The Best and Worst from Day 2 of March Madness

We’ve got too much to get to for any sort of big intro here, so let’s just get right to it.

If you want to get to the Fairleigh Dickinson stuff, then you can go ahead and skip on down to the second section. While the Knights’ upset of Purdue was certainly the most notable result of the day, it was not one of the day’s three best games. Blame the Boilermakers for that.

The 3 Best March Madness Games Of Day 2

1. (6) TCU 72, (11) Arizona State 70 (West)

Unlike Thursday, the late, late window of games was sensational on Friday. Spearheading that charge was sixth-seeded TCU’s come-from-behind win over Bobby Hurley and Arizona State in the West Region.

It may not have featured the history of Fairleigh Dickinson-Purdue or the closing chaos of FAU-Memphis, but it did have its own phenomenal finish, was incredibly entertaining throughout, and to me was the most complete game of day two.

For most of the night, Arizona State — which hung 98 points on Nevada in a First Four trouncing on Wednesday — appeared poised to steamroll its way into the second round. The Sun Devils led by 11 early in the second half and had all the momentum in the world thanks to a slew of highlight reel dunks.

Jamie Dixon’s team kept hanging around and chipping away. Eventually, they found themselves leading by three with just 24 seconds to play.

That’s when Arizona State’s DJ Horne decided he wasn’t ready to go home yet.

Unfortunately for the Sun Devils, there were still 15 seconds left for TCU to counter.

JaKobe Coles, a reserve who averaged just under 17 minutes of court time per game this season but saw his playing time increase recently after big man Eddie Lampkin left the team, grabbed hold of his March moment and didn’t let go.

TCU, which nearly upset No. 1 seed Arizona in the second round of the tournament a year ago, is now a Sunday win over Gonzaga away from its first trip to the Sweet 16 since 1968.

2. (3) Xavier 72, (14) Kennesaw State 67 (Midwest)

For most of the afternoon on Friday, it looked like Kennesaw State — which was playing in its first NCAA tournament game and which won just 12 total games in three seasons from 2018-2021 — was going to establish itself as the story of the tournament’s opening round.

The Owls led by 13 with 9:56 to play against a Xavier team displaying all the confidence of a communications major tackling a geometry proof. Then, suddenly, KSU went cold. Kennesaw went scoreless over the game’s next six minutes and 11 seconds, allowing the third-seeded Musketeers to rediscover their footing and rip off a 15-0 run to seize control.

Despite scoring just six points over the game’s final 10 minutes, Kennesaw State still found itself in a position to pull off the upset in the game’s closing seconds.

With his team trailing 68-67 and under 10 seconds to play, KSU’s Terrell Burden appeared to have a clear path to the basket for a layup that would put his team in front. Xavier big man Jack Nunge had other ideas.

The Musketeers would then salt away the game at the free-throw line to secure the first NCAA tournament win of the second Sean Miller era.

Kennesaw State’s loss extended the streak of losses for first-time NCAA tournament participants to 11. The last two teams to win in their first Big Dance appearance were Northwestern and UC Davis, who both tasted victory in 2017.

3. (9) Florida Atlantic 66, (8) Memphis 65 (East)

This one wasn’t exactly a work of art, with both teams going scoreless for long stretches, and the game’s final flurry including some sloppy play and a controversial call. But it was still extremely competitive, extremely eventful, and it delivered in the moments that mattered the most.

Neither team ever led by more than single digits, partly because neither could get any outside shots to fall with any degree of consistency. Florida Atlantic finished 8-for-28 from three and Memphis was 6-of-22. No player in the game connected on more than two shots from the outside.

After a bizarre flurry of late-game events that included some Memphis in-fighting (more on that below) and a controversial jump ball call, Florida Atlantic found itself with the ball, down one, and just 5.5 seconds to play.

“In the timeout, I said, ‘Coach, I got it,’” FAU guard Nick Boyd said after the game. “I don’t know why I was feeling that way, but I just said, ‘Coach, let me get the ball.’ I caught it in the corner. I was going to shoot the 3. He jumped for the shot fake. And Vlad (Goldin) had a great seal, allowed me to get to the rim. I just thought about finishing no matter what.”

