Robert Champion led Holy Cross with 19 points to beat Southern for its first tournament win since 1953. Holy Cross next faces a tough test in No. 1 Oregon.
Holy Cross opened up a 12-point lead by the under-four minute timeout in the first half, but a Southern run left the Jaguars down by only five as the teams headed to the locker room. When Southern took its first lead, with 16:31 left in the game, it set up a back-and-forth contest the rest of the way. Ultimately, the Crusaders hit their free throws down the stretch and prevailed, 59–55 on Wednesday.
Why it mattered
The game was a novelty for the wrong reasons: It was a matchup between the two worst teams in the field of 68. Holy Cross is kenpom.com’s No. 268 team, and Southern entered the game at No. 224. Still, for Holy Cross coach Bill Carmody, the game will be a welcome relief. After failing to get Northwestern into the NCAA tournament for 13 seasons (from 2000 to ’13), he now has guided Holy Cross to a berth and a win in Year 1.
The Crusaders will travel to Spokane, Wash., to face West No. 1 seed Oregon on Friday at 7:27 p.m. The Ducks are the No. 10 team in the country in adjusted efficiency, per kenpom.com, and their matchup with the Holy Cross will be the widest disparity between two teams in terms of efficiency in the first round. Although it certainly will be a boon to Carmody on the recruiting trail to have won an NCAA tournament game, don’t count on the Crusaders to become the first No. 16 seed in history to upset a No. 1.