When the Big 12 started on Saturday evening between Texas with the number 3 and Abilene Christian with the number 14, they were 6-0 in the NCAA tournament and were close to a perfect first round. But when the Longhorns collapsed against their enemy from the Southland Conference, a tough journey began for the vaunted conference.
Although number 1 Baylor survived against number 9 Wisconsin on Sunday, Texas Tech number 6 and West Virginia number 3 respectively lost, meaning the Big 12 only got 1-3 and in their last four games 7 are -3 in the big dance. With number 8 Oklahoma facing the challenge of a lifetime against number 1 Gonzaga on Monday, it could soon be one of the traditional forces of the league to carry the league’s banner.
Baylor is on Sweet 16 and Kansas, number 3, has a chance to get there on Monday. The number 4 state of Oklahoma also has a chance to make some noise on Sunday night as it competes against the number 12 state of Oregon. But with the Red Raiders, Mountaineers, and Longhorns saying goodbye in less than 24 hours, the Big 12 still have some work to do if they are to emerge as the nation’s top conference in the NCAA tournament.
It was another wild day of the NCAA tournament. So let’s get to the winners and losers.
Winner: Arkansas is back
The Razorbacks appeared six times on Sweet 16 in seven years under coach Nolan Richardson in the 1990s. But they haven’t been back since 1996, at least not until Sunday. Arkansas finally made it after the first weekend of the NCAA tournament with a thrilling 68-66 win over Texas Tech (# 6). It’s a notable turnaround for Coach Eric Musselman’s season two program, and the Razorbacks may not be done yet. You will play the winner of the Sunday game between Florida (No. 7) and Oral Roberts (No. 15) in the Sweet 16 and compete with the advantage of having defeated both teams this season.
Winner: Loyola Chicago is doing it again
CBS analyst Bill Raftery said it was best late in the second half ofIllinois on Sunday. “This is not just a divine intervention,” said Raftery. “That’s great basketball.”
It was a perfect summary of the action on Sunday. While the nation loves the hikers for their heartwarming personality as a medium-sized darling backed by a spiritual force in the form of 101-year-old sister Jean, the way this team plays isn’t bad. In fact, this team is valued higher than the 2018 roster by Ken Pomeroy, a connoisseur of metrics. Even so, the hikers’ ruthless efficiency was somewhat surprising. Her only other game against a Big Ten team that season was a 14-point loss to Wisconsin. But the combination of divine intervention and great basketball was fatal on Sunday, and the walkers continue to roam for the Sweet 16.
Loser: Illinois is missing its potential
The Illinois had won 15 of 16 games on Sunday, and their impressive run through the Big Ten indicated that a run in the NCAA tournament was a foregone conclusion. Maybe the complaint that Loyola Chicago deserves a better seed is legitimate, and maybe the Illinois got a tough deal for playing the Ramblers so early, but are we really going to feel sympathy for Illinois because of that? Illinois didn’t play like number 1 on Sunday. In fact, it never led. An unknown opponent from the Missouri Valley Conference would have been an advantage for a few more days, but the beauty of this tournament is the unpredictability created by the single-elimination format. You can’t do dud performance and expect you to move forward, and the Illinois have learned that tough Sunday ended bitterly as their first appearance at an NCAA tournament since 2013.
Winner: Baylor puts on a sniper show
Baylor, the country’s # 1 3-point shooting team (41.4% beyond the arc), made an efficient offensive excursion – as is the custom – to escape scratch-free against Wisconsin. The Bears won 76-63 after an 8-of-17 game from distance, backed by just four turnovers. Five different players put down shots from outside the bow as they advanced on the Sweet 16 for the fifth time in program history.
Loser: Big Ten’s strong season continues
No conference reputation had more success in the first round of the NCAA tournament than the Big Ten, as Ohio State No. 2, Purdue No. 4, and Michigan State No. 11 were all eliminated. The same goes for the early start in round 2.
The league was well known for its top rivals, but Illinois No. 1-seed Illinois joined No. 2-seed Ohio State on Sunday, falling before the Sweet 16 with a 53-52 loss to Loyola Chicago, No. 8-seed. Meanwhile, Wisconsin also left the stadium with the number 9 and fell to Baylor with the number 1 with 76-63.
There is still hope that the conference will recover, but it will be difficult. No. 1 Seed Michigan is indefinitely without Star Isaiah Livers due to a foot injury, and No. 2 Seed Iowa is in the same region as No. 1 Overall Seed Gonzaga. When it can’t capitalize this yearIt’ll be tough to digest as the Big Ten now hit the two-decade mark among the conference’s national champions.
Winner: Orange advances in Syracuse zone defense
The Orange messed West Virginia in the first half when the climbers dug a 14-point hole with 11 turnovers and just 29 points in the opening frame. Eventually West Virginia found its stroke and took a brief tour. But Syracuse muscled and finished off a 75-72 win to hit his seventh sweet 16 in the last 12 NCAA tournaments. There’s just one thing about the patented zone of this program that opponents find difficult to deal with in the short term. With Buddy Boeheim posing 3-pointers and his dad Jim sharing the wise wisdom gained by living in sports, this roster exceeds expectations after just sneaking into the big dance.