The NCAA tournament entered the third round on March 22 after a fair share of upsets. Several double digit seeds either won or threw big scares into higher seeds in the second round, yet order seemed to be restored in the NCAA tournament at the start of the third. But after several low scoring games were easily won by favorites in the afternoon, the Dayton Flyers and Connecticut Huskies came through for the underdogs at night.
The Flyers got by the formerly 25-0 Syracuse Orange in a grinding, 55-53 victory at the South Regional. As for the Huskies, they had it easier in the second half over the Villanova Wildcats, thank to Shabazz Napier's big show. Napier's 21 second-half points blew the Huskies by their former Big East rivals, putting them in the Sweet 16 with a 77-65 victory.
Dayton upset Syracuse on the strength of seven three-pointers, while the Orange missed all 10 shots beyond the arc. In spite of these struggles, Tyler Ennis tried a long jumper with under 20 seconds left and the Flyers up by 54-53, only to miss. He then attempted a buzzer-beater three to win the game for the Orange, but that fell just short -- much like Syracuse.
The Wildcats had the opposite problem, as three-pointers weren't a problem for them against the Huskies. Two-pointers were another matter, with Villanova only hitting seven shots in front of the arc. Napier himself had nine field goals and four threes, taking over in the second half after the Wildcats started going cold in the first.
The Huskies are in the Sweet 16 for the first time since the Jim Calhoun era ended, as coach Kevin Ollie looks to form his own NCAA tournament legacy. Since Connecticut will face either the sixth-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels or the short handed Iowa State Cyclones next, there is a window of opportunity now.
The Orange had a wide open window earlier this season, yet their 2-5 record before the NCAA tournament made this early exit predictable. On the other hand, the Flyers recovered from a slow start to get hot late, as their 10-2 run to make the tournament carried over into at least two upset wins.
The accompanying list details the day's full results, as the first weekend of the NCAA tournament started with low scoring and mostly predictable outcomes.
Flyers take Cinderella slipper
Dayton 55, Syracuse 53: Flyers make first Sweet 16 in 30 years by grinding it out over Orange, who complete collapse from 25-0 start by missing every three point shot.
Napier takes over
UConn 77, Villanova 65: Shabazz Napier invites Kemba Walker tributes with 21 second half points, as Huskies beat second straight Philadelphia school in former Big East rival Wildcats.
Badgers survive Ducks
Wisconsin 85, Oregon 77: Badgers rally from double digit deficit, finally take control when Ben Brust hits go-ahead three pointer to trigger deciding run over Ducks.
Spartans endure test
Michigan State 80, Harvard 73: Spartans blow big lead and trail for 18 seconds against Crimson, until Travis Trice hits a go-ahead three to stabilize Michigan State and help it take control again.
Gators cruise to Sweet 16
Florida 61, Pittsburgh 45: Gators dominate for first time in NCAA tournament with big second half, as Scottie Wilbekin's 21 points lead Billy Donovan and company back to Sweet 16.
Hancock leads Cardinals back
Louisville 66, Saint Louis 51: Cardinals yield big run to Billikens to start second half until Luke Hancock leads them back with 21 points, setting up NCAA tournament rematch with either Wichita State or Kentucky.
Wolverines sink Longhorns
Michigan 79, Texas 65: Nik Stauskas helps Wolverines sink 14 three-pointers, giving them second easy win of NCAA tournament, with double digit seed Mercer or Tennessee waiting in the Sweet 16.