Shooters shoot and 'eaters eat.
The 2019 NCAA Tournament has its biggest upset, by seed, so far. No. 13 UC Irvine knocked out No. 4 Kansas State 70-64 in San Jose on Friday afternoon, bringing some much-desired chaos to the proceedings.
It's the first NCAA Tournament win in program history for UC Irvine. And the 31 wins for UCI are the most for a team out of the Big West in a single season since UNLV in 1990-91. What we've got here is a nice story developing, with a group that will make Sunday a little more interesting and anticipatory.
The NCAA Tournament is an incredible event, and so infectious for sports fans because of stories like this. A school with a weird nickname, that so few people watched over the previous four months, becomes one of the notable stories of the opening few days of the Big Dance. Plus, UCI's win over Kansas State was no fluke. If you watched it, you know the better team won.
The win isn't a surprise for coach Russell Turner, who's in his ninth season with the Anteaters and has a great reputation for his X-and-O acumen. The Anteaters have one of the deepest benches and most experienced rosters in the sport. That meant a lot on Friday, as did the team's No. 1-rated 2-point defense. Kansas State was just 14 of 32 from 2-point range (43.8 percent) and even worse from 3 (8 of 27; 29.3 percent).
Max Hazzard, the grandson of former UCLA great Walt Hazzard, had 19 points and keyed one of the trendier upset picks (18.7 percent of brackets submitted at CBSSports.com had Irvine winning) to fruition. He and teammate Evan Leonard each finished with 19 and induced K-State into some bad decisions in the final two minutes.
Kansas State finished atop the Big 12 and made the Elite Eight last season. But this is UC Irvine's time, its moment -- and the Anteaters will now play the winner of No. 5 Wisconsin and No. 12 Oregon.
UC Irvine doesn't have a star that matches the likes of Murray State's Ja Morant. It doesn't have a storied history of other mid-major teams that have won in the tournament before. But it's got a damn good team that's capable of winning again in two days. We've been itching for some tourney upsets. Gardner-Webb made us stop our lives for about 20 minutes on Friday -- and then Colgate came close vs. Tennessee.
But Irvine got it done.
It's 17 straight wins for the best team, this season, out of the state of California. Big state, small program, truly great team.