While seven double-digit seeds busted brackets elsewhere, every higher seed in San Antonio has so far survived: Baylor and Creighton advanced in the West Regional to Sunday, when North Carolina and Iowa State will face off in the East.
Yet the second round at the AT&T Center was no snooze: the Tar Heels barely squeaked past No. 11 seed Providence and Louisiana Lafayette put a scare into third-seeded Creighton. Baylor beat 11th-seeded Nebraska, but only after officials tossed Big Ten coach of the year Tim Miles over a shot clock error they later acknowledged.
Even Iowa State's clobbering of North Carolina Central came at a price: the Cyclones will play the rest of this tournament without forward Georges Niang, who broke his right foot while scoring 24 points in a 93-75 victory Friday night.
"This doesn't change anything with this team," Niang said. "I still have a positive outlook on this season. I still believe in our guys."
The injury leaves the third-seed Cyclones without a key player in one the most balanced offenses in the country when they play North Carolina. Plenty of scoring options remain: four other players scored in double figures for the Cyclones as Iowa State (27-7) turned what had been a close game early into a rout.
Niang broke the bone taking a charge in the second half.
"You can't sit here and cry about it. Hopefully we've got a lot of basketball left to play, and we're going to have to play some different lineups," Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said. "We'll have to play big. We'll have to play small, but we'll determine all of that here in the next couple days."
The Tar Heels needed two free throws from James Michael McAdoo in the final 3.5 seconds to beat pesky Providence—and avert an early ouster like rival Duke.
The Blue Devils had lost to 14th-seeded Mercer hours earlier Friday, leaving the Tar Heels loathe to wind up as another NCAA blue blood sent packing by a smaller school. Had North Carolina (24-9) lost, it would've been it the first time since 1979 the Tar Heels and Duke lost on the same day of the NCAA tournament.
That meant high stakes as McAdoo waited to shoot his free throws, and coach Roy Williams wanted to ease the pressure on his big man. So he told him a story: about the time Williams said he won $55,000 for a charity by sinking a golf putt.
"I said two free throws, that's easy compared to making a putt for $55,000," Williams said. "So I was basically trying to get him to stop thinking about it so much."
Baylor (25-11) enters the weekend surging after beating Nebraska for its 11th victory in 13 games. The Cornhuskers played the final 11 minutes without their coach after officials ejected Miles, who was hit with a second technical while trying to point out the shot clock hadn't started.
Miles had gotten his first technical two minutes earlier after Terran Pettaway, Nebraska's leading scorer, picked up his fourth foul. In a statement after the game, referee Karl Hess acknowledged the shot clock oversight, but didn't suggest any mistake in hitting Miles with another technical.
"I'm thinking, 'That's a correctible error.' That is something we can go correct, and the official came over and T'd me up," Miles said.
Nebraskans at least got one of their schools to move on. Doug McDermott scored 30 points and Ethan Wragge made three huge momentum-changing shots in the second half, sending Creighton to a tough 76-66 win over Louisiana-Lafayette.
"We got away with one today," McDermott said.
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