March. Is. Here.
The first round of the NCAA Tournament never disappoints!
Here is a recap of Thursday’s Round of 64 games.
(8) Maryland vs. (9) West Virginia
Final: Maryland 67, West Virginia 65
The Terrapins got off to an horrific start to this game and to start March Madness. Five turnovers, and a comfortable West Virginia team scoring points, it wasn’t the start Kevin Willard wanted. It was the first game of the day, so everyone witnessed it. However, everyone also witnessed their massive turnaround, as Maryland had a two point lead at halftime. After going down 19-6, they went on a 26-11 run in the final 10 minutes to gain a 32-30 halftime lead.
Maryland would carry their momentum into the second half and go up to a comfortable 38-31 lead. Then a back and forth sequence came in which West Virginia went on a 20-5 run, followed by a quick 11-3 run by Maryland to tie the game up, 54-54. For the last eight minutes of the game it was jab after jab from each team. There was a controversial review with 0:47 left, where it looked like Maryland turned the ball over on offense and the ball went out of bounds. According to the referees though, there was irrefutable evidence to turn over the call that it was out on West Virginia.
The Mountaineers would make a layup with eight seconds left, and have a chance for a 3-pointer to win it after a make and miss from Jahmir Young at the line. Bob Huggins and his team would not live to see another day though, while Kevin Willard will make the second round in his first year at Maryland.
(4) Virginia vs. (13) Furman
Final: Furman 68, Virginia 67
Virginia got off to a strong start and gained an early lead, going up 17-7 just before the 10-minute mark. Then, the Paladins came to play after the under-12 timeout. Mike Bothwell made a 3-pointer out of the timeout, and Furman would cut the lead to one point with just over five minutes to go. Virginia would finish the half with a five-point lead, 32-27.
Now we all know how it ended. After an absolute back-and-forth second-half thriller, Kihei Clark would ultimately end Virginia’s season on a prayer of a pass. Clark got trapped off the out-of-bounds pass, and threw the ball to what he hoped was his teammate at the other end of the court. Furman’s Garrett Hien would get the interception and throw a pass to JP Pegues. Pegues then cemented himself in March Madness history by hitting a three that would send the Cavaliers home.
In just the second game of the day, we have an incredible story in Furman. Virginia now has lost to a 13-seed or worse in the tournament for three of the past five they’ve competed in. They won a championship just four years ago. Madness.
(7) Missouri vs. (10) Utah State
Final: Missouri 76, Utah State 65
Utah State held the lead in this game for a total of 3:02, with a gap of 20 minutes in between its second and third time leading in the game. The Mountain West is not a tournament conference at all, as Utah State’s loss marks the 11th straight loss in the tournament for the Mountain West. As most already know, the conference sent four teams last season, and all four lost in the first round. San Diego State and Boise State remain to try and knock the streak.
Missouri dominated two important areas in this game: 3-point shooting and free throws. Missouri went 10/25 from 3-point land, equating to 40%. Utah State went 4/24, equating to 16.7%. Missouri made 12 free throws. Utah State made 5. Not making your threes, and not getting to the line enough doesn’t lead to a lot of wins. That’s exactly what Utah State did to itself and thus it lost.
Kobe Brown had a great game for the Tigers, getting 19 points and eight rebounds, while having great shooting numbers only missing one 3-pointer of his four attempts. D’Moi Hodge went for 23 himself for Missouri and also snagged four steals.
(1) Kansas vs. (16) Howard
Final: Kansas 96, Howard 68
The margin of victory does not show the fight Howard had during this game. The Bison were only down five with about two minutes left in the first half, and actually had the lead multiple times at the beginning of the game. Howard came ready to play on the first day of the big dance. Ultimately, Kansas would not let Howard enjoy too much fun. They close the first half out with a 50-37 lead, and would not look back from there. They outscored the Bison 46-31 in the second half and went on to win the game by 28 points. The Jayhawks had only scored 90 points three previous times this season.
Kansas showed the nation again why it was chosen to be a 1-seed in the tournament. All five Jayhawks starters scored in double figures in the game. Jalen Wilson, who was just selected to the AP All-America First Team, lead all scorers with 20. Star freshman Gradey Dick had his best game of the season with 19 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals.
Norm Roberts coached his fourth straight game for Kansas, as it was announced earlier in the day that head coach Bill Self would miss the tournament opener. Self suffered heart issues just before the Big 12 tournament and was in the hospital. He received stints to help with blocked arteries, and was released a few days ago. The team was hopeful he would be back for the first round matchup, but he was not. They didn’t particularly need him for this game either, but if they want to repeat as champions, getting the best coach in college basketball will help.
