The Round of 64 is about 12 hours away, but let's catch up on everything from a surprisingly robust Wednesday night . . .
Tennessee 78, Iowa 65
It was a game that showed exactly why neither team expected to be in the First Four at the start of the season – but also why both teams ended up in this position.
Iowa jumped out to an early lead, but the Hawkeyes completely fell apart late in the game – as Tennessee outscored them 14-1 in overtime to pull away for a 78-65 win. The Volunteers struggled offensively down the stretch of the game, but their ability to draw contact and get to the free-throw line was key.
Jarnell Stokes led Tennessee with 18 points and 13 rebounds, while Jordan McRae had 20 points. Josh Richardson was huge for the Volunteers, finishing with 17 points and eight rebounds – while also doing an excellent job defending Iowa's star swingman Roy Devyn Marble (3 of 15 FG, seven points).
It was essentially a microcosm of Iowa's season. Both started with promise, as Iowa was up 16-4 before Tennessee woke up. The Hawkeyes led the entire game until Antonio Barton's 3-pointer put Tennessee up two with 3:12 remaining. After a back and forth finish to regulation, it was all Volunteers in the overtime as the wheels fell off for Iowa.
Two months ago, Iowa was a darkhorse Final Four sleeper. The Hawkeyes were 15-3 and had just demolished Minnesota by 21 points. After an up and down middle part of the season, they completely collapsed late in the season. Including Wednesday night, Iowa lost seven of its final eight games.
Cal Poly 81, Texas Southern 69
Aaric Murray had 38 points for Texas Southern, but the Tigers couldn't get any complementary help and also didn't play much defense at all. Murray only had two rebounds as Cal Poly got 19 points and nine rebounds from Chris Eversley in the victory.
At this time last week, Cal Poly had eight Division-I wins and seemed destined for a long offseason. And now, the Mustangs have won four games in a row – including the Big West conference championship game and an NCAA Tournament game. The run is likely to come to an end against Wichita State, but it's been a wild ride for Cal Poly.
The Mustangs tied the record for most losses before winning an NCAA Tournament game, as Bradley also had 19 losses in 1955 when it won a tournament contest.
Other outcomes of note
Illinois went on the road in the NIT and trailed almost the entire game, even losing by 10 with less than eight minutes to go. You never know how major-conference teams are going to show in the NIT because the bar of motivation varies depending on program.
But Rayvonte Rice went on a tear in the final eight minutes, scoring 12 points and dishing two assists to help the Illini fight back and earn a 66-62 road win at Boston University to move on to the second round.
Rice, who finished with 28 points and eight rebounds, could wind up being a vital senior in the Big Ten next season.
The best game of the night might have been down in Louisiana, where Iona fell by one at Louisiana Tech, 89-88. Alex Hamilton missed a shot in the final seconds, but Kenneth Smith grabbed an offensive rebound and put the shot back as time expired to give La. Tech the last-second victory.
The Bulldogs had six players score in double figures. Iona, which was the team atop the MAAC this season, came so close to reaching the NCAAs for the third time in four years. As it as, the Gaels fell to Manhattan, which plays Louisville in the NCAAs.
SMU appeared to play with some anger, beating Big West regular-season champs UC Irvine 68-54 at Moody Coliseum. It was a 1 vs. 8 matchup. Cannen Cunningham came off the bench to score 17 points and lead the team in that category.
Another best-in-its-conference team saw its season end Wednesday night, as Vermont went into Georgia, gave the Dawgs a game, but ultimately fell 63-56. Charles Mann had 29, which was a career-best for him in pacing Mark Fox's team to the win.
At one point, Vermont led 47-38. In the bigger picture, this has been a very good season for Fox. The team's now 21-13, finished top-four in the SEC, and pretty much obliterated expectations from the preseason.
Toledo, which began its season 18-2, was the No. 6 seed visiting Southern Miss. The Rockets fell 66-59 in the first round of the NIT. The Golden Eagles got their 15th win at home this season; they've yet to lose. By reaching victors, USM has its winningest season in 42 years.
Yale beat Quinnipiac, 69-68, on a 3-pointer by Justin Sears.
FOUR! For 3! Four McGlynn gave Towson a buzzer-beating win over USC Upstate from half-court.
-- Great news: surgery for the son of Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery went “as planned” on Wednesday morning. He returned to Dayton to coach the Hawkeyes against Tennessee on Wednesday night.
-- Kennesaw State and head coach Lewis Preston parted ways.
-- Top-25 prospect JaQuan Lyle committed to Oregon. He was the best guard left on the board.
-- Two Providence players are reportedly linked to a sexual assault case.