The Round of 32 of the 2023 NCAA Tournament tipped off on Saturday and fans got to enjoy three Big Ten teams in action. Unfortunately, it was a rough showing for the league yet again.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
-No. 2 Texas Longhorns 71, No. 10 Penn State Nittany Lions 66
It’s been quite a run for Penn State. After more than a decade of missing the NCAA Tournament, Penn State entered this year’s Big Ten Tournament on the verge of securing a bid. The Nittany Lions then roared out of the gate, knocking off three NCAA teams before falling short against Purdue in the championship game. Penn State then picked it up again as the Big Dance started, besting Texas A&M on Thursday.
Unfortunately, that momentum fell short on Saturday night. While Penn State withstood multiple pushes from Texas, the team couldn’t do enough in the closing minutes to grab the win. Dylan Disu was Penn State’s primary issue in the game, as the talented forward finished with an impressive 28 points and 10 rebounds in the win. Jalen Pickett was held to just 11 points and a 63 offensive rating in the loss.
Penn State fell to 23-14 overall with the loss and concludes a highly successful campaign under Micah Shrewsberry. It just his second season at the helm, he snapped Penn State’s NCAA Tournament drought and finished with the program’s highest win total since 2018. It was a massive rebound for a program in the droughts of college basketball.
The question now is whether Shrewsberry will remain at Penn State or move on elsewhere. He’s attracting serious attention from some major names and will have some tough decisions to make in the coming weeks. Penn State is reportedly prepared to offer him a large extension. We’ll have to wait and see what Shresberry decides. His decision will obviously have a huge impact on what Penn State’s roster looks like next season as well.
-No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide 73, No. 8 Maryland Terrapins 51
The Terps had an impressive win on Thursday, knocking off West Virginia in a hard fought contest. Unfortunately, Alabama proved to be too much on Saturday, as Maryland fell by double-digits to the loaded Crimson Tide. Maryland’s vaunted defense allowed Alabama to score 1.09 points per possession and Jahvon Quinerly finished with 22 points.
Maryland fell to 22-13 overall and wraps up a positive season. While the Terps certainly hoped for more out of the NCAA Tournament, it’s hard to complain about a Round of 32 appearance for a coach’s first season, which is what happened here. Kevin Willard reestablished Maryland as a relevant program nationally. His goal for next year needs to be raising the bar and competing for a Big Ten title and a top seed in March.
The team’s roster will be particularly interesting to watch this offseason. The Terps started four “seniors” and relied on another as one of their top bench options. Of course, with the current status of eligibility nationally, that doesn’t mean much and Maryland will certainly be active in the transfer portal yet again. Except a lot of new faces.
-No. 2 UCLA Bruins 68, No. 7 Northwestern Wildcats 63
For the second time in program history, Northwestern not only earned an NCAA bid, but advanced to the Round of 32. Unfortunately, the Wildcats couldn’t advance further than that, falling short against UCLA on Saturday night. The game was quite competitive. Northwestern just didn’t have enough to overcome a few early missteps. Boo Buie led the way for the Wildcats in the losing effort, finishing with 18 points.
Northwestern fell to 22-12 overall with the loss. Like Penn State, this was an immensely successful season in Evanston. The Wildcats entered the season with middling expectations and Chris Collins on the hot seat and overcome those challenges to earn an NCAA bid, a top seed in the Big Ten Tournament, and a trip to the Round of 32. It’ll easily go down as one of the best seasons in program history.
The focus of this offseason will be on the transfer portal and what Collins does to replace what’s expected to be a mass exodus this spring. Northwestern started three “seniors” and had another in its heavy rotation. We’ll see how things shake out, but the Wildcats are expected to look significantly different next season.