A weak 15-line may have been one of them.

2. Yale and the Ivy League

Ready for a wild stat? With Yale’s win on Friday, the Ivy League is now 8-12 in NCAA tournament games since 2010. They’ve played all 20 of those games against teams ranked seven or more seed lines higher.

Yale, Princeton, Cornell and Harvard have all won two games in the Big Dance over that span.

We need a multi-bid Ivy League and we need it soon.

3. The Longwood flutist

I know that description is drenched in double entendre, but I promise this is a straightforward cheer.

Look:

The Lancers got blasted by top-seeded Houston, 86-46, but the flutist? Well, the flutist may have just earned herself a spot on “One Shining Moment.”

4. The Big East and the Pac-12

Credit the Pac-12 for knowing how to stick the landing.

In its final year of existence, the league put together its best football season in ages, and saw its conference champion play for the sport’s biggest prize. Now, the conference is off to a perfect 5-0 start in the NCAA tournament. Breaking the West Coast’s 27-year national title drought would be a remarkable final chapter.

As for the Big East, it became the first conference in history to have three teams or more go undefeated in the first round and win all of their games by 15 points or more. Maybe, just maybe, they should have gotten more than those three teams in the field.

Bonus shoutout to the ACC, which went 4-0 in first round games. Just don’t thump your chest too hard or else people are going to be reminded about what Virginia did in Dayton on Tuesday night. It’s still a pretty touchy subject. Needs a bit more time to air out.

5. Tyler Kolek’s return

Marquette All-American guard Tyler Kolek returned to the floor on Friday for the first time since Feb. 28. An oblique injury sidelined the 2023 Big East Player of the Year for the end of the regular season and the entirety of the conference tournament, and not surprisingly, the Golden Eagles were a shell of their typical selves without him.

Kolek didn’t appear to have missed a step in his return. If anything, he might have looked better than he did before his injury.

Playing 37 minutes in the Golden Eagles’ 87-69 win over Western Kentucky, Kolek put up 18 points, 11 assists, six rebounds and two steals.

The only other Marquette player to have at least 15 points, five rebounds and five assists in an NCAA tournament game? Dwyane Wade.

BONUS CHEER: The First Four trend continuing

Colorado’s thrilling win over Florida continued the trend of at-large teams who start their tournaments in the First Four going on to have success in the main draw.

The First Four became a thing in 2011. In every year but one (2019) since then, at least one team has gone from Dayton to win at least one game in the tournament’s main draw. Overall, First Four teams have now produced a total of 22 wins in the main draw. Colorado is a win away from becoming the sixth team to go from Dayton to the Sweet 16.

BONUS CHEER: Noah Freidel’s grandma traveling from South Dakota to New York

I’ll let him tell the story:

Greatest sporting event in the world.

5 Day 2 Jeers

1. The SEC

Greg Sankey just had to open his mouth. He just had to very publicly imply that the tournament needs to be tinkered with, and that giving automatic bids to smaller conferences is wasting them.

Well, look what you did now you absolute buffoon.

Mississippi State? Out at the hands of a worse-seeded team (No. 9 Michigan State).

Florida? Out at the hands of a worse-seeded team (No. 10 Colorado).

South Carolina? Out at the hands of a worse-seeded team (No. 11 Oregon).

Auburn? Out at the hands of a worse-seeded team FROM A NON-POWER CONFERENCE (No. 13 Yale).

Kentucky? Out at the hands of a worse-seeded team FROM A NON-POWER CONFERENCE (No. 14 Oakland).

At least they weren’t overly confident or anything heading into this thing.

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Oh.

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Oh no.

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OH GOD.

But let’s leave the coaches alone and re-focus our attention on the real enemy here: Sankey.

This man doesn’t deserve to eve glance at a bracket again. He should be removed from the building where any tournament of any sort is being played. He should be exiled from the country for the entire duration of the month of March each year from now through eternity.

No, I actually don’t think I’m being harsh enough.

2. Auburn’s Chad Baker-Mazara

Speaking of bad looks for the SEC.

Just three minutes into Friday’s game against Yale, Auburn guard Chad Baker-Mazara was ejected for throwing an elbow into the chest of Bulldog player August Mahoney.

The act forced the Tigers to play without their third-leading scorer and their most consistently lethal outside shooting threat for the game’s final 37 minutes. It didn’t go great.

When Baker-Mazara received word that his afternoon was over, he immediately sprinted back to the locker room, got on his phone and pulled up Twitter. Which, ok, is admittedly hilarious and probably something I would do, but still definitely an error in judgment.

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The tweet was quickly deleted, but screenshots, as they say, live forever.

Baker-Mazara, thankfully, has more collegiate eligibility remaining.

3. No perfect brackets remaining

None?

