Kansas is 6th straight men’s champion to leave early

It’s tough for the defending champion in the NCAA men’s tournament.

Arkansas’ 72-71 win over Kansas extended a remarkable streak for the defending national title winners. The Jayhawks are now the sixth consecutive national title winner to be eliminated in the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament the following year.

The last champion to advance to the tournament’s second weekend is Duke in 2016. The Blue Devils were the fourth seed that season and beat #13 UNC Wilmington and #12 Yale before losing to #1 Oregon in the Sweet 16. Since then, tournament performances for the defending champions have looked like this:

  • Villanova 2017: Lost in the second round to No. 8 Wisconsin as the No. 1 seed.

  • North Carolina 2018: Lost in the second round to No. 7 Texas A&M as the No.

  • Villanova 2019: Lost in the second round to No. 3 Purdue as No. 6 seeds.

  • 2021 Virginia: Lost in the first round to No. 13 Ohio as No. 4 seeds.

  • 2022 Baylor: Lost in the second round to #8 North Carolina as the #1 seed.

  • 2023 Kansas: Lost in the second round to No. 8 Arkansas as No. 1 seed.

Kansas kept Arkansas at arm’s length throughout the first half before the Razorbacks’ chaotic style began to give the Jayhawks real attacks. The foul-filled game featured 23 fouls, with four players eliminated and another four finished with four fouls.

The foul party made it appropriate for the game to be decided from the free-throw line. Arkansas’ Ricky Council IV made five free throws in the final 24 seconds and four in a row after getting a key offensive rebound after a missed free throw.

Kansas has one national title and three NCAA tournament second-round exits in the last five seasons. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

If Kansas was going to go deep in this year’s tournament, it would be with a team that barely resembled the one that cracked the nets in 2022. Jalen Wilson averaged 20 points per game this season as Kansas’ top scorer after averaging 11-1 season ago. With players like Ochai Agbaji and Christian Braun in the NBA, rookie Gradey Dick and Texas Tech transfer Kevin McCullar played key roles, and center KJ Adams went from five minutes a game the previous season to 27 this year.

That remodeled team was very good. Kansas clinched the Big 12 regular season title again, but showed some flaws in the straight that were exposed twice by Texas in the span of eight days. A talented but underperforming Arkansas was also a poor start for the Jayhawks, as the Hogs were able to match Kansas well across the court and put pressure on the Jayhawks in the second half.

Here’s what else you need to know to keep up with everything that happened on day three of the NCAA men’s and women’s tournaments.

Princeton remains in race for 15th place

Princeton became the third No. 15 in as many years to advance to the Sweet 16 with a 78-63 win over Missouri.

The Ivy League champions absolutely dominated Missouri in the cup and outscored the Tigers by 15 rebounds. Princeton also made 12 3-pointers as he drove past Missouri’s zone defense in the second half. A Missouri team that relies on turnovers and outside shooting didn’t force Princeton into any possession and shot poorly from 3.

Four No. 15 seeds have made it to the Sweet 16 in NCAA Men’s Tournament history, and all have done so within the past decade. Florida Gulf Coast was first in 2013 ahead of Oral Roberts in 2021 and St. Peter’s in 2022.

The Peacocks were the first No. 15 to make the Elite Eight when they defeated Purdue a season ago. And it’s not hard to see how Princeton could do the same if they continue to rally like they did against Arizona and Missouri.

Louisville avoids a 12-on-5 third comeback

Louisville narrowly escaped being the third No. 5 seed to drop to No. 12 in the NCAA Women’s Tournament.

The Cardinals beat Drake 83-81 after a fourth quarter with a combined 54 points. Louisville closed out the game with a smart inbounds play with 20 seconds left when Hailey Van Lith converted an e-1 to give the Cardinals a 4-point lead.

Van Lith scored 26 points on 10-of-20 shooting from the field, while Mykasa Robinson added 14.

Earlier in the day, Gulf Coast Florida beat Pac-12 Tournament Champion Washington State 74-63, with Sha Carter scoring 24 points and grabbing six rebounds. The Eagles’ comeback came just before Toledo defeated 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 phenomenal free throws.

Louisville point guard Hailey Van Lith (10) is hugged by teammate Mykasa Robinson after his victory over Drake in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Austin, Texas, Saturday, March 18, 2023. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Louisville point guard Hailey Van Lith (10) is hugged by teammate Mykasa Robinson after his victory over Drake in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Austin, Texas, Saturday, March 18, 2023. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

A day of big upheavals

The double-digit leads weren’t as secure as they usually are on Saturday in the NCAA Women’s Tournament.

