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Buzzer beaters reign as Michigan stuns Houston; Loyola Chicago upsets Tennessee

Michigan guard Jordan Poole (No. 2) celebrates with his teammates including Mo Wagner after making the game-winning three point shot to defeat Houston in the second round of the NCAA tournament in Wichita, Kan. (Peter G. Aiken/USA Today Sports)
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2018 NCAA tournament interactive bracket

Schedule and results | Top story lines | Tournament history

That was some kind of nightcap to end the third day of the NCAA tournament.

Michigan’s Jordan Poole, a freshman, knocked down a 25-footer as a time expired in Wichita, Kan., to stun Houston, 64-63, and earn a trip to the Sweet 16.

Weeks after the Wolverines swept through the Big Ten Conference tournament, Michigan’s run is still going, and its win early Sunday morning capped an unforgettable day of college basketball.

Maryland Baltimore County awed Virginia late Friday night and the school — and the nation — basked in the afterglow Saturday as the Retrievers became the first 16 seed to ever knock off a No. 1 in the men’s basketball tournament.

Loyola Chicago shocked Tennessee with a buzzer beat of its own for a second tournament upset.

And following an afternoon that saw college basketball’s blue bloods punch their ticket to the next round one by one, Michigan stayed up late to earn its own invitation.

Isaiah Livers inbounded with 3.6 seconds left underneath the Wolverines’ goal and hit Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman at midcourt. He pitched the ball off to Poole, who launched a three pointer from downtown Wichita that dropped through as time expired.

“By the grace of God, I made the shot,” Poole said in a postgame interview on TBS.

“Jordan does that all the time in practice,” added Wolverines Coach John Beilein. “He makes buzzer shots all the time. The guy has an overdose of swag.”

Devin Davis made a pair of free throws with 44 seconds left to give upstart Houston a one-point lead, then hit another 20 seconds later.

The Cougars gutted out consecutive defensive stops to seemingly seal a victory, but Davis, who finished with 17 points and seven rebounds, missed a pair of foul shots with 4 seconds left that set up Michigan’s extraordinary finish.

Abdur-Rahkman and Mo Wagner each finished with 12 points to lead the Wolverines.

Rob Gray had a game-high 23 points to lead Houston.

Michigan will face the winner of No. 7 Texas A&M and No. 2 North Carolina on Thursday.

Loyola Chicago shocks Tennessee for another upset

Where has Sister Jean been hiding this Loyola Chicago team all year?

The Ramblers — yes, the Ramblers — upset 3-seed Tennessee, 63-62, on a running jumper from junior guard Clayton Custer with 3.6 seconds left to earn a berth to the Sweet 16.

After Tennessee’s Grant Williams, the Southeastern Conference’s player of the year, made a layup and free throw to give the Volunteers a one-point lead with 20 seconds left, Loyola started its winning possession. Custer’s jumper from 15 feet bounced off the front of the rim, then somehow found a way to rattle through the net.

“To get that bounce on that shot, it makes all those hours in the gym worth it,” Custer said on TNT’s postgame interview. “I cannot believe that that just happened.”

The Volunteers went the length of the floor, but came up empty on a buzzer-beater try.

Tennessee was highly favored over Loyola, just as Miami was in the round of 64. But with scrappy play, timely shot-making and some help from 98 year-old team chaplain Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt, the Ramblers, champions of the Missouri Valley Conference, gutted out two upsets.

“I told them we were going to win and we could do it and God would be on our side,” Schmidt told TNT.

She also told players beforehand not to back down from Tennessee’s imposing frontcourt of Admiral Schoefield and Grant Williams, who combined for 26 points.

“Don’t let those Tennessee team members [like Admiral Schofield and Grant Williams] scare you with their height,” Schmidt said in the team’s pregame prayer. “Height doesn’t mean that much. You’re good jumpers. You’re good rebounders. You’re good at everything.”

Loyola Chicago, you sure are, and now you’re headed to the Sweet 16.

Texas Tech wins thriller over Florida

By the hair of No. 3 Texas Tech mascot the Masked Rider’s mustache did the Red Raiders survive a late scare from No. 6 Florida to earn the sixth trip to the Sweet 16 in program history with a 69-66 win. Texas Tech is on to the second weekend of the tournament for the first time since 2005.

Zhaire Smith, who dunked Florida nearly all the way back to Gainesville, threw down an alley-oop to put Texas Tech up five with 32 seconds to play, but Florida’s Chris Chiozza made a quick layup on the other end. After pressure and a steal, the Gators won a scramble for the loose ball in the frontcourt, but couldn’t hit either of two good looks from three-point range.

