College Hoops: How Second Day of NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Might have Played Out -- Day 8

Michigan State's Aaron HenryPhoto by Mike Carter - USA TODAY Sports

Jake Curtis

On we go to Day 8 of our imagainary NCAA tournament, which is the second day of Sweet 16 play.

Four Elite Eight berths were decided on Thursday, and four more will be determined on Friday, March 27, which is the day the the final four Sweet 16 games were scheduled to be played.

We used the bracketology and pairings projected by Jerry Palm at as the basis of our fictitious NCAA tournament, which we provide in place of the canceled NCAA tournament.

Our tournament began last week with the preliminary-round games on Tuesday and Wednesday. That was followed by the first-round games last Thursday, then opening-round games scheduled for Friday. Last Saturday we projected how the first eight games of the second round might have played out, then on Sunday we provided possible results for the remaining second-round games. Yesterday (Thursday, March 26) we put forth results of the first four Sweet 16 games.

If you want to look ahead to next season, the odds for the 2021 NCAA tournament are already out, as noted in this video:

But let's get back to the preseason. Or the virtual present anyway. Now we provide a narrative of how the second day of Sweet 16 action might have played out:


Day 8, Game 1

No. 1 Dayton (31-2) vs. No. 4 Louisville (26-7) at New York

***Obi Toppin (center) and his Dayton teammates feel good about Friday's result

Photo by David Kohl - USA TODAY Sports

Earlier tournament results: Dayton beat Winthrop 82-67 and Saint Mary's 78-66;   Louisville defeated Liberty 62-60 and Akron 76-63

The game: Dayton has won 22 games in a row, its last loss coming against Colorado on Dec. 21 when D'shawn Schwartz hit a three-point shot at the buzzer to beat the Flyers by two in overtime.

The Flyers start this game a little tentatively, however, helping Louisville jump out to a 10-6 lead.

Louisville, which went 3-4 over its last seven regular-eason games, has regained its confidence in the postseason and benefited from a draw that enabled it to face two overmatched opponents in the opening rounds. 

Jordan Nwora led the Cardinals' early surge, and he scores 14 points in the first half to help Louisville to a 39-34 lead over the Flyers, who can't seem to find any rhythm.

At halftime, Dayton coach Anthony Grant tells his players to relax, reminding them that the Flyers lead the nation in field-goal percentage and rank 12th in the country in scoring. The shots will start falling, he tells them.

Grant proves prophetic as the Flyers make their firt five shots of the second half, with three of those baskets being scored by All-American Obi Toppin.

Louisville has a strong defense, but it can't stop the Cardinals' offensive train, which is rolling now. The Flyers take the lead eight minutes into the second half, and start to pull away.

Nwora slows the Flyers' express by hitting a three-pointer, then converting a three-point play to get Louisville within five points with a minute to go. Dayton keeps the ball in Jalen Crutcher's hands in the closing seconds, and he makes all four free-throw attempts to keep the Flyers in front.

Toppin finishes with 23 points, his seventh straight game with at least 19 points, and he pumps his fist in the air and lets out a roar when the final buzzer sounds.

Final score: Dayton 81, Louisville 76


Day 8, Game 2

No, 2 Florida State (28-5) vs. No. 6 Virginia (25-7) at Houston

***Virginia guard Kihei Clark is pleased with a three-point shot he hit

Photo by Amber Searls - USA TODAY Sports

Previous tournament results: Florida State defeated Northern Kentucky 72-50 and Providence 78-69; Virginia beat Richmond 52-47 and Maryland 58-49

The game: These two ACC teams split their two regular-season meetings, with each team winning at home by close scores. Virginia, the defending national champ, seems to be playing better with each game and comes in riding an 10-game winning streak.

Florida State is a pretty good offensive team but failed to score more than 56 points in either regular-season game against the Cavaliers, who rank first in the country in scoring defense and second in field-goal percentage defense.

The Seminoles manage just 10 points in the first 12 minutes as the Cavaliers take a 16-10 lead. Devin Vassell hits a three-pointer to start an 21-12 Seminole run to end the first half, which end with Florida State holding a three-point lead.

Virginia is not much of a team offensively, but its defense keeps it in the game until Mamadi Diakite converts a three-point play to tie the score midway through the second half. Both teams slog their way through the next eight minutes, with neither team able to do much offensively.

