Loyola Chicago hit a three-pointer in the final moments to move on as an 11 seed, and Houston’s Rob Gray had a ridiculous second half, including a game-winning scoop shot, to post Thursday’s top individual performance. But the first full day of the NCAA tournament belonged to the 13th-seeded Buffalo Bulls, who treated the No. 4 Arizona Wildcats like so many hapless folding tables.
You’ve heard of the #BillsMafia, right? Fans of Buffalo’s NFL team have become renowned for hurling themselves, or being tossed, WWE-style, through folding tables before home games.
Well, #BullsMafia is officially a thing now, and sure enough, at least one Buffalo fan was only too happy to do the honors back home after the school earned its first NCAA tournament victory by routing Arizona, 89-68, in Boise, Idaho. