The Setup Kansas State and Xavier met in West Regional Sweet 16, and the winner would be in the driver’s seat to get to the Final Four with top-seeded Syracuse having been eliminated by #5 Butler. Xavier was in their first season under head coach Chris Mack, but they were making their ninth straight tournament appearance and third straight appearance in the Sweet 16. They weren’t a favorite to get there in 2010, but the Musketeers pulled an upset in the Round of 32 over #3 Pittsburgh to reach this game. Meanwhile, Kansas State could hardly match Xavier’s tournament experience, but the Wildcats had been the better team in 2010. They had only one tournament win since 1988, which was also the last time they had been in the Sweet 16. They had had no issues in getting there this time around, having beaten North Texas by 20 and BYU by 12.
How it went down For a while, it looked like the higher-ranked Wildcats may absolutely bury Xavier in the first half. Just over eight minutes into the game, Wally Judge tipped in a rebound, and Kansas State went up 19-4. However, Xavier ripped off an 8-0 run to make it a competitive game. Later in the half, the Musketeers repeated the feet to close within a point, and then they grabbed their first lead in the final minute on a free throw. Xavier led 32-31 at the half. Kansas State jumped back in the lead right at the start of the half, and they kept Xavier at bay for a long time, but the Musketeers never went away. Xavier crawled back into the lead at 59-58 with 5:31 to play, but they never extended their lead beyond the one-point advantage, and the Wildcats pushed back in front, 72-69 with 10 seconds left. Terrell Holloway of Xavier was fouled on a three-point attempt, and he calmly drained all three free throws to tie the game and send it to overtime. In a very competitive overtime, Xavier needed another late comeback to survive. After getting an initial layup to take their biggest lead of the game at two points, the Musketeers surrendered their advantage once more. With under ten seconds to go, Xavier found themselves down three again, but this time it was Jordan Crawford draining a game-tying triple with seven seconds left. For the second time, Kansas State saw a game-tying effort go off target. However, Xavier’s tightrope act could not continue for another overtime. They took a two-point lead twice, but they couldn’t sustain their desperate comeback efforts. Down 99-96, Xavier’s game-tying three was off the mark this time, and Kansas State drilled a pair of shots from the charity stripe to ice the result. It was Jacob Pullen who knocked down the game-winning three for the Wildcats with 35 seconds left.
The Aftermath Kansas State’s win made them the favorite in their Elite Eight matchup, but they were just another domino to fall in Butler’s Cinderella run to the national championship. Kansas State lost in five straight opening weekends after that, but in 2018, the Wildcats made a re-appearance in the Elite Eight, losing to another Cinderella story in Loyola-Chicago. Xavier continued to struggle to get past the Sweet 16, not doing so until 2017 as an 11-seed. The Musketeers welcomed in a new era with Travis Steele taking over as head coach upon the departure of Mack, and they were firmly on the bubble prior to the cancellation of March Madness.
NBA Notables (Teams they played 100+ games for) Xavier – Jordan Crawford (Wizards) Kansas State – None
The Setup A year after upsetting Xavier in the Round of 32 as a 2-seed, Wisconsin entered this Sweet 16 match-up as an 8-seed, fresh off of stunning the #1 overall seed and defending champs, Villanova. The Badgers once again had put forth an underwhelming regular season effort, but their postseason pedigree was flexing its muscles again in March, as the Badgers looked to get back to the Elite Eight against Florida. Meanwhile, the Gators were making their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2014, but Florida was looking for yet another deep run. The Gators had marched to the Elite Eight in their prior four March Madness showings, and in six of their past seven, going back to 2006. They had no issues in their first two outings in the NCAA Tournament, dropping Eastern Tennessee State by 15 and Virginia by 26 to move on to the Sweet 16.
