The second round of the men's NCAA Tournament has been just as exciting as the first round, which is saying something considering the bracket-busting upsets of this year's round of 64.
Following several huge upsets in the first day of action for the round of 32 (Loyola bouncing No. 1 Illinois, Oral Roberts knocking out Florida), the second day is off to the races. Oregon took down No. 2 seeded Iowa, as the Big Ten continues to struggle.
It's the madness of March.
Which teams will be Sweet 16-bound and which ones will be leaving Indianapolis? A look at the winners and losers from Monday's eight games:
College basketball fans. Think this year's March Madness has been overboard on upsets? It's not the year off due to last year's cancellation that's causing us to ponder. 2021 has been epic compared to previous tournaments. According to the NCAA, Oregon's win over Iowa marked the 12th upset of the tournament (upsets being defined as a win by a team seeded five spots lower than their opponent). The most upsets through the round of 32 was 10 (done eight times) before 2021. The record for the entire tournament is 13 (1985, 2014).
Gonzaga. The Bulldogs flexed their offensive prowess in an 87-71 victory over Oklahoma, with big man Drew Timme (30 points, 13 rebounds) leading the way. While the 'Zags were impressive in several facets, their defense looked sluggish and they couldn't stay in front of OU's Austin Reaves (27 points). That was the first power conference team Gonzaga has faced since December, so if anything it's a good tune-up for the Sweet 16.
Gonzaga forward Corey Kispert and guard Jalen Suggs high-five at the end of the first half against Oklahoma. (Photo: Patrick Gorski, USA TODAY Sports)
Oregon. The Ducks (21-6) are outplaying their seed once again under coach Dana Altman. Oregon benefited from not playing in the first round, with Virginia Commonwealth bowing out due to multiple positive COVID-19 tests. They looked fresh in cruising past No. 2 seed Iowa 95-80. The game was so in the Ducks' favor it didn't even look like an upset. Chris Duarte led the charge with 23 points and seven assists. Altman is now into his fifth Sweet 16 with Oregon. The Ducks reached the Sweet 16 last as a No. 12 seed in 2019. They were in the 2017 Final Four and 2016 Elite Eight.
UCLA. The Bruins (20-9) hammered Abilene Christian, the team that upset No. 3 Texas in the first round, 67-47. The Sweet 16 is a significant accomplishment for coach Mick Cronin, who only has one Sweet 16 to his name after several underachieving finishes at Cincinnati. This UCLA team lost its last four games before entering the NCAAs but seems to have found its groove here in Indianapolis. Johnny Juzang is the key catalyst for a guard-heavy Bruins squad and Cronin got a nice lift from his bench in this one.
The Pac-12. The conference is 9-0 in this NCAA Tournament, and after finishing sixth in the NET rankings, it's a pretty strong statement about the league as a whole. That's especially true considering two of the three Pac-12 teams in the Sweet 16 (two more will have chances) are double-digit seeds in UCLA and Oregon State (Oregon's the other as a No. 7).
Iowa. Big man Luka Garza's emotions said it all – as tears flowed for the All-American's last game as a Hawkeye. Iowa (22-9) had a team that was poised to get to the Elite Eight (or Final Four if Gonzaga wasn't on that side of the bracket). Garza was the centerpiece and coach Fran McCaffery had an arsenal of guards that fed off him. But No. 7 seeded Oregon looked superior on the day and the Ducks' athleticism and grit seemed to take the Hawkeyes out of contention in the second half.
The Big Ten. Following Iowa's loss, the narrative of underachievement continues for the Big Ten Conference, which is now 6-7 in March Madness. The Big Ten was considered by far to be the best league in the country this season, leading the NET conference rankings by a landslide over the SEC and Big 12. The conference sent an NCAA-best nine teams to the Big Dance, with two No. 1 seeds and two No. 2 seeds. But now only Michigan (facing LSU later Monday) and Maryland (facing Alabama later Monday) still stand.
Oklahoma. The Sooners (16-11) were competitive early on, giving top overall seed Gonzaga their best punch. Only problem is, this team wasn't ready for counter-punches by the most dynamic offense in the country. That was a theme for coach Lon Kruger's group down the stretch of the season when OU lost six of eight – they couldn't close out games or respond to other teams' surges. The late-season skid was a shame because a No. 7 or No. 6 seed could've positioned the Sooners better than facing the top dog in the second round. Austin Reaves' 27 points closed out an outstanding career.
Follow college basketball reporter Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ScottMGleeson.
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