With the East region’s No. 1 seed Baylor Bears suffering a dramatic 93-86 overtime loss to the North Carolina Tar Heels last Saturday, the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament is down to three No. 1 seeds remaining as it has reached the Sweet 16. Arizona (South region), Gonzaga (West) and Kansas (Midwest) all remain on a path to a title but have had tough battles along the way.
Arizona narrowly got by No. 9 TCU 85-80 in overtime on Sunday and will now take on No. 5 Houston tonight (9:59 p.m). Gonzaga had to come from behind in the second half on Saturday to edge No. 9 Memphis 82-78 and have No. 4 Arkansas up next tonight (7:09 p.m.). Kansas was slightly better than No. 9 Creighton on Saturday in a hard fought 79-72 victory and will meet up with No. 4 Providence tomorrow (7:09 p.m.).
No game played in this year’s tournament thus far has exemplified the moniker March Madness more than North Carolina blowing a 25-point second half yet surviving a furious Baylor comeback to move on to Philadelphia to face No. 4 seed UCLA tomorrow night (9:39 p.m.) at the Wells Fargo Center. Both North Carolina and Baylor were patently exhausted in the game’s final stages.
“I didn’t want to go home. There was no time to be tired,” said the Tar Heels starting point guard R.J. Davis, a native of White Plains, New York and former high school All American at Archbishop Stepinac in Westchester County.
“Our mindset was gather my teammates together and regrouping and to contain our composure and let’s get this win.” Davis led North Carolina with 30 points, including going 9-10 from the foul line, and played a taxing 45 minutes. Davis’ hometown is only 32 miles from Jersey City, New Jersey, location of St. Peter’s University, whose men’s basketball has far exceeded the expectations of almost everyone who follows college basketball.
An exception is the Peacocks themselves, galvanized by their head coach Shaheen Holloway. The 45-year-old Queens native, who starred at point guard for Seton Hall from 1996 to 2000, has instilled an unwavering level of confidence in his players.
The No. 15 seed Peacocks defeated No. 2 Kentucky 85-79 in an overtime thriller last Thursday and knocked off No. 7 Murray State 70-60 on Saturday for a Sweet 16 pairing with No. 3 Purdue in Philadelphia tomorrow (7:09 p.m.).
“We came down here [to Indianapolis] on a mission. We weren’t going to be intimidated. We thought we were going to win two games, and we did,” said Holloway after conquering Murray State.
“I like to recruit guys that have something to prove, that have a chip on their shoulder, that are tough. Because you have to be tough to play for me.”