The opening weekend in the 2023 NCAA Tournament was pure bananas, and it fittingly came to an end on Sunday with multiple underdogs peeling off upsets in unexpected fashion while several bluebloods were surprisingly bounced out of the bracket earlier than expected. The madness of March definitely lived up to the billing over the tournament's first four days.
The final day of second-round action saw three underdogs pull off wins with No. 3 seed Kansas State sending home No. 6 seed Kentucky, No. 5 seed Miami ending No. 4 seed Indiana's season and No. 7 seed Michigan State -- yes, that's right, Mr. March Tom Izzo is back -- taking out No. 2 seed Marquette in a stunner.
It also gifted us some stinkers. The Big Ten all but deuced out after getting eight teams into the field. Kentucky folded and failed to reach the Sweet 16 for a third consecutive season. Indiana, meanwhile, got blasted by Miami.
As you'd expect, there were lots of winners from all the action, but also plenty of losers.
Let's dive in to the day that was with a recap of the second-round action on Sunday before we look ahead to the Sweet 16.
Loser: Big Ten has another lackluster showing
The mighty Big Ten snuck eight teams into the 2023 NCAA Tournament, but one of them survived the first weekend.
No. 4 seed Indiana on Sunday joined No. 10 seed Penn State, No. 7 seed Northwestern, No. 9 seed Illinois, No. 8 seed Maryland, No. 8 seed Iowa and No. 1 seed Purdue in getting bounced before the Sweet 16. The only team to survive – as ever – was No. 7 seed Michigan State.
Winner: Xavier finds its groove again
Marquette ran Xavier off the floor in the Big East Tournament title game. Then No. 14 seed Kennesaw State opened up a 13-point lead on the Musketeers in a first-round NCAA Tournament game on Friday before Xavier frantically clawed back at the end. Those uninspiring performances suggested Xavier could be vulnerable entering Sunday's game against No. 11 seed Pitt. Then, Adam Kunkel started drilling 3-pointers. The Xavier guard hit all five of his attempts from beyond the arc in the first half as the Musketeers built an insurmountable lead on the way to an 84-73 win over the Panthers. During one stretch in the first half, Xavier made seven straight shots from the floor. The game served as a reminder of how lethal the Musketeers are when at their best as coach Sean Miller continues in the first year of his second stint with the program, and it was a warning shot to the rest of the field that this squad isn't done yet.
"OH HE'S NOT HUMAN"— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) March 19, 2023
Adam Kunkel is on FIRE @XavierMBB pic.twitter.com/Gix5Lk0sxZ
Loser: Kentucky comes up short again
Kentucky led No. 3 seed Kansas State for the majority of the game on Sunday, but the third-seeded Wildcats were unable to be contained late (by the other Wildcats, go figure) as they attacked off ball screens and flushed big shot after big shot down the stretch. Markquis Nowell was responsible for 23 of his 27 points in the second half as he led K-State to the come-from-behind win, draining three 3s in the second half and adding a game-high nine assists for good measure.
Putting on a show ⚡️#KStateMBB x @MrNewYorkCityy— K-State Men's Basketball (@KStateMBB) March 19, 2023
The loss extended Kentucky's Sweet 16 drought to three seasons with its last appearance coming in 2019.
"I have empathy [for frustrated Kentucky fans]," said coach John Calipari. "I understand what this program is about. I think that's what makes it what it is. I tell the players, 'This isn't for everybody.' There's a high expectation level. It's Kentucky ... I understand it."
Winner: The wide receiver screen
Kansas State ousted Kentucky in style with an inbounds play late in the game that coach Jerome Tang later said is called "Mahomes." The play involves all five K-State players starting out-of-bounds and the inbounder effectively calling "hut" before the other four teammates run routes. To get it in, the Wildcats even ran a screen-like concept to get their X receiver – er, I mean, their starting guard – the basketball.
That fancy inbounds play Kansas State ran late against Kentucky?— Kyle Boone (@Kyle__Boone) March 20, 2023
Jerome Tang said it's called "Mahomes."
