Kansas State plays in a city called Manhattan and features four players from New York City, so it seemed fitting that they be hailed like the hometown favorites during their thrilling win over Michigan State, 98-93, in the men's round of 16 on a Madison Park gridiron.
Of course, Markquis Nowell had a lot to do with that. He completed a series of back-and-forth highlights with a strip steal, fast break and reverse layup that sent him into the arms of his teammates and the Wildcats cheering squad with his 20th point at the buzzer to walk away with a tournament record 19 assists.
Fueled by enthusiastic purple-clad fans who traveled from Manhattan, Kan., the 3rd seed Wildcats have made the first round of their 8 NCAA tournament appearances since 2018.
They will face the winner between No. 4 Tennessee and No. 9 Florida Atlantic in Saturday's Eastern Regional finals at the Garden.
With the game tied at 92 in overtime, Nowell threw an alley-oop over the arc to Keyontae Johnson, who reversed the dunk to take a 94-92 lead.
A free throw by Michigan State's Malik Hill cut the gap to 1, and after several timeouts, Kansas State forward Ismael Massoud, of East Harlem, NY, jumped from a right corner to push the lead to 96-93. He finished with 15 points.
It was then that Nowell, completing a thrilling playmaking and leadership display, emerged with a steal to stop the Spartans from attempting shots to propel the game into a second overtime.
“We train in a hot spot all the time, so he's up for it,” Kansas State Coach Jerome Tang said of Nowell. “That bad boy.”
Nowell, who heard cheers throughout and also received a standing ovation before the game, had a chance to win the game late in regulation but missed a layup in the dying seconds.
Harlem 6-foot-10 Nae'Qwan Tomlin was a force in the paint with 11 points and 7 rebounds.
Kansas State lost to rebounds 37-31 but made up for it by converting 11 of 24 outside the 3-point line and had 26 assists in 38 baskets.
AJ Hoggard leads Michigan State with 25 points and 6 assists. Joey Hauser scored 18, made 4 of 9 from beyond the line. Queens native Tyson Walker scored 16, made 4 of 7 from deep, and Jaden Akins 14.
After being picked last in the Big 12 Conference under Tang, first-year coach, Kansas State is one of two Big 12 teams remaining in the tournament. Texas, the No. 2 in the Midwest, meets No. 3 Xavier from Big East on Friday night in Kansas City, Mo.
Among the big names sitting on the sidelines are former NBA star Carmelo Anthony, Jets Coach Robert Saleh, a Michigan native and former Michigan State assistant; Phoenix Suns and Mercury own Mat Ishbia, a former Michigan State walk-on under Coach Tom Izzo, and former Spartan basketball stars Steve Smith and Mateen Cleaves.
Michigan State was the last Big Ten team left in the tournament after eight made a field of 68. Under Izzo, the Spartans were also the last Big Ten team to win a national championship, and that was in 2000, when Bill Clinton entered the White House.
Since then, the Atlantic Coast Conference has won eight national championships, the Big East six and the Southeastern Conference and Big 12 three each. Teams from the Top 12 have won the last two matches.
While the Big Ten drought will continue, another Big 12 team is moving forward.
UConn advanced to the last 8 for the first time since 2014.
They passed, circled, and sometimes passed their opponents. It's no secret. For those who draw Connecticut, it will be a dangerous rock fight on the blackboard.
Arkansas knows this. However, as the first round opened at the T-Mobile Arena in the last 16 of the NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament on Thursday, knowledge is not power. The Razorback is powerless.
UConn cruised to an 88-65 win to move into Saturday's exciting clash against the winner of the Gonzaga-UCLA game scheduled for later Thursday night. The Huskies had raced to an early 13-point lead while solidifying a 13-4 rebound advantage, led by 15 at the half (past the Hogs 22-9) and never looked back.
UConn dominated in its first run to the last 16 since 2014, when the Huskies won the national championship under former coach Kevin Ollie. With more showings like they did against Arkansas, the Huskies could be serious candidates to book another championship banner, which would be their fifth since 1999.
One of their main weapons is Donovan Clingan, a 7-foot-2 center whose strong play in his first season has helped turn many nights into parties for the Huskies. His coming off the bench midway through the first half came in a tight game with both teams jockeying for position. When he was substituted four minutes later after several dunks, rebounds and several directed Arkansas shots, UConn increased its lead from 15-13 to 28-17.
Neither Clingan's lead nor presence, each time he was brought into play, diminished for UConn.
By halftime – 46-29, UConn – the expressions on the Razorbacks' faces on the court ranged from exasperation to sheer bewilderment.
Thanks to their lead on the board, the Huskies shot 60 percent (17 of 28) in the first half. They are amassed 14-0 at one point.
Every burst deep into the tournament is impressive. But UConn's loss was no fluke: The Razorbacks are starting two players who are likely to be lottery picks in this year's NBA draft, new guard Nick Smith Jr. and Anthony Black. Two other starters — junior guard Ricky Council IV and new guard Jordan Walsh — are also projected to have strong NBA futures.
Razorbacks are long, lean and athletic, and they have six players with a wingspan of just over 7 feet.
“We are proud of the defense. Whoever it was, we felt we could go out there, shut them down and make sure they had a night off,” UConn senior guard Tristen Newton said before practice on Wednesday.
That defense, combined with UConn's outbound opponent average of over nine per game, ranking third in Division I, was enough to completely overwhelm the team that beat 1st seed Kansas 72-71 72-71.
It's not close.