Guess, what? March Madness delivered again.
In one wild half-hour late Sunday night, the bracket was turned on its ear once again, with an improbable comeback for the ages and a buzzer-beating 3-pointer.
First, the finish that will live on forever
Northern Iowa led Texas A&M by 12 points with 35 seconds remaining in regulation. The Aggies came roaring back unlike any game in recent NCAA tournament history, eventually winning 92-88 in overtime.
How did this happen?
A&M forced the Panthers into four turnovers in the final 34 seconds of regulation. Danuel House and Alex Caruso hit shots. The Aggies tied the game when Admon Gilder stole the ball from a trapped Wes Washpun in the corner and scored on a layup with 1.5 seconds remaining.
It led to the first documented mistake by the most famous Sharpie in college basketball.
Northern Iowa. Sharpie.— Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) March 21, 2016
Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson described it as a “crazy 30 seconds” that his team would never have an answer for. The Panthers inbounder, Matt Bohannon, was out of the game due to an injury during the stretch.
The Panthers had three players foul out in the overtime. Texas A&M took the lead for good on a Jalen Jones jumper with 3:15 remaining in the second overtime.
No. 3 Texas A&M will play No. 2 Oklahoma in the regional semifinal in Anaheim on Thursday.
Bronson Koenig at the buzzer
The end of Wisconsin’s 17-year NCAA tournament streak appeared near in January. But with coach Greg Gard at the helm, the Badgers turned it around. And now they’re on the way to Philadelphia for the Sweet 16 after Bronson Koenig buried a 3-pointer from the right corner to lift No. 7 Wisconsin to a 66-63 victory over No. 2 Xavier.
It was Koenig’s second 3-pointer in the last 12 seconds, and came after a Xavier turnover, and Wisconsin called timeout once it advanced the ball into the frontcourt.
Xavier led by eight points with 5:40 remaining, but it's Wisconsin that's going to the Sweet 16 for the fifth time in six years.
Pflueger’s only basket lifts Notre Dame
Neither team led by more than seven points in a fierce battle between Notre Dame and Stephen F. Austin.
Rex Pflueger’s only basket made the difference. The Fighting Irish reserve tipped in the game-winning points with 1.5 seconds remaining in a 76-75 comeback victory. The Lumberjacks had led for the previous 3:30, but Thomas Walkup missed two shots to extend the lead in the final minute. Notre Dame closed the game with six consecutive points.
It was redemption, of sorts, for Pflueger, who averages 2.5 points per game.
Yeah, I've definitely had that dream, but I didn't expect it to be a tip in. I actually had a similar experience where I missed it in my high school career, and I always wish I got that back,” he said. “So now that this has happened, it's made up for it … can’t really explain it because it still hasn’t hit me.”
Notre Dame is headed to the tournament’s second weekend for the second year in a row.
Buddy Hield carries the Sooners
By now, we should expect these outbursts from Buddy Hield, the Oklahoma guard who fascinated the nation time and again this season with his shooting, scoring and sunny demeanor. On Sunday afternoon with the Sooners facing elimination in Oklahoma City he dominated the game, scoring 29 of the team’s 41 points in the second half to hold off No. 10 VCU, 85-81.
“He's done it so many times for us throughout his career and especially this year and again today,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said of his star. “It seemed like every shot that he had that we needed, he stepped up and made it.”
After leading by 13 points early in the second half, the Sooners trailed 67-66 when Hield swished a 3-pointer with 7:17 remaining to start a 9-0 run. VCU never recovered and the Sooners are bound for the West Region semifinals in Anaheim, California, to face No. 3 Texas A&M.
Hield finished with a tournament-high 36 points.
Indiana beats Kentucky
Two of the elite programs in college basketball history met Saturday in Des Moines.
They’ve combined for 13 national championships and dozens of All-Americans and Hall of Fame coaches. They traded runs for the first 30 minutes. But the Hoosiers pulled away with a decisive 12-2 burst late in the second half that produced a 13-point lead with four minutes remaining. Yogi Ferrell, the Hoosiers steady leader, had 18 points, five rebounds and four assists. Indiana returned to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2013 and will play No. 1 North Carolina on Friday night in Philadelphia. Those two storied programs met there in 1981 in the championship game and the Hoosiers won the title.