The win was the first NCAA tournament triumph for Florida Atlantic, whose only other appearance in the Big Dance came back in 2002. It also improved the record of the best team in school history to a sparkling 32-3.

“It’s good — but we’re not done yet,” said FAU leading scorer Giancarlo Rosado said. “We didn’t come here to win one game. We didn’t come here to win two games. We came to win it because that’s what we do. We’ve proved that we’re a Top 25 program. Half of the season we were Top 25. We’ve proved we’re supposed to be here. We’re not doing nothing we’re not supposed to be doing.”

The 5 Teams That Won It The Best

1. Fairleigh Dickinson

All right, let’s get into it.

Purdue wasn’t the No. 1 overall seed in this NCAA tournament, and they weren’t one of the two or three top betting favorites to cut down the nets. While the Boilermakers were certainly a deserving top seed, what sets this upset apart from most stunners not just in this event, but in the history of sports, is the profile of the little guy who did the shocking.

Here’s a quick guide to everything that made Friday night’s upset one of the more unbelievable things any of us have ever witnessed.

—Fairleigh Dickinson is a 16-seed that didn’t even win its own conference regular season or tournament title. Oh, and that conference just so happens to be the lowest-rated conference in all of Division-I.

The Knights lost to Merrimack in the Northeast Conference tournament championship game, but still got to advance to March Madness because of an NCAA rule that prohibits teams transitioning to Division-I from playing in the NCAA tournament for their first four years. Merrimack, which has won two regular season titles and one tournament title in its first four years in the NEC, is finally eligible for the NCAA tournament next season.

—Out of 363 Division-I basketball teams, this was a matchup of the tallest in the sport versus the shortest in the sport.

Fairleigh Dickinson isn’t just the shortest team in college basketball this season, they’re the second shortest since Ken Pomeroy began keeping track of the collective height of teams in 2001-02. The only team shorter than the 2022-23 Knights was a 2009-10 Grambling State team that finished 7-21.

“David vs. Goliath” March references were officially worn out like 75 years ago, but they’ve never been more appropriate than they are in this moment.

—Fairleigh Dickinson won FOUR games last season.

The Knights finished last season at 4-22 overall and didn’t win a single game out of conference. That gave FDU AD Bradford Hurlbut more than enough reason to fire head coach Greg Herenda and bring in Tobin Anderson, who had zero previous experience as a Division-I head coach.

A lack of experience didn’t stop Anderson, who spent the previous nine seasons at Division-II Thomas Aquinas, from calling his shot against Purdue earlier this week.

Maybe it helped that he had been theoretically preparing for a game against the Boilermakers since January.

—Fairleigh Dickinson was 68th out of 68 teams on the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee’s official seed list last Sunday.

That’s right, quite literally the worst team in the March Madness field according to the people who set the bracket.

—Unlike UMBC five years ago, Fairleigh Dickinson had to win a First Four game in Dayton just to make it into the main draw of the tournament.

On Wednesday night, the Knights faced a Texas Southern team that entered the evening with 20 losses and a losing overall record … and FDU was a 3-point underdog in the game.

—The Knights entered Friday as, easily, the lowest-ranked NCAA tournament team on Ken Pom, all the way down at No. 298.

They SKYROCKETED all the way up to No. 275 following the win. The next lowest-ranked team out of the 32 squads still standing? Princeton at No. 98.

—Fairleigh Dickinson’s season started with an insane loss to Loyola-Chicago on opening night.

Remember this? Probably not, but it happened.

The Knights would start the season with six losses in their first nine games, and were just 6-8 overall when conference play started on Dec. 29.

—We have to end by noting that Fairleigh Dickinson, again one of the smallest teams in modern college basketball history, did this against a team championed by a 7’4 superstar who is about to be named everyone’s national Player of the Year.

Anderson knew that Zach Edey was going to get his to an extent, but he also knew that he couldn’t let the monster in the middle go nuts to the tune of 45 and 20 or something. So he sunk the entire FDU defense in on Edey and dared anyone else in white and gold to beat them. No one could.