At the. No. 9 Miami rallied from 17 points down at halftime to win against No. 9 Miami. 8 Oklahoma State 62-61. The Cowgirls had a chance to win after a five second Miami violation, but it bounced harmlessly off the rim.

Hours later at Seattle Regional 3, No. 7 Baylor erased an 18-point Alabama lead in the second quarter to win 78-74.

Baylor trailed 22-4 late in the first quarter before cutting the lead to 11 at halftime. The Bears then dominated the fourth quarter and took the lead with 3:30 to a Sarah Andrews 3-pointer. Alabama scored six straight points to retake the lead before Baylor scored 7 straight points in the final 53 seconds to take the win.

Miami’s return tied for fifth in NCAA women’s tournament history before Baylor’s return jumped to third place.

Nor can we forget the state of Ohio. The No. 3 Buckeyes lost to No. 14 James Madison 35-19 with 4:01 left in the second quarter before coming back in the second half to outscore the Dukes by 30 points the rest of the way. Ohio State beat JMU 80-66, with Cotie McMahon on 18 points and Jacy Sheldon on 17.

UCLA holds Northwestern

No. 2 UCLA kept Northwestern’s foiled drive in check in a 68-63 victory over the Wildcats.

The Bruins shot 50% from the field as Northwestern never led after taking an early 3–0 lead. Tyger Campbell was 12-of-12 from the free throw line and Jaime Jaquez scored 24 points for the Bruins.

There is some concern for UCLA, however. The Bruins put Adem Bona back in the starting lineup on Saturday, but point guard David Singleton appeared to badly sprain his right ankle in the final minute as he turned the court. Singleton was helped onto the court after writhing in pain, though he managed to put weight on his leg.

“He didn’t break his ankle, which I’m worried about,” UCLA head coach Mick Cronin said of the injury.

Singleton’s absence from the Sweet 16 and a possible fight between the Elite Eight would be huge for a UCLA team that is without Jaylen Clark because of a leg injury.

Maddy Siegrist dominates

Villanova’s Maddy Siegrist entered Saturday’s first-round game against Cleveland State as the nation’s leading scorer with 29 points per game. She easily topped that average with 35 points as Villanova won 76-59.

Siegrist leads the nation in field goals made and is second in field goal attempts per game. She was 15-for-28 from the field, as no other Wildcat had more than 10 shots.

Villanova was keen to make an early statement and outscored Cleveland State 42-21 in the first half. The margin was 29 at the end of the third quarter, but Siegrist ended up playing just four minutes.

The victory sets up a showdown with Florida Gulf Coast in the second round on Monday.

Maddy Siegrist (20) scored 35 points as Villanova defeated Cleveland State.  (Photo by Eric Hartline/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

Maddy Siegrist (20) scored 35 points as Villanova defeated Cleveland State. (Photo by Eric Hartline/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

Rick Barnes seeks first Elite Eight since 2008

Rick Barnes is in his 36th season as a college basketball head coach. His teams won 778 games in those 36 seasons and he coached teams to 20 wins in 23 of those 36 seasons.

However, Barnes was never very successful in the NCAA tournament. His teams are consistently pretty bad against spread in the postseason and have only made one Final Four. This happened in 2003 when Texas reached the national semifinals.

And Barnes’ most recent appearance in the Elite Eight came five years later with the Longhorns in 2008. Since then, Barnes’ coaches in Texas and Tennessee have made nine NCAA Tournaments. But none of those teams won three games in any of those appearances.

Tennessee has a strong chance of winning three games in 2023 after a 65-52 victory over Duke. The Vols managed 27 points off Olivier Nkamhoua and simply outscored the Blue Devils in the glass. And thanks to Purdue’s loss to Fairleigh Dickinson on Friday, Tennessee will have to beat the Knights or Florida Atlantic next Thursday for Barnes’ shot at a second Final Four.

Tennessee coach Rick Barnes calls a play against Louisiana during the first half of a first-round college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament, Thursday, March 16, 2023, in Orlando, Florida. Chris O'Meara)

Teams coached by Rick Barnes have not appeared in an Elite Eight since 2008. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

Furman cannot advance to Sweet 16

Furman’s NCAA Tournament run ended the first weekend.

No. 13 Paladins stunned Virginia on Thursday, but were dominated by No. 5 San Diego State in the first game of the day on Saturday. The Aztecs won 75-52 as their stifling defense had Furman shooting just 32% from the field.

JP Pegas hit the game-winning shot against Virginia and was just 3-of-15 from the field against San Diego State. The Aztecs had four players in double figures and shot 23 of 38 from inside the arc.

San Diego State snapped the Mountain West’s NCAA Tournament losing streak with their victory on Thursday and is now in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2014.

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