March Madness is only as good as the performances delivered within it by the superstars of college basketball. So through two rounds of the 2023 NCAA Tournament, there's a reason this year has been especially exciting.
Between surprising upsets and fun finishes, some of the sport's biggest names turned in fabulous outings and capitalized on the extra eyeballs being drawn to them. Big names from big-brand schools weren't the only ones who shined, though, as relative unknowns used the platform to launch themselves into the conversation as March heroes as well.
So before we launch full-steam ahead into the second weekend of this year's tournament, we must first tip our cap to the standouts who made the first weekend of the tournament so memorable. There's no Cinderella story of FAU without Johnell Davis, for instance. Nor is there a No. 15 seed Princeton dancing into the Sweet 16 without Ryan Langborg's big second-round showing. As great as team success is, impressive individual efforts thus far must be recognized and appreciated.
We're doing exactly that today with a look at the all-first weekend team, replete with a first and second team as well as honorable mentions. Only players still in the tournament made the first and second teams.
Ryan Nembhard, Creighton: Creighton's do-it-all guard exploded for a career-high 30 points Sunday in an 85-76 win over No. 3 seed Baylor in Round 2 action in the South Region. Nembhard went a perfect 10 for 10 from the free-throw line in leading Creighton's perfect 22-of-22 effort from the charity stripe, tying for the most free throws in a game without a miss in NCAA Tournament history.
Markquis Nowell, Kansas State: Nowell became an overnight star after turning in 23 of his 27 points in the second half to lead No. 3 seed Kansas State past No. 6 seed Kentucky in the second round. Through two games, he has 44 points and 23 assists, becoming the first player since Jason Kidd in 1993 to have at least 25 points and 20 assists in his first two career NCAA Tournament games.
Adama Sanogo, UConn: UConn punched its ticket to the Sweet 16 on Sunday behind a second monstrous performance in a three-day span from big man Adama Sanogo. Sanogo scored 24 points and grabbed eight rebounds two days after a 28-point, 13-board outing in Round 1 vs. Iona, becoming the first player since Blake Griffin in 2009 to average at least 25 points and 10 rebounds while shooting 70% or better from the field in the first two games of the NCAA Tournament.
Drew Timme, Gonzaga: Gonzaga secured a spot in the Sweet 16 for an eighth consecutive tournament thanks to the steady and star-studded production of Drew Timme, whose 49 points through two games is third-most among all players in this year's field. Timme had 28 points and eight rebounds in helping the Zags take down No. 6 seed TCU in Round 2 while making 12 of his 21 shot attempts and draining his first 3-pointer of the calendar year for good measure.
Ryan Kalkbrenner, Creighton: Creighton became the seventh team in tournament history to have a different 30-point scorer in each of its first two NCAA Tournnament games after Kalkbrenner turned in 31 points in Round 1 and teammate Ryan Nembhard scored 30 in Round 2. Kalkbrenner had seven rebounds in each of the Bluejays' first two tournament games and added four blocks in those games to go with 41 total points in two wins.
Tyson Walker, Michigan State: Michigan State took down No. 2 seed Marquette on Sunday as an underdog thanks to the second-half superhero impression from Tyson Walker, who had 17 of his 23 points in the final 20 minutes of play. Walker, a New York native, now gets a chance to play inside Madison Square Garden as the Spartans advance into the Sweet 16.
Johnell Davis, Florida Atlantic: No. 9 seed Florida Atlantic booted No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson from the tournament Sunday in a 78-70 win after Davis caught fire in the second half. Davis -- who finished with 29 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and five steals -- singlehandedly outscored FDU (18-16) in the final nine minutes of play. He's the first player with 25 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and five steals in an NCAA Tournament game since steals became an official stat in 1986.
Dylan Disu, Texas: Disu joined illustrious company this weekend in scoring the most points (28) by a Texas player in an NCAA Tournament game since Kevin Durant in 2007. Disu turned in consecutive double-doubles to open the tourney for Texas with 17 points, 10 boards in Round 1 and 28 points, 10 boards in Round 2.
Olivier Nkamhoua, Tennessee: Nkamhoua dunked and defended his way into the Sweet 16 with a dazzling two-way performance vs. Duke on Saturday in which he tied for a career-high with 27 points and added five rebounds. His 27 points were the third-most in an NCAA Tournament game by a Vols player in program history.
Jaime Jaquez Jr., UCLA: With No. 2 seed UCLA hobbled by injuries, senior wing Jaime Jaquez Jr. propelled the Bruins to the Sweet 16 for a third straight season in shooting just over 57% in two games and averaging eight rebounds in those two wins. His masterpiece came Saturday against a stingy Northwestern defense where he worked his way to 24 points, eight rebounds and four assists in 39 minutes of action.
Tramon Mark, Houston: With guards Marcus Sasser and Jamal Shead nursing injuries, Mark stepped to the plate and knocked it out of the park for No. 1 seed Houston on Saturday in scoring a career-high 26 points and adding nine rebounds in an 81-64 win over No. 9 seed Auburn.
Ryan Langborg, Princeton: No. 15 seed Princeton secured a Sweet 16 berth for the first time since 1967 -- well before expansion -- thanks to Langborg's 22-point, six-rebound, four-assist outing Saturday in a win over No. 7 seed Missouri.
Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana: Indiana's Sweet 16 drought extended to six years with an 85-69 loss Sunday to Miami, but Jackson-Davis did his best in efforting to get the Hoosiers to the second weekend. He averaged 23.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 5.0 blocks for IU in two appearances.
Jahvon Quinerly, Alabama: Nearly a year removed from an ACL injury, Alabama's lead guard has rounded into form for the No. 1 overall seeded Crimson Tide, highlighted by a big 22 points, three steals and two assists in a 73-51 Round 2 win over No. 8 seed Maryland.
Oscar Tshiebwe, Kentucky: Tshiebwe became the first player in the NCAA Tournament since Ronnie Robinson in 1973 to turn in at least 15 rebounds in each of his first three NCAA Tournament appearances after grabbing 25 in Round 1 and 18 in Round 2 this weekend.
Davonte Davis, Arkansas: On a team loaded with five-star freshmen, junior guard Davonte Davis came up the biggest as No. 8 seed Arkansas advanced to the Sweet 16. He finished with 25 points and eight rebounds in a 72-71 win over No. 1 seed Kansas, the Razorbacks' second-ever NCAA Tournament win over a No. 1 seed and second time in as many years it has done so.