North Carolina's players talked all year about their run to last year's NCAA championship game — that, as painful as the loss was, it prepared them for another Final Four push.
On Sunday, down to a handful of possessions with their season suddenly in peril, the Tar Heels' experience saved them from a stunningly early exit.
Kennedy Meeks had 16 points and a huge tip-in with 44.2 seconds left, helping top-seeded UNC barely avoid a huge upset by rallying late to beat Arkansas, 72-65, in the second round of the NCAA tournament's South Region.
Everything about Josh Jackson's demeanor screamed this game was personal, from the back-and-forth chirping with childhood friend Miles Bridges to his emphatic late-game dunk and celebration.
Playing against the school he grew up cheering for, Jackson channeled that emotion into a dominating performance to help top-seeded Kansas advance to the Sweet 16 for a second straight year with a 90-70 victory over Michigan State on Sunday in a Midwest Regional game.
The standout freshman scored 14 of his 23 points in the second half, finishing nine of 16 from the field and ousting a Spartans team from the NCAA tournament that he very nearly joined before signing with the Jayhawks.
Bam Adebayo timed it perfectly, slapping the shot away with his right hand less than a second before the buzzer sounded. For the 13th game in a row, Kentucky's fabulous freshmen had their hands all over another win.
Wham, bam, move on Wildcats, right into the NCAA tournament's Sweet 16.
The youngest team in March Madness grew up in the closing minutes on Sunday and sent Wichita State to yet another second-round heartbreak, 65-62 in a South Regional game.
Michigan's amazing March tournament run is headed to the Sweet 16.
Moe Wagner scored a career-high 26 points and spurred a furious second-half rally to send Michigan past second-seeded Louisville 73-69 on Sunday and into the Sweet 16.
The seventh-seeded Wolverines (26-11) have won seven straight — six since a frightening plane accident before the Big Ten Conference tournament. They also earned a ticket to the Midwest Regional in Kansas City, Mo, their first since 2014.
When Purdue needed him the most, when the Boilermakers were on the brink of a heartbreaking loss, Caleb “Biggie” Swanigan lived up to his nickname — over and over again.
Swanigan had 20 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists, and Purdue reached the Sweet 16 for the first time in seven years with a wild 80-76 victory over Iowa State in a Midwest Regional game on Saturday night.
The Cyclones erased a 19-point deficit in the second half, taking their first lead of the game on Deonte Burton's two free throws with 3:11 left. But P.J. Thompson responded with a critical 3-pointer for the Boilermakers, and Swanigan made several huge plays in the final minutes.
For a team that puts so much energy and effort into defense, Florida's performance against Virginia was as close to perfect as possible.
Devin Robinson had 14 points and 11 rebounds, the fifth double-double of his career, and the fourth-seeded Gators handled the No. 5-seeded Cavaliers, 65-39, on Saturday night in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Justin Leon added 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Gators (26-8), who advanced to the Sweet Sixteen for the 11th time in school history and fifth in the last seven years. They will play No. 8-seeded Wisconsin in the East Regional semifinals in New York City on Friday.
The Xavier Musketeers didn't have the regular season they hoped to have. They are making up for it now.
The 11th-seeded Musketeers dominated third-seeded Florida State for a 91-66 victory during Saturday's second round of the NCAA tournament. Their second upset in the West Region put them back into the regional semifinal round for the second time in two years and eighth time in program history.
“I'm so excited for the guys next to me and the guys in the locker room. They earned it,” Xavier Coach Chris Mack said from the postgame podium. “Our team's gone through a lot of adversity this year, and we stayed the course.”