March Madness 2019: Best and worst from Saturday’s NCAA tournament play

The load may have lessened on Saturday, but Thursday and Friday’s trend of favored teams winning and more often than not winning easily rolled on. The first day of the second round gave us just two games decided by less than 12 points, one upset in terms of seeding, no upsets in terms of point spread, but still a handful of history-making performances.

Here’s what you need to know from the third full day of March Madness.

3 BEST GAMES

1. (3) LSU 69, (6) Maryland 67 (East)

There’s always so much pressure on the first Saturday game of the tournament. After two straight days with multiple options going at all hours, fans wake up to a world on Saturday where they only have one game to watch between 12:15 (EST) and 2:30. It is new, it is strange, and it is jarring.

If that first Saturday game doesn’t deliver, there’s no Plan B. No alternative course of action. Nowhere else to turn. Real world concerns start to set in for the first time since Wednesday night, and the feeling is mierable.

Thankfully, LSU and Maryland rose to the occasion like Spike Albrecht in the 2013 national title game (the first half at least).

LSU controlled the action most of the way, building a 15-point lead at the 16-minute mark of the second half. Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon then rolled the dice, switching to a 3-2 zone that the Terps had played for a grand total 1.6 percent of its defensive possessions going into Saturday.

The gamble paid off. LSU appeared completely incapable of figuring out the best way to attack the zone, and misfired on 14 of its next 16 shots. The Tigers’ ineptitude allowed the Terps to roll all the way back and momentarily take a three point lead.

This set the stage for a tremendous finish, with both teams exchanging big shots before LSU star Tremont Waters got the opportunity to make the biggest play of his life.

Those two shots were nothing new for anyone who has followed this team throughout the year. LSU’s backcourt duo of Waters and Mays, who sunk several key free-throws to ward off a late rally from Yale on Thursday, have been clutch down the stretch all season long. The pair are the biggest reason why the Tigers are 13-5 in games decided by 6 points or less this season, and why the bad boy heroes of the NCAA tournament are marching on to the Sweet 16.

2. (2) Kentucky 62, (7) Wofford 56 (Midwest)

This was supposed to be a clash of Kentucky’s superior size and athleticism versus Wofford’s elite crop of outside shooters. That narrative took a hit with P.J. Washington not playing for the Wildcats and Fletcher Magee going 0-for-12 from deep for the Terriers, but the two teams still managed to play an entertaining game in the day’s second solo time slot.

The rest of the Wofford team outside of Magee went 8-for-15 from deep, but the story of the afternoon was the job Kentucky did on the most prolific three-point shooter in NCAA history. Seemingly every time it seemed like the Terriers were on the verge of hitting the shot that was going to get them over the hump and in a position to seize control, Magee found nothing but iron.

“I’m still kind of in shock,” Magee said after the game. “It just doesn’t seem right to end on a game going 0 for 12 from 3. If I go 3 for 12, we win the game. I’m not sure how that happens. I’m sure I won’t get over it for a while.”

With Washington out, most of Kentucky’s inside duties fell on the shoulders of Stanford grad transfer Reid Travis, who just last week returned from a knee sprain himself. Travis was John Calipari’s most reliable contributor, scoring 14 points, grabbing 11 rebounds, and knocking down a pair of late free-throws to salt the game away.

3. (1) Gonzaga 83, (9) Baylor 71 (West)

For the first time in the 95-year history (internet years) that I’ve been doing these posts, I thought about leaving this spot blank. None of the games that were played after the first two deserve to be here. Michigan-Florida was competitive for a half, Florida State-Murray State was incredibly fun for about 10 minutes, and Auburn-Kansas was great if you just watched the second half and had no idea what the score was.

We’ll go with Gonzaga-Baylor, because the Bears scored the first 10 points of the second half to pull within six and then stayed at least somewhat in range the remainder of the way. Also, 12 wound up being the third smallest margin of victory on the day, which is incredibly sad.

In the end, Gonzaga comfortably secured its fifth straight trip to the Sweet 16, the longest active streak in college basketball.

3 Teams That Won It The Best

1. Purdue

There will be a new national champion in 2019. This thanks to a magnificent Saturday night effort from Purdue, which dropped an 87-61 bomb on reigning national champ Villanova in a game that felt over about 12 minutes in.

Led by Carsen Edwards’ 42 points — the most of any player in the tournament so far — Purdue shot a scoring 53.7 percent from the field. The Boikermakers were just as lethal on the other end of the floor, limiting Villanova to just 20 baskets on 58 made shots (34.5 percent).

Edwards’ nine three-pointers set a new record for a game played inside Hartford’s XL Center. The previous mark of eight was held Ray Allen when he played Connecticut.

