Thursday, April 18, 2024

OT thrillers: Houston hangs on, advances to chalky men’s Sweet 16; Stanford survives Iowa St. on women’s side

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😋 Good morning to everyone but especially …


How sweet it is! The men’s NCAA Tournament is down to 16 teams after four days of madness, highlights and a whole lot of fun. 

Things got interesting late, but for the fifth time since the 1985 expansion to 64 teams, all of No. 1 and No. 2 seeds are heading into the second weekend. No. 1 seed Houston led by 12 points with under two minutes left in regulation against No. 9 seed Texas A&M on Sunday night, but the Aggies pulled out a stunning 17-5 run capped by Andersson Garcia‘s buzzer-beating 3-pointer to force overtime.

It was March at its best, and it wasn’t done. Houston’s star guard trio of Emanuel Sharp, Jamal Shead and L.J. Cryer (71 points combined) all fouled out, forcing the Cougars to rely on little-used Ramon Walker Jr. (coming off a knee injury) and senior walk-on Ryan Elvin for key points in the extra period, and they came through. The Cougars are into their fourth straight Sweet 16 with a 100-95 overtime win.

It wasn’t nearly as tense for the other top seeds.

  • In its search to be the first repeat champion since 2006-07 Florida, top overall seed UConn won its two games by a combined 56 points. Donovan Clingan had 14 points, 14 rebounds and eight rebounds — the first such stat line in the tournament since David Robinson in 1986 — in the Huskies’ win over Northwestern.
  • Purdue‘s redemption story is off to a great start, led by Zach Edey‘s historic start. The star center is the first player with at least 50 points and 35 rebounds on 65% shooting through two tournament games since Lew Alcindor (aka Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) in 1968. The Boilermakers are rolling on all cylinders.
  • North Carolina impressed in an 85-69 win against No. 8 seed Michigan State. Four starters scored at least 14 points, but RJ Davis was the definitive tone-setter with 20, Kyle Boone writes.

All four No. 2 seeds (Iowa State, Marquette, Tennessee and Arizona) are holding up their end of the bargain, too. No. 3 seeds Illinois and Creighton and No. 4 seeds Duke and Alabama, which survived double overtime against No. 11 seed Oregon, also have your bracket in good shape if you went chalk. The Blue Devils’ so-so end to the regular season has faded into obscurity, as they earned an “A+” in David Cobb’s opening-weekend grades and seem to be peaking at the right time, Matt Norlander writes from Brooklyn.

Now for the not-so-chalky results:

  • Here comes San Diego State … again. The No. 5 seed Aztecs crushed Yale and now get UConn in a rematch of last year’s title game.
  • No. 5 seed Gonzaga is also into the second weekend again — that’s nine in a row — after blowing out Kansas. The Jayhawks were in the wrong category of our winners and losers.
  • No. 6 seed Clemson was a popular pick to be upset in the first round, but the Tigers had other ideas, though, and are into the Sweet 16 after building a 15-point lead and (barely) holding on to beat No. 3 seed Baylor.
  • And there’s one Cinderella still dancing: No. 11 seed NC State won its seventh game in 12 days, 79-73 in overtime over fellow Cinderella, No. 14 Oakland.

So a fascinating Sweet 16 with plenty of the nation’s best is up next. Cameron Salerno has the advanced scout for all eight matchups. Here’s the full schedule, and here are opening odds and betting lines.

👍 Honorable mentions

👎 Not so honorable mentions

🏀 NCAA Women’s Tournament South Carolina dominates, LSU surges into Sweet 16


Getty Images

After better seeds went 31-1 in the first round of the NCAA Women’s Tournament, the underdogs came to play on the first day of the second round. No. 7 seed Duke notched a 75-63 upset, over No. 2 seed Ohio State, handing the Buckeyes just their second home loss of the year. Reigan Richardson had 28 points to lead the Blue Devils. Also Sunday, No. 5 seed Baylor took down No. 4 seed Virginia Tech, 75-72, and No. 5 seed Colorado beat No. 4 seed Kansas State, 63-50.

The other better seeds got the job done. While it was record-setting easy for top overall seed South Carolina, reigning champion No. 3 seed LSU trailed No. 11 seed Middle Tennessee at halftime before romping to an 83-56 win.

But game of the day honors undoubtedly belonged to No. 7 Iowa State at No. 2 seed Stanford. Kiki Iriafen scored 41 points, and the Cardinal overcame Cameron Brink fouling out and 36 points from Emily Ryan to beat the Cyclones, 87-81, in overtime. Jack Maloney has the top five moments from this instant classic.

Today, there’s no bigger story than Caitlin Clark, who will play the final home game of her record-setting career. Dennis Dodd sets the scene

  • Dodd: “Rapper Travis Scott, basketball royalty Maya Moore and Sue Bird, Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan, actors Jason Sudeikis and ‘Jake from State Farm’ have all made the pilgrimage to Carver-Hawkeye Arena to lend credibility that it was the place to be. And by extension, they have validated women’s basketball. ‘It feels like yesterday we were playing in front of nobody,’ Clark said. ‘I wanted to play for this school because I love the state of Iowa. I remember running out to our first sold-out crowd, and I got the chills. Now, I get to that every single night. That’s not something that ever has gotten old.'”

Here’s how you can watch.

⚽ USMNT beats Mexico 2-0 to complete Concacaf Nations League three-peat

Mexico v United States: Final - Concacaf Nations League

Getty Images

It’s a familiar score against a familiar foe, and a familiar trophy being raised by the United States men’s national team. The Stars and Stripes dispatched Mexico, 2-0 (or “Dos a Cero” if you prefer), in the Concacaf Nations League final at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, to complete its first-ever three-peat in a Concacaf competition.

It hasn’t been the easiest path for the USMNT since the 2022 World Cup, what with injuries, disappointing results, internal strife and a coaching search that controversially led back to Gregg Berhalter. Perhaps no one has had it tougher than Gio Reyna — who was at the center of the Berhalter drama and has barely played since joining Nottingham Forest — and Tyler Adams, who had gone from lineup fixture to completely out of the rotation due to a bevy of significant injuries.

Fittingly, both found the back of the net Sunday: Adams’ stunning long-range strike just before halftime put the hosts ahead, and Reyna’s terrific finish in the second half gave the USMNT all the breathing room it needed.

Unfortunately, there was another familiar scene: the game being stopped multiple times for a derogatory chant from Mexico’s fans. The Mexican national team has been sanctioned before, and it may well happen again.

As for the USMNT, given Adams’ return, Reyna’s strong work and yet another trophy, it was a job well done to get some momentum ahead of the Copa America and the Olympics this summer.

🏈 Chiefs trade L’Jarius Sneed to Titans

NFL: Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs


The Chiefs were hoping to get most of the band back together in search of a three-peat. But “most” isn’t “all,” and the biggest loss came over the weekend: Kansas City dealt star cornerback L’Jarius Sneed to the Titans for a 2025 third-round pick. The teams will also swap seventh-rounders. Tennessee, meanwhile, plans to make Sneed one of the highest-paid cornerbacks in the NFL after Kansas City had franchise-tagged him earlier this offseason.

Cody Benjamin explains why Sneed came for relatively cheap.

📺 What we’re watching Monday

🏀 We’re watching the women’s NCAA Tournament. Here’s how. 
🏀 Celtics at Hawks, 7:30 p.m. on NBA TV
🏀 76ers at Kings, 10 p.m. on NBA TV

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