The first round of the NCAA tournament didn't have any historic upsets or many wild finishes, but it did produce three teams making their first-ever appearances in the second round, and the second day of the tournament produced two of everybody's favorite upset, the No. 12 seed over the 5.
Virginia got another scare but responded a lot better than it did last year, and Kelvin Sampson, who hadn't been heard from much in the college basketball world for a while, won an NCAA tournament game for the second consecutive season.
The big takeaway from the second day of the tournament is that all the favorites are still alive, and so are most of the second-tier contenders. Depending on what happens the rest of this weekend, it could make for a great Sweet 16.
It's been a difficult season for the Ducks without star Bol Bol, a versatile 7'2" big man who was averaging 20 points per game before a foot injury in December ended his season.
As recently as Feb. 23, Oregon was 15-12 and coming off a three-game losing streak. It didn't help that the Ducks were coming out of a weak Pac-12, either. Making the NCAA tournament was going to mean winning the Pac-12 one.
And that's what Oregon did.
After beating fifth-seeded Wisconsin, 72-54, the 12th-seeded Ducks are now riding a nine-game winning streak, by far their longest of the season. They suddenly look like a team that has found itself after losing their biggest piece. And if that's the case, Oregon is not a normal No. 12 seed.
Kansas State has an excuse in that its best player, forward Dean Wade, missed Friday's loss to UC Irvine with a foot injury. But Wildcats coach Bruce Weber didn't help matters by holding out the team's second-best player, Barry Brown Jr., for 14 minutes in the first half.
Granted, Brown had two fouls, and the conventional wisdom is to sit players with two so they don't get their third in the first half. But without Wade and Brown on the floor, Kansas State simply can't score. You reduce a No. 4 seed to a team that wouldn't even make the NCAA tournament.
This wasn't a case in which the lower-seeded team got hot. This wasn't one of those "stuff happens" games. UC Irvine shot 44.0 percent from the field and made nine threes. Not a bad night, but not one that would have been enough to beat the Wildcats if Brown—who, by the way, never even committed a third foul—had played most of the first half.
As it was, he never got comfortable and finished 2-of-9 while K-State shot 37.3 percent—and a team that won the Big 12 regular-season title ended with a first-round loss.
Well, that was close. A lot closer than Virginia's first-round game last year against UMBC, anyway.
The final score of 71-56 in No. 1 seed Virginia's win over Gardner-Webb hardly tells the story. The Cavaliers were down 14 points in the first half and had the whole world thinking they were going to be the first and second No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed.
"Don't you dare leave anything in this locker room," Virginia coach Tony Bennett told reporters he said at halftime. "But you don't panic."
That worked out well enough. Down by six at halftime, Virginia responded with a 25-5 run to start the second half and avoid the worst kind of immortality.
Remember last year when Trae "new Steph" Young captivated the world by leading Oklahoma to a Steph-like run deep in the NCAA tournament?
Yeah, that didn't happen, and it turns out Oklahoma is just as good without Young as it was with him. Just like last year, the Sooners entered the NCAA tournament with 13 losses, but this time they actually won a game, blowing out Ole Miss 95-72 and shooting 57.6 percent from the floor while doing so.
Young is a spectacular player, but his spectacular play didn't add up to much last year for OU. This year, the Sooners are less talented but more balanced—and having a better season as a result.
The scandal that took down Kelvin Sampson at Indiana seems hilariously quaint in retrospect. The violations he made—they had to do with calling recruits too much—aren't even against NCAA rules anymore, but they took Sampson out of college basketball in 2008, and he didn't return until Houston hired him in 2014.
When he took over at Houston, the situation had all the markings of a retread coach taking a job at a lesser program to either revive his career or ease him into retirement.
But Sampson is one of those guys who's too good at this to stay down for long. Houston has steadily improved every season under Sampson and broke through with an NCAA tournament team last year, the school's first since 2010.
And for the second year in a row, Sampson has the Cougars in the second round. If Houston wins next week, it would be the school's first Sweet 16 appearance since 1984.
There was a time when Ben Howland was thought of as one of the elite coaches in college basketball. A little more than a decade ago, Howland went to three Final Fours in a row at UCLA, coaching Russell Westbrook, Darren Collison and Kevin Love along the way.
Howland eventually washed out at UCLA, finishing with a winning percentage of .685 and winding up at Mississippi State in 2015.
Obviously, Mississippi State doesn't have UCLA's tradition or expectations. It's rare that the Bulldogs have a team good enough to make the NCAA tournament, much less be selected as a No. 5 seed.
It's not like there's any great shame in losing a 12-5 matchup anymore, but this was an opportunity for Mississippi State and Howland to capitalize on the kind of team that doesn't come along every year in Starkville, and they blew it.
Where would Tennessee be without Admiral Schofield?
Out of the tournament, probably.
No. 15 seed Colgate was giving the second-seeded Volunteers all kinds of problems late into the second half, but Schofield hit back-to-back three-pointers to stretch Tennessee's lead from three to nine in the final minute.
Schofield had a team-high 19 points on 14 shots, helping the Volunteers outlast a Colgate team that made 15 three-pointers.
Tennessee has had a tendency to flirt with disaster this year, but between Schofield and Grant Williams, the Volunteers have a couple of guys who never get shut down for long.
Moderately well-known fact: Duke's Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett are both left-handed, making them total weirdos. But since they're two of the best players in the country, being left-handed is temporarily cool, no matter what Mike Krzyzewski says.
Williamson and Barrett were asked Thursday if being left-handed created some sort of bond between them. They didn't really go for that narrative, but Krzyzewski, a right-hander, tried to jump in.
"Being right-handed is cool, too," he told reporters.
But he was shot down.
"It's not your turn," Williamson said, laughing.
UC Irvine and Liberty both got their first NCAA tournament wins in school history on Friday, knocking off No. 4 seed Kansas State and No. 5 seed Mississippi State, respectively.
UC Irvine was making just its second-ever appearance in the NCAA tournament, but it was a trendy pick to pull off the upset. That wasn't really the case for Liberty, a 12th seed that was making its fourth appearance in the tournament and first since 2013. The Flames took out Mississippi State anyway, riding a career-high 30-point performance from Caleb Homesley, who scored 22 in the second half.
Those two upsets continued something that started on Thursday, when Wofford won the first NCAA tournament game in its history.
There have been bigger first-round upsets in previous years, but over the long term, there aren't many bigger underdogs in college basketball than Liberty, UC Irvine and Wofford.
Iowa State was such a tantalizing team this year. The pace of play, the three-point shooting, Marial Shayok...when the Cyclones were good, they were awesome.
But the NCAA tournament is not the Big 12 tournament, as Iowa State fans learn year after year. Iowa State won the Big 12 tournament this year. It was the fourth time the Cyclones had done that since 2014, and like every other time this happens, Iowa State was kind of a sneaky pick if you were looking for a middle seed to make a run.
The Cyclones had a chance to do what they're known for doing when Nick Weiler-Babb got a good look at a game-tying three-pointer in the final seconds, but the shot rimmed off.