Florida junior guard Jalen Hudson led all scorers with 23 points. Keenan Evans paced the Red Raiders with 22. Texas Tech will face the winner of No. 10 Butler and No. 2 Purdue in the Sweet 16.

No. 4 Gonzaga pushes past tough Ohio State

Coach Mark Few’s Bulldogs are headed back to the Sweet 16 for the fourth straight year. Behind a career-high 28 points for Zach Norvell Jr., Gonzaga beat Ohio State, 90-84, in a second round matchup Saturday night in Boise.

The Buckeyes led by five with six minutes to play, but Gonzaga used a 17-2 run to sprint into the lead, and Ohio State could not recover. Keita Bates-Diop, the Big Ten Conference player of the year, led Ohio State with 28 points. Rui Hachimura added 25 points and four blocks for Gonzaga.

The Bulldogs will face the winner of 9-seed Florida State and top-seed Xavier in the Sweet 16.

Kansas outlasts Seton Hall

The game’s final few minutes took forever, but featured a heavy dose of Jayhawks free throws and Seton Hall guard Khadeen Carrington jumpers. It ended in an 83-79 win for Kansas, the top seed in the Midwest Region, which will advance to play the winner of tomorrow’s Clemson-Auburn game in the Sweet 16.

Malik Newman scored 28 points, including nine-straight free throws to ice the game, for the Jayhawks.

Angel Delgado posted a monster game in defeat for the Pirates. The big man erupted for 24 points and 23 rebounds.

Final Four in sight for Kentucky

When the NCAA tournament brackets were released on Selection Sunday, Kentucky’s path to the Final Four looked to be marred with a difficult South Region littered with highly talented opponents and NBA-caliber players. There was overall No. 1 seed Virginia, a quality national champion contender; No. 4 Arizona, led by the potential No. 1 overall pick in this year’s NBA draft, DeAndre Ayton.

The Wildcats responded by running through Davidson and Buffalo en route to the Sweet 16. Kentucky pulled away from the Bulls in the second half for a 95-75 win. Saturday. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led all scorers with 27 points for Kentucky on 10-of-12 shooting, becoming the first freshman to score 25 points, grab six rebounds and dish six assists in a tournament game since Chris Paul did it for Wake Forest in 2004, per ESPN Stats & Info. Three of his teammates also scored in double figures, including 22 points from Hamidou Diallo.

Buffalo’s Wes Clark had 26 points and six assists.

The Wildcats’ path to the Final Four looks to be very favorable. They face the winner of UMBC-Kansas State, a 9-seed, in the Sweet 16.

No. 2 seed Cincinnati and No. 3 seed Tennessee still lurk on the bottom half of the bracket, but the Wildcats likely are feeling a bit more relaxed looking ahead.

Marvin Bagley III, Duke rolls past Rhode Island into Sweet 16

Watch out for Duke.

The No. 2-seeded Blue Devils put their foot on the gas Saturday against No. 7 seeded Rhode Island and never looked back. All five starters had reached double figures before the midway of the second half en route to a 87-62 victory. Duke is now headed to the Sweet Sixteen for the 24th time under Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski.

According to ESPN Fantasy, 42.6 percent of brackets accurately predicted the Blue Devils would beat Rhode Island in the second-round game. Overall, 83.9 percent of brackets had Duke making it to the Sweet 16. Coming out of the Midwest Region, multiple experts predicted Duke reaching the Final Four. And after its performance on Saturday, they might be right.

Duke freshman Marvin Bagley III put on a show for the Blue Devils, scoring a team-high 22 points on 8 of 10 shooting from the field. He also grabbed nine rebounds.

After scoring eight points in the first half, Bagley racked up two big dunks coming out of halftime. The announcers lauded him for his offensive hustle down the court to complete a transition dunk during one play, and during the next, they were simply in awe that the 6-foot-11 freshman out of Tempe, Ariz. could conceivably still be a senior in high school. Bagley is projected to be a top 10 draft pick in this summer’s NBA draft.

Alongside Bagley, Duke freshman Gary Trent Jr. scored 18 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals. Duke freshman forward Wendell Carter Jr. scored 13 points and added six rebounds and three assists.

Duke will play the winner of No. 3 Michigan State and No. 11 Syracuse in the Sweet 16.

Rhode Island and Duke have history

If you think plucky Rhode Island is afraid of mighty Duke, think again. They’ve been here before.