How it went down The latter portions of this game were so breathtakingly exciting that we won’t hover too much over the early portions of the contest. Wisconsin got the early jump and led comfortably for much of the first half, taking their largest lead of 11 points at 24-13 with 8:12 to play in the half. Florida closed the gap to 29-22 and then ended the half on a 12-3 run to claim a 34-32 halftime advantage. Florida jumped out in front to start the second half, but as was the theme of the game ,Wisconsin fought back, edging back in front at 53-52. However, the Gators ripped off a 16-3 run to seemingly seize control of the game, leading 68-56 with 5:24 to play. Although Florida couldn’t hit a shot for the rest of regulation, making only four free throws, the Badgers took a long time cutting into the Gators’ lead. With 1:44 to play, Florida still led 72-64. Bronson Koenig – hero of the Xavier game a year ago – knocked down a triple, and Ethan Happ made a layup to bring Wisconsin within three points with 44 seconds left. Wisconsin forced a turnover and got the ball back with 18 seconds to play, but they were forced to call a timeout with six ticks remaining on the clock. It worked out for the Badgers, who inbounded to Zak Showalter who banged home a game-tying three with 2.1 seconds left, forcing overtime. Florida’s offensive drought continued into overtime, where they made just one free throw in the first 3:26 seconds, making it 8 minutes and 50 seconds of game time between field goals. Eventually, down 80-75 with a minute to play, the Gators kicked it into high gear. Kevaughn Allen drove down the lane for an easy layup, and then after Wisconsin free throw, Canyon Barry drained a pair of shots from the charity stripe to bring Florida within two points. Barry raced back down the court and blocked a layup attempt, leading to Florida’s game-tying layup with 24 seconds to play. Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes drove and got fouled with four seconds left, sinking both free throws. Florida needed to go the full length of the court, but that’s what they did, inbounding to Chris Chiozza, who raced up the court and somehow got somewhat free for an off-balance three from the top of the key. The shot was money, as it swished cleanly through, handing Florida an absolutely thrilling 84-83 overtime victory, sending the Gators on to the Elite Eight.
The Aftermath Florida’s exhilarating buzzer-beater was the peak of their tournament, as the Gators could not trump two straight Cinderella squads. In the Elite Eight, they fell to SEC foe and seventh-seeded South Carolina by a final score of 77-70. Florida has been back in the tournament both years since this game, but they exited in the Round of 32 both times. This loss officially ended the glory years of Wisconsin. They made at least the Sweet 16 in four straight years and six of seven, including two runs to the Final Four. They had made two consecutive inspired underdog runs, but the Badgers’ magic ended in 2018, when they failed to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. They made in back in 2019, but they were served an unceremonious exit in the Round of 64.
This Day in March Madness History March 19, 1999 Gonzaga vs. Florida
The Setup Gonzaga was making just their second NCAA Tournament appearance in program history, and they’d already experienced far more success than their initial run. Their first tournament ended in the Round of 64, and, handed a 10-seed, it didn’t seem that Gonzaga was destined to go much further than that in 1999. The Bulldogs notched their first NCAA Tournament win by surprising Minnesota in the first round, but they captured the nation’s attention when they stunned second-seeded Stanford in the Round of 32, topping the Cardinal by a score of 82-74. Florida was making their first tournament appearance since 1995, and they had secured their first tournament win since 1994, when they made the Final Four. As the sixth seed in the region, the Gators handled #11 Pennsylvania in the opening round, and they were the beneficiary of #14 Weber State shocking third-seeded North Carolina. Florida had few issues with Weber State and advanced to the Sweet 16.
How it went down Gonzaga appeared to be one of the few teams that could match and even exceed Florida’s depth. Florida got at least 15 minutes of playing time from eight different players, but Gonzaga saw nine players play at least ten minutes, while ten different players scored. Richie Frahm led the offensive attack with a 5-8 shooting performance from beyond the arc, leading him to 17 points on the night. The Bulldogs jumped out to a 26-13 lead, and they led throughout the half, but they allowed Florida to climb back within a point at 35-34 at halftime. Although Florida rarely led, they stayed right with Gonzaga, and they occasionally surged into the lead on the strength of 6’9 Greg Stolt, who was a force both inside and outside the arc. It was one of Stolt’s four three-pointers that gifted the Gators a 59-58 lead with a little over six minutes to play. With 45 seconds to play, he snapped a 69-69 tie with another triple, but it was the last time Florida scored. After a Gonzaga layup, Florida would travel, giving the Bulldogs a chance to win it. Quentin Hall put up a runner in the lane with six seconds left and it bounced off the back rim. However, Casey Calvary got up over everyone, sprinting in to leap and tip in the rebound with 4.4 seconds to go. Florida charged down the court, and their attempt at a game-winner from the right shoulder clanged off the rim. As the play-by-play announcer screamed: “GONZAGA. The slipper still fits!”
The Aftermath Gonzaga’s slipper did shatter in the Elite Eight, as they lost to the region’s top seed in Connecticut, which went on to claim its first national title. Gonzaga has not missed an NCAA tournament since their Cinderella run, but they did not make it back to the Elite Eight until 2015. Florida actually did exceed their 1999 success very quickly, making the national championship the following season, and eventually winning back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007.
NBA Notables (teams they played 100+ games with) Gonzaga – Richie Frahm (5 teams, 5 years) Florida – Mike Miller (Grizzlies, Magic, Heat), Udonis Haslem (Heat, 2004-Present)