UNLIKE FRIDAY, TOP SEEDS ADVANCE: SATURDAY RECAP/ SUNDAY PREVIEW:

Indiana advances to dance in the Sweet 16

One day after two No. 2 seeds, Duke and Missouri, were upset to destroy half the NCAA brackets in office pools around the country, every top seeded team won on Saturday as half of the Sweet Sixteen field is set for next weekend. Below are recaps from all of Saturday’s games, as well as previews for Sunday’s contests. Please leave your comments.

INDIANA BEATS 2011 SURPRISE TEAM VCU 63-61

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) Will Sheehey had two options when he grabbed the loose ball: back it out and play for the final shot of regulation, or take the open jumper. Indiana coach Tom Crean wanted the Hoosiers to be aggressive on Saturday, and Sheehey was paying attention. The sophomore forward made a 15-footer from the baseline with 12.7 seconds left after a shot was blocked right to him, and the fourth-seeded Hoosiers beat 12th-seeded VCU 63-61 on Saturday to reach the NCAA tournament’s round of 16 for the first time in a decade.

Welcome back Indiana. The Hoosiers (27-8) trailed by as many as nine at 57-48 and held VCU to just four points in the final 12 1/2 minutes. When Rob Brandenberg’s open look at a potential winning 3 rimmed off, the Hoosiers were finally able to celebrate their first trip to the regional semifinals since 2002.

Next up is a rematch with top-seeded Kentucky in Atlanta. The Hoosiers’ last-second win over the Wildcats back in December announced their return to the national stage, and dealt the tourney’s No.1 overall seed their only regular season loss this season.

KENTUCKY ADVANCES WITH WIN OVER IOWA STATE 87-71

Speaking of the Wildcats, Freshman Marquis Teague finally feels in step with Kentucky coach John Calipari’s offense. Now, he’s taking the Wildcats to the South Regional semifinals in Atlanta, and maybe a lot farther than that. Teague scored a career-high 24 points and top seed Kentucky put together another complete performance with a dominating second-half run in an 87-71 victory over Iowa State in the third round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday night.

Freshman Anthony Davis had 15 points and 12 rebounds, senior Darius Miller added 19 points and Doron Lamb finished with 16. The Wildcats (34-2) used a 20-2 burst to break away from a tie and next will face fourth-seeded Indiana on Friday.

WITH BEST EFFORT IN RECENT WEEKS, SYRACUSE BEATS KANSAS STATE 75-59

It had been a while since Syracuse played like the team that spent all season ranked in the top five. In the second half Saturday, the top-seeded Orange looked like that group and maybe even better, pulling away to a 75-59 victory over eighth-seeded Kansas State in the third round of the East Regional. Scoop Jardine had 16 points and eight assists,  Dion Waiters had 18 points and James Southerland added 15 for the Orange (33-2), who didn’t wait until the final minutes to seal the win as they did in the second round against 16th-seeded North Carolina-Asheville.

Even in winning, the Orange have not played well lately. Syracuse scored fewer than 70 points – it averages 74.5 – in five of the last seven games. The Orange shot better than 46.5 percent from the field – their mark for the season – only once, and the stretch included 3-point performances of 1 for 15, 5 for 20 and 3 for 14. Against UNC-Asheville, they shot 44.6 percent overall and 5 for 23 on 3s, and that included making one of their first 13.

OHIO STATES SENDS ORIGINAL CINDERELLA HOME, BEATS GONZAGA 73-66

PITTSBURGH (AP) Ohio State busted the original bracket buster. Jared Sullinger scored 18 points, including two big baskets in the final 3 minutes to lead the Buckeyes past Gonzaga 73-66 on Saturday and into the round of 16 for the third straight year.

DeShaun Thomas also scored 18 for the second-seeded Buckeyes (29-7), while Aaron Craft added 17 points and 10 assists. Ohio State will play Florida State or Cincinnati in the East Regional semifinals in Boston on Thursday.

