NCAA Tournament Recap: Day 2

After the long-awaited return of March Madness, day two of the NCAA Tournament was once again overshadowed by devastating news from the COVID-19 pandemic. The biggest headlines stemmed from news of a forfeited round one matchup between Oregon and Virginia Commonwealth. Still, the madness marched on as 15 other games were finalized including a few shocking upsets that are only worthy of the Big Dance.

NCAA Tournament Day 2 Recap

With two days of upsets, heart-wrenching action, and dominant performances, round one of the 2021 NCAA Tournament is officially in the books. There was no shocking No. 1 seed to fall, but the defending-champs (from 2019) Virginia Cavaliers fell. The Pac-12 conference remains undefeated. And, at the end of the day, fans are left with 32 teams still owning a chance to take home the title. Oh yeah, and the last perfect bracket on the Yahoo Sports platform fell just two days into the action. Only in March.

No Contest: (7) Oregon vs. (10) Virginia Commonwealth

News broke around 6 p.m. ET on Saturday night that sent shockwaves throughout the college basketball landscape. This news, that the seven-10 matchup between the Oregon Ducks and VCU Rams was declared a no-contest due to COVID-19 protocols, was upsetting for everyone. It enacted eerily similar feelings to the reactions of fans learning that the entire NCAA Tournament would be canceled a season ago.

The college basketball world remains cautiously optimistic that news is both the first and last time that COVID-19 makes an appearance in this year’s Big Dance. As a result, the Ducks move onto the Round of 32 with the easiest first-round victory. Tragically, the Rams, who went 19-7 to finish second in the Atlantic 10 conference, are going home without a true taste of March Madness. Our hearts go out to the players and coaching staff after a stellar season and a much-deserved trip to the NCAA Tournament.

Best Game: (4) Virginia vs. (13) Ohio

On a lighter note, let’s get back into the action from the 15 other games that went down on Saturday. Let’s start with the best game of the day, featuring the defending-champion four-seed Virginia Cavaliers and 13-seed Ohio Bobcats. Up until the action from Saturday night, this game also had the potential to claim as the day’s biggest upset. Still, the defending champions are going home.

The game played tight throughout the first half with the Cavaliers taking a one-point lead heading into halftime. This is nothing new. Virginia is not built to blow out its opponents and ranks only 53rd in the nation in scoring margin. The Cavaliers came out strong in the second half and held a seven-point lead early on. But then, the buckets stopped falling. Ohio forced Virginia into a 10-minute stretch without a field goal, building up a seven-point lead of their own in the process.

Jason Preston and Ben Vander Plas had their hands all over this one including some clutch three-pointers down the stretch. Preston ended with 11 points, 13 rebounds, and eight assists while Vander Plas scored nine-straight of his 17 points in the closing minutes. What made this game even better was Virginia’s hail-mary attempt at a win.

Despite trailing by five points with less than 10 seconds to go, the Cavaliers ended the game with a shooter’s chance to win. Trey Murphy III nailed a three-pointer of his own with seven seconds left. All it took was another forced turnover or missed Bobcat free-throws, but Ohio’s Lunden McDay iced the upset with a pair of clutch free-throws.

Honorable Mention: (5) Creighton vs. (12) UC Santa Barbara

The matchup between the five-seeded Creighton Bluejays and 12-seed UC Santa Barbara Gauchos is deserving of an honorable mention for the game of the day. After all, this one came down to free throws. Creighton’s Christian Bishop lived the backyard childhood dream of every hooper in the world. With 16 seconds left to go, the Bluejays’ worst free-throw shooter by percentage walked calmly to the charity stripe.

His team was down one point and looked prime for another March Madness round one upset. But, with the state of Nebraska hanging on by every thread, Bishop exuded cool confidence. He nailed both shots, barely touching the rim in the process, and Creighton hung on for a heart-wrenching 63-62 victory.

Better yet, the Gauchos’ Amadou Sow hoisted up a great look at the rim in the closing seconds, but the layup rolled off as time expired.

Biggest Upset: (3) Texas vs. (14) Abilene Christian

Heading into Saturday night, day two of the NCAA Tournament could have been viewed as slightly anti-climatic. Sure, the defending champions fell in upset fashion and the Creighton win was phenomenal, but the rest of the day played out mostly according to the seeds. Don’t worry, the NCAA Tournament saved the best for last.