(1) Alabama vs. (16) Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
Final: Alabama 96, TAMU-CC 75
To put it simply, this was never a contest. The No. 1 overall seed in the entire tournament, Alabama, showed tonight why they were given that title. The Tide took a quick 9-0 lead and never gave Corpus Christi a chance after. Good news for Alabama? – I guess – Brandon Miller went scoreless. It is a 1-seed vs. a 16-seed after all, but if your best player can go scoreless and you easily handle a team in the tournament, then you have to feel good.
TAMU-CC only shot 34.7% from the field and 35% from 3-point range for the game. Not exactly the kind of numbers you need to beat a 1-seed. Alabama on the other hand went 15/33 from 3-point land, landing a 45.5% clip from the arc. That’s almost 12% higher than their season average of 33.8%. If the Tide continue that improved 3-point percentage all tournament, they’re going to be hard to beat.
The main story about Miller and The Tide continues to be Miller’s involvement with the murder of James Harris – A 23-year-old mother who was shot and killed by a gun that Miller brought to the scene of the crime. Regardless of what anyone thinks of the situation, the fact is that this will be a story until Miller plays his final game in maroon. And it will continue to follow him for the foreseeable future even after his days in Tuscaloosa are over.
(5) San Diego State vs. (12) Charleston
Final: SDSU 63, Charleston 57
What a game. As mentioned earlier, the Mountain West was on an 11-game losing streak in the NCAA Tournament. San Diego State, led by their senior guy Matt Bradley, stopped the streak on Thursday.
This was a high-potential upset game, and after the bracket came out it became pretty trendy to pick Charleston. The Cougars finished the season with over 30 wins, including a win over 13-seed Kent State. That would be their only win over a team in the field. They lost to North Carolina by double-digits in their second game of the season. The Mountain West champions would ultimately finish with a win against the CAA champions on Thursday.
Bradley was the only double-digit scorer for SDSU, scoring 17 points. He also grabbed seven rebounds and four assists. Charleston had three double-digit scorers on the night. The Aztecs shot better from the field and 3-point range than Charleston, as well as out rebounding and creating more assists.
(2) Arizona vs. (15) Princeton
Final: Princeton 59, Arizona 55
An. All. Time. Classic.
Less than a week ago, the Arizona Wildcats were on cloud nine after a final score of 61-59 against UCLA to win the Pac-12 Tournament. On Thursday, a different type of big cat found it’s place on those clouds. The Princeton Tigers became the 11th 15-seed ever to beat a 2-seed in the NCAA Tournament. Final score: 59-55
The college basketball world mourned with Princeton back in August when Pete Carril, Princeton’s legendary head coach, passed away. Carril coached the Tigers from 1967-1996. He won 13 Ivy League championships and one NIT title in his tenure. The “Princeton offense”, perfected by the late head coach, is cemented as one of the most notable styles in all of basketball. The 2023 Tigers are doing it for Carril, as they have the entire season.
Obviously, it was a low-scoring affair, which is strange for Arizona as they’ve been a top 10 offense in the country all season. Neither team shot well from three either, which contributed to the low scoring. But Princeton snagged eight steals, blocked six shots, and forced Arizona to 13 turnovers. Very impressive defensive showing by the Tigers. This defensive showing helped them find a way. Now the 2023 Tigers’ squad become March Madness legends. This is the third straight tournament with a 15-seed over a 2-seed.
One last tidbit: When Carril coached his last tournament at Princeton, they beat 4-seed UCLA as a 13-seed. Who was the Princeton student that wrote the column for the Princetonian student newspaper?
The late, great and inspiring Grant Wahl.
(8) Arkansas vs. (9) Illinois
Final: Arkansas 73, Illinois 63
If someone said Nick Smith Jr. would score six points, and Arkansas would shoot 3-11 from 3-point range and create four assists and still won the game by 10 points, it would’ve been hard to believe. However, when Ricky Council IV, Davonte Davis and Anthony Black combine for 46 points that will help your team tremendously.
The game remained close for a majority of the first half. Then after the under-eight TV timeout, Arkansas had a 21-10 lead. The closest Illinois would get after that mark was a 36-41 deficit that they could not close anymore. The Razorbacks held around a 10-point lead for a majority of the rest of the game.
Terrence Shannon Jr. scored 20 points for the Illini, with RJ Melendez and Coleman Hawkins combining for 20 as well. For Illinois, this marks the first time in five tournament appearances since 2011 that they lose in the first round. They had quite the up-and-down season, with some great wins over UCLA and Texas, but they fall in the first round against 8-seed Arkansas.
(8) Iowa vs. (9) Auburn
Final: Auburn 83, Iowa 75
For the second straight year, Iowa enters their first-round matchup as the better seed, and then has a quick exit. Last year it was to Richmond as a 5-seed. This year it falls to Auburn as an 8-seed. This Tigers team came ready to play tonight. They grabbed an 8-6 lead with 15:31 left in the first half, and would never give it back after that. Auburn’s largest lead of 17 points came in the second half.
