Newton County still has a representative in the big dance.
Former Newton Ram JD Notae and the third-seeded Arkansas Razorbacks survived and advanced through the first two rounds of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Despite facing a double-digit deficit early, the Razorbacks avoided a monumental upset at the hands of No. 14 Colgate last week as they pulled away late in an 85-68 victory. They then staved off stingy Texas Tech, knocking out the No. 6 seed by a 68-66 final.
The two wins secured Arkansas a date with one of March’s cherished Cinderella stories — No. 15 seed Oral Roberts.
Notae, named the Southeastern Conference’s Sixth-Man of the Year earlier this month, came off the bench to pour in 14 points against Colgate. He also contributed five rebounds, three steals and a pair of assists. The redshirt junior followed up the performance by totaling seven points and three boards against the Red Raiders.
He sank a pair of crucial free throws late in the contest against Texas Tech, playing an integral part in the Razorbacks’ two-point win.
Oral Roberts busted countless brackets in the opening round of the tournament when it took down No. 2 seed Ohio State, 75-72, in overtime. The win marked the ninth time a 15 seed had taken down a No. 2 seed, and the program’s first NCAA Tournament victory since 1974.
The Golden Eagles kept their postseason push alive in the second round by pulling off the upset of No. 7 seed Florida, 81-78, to clinch a seat in the Sweet 16.
Notae and company are still alive, but he wasn’t the only former Newton County hardwood star who made an appearance in the 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
On April 3, 2020, former Eastside Eagle and Newton Ram Isaiah Miller announced he would forgo his senior season at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro to declare for the NBA Draft. By July, however, Miller had a change of heart.
“It was a family decision,” he told UNCGSpartans.com last summer after announcing he’d return for one final season as a Spartan. “I got input from several people close to me that I trust. I am excited to come back and be with my teammates for a last ride. It’s going to be a great run this year. We have terrific players so we’ll see where this goes.”
Miller’s senior campaign went all the way to a Southern Conference championship.
He led the SoCon in scoring (19.1 points per game) and steals (2.6) en route to leading UNC Greensboro to an 18-8 record in the regular season. The top-seeded Spartans then took down The Citadel, East Tennessee State and Mercer to win their third SoCon Tournament championship in program history.
Consequently, the team earned a No. 13 seed for the Men’s Tournament and was paired up with No. 4 seed Florida State in the East Region.
The Seminoles avoided the upset, but Miller finished with team-highs in points (17), rebounds (5) and assists (4) in a 64-54 defeat.
While Saturday was his final game as a Spartan, it wasn’t Miller’s last time putting on a UNC Greensboro jersey. On Thursday, he was selected to compete in the 32nd annual State Farm College Slam Dunk & 3-Point Championships at Butler University on Thursday, April 1.
Meanwhile, fans can watch Notae and the Razorbacks continue their quest for a title as they take on Oral Roberts on Saturday, March 27, at 7:25 p.m.