The N.C.A.A. Tournament’s Sweet 16 Is Open for the Taking

MILWAUKEE — The St. Peter’s males’s basketball crew, metaphorically sprouting from a crack within the Jersey Metropolis asphalt to disclose its Peacock feathers to a nationwide viewers, is led by a person who is aware of one thing about seizing a second.

Again when Shaheen Holloway was a senior in highschool, with a slick sport honed on the hardcourts of Queens, he was invited to play within the McDonald’s All-American sport.

The West crew featured a few fairly good level guards: Mike Bibby and Mateen Cleaves, who would every win a nationwide championship in faculty. Holloway had some fairly proficient teammates, too: future professionals Tim Thomas, Richard Hamilton and Stephen Jackson — and a few guys who in a matter of weeks can be going straight to the N.B.A., Jermaine O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.

The sport’s most dear participant? Holloway, the smallest one on the court docket.

The place Holloway is now, chasing an much more unlikely trophy, qualifies as an excellent larger shock. He has not been hindered by a shoestring recruiting price range or a convention — the Metro Atlantic Athletic — that’s down-market sufficient to play its match on the Atlantic Metropolis, N.J., boardwalk.

He has assembled a roster of neglected and undervalued gamers — just like the mustachioed shooter Doug Edert, the shot-blocking KC Ndefo and the scoring star Daryl Banks III, who wasn’t even the perfect participant on his highschool crew. Their edge comes naturally.

This was evident within the Peacocks’ stunning upset of second-seeded Kentucky and wire-to-wire win over seventh-seeded Murray State, whose 21-game profitable streak had been Division I’s longest. Subsequent, they’ll journey down the New Jersey Turnpike to Philadelphia to play third-seeded Purdue — a matchup that, with the Boilermakers’ 7-foot-4 middle Zach Edey, is certain to provide life to David and Goliath metaphors.

“I obtained guys from New Jersey and New York Metropolis,” Holloway mentioned late Saturday night time in a information convention. “You assume we’re frightened of something?”

Because the match subject narrowed to 16 groups, what’s startling is simply how broad open it stays — and never simply because the No. 1-seeded Baylor, a pair of No. 2 seeds, Kentucky and Auburn, and a few No. 3 seeds, Wisconsin and Tennessee, have been punched out over the weekend.

Gonzaga, the highest total seed, wobbled into the spherical of 16 — and had higher get its transition protection mounted earlier than its West regional semifinal in opposition to No. 4 Arkansas on Thursday. So, too, did Arizona, the highest seed within the South, which held on to beat Texas Christian in additional time. Kansas, the highest seed within the Midwest, regarded susceptible to an early exit once more, taking place to the wire in opposition to Creighton, which had misplaced its middle and level guard to late-season accidents.

Second-seeded Duke didn’t seize the lead for good in opposition to Michigan State till Paolo Banchero’s dunk with 2 minutes 5 seconds left, extending Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s profession at the least just a few extra days. It was no simpler for Duke’s subsequent opponent: third-seeded Texas Tech, which rallied late to squeak previous Notre Dame, a No. 11 seed that was taking part in its third sport in 5 days.

The West regional, which strikes on to San Francisco on Thursday with Gonzaga, Duke, Texas Tech and Arkansas, is the one which has gone to chalk. However choosing a favourite is like choosing a favourite Napa Valley sauvignon blanc — it relies on your tastes.

Such unpredictability, after all, is a trademark of the match and what additionally distinguishes it from the Faculty Soccer Playoff, the place the 4 contestants could be penciled in by Labor Day — and any upstarts should plead their case to apparatchiks as a result of they aren’t allowed to make it on the sector.

It was a tough weekend for the moneyed class.

The Massive Ten flopped within the first weekend of the match for the second yr in a row, shedding seven of its 9 groups — together with 4 on Sunday. As occurred a yr in the past, Michigan reached the spherical of 16 — this time doing it as an eleventh seed and having firm in Purdue.

The Southeastern Convention started the match with six groups and is down to at least one — Arkansas. Maybe it simply means much less.

If there’s a crew that embodies the insanity of March it’s North Carolina, whose résumé is dotted with confounding defeats and stirring victories — and whose efficiency in opposition to Baylor was a useful primer as to why. The Tar Heels scorched Baylor for practically half-hour, seizing a 25-point lead. They then spent the remainder of regulation wanting like they’d simply been launched to the game, frittering all of it away earlier than escaping in additional time.

Few gamers are higher acquainted with the temper swings of March than Kevin Obanor, a senior ahead at Texas Tech. A yr in the past, he was among the many out-of-nowhere tales, when he starred for Oral Roberts, which reached the second weekend of the match as a No. 15 seed after upsets of Ohio State and Florida and was a buzzer beater away from beating Arkansas to advance to a regional remaining.

Now, Obanor is getting one other crack — as a favourite by the primary weekend.

“There’s at all times a brand new story in play,” Obanor mentioned after Sunday’s win.

Put one other manner, the glass slipper at all times appears to search out its solution to one other foot.

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