Edey finished with 21 and 15, but was not allowed to attempt a shot in the game’s final 9 minutes and 24 seconds. His teammates could not capitalize at all, going 5-of-26 from three and often looking like they wanted no part in taking the big shot down the stretch.

An unbelievable story, an unbelievable sequence of events, and an unbelievable upset that I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to fully wrap my mind around.

I also need to revisit this tweet from 2019.

Turns out just Fairleigh is good enough.

2. UConn

For 20 minutes on Friday afternoon, UConn took every blow Rick Pitino’s Iona Gaels could rain down on them. The 13-seed did not appear intimidated whatsoever, made its first five field goal attempts of the game, and was shooting 60 percent from beyond the arc going into the break. The Huskies still trailed by only two.

Pitino called it the best half of basketball his team had played all season. Hurley thought it was too, and suspected that it couldn’t last.

Sure enough, Connecticut’s level of play didn’t dwindle out of the locker room, and when Iona’s first half magic began to fade, the Huskies pulled away. They also better utilized their superior size, with big man Adama Sanogo taking over during the game’s defining stretch. The 245-pound junior had a dunk, a baby hook int he lane, a couple of layups and two free-throws, to score 10 points in three minutes to help UConn build a 54-43 lead. Iona would never really threaten again.

While Connecticut may be a 4-seed on paper, most of the advanced metrics that track college basketball have the Huskies ranked somewhere in the top five, and identify them as a top-tier contender to win the national championship. Count Pitino among those who believe the Huskies have what it takes to cut down the nets in Houston.

They certainly looked the part in round one.

3. Michigan State

Save for a stretch of about five minutes late in the first half, Michigan State always appeared to be the superior and more in control team during its lid-lifting afternoon win over USC. The Spartans always seemed to get what they wanted on offense far more easily than the Trojans. If not for some less than stellar free-throw shooting by MSU and some desperation three-point makes by USC, this one would have gotten way more out of hand.

Next up is Marquette on Sunday, and there’s plenty of reason to believe that Michigan State’s season won’t end there.

Eight times in his career, Tom Izzo has pulled off an NCAA tournament upset of a 2-seed. If the Spartans beat the Golden Eagles on Sunday, he’ll tie Lute Olsen for the most such wins in the history of March Madness.

4. Saint Mary’s

VCU over Saint Mary’s was one of the trendiest upset picks coming into this tournament, but credit the Gaels for not allowing it to come close to happening.

Neither team shot the ball well in this game, but Saint Mary’s controlled the pace, did not allow VCU’s havoc defense to speed them up or turn them over, and accentuated their advantage inside.

It was a workmanlike 12-point victory for a team that’s likely going to need to find a little bit more offense if it wants to get past Connecticut in a couple of days.

5. Marquette

If you had told the sports public before the start of the tournament that there would be one 15 over 2 upset in the first round, Vermont toppling Marquette would have been the result I think most people would have pointed to. The Big East regular season and tournament champion wasn’t having it, pulling away from the Catamounts in the game’s final 10 minutes to secure a comfortable 17-point victory.

The win was Marquette’s first in the NCAA tournament since 2013, and it also snapped a six-game March Madness losing streak for second-year head coach Shaka Smart. Ironically, Smart’s most recent tournament win had also been all the way back in 2013.

HONORABLE MENTION: Kansas State

The Wildcats avoided becoming the latest Big 12 team to lose a 3/14 game, and never really let Big Sky champion Montana State threaten them.

Perhaps more importantly, the current team vibes for Jerome Tang and company are off the charts.

Kentucky’s up next on Sunday.

The 5 Biggest Disappointments

1. Purdue

I could list all of the stuff from the Fairleigh Dickinson section again, but I think you all have gotten the point. Any 1-seed losing to any 16-seed is clearly bad. This 1-seed losing to this 16-seed is almost unthinkably bad.

The other thing that has to be mentioned here is that, just like with Virginia, losing to a 16-seed is now the example of all examples of an issue that had already been plaguing the Purdue program for a while now.

Last year, of course, it was another crazy Cinderella from New Jersey — No. 15 seed Saint Peter’s — that stunned Purdue in the Sweet 16 and kept them from capitalizing on what appeared to be a clear path to their first regional championship since 1980.