With the win, Purdue ensured itself of a third straight trip to the Sweet 16. The last time the program went to the second weekend in three consecutive years was all the way back in 1998-2000. That 2000 season was also the last time the Boilermakers played in a regional final.

2. Florida State

The Seminoles allowed Ja Morant to get his (28 points), but made sure to have a game plan in place that wouldn’t allow for the Murray State star to beat them on his own.

“We came to the conclusion that Morant was almost virtually unguardable,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said after the game. “So we had to make sure that we defended the other guys that fed off of him. We worked hard and made him earn all his baskets, and I thought we did a really good job defending the other guys, and I thought that really made the difference in the game

As it turned out, Morant by himself couldn’t come close to toppling the fourth-seeded Seminoles.

Ten Florida State players scored in the 90-62 blowout, led by Mfiondu Kabegnele, who once again made his case for the crown of best sixth man in the country. Kabegnele dominated the smaller Racers to the tune of 22 points on 10-of-12 shooting, seven rebounds, three blocks and one steal.

3. Michigan State

Just two days after Minnesota torched Louisville for 11 three-pointers, Michigan State limited the Golden Gophers to a putrid 2-of-22 from beyond the arc. All five starters scored at least nine points for the Spartans, who led by 14 at the break and never really seemed to be in danger of losing at any point during the game. Now, after three straight years of opening weekend disappointment, the Spartans are finally headed back to the Sweet 16.

3 Biggest Disappointments

1. Kansas

Other teams lost by more than the Jayhawks, but Kansas was the only better-seeded team to lose on Saturday. When that’s the case, you don’t really have another option here.

2. Villanova

Maybe try guarding Carsen Edwards at some point? At least a little? I know it’s easier said than done, but it didn’t like a whole lot of effort was made on that front even after it was apparent Edwards was going to make just about any shot he took after crossing midcourt.

3. Florida

Only because it feels unfair to put Murray State here. And also because the other two games on during this time slot became obvious blowouts during the first half, and you guys not being able to score at all in the second half left us with nothing to watch. So that wasn’t cool.

5 Day 3 Jeers

1. Every game after the first two

This is already beginning to sound like an echo chamber, but it really was the story of Saturday.

The two early solo tilts did their job, and then not one of the six late tilts could step up in any way, shape or form to help save the day. The six late games were all decided by 12 points or more and by an average of 19.2 ppg.

I don’t know what the record is for most double-digit wins on a second round Saturday/Sunday, but six has to be up there. Either way, I can’t remember a less eventful first Saturday night of the tournament.

2. Villanova’s tournament extremes

Since 2008, Villanova hasn’t lost during the tournament’s second weekend one single time. They’ve missed the tournament once, been ousted on the first weekend seven times, and played their way to the Final Four (and won two national titles) in the other three years.

On top of that, Nova’s losses in a lot of these early exit years have been hard to explain. Now this year the defeat did come at the hands of a team the Wildcats were supposed to lose to, but the margin of defeat still nearly wound up making history.

Hey, but when they’re good, they’re really good.

3. An unfitting end to Fletcher Magee’s college career

Magee’s 2019 NCAA tournament lasted just two games, but the senior guard still experienced both of the emotional extremes that define March.

On Thursday, Magee became the NCAA’s career-leader in made three-pointers. He also introduced himself to a new segment of the American sports public by burying 7-of-12 treys and scoring a team-high 24 points in Wofford’s 84-68 win over Seton Hall, the Terriers’ first NCAA tournament win in program history.

On Saturday, Magee played arguably the worst game of his college career. He finished 0-for-12 from three, the most shots attempted beyond the arc without a make in the history of the tournament. As Magee said himself after the game, if he just plays even a slightly below average game, Wofford is probably still dancing.

4. Live TV butt crack

Even on the concourse, you’ve gotta know where the camera is at all times.

#BigButtcrackNation

5. The Big East

We still have a full day to go before the end of the tournament’s first week, but already the Big East is done. Not only that, but the four teams from the league that made the field of 68 all went out in pretty embarrassing fashion.

St. John’s got handled by a very average (being nice) Arizona State team in the First Four, 74-65; Seton Hall lost by 16 to Wofford; Marquette came within two points of having the largest margin of defeat ever for a 5-seed in the first Round; And Villanova, after skating by Saint Mary’s in the first round, posted the second-worst defeat ever for a reigning national champion with an 87-61 hammering at the hands of Purdue.

5 Day 3 Cheers

1. Brandon Clarke

Clarke, who dunked approximately 75 times on Baylor, became the first player since 1992 and just the third ever to score at least 35 points and block at least five shots in a single NCAA tournament game. The only other two players to achieve the feat? Shaquille O’Neal and David Robinson. Not the worst company.

Clarke’s 36 points also set a new Gonzaga record for points in an NCAA tournament game, breaking the old record held by Adam Morrison.

