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NCAA Tournament 2018: How Michigan won at the buzzer, 15 more things to know

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Practice your free throws, kids. 

Made free throws are the most precious commodity in the NCAA Tournament. On Saturday night, Houston was less than a minute away from knocking off Michigan, the No. 3 seed in the South Region, but missed free throws in the final five seconds left the door open for one of the best buzzer-beaters of March Madness 2018. 

Leading 63-61, Houston’s Devin Davis missed two free throws and then the Cougars, after a Michigan timeout, saw its season come to an end at the hands of Michigan freshman Jordan Poole.  

“He makes buzzer-beater shots all the time,” John Beilein said after the game. “It’s an overdose of swag. He’s got everything you can ask for. He dreams for those shots. He lives for those shots. That’s what he loves.”

So let’s make March “Free Throw Awareness Month” and you should also be aware of these 15 other things to know about Saturday’s action and what’s ahead Sunday as we get closer to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament. 

Michigan turns up on the right end of free-throw misses

Michigan ranks No. 328 of 351 Division I teams in free-throw percentage, but it was three missed free throws by Houston’s Devin Davis in the final three minutes that allowed Michigan to have a shot to win the gae in the final seconds. We can and will continue to celebrate a Michigan team that has been strong defensively and in the clutch all season, but Houston’s chance to cash in on a game it had won to that point went out the window in a few short possessions. 

Gonzaga in the Sweet 16 for the fourth straight year

Gonzaga overcame a five-point deficit with six minutes left and put together a 14-2 run to close a tough win against Ohio State, putting Mark Few and the Bulldogs into the Sweet 16 for the fourth straight season. Zach Norvell Jr. had a career high in points, three-pointers and rebounds, recording the first, and likely not last, double-double of his career. 

Sister Jean’s magic continued for Loyola-Chicago

Loyola advanced to the Sweet 16 after beating Tennessee on a clutch go-ahead shot from Clayton Custer with 3.6 seconds left. It had been decades since the the Ramblers had even made the NCAA Tournament, and now they’ve got wins over Miami and Tennessee as well as a ticket to the South Regional in Atlanta as one of four contenders for a spot in the Final Four. 

The only quirk in the good luck for Loyola? Sister Jean, the team chaplain and spirit animal, predicted that Loyola-Chicago would win its early games but has the Ramblers getting bounced from the tournament in the second weekend of her bracket. When presented with this information she admitted what many Loyola fans are thinking: that being wrong on a pessimistic premonition might not be that bad. 

Everyone is hurt in March, but Texas Tech plays through it 

Texas Tech guard Keenan Evans has been a superstar for much of the season, but when you see him afer a game these days the attention to detail is just as sharp as his on-court dominance in the Big 12 and NCAA Tournament. Evans has to ice his foot after each game and knows he’s not 100 percent, but that hasn’t forced him into being a recluse. Evans played well against Florida and has the type of “takeover” potential to make the Red Raiders a force in the Sweet 16 next weekend. 

Kentucky is still the greatest show on earth

I doubt that Kentucky’s 20-point win against No. 13 seed Buffalo is going to get much attention, but it’s worth noting that both this game was close in the second half and that the Wildcats showed in victory every aspect that makes them as frustrating and encouraging as a Final Four contender this year. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is ultimately the conductor of this train, and with Virginia, Arizona and Tennessee bounced from the bracket it’s looking more and more like John Calipari can lead this team to San Antonio. 

Kansas doesn’t beat Seton Hall without Udoka Azubuike 

When Azubuike went down with a knee injury, Kansas lost one of its primary big men on a team that already relies heavily on its guards. Azubuike managed 22 minutes against Seton Hall, and any less might have cost Kansas a chance at making the Final Four. 

Azubuike bodied up on Seton Hall big man Angel Delgado and provided huge minutes that powered Kansas to a four-point win to advance to the Sweet 16 in the Midwest Region. Malik Newman had one of his best games of the season with 28 points and the Jayhawks seemed to win every possession in the key clutch moments despite a 24 point, 23 rebound performance from Delgado. 

Duke and Villanova are on a collision course for the Final Four

With Duke and Villanova dominating on Saturday in Pittsburgh, Matt Norlander reflected on each team’s performance and the outlook moving forward

Coach K became the all-time winningest coach in D-I history

In beating Rhode Island 87-62, Mike Krzyzewski passed Tennessee legend Pat Summitt for the most wins in Division I history with 1,099 career wins

“It means I’ve had a lot of good players, and I’m at a really good school,” Krzyzewski said of the accomplishment on CBS after the game. “The lady who had that record would have run hundreds more. Pat Summitt was as good of a coach as there was … It’s an honor.”

Isaac Haas might give it a go for Purdue

While 16 teams were in the midst of Second Round action, Purdue broke some news at its practice session as Isaac Haas practiced with a brace to help the elbow injury that had him previously ruled out for the rest of the tournament. If the NCAA approves the brace, there is a chance that he’ll play on Sunday afternoon against Butler (12:10 p.m. ET, CBS). 

UConn women dropped the hammer on St. Francis

UConn took a comfortable 94-31 lead into halftime against St. Francis, but not before shattering four NCAA records. Not only did the Huskies break the record for most points in a half, they also scored the most in a single quarter — 55 in the first quarter — which broke an NCAA Tournament record and an NCAA record. The Huskies defeated St. Francis (Pa.) 140-52 and easily advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, where they await the winner of Miami and Quinnipiac on Monday.

UNC basketball keeping a closer eye on its locker room 

While North Carolina’s locker room and team office were empty during the Tar Heels’ championship game run in the ACC tournament, police say a thief was able to break in and steal thousands of dollars in electronics from the team by breaking into the team office and locker room in the Dean Smith Center

And finally, the Final Four things to know: Sunday’s key matchups

No. 9 Kansas State vs. No. 16 UMBC (7:45 p.m. ET): After knocking off Virginia, what will the Retrievers have left in the tank against Kansas State? Can the miracle run continue? 

No. 2 North Carolina vs. No. 7 Texas A&M (5:15 p.m. ET): The Tar Heels are one win away from joining what could be a chalky West Region next weekend in Los Angeles. Gonzaga and Michigan have already punched their tickets, and if North Carolina can avoid getting bullied around inside by the Aggies they’ll join the party. 

No. 3 Michigan State vs. No. 11 Syracuse (2:40 p.m. ET): The Spartans are good enough to win the national championship, but there’s something about facing a team from the First Four in Dayton that will make any top seed nervous on a Second Round Sunday. 

No. 5 West Virginia vs. No. 13 Marshall (9:40 p.m. ET): This in-state battle is going to bring out the best and worst in a lot of Appalachian-based basketball fans. If Jon Elmore is on fires and Marshall’s offense is in rhythm, it could cause some problems. If West Virginia’s pressure defense forces turnovers then there might never be a chance for the upset.