Virginia holds a one-point lead before Kihei Clark sinks a pair of free throws to expand the lead to three with 1:14 left. A Trent Forrest bucket shrinks the margin to one point, and after Virginia fails to score on its possession, Vassell scores with 24.6 seconds left to give Florida State a one-point lead.

Virginia's offense bogs down, and Tony Bennett calls a timeout with 8.2 seconds remaining. The Cavaliers get the ball into Diakite, who bulls his way inside and puts up a difficult shot over 6-foot-8 Patrick Williams. The ball bounces on the rim and off the backboard before falling through with 1.2 seconds to go. With no timeouts left, Florida State cannot get off a good shot, and the Cavaliers swarm Diakite at center court.

Final score: Virginia 55, Florida State 54


Day 8, Game 3

No. 3 Michigan State (24-9) vs. No. 7 USC (24-9) at New York

***Michigan State coach Tom Izzo hugs his star point guard, Cassius Winston

Photo by Mike Carter - USA TODAY Sports

Earlier tournament results: Michigan State eliminated North Texas 79-59 and Rutgers 76-68; USC ousted Indiana 73-72 and Villanova 81-76

The game: Two of the top defensive teams in the nation are matched up in a game in which points will be hard to come by.

The Spartans are riding a seven-game winning streak, beating four ranked teams in that span, and they take charge at the outset. Point guard Cassius Winston is dominating play, scoring 13 points in the first half as Michigan State takes a 31-24 lead into the break.

USC starts getting the ball inside to freshman Onyeka Okongwu in the second half, and he not only collects six quick points on inside moves, he also gets Michigan State's Xavier Tillman Sr. in foul trouble. Tillman goes to the bench with his third foul with 15 minutes left and the Spartans ahead by a point, and he picks up his fourth foul three minutes after he returns, with the score tied with 4:10 to go.

Jonah Mathews gives USC its first lead of the game with a three-pointer at the 3:10 mark, but at that point Winston reclaims control of the game. He accounts for the Spartans next eight points with two driving layups, an assist on a hoop, and two free throws with 8.2 seconds remaining.

Those last free throws give the Spartans a three-point lead, and Michigan State coach Tom Izzo opts not to foul in USC's final possession. Mathews gets a pretty good look from the top of the key, but his shot rims out, and is rebounded by Tillman. He is fouled with 0.4 seconds left, and makes one free throw to settle the isue.

Winston finishes with 23 points and eight assists, and he leads the Spartans' huddle that focuses on their next opponent. Izzo is soaked with perspiration as he shakes hands with USC coach Andy Enfield.

The only Pac-12 team to reach the Sweet 16 has been eliminated.

Final score: Michigan State 60, USC 56


Day 8, Game 4

No. 1 Baylor (28-4) vs. No. 12 Yale (25-7) at Houston

***Baylor's Mark Vital throws one down

Photo by Mark Ludeman - USA TODAY Sports

Earlier tournament results: Baylor beat Boston University 75-57 and Arizona 61-52; Yale upset Ohio State 69-67 and Butler 72-71.

The game: Yale recorded major upsets in two tight games to get to this point, but Baylor has had a week to prepare for the Bulldogs, and any nerves the Bears might have felt in the first weekend have disappeared. Plus, Baylor coach Scott Drew reminds his players that Yale upset Baylor in the first round of the 2016 NCAA tournament.

Baylor ranks seventh in the country in scoring defense, and Yale has trouble doing anything offensively in the first half. Jared Butler scores 10 points before halftime, leading the Bears to a 34-22 lead at intermission.

Yale's Paul Atkinson scores six quick points to open the second half and reduce the deficit to five points. The Bulldogs continue to execute their offense almost flawlessly, but they simply cannot match Baylor's athletes.

One of Yale's strengths is rebounding, but the Bears fight Yale to a standstill on the boards, and Baylor continues to get open shots. A three-point shot by MaCio Teague starts Baylor on a 12-2 run that expands the Baylor lead to 13 points.

As the result becomes obvious in the closing minutes, Baylor is able to substitute for its starters, as the Yale players recognize their fate. Nonetheless the Bulldogs are pleased with their postseason performance as they won two games in the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history.

Final score: Baylor 69, Yale 56