Iowa had a great showing from Payton Standfort off the bench. With 21 points and 6 rebounds, Sandfort provided a boost Iowa probably needed or else the loss could’ve been even larger. Matter of fact, it would’ve been. Filip Rebraca finished with 14 points and 7 rebounds on the night. Lastly, Hawkeye star Kris Murray likely played his last game in a Hawkeye uniform, going out scoring 15 points and grabbing 9 rebounds. He will join his brother Keegan in the NBA next fall.
Auburn had a whopping six players score in double figures on the night, accounting for 77 of their 83 points. Johni Broome led the Tigers with 19 points and 12 rebounds. Allen Flanagan had a double-double as well with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Auburn shot better than Iowa from the field and especially from beyond the arc. 36.4% is what Bruce Pearl’s team finished with from downtown, and Fran McCaffery surely isn’t happy with the 25.9% clip from his group.
(5) Duke vs. (12) Oral Roberts
Final: Duke 74, Oral Roberts 51
After being one of the most trendy upset picks in the tournament, Duke put to rest all doubt about the firepower and strength of their team. There aren’t many teams right now as hot as this Blue Devils squad, especially after they just won an ACC Tournament title. Duke got out to a 15-0 lead and never looked back. Their largest lead was 27 points, and they won the game by 23.
In his first year as Duke’s head coach, Jon Scheyer has now led his program to a: T-second place finish in the ACC regular season, an ACC Tournament title, and a win in the NCAA Tournament. His predecessor, Mike Krzyzewski, never did any of those things in his first season. Obviously it is years to early to bring out the hard comparisons. Nonetheless, Scheyer’s first season as lead Blue Devil has been nothing short of great.
Max Abmas led Oral Roberts with 12 points, but that was about the only bright spot for the Golden Eagles. Duke’s veteran point guard Jeremy Roach tied his career high (which he set in the ACC Championship) with 23 points. Dariq Whitehead was the only other Duke player in double figures, but eight other Blue Devils scored in the game. While Oral Roberts was a trendy upset pick, Duke is also a trendy Final Four dark horse. After a performance like that, it is clear to see why.
(2) Texas vs. (15) Colgate
Final: Texas 81, Colgate 61
If there was a 15 over 2 game that people were suspecting, it was this one. For a majority of the game, Colgate really had a chance to pull it off. With just over 13 minutes left in the second half, the Raiders were only down nine. The Longhorns would eventually pull away, finishing with a 20 point victory which was their largest lead of the game.
Ryan Moffatt and Keegan Records combined for 26 points, with 13 a piece, for Colgate. They were the only double-digit scorers on the team. A poor 20% from beyond the arc and only six assists were huge in Colgates ability to keep it closer for the entire game. Not creating enough while also not making shots isn’t what you want to see.
Sir’Jabari Rice was hot off the bench for the Longhorns. The senior guard made seven of his ten 3-point attempts, and Texas as a team shot over 55% from downtown on the night. Marcus Carr, Dylan Disu and Tyrese Hunter combined for 44 points as well for Texas. Rodney Terry has now, in his interim head coaching position, led Texas to a Big 12 Tournament title and a birth to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
(7) Northwestern vs. (10) Boise State
Final: Northwestern 75, Boise State 67
“All joy. No relief.” Short yet strong message from Northwestern head coach Cris Collins after Collins and his Wildcats won their first-round matchup. This was a matchup of limited tournament success. It was Northwestern’s second tournament appearance of all time. On the other side, Boise State is not 0-9 all time in the NCAA Tournament. The loss adds to the Mountain West tournament woes, so thank GOD for San Diego State.
Both teams had a pretty balanced box score, with four double-digit scorers each. Boo Buie led all scorers with 22 points, while also getting 5 rebounds and 5 assists. Max Rice led the Broncos with 17 points. Naje Smith was the only player on either team with double-digit rebounds, grabbing 11 boards for the Broncos. Boise State out-rebounded and assisted more than Northwestern, but poor shooting numbers ultimately led to their downfall.
(1) Houston vs. (16) Northern Kentucky
Final: Houston 63, Northern Kentucky 52
Marcus Sasser reaggravated his left groin injury. Houston struggled. Northern Kentucky fought.
When the clock hit zero, Houston had the lead and won the game. However, there is little to be excited about for Houston fans, and especially Kelvin Sampson. When asked about what things need to be cleaned up before Saturday, Sampson said “We need to get healthy.” He detailed how Jamaal Shead is dealing with a knee issue, as well as Sasser reaggravating his left groin injury. This isn’t a good thing seeing how well Auburn performed today, which Houston will face on Saturday.
