It happened. It finally did happen. We had teased on our preview podcast that a 16 would finally knock off a 1 seed, but we were looking in the wrong place. UMBC made history with their decisive 74-54 victory against top overall seed Virginia. What was even more remarkable about this game was the Retrievers’ 53-point HALF against the Hoos; there were a number of teams that couldn’t score 53 points in a GAME against Virginia all year. Jairus Lyles continues to become a folk hero after his 28-point performance last night. They will end up playing Kansas State in the 2nd round on Sunday night – the Wildcats were able to keep Creighton at bay and completely neutralized Marcus Foster en route to a 69-59 victory.
Earlier in the day, Texas A&M and Providence had a game that went back and forth for most of the way before TAMU ended up icing the game at the free-throw line. They will play a de facto road game against North Carolina – they did actually have a competitive game against Lipscomb in their opener before gradually pulling away with an 84-66 victory.
Xavier was thought to be the most vulnerable of the #1 seeds going into the tournament, and their opener saw them exchange 16-0 scoring spurts with Texas Southern. They did end up with a 19-point victory in a game that seemed to go on for about 3 hours. The Musketeers will play Florida State in Round 2 – the Seminoles raced out to a 22-point lead at halftime against Missouri. The Tigers did get the game as close as 8 points midway through the 2nd half, but FSU pulled away with a 67-54 win and will be looking for revenge against Xavier after getting blown out in Orlando in the 2nd round last March.
Cincinnati also was mired in a rock fight against Georgia State for the first 30 minutes of their game yesterday, but their size and athleticism was too much for the Panthers as UC finally pulled away with a 68-53 victory. They will play a Nevada team that trailed Texas for almost all of regulation, but did hit a free throw in the closing seconds of regulation and edged the Longhorns by 4 in a game that saw 34 combined points from both teams in the overtime period.
While Purdue did beat Cal State-Fullerton by a comfortable margin yesterday, the Boilers were devastated when they heard that C Isaac Haas fractured his elbow in yesterday’s game and will be out for the remainder of the season. They will take on Butler on Sunday in a rematch of the Crossroads Classic – the Bulldogs were able to knock out Arkansas yesterday with an easy 79-62 victory.
The nightcap saw Bucknell hang around with Michigan State for about a half before the Spartans gradually pulled out to as big as a 17-point lead in the 2nd half. A late flurry of 3s from the Bison made the score look a lot more respectable (82-78 MSU), however. Syracuse beat TCU in the nightcap – this meant that this would be the 8th straight year that at least one team that played in the First Four would also advance to at least the Round of 32.
We didn’t get to see Marshall and West Virginia play in the regular season this year, but this in-state rivalry will be renewed on Sunday after the Thundering Herd got their first-ever NCAA Tournament victory with an 81-75 upset win against Wichita State. Jon Elmore led the Herd with 27 points. West Virginia also had a fairly comfortable win against Murray State later in the afternoon to set the table for Sunday night’s matchup.
Auburn also survived an upset bid by Charleston later in the night – they will take on a Clemson team that beat New Mexico State in their tournament opener. This also meant that this would be a rare year where all 5 seeds advanced to the 2nd round (although 2 13 seeds did knock out a pair of 4s).
(9) ALABAMA VS. (1) VILLANOVA (12:10 PM, CBS). While Villanova ended up being the only #1 seed to not be seriously challenged at any point in Round 1, Alabama rode the coattails of Collin Sexton to a comeback win against Virginia Tech on Thursday night. Today, Villanova comes face-to-face against what has become their annual demons in the Round of 32. The winner goes to the East Regional in Boston.
(7) RHODE ISLAND VS. (2) DUKE (approx. 2:40 PM, CBS). This game is actually a rematch from last season’s exempt tournament matchup where Duke beat URI at the Mohegan Sun during Thanksgiving weekend. There is much more at stake this time around – Duke had an easy opener against Iona and Rhode Island needed overtime to beat Oklahoma on Thursday afternoon. The winner of this game heads to Middle America (aka Omaha) for the Midwest Regional.
(13) BUFFALO VS. (4) KENTUCKY (5:15 PM, CBS). The best games of the day may actually take place in Boise later this afternoon. Buffalo got a very decisive win against Arizona late on Thursday night that effectively knocked the Pac-12 completely out of the NCAA Tournament. Kentucky was able to survive an upset bid against Davidson and also went through the entire game without hitting a 3, amazingly enough. A Kentucky win will mean they could advance to “Cat-lanta” – or a Buffalo win could potentially mean a Sweet 16 game against either K-State or UMBC.
(5) OHIO STATE VS. (4) GONZAGA (approx. 7:45 PM, CBS). This is a rematch from the PK80 Tournament back in November when Gonzaga completely ran over Ohio State in the opener of that tournament in Portland. Ohio State had a mild scare against South Dakota State to get to this point; Gonzaga actually trailed UNC-Greensboro by 2 in the final minute before closing the game on a 6-0 run. Tonight’s winner will face either Xavier or Florida State in the West Regional.
(11) LOYOLA-CHICAGO VS. (3) TENNESSEE (6:10 PM, TNT). The Ramblers scored the first upset of the tournament after beating Miami with a 3-pointer in the closing seconds on Thursday afternoon. It was their first win in the NCAA Tournament since 1985 (which also happened to be their last trip to the Sweet 16). Tennessee started cold against Wright State, but ended up winning fairly comfortably in their own right. The winner will face either Cincinnati or Nevada in the South Region.
(6) FLORIDA VS. (3) TEXAS TECH (approx. 8:40 PM, TNT). While the Gators were taking on a jet-lagged St. Bonaventure team on Thursday night and winning by a comfortable margin, the Red Raiders had a tougher test against in-state foe Stephen F. Austin before ultimately coming back and pulling away in the final 4 minutes of their opener. The winner in this game goes to the East Region in Boston.
(8) SETON HALL VS. (1) KANSAS (7:10 PM, TBS). While Kansas did find themselves in a 10-point hole against Penn in their opener on Thursday afternoon, the Jayhawks woke up and eventually took a 7-point lead at halftime before beating the Quakers. Seton Hall also led throughout their game against NC State, and have shown their ability against other #1 seeds (Villanova and Xavier) to at least contend for 40 minutes. Winning in a de facto road environment will be a completely different animal – whoever advances will end up in the Midwest Region in Omaha.
(6) HOUSTON VS. (3) MICHIGAN (approx. 9:40 PM, TBS). Rob Gray almost single-handedly willed the Cougars to their first NCAA Tournament win since the Phi Slamma Jamma era – their next challenge will be against a Michigan team that has looked red-hot since the Big 10 Tournament began. They were rarely challenged against Montana, and the winner of today’s final game will go to the West Region against either North Carolina or Texas A&M.