When Loyola Chicago pulled off an early-season upset of the Florida Gators, I'm not sure they envisioned getting this far in the season. Either way, here they are, now entering their first Elite Eight since 1963, when they won the National Championship. They got there with a close 69-68 win over seventh-seeded Nevada on Thursday night, pulling off their third straight upset victory. Marques Townes had the clutch three-pointer with 6.3 seconds left that kept the 11th-seeded Ramblers ahead for good, as they shot 55 percent from the floor in the win. Townes finished the night with 18 points on 6-of-10 shooting to lead his team after scoring a combined 15 points in the first two tournament games. Townes' late three-pointer was enough, as Caleb Martin's response from beyond the arc for Nevada in the final seconds was too little too late. Martin did lead the Wolf Pack with 21 points, while Jordan Carolina added 19, and Cody Martin finished with 16 in a losing effort. Loyola trailed by as many as 12 early on in the first half, but stormed back to lead by four at halftime, and the led for the entirety of the second half. They will now move on to the Elite Eight on Saturday night, looking to get to their first Final Four in 55 years.
Florida State, Kansas State Earn Sweet 16 Wins
Two other teams moved on with upset victories on Thursday night in the Sweet 16, beginning with the Florida State Seminoles, who took down fourth-seeded Gonzaga, 75-60. The win gives them their first Elite Eight appearance since 1993, as they were led by Terrance Mann's 18 points, as he was their only player to score in double digits. The Seminoles' upset win snapped the Bulldogs' 16-game win streak, as they will now look to reach their first Final Four since 1972. The Zags hand't lost since January 18th, but could not keep that streak alive despite 16 points from Rui Hachimura and 14 form Zach Norvell Jr. Elsewhere, the Kansas State Wildcats punched their ticket to the Elite Eight with a 61-58 win over the Kentucky Wildcats. Xavier Sneed had 22 points to lead K-State, who struggled overall from the floor, but did shoot 40 percent from beyond the arc. Barry Brown Jr. had a clutch basket late to give his team a two-point lead with 18 seconds remaining, which was enough, as Kentucky would not score the rest of the way. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had a chance to tie it late, but his shot rimmed off in what was Kentucky's final shot to avoid an upset. Now, Kansas State moves on to what will be the first 9-11 matchup in Elite Eight history when they take on Loyola Chicago on Saturday. The other nine-seed, Florida State, will also be in action on Saturday against a team that rolled on Thursday night.
Michigan Cruises to the Elite Eight
One team that avoided an upset with ease in the Sweet 16 on Thursday night was the third-seeded Michigan Wolverines, who crushed seventh-seeded Texas A&M, 99-72, in Los Angeles. The Wolverines got going quick, needing just five minutes to jump out to a 15-point lead, and never looked back from there. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman had 24 points to lead the way for Michigan, who shot 61 percent from the floor. Moe Wagner added 21 points and Charles Matthews scored 18, as the Wolverines finished with five players in double figures. Abdur-Rahkman also recorded five rebounds and seven assists, while also making four three-pointers and both of his free throws. Wagner was even more efficient, going a perfect five-for-five from three-point range. The seventh-seeded Aggies could not put together a good stretch the entire game and trailed by a score of 52-28 at halftime. They were lead by Tyler Davis's 24 points in the loss less than a week after upsetting the North Carolina Tar Heels by 21 points. The Wolverines are now entering their third Elite Eight in the past six years, as they look to enter the Final Four when they battle the ninth-seeded Florida State Seminoles on Saturday night.