Michigan keeps the magic alive, topples Louisville
Michigan continued its magical March run, beating Louisville, 73-69, thanks to second-half heroics from Moritz Wagner.
The victory also provided a measure of revenge for the Wolverines, who had not faced the Cardinals since losing to them in the 2013 national championship game. Michigan, the No. 7 seed, trailed second-seeded Louisville by six at the half, but Wagner, who finished with 26 points, found his range.
A little over two weeks ago, Michigan got a scare when its charter plane skidded on an aborted takeoff because of high winds. Although players were dinged up as they went through an emergency evacuation, they got on another plane and haven’t looked back since.
Less-than-dominant Wildcats take care of business
Kentucky was expected to beat Northern Kentucky, and it did. But the Wildcats, seeded second in the South Region and seeking their ninth national title, were less than convincing in putting away their unheralded in-state rival, 79-70.
The 15th-seeded Norse were making their first appearance in the tournament, an impressive accomplishment considering that this was the first year of eligibility for the school, which has been transitioning into Division I play over the past few years. They fell behind by 14 points at the half and were down as many as 18 points in the second half, but they were able to hang around and did well to keep the final margin within single digits.
As is frequently the case for Coach John Calipari’s squads, Kentucky was led by young players, including sophomore Isaiah Briscoe (17 points) and a trio of freshmen, De’Aaron Fox (19), Edrice “Bam” Adebayo (15) and Malik Monk (12).
Northern Kentucky junior Lavone Holland II led all scorers with 22 points.
Bruins past first-round test against Golden Flashes
It wasn’t as easy as the final score would indicate, but all that matters to UCLA is that it opened its NCAA tournament with a victory Friday night.
The third-seeded Bruins struggled to put away No. 14 Kent State until midway through the second half, but eventually did so and won 97-80 to advance to Sunday’s game against No. 6 Cincinnati for the right to advance to the Sweet 16 next week in Memphis.
Freshman forward T.J. Leaf led the Bruins with 23 points, while Aaron Holiday had 15 points and 11 assists and superstar freshman Lonzo Ball added 15 points, four rebounds and three assists while shooting 6-for-7 from the field — all while dealing with a wrap on his left thumb, which he’s been playing with for some time, and a hard fall onto his right hip that left him with a bruise, but which he was able to play through.
South Carolina rolls to first NCAA tournament win in 34 years
With a little more than nine minutes left in the second half of South Carolina’s game against Marquette on Friday, the score was 68-65, in the Gamecocks’ favor. That’s worth mentioning because the final score was 93-73, in the Gamecocks’ favor.
Fueled by a home-state crowd and a hunger to notch the program’s first tournament win since 1973, South Carolina ended the game on a 25-8 run. The Gamecocks, seeded seventh in the East region, move on to a matchup Sunday with second-seeded Duke.
South Carolina’s star player, senior Sindarius Thornwell, led all scorers with 29 points on 10-of-19 shooting, and he added 11 rebounds, three blocks and three steals. Sophomore PJ Dozier chipped in with 21 points, as the Gamecocks made 36 of 68 shots.
One could make the argument that this NCAA tournament has been lacking in drama through its first two full days. The Michigan State-Miami matchup will do absolutely nothing to extinguish that notion.
After falling behind 10-0, Michigan State ran the Hurricanes off the floor in Tulsa to advance to the second round with a 78-58 rout. The Spartans’ trio of freshmen, Joshua Langford, Miles Bridges and Nick Ward, combined to score 50 points on 21-of-31 shooting. Not too shabby for their first taste of March Madness.
Bearcats shoot lights out to eliminate Wildcats
After shooting a blistering 15 of 23 from the field in the first half of its game Friday against Kansas State, Cincinnati could hardly have expected to stay that hot. Sure enough, the Bearcats cooled down — and only hit 12 of 20 shots in the second half.
Cincinnati wound up making 63 percent of its attempts in a 75-61 win over the Wildcats, allowing the sixth-seeded team in the South Region to move on to a matchup with the winner of Friday’s UCLA-Kent State contest. No. 11 Kansas State had reached the first round by winning a play-in game Wednesday against Wake Forest.