In 1988, an 11th-seeded underdog Rhode Island faced off against powerhouse Duke, a No. 2 seed, in the Sweet 16. The Rams, in one of the most memorable seasons in the program’s basketball history, had previously upset No. 6 seed Missouri, 87-80, in the first round behind 29 points from Rams’ legend Tom Garrick. In the second round, Rhode Island took on No. 3 seed Syracuse, jumping on the Orange early with a 15-point first half lead before winning, 97-94.  

In the Round of 16 against Duke, Rhode Island hung tough with the Blue Devils, battling to take a 45-40 advantage early in the second half. But after a cold spell went through the Rams’ lineup, Rhode Island was unable to finish the job, falling to Duke, 73-72. That season, Rhode Island set the school record for wins (28) and were led by a backcourt of Garrick and Carlton “Silk” Owens.

Now, 30 years later, Rhode Island was looking to turn the tides on the Blue Devils on Saturday afternoon. This year, No. 7 seed Rhode Island is on the rise once again, beating No. 10 Oklahoma, 83-78, in overtime with Sooners’ freshman phenom Trae Young at the helm in the first round. The Rams are now facing a freshman-led No. 2 seeded Duke squad in a game away from the Sweet 16, but with Dan Hurley leading the charge, the Rams were feeling confident headed into the contest. 

The Rams were beating Duke 11-10 with 12 minutes left in the first half, but the Blue Devils took control in a hurry, taking a 45-28 lead into halftime. Duke freshman Gary Trent Jr. led the Blue Devils with 11 points at halftime. Rams senior guard E.C. Matthews led his team with 13 points.

Villanova advances to the Sweet 16

Mikal Bridges all but single-handedly took down Alabama in the second half of Villanova’s 81-58 second-round win over the Crimson Tide after scoring a mere point in the first half.

Scoring 19 of his 23 points in just under a five minute span to start the second half, the Villanova junior finished 7 of 16 from the field, including 5 of 8 from three-point range. Bridges racked up 16 points in just 4½ minutes into the second half. At that point, Bridges had scored 16 of the Wildcats 18 second half points as Villanova surged to a 50-28 advantage.

Villanova is now back into the Sweet Sixteen and will face the winner of No. 13 Marshall-No. 5 West Virginia.

Marshall’s NBA style sparks a Cinderella run that might have legs

Behind the hot hand from Bridges, Villanova made 31 three-pointers across the first two rounds of the tournament, 17 in the win against the Crimson Tide. In the midst of his second-half hot streak, Bridges even got a shoutout from Villanova legend Kris Jenkins on Twitter:

While Bridges heated up in the second half, in the first, Villanova sophomore Donte DiVincenzo, aka Donte Inferno, had 18 points to help the Wildcats stay with the Crimson Tide. That was 18 of Villanova’s 32 total points in the half. The 6-5 guard shot 5 for 9 from three-point range to lead all scorers, a group that includes star players Villanova’s Jalen Brunson (four points) and Bridges and Alabama’s Collin Sexton (nine points).

Brunson finished with 12 points and Sexton finished with 17 points.

Brunson vs. Sexton is game within the Villanova-Alabama game

It’s the clash of the point guards in the first matchup of Saturday’s second-round action, with Jalen Brunson leading No. 1 Villanova against one most intriguing NBA point guard prospects remaining in the tournament: Alabama freshman phenom Collin Sexton.

Brunson, the 6-foot-3 junior point guard who is averaging 19.3 points per game this season, is a national player of the year candidate. Sexton is a projected top-15 pick in this summer’s NBA draft and is averaging 19.2 points per game for the Crimson Tide. Both point guards have approached their careers differently, yet both have led their teams to the second round of the tournament, one win away from the Sweet 16.

For Brunson, the junior was an “ice-cold assassin” during Villanova’s overtime win over Providence in the Big East tournament final, wrote The Post’s Ava Wallace. Dropping 31 points in a championship game, Brunson made 12 of 23 shots from the floor, including four three-pointers. On Thursday, in Villanova’s first round tournament win against No. 16 seed Radford, Brunson had 16 points.

“Honestly, he’s the most mature person in the program, including me,” Villanova Coach Jay Wright said.

Sexton, meanwhile, has electrified the No. 9 Crimson Tide, stealing “the crown from Oklahoma’s Trae Young as America’s most exciting freshman point guard,” according to The Post’s Kent Babb.

The eccentric freshman phenom is one of a plethora of highly talented college freshman eager to make their stamp on the NBA, with players like Young, Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr. and Duke’s Marvin Bagley III lighting up NBA mock draft boards.