Gary Bell Jr. led No. 7 seed Gonzaga (26-7) with 18 points. The Bulldogs erased a 10-point deficit to tie it at 61 on a 3-pointer by Elias Harris with 4:05 remaining, but Sullinger knocked down two pretty hook shots late while the Zags went cold.

The steady play of Craft and some gritty defense in the final minutes helped Ohio State avoid becoming the third No. 2 seed to lose in less than 24 hours. Fellow heavyweights Duke and Missouri fell to upstarts on Friday from one-bid leagues.

BADGERS BEAT SEC CONFERENCE CHAMPS 60-57

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) The Wisconsin Badgers are riding the nation’s stingiest defense – and admittedly a bit of luck – back to the round of 16.

The Badgers held the Southeastern Conference’s two leading scorers in check Saturday night and Ryan Evans grabbed a crucial rebound with 2.1 seconds left to help Wisconsin fend off Vanderbilt 60-57 in the NCAA tournament. Vanderbilt, who became a popular Final Four pick after upsetting No.1 Kentucky in the SEC Title game, may not have lost the game per say, but simply ran out of time to win it.

The Badgers held John Jenkins (20.1) and Jeffery Taylor (16.3) to 13 and 9 points, respectively in advancing to face top-seeded Syracuse in the East Regional in Boston.

Jenkins got just one good look at the basket all night, and it came on a wide-open 3-pointer in the final seconds. With the Commodores trailing 59-57, Jenkins created some space between him and Jarred Berggren, but like so many of his other shots on this night, it was long.

“That was as wide open a shot as we gave up the whole game,” Badgers coach Bo Ryan said. “It just didn’t happen to go down.” Evans grabbed the rebound among a mash pit of bodies pushing and shoving underneath the basket, corralling the ball and drawing the foul with 2.1 seconds left.

“It was a pretty good look,” Jenkins said. “I felt like I got a good chance of having it going in, just like a lot of looks I had today. It just didn’t drop for me.” Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings desperately wanted a whistle on the Badgers but didn’t get it.

MARQUETTE DOWNS  MURRAY STATE 62-53

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP): Marquette has perfected the art of the comeback. Down late yet again, Jae Crowder scored six points during a decisive 14-2 run, and the third-seeded Golden Eagles pulled away from Murray State for a 62-53 victory Saturday that sends the Golden Eagles into next weekend’s West Regional semifinals.

Crowder finished with 17 points, 12 in the second half, and also had 13 rebounds. Darius Johnson-Odom also had 17 for Marquette (27-7). “When you’re playing a team like Murray State, they’re going to keep throwing punches and throwing punches, and you have to find a way to slow them down,” Johnson-Odom said. “We did a great job of that today.”

Isaiah Canaan had 16 points and six rebounds for the sixth-seeded Racers (31-2), who fell just short of their first trip to the regional semifinals for the second time in three years. This one is sure to sting, too, even if it wasn’t as gut wrenchingly close. Murray State lost to Butler 54-52 in 2010 when Gordon Hayward forced a Canaan turnover with about 10 seconds left.

The Racers have come a long way since. They won their first 23 games of the season, were the last team in the country to lose and showed against Marquette they can play with anyone.

“We proved today that we belong, and we belonged on a national stage,” Racers coach Steve Prohm said. “We just weren’t good enough the last seven minutes.” Give Marquette some credit for that, because they and not the Bull Dogs are Sweet 16 bound.

THREE POINTERS HELP BAYLOR TO AN 80-63 WIN OVER  CU

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) With his 3-point goggles on, the bucket never looked quite so big for Brady Heslip. Because of that, the future’s looking as bright as those uniforms for the Baylor Bears.

Heslip, the kid who grew up playing H-O-R-S-E with his dad in Canada, made a big splash in America on Saturday, going 9 for 12 from 3-point range and lifting the third-seeded Bears to a pull away 80-63 victory over No. 11 Colorado in the NCAA tournament.