The Boilermakers didn’t just become the second No. 1 seed to lose to a 16-seed on Friday, they became the first program in the history of the NCAA tournament to lose to a double-digit seed in three consecutive years.

Matt Painter has won a lot of games over a lot of years at Purdue, but the early exits and the lack of a Final Four trip were already clouding that sunshine before Friday. Now, it has to feel like there’s barely a speck of blue at all in the figurative skies above West Lafayette.

2. Iowa State

During its pregame warm-up on Friday, Iowa State asked NCAA tournament officials to inspect the goal they were shooting on and make sure that the rim was level.

An NCAA statement shortly thereafter read: “Iowa State asked us during pregame warmups to check if the rim was level. Building personnel checked it and made a minor adjustment prior to the game beginning. We offered them additional warmup time but they declined.”

Perhaps they should have just left it alone.

The Cyclones didn’t end up having the worst shooting performance in the history of the NCAA tournament, but they came dangerously close.

Iowa State missed its first 11 shots of the game and 17 of its first 19. Any concern that this might have had something to do with the controversial rim was put to bed when the Cyclones missed 23 of their first 25 shots after halftime on the other end of the floor.

A late flurry of meaningless makes allowed ISU to shoot 23.3 percent (14-of-60) from the field, narrowly avoiding the modern record low of 18.8 percent, which was set by Butler in the 2011 national championship game.

They lost, by the way — 59-41 to a Pitt team that just 34.0 percent from the field itself. The Panthers will face alum Sean Miller and Xavier in the second round on Sunday.

3. Memphis

Losing in the final seconds to Florida Atlantic in what was essentially a coin flip game isn’t enough on its own to land you on this last. It’s the dysfunctional manner in which the Tigers gave the game away that was so disappointing.

Yes, there was a questionable officiating decision in the game’s final seconds, but Memphis wouldn’t have even been in that position had it not started self-destructing several minutes earlier.

With 5:55 to play and Memphis leading by two, Tigers star Kendric Davis appeared to injure his ankle when he came down on the foot of an FAU player. Davis was furious after the play, but it appeared his ire was directed at teammate Malcolm Dandridge for some reason. Dandridge shoved Davis in response as the team was headed to the sidelines during a timeout, and the two had to be separated as they continued to shout at one another.

According to the broadcast, Penny Hardaway sat in silence for nearly a minute as his players continued to argue amongst each other.

Whatever happened, Davis never appeared to be the same. He continued to look upset on the bench, and then remained moody after checking back into the game. His atrocious turnover in the game’s final seconds led to the controversial held ball call that resulted in FAU’s game-winner.

As the final horn sounded to end a game that Memphis had seemed to have locked up about 12 different times, Hardaway’s frustrations were on full display.

Memphis is now 1-2 in NCAA tournament games under Hardaway, who just wrapped up his fifth season at the head of the program.

4. Providence

The Friars dropped their fourth consecutive game to end a season that had been so promising just a few weeks earlier, and did so in especially gross fashion.

Providence shot just 5-of-24 from three and just 36.2 percent from the field overall. Their offensive woes kept them from being able to take advantage of the fact that sixth-seeded Kentucky connected on just 25.0 percent of its shots in the second half. PC also allowed UK big man Oscar Tshiebwe to pull down an absurd 25 rebounds, the most in a tournament game since Michigan’s Phil Hubbard had 26 against Detroit Mercy in 1977.

Friar star Bryce Hopkins had a rough night facing the program that he transferred from after last season. Hopkins made just 2-of-9 shots and fought back tears as he went through the handshake line following his team’s 61-53 defeat.

5. Drake

Like Memphis, this is more about what happened during the game than it is about an overall disappointing performance. That might not seem fair to you, but whatever, write your own mega-recap and I’ll be sure to check it out.

Drake completely controlled the first 32 minutes of the game, but let a 12/5 upset slip through their hands because of some abysmal decision making and awful shooting in the game’s final minutes. The Bulldogs missed their last seven shots from the field and were scoreless the final 3:24, allowing Miami to end the game on a 16-1 run and keep their season alive.

Norchad Omier was playing hurt, Isaiah Wong shot 1-of-10 from the field, and Miami made just six threes and shot just 30.4 percent from the field as a team. All of those things scream upset, and yet, here we are.