Sam Vinson was big for the Norse, going for 15 points and 8 rebounds. But NKU went 5-33 from 3-point range and 19-69 from the field. Just abyssmal shooting from Darrin Horn’s team. If NKU would’ve shot 49% from the field like Houston did, they would have easily won. They had 18 more shot attempts than the cougars after grabbing seven more offensive rebounds. The Norse would’ve been only the second ever 16-seed to beat a 1-seed in the tournament.
Lottery pick Jarace Walker scored 16 for the Cougs and Jamal Shead had 13 himself. Shead and Sasser’s availability will be important to watch as Houston prepares for Auburn. The game will be in Birmingham, AL which is a mere two hour drive from Auburn, AL. Tigers fans are crazy about their team and will gladly make that journey to help them defeat the No. 1 seed. Sampson considers the game a “road game” and disapproves of the way the matchup has unfolded, but knows he must prepare his team regardless of where the game is. Houston is likely now the favorite to be the first 1-seed to lose in this tournament, barring an absolute blunder from Purdue on Friday.
(4) Tennessee vs. (13) Louisiana
Final: Tennessee 58, Louisiana 55
The Vols almost let it get away. After getting to the largest lead of 18 points in the second half, Tennessee let Louisiana creep back and almost have a chance to win at the end. Rick Barnes has yet to make an Elite Eight during his tenure in Knoxville. And this year’s Tennessee team has been so unreliable all season on the offensive end that it wouldn’t have shocked anyone if they fell in this game.
Louisiana went on a 13-point run midway through the second half to cut the lead to five and kept it close from there on. Jordan Brown and Kobe Julien led the Ragin’ Cajuns with 16 and 15 points respectively. Tyreke Key was key of the bench for the Vols – *ba-dum-tss* – he scored 12 points four rebounds and a steal.
(2) UCLA vs. (15) UNC Asheville
Final: UCLA 86, UNC Asheville 53
After Jaylen Clark, the best defensive player in college basketball, was ruled out for the season, there was questions brewing about how well and how far the Bruins could go in this tournament without him. Adem Bona is out currently as well. Well, on Thursday night, there was minimal doubt about the success the Bruins could have. After Arizona’s loss, Houston’s struggles, and multiple other 1’s and 2’s not living up to expectations, UCLA takes home the award for best showing of the night.
“We don’t take losing well at UCLA, we spell fun, W-I-N. We lost our last game. These guys took it personal,” UCLA head coach Mick Cronin said after the dominant win. Cronin also had positive comments about the Bruins’ opponent as well. “Tonight’s not indicative of the season they’ve had,” he said. This year marks 12 straight NCAA Tournament appearances for Cronin. UCLA has a good chance to reach the final four again for the second time in three tournaments.
Both Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Amari Bailey had 17 points each. UCLA out-rebounded, got more assists, and shot better from the field compared to UNCA. The dominance on the defensive end was astronomical. It was a performance that has to make Bruins fans and Cronin himself feel good about the future of their tournament run.
(7) Texas A&M vs. (10) Penn State
Final: Penn State 76, Texas A&M 59
The last tip and the last finish of the night was projected to be a good one, but ended up being a total domination for Penn State. Texas A&M since Jan. 1, had been playing like a top 10 team in the nation. They went 15-3 in the SEC and made the SEC Tournament title game and were rockin’ heading into the tournament. Some thought they were under-seeded. Penn State had not lost in March yet other than the Big Ten title game against 1-seed Purdue. Both teams were performing well.
Andrew Funk scored 27 points for the Nittany Lions. It is the most points scored by a player in Penn State’s tournament history. Star guard and All-American Jalen Pickett finished with 19 points, 7 rebounds, and 8 assists on the night. Just an all-around great stat line in his biggest college game yet from the star player. Dexter Dennis shined for A&M with 19 points and 8 rebounds. It was not nearly enough though as Penn State will move on.
SATURDAY’S ROUND OF 32 MATCHUPS
(5) San Diego State vs. (13) Furman | 12:10 pm | CBS
(4) Tennessee vs. (5) Duke | 2:40 pm | CBS
(1) Kansas vs. (8) Arkansas | 5:15 pm | CBS
(7) Missouri vs. (15) Princeton | 6:10 pm | TNT
(1) Houston vs. (9) Auburn | 7:10 pm | TBS
(2) Texas vs. (10) Penn State | 7:45 pm | CBS
(2) UCLA vs. (7) Northwestern | 8:40 pm | TNT
(1) Alabama vs. (8) Maryland | 9:40 pm | TBS
*All times are ET and approximate tip times*
Stay tuned for more college basketball news, among other sports and esports news!
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