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  • Writer's pictureSean Vowells

We're down to 8!

The NCAA Tournament has dwindled down from 68 to 64 to 32 to 16 and now 8 teams.

The Elite 8 starts today with FAU against Kansas State and UConn against Gonzaga. Here are some of the biggest storylines from another great year of March Madness so far.

#16 seed FDU upsets #1 seed Purdue

The biggest storyline of the Round of 64 was the unexpected upset of Purdue by Fairleigh Dickinson, who only got a bid to the big dance due to a transition rule technicality. FDU knocked off Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 84-61 in the First Four before beating Purdue 63-58. The Knights clamped down on Purdue star Zach Edey, and let others shoot the ball from downtown. That strategy clearly worked. Edey got his, scoring 21 points and 15 rebounds, but the rest of the team struggled mightily, shooting 5/26 from behind the arc. FDU’s guards had the speed needed to cause issues for Purdue’s bigger guards. FDU became just the second 16 seed ever to win in the Round of 64 and the first 16 seed to advance to the Round of 32 from the First Four.

#15 seed Princeton advances to the Sweet 16

For the third year in a row, a 15 seed has advanced to the Sweet 16. Oral Roberts in 2021, St. Peter’s in 2022, and now Princeton in 2023. Princeton upset #2 seed Arizona in the Round of 64 by the score of 59-55. The Tigers held one of the nation’s best offenses to 42% from the field and 19% from behind the arc. Princeton didn’t shoot the ball well either, shooting 40% from the field and 16% from behind the arc. They parlayed their Round of 64 performance with a lopsided victory over #7 seed Missouri in the Round of 32 by the score of 78-63. Missouri, like Arizona, was one of the most efficient offenses in Division I, per Kenpom. Princeton held Missouri to 41% from the field of 27% from behind the arc. Princeton’s cinderella run came to an end in the Sweet 16, with an 86-75 loss to #6 seed Creighton.

No #1 seeds made it past the Sweet 16

For the first time since the Field expanded to 64 teams, all the #1 seeds have been eliminated in the Sweet 16 or earlier. Purdue lost to FDU, while Kansas was beat by Arkansas in the Round of 32. Both Houston and Alabama lost to 5 seeds in the Sweet 16.

Kansas have been without their hall of fame coach Bill Self since the Big 12 Tournament due to a medical emergency. They lost to Texas in the Big 12 Championship game and knocked off #16 seed Howard in the Round of 64 handily, by the score of 96-68. They lost to Arkansas 72-71 in the Round of 32. Arkansas dealt with many injuries all season long and started to figure things out down the stretch of the season. They certainly had way more talent than a typical 8 seed. Arkansas trailed by double digits in the second half, but made a run down the stretch to knock out the defending champions by 1 point. Davonte Davis led the way for the Razorbacks with 25 points while Jalen Wilson had 20 for the Jayhawks in the loss.

Alabama were shocked by #5 seed San Diego State in the Sweet 16 by the score of 71-64. The Crimson Tide trailed 28-23 at halftime, but started the second half on a great run, eventually building their lead up to 7. The Aztecs flipped the script again to erase the deficit and build their lead back. Darrion Trammell led the way with 21 points in the win for the Aztecs while Mark Sears had 16 points for the Tide in the loss. Alabama’s Brandon Miller, who is expected to be a 1st round draft pick, shot 3/19 from the field for just 9 points. He really struggled in the NCAA Tournament.

Houston became the last #1 seed to lose in a 89-75 loss to #5 seed Miami. The Canes controlled most of this game, leading 42-36 at halftime and never trailing in the second half. With the win, Miami books their second straight Elite 8 appearance. Nijel Pack led the way with 26 points while Isaiah Wong had 20 in the win. All 5 Miami starters were in double figures. Jarace Walker led the way with 16 points for Houston in the loss. All year Miami’s offense has been near the top in efficiency, per Kenpom, but their defense was equally as impressive in this one. Miami held Houston to 38% shooting and 29% from 3.

Photo from: USA Today

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