NCAA tournament Day 4 wrap
One day after the favored Kansas Jayhawks bowed out, two more teams with a legitimate chance to cut down the nets left no question as to whether they belonged among the final 16 teams in the Big Dance.
Syracuse, still without starting big man Arinze Onuaku, dismantled a well-balanced Gonzaga team. The 'Cuse got a dominating performance from star Wesley Johnson and won despite early foul trouble from center Rick Jackson.
Then, the Duke Blue Devils cruised past a perimeter-oriented California club even though guard Jon Scheyer struggled shooting the ball.
That leaves three of the No. 1 seeds still in the mix: Kentucky, Syracuse and Duke — as well as a trio of No. 2 seeds: Ohio State, West Virginia and Kansas State.
But there are also some Cinderellas sprinkled into the Sweet 16: No. 9 Northern Iowa, No. 10 Saint Mary's, No. 11 Washington and No. 12 Cornell.
Game of the Day: Michigan State's 85-83 victory against Maryland — The Spartans, in all likelihood, lost star point guard Kalin Lucas to a torn Achilles' late in the first half. But thanks to Lucas' replacement, Korie Lucious, they didn't lose the game as well. Lucious knocked down a 3-pointer as time expired to give Michigan State the victory, a Sweet 16 berth and a date with Northern Iowa Friday in St. Louis.
The Savior: Chris Kramer, Purdue — Known primarily for his defense, the senior guard stepped up on the offensive end in the Boilermakers' overtime victory against Texas A&M. Kramer finished with 17 points and seven rebounds and also made the game-winning bucket for Purdue.
1. Lucious, Michigan State: The reserve guard was pressed into full-time action during the second 20 minutes against Maryland and scored 13 points — none bigger than the game-winning trifecta.
2. Louis Dale, Cornell: The veteran point guard had 26 points and was 10-of-17 from the field as the Big Red moved on with a commanding victory over No. 4 Wisconsin.
3. Da'Sean Butler, West Virginia: The Mountaineers' star has been terrific virtually all season, and the versatile senior went for 28 points and eight rebounds to knock off Missouri, 68-59.
4. Jordan Crawford, Xavier: The Musketeers guard took over, finishing with 27 points and making four of seven shots from beyond the arc in a win over No. 3 seed Pittsburgh.
5. Jon Diebler, Ohio State: The Buckeyes' shooter was the difference in the second half, making all four of his 3-pointers and finishing with 17 points after the break in the win against Georgia Tech.
6. Wesley Johnson, Syracuse: He had a monster game with 31 points and 14 boards in the rout of the 'Zags.
Story of the Day: The Big Ten won three of its four games and leads all leagues with three teams in the Sweet 16. The Big East, Big 12 and SEC all have a pair, while the ACC and Pac-10 have the same number as the A-10, Horizon, WCC, Missouri Valley and Ivy. If you're counting, that's 11 different conferences represented.
Biggest Upset: By the numbers, it was No. 12 Cornell knocking off No. 4 Wisconsin. However, I'm not sold that No. 4 Purdue getting past No. 5 Texas A&M wasn't a more difficult task for the Robbie Hummel-less Boilermakers.
Most Impressive: Syracuse — The Orange blew out Gonzaga, 87-65. The 'Cuse were led by Wesley Johnson, who had 31 points and 14 boards, but everyone pitched in. Johnson and Andy Rautins combined to make nine of 15 trifectas, and the point guard duo of Brandon Triche and Scoop Jardine played well.
Most Unimpressive: Wisconsin — The Badgers didn't just get blown out, but Bo Ryan's team allowed 87 points to Cornell. It was very disappointing for a club that is so well-coached.
Red-Hot Coaches: Cornell's Steve Donahue should have put himself in the equation for the Seton Hall opening with the Big Red's success — not just this year, but over the past three seasons. I'm not sure he'd go anywhere, but Xavier rookie head coach Chris Mack has done a terrific job in his first season at the helm.
Best Elite Eight matchup: There are plenty, but I am really looking forward to seeing if Omar Samhan, Mickey McConell and Saint Mary's can continue their magical ride against No. 3 Baylor and the Bears' abundance of high-level athletes.
We'll miss you: Matt Bouldin, Gonzaga — The Bulldogs' senior guard had one heck of a career, but he didn't finish the way he wanted. Bouldin was 3-for-13 from the field, missed all six of his long-range attempts and finished with eight points in the loss to Syracuse.
Worst loss: Michigan State losing Lucas to what appears as though a season-ending torn Achilles'. The Spartans will face No. 9 seed Northern Iowa in the Sweet 16 and will sorely miss their floor leader.
Never would have thought: Purdue making it to the Sweet 16 without Hummel. The matchups were certainly favorable for the Boilermakers, but give Matt Painter and his team a ton of credit for winning its first two games against Siena and Texas A&M. Next up: No. 1 seed Duke.
Stat of the Day: Duke beat California by 15 points even though Jon Scheyer was 1-for-11 from the field and had just seven points and three assists.