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Friday, May 27, 2022

Wild NCAA Weekend: St. Peter’s struts, Coach K stays employed, and double-digit seeds galore

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After being canceled in 2020 and played in a bubble in 2021, the NCAA tournament is back in its element.

The men played their first two rounds this weekend in front of crowds at stadiums across the country to set their Sweet 16. Meanwhile, the women have one more day of play on Monday before ending theirs. Both camps saw blue-blood breakthroughs and double-digit seedings, leaving plenty of compelling storylines heading into the second weekend of play.

Will San Pedro be able to continue dancing?

This is becoming a trend. The NCAA men’s tournament produced exactly zero No. 15 seeds in the Sweet 16 from the field’s expansion in 1985 through 2013. Since then, we’ve seen three, and now, two in a row.

“Dunk City” Florida Gulf Coast broke the mold in 2013. Oral Roberts repeated the feat in 2021. On Saturday, the St. Peter’s Peacocks became the third member of the club, defeating No. 2 seed Kentucky and No. 7 Murray. State in the second weekend of the tournament.

Who exactly is St. Peter’s, you ask? In short, it’s a small New Jersey Jesuit school with an undergraduate enrollment about 1/15 that of Kentucky. It is led by a former McDonald’s All-American Game MVP in Shaheen Holloway. And his fans like to go down. Because why wouldn’t they?

So what are the Peacocks’ chances of moving forward? Judging by the story, it’s not great. Florida Gulf Coast lost in the 2013 Sweet 16 to No. 3 seed Florida, 62-50. Meanwhile, Oral Roberts fought No. 3 Arkansas in a 72-70 loss in the Sweet 16 last year.

Is 2022 the year of the Elite Eight’s 15th seed invasion? If so, St. Peter’s will have to beat No. 3 seed Purdue to get there. The Boilermakers opened as 12.5-point favorites on Sunday night, making the Peacocks the biggest loser in the Sweet 16.

New double-digit seed record

While St. Peter’s is the most prominent Cinderella, it’s far from the only one. In fact, six total double-digit seeds have advanced to the Sweet 16 between the men’s and women’s tournaments, the first time that has happened, according to Stats Perform.

The chaos on the women’s side is historic on its own. No. 10 South Dakota eliminated No. 2 Baylor while No. 10 Creighton eliminated No. 2 Iowa on Sunday, taking down a pair of top contenders and one of the tournament’s biggest stars in Hawkeye Caitlin Clark. . They are now the fourth and fifth No. 10 seeds to advance to the women’s Sweet 16. It is the first time that two do it in the same year.

Meanwhile, three other double-digit female seeds — No. 11 Villanova, No. 12 Belmont and No. 11 Princeton — are still alive Monday to join the Cinderella ball.

ACC Cruises, SEC Accidents

The ACC has roared into the men’s Sweet 16. After a much-criticized regular season in which five teams made it to the NCAA field, a league low since it expanded in 2014, the ACC has punched three tickets to the second weekend of the tournament thanks to a 7- 2 effort in the initial rounds.

No. 10 Miami joined North Carolina and Duke in the second weekend of the tournament thanks to a win over No. 2 Auburn on Sunday night. After the game, Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga had a message for former Tiger standout Charles Barkley, who had promised on CBS Sunday that he would take his jersey off on television if Auburn won.

Larrañaga spoke for America after Miami’s victory.

“No one wants to see that, Chuck.”

As for Duke, coach Mike Krzyzewski’s retirement tour lives on for another game after a win over Michigan State and old rival Tom Izzo on Sunday. Up next, what promises to be a grueling game against a Texas Tech team that leads the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency. Vegas likes that Coach K’s run ends Thursday by 1.5 points. Stay tuned.

GREENVILLE, SOUTH CAROLINA – MARCH 20: Paolo Banchero #5 and head coach Mike Krzyzewski of the Duke Blue Devils hug after defeating the Michigan State Spartans 85-76 during the second round of the Men’s Basketball Tournament NCAA 2022 at Bon Secours Wellness Arena on March February 20, 2022 in Greenville, South Carolina. (Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images)

North Carolina, meanwhile, posted one of the wildest wins of the tournament by knocking out No. 1 seed Baylor on Saturday. The Tar Heels took a 25-point lead only to collapse alongside the umpires in the final 10 minutes of regulation. They somehow regained their composure to win in overtime and set up a matchup on Thursday against fellow blue blood UCLA, which opened as a 2.5-point favorite.

And in case you’re wondering, both teams’ two tournament wins in a matchup between Duke and UNC Final Four in Coach K’s final season. That’s a bridge to be crossed when they get there.

Where the ACC sailed, the SEC failed. Watch Miami’s victory over Auburn. See also Kentucky, LSU, Alabama and Tennessee, who joined Auburn in upset upsets to double-digit seeds this weekend.

After the SEC placed six teams in the field, only No. 4 seed Arkansas advances to the Sweet 16, where it will face No. 1 seed Gonzaga. The Zags opened as 8.5-point favorites.

South Carolina is cruising

Where the men’s field remains relatively open, the women’s field seems less open. South Carolina lives up to its billing as the women’s No. 1 seed overall. The Gamecocks beat No. 16 Howard, 79-21 to open the tournament, but it was the first-half margin that really stood out.

South Carolina led, 44-4 at the half, holding Howard to the fewest halftime points in NCAA tournament history. The Gamecocks put on another dominant defensive display Sunday in a 49-33 win over No. 8 seed Miami. Below is the winner of Monday’s matchup between No. 4 Arizona and No. 5 North Carolina.

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