5 Day 2 Cheers

1. The Kennesaw State story

It got largely lost in the shuffle because of Xavier’s comeback and Fairleigh Dickinson’s historic upset hours later, but Kennesaw State’s rise to mid-major prominence deserves some shine.

The Owls made the move to Division-I in 2005, and had not had a season above .500 since then until this one. The year before head coach Amir Abdur-Rahim arrived at Kennesaw in 2019-20, KSU had gone 6-26. In Abdur-Rahim’s first season, they went 1-28. Four seasons later they won 26 games, made the NCAA tournament for the first time, and damn near won a game in the thing.

The head coach was understandably emotional as he reflected on the four-year journey after Friday’s game.

That right there is why March is the absolute best.

2. Brothers

For the first time in NCAA tournament history, Friday saw two different sets of head coaching brothers lead four different teams all on the same day.

Danny Hurley led UConn to a win over Iona. Hours later, his brother Bobby saw his Arizona State team let a late lead slip away against TCU. Meanwhile, Scott Drew and Baylor took down UC Santa Barbara with ease, while Bryce Drew’s Grand Canyon team came up short against Gonzaga.

By the rules of brotherdom, each winning brother is allowed to stuff their losing brother in a closet for 15 minutes and then lie to their mom when confronted hours later about what happened.

3. A Greensboro Ledgie

On Thursday we saw four wedgies on one court in Des Moines.

Friday countered with the even more rare “ledgie,” and it came off of a free-throw.

Everything that has happened over these first two days points towards this tournament ending with a bizarro national champion, and I’m here for it.

4. 3-Seeds

The seed line with the best first round record over the last six NCAA tournaments? It’s not the top line, it’s not the second line, it’s the third line, which has gone 23-1 over that time span, with Texas’ upset lost to Abilene Christian serving as the only blemish.

The four No. 3 seeds all took care of business on Friday, with only Xavier prevailing by fewer than 12 points. The last four 3-seeds to fall in the first round have all been members of the Big 12, so a special tip of the cap to both Baylor and Kansas State for taking care of business.

5. Nick Boyd and Dusty May’s moment

Moments after his game-winning shot propelled Florida Atlantic to its first NCAA tournament win in program history, third-year FAU guard Nick Boyd was asked about his relationship with head coach Dusty May. He couldn’t even really get into his answer before getting choked up.

Boyd also spoke glowingly about his head coach’s “player friendly” demeanor in a piece from The Athletic earlier this month.

“Coach is one of the nicest coaches in the country,” Boyd said. “He obviously wants us to learn, and we make those mistakes in practice so we don’t make them in a game.”

Boyd, May and company are now just a win over Fairleigh Dickinson away from the Sweet 16.

BONUS CHEER: Tobin Anderson’s son meeting him in the tunnel

“Jeez,” indeed.

BONUS CHEER: The First Four streak of success continuing

Pitt’s disgusting win over Iowa State 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 21 wins in the main draw. Pitt is a win away from becoming the sixth team to go from Dayton to the Sweet 16. I guess the same could be said for Fairleigh Dickinson.

5 Day 2 Jeers

1. Matt Painter’s last gasp strategizing

I get that “coach/play until the final whistle” is a popular saying, but what in the world could Painter actually be drawing up here with his team trailing by five and less than a second to play?

My only guess is that this was some sort of computer overload deal, and Painter was just spouting random sets or coaching phrases from his past that made no sense as his brain struggled to come to terms with what was happening in the moment.

2. The 12-seeds

For just the sixth time in the last 37 years, no 12-seeds are advancing to the second round of the tournament.

This would be unusual in any year at this point, but it was especially surprising considering how strong the 12 line appeared to be coming into the event. Top mid and low major squads holding serve in their conference tournaments was supposed to result in a handful of 12, 13 and 14 seeds winning at least one game this weekend.

That didn’t really happen. Instead, we got both the least sexy 15-seed and the No. 68 overall seed in the tournament both winning games.

Be embarrassed, Charleston, VCU, Drake and Oral Roberts.

