Loyola continues improbable NCAA run

March is the one month of the year that NCAA college basketball is put in the spotlight. It's the first time a No. 9 seed (Kansas State) will face a No. 11 seed (Loyola) in the Elite Eight.

The first tournament meeting between the Aggies and Irish since the 2011 national championship game was an offensive showcase with both teams trading scoring spurts before the Irish finally took control with an 11-3 burst midway through the fourth quarter and matched Texas A&M basket-for-basket in the closing minutes. May was one of just two freshmen to compete in the championship final. Tudor was 5 of 10 shooting and 4 of 8 from long range as the Beavers made 9 of 20 from behind the arc. This is the first time in March Madness history that a men's No. 16 seed has beat a No. 1 seed. Then came a 63-62 second-round win against third-seeded Tennessee on another late shot, this one a jumper from Clayton Custer with 3.6 seconds left.

11th-seeded Loyola-Chicago continued their Cinderella run in the NCAA Tournament with a 69-68 win over Nevada on Thursday. With four games Thursday, we saw two tight contests, one utter blowout, and one disappointment.

"I think they just played a hard game and they limited our chances", Clarkson captain Nic Pierog said.

The Huskies enter the NCAA tournament having won seven of its past eight games, beginning with the Beanpot championship on February 12-the program's first Beanpot title in 30 years.

On March 16, the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, a No. 16 seed, went up against the overall No. 1 seed, the University of Virginia, and won. Loyola (31-5), which has won three tournament games by a combined four points, awaits the victor of the Kansas State-Kentucky game in Saturday's regional final.

Gonzaga. Don't count the Zags out for another Final Four trip - they're playing that well and have confident freshman Zach Norvell Jr. on their side. Big Ten tournament champion MI will take on Florida State at 8:49 p.m. Now they're the closest thing to a favorite in their half of the draw. UMBC was impressive when they were knocking down 3s against UVA but against KSU they couldn't buy a shot and looked all the part of a 16-seed.

Coach John Beilein's team was firing on all cylinders. "We've just talked about putting it in the bank, next one, we're hungry, we're greedy, we want more".

For the record, MI has won 12 straight and hasn't lost since falling at Northwestern on February 6.

Florida State? It's been 25 years for the Seminoles, who are brimming with confidence after knocking off No. 1 seed Xavier last weekend.

When expectations around the program were high, Tech (22-16-5) faltered, struggling to string together wins as the season wore on. He went on to play at Temple, and played parts of nine seasons in the National Basketball Association. "I feel like, as a team, we were able to take a step in the right direction".

SEMBLANCE OF ORDER: The other half of the bracket looks much closer to form. Despite being placed in the East, West Virginia opened the tournament in San Diego, and did not wrap up action until after midnight Sunday night.

And in the Midwest, bluebloods Kansas and Duke advanced to a chalk regional final in Omaha, Nebraska. Zone has been the Blue Devils' defense of choice since mid-February.

Texas Tech finished in a tie for second place in the Big 12 with West Virginia and lost to the Mountaineers in the semifinals of the conference tournament.

Few expected to see Florida State and Kansas State advance to the Elite Eight after their respective regular seasons.

  • Julie Sanders