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For Jon Teitel’s interview with Dartmouth Academic All-American James Foye – CLICK HERE
As is normally the case in the NCAA Tournament, Day 1 offered us a few token upsets and a couple of near-misses by double digit seeds. Without ado, here is a quick review by location:
Minnesota had not been a spectacular 3-point shooting team this season, but they were buoyed by 11 3-pointers and led Louisville by as many as 19 points in the second half before Louisville made the margin a little more respectable. The end result was an 86-76 win by the Gophers.
Michigan State had far more trouble with Bradley than anyone expected – they found themselves in an early 10-2 hole, but they ended up trading leads with the Braves on multiple occasions until they finally took control of the game with a 9-0 run with 3 minutes remaining in the game before winning 76-65.
The game between Florida and Nevada looked for a few moments like it might be a carbon copy of Nevada’s amazing comeback against Cincinnati from last year. The Gators raced to an 18-point lead in the 2nd half before the Wolf Pack came back to cut the deficit to 2 with 4 minutes remaining in the game. This time, they could not complete the deal – Florida gradually pulled away in the final minute for a 70-61 victory.
For the second year in a row, Michigan defeated Montana in a game that became a runaway in the 2nd half. Charles Matthews had 22 points and 10 rebounds for the Wolverines en route to a 74-55 win.
LSU looked like they were going to dominate Yale early on, but the Bulldogs kept hanging around and even cut the LSU lead to one point in the final seconds of the game. The Tigers were clutch at the free throw line in the endgame and ended up winning 79-74.
Maryland looked like they were in real trouble early against Belmont – they trailed by as many as 12 points in the first half before they went on a 16-point run sandwiched around halftime. Belmont continued to hang tough and even looked like they might beat Maryland with a backdoor cut in the closing seconds, but the Terps forced a turnover and hit one of two ensuing free throws to escape with a 79-77 win despite 35 points and 11 rebounds from Belmont’s Dylan Windler.
Kentucky was never challenged in their opener and breezed to a 79-44 victory against Abilene Christian. Tyler Herro almost outscored ACU by himself in the first half – he had 12 points while ACU only managed 13. We also learned after the game that PJ Washington will not be available for Kentucky’s game on Saturday; he did not play against ACU.
Wofford and Seton Hall had a close game for much of the night, but after Seton Hall cut Wofford’s lead to 1 point at the 4-minute mark, Wofford blew the game open with a 17-0 run that made the final score an 84-68 victory for the Terriers. Not only was this Wofford’s first-ever NCAA Tournament win, it was the first for the SoCon since 2008.
Salt Lake City
Auburn was the most fortunate team in the early games today – they squandered a double-digit lead and nearly blew the game late when they were up a point on New Mexico State and fouled the Aggies while they tried a potential game-winning 3-point shot (and this was after NMSU passed up a wide-open layup that would have tied the game). The Aggies only hit one of three free throws, however, and despite getting one more chance late, their desperation 3-point shot was an air ball and Auburn escaped with a 78-77 win.
Kansas had a fairly workmanlike first half against Northeastern in building a 12-point halftime lead, but they blew out the Huskies 50-28 in the 2nd half en route to an 87-53 victory.
Unlike their last time in Salt Lake City as a #1 seed where they got a brief scare in the first round, Gonzaga breezed to an 87-49 victory against Fairleigh Dickinson. Rui Hachimura led the Bulldogs with 21 points and 8 rebounds.
Baylor ended up victorious in the first 8-9 matchup of the tournament; the Bears were led by former Yale standout Makai Mason’s 22 points.
There were constant reminders of Vermont’s last NCAA Tournament victory throughout the early game against Florida State – they had the Noles on the ropes for 30 minutes before Florida State’s size inside overwhelmed the Catamounts. FSU won 76-69, but there were a lot of heavy hearts in their locker room when they learned that Phil Cofer’s (who was out with an injury) father had passed away earlier in the day.
Marquette ended their season losing six out of their last seven games, and Ja Morant and Murray State emphatically put an end to their season with an 83-64 victory. Marquette actually led 20-10 early in that game, but Morant ended the game with 17 points, 11 rebounds and a whopping 16 assists.
Villanova did one thing in tonight’s game they never did during their championship run in the NCAAs last year – they trailed by 2 at halftime against Saint Mary’s. They immediately took control early in the 2nd half and jumped out to a quick 7-point lead, but the Gaels did hang tough before Villanova finally salted away a 61-57 victory.
In the nightcap, Purdue controlled the game against Old Dominion for most of the way. The Monarchs got as close as 9 points in the 2nd half, but Purdue eventually salted away a 61-48 victory.
(10) IOWA VS (7) CINCINNATI (12:15 PM, CBS, Columbus) – These are two teams headed in completely opposite directions to end the season. The Hawkeyes melted down late in the year after some mid-season dramatic victories in Big 10 play. Cincinnati avenged a pair of losses against Houston by finally beating the Cougars to win the American last Sunday.