"We stole it from somebody else. ... We actually call it 'Mahomes' -- for Patrick Mahomes, the quarterback for the Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs." pic.twitter.com/XudbbQVAqd
"We stole it from somebody else," said Tang. "We actually call it 'Mahomes' for "Patrick Mahomes," the quarterback for the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs."
Loser: College basketball bluebloods
Duke? Sent home in Round 2. Kentucky? Sent home in Round 2? Kansas, a No. 1 seed and the defending champion? Sent home in Round 2. Indiana? Yeah, you guessed it. Sent home in Round 2.
Let's just say it has not been a great year for college basketball bluebloods in the NCAA Tournament. Michigan State and UCLA are still fighting for their tournament lives, so all hope is not lost for those plucky frontrunners, but the programs synonymous with bluebloods are largely either out of the tournament (KU, IU and UK) or not there to begin with (UNC). Yikes, yikes, triple yikes.
Winner: Tom Izzo does it again
Tom Izzo has led Michigan State to 25 straight NCAA Tournament appearances, and the No. 7 seed Spartans are headed to the Sweet 16 for the 15th time in that span after beating No. 2 seed Marquette 69-60. It's an incredible March record made even more incredible by how well Izzo has fared with teams that receive only mediocre seeding. In 2015, he led a No. 7 seed to the Final Four, and he also guided a pair of No. 5 seeds to Final Fours earlier in his storied career. This was a tough season for the Spartans as their campus dealt with a tragic shooting. Izzo has worn the grief on his sleeve, and it was clear after the game just how much this run means to one of the game's all-time greats.
Coach Izzo is moved to tears after @MSU_Basketball secured a spot in the Sweet 16 ❤️#MarchMadness pic.twitter.com/wKY7D0ioca— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessMBB) March 19, 2023
Winner: Adama Sanogo goes nuts
In two games this weekend, UConn center Adama Sanogo totaled 52 points and 21 rebounds. His 24-point, eight-rebound effort in Sunday's 70-55 win over Saint Mary's came short of his 28-point, 13-rebound effort in Friday's win over Iona. But it was more than enough to help send the No. 5 seed Huskies into the Sweet 16. Sanogo made 24 of 33 shots from the floor in the two games and looked like the most dominant player in the country. Next up is a game with No. 8 seed Arkansas. The problem for the Razorbacks is that even if they manage to slow Sanogo down, he's got shooters around him. The Huskies drilled 10 of 22 attempts from 3-point range on Sunday to eradicate any hopes Saint Mary's had of advancing.
Throwing it down 💪 @uconnmbb pic.twitter.com/Bta91MfAA4— CBS Sports College Basketball 🏀 (@CBSSportsCBB) March 19, 2023
Winner: FAU keeps winning
It was a big day for FAU basketball and the "In Dusty We Trusty" mantra. Coach Dusty May led the Owls to a program-best 33 wins and a 78-70 win over Fairleigh Dickinson in the second round to help the program to its second-ever NCAA Tournament win just days after its first. FAU downed the No. 16 seed to get there, but it got there nonetheless.
"We never felt like we were a Cinderella team," said May.
FLORIDA ATLANTIC HAS BROKEN IT OPEN 👀#MarchMadness @FAUMBB pic.twitter.com/d2nc2zYpmi— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessMBB) March 20, 2023
Winner: Fairleigh Dickinson's Cinderella run
We don't hand out participation trophies in this space, but – [touches index finger to ear as producer weighs in] – actually I'm getting word that that's exactly what we're doing here. And with good reason! No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson fell short of the Sweet 16, falling 78-70 to No. 9 seed Florida Atlantic, but the Knights did what only one team in tourney history had done before in wiping out a No. 1 seed in the first round. They even gave the Owls a good run in a back-and-forth affair in Round 2 before running out of steam.
"We had a couple runs, but [FAU] answered," said FDU coach Tobin Anderson. "We went toe to toe the last few days with two great teams, didn't back, not just happy to be here. Couldn't be prouder of our team, our players, our program, our administration."