BracketRacket: Sweet 16 set, Florida Gulf Coast (Dunk City), Craft's shot, NASCAR's Sadler
Welcome back to BracketRacket, the one-stop shop for all your NCAA tournament needs.
Today, we see what happens when Ohio State hits a buzzer beater, ride shotgun with NASCAR driver Elliott Sadler and see why the cool kids are referring to Fort Myers, Fla., as "Dunk City."
But first, let's acquaint ourselves with the Sweet 16, shall we?
REGIONAL SEMIS SET
On a day that boasted several close-but-not-quite upset threats, Florida Gulf Coast (aka. Dunk City or Florida Dunk Coast) bucked things with a 10-point win over San Diego State to become the first No. 15 seed ever in the Sweet 16. Indiana and Ohio State beat even lower seeded teams Sunday — and had much more stressful games.
"These guys are rock stars," TBS announcer Len Elmore said as a few Eagles players walked up into the stands at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia to nab some seats during the first half of the Creighton-Duke game.
Of the 8.15 million brackets filled out on ESPN.com, just under 1 percent — about 77,000 — had Florida Gulf Coast making the Sweet 16.
Fewer than 3,000 have them winning the title.
They'll join No. 12 seed Oregon and 13th-seeded La Salle as the lowest seeded teams in the Sweet 16. Also in: top seeds Louisville, Kansas and Indiana, along with Duke, Ohio State, Michigan State, Wichita State, Arizona, Marquette, Miami, Syracuse, Florida and Michigan.
Fans, meet Aaron Craft, the bracket-buster buster.
Minutes after Craft hit a game-winning 3-pointer over a 6-foot-7 defender to send Ohio State to the Sweet 16, the AP's Tom Withers saw the guard walking up the short ramp to a news conference area. Before he went in, Craft paused and said something just a little bit too rude for print here that showed even he was surprised by the ending.
Much of America agreed, buzzing about Craft enough to quickly make him a worldwide trending topic on Twitter, even though he told Withers he doesn't have an account.
That'll be disappointing for the 1,200 fans who clicked to follow a phony Craft handle in the three hours following the game.
Ohio State is the only top-5 seed left in the wacky West Region, where Gonzaga, New Mexico, Kansas State and Wisconsin have all lost in the first weekend.
As for the shot itself, Craft said the play was originally meant for Deshaun Thomas but Craft audibled because Iowa State changed defenders.
"Just made a read. If they wouldn't have switched, probably would have been a different play," Craft said. "The shot I took right before that felt pretty good. I thought I could make the next one, and was able to do so."
If you missed the play, here's the highlight: http://bit.ly/105BhHi
Note Craft waving off Thomas to seize the moment himself.
OH, THE AGONY
Each joyful moment in the NCAA tournament brings anguish to someone on the other side.
USA Today Sports is pulling together a photo gallery of those reactions, aptly titled "March Sadness." See it here: http://usat.ly/XyYZvu
CELEB ALUM: ELLIOTT SADLER
What's the best way to follow up a $29,000 racing payday? For NASCAR driver Elliott Sadler, it's apparently a Sunday partially spent watching basketball and getting a haircut.
Sadler — a 37-year-old racer who earned a basketball scholarship at James Madison but got hurt before he could play — placed seventh on Saturday at the Royal Purple 300, a Nationwide Series race in Fontana, Calif.
And even with busy preparations, Sadler said he still tried to catch some of the tournament.
"I definitely tried to watch as many games as I could this weekend, even being at the race track. In between practices and events at the track, I stayed in our team's hauler to catch the latest games," Sadler said.
Sadler, who's in a bracket challenge on ESPN with his fans, said his predictions are still in OK shape since he picked Louisville, Florida, New Mexico and Miami to make the Final Four. Only New Mexico is gone.
He thinks Louisville has the best shot to win it all because of good guards, strong perimeter defense and a tough schedule.
But he says the unexpected wins are what make the tournament special.
"My favorite part is that it is an even playing field," Sadler said. "It gives the underdogs, the Florida Gulf Coasts of the world, the chance to get their time in the spotlight."
Gotta be handy with the song covers if you want your parody video to go viral.
Making the YouTube rounds is a Florida Gulf Coast fan's reimagining of Tyga's "Rack City." The 15-seed's hoops version? Dunk City. See it here: http://youtu.be/7MWGx0x25yo
The new song includes this poetic verse: "Smashing those brackets should be illegal."
A little obvious, but definitely more effort than a Harlem Shake.
And for the inevitable Sweet 16 remix after the win over San Diego State, there's plenty of highlight B-roll to choose from, including Chase Fieler's drive and dunk over Stephens (http://bit.ly/ZiAWDJ), one of two alley-oops to Eric McKnight within a minute (http://bit.ly/13p8HbL) and Bernard Thompson's celebration throw-down in the game's final two minutes (http://bit.ly/Zm4RYk).
Vanderbilt's women's basketball team doesn't have a big celebrity following, but being in Nashville there is the occasional sighting.
Coach Melanie Balcomb tells the AP's Pat Eaton-Robb that country star Vince Gill created quite a distraction at one game when he took a seat behind the bench.
Yes, that Vince Gill, who got a star last year on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, has sold millions of albums and won 18 Country Music Association awards, including a five-year run as male vocalist of the year in the early '90s.
"We're all whispering going, 'That's Vince Gill. No it's not. It's Vince Gill, it's Vince Gill," Balcomb said.
Balcomb said there was one person on the bench, a graduate assistant from New York, who didn't understand all the fuss. She eventually screamed out: "Who is Vince Gill?"
"And that's when everything got really quiet," said Balcomb. "And, I was like, 'Oh my God, he heard it. It was the worst thing."
Vanderbilt can expect to get a few more followers if the Commodores can pull off an upset Monday in the second round against top seed Connecticut.
STAT OF THE DAY
A lot of talk flowed over the weekend about the Big Ten having four schools in the Sweet 16, but a pair of Big Ten teams were defeated by Florida schools on Sunday night in Austin. With Florida and Miami advancing along with Florida Gulf Coast, it's the first time three schools from the Sunshine State have reached the regional semifinals.
Florida and Florida Gulf Coast play each other in the next round.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"Chico, please." — TV personality and former NBA star Charles Barkley, to cap a CBS postgame argument about foul calls in Ohio State-Iowa State with fellow analyst Kenny Smith. A few minutes later, the phrase became a trending topic worldwide on Twitter.
Oskar Garcia is a news editor for The Associated Press in Honolulu. Write to him at ogarcia(at)ap.org and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/oskargarcia
Duke 66, Creighton 50
Ohio State 78, Iowa State 75
La Salle 76, Mississippi 74
Kansas 70, North Carolina 58
Florida 78, Minnesota 64
Florida Gulf Coast 81, San Diego State 71
Indiana 58, Temple 52
Miami 63, Illinois 59