Buffalo, N.Y. — When the season ended suddenly and shockingly, much earlier than Villanova expected, Kris Jenkins bent over in disbelief near mid-court.
There would be no game-winning shot, no confetti-filled celebration, no more games. The defending champions — and No. 1 overall seed — are done.
After two relatively routine days, madness returned to the NCAA Tournament on Saturday as top-seeded Villanova was bounced from the brackets and the East region 65-62 by No. 8 seed Wisconsin, which added another major upset to its resume and stormed into the Sweet 16 for the fourth consecutive year.
Nigel Hayes scored 19 points, dropping a layup in traffic with 11.4 seconds left, and Bronson Koenig shook off foul trouble and added 17 for the tournament-toughened Badgers (27-9), who will play next week at New York’s Madison Square Garden after knocking off a Villanova team that never found its traction in snowy Buffalo.
“Seeds don’t matter,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said. “I told these guys I don’t care where we’re seeded. We have to win six games. Let’s start with these two this weekend.”
Senior Josh Hart scored 19 to lead the Wildcats, but the guard was bottled up and stripped by Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ and Vitto Brown on a drive in the final seconds. Brown then split two free throws with 4 seconds left, but Villanova struggled to corral the rebound and then couldn’t get off a final shot.
It was a bitter ending for the Wildcats, who were trying to be the first team to repeat as champions since 2007. But starting with an unimpressive performance against No. 16 Mount St. Mary’s in its opener on Thursday, Villanova looked vulnerable and instead became the first No. 1 seed to be sent home.
“To me, there’s no dishonor in losing in this tournament,” said coach Jay Wright, whose team lost as a No. 2 in Buffalo three years ago. “We’ve lived through it. You are judged by how you play in this tournament and that’s the reality of it. So, you have to accept it.”
When the horn sounded, Wisconsin’s red-clad fans erupted in celebration and the Badgers stormed the court after taking down a No. 1 seed for the third time in four years. Wisconsin beat Arizona in 2014, Kentucky in 2015 and now can add Villanova to its list.
Flushed with pride, Gard hugged his wife and children as the Badgers’ pep band played their hearts out. A few minutes later, Wisconsin’s players doused each other with water and tore a few signs off the walls in KeyBank Center for souvenirs.
Hayes has been part of all those previous upsets by Wisconsin.
“All of those games we’ve been the underdog,” he said. “You have all types of ranking systems, statistics. The thing with all those algorithms is they can’t calculate heart, will to win, toughness, desire. And that’s the thing we have.”
Villanova came into the NCAAs on a roll after winning the Big East Tournament and was expected to at least escape the East but had their hopes busted and will have to relish those moments from last year when they won their first title since 1985.
Wright was concerned about Wisconsin, calling them a “great number eight” seed and compared them to Butler, which beat Villanova twice during the season. As it turned out, the Badgers were more than that, as savvy seniors Koenig and Hayes made several key plays in the closing minutes as Wisconsin overcame a 57-50 deficit.
Super sub freshman Donte DiVincenzo scored 15 and Jalen Brunson added 11 for Villanova. But the Wildcats got little from Jenkins, the hero of last year’s title game when he drained a 3-pointer to beat North Carolina. Jenkins couldn’t shake a prolonged shooting slump and went just 2 of 9 and 4 of 22 in two games.
Jenkins and fellow seniors Hart and Darryl Reynolds finish their career 129-17 in four years, but the sting of their last loss might linger.
“We’re close on and off the court and that bond is never going to be broken,” Hart said.
More East Ragion
Florida 65, Virginia 39: Devin Robinson had 14 points and 11 rebounds, the fifth double-double of his career, and No. 4 seed Florida handled fifth-seeded Virginia 65-39 Saturday night in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Justin Leon added 14 points and nine boards for the Gators (26-8), who advanced to the Sweet 16 for the 11th time in school history and fifth in the last seven years. They will play No. 8 seed Wisconsin in the East Region in New York City on Friday.
They can thank stingy defense and a ridiculous run spanning halftime for this trip to Madison Square Garden.
Florida held Virginia (23-11) to a season-low 17 points in the first half and 30.2 percent shooting on the night. The turning point came late in the first half, when the Gators started a 21-0 run that was their most lopsided of the season.
Gonzaga 79, Northwestern 73: Top-seeded Gonzaga fought off a wild Northwestern comeback for a 79-73 victory Saturday night with help from an untimely technical foul on Wildcats coach Chris Collins.
Northwestern trimmed a 22-point deficit to five and had the ball when Gonzaga’s Zach Collins reached up through the basket to reject Dererk Pardon’s shot with 4:54 left.
