We know five NCAA tournament-bound teams after four more bids were secured on Sunday.
If you weren’t watching, here’s what you missed.
*Radford hit a game-winning buzzer-beater to kick things off, because…. Well, you know what month it is.
Radford guard Carlik Jones only needed a 2-pointer to send his team to its first NCAA tournament since 2009, but that would have been too easy. With the score tied at 52, Jones sized up his defender and fired a 3 with confidence. The result?
RADFORD WINS THE BIG SOUTH CHAMPIONSHIP AT THE BUZZER pic.twitter.com/5m7I7c0QD0— CBB Talk (@CBBSuperFan) March 4, 2018
Bottoms. Or 'onions,' as they say. This isn’t the first buzzer-beater of March *De’Andre Hunter nods,* and it probably won’t be the last. But the stakes don’t get much higher.
The Highlanders won 14 games last season. They started this year 5-6. Objectively, Jones could have gotten a higher-percentage shot if he drove. Perhaps he would have drawn a foul; one free throw was all Radford needed.
But the most exciting buzzer-beaters are the shots that have no business being taken in a normal basketball setting. Rushed 3s, heaves, broken plays (the case here), etc. Jones could have penetrated, but despite not having made a 3-pointer all day, he knew what the end result of that bomb would be: Radford’s first NCAA tournament berth in nine years.
*Lipscomb earned its first NCAA tournament bid in school history, but almost allowed the biggest second half comeback in Division I history in the process.
Lipscomb scored 108 points en route to its first-ever NCAA tournament berth. The Bisons exploded for 60 points in the first half.
Without context, that’s an awesome day! The best day in program history, in fact. To be clear, it’s great even with context, but forgive us if Florida Gulf Coast’s near comeback is the most memorable part of the game.
The Eagles trailed by 32 in the second half but cut the lead to single digits in what felt like no time. They scored 65(!) points in the final 20 minutes; this is an appropriate time to point out that Radford is dancing after scoring 55 in a full game. Anyway, had Florida Gulf Coast won, it would have overcome the largest second half deficit in Division I history. Brandon Goodwin and Zach Johnson combined for 71 points and 15 3s.
Alas, the Bisons prevailed behind 33 points from Garrison Mathews. Lipscomb is going to be a blast to watch in the NCAA tournament.
*Loyola-Chicago caught the ghost of 1985 before the Chicago Bears did.
The ’85 Bears are one of the greatest teams in NFL history. They’re also the last Chicago team to win a Super Bowl; the Bears have only been back once since, and lost.The Chicago Bears, the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers are not, but they had something in common: the 1985 ghost. That was the last time the Ramblers reached the NCAA tournament — but the drought is over.
Loyola-Chicago dominated Illinois State from start to finish in the Missouri Valley title game to improve to 28-5. The Ramblers had a case to go dancing even if they didn’t secure the automatic bid, but now they'll rest easy on Selection Sunday. This is the same team that beat Florida in Gainesville earlier this season – the Ramblers are legitimately dangerous.
*Oh, and Michigan rolled to its second Big Ten tournament title in a row.
The Wolverines blitzed through the Big Ten tournament once again and will likely be a popular Final Four pick next week.
Michigan downed Michigan State and Purdue in consecutive days with relative ease, and this is by far the best defense of the John Beilein era. The Wolverines held the Spartans and Boilermakers (11th and second in offense, respectively) to an average of 65 points. That’ll play.
Michigan made the Sweet 16 last year but lost to Oregon, which would reach the Final Four. The Wolverines aren’t as talented as they were in 2017, but these pieces fit, and the defense is a revelation. Moritz Wagner continues to make March-only fans (welcome!) wonder why he’s not a first-team All-American.
If you’re advancing a Big Ten team to the Final Four in your bracket, it'll be hard to look past Michigan.