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Men’s NCAA Tournament winners, losers: Purdue … oof. But FDU and college basketball fans win big

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That really happened: No. 1 Purdue is out after loss to No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson, while Marquette and Kam Jones dominate. But college basketball fans may be the biggest winners.

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Oh, Purdue. 

Unlike many on the internets, we do not dislike the Boilermakers — we just think they peaked in December. Certainly they didn’t look to be at their best Friday, becoming just the second No. 1 seed to ever fall to a 16, as Fairleigh Dickinson shocked the nation with a 63-58 upset. 

If there’s a winner besides every single FDU graduate and fan, it’s probably Virginia coach Tony Bennett, who is now not the only coach to lose to a No. 16 seed. Yikes. Talk about a club you don’t want to join. 

FDU’s win now makes 16 seeds’ overall record 2-150. It was also FDU’s first-ever win in the regular 64-team tournament (they’ve won three times in the First Four, including this year). 

Perhaps the biggest winners are fans of college hoops. That we’ve now seen two 16-seeds beat 1-seeds in the last five years is proof that parity continues to grow in college hoops, which makes the NCAA Tournament more unpredictable and ultimately, more fun. 

And here’s more good news — we’re only two days into this. 

Winners

Kam Jones

No big deal, Marquette’s sophomore guard just went on a solo 17-point scoring blitz in the second half. Jones, who also grabbed four rebounds and handed out two assists, exploded after the break to finish with 19 points. He’s directly responsible for Marquette getting separation in the second period, which eventually resulted in a 78-61 win for the No. 2-seeded Golden Eagles. He was also one of five Marquette players in double-figures. 

OPINION: Purdue is the choke artist program of the decade after another March Madness implosion

MEN’S SCHEDULE: Complete 2023 NCAA Tournament schedule, results and times

Pitt

For the 11th time in 12 years, a First Four team has advanced in the main tournament. The Panthers embarrassed Iowa State, winning 59-41 just two days after surviving Mississippi State 60-59 in Dayton, playing terrific defense and making the Cyclones look more than overmatched. So much for the ACC being soft. Pitt’s win sets up an intriguing matchup with Xavier, which is coached by former Pitt star Sean Miller. 

Trayce Jackson-Davis and Race Thompson

The starting frontcourt for fourth-seeded Indiana just isn’t fair. Jackson-Davis (24 points, 11 rebounds) and Thompson (20 points, nine rebounds) combined for 44 points and 20 boards in the Hoosiers’ 71-60 win over Kent State, with Jackson-Davis also blocking five shots and handing out five assists. Guarding one of these guys is a pain. Both of them is a nightmare — one Indiana coach Mike Woodson loves to impose on other teams. 

Saint Mary’s

The Gaels limped into the NCAA Tournament after a 77-51 thumping by Gonzaga in the WCC tournament championship. VCU, a 12-seed, was a popular upset pick, but someone forgot to tell the Gaels. SMC scored 34 points in the paint and four players scored 12 points or more as Saint Mary’s won 63-51 and advanced to the second round.  

Connecticut

Down two points at the break to No. 13 Iona and struggling to find a rhythm, No. 4 UConn exploded in the second half in an 87-63 win that speaks to the Huskies’ chances of making a run deep into March. The second half says it all: UConn outscored Iona 50-24 running things through junior forward Adama Sonogo, who scored a game-high 28 points. Sophomore guard Jordan Hawkins was very quiet in the first half but finished with 13 points.  

OPINION: Fairleigh Dickinson’s upset against Purdue shows March Madness is perfect the way it is

Losers

Purdue

Another loss to a double-digit seed has turned Purdue into college basketball’s biggest postseason punchline. Doomed by misfire after misfire from every player other than center Zach Edey, the Boilermakers lost 63-58 to Fairleigh Dickinson. This is a trend: Purdue was knocked out by No. 15 Saint Peter’s last March, No. 13 North Texas in 2021 and No. 12 Arkansas-Little Rock in 2016. 

The Pac-12

The so-called “Conference of Champions” had a good Selection Sunday, with four teams getting in (Arizona State and USC had been bubble teams in the month leading up to the tournament), but that was short-lived. After Arizona laid an egg vs.15th-seeded Princeton on Thursday, USC followed it up with a 72-62 loss to Michigan State in a game the Spartans mostly controlled, start to finish. Late Friday, Arizona State blew an 11-point lead and a shot at the Sweet 16 when TCU hit a nice floater with 1.5 seconds to play to steal a 72-70 win. The conference’s only hope now is (banged up) UCLA. 

Memphis

What a terrible last 20 seconds for the Tigers. Up one with the ball, Memphis got tied up and lost the ball on the possession arrow. Then the Tigers let FAU’s Nicholas Boyd get way too open a lane, and Boyd responded by hitting a floater with 2.5 seconds to play that gave FAU the 66-65 win. It will be FAU vs. FDU in the Round of a 32, a matchup surely no one saw coming. 

Iowa State

The Cyclones shot 23% from the field in the NCAA Tournament. Twenty-three percent! That’s just flat-out embarrassing. Yes, Pitt is a good defensive team but – isn’t this the premier event in college basketball? With shooting like that, it’s no wonder Iowa State lost 59-41. But it makes you wonder why the Cyclones were a 6-seed to begin with.

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