Elite Eight or sent packing: Winners and losers from the men’s NCAA Tournament Sweet 16

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Putting No. 12 Oregon State’s historic run into perspective

SportsPulse: Some picked them to finish dead last. They needed to win the conference tournament just to get in. Now they’re in the Elite Eight. Scott Gleeson puts into perspective Oregon State’s shocking tournament run.

USA TODAY

Only once has a No. 12 seed reached the Elite Eight before. Never has a No. 15 seed gotten there.

We got one of the two, following Oregon State’s 65-58 upset of Loyola Chicago in the men’s NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 on Saturday. Of course, more history is being written in a March Madness that’s already seen a record number of upsets and double-digit seeds advancing to the second weekend. The Pac-12 is now 10-1.

Oral Roberts came oh-so-close to pulling off a historic upset in a two-point loss to Arkansas, ending the Golden Eagles’ Cinderella run. 

Villanova was poised to pull off an upset of its own by giving No. 1 seed Baylor all it could handle. But the Bears showed their mettle in fending off an inspired effort. And Houston ended No. 11 seed Syracuse’s tournament by locking down Buddy Boeheim. 

A look at the biggest winners and losers from Saturday’s Sweet 16 games in Indianapolis: 

Winners

Arkansas. The comeback team of this tournament did it again. Coach Eric Musselman’s Razorbacks (25-6) fended off a determined effort by Max Abmas and Oral Roberts with key points in the paint in the closing minutes of the game. Arkansas used second-chance points off offensive rebounds and took advantage of a Golden Eagles team that lacked depth. Jalen Tate (22 points) came up big and Davonte Davis’ game-winner with four seconds left helped Arkansas escape. It wasn’t pretty (the Razorbacks shot just 11% from three), but much like against Colgate and Texas Tech in the previous two rounds, it’s a win that advances this team to the Elite Eight for the first time since 1995. 

OPINION:  Oral Roberts didn’t get lucky. The Golden Eagles were good.

Houston. The Cougars (27-3) looked much more like the dark-horse Final Four team many hyped them up to be in a 62-46 rout of Syracuse. Much more than in a close win over Rutgers in the second round. Houston locked up marksman Buddy Boeheim (3-for-13 shooting, 1-for-9 from three) and got key offensive plays against the Orange’s signature 2-3 zone. A No. 2 seed is still standing, fending off an upset by a double-digit seed. That’s saying something this March.

Oregon State. Coach Wayne Tinkle’s game plan against the most disciplined halfcourt offense in the country was brilliant – playing zone and forcing Loyola Chicago into 5-for-23 shooting from beyond the arc. The Beavers (20-12) fed off their star, Ethan Thompson (22 points), and shot 18-for-20 (90%) from the free throw line to reach their first Elite Eight (non-vacated) since 1966.

ANALYSIS: Ugly game a beautiful win for Oregon State

Baylor. The Bears (25-2) played about as bad as they could have in the first half, missing most of their threes and getting out-muscled by a physical Villanova squad driven to pull off an upset. But coach Scott Drew’s group came out a different team in the second half and took control of the game midway through on its way to a 62-51 win. Baylor survived despite first-team All-American Jared Butler’s struggles (1-for-9 from beyond the arc). Davion Mitchell (14 points) carved through the ‘Nova defense to drive the Bears, who advanced to their first Elite Eight since 2012 and third under Drew’s tenure.

Losers

Loyola Chicago. The Ramblers (26-5) were the favorites against No. 12 seed Oregon State, coming off the second-round upset of No. 1 Illinois. But a zone defense, which this team had only seen in 5% of games previously, completely took a normally potent offense out of its element – contributing to a season-worst 16 first-half points. By the time Loyola Chicago caught up in the second half and players not named Cameron Krutwig started making shots, it was too late. This team led the nation in defense and had a legitimate shot to get back to the Final Four after its surprise run in 2018. But they underperformed against the Beavers to bow out earlier than expected. 

SWEET 16: What you missed in women’s, men’s tournaments Saturday

Oral Roberts. Abmas’ potential game-winning 3-pointer vs. Arkansas just rimmed out and that was the difference between the first No. 15 seed going to the Elite Eight and the Razorbacks advancing for the first time since the Nolan Richardson era. Abmas (25 points) and Kevin Obanor (58 points the first two games) were the best 1-2 punch in this tournament, and against the Razorbacks their co-stars – Carlos Jurgens (13 points) and Francis Lacis (11 points) – stepped up. But no bench points and a shaky defense in the paint ultimately cost the Golden Eagles. 

Villanova. The No. 5 seeded Wildcats (18-7) came out swinging and built a seven-point lead at halftime. They kept that momentum going early in the second half. But Baylor’s guards proved to be just too good. Coach Jay Wright inspired this team — playing without Big East player of the year Collin Gillespie — to silence doubters as a Cinderella slayer (beating Winthrop and North Texas to get to the Sweet 16). Yet it was the absence of Gillespie that was most felt late in the second half when ‘Nova needed a boost. 

Syracuse. The Orange (18-10) lived and died by the three-point shooting of Buddy Boeheim. Boeheim was contained to 1-for-9 shooting from beyond the arc, largely as a result of Houston’s smothering defense. ‘Cuse barely got into the field as an NCAA bubble team but turned that trip as a No. 11 seed into two NCAA Tournament wins. In those games, Boeheim had 55 combined points off 13 three-pointers. 

Follow college basketball reporter Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ScottMGleeson

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