I feel like we usually at least make it fairly deep into the second round before we get to zero. And honestly, compared to some recent years, this hasn’t even been that insane a first couple of days. All the ones and twos are still in tact, just one three and one four have hit the road.

I’m just surprised, that’s all.

4. Keisei Tominaga’s tears

Had Nebraska been able to get hot in this tournament, Keisei Tominaga becoming one of the most popular athletes in America would have been about as safe a bet as there is.

The guy is a pure electric factory.

Instead, Texas A&M dropped 98 points, the game was never really in jeopardy, and Tominaga — who hit five threes and scored 21 points — was reduced to tears.

I hate it.

BONUS JEER: Nebraska

The Cornhuskers’ 98-83 loss means that Nebraska is still the only power conference program in America that has never won an NCAA tournament game.

They’re 0-8 all-time in the Big Dance.

5. The two best games of the day coming down the stretch at exactly the same time

Look, Friday was a mighty fine day of tournament basketball. I am not complaining. At all.

BUT, if you tied me to a chair and forced me to complain about something …

There were several stretches of time on Friday where there really wasn’t a single seriously competitive game being played. Lots of gaps in excitement peaks.

So with that being the case, it was just a little annoying that both Florida vs. Colorado and Yale vs. Auburn reached their thrilling conclusions at nearly the exact same time. Don’t get me wrong, that 10 minutes or so of pure exhilaration flipping back and forth between the two games was March at its best. But if we could have spaced those two classics out … jusssst a bit … that also would have been nice.

All Day-2 Team

Jaedon Ledee, San Diego State

SDSU’s best player brought his A game in round one of the tournament, scoring 32 points and also grabbing a team-high eight rebounds in the Aztecs’ 69-65 win over UAB.

Ryan Langborg, Northwestern

Langborg’s 27 points carried Northwestern into overtime and then across the finish line in their 77-65 win over Florida Atlantic. In the process, Langborg, who starred last season at Princeton, became just the second player two score 25 or more points in an NCAA tournament game at two different schools.

Zach Edey, Purdue

Grambling had no answer for the soon-to-be named back-to-back National Player of the Year. Edey finished with 30 points, 21 rebounds and three blocks in Purdue’s 78-50 rout.

Walter Clayton Jr., Florida

It came in a losing effort, but Clayton’s 33 points were the most scored by any player on Thursday.

Mark Sears, Alabama

Sears led Alabama’s 109-point onslaught by knocking down 9-of-13 shots from the field and scoring a game-high 30 points. He also dished out five assists.

5 Best Day 2 Dunks

I’m going to go ahead and get out in front of this now: This was not a great day of dunks.

The middling nature of this top five is not my fault. I don’t think I can stress that enough.

1. Grant Nelson, Alabama

2. Trey Kaufman-Renn, Purdue

3. Lamont Butler, San Diego State

4. Vladislav Goldin, Florida Atlantic

5. Donovan Clingan, UConn

Not my fault. Can’t stress it enough.

5 Best Day 2 Images

1. The ecstasy

NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament - First Round - Spokane

Photo by C. Morgan Engel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

2. The agony

Colgate v Baylor

Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

3. Eddie Lampkin loves the spotlight

Florida v Colorado

Photo by Ben Solomon/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

4. Alabama remains the greatest offensive show in the tournament

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@AlabamaMBB

5. Tongues out to beat TCU

This is very quickly becoming a huge tournament for sticking your tongue out. Girls in 2014 would be thrilled.

tongue

5 Notable Quotes From Day 2

1. “This was a team that our fans liked as much as any I’ve had in the 10 years I’ve been at Auburn. Our fans loved this team. They loved their energy. They loved their passion. They loved their emotion. They loved the fact they beat every team they were supposed to beat. Except tonight.” —Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl

2. “Just because I couldn’t play, the dream never went away.” —Grand Canyon guard Tyon Grant-Foster, who was sidelined for 16 months after collapsing during a game and nearly dying due to a cardiac event

3. “Nobody cares that you didn’t return any points from the year before. Nobody cares. We found a way. We did. Nobody handed this team anything. That’s been one of our mottos: Nobody cares. Nobody cares if you’re hurt, nobody cares if you’re banged up, nobody cares if we have 13 new players. You have to find a way to get it done, and this group, they continue to amaze me.” —Utah State head coach Danny Sprinkle

4. “You can’t ask for much more out of a game in March than the one you just saw.” —Colorado head coach Tad Boyle

5. “It’s hard to enjoy it, because there’s something that’s always next. So how does it feel? I’m really not feeling a lot of emotion right now. My thing is, I gotta get back tonight, got a late night, and gotta get these guys ready for Duke.” —James Madison head coach Mark Byington

Full Saturday schedule for 2024 men’s NCAA tournament

We’re still just getting started.

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