Ugly Sweet 16 game a beautiful win for Oregon State over Loyola Chicago in men’s NCAA Tournament

It’s been a record year for religiously affiliated schools in the men’s basketball tournament

The success of religious schools in men's college basketball has roots going back to the early days of the NCAA Tournament.

From the late 1940s through the early 1960s, Holy Cross, La Salle, San Francisco and Loyola Chicago all won national titles. In the 1970s, Marquette was a power and won the championship in 1975. Georgetown, Villanova and St. John's became elite programs in the 1980s and each made the Final Four in 1985. The former two won titles in consecutive seasons in 1984 and '85.

At the turn of the century, Gonzaga rose to national prominence. Villanova emerged again under Jay Wright a decade later and has won two of the past four championships.

However, no year has seen this much representation from religiously affiliated schools in the Sweet 16. Six schools are still alive — Baylor, Creighton, Gonzaga, Loyola Chicago, Oral Roberts and Villanova — which is more than any regional semifinals since the tournament expanded in 1984.

OPINION:  Oral Roberts dances way into Sweet 16

ORAL ROBERTS:  Meet the team and school

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No. 1 UConn outduels No. 5 Iowa in battle of freshmen phenoms to advance to women’s Elite 8

Connecticut is back in the Elite 8 for its 15th consecutive appearance after rolling past Iowa Saturday, 92-72, in the 2021 NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament. 

UConn's Paige Bueckers, a front-runner for national player of the year as a freshman, and Iowa freshman Cailtin Clark, the NCAA Division I scoring leader, were poised to steal the show in this highly anticipated Sweet 16 tip-off, but beating the No. 5-seeded Hawkeyes was a complete team effort by the Huskies. 

UConn guard Christyn Willams, a former No. 1 recruit, led the team with 27 points, and Bueckers showed her all-around game with 18 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. Guard Evina Westbrook (17 points, nine rebounds, 10 assists) was just one rebound shy of a triple-double, and freshman forward Aaliyah Edwards shined early and ended with 18 points.

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Ugly Sweet 16 game a beautiful win for Oregon State over Loyola Chicago in men’s NCAA Tournament

Not every men's NCAA Tournament game is a masterpiece. Sometimes the frequency of games during the first and second rounds helps paper over the clunkers.  

Sadly, there was no other game going when Oregon State and Loyola Chicago opened the Sweet 16 Saturday with the 12th-seeded Beavers pulling off a 65-58 defeat of the No. 8 Ramblers.

With the schedule changed due to the coronavirus pandemic, each game had its own window, so there was no ability to look away. 

Oregon State led after the first half 24-16 with just 12 made field goals to celebrate. 

The Beavers shot 33% in the first half, making just 8-of-24 attempts. That was spectacular compared to the Ramblers, who were 4 for 23 (17.4%). Throw out Cameron Krutwig hitting 3 of 5 and there was just one field goal among the other eight Loyola players to see action before intermission.