There was no call, and Collins, jawing with the officials all day, ran onto the court and was slapped with a technical foul.
Nigel Williams-Goss made both free throws, and eighth-seeded Northwestern (24-12), in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history, never got closer.
Williams-Goss led the Zags (34-1) with 20 points, eight rebounds and four assists, while Collins and Jordan Mathews had 14 points each.
Bryant McIntosh, who hit the go-ahead free throws in Northwestern’s opening-round win, had 20 for the Wildcats and Vic Law had 18.
West Virginia 83, Notre Dame 71: Jevon Carter scored 24 points, and West Virginia is headed to the Sweet 16 for the third time since 2010 following a 83-71 win over Notre Dame.
Tarik Phillip added 12 points and Esa Ahmad had nine rebounds for the Mountaineers (28-8), the West region’s fourth-seeded team.
Notre Dame’s Bonzie Colson hit 10 of 15 shots, scored 27 points and had eight rebounds. The fifth-seeded Fighting Irish (26-10) were stopped from making their third consecutive Sweet 16 appearance after entering the tournament as the only school to reach each of the past two Elite Eight rounds.
Carter ended the game by bouncing the ball untouched atop the Fighting Irish key and then slamming it emphatically to the court as the final buzzer sounded, ending a matchup of former Big East rivals.
Xavier 91, Florida State 66: Trevon Bluiett scored 29 points and Kaiser Gates came off the bench to contribute 14 as the 11 seed Xavier pulled off its second upset of the NCAA Tournament with a 91-66 victory over third-seeded Florida State during Saturday’s second round.
The Musketeers (23-13) advance to the West Region semifinal marking the second time in two years and the eighth time in program history they have made it to the Sweet 16. The Seminoles, the ACC runners-up, end their season at 26-9.
Florida State was the bigger program from a power conference, but Xavier came in as a tournament tested team and it showed. The Musketeers dominated the bigger and more athletic Seminoles inside and then put the game out of reach with their superior 3-point shooting.
Arizona 69, St. Mary’s 60: Lauri Markkanen and Allonzo Trier combined for 30 points and No. 2-seeded Arizona rallied to defeat No. 7 Saint Mary’s 69-60 and advance to the West Regional’s Sweet Sixteen on Saturday night.
The Wildcats were on the ropes in the first half, but found life in the second half to pull away for the win.
The teams went back and forth in the second 20 minutes until Arizona went on an 11-2 run sparked by Trier, who took over the second half. He scored nine of those 11 points during the stretch with a dribble-drive layup, midrange jumpers and a 3-pointer. The run gave the Wildcats a 55-48 lead and Saint Mary’s never led again.
Arizona shot 59.1 percent from the field in the second half.
Markkanen finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds while Trier scored 14.
Jock Landale battled with Markkanen throughout and had his 17th double-double of the season with 19 points and 11 rebounds for the Gaels. Teammate Calvin Hermanson added 14 points.
Purdue 80, Iowa State 76: Caleb Swanigan had 20 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists, and Purdue reached the Sweet 16 for the first time in seven years with a wild 80-76 victory over Iowa State on Saturday night.
The Cyclones erased a 19-point deficit in the second half, taking their first lead of the game on Deonte Burton’s two free throws with 3:11 left. But P.J. Thompson responded with a critical 3-pointer for the Boilermakers, and Swanigan made several huge plays in the final minutes.
After Dakota Mathias missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 11 seconds left and Purdue clinging to a 78-76 lead, Swanigan tracked down the rebound to set up Thompson’s free throws with 7 seconds remaining. Monte Morris missed a 3 on the other end, and time ran out for Iowa State.
Vince Edwards had 21 points and 10 rebounds for Purdue (27-7), and Isaac Haas finished with 14 points.
Butler 74, Middle Tennessee State 65: Kelan Martin scored 19 points, and Butler limited Middle Tennessee’s athletic scorers with smothering defense in a 74-65 victory Saturday night to advance to the NCAA Tournament regional semifinals.
The Bulldogs (25-8) are going to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2011, when they wrapped up back-to-back appearances in the national title game.
Andrew Chrabascz added 15 points for fourth-seeded Butler, including a 3 with 3:25 left that snapped a 7-0 run for Middle Tennessee to get the lead back to 62-56.
The senior forward played an even more important role in leading a sterling defensive effort for the Bulldogs.
Conference USA player of the year JaCorey Williams finished with 20 points, but had to work hard for nearly every bucket for No. 12 seed Middle Tennessee (31-5).
Giddy Potts, who averaged nearly 16 points a game this year, was held scoreless, going 0 of 8 from the field.