The victory gave the Bearcats their 30th win of the season for just the second time in the program’s 116-year history. The 2001-02 Bearcats went 31-4 but, ominously for this year’s squad, lost to UCLA in the second round of the tournament.
Tatum if you got ’em: Freshman gives Blue Devils a boost
In the final stretch of the season, touted freshman Jayson Tatum came into his own, and his improvement turned Duke from a midseason disappointment into a favorite to win the NCAA tournament. Tatum and the Blue Devils looked the part in their opening game Friday, easily handling Troy, 87-65.
The final moments of the first half also produced a Blue Devils highlight, as Tatum made a resounding block on a layup attempt by Trojans senior guard Jeremy Hollimon just before the buzzer. Tatum finished with four blocks, while adding 18 points and 12 rebounds. According to ESPN, it was the first double-double by a Duke freshman making his tournament debut since Danny Ferry in 1986, versus Mississippi Valley State.
Shockers come back to knock off Dayton
Smith went for 15 before halftime but didn’t make a second-half shot until the 14-minute mark and finished with 25,. Meanwhile, Wichita St. outrebounded the Flyers 52-28 and turned away several Dayton attempts at the rim down the stretch. Dayton hung in there in the final minute, mostly from the free throw line. But the Shockers, who found their scoring touch after halftime, had created too much of a cushion.
Self-congratulating Jayhawks cruise into round of 32
Normally, the final moments of a 38-point victory, even in the tournament, would be fairly insignificant for the winning team. But the last basket made by Kansas, the top seed in the West Region, in its 100-62 win over 16th-seeded UC Davis on Friday had the Jayhawks’ bench leaping with excitement.
That’s because the shot was a three-pointer made by fifth-year senior guard Tyler Self, the son of Kansas Coach Bill Self and a rarely used player who made his first and only career start last month on Senior Day.
Self’s shot allowed Kansas to score 100 points in a tournament game for the ninth time. Senior guard Frank Mason III led the way with 22 points, while four other players scored in double figures.
A little upset action courtesy of Rhode Island
Rhode Island, a No. 11 seed in the Midwest Region, battered and bruised No. 6 Creighton on its way to an 84-72 victory Friday afternoon in the program’s first tournament appearance since Lamar Odom — who was in attendance here at Golden 1 Center — was a star freshman in 1999. The win meant Rhode Island advanced to face No. 3 Oregon on Sunday for the right to go to reach the Sweet 16 and take a trip to Kansas City next weekend.
The Rams (25-9) earned the victory with the same smash-mouth style that powered them to wins over St. Bonaventure, Virginia Commonwealth and Richmond in Pittsburgh last week to claim the Atlantic 10 tournament championship. And, as usual, that effort was led by senior forward Hassan Martin.
The Atlantic 10’s two-time defensive player of the year, the 6-foot-7 Martin went toe-to-toe with Creighton freshman center Justin Patton — a projected mid-first-round pick in the upcoming NBA draft — and more than held his own, finishing with 12 points, eight rebounds, three steals and a blocked shot while holding Patton to eight points and six rebounds.
Tar Heels cruise
In what was pretty much just a formality, North Carolina advanced to the second round of the South Region by walloping No. 16 Texas Southern, 103-64. The Tar Heels’ Justin Jackson led a balanced scoring attack with 21 points on 8-for-13 shooting while Isaiah Hicks pitched in with 17 and six rebounds.
The most dramatic point in the contest came when UNC star Joel Berry II was injured early in the second half. Berry left the game temporarily but came back after having simply turned his ankle. UNC hardly needed him.
Trojans stage tourney’s first big upset
For nearly 38 minutes, SMU led their matchup against 11th-seeded Southern California. Even when the Trojans tied the game, the Mustangs found a way to pull ahead.
But USC would not relent, and stunned No. 6 SMU, 66-65, to advance to play No. 3 seed Baylor on Sunday in the second round in Tulsa. The victory also snapped the Mustangs 16-game win streak.
