NCAA tournament first weekend recap: West region

Sweet Sixteen Matchups

1 Oregon vs. 4 Duke

2 Oklahoma vs. 3 Texas A&M


After an exhilarating, upset-filled first round, it was surprising to see the top four seeds in the West region all advance to the Sweet 16. No. 9 Saint Joseph’s, No. 12 Yale and No. 11 Northern Iowa all provided some thrilling late-game heroics in that first round. In a wire-to-wire game against No. 8 Cincinnati, Isaiah Miles of Saint Joseph’s drained a huge 3-pointer to give the Hawks a 2-point lead with 11 seconds to play. Cincinnati’s Octavius Ellis appeared to slam home the game-tying dunk at the buzzer to force overtime, but officials waved it off, as they ruled the ball did not leave Ellis’ fingertips before the clock hit zero.

Northern Iowa and Yale were able to pull off the upset in their first round matchups, but all of the top seeds managed to escape upsets in the second round. No. 4 Duke, who was almost upset by No. 13 UNC-Wilmington, escaped the second round with a 7-point victory over Yale, and Oregon squeezed out a 69-64 win against Saint Joseph’s to secure a Sweet 16 bid. No. 3 Texas A&M roared back against Northern Iowa to win 92-88 in double overtime and No. 2 Oklahoma surged late to earn an 85-81 win over No. 10 VCU.

Best game – 3 Texas A&M vs. 11 Northern Iowa

Northern Iowa pulled an incredible upset over No. 6 Texas in the first round. Panthers’ senior guard Paul Jesperson heaved in a half-court prayer as time expired to give UNI the win, but that wasn’t even the best game in which Northern Iowa was involved.

In almost every other region, that probably would have been the best game. However, UNI’s next game against Texas A&M was far more dramatic. The double-overtime thriller featured perhaps the biggest collapse in NCAA tournament history. Northern Iowa seized a 21-19 lead with 6:40 left in the first half and remained in control for the rest of the game. With 44 seconds to play in regulation, the Panthers had a 69-57 lead and seemed to have their Cinderella run to the Sweet 16 locked up. On ESPN’s win probability calculator, Texas A&M was given a 0.01 percent chance of winning at that point. However, the Panthers committed four turnovers and allowed the Aggies to go on a 14-2 run in the final 31 seconds to send the game to overtime. Texas A&M shot 6-for-7 in that stretch, rebounding and converting a layup on their only miss.

Northern Iowa seemed like they would win again in overtime, holding an 83-81 lead with 20 seconds left. The Aggies came through in the clutch yet again, hitting a runner with eight seconds to play to tie the game.

Jesperson threw up another shot from half-court as the clock wound down. This time, however, Jesperson missed the shot and the game went to double overtime. The Aggies grabbed a lead with 3:15 left and held it for the rest of the game to complete their miracle win, 92-88.

Biggest Upset – 12 Yale vs. 5 Baylor

Baylor is a team that Yale matched up with well. Baylor allowed opponents to shoot high percentages from the floor and from beyond the arc all season and Yale is a team that shoots the ball well. However, not many people expected Baylor to get outrebounded by a Yale team that hadn’t seen a team with Baylor’s size. Yale scratched out a 79-75 victory over the Bears thanks to disciplined play. Yale committed only 17 personal fouls to Baylor’s 24, which led to a lot of chances at the line for the Bulldogs, where they shot 22-for-29. In comparison, Baylor only shot 9-for-15 from the free-throw line. Yale controlled the game for most of the first half, entering the locker room with a 39-34 lead. They only allowed the Bears to lead once in the second half, a 40-39 lead that lasted about 50 seconds. Yale opened up a 13-point lead with 7:14 left in the game after guard Makai Mason nailed a 2-point jumper. Mason turned in a superstar performance, playing 39 minutes and scoring a career-high 31 points off of 9-for-18 shooting and a perfect 11-for-11 from the free-throw line. The 6-foot-1 sophomore also grabbed six rebounds and dished out four assists in Yale’s first NCAA tournament appearance since 1962. Baylor cut Yale’s lead to one point with 16 seconds left, thanks to Taurean Prince’s herculean effort, but it ended up being too little, too late for the Bears as Yale knocked down three of their last four free throws to seal its first ever NCAA tournament win.

Most Impressive Team – 2 Oklahoma

In a region with an all-chalk Sweet 16, it’s hard to pick the most impressive team, given that all the teams have played well. Oklahoma, however, separated itself from the field. Each of the four top seeds played a closer game than they would’ve liked in the second round, but Oklahoma is the only team that never seemed in true danger of exiting early. There were a few times where the score was close, though. In the Sooners 82-68 win over No. 15 Cal State Bakersfield, OU was up only four points with 4:18 to play, but they seized control and shot 4-for-6 down the stretch to win by 14 points. Oklahoma has looked more consistent than the rest of the Sweet 16 teams in the West region by shooting 49 percent from the field and limiting their mistakes on defense in order to make their second consecutive Sweet 16 appearance.

Most Disappointing Team – 5 Baylor

As a team coming from the Big 12, arguably the best conference in basketball, people expected a lot out of Baylor. They are ranked 27th by and played the ninth toughest schedule in the country. Baylor’s regular season resume was nothing to write home about, but it wasn’t bad. Apart from a loss to another tournament team in Texas Tech, Baylor won every game they were supposed to win. They were winless against Kansas, Oklahoma and West Virginia, but they turned in quality wins against Texas, Texas Tech, Vanderbilt and Stephen F. Austin. It’s hard to call them a Final Four caliber team, although many were surprised to see them lose in the first round to an Ivy League team.

MVP – G Buddy Hield

Who else did you expect? The Naismith Trophy finalist has been huge for Oklahoma in their two games so far. The only other candidates were Duke’s Grayson Allen and Brandon Ingram, but neither of them put in the dominant performances or shot as well as Buddy Hield has. Through the first two rounds, he’s averaging 31.5 points per game, scoring 27 points against No. 15 CSU Bakersfield and 36 points against No. 10 VCU. The 6-foot-4 senior is shooting 55.8 percent from field, as well as an impressive 45 percent from 3. Hield has been incredibly efficient despite playing almost 38 minutes per game. He has come in clutch for Oklahoma, too. When the Sooners found themselves down 65-63 against VCU with 8:10 left in the game, Hield went off. He scored 19 points in an eight-minute stretch on 5-for-7 shooting from the field, including 3-for-5 from 3-point land. He also went 6-for-8 from the free-throw line to lead Oklahoma to an 85-81 victory over VCU.


Austin Kleber

Austin Kleber

Managing Editor at The Left Bench
Austin is the managing editor and he covers the Maryland baseball team for The Left Bench. He will also occasionally venture over to the broadcast side to help out with TLBTV. Austin is a sophomore studying broadcast journalism at University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism, graduating class of 2019.
Austin Kleber
About Austin Kleber 56 Articles
Austin is the managing editor and he covers the Maryland baseball team for The Left Bench. He will also occasionally venture over to the broadcast side to help out with TLBTV. Austin is a sophomore studying broadcast journalism at University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism, graduating class of 2019.