“When they set great screens and they make passes that are on target and on time, it just makes it easy for me,” Heslip said. “Especially if I’m in rhythm and feeling good shooting.” He was, and because of it, Baylor (29-7) will bring the highlighter-yellow uniforms down to Atlanta for a South Regional semifinal against Xavier or Lehigh next Friday.

Louisville holds off New Mexico 59-56

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) Louisville coach Rick Pitino predicted it would be a low scoring game. He never anticipated such a struggle. Russ Smith had 17 points as Louisville held off New Mexico 59-56 Saturday night for its sixth consecutive win to advance to the regional semifinals for the first time since 2009.

Kyle Kuric and Chane Behanan each added 10 points for the Big East tournament champions, who lost their first game of the NCAA tournament the past two seasons.

Trailing 53-46, New Mexico’s Drew Gordon hit a pair of free throws, and Demetrius Walker made a 3-pointer to pull to within 53-51 with 1:36 left. Smith made a pair of free throws for fourth-seeded Louisville (28-9), but Gordon answered with a tip-in.

Gorgui Dieng dunked with 32.3 seconds left and Peyton Siva added free throws to make it 59-53. Gordon dropped a 3-pointer with 2.9 seconds left, but it was too late for the fifth seeded Lobos (28-7), who have never been to the round of 16.

Louisville, which led by as many as 15 points in the second half, advances to the West Regional semifinals in Columbus to face the winner of Sunday’s game between Michigan State and Saint Louis.

Gordon led the Lobos with 21 points and 14 rebounds, despite appearing to hyperextend his left knee with 4:47 left in the first half. The 6-foot-9 senior, averaging 13.5 points and 11 rebounds going into the game, was prone on the court for several minutes before he was helped off the floor and into the locker room. He came back a short time later with the knee wrapped.

(* recaps by AP)

TOMORROWS PREVIEW COURTESY OF RIVALS.COM

No. 3 Georgetown (24-8) vs. No. 11 North Carolina State(23-12), 9 a.m., Channel 2: The Wolfpack has lacked offensive consistency at times, and that bodes ill against the Hoyas, a physical group that plays excellent perimeter defense. A big game from point guard Lorenzo Brown is vital for N.C. State. Another key: how the Wolfpack’s inside duo inC.J. Leslie and Richard Howell holds up against Georgetown’s Henry Sims and Otto Porter.

No. 1 North Carolina (30-5) vs. No. 8 Creighton (29-5), 2 p.m., Channel 2: Both teams want a fast pace and would prefer a game in the high 70s or low 80s, which should make for an entertaining matchup. Creighton figures to need a huge game from forward Doug McDermott, and something close to its customary excellence from three-point range (42.5%). UNC could use a return by forward John Henson, whose hand injury has caused him to miss the last three games. Carolina center Tyler Zeller should have a big game; he is much quicker than Bluejays counterpart Gregory Echenique. McDermott and Tar Heels forward Harrison Barnes are friends and former teammates at Ames (Iowa) High.

No. 12 South Florida (22-13) vs. No. 13 Ohio (28-7), 4p.m., TBS: This is the first No. 12-vs.-No. 13 game since 2009, when 12th-seeded Arizona beat 13th-seeded Cleveland State. USF won all season with defense, but its offense has perked up in the tournament — 123 points in two games, including a 43-point second half Friday against Temple. The key for Ohio is forcing turnovers and scoring in transition, which will be tough against a USF team that values every possession. Ohio needs another big game from quick junior guard D.J. Cooper.

No. 2 Kansas (28-6) vs. No. 10 Purdue (22-12), 5:30 p.m., TNT: The Jayhawks enjoy a decided athletic advantage, so look for KU to try to force the pace. Jayhawks big men Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey should have big days. The Boilermakers need typical production from forward Robbie Hummel, and for guards Ryne Smith and D.J. Byrd to be hot from three-point range.

