Happy Friday, everyone! Wow, what a day of basketball. And guess what? We get to do it all over again today and throughout the weekend.
Let's get right to it.
Good morning to everyone but especially to...
THE PRINCETON TIGERS...
In 1996, Mitch Henderson played on the Princeton team that beat reigning champion UCLA in the first round of the men's NCAA Tournament. Twenty-seven years and two days later, Henderson coached his alma mater to another all-time NCAA Tournament upset, with the 15-seed Tigers topping 2-seed Arizona, 59-55, as 16-point underdogs.
- With 4:43 left, Azuolas Tubelis put the Wildcats up 55-50, and it looked like they might escape. Little did they -- or anyone -- know those were the last points Arizona would score, as the Tigers closed on a 9-0 run.
- Keeshawn Kellman and Ryan Langborg scored on consecutive possessions, and Langborg gave the Tigers the lead for good on a tough layup with just over two minutes left.
- It's just the 11th 15-2 upset ever, but it's now happened in three straight seasons: Saint Peter's last year and Oral Roberts the year before.
Princeton did a magnificent job grounding Arizona's high-flying attack, finishing with an edge in rebounds and paint points and limiting Arizona to just eight fastbreak points. The Tigers will face another Tigers team -- Missouri -- tomorrow.
... AND ALSO A GOOD MORNING TO THE FURMAN PALADINS
Does anyone know what a Paladin is? Whatever it is, it sure fits into Cinderella's slipper.
No. 13 seed Furman stunned 4 seed Virginia, 68-67, in a wild ending that will live on forever.
- Trailing by two with under 10 seconds left, Furman trapped Virginia guard Kihei Clark, who threw an inexplicable desperation pass (despite the team having a timeout to use) straight into the hands of Paladins big man Garrett Hien.
- Hien fired a pass to JP Pegues, who nailed the go-ahead 3-pointer with 2.4 seconds left. Reece Beekman's shot at the buzzer for Virginia was off the mark.
- Conference player of the year Jalen Slawson (19 points, 10 rebounds) and Marcus Foster (14 points, four 3-pointers) led the way.
- It's Furman's first NCAA Tournament win since 1974. The Paladins were one of the day's biggest winners, writes our David Cobb.
Everyone will remember Pegues' shot, but the fact that Furman even had a chance was the result of terrific playing and coaching down the stretch. The Paladins trailed by as much as 12, but Furman coach Bob Richey had the team switch from a man-to-man defense to a 1-3-1 zone, which stymied the Cavaliers' guards. Furman finished the game on a 30-17 run over the final 10:54.
- All men's NCAA Tournament results from Thursday.
- The Champions League quarterfinal is set. Here are the matchups.
- Winners and losers from Day 4 of NFL free agency.
And not such a good morning for...
THE ARIZONA WILDCATS...
Based on their seeding, their dynamic duo and their Pac-12 Tournament title, the Arizona Wildcats entered the NCAA Tournament with legitimate title hopes. Based on their guard play, though, they came up well short.
Here's what Tubelis and Oumar Ballo did against Princeton:
- 35 points
- 15-30 shooting (50%)
Here's what everyone else did:
- 20 points
- 9-27 shooting (33%)
- 2-14 shooting 3-pointers (14%)
Guard play is crucial in March. For the second straight year, Arizona's wasn't good enough and is heading home early.
... AND ALSO NOT SUCH A GOOD MORNING FOR THE VIRGINIA CAVALIERS
Across a five-year career at Virginia, Kihei Clark set the ACC record for wins and the program record for assists. One of those assists was one of the greatest passes in Virginia -- and NCAA Tournament -- history to beat Purdue during the Cavaliers' 2019 championship run.
But at the end of that remarkable career, he made one of the worst decisions at the worst time. Clark, whose poise has been a constant over the past half-decade, could have called for a timeout or... just not tried an over-the-shoulder, full-court fling that resulted in Pegues' 3-pointer and, in turn, a heartbreaking loss for Clark and the Cavaliers.
