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Yesterday’s games started with a flourish in the two afternoon games, but almost all six games in the evening sessions were for the most part chalky and noncompetitive. As described below:
LSU and Maryland tipped off the festivities to see who would punch the first ticket into the Sweet 16. LSU controlled most of the game, but both the Tigers and Terrapins traded 3-point shots in the final minute of the game. At the end of the day, the ball ended up in Tremont Waters’ hands and he hit the game-winner with 1.9 seconds remaining to send the Tigers to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2006; that team featuring Glen “Big Baby” Davis would also go on to the Final Four later that season.
The second game featured a defensive clinic by Kentucky on how to defend Wofford star Fletcher Magee. Amazingly enough, despite shooting 0-for-12 from 3-point land, the Terriers remained in the game for a full 40 minutes before Kentucky iced the game at the free throw line for a 62-56 victory.
The first 18 minutes of the game saw Michigan claw their way to a 1-point lead against Florida, but a 14-0 run sandwiched around halftime saw the Wolverines take control and eventually move on to a 64-49 victory against the Gators. Jordan Poole led Michigan with 19 points.
The second game of the doubleheader saw Michigan State knock out Minnesota without much difficulty at all. Xavier Tillman had 14 points and 6 rebounds to lead the Spartans to a 70-50 victory against the Golden Gophers; their reward will be a trip to the East Regional and a game against LSU next weekend.
Unfortunately for the fans of Hartford, they were treated to the least set of competitive games yesterday. Florida State brought down the curtain on the Ja Morant show and Murray State; the Noles hammered Murray State 90-62. While Morant had 28 points for Murray, Mfiondu Kabengele scored 22 points and 7 rebounds off the bench for Florida State.
In what seems to be the annual make-or-break round for Villanova, they were emphatically dethroned by Purdue 87-61 in the nightcap. Carsen Edwards had 42 points for the Boilermakers; Purdue made their third straight Sweet 16 appearance for the first time since 1998-2000 under Gene Keady.
Salt Lake City
By yesterday evening’s standards, there was at least some intrigue in the game between Gonzaga and Baylor. The Zags raced out to an 18-point lead in the first half, but the Bears were able to close the deficit to 8 points with 7 minutes remaining in the game. Gonzaga outscored Baylor 19-15 the rest of the way to set up a Gonzaga-Florida State Sweet 16 rematch from last season.
Last year, Auburn was getting blasted by 31 points against Clemson. This year, the Tigers completely flipped the script and took a 25-point halftime lead against Kansas in the nightcap. While Auburn didn’t completely blast the Jayhawks in the end, they still won fairly comfortably and will face either North Carolina or Washington in the Sweet 16 in the Midwest Region.
(10) IOWA VS (2) TENNESSEE (12:10 PM, CBS, Columbus) – The Hawkeyes came back from an early 16-5 hole to knock out Cincinnati in the first round of the NCAA Tournament; Tennessee also had a scare against Colgate on Friday before eventually salting away their victory.
(9) WASHINGTON VS (1) NORTH CAROLINA (approx. 2:40 PM, CBS, Columbus) – North Carolina was one of three #1 seeds that struggled in the first half against a #16 seeded opponent, but they wasted no time in putting away Iona in their opening game. Washington also used a late run against Utah State to roll to a 17-point win in their opener on Friday night.
(9) CENTRAL FLORIDA VS (1) DUKE (5:15 PM, CBS, Columbia) – This will be the third time that Mike Krzyzewski will go up against either a former player or coach in the NCAA Tournament; he won the previous 2 such meetings (2001 against Quinn Snyder/Missouri; 2002 against Mike Brey/Notre Dame). While Duke pulled away against North Dakota State in the 2nd half of their game, UCF beat VCU without too much difficulty for their first ever NCAA Tournament win.
(6) BUFFALO VS (3) TEXAS TECH (6:10 PM, TNT, Tulsa) – Fresh off of a dominant win against Arizona State and former head coach Bobby Hurley, Buffalo will be looking for their first-ever Sweet 16 bid against a Texas Tech team that will be looking for back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances themselves for the first time in program history.
(12) LIBERTY VS (4) VIRGINIA TECH (7:10 PM, TBS, San Jose) – Liberty erased a 10-point deficit en route to their first ever NCAA Tournament victory against Mississippi State on Friday; Virginia Tech will be looking for their first Sweet 16 appearance since 1967 with a win tonight.
(9) OKLAHOMA VS (1) VIRGINIA (approx. 7:45 PM, TruTV, Columbia) – According to NCAA statistician David Worlock, Oklahoma’s 23-point win against Ole Miss tied for the 3rd biggest victory by a 9-seed in the first round (the biggest being a 29-point win by Pitt against Colorado in 2014). They will have their hands full against a Virginia team that did have to come back from an early 12-point deficit against Gardner-Webb in their opener.
(11) OHIO STATE VS (3) HOUSTON (approx. 8:40 PM, TNT, Tulsa) – While the Buckeyes held on for a narrow 3-point victory against Iowa State in their opening game, Houston was enjoying their biggest NCAA Tournament margin of victory against Georgia State on Friday. A win by Houston would launch the Cougars into the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1984.
(13) UC-IRVINE VS (12) OREGON (approx. 9:40 PM, TBS, San Jose) – A week ago at this time, we were talking about the real possibility of the Pac-12 getting only one bid into the NCAA Tournament. Now, a red-hot Oregon will be the home team against a white-hot UC-Irvine team that has won 17 straight games since a surprising loss at home to Long Beach State in the Black and Blue rivalry in the Big West.