Men's NCAA Tournament recap: Gonzaga, FAU, K-State, UConn reach March Madness' Elite Eight

Following a three-day breather after a weekend of chaos, the men's NCAA Tournament returned to action with the start of the Sweet 16.

No. 3 Kansas State defeated No. 7 Michigan State in an overtime thriller in the first of four games in the West and East, while No. 4 Connecticut rolled over No. 8 Arkansas. No. 9 Florida Atlantic continued its dream season, knocking out No. 4 Tennessee, and No. 3 Gonzaga won a heavyweight showdown against No. 2 UCLA to wrap up the night.

MEN'S TOURNAMENT: Complete scores and schedule

WOMEN'S TOURNAMENT: Complete scores and schedule

Julian Strawther's deep 3-pointer lifts Gonzaga over UCLA

Gonzaga survived after staging a furious rally against UCLA to advance to the Elite Eight.

Julian Strawther delivered the game-winning shot on a long 3-pointer with 7 seconds to play. UCLA’s Tyger Williams had a chance to send the game into overtime but missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer. Gonzaga won, 79-76.

The game felt like whiplash.

UCLA led by 13 points at the half but then was down by 10 points with 2:30 left to play. But back came the Bruins.

UCLA freshman Amari Bailey put the Bruins ahead 76-75 on a 3-pointer with 13 seconds left to play. But Gonzaga answered with Strawther and survived UCLA’s last gasps before the horn sounded.

Senior forward Drew Timme led Gonzaga with 36 points and 13 rebounds.

The injury-depleted Bruins, playing without their starting center and top defensive player, appeared to stun Gonzaga by matching the Bulldogs’ fast pace. UCLA led 46-33 at the half. 

But Gonzaga staged an impressive comeback, earning a berth to the Elite Eight thanks in part to defense. During one stretch in the second half, UCLA failed to score a field goal for more than 11 minutes.

Gonzaga will play fourth-seeded Connecticut Saturday.

UCLA was without starting center Adem Bona, out with a shoulder injury, and Jaylen Clark, the team’s top defensive player, who suffered a season-ending injury in the final game of the regular season.

On Thursday, Jaime Jaquez Jr. led UCLA with 29 points and 11 rebounds.

– Josh Peter

Gonzaga's Julian Strawther celebrates after the Bulldogs' win over UCLA.
Gonzaga's Julian Strawther celebrates after the Bulldogs' win over UCLA.

No. 9 Florida Atlantic upsets No. 4 Tennessee 

The Florida Atlantic Owls upset the Tennessee Volunteers, 62-55, Thursday to advance to the Elite Eight despite having never won a game in the NCAA Tournament before this year. 

Ninth-seeded Florida Atlantic will play third-seeded Kansas State on Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Florida Atlantic trailed by as many as nine points in the first half and in the second half was down 39-33 when the Owls suddenly took control.

The Owls went on 15-2 tear, moving ahead 48-41 with 7:22 left to play, which prompted Tennessee to call a timeout. It stopped the clock – but not Florida Atlantic.

The Owls went up 53-43 with 5:50 left to play, and Tennessee pulled no closer than five points the rest of the way.

It was yet another postseason disappointment for Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes. During his eight-year tenure, he has guided the Volunteers to the Sweet 16 twice – and never beyond.

The Volunteers made their only other trip to the Elite Eight in 2010 and they did not advance.

Florida Atlantic made its only other NCAA Tournament appearance in 2002, when it was seeded No. 15 and lost to No. 2 seed Alabama.

But these are a different set of Owls. Demonstrating their toughness, they outrebounded Tennessee, 40-36, and held Tennessee to 33.3% shooting from the field. By contrast, Florida Atlantic shot 42% from the field.

– Josh Peter 

Half: UCLA 46, Gonzaga 33

The Bruins went on a 15-4 run to close the first half taking a 46-33 lead over the Bulldogs, despite missing Adem Bona (shoulder) and Jaylen Clark (Achilles). Amari Bailey and Tyger Campbell both have 13 points, with Jaime Jaquez Jr. adding 12 and six rebounds.

The Bulldogs’ Drew Timme has a game-high 19 points and five rebounds, but he’s not getting much help from the rest of the team. Gonzaga turned the ball over nine times in the half, compared to UCLA’s one turnover.

Tennessee leads Florida Atlantic at half

The Volunteers entered halftime with a 27-22 lead over the Owls, led by Uros Plavsic’s team-high eight points. No one is in double digits in the low-scoring affair.

