Five things to watch as Columbus hosts NCAA Tournament second-round games
Friday is going to be a tough act to follow for Nationwide Arena.
On most nights, a last-second game-winning shot would be the lasting memory from a day with four first-round NCAA Tournament games on one court. But while Florida Atlantic’s one-point win against No. 9 seed Memphis in the nightcap was a thrilling finish to the day, it paled in comparison to a historic performance in the preceding game.
You know, the second ever upset of a No. 1 seed by a No. 16 seed. Half an hour before the Owls beat the Tigers, No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson controlled its game against No. 1 seed Purdue, leading for 25:42 on its way to a stunning, 63-58 win against the Big Ten’s regular season and tournament champion. The loss reverberated throughout the sport and was the unquestioned top headline of the opening two days of March Madness.
Now, it’s time to do it again. Columbus will host a game between No. 2 Marquette and No. 15 Michigan State at 5:15 p.m. as the precursor to No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson against No. 9 Florida Atlantic. Winners of both teams will advance to the Sweet 16.
Here are five things to keep an eye on.
Can Fairleigh Dickinson build on its upset?
Knights coach Tobin Anderson was equal parts gracious and proud in victory, pointing out that while his team expected to play well against the Boilermakers the odds were that they would lose that game “99 times out of 100.”
Now, the first-year coach has the task of making sure his team isn’t content with just one win.
“My message has been: what we did last night was special, let's go do something else that's special too,” Anderson said Saturday. “I talked to them (Friday) night after the game, hey, make sure these guys know we've got more to do. I don't sense from us any sense of complacency or sense of satisfaction. We're very loose today, focused but loos, and that's kind of how you have to be this time of year.”
Anderson was a late hire after Fairleigh Dickinson fired coach Greg Herenda in late April after nine seasons with the program. He came to the Knights via Division II program St. Thomas Aquinas, where he had been head coach from 2013-22, and inherited a program that had gone 4-22 last season.
Now, he’s one win from the Sweet 16. It’s caused quite the commotion for Anderson, who said he didn’t bring enough laundry for the extended trip.
“I've got, like, 1200 unanswered texts right now,” he said. “The problem each time I look at my phone it's more and more. My message, if anybody's listening, stop texting right now. Give me a chance to catch up.”
That’s also been true for Reynoldsburg product Sean Moore.
“Phone has been going crazy; still is,” he said. “I'm trying to reach back out to everybody. I appreciate everybody out there showing love. So it's most definitely been life-changing.”
Florida Atlantic’s Nick Boyd making up for lost time
After appearing in 19 games as a first-year player in the 2020-21 season, the 6-3, 175-pound guard missed the entire 2021-22 season with an injury before hitting one of the biggest shots in program history on Friday night.
With about two seconds left, Boyd’s layup proved to be the difference in a one-point win against No. 8 seed Memphis that moved the Owls into a second-round showdown with the Knights. It marked the first NCAA Tournament win in program history.
“I don't know if I've ever been around someone that's addicted to work like Nick,” coach Dusty May said. “He loves to work on his game. He loves to work in the weight room. He's really improved in all facets. It's because of good old-fashioned elbow grease, what he's put into it. He's easy to have faith in because he's prepared himself. But he was walking off the floor, and he said, ‘Coach, I got it.’ He attacked the space and made a great decision and finished a play.”
It was the only two-point field goal Boyd finished on four attempts against the Tigers. He scored 8 points and had four rebounds and four assists with no turnovers in 24 minutes.
“I don't know what I was feeling that way,” Boyd said of his game winner. “I just felt it and it kind of just happened. And I just told Coach that I think I can hit the shot. And he drew up a great play. And credit to everybody who was on the court, on the bench.”
Joey Hauser downplays Marquette matchup
Joey Hauser’s first year of college basketball was spent playing alongside his older brother Sam for Steve Wojciechowski at Marquette during the 2018-19 season. After averaging 9.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 34 games including 31 starts, Hauser opted to transfer and wound up signing to play for Tom Izzo at Michigan State.
Now in his fifth year of college basketball, Hauser will attempt to upset the team that initially signed him out of Stevens Point, Wisconsin when seed Michigan State plays Marquette on Sunday evening. In between that game and Friday’s 72-62 win against No. 10 seed USC, Hauser downplayed the notion of this being any kind of revenge game.
“I don't know any of the players or coaches there,” he said. “It was a long time ago. So I don't have any ill will towards them. It's just Michigan State versus Marquette.”
March Madness: Oller: Reynoldsburg's Sean Moore sparks Fairleigh Dickinson to NCAA upset of No. 1 Purdue
Hauser said he hadn’t spoken with his brother about the game. Sam Hauser also transferred out after the 2018-19 season, sat out a year and played for Virginia in 2020-21.
“Being with my brother was an unbelievable experience of just having him kind of show me the ropes college basketball and getting used to the travel and playing in big games was definitely what helped me,” the younger Hauser said. “Getting to Michigan State, sitting out that year was tough, but I think I've just kind of grown in those areas since I've gotten here.”
Tom Izzo voices support for Matt Painter
While Michigan State’s game against USC was largely viewed as a toss-up, the same can’t be said for the other Big Ten team to take up temporary residence in Columbus. After the Spartans advanced and the Boilermakers did not, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo said he texted and talked a little bit with Purdue coach Matt Painter after his team’s upset loss to Fairleigh Dickinson.
“Purdue, I think Matt Painter is the new breed,” Izzo said. “He's the young up-and-coming coach – and he's young in age, not in experience, because he's been there a long time. But he's a guy that's done an incredible job and worked for one of the best in Gene Keady. Everything there is good. I know some of their players. I recruited some that I didn't get. And our players know their players.
“When something happens there, I think it hits home a little harder.”
Shaka Smart reached out to Michigan State for advice while at VCU
He’ll be going against the Spartans on Sunday, but Marquette coach Shaka Smart has shared some time with the Michigan State program before. As the coach at VCU, Smart was leading his fifth-seeded Rams into a second-round game with No. 4 seed Michigan at the Palace of Auburn Hills when he reached out for some advice on facing the Wolverines.
“Before the game I always use these different things in pregames and different props to the team,” Smart said. “So I use this audio recording of Mateen (Cleaves). He had called me and left me a voice mail. And I just asked him to kind of give the guys some words of wisdom because he actually had come and spent a couple of days at VCU earlier that season. And I can't say up here publicly what he said because it's not appropriate. But what he said will forever ring in my mind.”
The Wolverines won the game, 78-53, and three years later Smart would be the coach at Texas.
“I love the year that he had,” Izzo said of Marquette’s season to this point. “I just can't love it for two days. But I love what he's done. I respect what he's done. And he's tried to do it his way. And I think it is working.”
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This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: As Columbus hosts more March Madness, here are 5 things to know