In the closing day to a hectic first weekend in the 2016 NCAA Tournament, it was less about upsets and more about unbelievable finishes: The Wisconsin buzzer beater by Bronson Koenig against Xavier; the Notre Dame winning tip by Rex Pflueger and Texas A&M erasing a 12-point deficit against Northern Iowa with less than 44 seconds to go.
Yes, after a favorite like Michigan State got knocked out and other classic March Madness happened during the first couple of days, all of eight higher seeded teams won their games in day of the Round of 32. All but one: Wisconsin beating Xavier, a number two seed, although when someone from the Big Ten knocks off a Big East team, is it really a surprise?
The Badgers held the lead early, then lost it, falling behind by nine points with 6:19 to go. For a team that doesn’t do thing quickly and with a lot of firepower like Wisconsin, that’s a disaster. But their defense ate away at the Musketeers lead, who scored just five points after taking that 58-49 lead. For Wisconsin, it came down to Koenig, a Junior who has been this far before. He scored 20 points and six three pointers, including the game winning shot after tying the game with 14 seconds to go.
Notre Dame, a 6-seed, facing off against the difficult Stephen F. Austin, didn’t do it at the buzzer. They attacked the rim and missed. And then missed again. And with 1.5 seconds on the clock, it was Rex Pflueger, averaging 2.5 points per game this season, who became the hero. He scored his only points of the game, but that tip in, beginning it from below and getting the edge over everyone, sent the Fighting Irish into the Sweet Sixteen, following a desperate miss by the Lumberjacks. It was his first field goal since March 5.
We’re used to buzzer beaters and a shot determining it all. But what the Aggies pulled on the Panthers is unprecedented, counting as the biggest comeback ever in the final minute of a game in Division I history. A 12 point lead wasn’t enough for Northern Iowa, who already knocked off Texas in the first round. Turns out 45 seconds is a very long time, and even then, the Aggies needed double overtime to put away a team that simply doesn’t know how to quit, only it faces someone exactly like them, and probably slightly better.