(9) OKLAHOMA VS (8) OLE MISS (12:40 PM, TruTV, Columbia) – Oklahoma looked like they were going to end up miles outside of the NCAA Tournament at midseason, but they finally warmed up in February. Ole Miss also had a few significant wins earlier in the season, but are still going to be a tough out in the tournament. They have already announced that Kermit Davis will have his contract extended.
(14) NORTHERN KENTUCKY VS (3) TEXAS TECH (1:30 PM, TNT, Tulsa) – Despite an early exit from the Big 12 Tournament against West Virginia, Texas Tech still managed to share the Big 12 regular season crown with Kansas State. They will face a somewhat dangerous scorer in Drew McDonald, but Tech shouldn’t have too much trouble in this one.
(13) UC-IRVINE VS (4) KANSAS STATE (2:00 PM, TBS, San Jose) – This will be one of a few games today that will have a heightened upset alert. UC-Irvine won the Big West Tournament going away, but Kansas State also had a great regular season in which they shared the Big 12 regular season crown with Texas Tech and finished a game ahead of in-state rival Kansas.
(15) COLGATE VS (2) TENNESSEE (approx. 2:45 PM, CBS, Columbus) – Tennessee fell in the SEC Championship game for the second straight season, but should not have too much trouble against a Colgate team that will be making their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1996 after upending Bucknell for the Patriot League crown.
(16) GARDNER-WEBB VS (1) VIRGINIA (approx. 3:10 PM, TruTV, Columbia) – Gardner-Webb is the 2nd team (along with Abilene Christian) making their NCAA Tournament debut this year. Virginia will be healthy this season (unlike last year where they dearly missed DeAndre Hunter in the UMBC game) and should be able to exorcise their demons from a year ago.
(11) ARIZONA STATE VS (6) BUFFALO (approx. 4:00 PM, TNT, Tulsa) – This will be a battle of Bobby Hurley’s current team versus his former team, but Buffalo finished the season on fire after a couple of brief stumbles in MAC play back in January. Nonetheless, Arizona State has shown that they can knock off a big name on occasion as well.
(12) OREGON VS (5) WISCONSIN (approx. 4:30 PM, TBS, San Jose) – It took a while for the Ducks to overcome the injury bug and figure out their chemistly, but they beat both Arizona State and Washington twice during the regular season and the Pac-12 conference tournament. They are more than capable of giving Wisconsin problems in what may be the game of the afternoon.
(9) WASHINGTON VS (8) UTAH STATE (6:50 PM, TNT, Columbus) – This is another game of teams going in opposite directions. Washington hung on for dear life in the 2nd half of Pac-12 play with a loss at California and multiple losses against Oregon, but Utah State caught fire in the Mountain West Tournament and beat San Diego State for the championship.
(16) NORTH DAKOTA STATE VS (1) DUKE (7:10 PM, CBS, Columbia) – This will be a homecoming of sorts for Zion Williamson – lots of family and friends will make the trip from nearby Spartanburg to watch Duke take on a heavily overmatched NDSU squad.
(14) GEORGIA STATE VS (3) HOUSTON (7:20 PM, TBS, Tulsa) – This is the third time in five seasons that Ron Hunter and the Georgia State Panthers have advanced to the NCAA Tournament, but Houston is going to be a tall order for them in this one.
(12) LIBERTY VS (5) MISSISSIPPI STATE (7:27 PM, TruTV, San Jose) – This is another Upset Alert for today. Liberty won a hard-fought game at Lipscomb in the A-Sun Championship to earn the auto bid, and Mississippi State was a fairly solid (but not spectacular) team in the SEC this season.
(16) IONA VS (1) NORTH CAROLINA (approx. 9:20 PM, TNT, Columbus) – The nightcap should be a formality for North Carolina, although Iona is no stranger to March Madness under Tim Cluess.
(9) CENTRAL FLORIDA VS (8) VCU (approx. 9:40 PM, CBS, Columbia) – Call it a slugfest, rockfight, whatever adjective you want to use – first team to 50 most likely wins this one.
(11) OHIO STATE VS (6) IOWA STATE (approx. 9:50 PM, TBS, Tulsa) – Iowa State looked like they were nosediving at the end of the Big 12 season, but they beat Kansas State and Kansas back-to-back to win the Big 12 crown. Ohio State hung on for dear life while Kaleb Wesson was suspended – one win in the Big 10 Tournament was enough to at least avoid being relegated to the First Four.
(13) SAINT LOUIS VS (4) VIRGINIA TECH (approx. 9:57 PM, TruTV, San Jose) – Saint Louis looked like a disappointment for most of the season, but they did have a nice run in the A-10 Tournament where they beat the #2, #3 and #4 seeds in the process. They will have a tough time against a defensive-minded team like Virginia Tech, however.