NCAA Basketball

Losses by Arizona, Virginia throw South Region into chaos

(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

By STEVE MEGARGEE

AP Sports Writer

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) First Buffalo sent No. 4 seed Arizona packing. Then Maryland Baltimore County dispatched of No. 1 seed Virginia in the biggest surprise of all.

Consider the South Region officially up for grabs.

"Anybody could win it," Cincinnati guard Justin Jenifer said. "It could be us. It could be anybody else."

Four of the South's top six seeds have been eliminated, as No. 3 seed Tennessee fell 63-62 to 11th-seeded Loyola-Chicago on Saturday. Kentucky, the fifth seed, trounced Buffalo 95-75 in the South Region's other Saturday game.

The highest remaining South Region seed is Cincinnati, which earned the No. 2 seed and faces seventh-seeded Nevada (28-7) on Sunday. In Sunday's other South Region matchup, No. 9 seed Kansas State (23-11) meets 16th-seeded UMBC (25-10) in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Cincinnati (31-4) hasn't reached the regional semifinals since 2012 and has lost in the round of 32 two of the last three years. So the Bearcats certainly aren't taking this second-round matchup for granted as they chase their first Final Four berth since 1992.

"If you look past anything, you could fall short," Cincinnati forward Kyle Washington said. "And in this tournament, you don't get a second chance. So if we look past Nevada, that would be our first mistake before stepping on the court."

Virginia and Arizona already learned that lesson the hard way.

UMBC became the first men's No. 16 seed ever to beat a No. 1 seed Friday when it trounced Virginia 74-54 by racking up 53 second-half points against the nation's top scoring defense. Arizona had a potential No. 1 overall draft pick in Deandre Ayton but still got blown out 89-68 by Mid-American Conference champion and No. 13 seed Buffalo.

UMBC's stunner over Virginia was its first NCAA Tournament victory ever. Kansas State hasn't been to the Sweet 16 since making a regional final in 2010. Now one of them is heading to the regional semifinals.

"Beating the No. 1 seed and the No. 1 team is definitely a confidence builder," said UMBC guard Jairus Lyles, who scored 28 against Virginia. "But we also know this is the NCAA Tournament and we can easily go out there on Sunday and lose to the 9 seed, which people have probably picked us to do anyway. But we have to stay confident and make the adjustments from team to team."

Even so, this regional is most noteworthy at the moment for the No. 1 seed that's already gone.

Here are some things to watch in Sunday's South Region action:

STICKING UP FOR CAVS: Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin takes issue with the notion that Virginia's loss indicates that teams relying so heavily on defense aren't necessarily equipped for long NCAA Tournament runs.

Cincinnati ranks behind only Virginia in scoring defense. Cronin said anyone criticizing Virginia "ought to look at Pittsburgh," a reference to how that program has struggled since defense-oriented coach Jamie Dixon left for TCU.

"I'm going to start rooting for (Virginia coach) Tony Bennett now when he's not playing me every game," Cronin said. "I think it's just unfair. Do these people know he lost one of his best players (De'Andre Hunter) to injury? I think that's more important than the style of play. Let's give the other team some credit that played great against them."

NORTH CAROLINA STATE REUNION: North Carolina State is out of the NCAA Tournament after falling to Seton Hall on Thursday, but a few players with ties to that program will face off Sunday in Nashville.

Washington played with Nevada forwards Caleb Martin and Cody Martin on the 2014-15 North Carolina State team that reached the Sweet 16.

"When we first got to (N.C.) State, he was guiding us through everything with college," Caleb Martin said. "He was like my big brother. I was actually just talking to him a little bit ago. He knows that we're super close, but as soon as the clock starts and the ball gets tipped in the air, we can't be friends until afterward."

BROWN'S NEXT TEST: Kansas State's Barry Brown joined the rest of the country in watching portions of UMBC's upset of Virginia. Brown considered it a homework assignment as he tried to figure out a way to slow down Lyles.

"That's the guy I'm going to be guarding for most of the game," Brown said. "(I wanted to) see where he picks his spots and what he likes to do and how he likes to score and help his team win. I've been watching film on him since last night."

Brown already slowed down one potent scorer by holding Creighton's Marcus Foster to 5 points , less than one-quarter of his season average heading into the tournament. He can enhance his reputation as a defensive stopper by containing the guy who scored at will against Virginia's top-ranked defense.

ALMOST A BEARCAT: Nevada forward Jordan Caroline could have been on the other side of Sunday's matchup. Caroline said that when he decided to transfer from Southern Illinois, his three finalists were Cincinnati, Nevada and Xavier.

"They had a great coaching staff, but this was just a better fit for me, I felt personally," said Caroline, who averages 17.8 points and a team-high 8.7 rebounds for Nevada. "It was nothing against them."

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AP Sports Writer Steve Reed in Charlotte, North Carolina, contributed to this report.

Updated March 17, 2018

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