Louisville may have started off its tournament on shaky ground with four missed layups in a row, but by the middle of the first half, the Cardinals were back to their normal, No. 2 seed selves. With a 78-63 victory, the Cardinals sent the Midwest Region’s No. 15 seed Jacksonville State home to Alabama.
Ducks get past Iona
Third-seeded Oregon used a 26-9 run to end the first half to blow open what had been a competitive game and went on to claim a 93-77 victory over No. 14 Iona here at Golden 1 Center on Friday afternoon.
Tyler Dorsey had 24 points to lead the Ducks (30-5), while Dillon Brooks had 18, Jordan Bell had 17 points and 10 rebounds and Payton Pritchard had 16 points, three rebounds, four assists and three steals as the Ducks comfortably won the first game of their tournament run, which they will have to make without injured senior big man Chris Boucher.
After Iona briefly had an injury scare when Washington went down grabbing at his right leg at the end of the first half, the Gaels tried to get back into it behind hot shooting from forward Deyshonee Much, who buried five three-pointers in the second half to help Iona get back within 13 on multiple occasions. But Oregon got timely buckets from Brooks and Dorsey whenever Iona threatened to make the deficit any smaller.
Arkansas prevails over Seton Hall
With less than 20 seconds to play and his team down one point, Seton Hall’s Desi Rodriguez needed to foul Jaylen Barford. Rodriguez placed two hands on Barford’s back but in the process appeared to accidentally trip the Razorbacks guard, sending him to the floor and drawing a costly Flagrant 1 foul. Barford sunk both free throws and eighth-seeded Arkansas went on to win a tightly contested game, 77-71, over No. 9 seed Seton Hall to reach the second round in Greenville, S.C.
Baylor beats New Mexico State
After leading by just two at halftime, Baylor pulled itself out of a jam to avoid losing back-to-back first-round games to huge underdogs, 91-73. Yale knocked out the Bears a year ago, but 14th-seeded New Mexico State could not do the same Friday in an East Region game in Tulsa.
Michigan goes deep to beat Oklahoma State
Seventh-seeded Michigan hit 11 of 16 three-point field goal attempts in the second half after a cold-shooting first to score a 92-91 win over No. 10 Oklahoma State in a Midwest Region first-round game in Indianapolis. The Big Ten champion Wolverines will play either No. 2 Louisville or No. 15 Jacksonville State on Sunday in the second round.
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Arizona has 100 reasons to feel good about itself
North Dakota scored more points, 82, than 10 teams who won opening-round games Thursday. Unfortunately, the Fighting Hawks were up against Arizona, which hit 100 in a rout that may have served as a very good omen for its chances of going deep into the tournament.
The last time the Wildcats reached triple figures in a tournament contest was in their 2001 first-round game, when they pounded Eastern Illinois, 101-76. That year also marked the last time Arizona made it to the Final Four; in fact, the school went all the way to the championship game before falling to Duke.
Cyclones keep the Wolf Pack at bay
Nevada showed a lot of heart in its second-half comeback attempt but in the end, it was the Iowa State Cyclones who advanced. Guards Monte Morris and Deonte Burton provided just the right amount of scoring punch for Iowa State, which moves on to meet Purdue on Saturday on the heels of an 84-73 win over the 12th-seeded Wolf Pack.
The Wolf Pack scored 46 points after halftime after struggling to just 27 before the break. Sophomore forward Cameron Oliver led Nevada with 22 points and seven rebounds. But it wasn’t enough to stop the Big 12 champs, who remain unbeaten under Coach Steve Prohm when leading at halftime.
Wisconsin makes Virginia Tech’s tournament stay brief
Eighth-seeded Wisconsin made the plays it needed to in the closing moments of a game against No. 9 Virginia Tech — and caught a lucky break — to get a close win, 84-74, in an East Region first-round game in Buffalo and move on the second round. The experienced Badgers had felt slighted by receiving such a relatively low seed by the selection committee, but they had their hands full with the Hokies, who were making their first tournament appearance since 2007 and just their third since 1986.
