What we learned: Duke glides into Sweet 16 behind its youth


Though the first day of the second round of the 2024 men’s NCAA tournament featured victories by every favored team, the second day might present some upset opportunities.

Just ask 2-seed Marquette, which had to battle 10-seed Colorado until the final seconds of an 81-77 win.

Duke will face a James Madison squad that has multiple wins over major-conference teams this season. Purdue, though, had no trouble getting a win over Utah State, the Mountain West champion, to advance to the Sweet 16 for the fifth time since 2017.

Sunday’s slate looks riper for chaos than Saturday’s schedule. Stay tuned.

Scroll to read our breakdown of every game of the second day of the men’s round of 32. Find our takeaways to the first day here. Check your bracket here.

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Is Purdue built for a deep run? The Boilermakers are more than center Zach Edey. Sure, Edey had a monstrous opening weekend and another 20-point, 10-rebound performance Sunday. But Purdue also knocked down a ton of shots from behind the arc. Purdue was 11-of-23 on its 3-point shooting. Myles Colvin hit three 3s coming off the bench and guards Fletcher Loyer, Braden Smith and Lance Jones each had at least one 3-pointer, including the one Jones banked in right before halftime. That kind of shooting will keep teams honest as they try to figure out how to stop Edey, who has been as dominant as advertised.

What the win means for Purdue: On Sunday, the Boilermakers confirmed what they had been saying all weekend in Indianapolis. This is indeed a better team than last year’s group that lost in the first round as a No. 1 seed. Purdue thoroughly dominated a Utah State team that thumped TCU in the first round. Now, the Boilermakers will advance to the Sweet 16 and face a tough fifth-seeded Gonzaga team in Detroit.

What the loss means for the Utah State Aggies: On Saturday, Purdue coach Matt Painter praised first-year Utah State coach Danny Sprinkle for his team’s communication. Painter initially called Sprinkle one of the best young coaches in the game before removing the age qualifier. The consensus appears to be that Utah State’s program is in good hands with the 47-year-old after winning its first NCAA tournament game in 23 years. — Ben Baby

Sprinkle’s next job will be …: Though the final game of the season won’t be remembered fondly, Sprinkle produced an incredible first-year coaching performance at Utah State. The Aggies didn’t return a single point per game from last season, but Sprinkle led them to their first Mountain West regular-season title in program history and then their first NCAA tournament win since 2001. This was Sprinkle’s third consecutive trip to the Big Dance, after he went back-to-back with Montana State. But it’s likely to be only a one-year layover in Logan for Sprinkle. He has been strongly linked to the vacancy at Washington, although athletic director Troy Dannen departing for Nebraska could leave the door open. If Sprinkle does leave, can Utah State strike gold again with its next coaching hire? The Aggies’ past three hires were Craig Smith, Ryan Odom and Sprinkle — who all led the program to the NCAA tournament very quickly and were pursued by bigger schools almost immediately. — Jeff Borzello

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Is Tyler Kolek the best guard in the country? Perhaps. When Marquette needed a spark in the second half, it went to Kolek every time. As Colorado clawed back from an 11-point halftime deficit and forced the Golden Eagles to take the lead back, Kolek assisted or scored on nearly every trip down the floor. He finished with 21 points and 11 assists, his second double-double in as many games this weekend. If Kolek is scoring and creating at this level, Marquette will be in every game for the rest of the tournament.

What the win means for Marquette: The Golden Eagles are headed to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2013. For the second straight year, Marquette was a 2-seed in the tournament. This time, however, coach Shaka Smart’s team avoided being bounced during the first weekend. Marquette will face 11-seed NC State in the Dallas Regional and will try to cool off the Wolfpack, who went on a run to win the ACC tournament and are now trying to be the latest double-digit seed to wreak havoc on the bracket.

What the loss means for Colorado: The Buffaloes were a few buckets away from reaching the Sweet 16 for the first time in the modern era. Freshman Cody Williams, who battled injuries all year, is likely headed to the NBA as a potential lottery pick. But if KJ Simpson returns for another season, Colorado will have an important player for a potential tourney run in 2025. — Ben Baby

Marquette’s guards give them a chance to get to Phoenix: There might not be a pair of guards in the country playing better than Kolek and Kam Jones. Jones has been on an incredible offensive run over the past month, averaging 23.8 points and shooting 52.2% from 3-point range in his past 10 games — including three 30-point outings. In the first half Sunday, he scored 16 points in 14 minutes before foul trouble forced him to the bench. But that simply allowed Kolek to take over. His second half was a masterclass in manipulating the defense, getting to his spots and constantly finding ways to use his left hand for finishes in the lane.

The six games Kolek sat because of an oblique injury have been hugely beneficial; he’s averaging 19.5 points and 11.0 assists in his two NCAA tournament games. If Kolek and Jones continue playing like this, they can get Marquette to its first Final Four since Tom Crean and Dwyane Wade managed the feat in 2003. A Kolek vs. Jamal Shead battle in the Elite Eight would be a matchup between the two best point guards in the country. — Borzello



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