Florida Atlantic is lucky to only be down by five. The Owls recorded nine first-half turnovers, which led to nine points for the Volunteers. Florida Atlantic also went 3-for-14 from beyond the arc. Nicholas Boyd and Michael Forrest were each able to knock down a three for the Owls in the closing minutes of the first-half, the team’s first threes since their opening possession, to get within five of Tennessee.

The winner of Tennessee-Florida Atlantic will play Kansas State in the Elite Eight. Markquis Nowell was spotted in the Madison Square Garden crowd to watch the matchup following his historic performance.

UCLA missing key piece vs. Gonzaga 

UCLA starting center Adem Bona, suffering from a shoulder injury, did not join the Bruins during warmups in a clear sign he would not be able to play Thursday against Gonzaga.

Bona will be replaced by Kenneth Nwuba. The 6-foot-10 senior has played in 34 games and averaged 12 minutes. 

The absence of Bona, the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, compounded injury issues for the second-seeded Bruins. 

UCLA lost Jaylen Clark, its top defensive player, to a season-ending injury in the final game of the regular season. David Singleton, the senior guard who moved into the starting lineup in Clark’s absence, subsequently suffered an ankle injury that has left his status in doubt.

– Josh Peter

Markquis Nowell leads Kansas State to thrilling overtime win over Michigan State


In a white-knuckle, heart-stopping ride, third-seeded Kansas State outlasted seventh-seeded Michigan State in overtime, 98-93, Thursday in a Sweet 16 matchup of the men’s NCAA Tournament.

Markquis Nowell, Kansas State’s 5-foot-8 point guard, was brilliant with 19 assists – an NCAA Tournament single-game record — along with 20 points and five steals.

His fifth steal came in the final moments of the game to send the Wildcats into the Elite Eight. During his electric performance, Nowell overcame an ankle injury in the second half that forced him to the bench for about 2½ minutes and left him hobbled.

With the victory, Kansas State, which was picked last in the Big 12 preseason poll, continues its remarkable run.

The Wildcats needed everything they got from Nowell, as Michigan State fought back after trailing by as many as nine points early in the second half and again by seven points with less than five minutes to play. Michigan State’s Tyson Walker scored with five seconds left in regulation to force overtime.

Nowell – who else? – provided the signature play of overtime with a perfect, seemingly no-look lob to Keyontae Johnson, who finished with a team-high 22 points.

For Michigan State, the loss ended its quest to reach the Final Four for the 11th time in school history. But it was an impressive Tournament run for the Spartans, which started the season outside of the Top 25.

– Josh Peter 

No. 4 UConn crushes No. 8 Arkansas

LAS VEGAS — It has been nearly a decade since the University of Connecticut men's team was considered a national power, and for much of that time it was unclear whether anyone else could build the same type of program Jim Calhoun had that could contend for titles every year.

Danny Hurley isn’t quite there yet, but if the Huskies keep playing like this, it won’t be long.

UConn, the No. 4 seed in the West Regional, obliterated No. 8 seed Arkansas, 88-65, at T-Mobile Arena and will await the winner of UCLA-Gonzaga for a chance to reach the Final Four.

UConn, which won nine of its last 11 games entering the NCAA men’s tournament, simply had too much size, shooting and energy for Arkansas, which upset No. 1 seed Kansas to make the Sweet 16.

The game was never close. UConn started by getting into the paint for easy looks, and the Huskies followed with a muscular performance on the offensive glass when they did miss. Led by Jordan Hawkins’ 24 points and big man Adama Sanogo’s 18, UConn finished the game shooting 57 percent from the field and 45 percent from the 3-point line.

UConn made 17-of-28 shots in the first half for a 46-29 lead and fired with a 30-point margin early in the second half before Arkansas’ full-court press discombobulated the Huskies for a few possessions.

But after its lead was cut to 19 with more than 13 minutes remaining, UConn immediately got consecutive 3-pointers from Hawkins and Nahiem Alleyne to end any threat.

UConn hasn’t been to the Final Four since winning a surprise national title under Kevin Ollie in 2014, and Thursday was the Huskies’ first trip to the tournament’s second weekend in five years under Hurley.

Arkansas was looking to make its third consecutive trip to the Elite Eight under coach Eric Musselman but fell well short in this matchup, which perhaps highlighted why the Razorbacks finished 8-10 in the SEC.