Senior guard Bronson Koenig led Wisconsin with 28 points, while senior forward Zach LeDay paced the Hokies with 23. The Badgers will take on the East Region’s top-seeded team, Villanova, on Friday.
Bacon sizzles as Seminoles oust Florida Gulf Coast
Florida State’s Dwayne Bacon wasn’t about to let upstart Florida Gulf Coast steal the stage in Thursday night’s West Region first round game at Amway Center. The sophomore guard scored 16 of his 25 points in the first half of an 86-80 victory, helping the third-seeded Seminoles advance to Saturday’s second round matchup with No. 11 Xavier, which beat No. 6 seed Maryland earlier Thursday night in Orlando.
Men at work: Saint Mary’s overpowers VCU
A smooth, crisply-played affair sunk into a mud pit in the second half but through an avalanche of fouls, Saint Mary’s held on to fight off a serious run by No. 10 VCU and walked away a winner in the West Region by a score of 85-77. The seventh-seeded Gaels couldn’t sustain the halfcourt rhythm they mastered in the first half en route to a 15-point advantage, but despite the Rams’ JeQuan Lewis blowing up to the tune of 30 points, Saint Mary’s advanced in Salt Lake City.
More headlines from the bracket
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Southern Cal stages major comeback, overtakes Providence
Southern Cal lost a heartbreaker to Providence in the tournament last year, and for much of Wednesday’s game, it appeared the Trojans’ only silver lining would be sparing themselves the pain of a close loss. But USC stormed back from a 17-point, second-half deficit, stunning the Friars with a 75-71 win in a showdown between 11 seeds.
The Trojans notched the seventh largest comeback in tournament history, in the process earning a shot at No. 6 SMU Friday in an East region matchup. USC defeated the Mustangs, 78-73, in November. Sophomore forward Bennie Boatwright led the Trojans Wednesday with 24 points, while junior forward Emmitt Holt paced the Friars with 18.
UC Davis tops NC Central, will take on Kansas
UC Davis was making its first tournament appearance, and now it has its first tournament win. Representing the Big West conference, which it joined in 2007 after becoming a Division I program in 2004, the Aggies took a close one Wednesday from NC Central, 67-63.
By winning the battle of No. 16 seeds, UC Davis now gets a shot at Kansas, the top-seeded team in the Midwest Region, in a game that will be played Friday evening. Junior forward Chima Moneke led the Aggies with 18 points and 12 rebounds, while senior guard Dajuan Graf led the Eagles, representing the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, with 15 points.
Kansas State ousts Wake Forest and Danny Manning
Kansas State had a lot on the line Tuesday. Not only was the team looking to get past Wake Forest in a play-in game and make the main field of the tournament, it was looking for a measure of revenge against an old tormentor. That would be Demon Deacons Coach Danny Manning, the former Kansas star who went 8-2 against the Wildcats as a player, including a tourney win during the Jayhawks’ march to the 1988 title.
Done, and done. Kansas State dispatched Manning and Wake, 95-88, winning the battle of No. 11 seeds and moving on to face sixth-seeded Cincinnati. Wesley Iwundu and Kamau Stokes led the way for the Wildcats with 24 and 22 points, respectively, while the Deacons’ John Collins paced all scorers with 26.
Mount St. Mary’s tops New Orleans for tournament’s first win
Winning the first game of the NCAA tournament — or the first play-in game, at least — was not too big a hill to climb for the Mountaineers. New Orleans had a chance to win it in the closing seconds, but Mount St. Mary’s hung on for a 67-66 victory Tuesday.
Having played their way into the traditional bracket of 64 teams, the Mountaineers will have a much greater challenge, as they attempt to become the first No. 16 seed to beat a No. 1 seed when they face Villanova on Thursday. Representing the Northeast Conference, Mount St. Mary’s got a game-high 23 points, on 9-of-14 shooting, from Junior Robinson, who, at 5-5, is the smallest player in the tournament. Nate Frye led the Privateers, representing the the Southland conference, with 18 points.
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John Feinstein offers his analysis of the bracket’s four regions: