NCAA Latest: Underdogs again rule in first half of Sweet 16
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By The Associated Press
The Latest on the NCAA Tournament (all times Eastern):
This Sweet 16 is picking up right where its zany lead-in left off. Two No. 9 seeds and an 11 are in the Elite Eight, and at least one of those underdogs will reach the Final Four.
Fitting for this NCAA Tournament that's cranked up the unpredictability of March Madness to never-before-seen levels.
Barry Brown's tiebreaking layup with 19 seconds remaining helped No. 9 seed Kansas State beat No. 5 seed Kentucky 61-58 in the South Region semifinal in Atlanta on Thursday night. No. 11 seed Loyola-Chicago toppled comeback artists Nevada with yet another player stepping up to snatch a win in the final moments.
And Terance Mann scored 18 points to help No. 9 seed Florida State upset fourth-seeded Gonzaga, 75-60, guaranteeing that the Final Four will have a completely different look from last year.
In the only game won by a favorite, third-seeded Michigan rolled past No. 7 seed Texas A&M 99-72.
NCAA officials say only two 9s had ever advanced to the regional finals before this tournament. And Kansas State goes in as a bracket favorite against Loyola in the topsy-turvy South, which again bounced its two highest remaining seeds.
In Las Vegas sports books, however, Kansas State and Loyola opened as a straight pick - no favorite, and neither being labeled the underdog anymore in a game for a Final Four berth.
Florida State's upset run in the NCAA Tournament has stretched all the way to the brink of the Final Four.
Terance Mann scored 18 points and the ninth-seeded Seminoles advanced to the Elite Eight for just the third time in school history with a 75-60 victory over fourth-seeded Gonzaga on Thursday night in the West Region semifinal.
C.J. Walker and Braian Angola added 9 points for the Seminoles (23-11), who knocked their third straight higher-seeded opponent in a stunning run out West for a team that went 9-9 in ACC play and lost its conference tournament opener.
Coolly maintaining a lead down the stretch at Staples Center, Florida State ended Gonzaga's 16-game winning streak and halted the pursuit of a second straight Final Four berth for last year's tournament finalists.
Coach Leonard Hamilton's best postseason run in his 16 years at Florida State is extended to Saturday, when the Seminoles will face third-seeded Michigan for a trip to the Final Four in San Antonio. The Wolverines advanced with a 99-72 rout of Texas A&M.
Kansas State's dream of its first Final Four since 1964 is alive.
Barry Brown's tiebreaking layup with 19 seconds remaining was the difference as Kansas State beat Kentucky 61-58 on Thursday night in the South Region semifinal.
Kansas State, a No. 9 seed, will play No. 11 seed Loyola-Chicago on Saturday in a regional final pairing no one could have predicted.
Kentucky's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander missed a potential tying 3-pointer at the final buzzer for Kentucky (26-11).
Kansas State (25-11) overcame the loss of top scorer Xavier Sneed, who had 22 points before fouling out with 1:14 remaining.
Sneed, who had nine points in the first half, was unstoppable in the second half. He scored 13 points in the first 11:30 of the second half before he was called for his fourth foul with 8:24 remaining.
When Sneed took a seat on the bench, Kansas State lost its momentum. It led 52-44 when Sneed collected his fourth foul and led only 56-55 when he returned with 2:13 remaining, with Kentucky fans chanting "Go Big Blue" to encourage the comeback.
Florida State is looking for a third straight NCAA Tournament upset after jumping to a 41-32 halftime lead on Gonzaga at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
C.J. Walker and P.J. Savoy combined to hit three late 3-pointers, and Brandon Allen hit a baseline floater at the buzzer to send the ninth-seeded Seminoles to the locker room on an 11-1 run.
One round after knocking off top-seeded Xavier in the West Region, Florida State is trying to reach the Elite Eight for only the third time in school history.
Florida State streaked to a 23-11 lead shortly before the midway point of the first half, but Gonzaga calmly replied with a 16-3 run to reclaim the lead. But when foul trouble sent Gonzaga forwards Johnathan Williams and Rui Hachimura to the bench in the final minutes, the Seminoles struck from outside.
Gonzaga struggled from the field during the first half, missing nine of its first 11 shots and its first seven 3-point attempts. Josh Perkins finally got the Zags' first triple with 6:29 left before halftime.
Gonzaga is attempting to move within one game of its second straight trip to the Final Four by winning its 17th straight game.
The winner gets Michigan on Saturday.
Kansas State raced out to a quick lead and goes into halftime leading Kentucky 33-29 in the NCAA South Region semifinal.
Ninth-seeded Kansas State stunned fifth-seeded Kentucky right from the opening tip Thursday night, building a 13-1 lead before most of the blue-clad crowd at Philips Arena in Atlanta knew what hit them.
Kentucky shot just 26 percent in the first half but managed to close the gap before the break. Coach John Calipari's squad is the highest-seeded team remaining in a bracket that became the first in tournament history to have the four top seeds eliminated on the first weekend.
Xavier Sneed leads Kansas State with 9 points. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is pacing Kentucky with 13 points.