Freshman Anthony Black who is expected to be an NBA lottery pick if he chooses to leave college, led Arkansas with 20 points on 5-of-12 shooting.

– Dan Wolken

Markquis Nowell has a fan in Patrick Mahomes

When Nowell left the floor after rolling his ankle, someone asked if Mahomes could give the K-State guard any advice. No need, Mahomes tweeted.

“He’s got it! I believe!!” Mahomes said, adding two flexed biceps emojis.

The Kansas City Chiefs quarterback knows a thing or two about playing on a bum ankle, aggravating his high ankle sprain during the second quarter of Super Bowl 57. Mahomes’ status looked questionable as he limped off the field at halftime, but he played the entire second half and led the Chiefs to the Super Bowl title.

– Nancy Armour 

Halftime: UConn 46, Arkansas 29

An unplanned change in hotels didn't keep No. 4 UConn from jumping out to a commanding lead over 8-seeded Arkansas.

The Huskies, who were forced to change hotels in Las Vegas after CT Insider reported their rooms were in awful condition, were dominant in the first 20 minutes. At one point, UConn mounted a 14-0 run.

UConn's Jordan Hawkins led all scorers with 10 points in the half. Teammate Adama Sanogo is on double-double watch with eight points and six rebounds before the break. Nick Smith Jr. led Arkansas with nine points.

Even award-winning actor Bill Murray was enjoying the Huskies' dominance. In attendance to support his son, Luke, who is an assistant coach at UConn, Murray was shown cheering from the crowd as the Huskies went on their run.

Kansas State star Markquis Nowell needs help off court after appearing to twist ankle

Kansas State guard Markquis Nowell fell awkwardly while attempting a short runner and had to be helped off the court less than five minutes into the second half of the No. 3 Wildcats’ Sweet 16 matchup against No. 7 Michigan State.

Nowell had played every minute for KSU, which was leading 50-46 with 15:31 left, and had scored seven points with 10 assists.

One of the breakout stars of this year’s tournament, Nowell is the Wildcats’ second-leading scorer (17.1 points per game) and ranks second nationally in assists (7.8 per game).

Nowell removed his shoe and had trainers tape his ankle up before he returned to the court. While the ankle was clearly bothering him, he still flashed his offensive creativity.

– Paul Myerberg 

Halftime: Kansas State 43, Michigan State 38

Markquis Nowell was an offensive magician, weaving pinpoint passes to teammates to give No. 3 Kansas State a five-point lead over 7-seeded Michigan State at the break.

Nowell racked up 10 assists in the first 20 minutes and added a deep 3-point field goal for the Wildcats.

The Spartans, meanwhile, got a torrid first-half effort from Joey Hauser (12 points, three rebounds). Hauser connected on 2 of 4 attempts from 3-point range. Michigan State also won the first-half rebound battle 18-12 and pulled down seven offensive boards compared to just one for Kansas State

Why you might see Barry Sanders during Michigan State's Sweet 16 game

A lot of college basketball fans perhaps not completely clued into Michigan State basketball appeared to be taken aback when Pro Football Hall of Famer and Detroit Lions legend Barry Sanders appeared on their television screens wearing a green and white MSU cap — and sitting behind former MSU football coach Mark Dantonio and Kirk Gibson — during the Spartans' second-round NCAA tournament game Sunday against Marquette.

But as all Spartan supporters know, there's a very simple explanation as to why Sanders was in Columbus, Ohio, for the game. His son, Nick, is a freshman on the MSU basketball team.

– Phil Friend, Lansing State Journal

NCAA finally embraces Sin City as a destination

Las Vegas is now poised to be a hub for college sports with several NCAA events scheduled over the next several years, beginning with Thursday’s West Regional at T-Mobile Arena. From golf to bowling to hockey — the 2026 Frozen Four will also be held here — the NCAA logo will soon be as ubiquitous on the Las Vegas Strip as ads for celebrity chef restaurants and Cirque du Soleil shows.

It will all lead up to 2028, when the NCAA brings its crown jewel event, the men’s Final Four, here for the first (and probably not last) time.

“It was just getting over the stigma that it was Las Vegas,” said Jim Livengood, the longtime athletics director at Washington State, Arizona and UNLV.

— Dan Wolken

Mick Cronin has UCLA thriving

With Mick Cronin in charge, the forecast for UCLA’s storied basketball program remains perpetually sunny. The Bruins are in the Sweet 16 of the men’s NCAA Tournament for the third straight season.

