Game 1

Pitt (11) – 73
Xavier (3) – 84

On Friday we saw Pitt, the only ACC team to play at the Greensboro Coliseum, score a huge upset against Iowa State after winning a play-in game against Mississippi State on Tuesday.

In today’s first matchup, the 11-seed Panthers tried to push their momentum against 3-seed Xavier. And we all knew what was supposed to happen. But a rash of big-time upsets across the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament have set high-seeded teams on edge and given hope to all the potential Cinderellas.

Despite their NCAA Tourney pedigree, Xavier looked sluggish on Friday in their late-game win against 14-seed Kennesaw State, who was the better team for most of the game. And Pitt… well, Pitt won ugly.

A lot of people have Xavier going deep. No one has Pitt going past the Sweet 16, not even Barack Obama, who curiously left this game blank on his bracket.

The first half began like a wrestling match, with Pitt staying close and even grabbing the lead near the 15-minute mark. But Xavier again took the lead 3 minutes later and started pouring it on: four 3-pointers by Adam Kunkel, who would go 5-5 from 3-point range in the first half, and a strong run by Jack Nunge, who began pushing around Pitt’s big men, twin brothers Guillermo and Jorge Diaz Graham, in the box. Pitt scored 34 points that half — respectable — but it didn’t hold up against Xavier’s 48.

Pitt went toe-to-toe with Xavier to start off the second half, matching 14 points’ worth of their scores in the first 10 minutes, with both Diaz Graham brothers on the floor to confuse Nunge. Overachievement has its limits, though.

Facing a 20-point deficit at 7:22, the Pitt team mustered all they had for one last go of it. A 10-0 run and a 3-pointer at 1:45 narrowed the gap, but with both teams in the double-bonus, fouls of desperation kept returning Xavier to the free-throw line, where they did what they needed to do.

Soule Boum came on big for Xavier in the second half after a scoreless first. He finished with 14, putting him right behind Kunkel, who made 15 on 5 threes. Nunge claimed the high score with 18.

Pitt became another ACC team to fall in the early rounds, leaving Miami as the conference’s last team standing.

Game 2

Kansas State (3) – 75
U of Kentucky (5) – 69

Game 2 saw a couple of blue-chip basketball programs with strong seeds, 5-seed University of Kentucky and 3-seed Kansas State, Wildcats versus Wildcats.

Kentucky’s offense underperformed on Friday, turning in just 61 points, but they brought a lot of people with them, certainly the most of any team over these two rounds. Kansas State’s lavender swath of fanhood filled just a couple sections in the lower level.

Kentucky established a lead early on, and kept it at 6 points until a late-half cascade put them ahead by 1 point. They’d lose it, then gain it again and end the half in spectacular fashion, with an alley-oop dunk by Nae’Qwan Tomlin to put it 29-26, in Kansas State’s favor.

Kentucky’s Oscar Tshwiebe registered a double-double in the first half — 11 points and 11 rebounds. He’d be called upon to do even more to keep his team alive.

They’d open the second half with a 13-2 run against those other Wildcats, establishing a 6-point lead before the 15-minute mark and enticing Kansas State to commit five quick team fouls. Still Kansas State managed to tie it up within 3 minutes, but also to log enough fouls to put Kentucky in the bonus round.

Then things got interesting.

A Kentucky 3-pointer from Chris Livingston near the 10-minute mark kicked off a barrage of scoring — from the field, beyond the arc and from the free-throw line — 54 total points scored, with six of eight-second-half lead changes, in those final 10 minutes.

Kansas State emerged on top after three well-timed 3-pointers and did what they had been doing all game: They hung on.\Kansas State’s Markquis Nowell, coming off a double-double on Friday against Montana State, scored 23 of his 27 points in the second half.

Kentucky’s Tshwiebe kept up his end of the deal with a double-double of his own: 25 points and 18 rebounds, with Cason Wallace taking on another 21 points and 9 rebounds. But in the end, the Kansas species of Wildcat proved more wily than its Kentucky counterpart.

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