The winner will move on to face No. 11 seed Loyola on Saturday for a spot in the Final Four. The Ramblers knocked off Nevada 69-68.
Michigan is back in the Elite Eight for the third time in six years.
The third-seeded Wolverines thoroughly dominated No. 7 seed Texas A&M in a 99-72 victory at the West Region on Thursday night, extending their winning streak to 12 games.
Michigan led the entire game and hit 14 3-pointers, including 10 in the first half. The Wolverines average nine in a game.
The rout was on by halftime with Michigan leading 52-28.
The Aggies never made a run against the hot-shooting Wolverines, who shot 62 percent from the field.
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman led Michigan with 24 points.
Texas A&M was led by Tyler Davis with 24 points.
In its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1985, Loyola is one win away from an improbable trip to the Final Four.
The 11th-seeded Ramblers kept up their amazing run with a 69-68 victory over seventh-seeded Nevada on Thursday night in the South Region in Atlanta.
With the shot clock running down and Loyola clinging to a 1-point lead, Marques Townes knocked down a 3-pointer with 6.3 seconds remaining. He finished with 18 points.
The Ramblers fell behind by 12 points in the early going, but got back in the game when Nevada's run-and-gun offense suddenly went cold. The Wolf Pack's final points of the first half came on Cody Martin's dunk with 7:57 remaining. Loyola closed the half on a 12-0 run and pushed out to a 12-point lead of its own early in the second half.
Nevada rallied and it came to the final seconds. Townes hit the big shot to clinch it.
Loyola improves to 31-5 and will face either No. 5 seed Kentucky or No. 9 seed Kansas State in the regional final Saturday at Philips Arena.
The Wolf Pack finishes the season at 29-8.
Loyola is being cheered on in the regional semifinals by four members of its 1963 national championship team.
Jerry Harkness, Les Hunter, John Egan and Rich Rochelle are sitting together in front-row seats at Philips Arena. They're all smiles with the 11th-seeded Ramblers holding a 9-point lead over Nevada with just under 12 minutes remaining.
Harkness says his alma mater is "playing well, hope they win."
While Loyola is making its first NCAA Tournament appearances since 1985, the school has a storied hoops history. Not only does it have a championship on its resume, it played in one of the most socially significant games in college basketball history during its run to the title.
At the height of the Civil Rights Movement, the team had four black starters when they beat an all-white Mississippi State squad in what became known as the "Game of Change."
The rout is on at the West Region in Los Angeles.
Michigan leads Texas A&M 52-28 at halftime in the first semifinal game Thursday night much to the delight of the big number of Wolverines fans at Staples Center.
The third-seeded Wolverines hit 10 3-pointers in the half; they came in averaging nine in a game.
Moe Wagner scored 14 points and Duncan Robinson added 10 for Michigan.
The Aggies were led by Tyler Davis with 8 points. They committed 10 turnovers, led by T.J. Starks with five.
Texas A&M was just 12-of-32 from the floor in the half, while the Wolverines shot 57 percent.
Michigan's largest lead was 29 points.
Loyola-Chicago stormed back after trailing by 18 points midway through the first half to lead Nevada 28-24 at halftime of Thursday night's NCAA South Region semifinal.
After leading a combined 4 minutes, 24 seconds of its first two NCAA Tournament wins, the Wolf Pack didn't trail in the opening 18 minutes of the first half. Nevada appeared to be in control when it led 20-8, but it trailed at halftime for the sixth straight game.
Loyola closed the half with a 20-4 run. The Wolf Pack didn't score in the final 7:55 before the break.
Following a 4-4 tie, Nevada took the lead with an 8-0 run that included a layup and two free throws by Jordan Caroline.
Loyola pushed the ball in the paint on almost every possession. The Ramblers' first 10 points came on layups.
- Charles Odum reporting from Atlanta
All four games in the NCAA Tournament to be played Thursday night involve at least one team seeded seventh or lower.
The night opens with No. 7 seed Nevada playing No. 11 seed Loyola Chicago in the South Region. In the West, No. 7 seed Texas A&M, fresh off a blowout of 2017 national champion North Carolina, faces No. 3 seed Michigan.
Later, No. 5 seed Kentucky faces No. 9 seed Kansas State in the South and No. 4 seed Gonzaga faces No. 9 seed Florida State in the West. Florida State advanced by topping No. 1 seed Xavier.
It's back to the madness of March and the Sweet 16, starring Loyola-Chicago, Kansas State, Syracuse and whatever other underdog you might want to throw in there - maybe Florida State or Texas A&M.
There's plenty of drama in the South Region, where the top four seeds are done and watching the NCAA Tournament on TV. Play resumes Thursday night with tournament darling Loyola-Chicago (30-5), an 11th seed, facing No. 7 seed Nevada (29-7), and Kansas State (24-11) playing No. 5 seed Kentucky (26-10) in Atlanta,
The other two matchups are in the West, where No. 7 Texas A&M (22-12) meets No. 3 Michigan (30-7), and No. 9 Florida State (22-11) takes on No. 4 Gonzaga (32-4) in Los Angeles.
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Updated March 23, 2018