Up next: a rematch against Gonzaga, which at the 2021 Final Four outlasted UCLA in overtime, 93-90.

"We're four games away from hanging a 12th banner,'' Cronin said, referring to UCLA's 11 national championships. "That's how we look at it. That's how we talk about it.''

— Josh Peter

How to watch the Sweet 16

The men’s Sweet 16 round tips Thursday night, with action in the Big Apple and Sin City.

►No. 3 Kansas State vs. No. 7 Michigan State

Time/TV: 6:30 p.m. ET, TBS

►No. 4 Connecticut vs. No. 8 Arkansas

Time/TV: 7:15 p.m. ET, CBS

►No. 4 Tennessee vs. No. 9 Florida Atlantic

Time/TV: 9 p.m. ET, TBS

►No. 2 UCLA vs. No. 3 Gonzaga

Time/TV: 9:45 p.m. ET, CBS

Best shot at making Final Four

The 2022 Final Four in men’s basketball was, in the end, dominated by bluebloods. This year’s version could be more about new bloods.

Of the 16 remaining teams, only four have won a championship (Michigan State, UCLA, UConn, Arkansas). Three of those are in the same region, so there’s a high probability that somebody new will be cutting down the nets in Houston.

Seven of the Sweet 16 teams (Alabama, Creighton, Florida Atlantic Miami, San Diego State, Tennessee and Xavier) have never even been to a Final Four. We ranked them in order of their chances to make the national semifinals for the first time.

— Eddie Timanus

What have we learned?

Surprises and upsets defined the first two rounds of the men's NCAA Tournament, sending some of college basketball's biggest names packing – including Kansas, Purdue, Duke, Virginia and Kentucky – as Fairleigh Dickinson beat Purdue and Princeton topped Arizona and Missouri to write two of the top Cinderella stories in recent tournament history.

Amid this flurry of unpredictability, what happens next is anyone's guess.

With the Sweet 16 set to begin, we detailed eight lessons learned from the first weekend of the tournament.

— Paul Myerberg

'Spartan strong'

Ranked outside the top 25 for most of the season, Michigan State would not have been considered much of a threat to get to the Sweet 16 except for one thing: They have Tom Izzo on the sidelines.

It’s not that Izzo is unbeatable or has an ironclad track record in March. Like every other great coach, he’s had his share of surprising flameouts. But every few years, Izzo finds a way to push a team deeper into the tournament than it’s supposed to go.

Michigan State's second-round win against No. 2 seed Marquette was the 16th time Izzo has beaten a higher-seeded team in the NCAA Tournament, beating out Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim for the all-time record. Perhaps more impressively, it was the sixth time he has gotten to the Sweet 16 with a team seeded fifth or worse.

The Spartans take on No. 3 seed Kansas State in the first men's Sweet 16 game Thursday.

— Dan Wolken

Princeton men, women win first-round games in same year, make Ivy history

This was a tournament to remember for the Ivy League even before Princeton's men reached the second round.

This is the first year the Ivy’s teams have won first-round games in both tournaments. A day after the Princeton men stunned Arizona, the 10th-seeded Princeton women upset N.C. State on Friday night on a 3-pointer with seven seconds left.

“We were watching (the men) in the locker room right before practice,” Julia Cunningham said Friday night. “Watching them, all the coverage they are getting from the media, it was so well deserved. We looked at each other and thought, we’re next, now it’s our turn.

“It is special,” she added. “A special week to be a Tiger.”

The Princeton women were beaten in the second round by Utah, but the Tigers' men will take on Creighton on Friday in the Sweet 16.

– Nancy Armour

Final USA TODAY Sports coaches poll

Houston entered the NCAA Tournament with the No. 1 ranking in the USA TODAY Sports coaches poll, despite its loss in the American Athletic Conference championship game prior to the unveiling of the brackets.

The Cougars, who were playing without leading scorer Marcus Sasser in the loss to Memphis, retained 21 of 32 No. 1 votes to stave off second-ranked Alabama. The Crimson Tide received eight firsts after winning the SEC title in impressive fashion on Sunday.

Houston and Alabama are the lone No. 1 seeds remaining in the tournament after Kansas was knocked off by Arkansas in the second round and Purdue, the top seed in the East, was upset in the first round by Fairleigh Dickinson.

— Eddie Timanus

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: March Madness bracket: Julian Strawther 3 lifts Gonzaga over UCLA