Virginia has not won an NCAA Tournament game since winning the national championship. March can be magical. It can also be cruel.
Not so honorable mentions
- Michael Jordan is in talks to sell his majority stake in the Hornets.
- Lonzo Ball could miss yet another season after yet another knee procedure.
- Tyrese Haliburton will miss time with an ankle sprain.
- President Joe Biden's bracket is already busted.
- Notre Dame star Olivia Miles (knee) is out for the NCAA Tournament.
Previewing Friday's men's NCAA Tournament action 🏀
Let's do that all again! Friday's action is full of awesome games and storylines, so time to dig in. Here's the schedule.
One of the best games of the day -- and a top-10 first-round game according to David Cobb's rankings -- is 8-seed Memphis vs. 9-seed Florida Atlantic. Here's who our Kyle Boone likes:
- Boone: "FAU has 31 wins on the season rolling into the NCAAs after dominating Conference USA with a nice blend of balance on offense and defense. The sticking point here in taking FAU is fading Memphis guard Kendric Davis -- a do-it-all scorer and creator who might be the best at his position -- but I'm betting coach Dusty May has a game plan to at least make things difficult on him. I like the Owls to win this one outright, so I'll take the 2.5 points. Pick: FAU +2"
All of our experts' picks are here.
One of the biggest storylines, meanwhile, will be Rick Pitino coaching what could be his last game as Iona's coach. There have been rumors that Pitino could be heading to one of the Big East coaching openings, but first he'll try to beat one of the Big East's best: UConn. Chip Patterson explores that and other top storylines here.
Mets' Edwin Díaz likely out for season with knee injury suffered in WBC ⚾
The worst-case scenario came true for Edwin Díaz and the New York Mets. The star reliever is likely out for the season after suffering a full-thickness tear of the patellar tendon in his right knee. The injury happened when Díaz was celebrating Puerto Rico's win over the Dominican Republic with his teammates.
- He had to be carried to the edge of the field and then was put in a wheelchair to exit from there.
- Last season, Díaz made the All-Star Game, posted a 1.31 ERA and converted 32 of 35 save opportunities en route to winning the Trevor Hoffman Award for the NL's best reliever.
- Díaz is entering the second year of a five-year, $102 million contract, the largest deal ever given to a reliever.
The Mets enter this MLB season as the team with the most pressure to win it all, writes our Mike Axisa. Mike has also outlined where the Mets can go from here for their closer.
An injury like this will have people wondering if the World Baseball Classic should even exist, or if MLB players should take place in it. Our Matt Snyder says the good far outweighs the bad.
- Snyder: "The major argument against players participating in the WBC seems to be that it's an 'unnecessary injury risk.' Unnecessary isn't really debatable. ... I will argue the 'risk' thing, though. There's no more risk to playing in the WBC than there is to playing spring training or doing any simple daily activity. None at all. Again, Díaz wasn't even hurt during game action -- and if he were, it wouldn't be any different than someone pitching in a spring training game."
Women's NCAA Tournament expert picks 🏀
You have until noon ET today to join our Women's Bracket Games, and if you're waiting until the last moment, let me help you. Our experts have filled out their brackets, and three of them like South Carolina.
That's no surprise, of course, because the Gamecocks are undefeated and the reigning champs. So do with that what you will. Here's what else to know:
What we're watching this weekend 📺
🏀 We're watching the men's NCAA Tournament. Here's how.
🏀 We're also watching the women's NCAA Tournament. Here's how.
🏀 Warriors at Hawks, 7:30 p.m. on NBA TV
🏀 Mavericks at Lakers, 10:30 p.m. on NBA TV
⚾ World Baseball Classic: USA vs. Venezuela, 7 p.m. on FOX
🏀 Warriors at Grizzlies, 8 p.m. on NBA TV
🏒 Penguins at Rangers, 8 p.m. on ABC
🏀 Raptors at Bucks, 8 p.m. on NBA TV