3. The Providence Friar

The Friar mascot has always been unnecessarily disturbing, but this shit? This shit is taking it too far.

I don’t care if this is just some kid trying to catch his breath or hype himself up for the second half, you can’t go full Blair Witch in front of other humans while wearing that outfit and not expect everyone around you to have their mental health blown to hell for at least a couple of months.

There is nothing about this that is ok.

4. The Hypnotoad

This one’s on me.

I enjoy the Hypnotoad. I like that it keeps popping up. I find it aesthetically pleasing.

I just don’t understand it. At all.

Part of being a washed dad inching closer to 40 is instinctively giving your best open-mouth dopey dad smile when presented with something you want to like but don’t fully grasp. That’s me here. I’m the dad being shown a TikTok video by his teenage son with comedic elements that became impossible for me to comprehend the moment I learned how to fix a garbage disposal.

Maybe it’ll click more on Sunday.

5. Charles Barkley’s former shower habits

We all agree this is a bit, right? This has to be a bit.

Please be a bit.

All Day-2 Team

Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana

The Hoosier superstar became the first player since 1986 to score at least 20 points, dish out at least five assists, and block at least five shots in an NCAA tournament game. He finished with 24, 5 and 5 (and also 11 rebounds) in IU’s impressive 71-60 win over Kent State.

Ryan Kalkbrenner, Creighton

The junior center did it all in Creighton’s 72-63 triumph over NC State, finishing with 31 points on 11-of-14 from the field, snagging seven rebounds, blocking three shots, and dishing out a pair of assists.

Adama Sanogo, UConn

Sanogo took over in the second half against the smaller Gaels of Iona, finishing with 28 points on 13-of-17 shooting and 13 rebounds. The Huskies improved to 18-0 on the season in games where Sanogo scores 20 points or more.

Julian Strawther, Gonzaga

Scored 28 points and snagged 10 rebounds to help Gonzaga pull away from Grand Canyon and advance to the second round with an 82-70 win.

Markquis Nowell, Kansas State

Nowell became just the ninth player since 1984 to hand out at least 14 assists in an NCAA tournament game, and the first since Ja Morant dished out 16 in 2019. In addition to the 14 assists, Nowell added 17 points and three steals in K-State’s 77-65 triumph over Montana State.

5 Best Day 2 Dunks

Day two was slightly better than day one in most respects, in my opinion, but there’s no debate that it was light years ahead when it comes to its collection of dunks.

These five were the best of the best.

1. Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana

2. Frankie Collins, Arizona State

3. Corey Floyd, Providence

4. Desi Sills, Kansas State

5. Jaden Akins, Michigan State

HONORABLE MENTION: Demond Robinson, Kennesaw State

5 Best Day 2 Images

1. What. Just. Happened?

USA Today

2. The celebration pours into the stands

Fairleigh Dickinson v Purdue

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

3. Ledgie forever

Providence v Kentucky

Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

4. Last dance as a Gael?

It certainly seems more likely than not that UConn is going to be seeing a lot more of Rick Pitino in the very near future.

Iona v Connecticut

Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

5. March joy and March sorrow

Providence v Kentucky

Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

5 Notable Quotes From Day 2

1. “I gotta go do some laundry, but we’ll get prepared for Sunday. I mean, listen: I had belief, but I’m not sure I had that much belief. I gotta do some laundry.” —Fairleigh Dickinson head coach Tobin Anderson

2. “It’s hard, it’s a really hard thing. We worked very hard and done things the right way in our program. And I think six straight years we’ve been a top-five seed. And that’s all you try to do. You just try to fight to get in the best position possible. And now we get in the best position possible and this happens. And obviously, it hurts. It hurts bad.” —Purdue head coach Matt Painter

3. “I didn’t really realize I was in Albany until after the game.” —UConn guard, and Albany native, Andre Jackson about playing in his hometown

4. “Coach is always talking about: These games are what we’re going to remember for the rest of our lives. We just want to make the most of it, for sure.” —Xavier center Jack Nunge

5. “You don’t buy houses without looking upstairs, looking at the kitchen.” —Rick Pitino when asked about potentially taking the St. John’s job

Full Saturday schedule for 2023 men’s NCAA tournament

We’re still just getting started.

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