NCAA Tournament Takeaways: Xavier Makes Sweet Sixteen

After an exciting start to the NCAA tournament with a number of big upsets, Sunday began with Sean Miller’s Xavier team earning the school’s first Sweet Sixteen since 2017. Later in the day, a No. 16 will try to be the first to reach the Sweet 16 and some traditional powers – Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan State – top the day’s list.

the athlete has provided you with takeaways from the biggest games of the day:

Xavier continues to be dominated by Nunge

GREENSBORO, NC — Sean Miller and Xavier are both back in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2017, and getting there was a lot less stressful than escaping Kennesaw State in the first round. The No. 3 Musketeers led No. 11 Pittsburgh by double digits for most of the final 27 minutes, holding off one last gasp from the Panthers to advance 84-73 and face Texas in Kansas City next week.

Xavier (27-9) got a dominant first half from 7-footer Jack Nunge, who saved the season with a late block on Friday, and sniper Adam Kunkel, who made his first five 3-point attempts. These two combined for 29 first-half points. The lead was 14 at the break, 20 with seven minutes to go and has never been less than eight points.

Six Musketeers scored in double digits and they had 22 assists on 30 field goals scored. Colby Jones flirted with a rare NCAA tournament triple-double — 10 points, 13 rebounds, 7 assists — and star point guard Souley Boum overcame a 0-for-8 shooting start to stun Xavier with 14 points, seven rebounds, five assists and two stabilizing steals. Now Boum meets his former UTEP coach Rodney Terry and the Longhorns.

Boom tells the athlete on Saturday that Terry should lose the preliminary day in Texas and be named full-time coach after leading that team to a Big 12 tournament title, No. 2 seed and the Sweet 16.

“He made these guys play well, but also look at how they acted when they won,” said Boum, who was a first-team All-Big East selection that season. “They were all there to pick him up. It was joy. This is about more than just games. It’s how the team carries themselves, how the guys carry themselves and you could just see the joy and excitement his players have for him. Everyone hugged him. That’s more than enough to say he should get the job. He should get it.” — Kyle Tucker

The full schedule of Sunday’s NCAA tournament

(All times ET)

No. 3 Xavier vs. No. 11 Pittsburgh | 12:10 p.m. | CBS
No. 3 Kansas State vs. No. 6 Kentucky | 2:40 p.m. | CBS
No. 2 Marquette vs. No. 7 Michigan State | 5:15 p.m. | CBS
No. 4 Connecticut vs. No. 5 Saint Mary’s | 6:10 p.m. | TNT
No. 3 Baylor vs. No. 6 Creighton | 7:10 p.m. | TBS
No. 9 Florida Atlantic vs. No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson | 7:45 p.m. | TruTV
No. 4 Indiana vs. No. 5 Miami (Fla.) | 8:40 p.m. | TNT
No. 3 Gonzaga vs. No. 6 TCU | 9:40 p.m. | TBS

Follow the athlete‘s live coverage of the second round of the NCAA tournament.

games to watch

#3 Kansas State vs. #6 Kentucky – Odds (via BetMGM): Kentucky -2.5 | ML-150 | O/U 144.5

These are teams No. 23 and 24 in the country according to KenPom’s rankings, so it’s an even matchup on paper. 5-foot-8-point Kansas State guard Markquis Nowell topped the stats list with 17 points, 14 assists, six rebounds and three steals in the Wildcats’ first-round win over Montana State. Kentucky star Oscar Tshiebwe had 25 rebounds against Providence, the most by any player in an NCAA tournament game since 1977. K-State was the worst defensive rebound team in the Big 12.

No. 2 Marquette vs. No. 7 Michigan State Odds (via BetMGM): Marquette -2.5| ML-145 | O/U 140.5

the athleteMichigan’s Bracket Breakers model gives each team the best chance at an upset Sunday. The Spartans are the most accurate 3-point shooting team left in the tournament, taking 39.4 percent of their shots from long range. Marquette’s 78-61 win over Vermont brought Dürren to both the program and the coach: it was the Golden Eagles’ first tournament since 2013, as did Shaka Smart, who hasn’t had success since his time at VCU in March .

No.9 Florida Atlantic vs. No.16 Fairleigh Dickinson – Odds (via BetMGM): FAU -15.5 | ML-1200 | O/U 149.5

A great story will reach the Sweet 16 either way. With a win on Sunday, Fairleigh Dickinson would move from the last team in the field — 68th at full seeding — to the Sweet 16’s game at Madison Square Garden, about 15 miles from the team’s Hackensack, NJ arena Florida Atlantic, meanwhile, won his first NCAA tournament game against Memphis on Friday to improve to 32-3 and continue the best season in program history.


Fairleigh shocking: How the Knights of FDU became the second 16 seeds to beat a No. 1

NBA draft prospects to watch

Cason Wallace, Kentucky guard (vs. Kansas State, 2:40 p.m. ET on CBS)
Jordan Hawkins, UConn Wing (vs Saint Mary’s, 6:10pm ET on TNT)
Keyonte George, Baylor guard (vs Creighton, 7:10 p.m. ET on TBS)
Jalen Hood-Schifino, Indiana wing (vs. Miami, 8:40 p.m. ET on TNT)
Colby Jones, Xavier Guard/Wing (vs. Pittsburgh, 12:10 p.m. ET on CBS)

required reading

(Photo: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)


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