Sports Illustrated perfectly described the three-seed Texas Longhorns and 14-seed Abilene Christian Wildcats matchup as a true “David versus Goliath.” What did we learn? Never count out David in that one. The Wildcats have only been eligible for the NCAA Tournament since 2018 when the school completed its transition up from D-II. Oh, and that same Wildcats team finished above .500 just once in its final 14 years of D-II basketball.

How did Abilene Christian pull off this wild upset? It was all about that swarming defense. Despite shooting less than 30 percent from the field and 16.7 percent from deep, the Wildcats forced Texas into 22 turnovers. This included 11 steals and a 13-to-5 offensive rebounding margin.

These numbers led to an additional 27 shots from the Wildcats – the perfect recipe for an upset. And every single one of those extra shots and offensive rebounds was needed.

Abilene Christian trailed by one with less than 15 seconds to play. In the final seconds, Wildcats guard Damien Daniels missed a layup at the rim but the offensive rebounding took over. Joe Pleasant took down the rebound and was fouled by Texas’ Matt Coleman on the put-back attempt. Exuding that same level of cool confidence, Pleasant walked to the free-throw line and nailed both attempts to put the finishing touches on this unbelievable upset.

Player of the Day – Luka Garza – Iowa Hawkeyes

There were a number of great individual performances throughout Saturday’s action, but it’s hard to look past the dominance of Luka Garza. The two-time Big Ten Player of the Year and finalist for the 2021 Naismith Men’s Player of the Year Award played like one on Saturday. In the matchup between the two-seed Iowa Hawkeyes and 15-seed Grand Canyon Antelopes, Garza had his fingerprints all over this one. Grand Canyon had upset on their mind, and this game played closer than it should have, but the lights out shooting from Garza and his Hawkeyes took home the victory.

Garza ended the night with 24 points after a stellar shooting performance. He scored 9-of-16 field goals including a 4-for-5 performance from deep. Garza was scoring however he pleased against the Antelopes’ defense while putting up a complete stat line across the board. He also added six rebounds, one assist, two steals, and a block. Grand Canyon would have had an upset in their sights without the dominant performance from Garza.

NCAA Tournament Scores: Day 2

Day two of the NCAA Tournament also featured the majority of the top seeds taking care of business. The biggest upsets came from the upsetting performances by three-seed Texas and four-seed Virginia. The 10-seed Maryland Terrapins took down the seven-seed Connecticut Huskies, but the rest of the higher seeds moved on. After their run to the BIG EAST Tournament title, the Georgetown Hoyas were rather disappointing. Four-seed Florida State Seminoles survived even though one of the better shooting teams in the country didn’t make a single three. And, Gonzaga dominated.

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Check out the full list of results from Saturday’s day two action:

East Region

(5) Colorado 96, (12) Georgetown 73

(4) Florida State 64, (13) UNC Greensboro 54

(8) Louisiana State University 76, (9) St Bonaventure 61

(1) Michigan 82, (16) Texas Southern 66

(2) Alabama 68, (15) Iona 55

(10) Maryland 63, (7) Connecticut 54

(11) UCLA 73, (6) Brigham Young University 62

(14) Abilene Christian 53, (3) Texas 52

West Region

(3) Kansas 93, (14) Eastern Washington 84

(5) Creighton 63, (12) UC Santa Barbara 62

(6) University of Southern California 72, (11) Drake 56

(2) Iowa 86, (15) Grand Canyon 74

(13) Ohio 62, (4) Virginia 58

(8) Oklahoma 72, (9) Missouri 68

(1) Gonzaga 98, (16) Norfolk State 55

(7) Oregon vs. (10) Virginia Commonwealth – No Contest

Looking Ahead – NCAA Tournament

In the West Region, the overall-one seed Gonzaga Bulldogs appear to have a slightly easier path to later rounds with Virginia’s upset, but they appear on a crash course with Iowa. Down in the East Region, Florida State and five-seed Colorado Buffaloes should be a great second-round matchup, while the 11-seed UCLA Bruins and 14-seed Abilene Christian mark the lowest-seeded upcoming matchup on this side of the bracket.

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