UCLA and Arizona State flamed out in the First Four. Arizona got drubbed by a Mid-American Conference team that had never won an NCAA Tournament game.
Just like that, the Pac-12 can Pac-It-In.
Buffalo’s 89-68 win over fourth-seeded Arizona on Thursday night leaves no Pac-12 teams left in the tournament. It’s the first time since 1986 that the league failed to win a game — Arizona, Utah and Washington all dropped their first game that year.
“It really doesn’t seem real right now,” Arizona guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright said.
It’s been a rough season for the league.
UCLA freshmen Jalen Hill and Cody Riley were suspended for the season for shoplifting during a trip to China in November. LiAngelo Ball also was suspended and withdrew from school.
Arizona coach Sean Miller missed one game and three practices after ESPN reported he discussed a $100,000 payment to star Deandre Ayton, which the coach has denied.
How bad was the league’s tournament flame-out? ESPN Stats & Info said it’s the fifth conference to go 0-3 or worse since the NCAA Tournament expanded in 1985. The last was the Western Athletic Conference, which went 0-3 in 1990.
NUN BETTER: Donte Ingram finished describing his game-winning shot for a television reporter and headed for the jubilant Loyola-Chicago locker room. First, he stopped and stooped down to hug a nun.
Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt played a behind-the-scenes role in the NCAA Tournament’s first notable upset.
The 98-year-old nun led a pregame prayer — asking for health and good officiating — and watched from her wheelchair as Ingram swished a 3 in the final seconds for a 64-62 win over Miami in Dallas. She’s been the team’s chaplain for more than two decades.
“Sister Jean, she has meant so much to me personally and obviously the team,” Ingram said. “She is there before every game. She’s saying a prayer before every game. After the game, she sends a general email to the team.”
She got some air time as she sat in her wheelchair wearing one of those ubiquitous maroon and gold Loyola scarves. She referred to the upset as “the big W” and showed that she knows the game, too. Asked what she likes about the team, she sounded like a coach .
“They share the ball,” she said. “They don’t care, they just share the ball.”
She’s not the only nun with ties to this tournament.
Sister Rose Ann Fleming has been inducted in to Xavier’s Hall of Fame after leading its academic program for athletes for more than three decades. The 85-year-old nun is expected to join the top-seeded Musketeers for their tournament opener in Nashville on Friday in the West Region.
The 11th-seeded Ramblers (29-5) will face third-seeded Tennessee on Saturday. And they know who will give the pregame prayer.
STILL 0-FER: Penn had a few good moments early before getting ground down by No. 1 Kansas 76-60 on Thursday. Play-in winner Radford got crushed by No. 1 Villanova 87-61 . Halfway through the first round, No. 16 seeds remain winless all-time.
They’re now 0-134. And they’re down to their last two chances of 2018 for the biggest of all upsets.
Play-in winner Texas Southern (16-19) gets a chance when it plays No. 1 Xavier (28-5) in Nashville on Friday. UMBC (24-10) faces overall No. 1 seed Virginia (31-2) in Charlotte.
LITTLE GUY’S BIG MOMENT: Texas Southern’s Damontrae Jefferson is the shortest player left in the tournament, looking to pull off the big upset against Xavier.
The 5-foot-7 point guard had 25 points and eight rebounds during a 64-46 rout of North Carolina Central in the First Four. He’s quick, he’s pesky, and he’s demonstrative. After scoring on a drive to the basket and getting fouled, he flexed while sitting on the court.
When the game ended, North Carolina Central coach LeVelle Moton wrapped his arms around the guard during the handshake line and talked to him for about 15 seconds.
“He told me to keep playing my game: ‘Don’t let nobody tell me nothing, don’t turn it down a notch, you are who you are now, your stock went up,’” Jefferson said. “He told me to go at Xavier.”
TOURNAMENT TURNAROUND: Houston’s Rob Gray had a rough time on Selection Sunday, missing a late 3-pointer and throwing the ball away in the final seconds of the American Athletic Conference Tournament championship game. Cincinnati held on for a 56-55 win. Four days later, he had the best game of his career, scoring 39 points including the winning layup in the closing seconds to beat San Diego State 67-65 , giving the sixth-seeded Cougars their first NCAA Tournament victory since 1984.
BUCKEYES AND BULLDOGS: Fifth-seeded Ohio State held on for an 81-73 victory over South Dakota State, coach Chris Holtmann’s first NCAA Tournament win with the Buckeyes. He left Butler after three seasons to take the job last June. His former team gets started Friday against Arkansas. Butler reached the Sweet 16 last season under Holtmann before losing to North Carolina. The Bulldogs (20-13) have a No. 10 seed under coach LaVall Jordan.
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