Also you can sing his name to the tune of “Baby Shark.”

I’m not even sorry that I sprung that evil on you all out of nowhere. It happened to me in January, and ever since then I’ve been waiting for the perfect moment to drag everyone else to hell with me.

2. The return of familiar locker room celebrations

The Michigan locker room water fights are back.

And of course the Mark Few headstand is back too.

These things start to look familiar when you’ve been to the Sweet 16 three (Michigan) or five (Gonzaga) years in a row.

3. The Favorites

Even though it made for a less than ideal viewing experience, props to the teams who were supposed to get it done on Saturday for getting done, and getting it done in style. Kansas was the only better-seeded team to taste defeat on the day, and the Jayhawks actually went off as a 1-point underdog against red-hot Auburn.

Look, if there’s anything good coming out of what has been a pretty lame ass opening weekend, it’s that all these favorites advancing should set us up with some tremendous contests next weekend. At least that’s what I’m telling myself, and what you should be telling yourself too.

4. Ja Morant

Even in a 28-point defeat, Morant deserves a shout. The soon to be top-3 draft pick did all he could against Florida State, but ultimately the superior Seminoles put an end to Murray State’s tournament run and (unless you all know something I don’t) to Morant’s college career.

After his final “amateur” game, Morant made sure that a young fan left the XL Center with a special memento.

One last piece of history on Morant: His season ending Saturday means that he is officially the first player in college basketball history to average at least 20 points and 10 assists (a stat which didn’t start being tracked until 1983-84) for an entire season. Not bad.

5. Jordan Murphy’s final hoorah

Murphy, undoubtedly one of the greatest players in Minnesota basketball history, hardly saw the floor at all in his final game because of a back injury that had him in noticeable agony on the bench. At the end of his team’s lopsided loss to Michigan State, Richard Pitino made sure his star got into the game one last time just so he could receive the acknowledgement he deserved from the Gopher fans in attendance.

Murphy ends his career as the second leading rebounder in the history of the Big Ten.

Even when its uneventful on the surface, March is the best.

3 Best Day 3 Dunks

1. Isaiah Livers, Michigan

For my money, this is the best dunk of the tournament so far.

2. Amir Coffey, Minnesota

This one presents a solid argument though.

3. Jared Harper, Auburn

The star guard and certified Marlo Stanfield look alike was not messing around on Saturday.

Man wasn’t made to play the son.

3 Best Day 3 Images

1. LSU gave us the tournament’s first dogpile.


Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

2. Second round showdown or backyard football?


Wofford v Kentucky

Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

3. It felt like Brandon Clarke had a dunk every 30 seconds against Baylor.


Auburn v Kansas

Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

5 Best Day 3 Quotes:

“I’m still not sure that we stopped Morant and I’m not sure anybody can. He’s virtually unstoppable.” —Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton on Murray State star Ja Morant

“The ride that we’ve been on — just doesn’t seem right to end on a game going 0-for-12 from 3 when if I go 3-for-12 we win the game. I just don’t understand how that happens. I’m sure I won’t really get over it for a while. Sometimes that’s how the game goes. If I would have played a little bit below average, we still would have beat Kentucky. It was just a horrible performance from me, and we lost.” —Wofford G Fletcher Magee

“What is he supposed to say? Is he supposed to say I’m going to dunk on him? He said the right thing. He’s a competitor, so obviously he’s going to say he’ll block my shot. That’s basketball.” —Zion Williamson on UCF center Tacko Fall’s declaration that Williamson won’t dunk on him during Sunday’s game between Duke and UCF

“We were able to make enough shots, but they gave us problems with [the zone]. That length really bothered us. Maybe if they had started it earlier, it would’ve been a different game. Glad they didn’t.” —LSU G Skylar Mays

“Not being able to pass this point for three years, to kind of break the curse for us, it feels pretty good.” —Michigan State F Xavier Tillman

Full Sunday Schedule

Save this opening weekend, Sunday.

All times EST

  • South: No. 2 Tennessee vs. No. 10 Iowa, 12:10 p.m. (CBS)
  • Midwest: No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 9 Washington, 2:40 p.m.* (CBS)
  • East: No. 1 Duke vs. No. 9 UCF, 5:15 p.m. (CBS)
  • West: No. 3 Texas Tech vs. No. 6 Buffalo, 6:10 p.m. (TNT)
  • East: No. 4 Virginia Tech vs. No. 12 Liberty, 7:10 p.m. (TBS)
  • South: No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 9 Oklahoma, 7:45 p.m.* (truTV)
  • Midwest: No. 3 Houston vs. No. 11 Ohio State, 8:40 p.m.* (TNT)
  • South: No. 12 Oregon vs. No. 13 UC Irvine, 9:40 p.m.* (TBS)

*game time approximated

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