WEST REGIONAL

No. 1 Michigan State (28-7) vs. No. 9 Saint Louis (26-7), 11:30 a.m., Channel 2: This is a first-rate coaching matchup, Saint Louis’ Rick Majerus vs. Michigan State’s Tom Izzo. SLU has nice offensive balance, with with guards Kwamain Mitchell and forwards Cody Ellis and Brian Conklin. Ellis’ three-point shooting could be crucial for the Billikens, who are likely to get hammered on the boards. Majerus, a defensive master, will try to devise a scheme to stop Spartans forward Draymond Green, perhaps the nation’s best all-around player. Michigan State is much bulkier up front and will try to play this game in the paint.

No. 7 Florida (24-10) vs. No. 15 Norfolk State (26-9), 3 p.m., TNT: Norfolk State was one of two 15th-seeded teams to win Friday, thanks to a huge game from center Kyle O’Quinn against Missouri. Now he goes against another smallish frontcourt. But while Missouri was shaky on defense, Florida is not. The key for Florida is outside shooting. The Gators rolled Friday despite throwing up bricks from three-point range; if they’re hitting those against the Spartans, they should cruise.

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About Alan Zlotorzynski

I am a 42-year-old amateur sports talk show host, and sports writer. I am from Baltimore, MD, and my first love is all things "Balwmer". The Ravens, Orioles, Terps, and Washington Capitals are the teams I love. Living in Melbourne Florida now, I follow the Florida Gators, and casually watch the other two Florida NHL teams. I love sports history, especially the NFL and NHL from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. I miss the Baltimore Colts, and the Baltimore Orioles. I hate everything Pittsburgh sports and will always cheer for whoever is playing the “Stillers”, Penguins, and Pirates. However, I do have much respect for the way those teams (except for the Pirates, they suck as bas the O’s) compete. I love the underdog, and 2-to-1 pitching duels. 10-7 mistake free defensive football games are great to watch and I like old time hockey. I believe Europeans are ruining the NHL. And Peter Angelos is a dick. I don't like the NBA, but I will watch the playoffs. I love college basketball. And believe March Madness is the best sports championship of the year followed by the Super Bowl. Nothing and I mean nothing beats a Game No.7 of any NHL playoff series. My favorite all time athletes are Johnny Unitas, Ray Lewis, Cal Ripken Jr., Wayne Gretzky, and Dale Earnhardt Sr. ( Junior sucks). For those of you that still call No.52 a murderer, you’re an asshole. Speaking of No.52, I don’t like Mike Green of the Washington Capitals because I don’t like crybaby sissies, who get hurt all of the time. I don’t like people who chronically complain about shit and do nothing to fix it. I love sports movies, and feel the top three all-time are *61, Field of Dreams, and Slap Shot. I love my hometown teams, but am also a realist. While I hate Duke Basketball, I feel Coach"K" is the greatest coach in any sport of my generation. Bill Belichick is a distant second. I don't like the Indianapolis Colts, but love Peyton Manning; I cannot stand the New York Yankees, but love Derek Jeter. I love my beautiful wife very much, whom I will be married to for three years this June. Gina is the greatest woman God has ever placed on this earth, and I now know she was my high school sweetheart all along. Without her my life would be shit. With her, I’m on top of the world. I have four great kids, and my oldest will always be Daddy’s Little Girl. Lauren I love you, and I will always be there for you. Izzi, Sarah, and Marco---Daddy Mr. Alan will never let you down either. I’d like to thank my father for his undying support, he is the greatest. I’m blessed to have a great step mother. Thanks Ome for being so good to me and my family. I want to tell my brother Brian, and sister Treena that I love them very much, and their families. Mom would be so proud. Speaking of mom, I miss her very much and know that she is watching from above. She is a big reason I’ve made it this far in life, and while I haven’t hit the big time yet, I know I will because of how she raised me. By the way, when I do make it, all of you are coming along for the ride. Thanks for your support, and if there is something you would like to read or hear just drop me a line at zbestsports1@gmail.com. Please be sure to log in and listen on Blog talk radio on MONDAY-WEDNESDAY-FRIDAY @ 6:30 to hear Z-Best R-rated Sports Talk.
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