Recent mock drafts from Sports Illustrated and Bleacher Report have Sexton going No. 11 to the Los Angeles Clippers, still notably behind Young at that point guard position. But Sexton and Alabama are still in the tournament, while Oklahoma was bounced by Rhode Island in the first round, giving viewers at home just another chance to watch Sexton in action.

After UMBC upsets, more to come from Cinderella teams on Saturday? 

The NCAA tournament’s first round has come and gone. Round 2 is up next, with a full slate of Saturday games featuring favorites Villanova, Duke and Kansas back on stage alongside upstarts Loyola Chicago and Buffalo in Saturday’s second-round action.

While major upsets have been plentiful in the first round of the tournament — No. 4 overall seed Arizona lost to No. 13 Buffalo, No. 11 Loyola Chicago beat No. 6 Miami, No. 13 overall seed Marshall knocked off No. 4 seed Wichita State and No. 11 Syracuse beat No. 6 TCU, none could have prepared for Friday night’s blowout of No. 1 overall seed Virginia at the hands of No. 16 seeded UMBC.

In the biggest upset in the history of the NCAA tournament — a No.16 seed downed a No.1 seed and the Internet celebrated with a barrage of dog photos as the Retrievers routed Virginia, 74-54. Less than two months ago, UMBC lost to Albany, 83-39. Virginia had entered the tournament with a 31-2 record and claimed both the ACC tournament and regular season titles. But March isn’t the regular season or a conference tournament.

[NCAA stunner: No. 16 seed UMBC makes history by knocking out No. 1 Virginia]

UMBC Twitter exploded during and after the win, as the blowout continued to sink in. With 3:29 to go in the game, UMBC up 17 points, the UMBC Athletics was tweeting about how the media dining area was all out of cookies. This was the important news of the night, clearly. According to UMBC Athletics, its Twitter following jumped from 5,000 followers to a whopping 60,000 by Saturday morning. But who wouldn’t want to follow with tweets like these?

On Saturday, the upsets are looking less likely that the opening round, though viewers should be on the lookout for Cinderella stories in Buffalo and Loyola Chicago. Back after stunning top seeds a couple nights prior, a confident, determined Buffalo team could take down No. 5 Kentucky and its freshmen-laden roster in a South Region showdown set to tip off at 5:15 p.m. EST.

Nate Oats just coached Buffalo to a huge upset. But he’s about more than wins.

Buffalo Coach Nate Oats has been on a fast track over the past few years, writes The Post’s Tim Bontemps. Oats was head boys’ basketball coach at Romulus High School in suburban Detroit, then became an assistant at Buffalo under current Arizona State Coach Bobby Hurley, then Oats took over the program when Hurley was hired by ASU three years ago.

Now, with the program all to himself, Oats has Buffalo believing they are the real deal. For the MAC regular season and tournament champions, they “fully expected to arrive here and go toe-to-toe with Arizona and Kentucky — as blue blood as it gets in college basketball — and come out on top,” writes Bontemps.

No. 11 Loyola Chicago will try to knock off No. 3 Tennessee at 6:10 p.m. EST, backed by the now-famous, cherished and loved by all, Sister Jean. She has spent the last 24 years serving as Loyola’s team chaplain and captured hearts of those watching at home after Loyola’s upset win over Miami. She leads the team in prayer before the game — always beginning with “Good and gracious God” — and cheers on Loyola while donning a Loyola-colored scarf. If anyone can will Loyola’s way to victory, it’s Sister Jean.

Schedule and results (All times Eastern):

Top story lines

— Neil Greenberg will be updating his live round-by-round odds for each team to advance throughout the tournament.

— While UMBC provided the tournament’s signature moment, mid-majors didn’t fare all that well. The Post’s Chuck Culpepper bids farewell to Georgia State, the tournament’s quintessential mid-major: “The element a team such as Georgia State brings, that of mystery and enchantment and the plausible chance for a memorable upset, appears have drifted into a money-mad disfavor.”

— Every tournament needs a villain and luckily for this year’s event, Duke’s Grayson Allen has made peace with his role. The Blue Devils advanced with a victory over Iona and Allen took a razzing in Pittsburgh. “It would be really surprising to me if I didn’t get booed as I walked out onto the court,” Allen said. “I’ve kind of just accepted it. I feed off of it. I’m not only used to it, but I own it now.”

— Arizona’s stunning loss eliminated the NCAA’s biggest headache, and ended the collegiate career of star big man DeAndre Ayton, the potential No. 1 pick in this year’s draft. Teammate Allonzo Trier also said he will leave school and head to the NBA.

— And don’t forget about the other March Madness — a rush for vasectomies during the NCAA tournament.