The craziest March? Lower seeds have impressed | News, Sports, Work


AP Basketball Writer

We know you’re upset. The Outsiders blew up every band in the country.

The upside of the disappointments: possibly the craziest March yet.

Defending national champion Kansas and fellow No. 1 seed Purdue are gone, the Boilermakers with a piece of unwanted history. The Sweet 16 won’t have a blue-blood Kentucky, Duke or North Carolina for just the second time since 1979.

It features newcomers like Princeton, Florida Atlantic and a team picked to finish last in the Big 12 conference.

And since it’s March, of course there’s Tom Izzo.

The bracket was almost devoid of the buzz that college game fans are used to, but the games were close. There have been four games decided by one point, the most since six in 2017 and three shy of the record last set in 1998.


Alabama looks like the No. 1 seed ahead of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Maryland, despite the turmoil swirling around the program.

Awaiting Alabama in Louisville, Kentucky will be San Diego State. The fifth-seeded Aztecs are old and like to beat their opponents — just ask College of Charleston and Furman.

The second game marked Princeton’s first Sweet 16 in 56 years. The No. 15 seed Tigers pulled off the first big upset of March by knocking off No. 2 Arizona and proved it was no fluke by beating Missouri.

They face Creighton, one of three Big East teams to make it this far. Inconsistent early, the Bomber Bluejays and big man Ryan Kalkbrenner are in the Sweet 16 for the second time in three seasons after bouncing No. 3 seed Baylor.


Florida Atlantic won the battle of the group favorites by knocking off Fairleigh Dickinson, the second No. 16 seed to ever beat a No. 1 seed, beating Purdue.

The Owls better be ready for some bruising against Tennessee at Madison Square Garden in their first Sweet 16. The third-seeded Vols cruised through the first two rounds, pushing Duke after picking up a win over Louisiana.

Michigan State and Kansas will share the Garden marquee.

The Spartans have been at their best in March under Coach Izzo, who won their record 16th NCAA Tournament game as a lower seed by rebounding at No. 2 Marquette.

Jerome Tang has led underdog Kansas State from one Manhattan to another in his first season in the Little Apple.

Picked last in the Big 12, the Wildcats and undersized but stalwart guard Markquis Nowell held off Montana State and ousted Kentucky for their first Sweet 16 since 2018.


Tang said the Wildcats won because they did “I have dudes.” Houston has a few of its own.

No. 1 in the Midwest, the Cougars played the lockdown defense that made them Final Four favorites early in the season, holding Northern Kentucky to 52 points and Auburn to 64.

The Cougars’ bid to play in the Final Four at home now heads to Kansas City, Missouri, where they will face Miami.

The speedy, fifth-seeded Hurricanes hit Indiana with a flurry of offensive rebounds, scoring 29 second-chance points to reach the Sweet 16 for the second straight season under Jim Larrañaga.

Another Texas team is still in the mix to reach the Final Four in their home state – Austin.

No. 2 Texas overcame the midseason firing of coach Chris Beard to play some great basketball under interim coach Rodney Terry. The Longhorns shut down sweet-shooting Colgate in the first round and earned their first Sweet 16 appearance in 15 years with a 71-66 victory over Penn State.

Next up is another coach who made the most of the opportunity.

Decommissioned by Arizona two years ago, Sean Miller is back where he started at Xavier. The Musketeers earned their first Sweet 16 appearance since 2017 with an 84-73 win over Pittsburgh.


Losing guard Jaylen Clark didn’t do much to slow down No. 2 UCLA. Now the Bruins are hoping their roster isn’t even more depleted after key guard David Singleton injured his ankle late in a 69-63 win over Northwestern.

UCLA still has Jaime Jaquez and Tyger Campbell, which should at least give them a chance to beat Gonzaga in Las Vegas.

There were rumblings midway through the season that the Zags were in for a down year. An eighth straight trip to the Sweet 16 under Mark Few put them on vacation.

Two coaches with familiar surnames square off in the other matchup from Sin City.

Eric Musselman, son of longtime NBA and college coach Bill Musselman, showed his coaching ability by leading Arkansas to the Sweet 16 for the third straight season. The Razorbacks got there with a takedown of top-seeded Kansas that prompted Musselman to take his jersey off — again.

Danny Hurley’s father is a Hall of Fame high school coach and his brother is the NCAA’s all-time assists leader. Bob’s son and Bobby’s brother revived UConn by taking the Huskies to the Sweet 16 for the first time in nine years.


AP basketball writer Tim Reynolds contributed to this report.


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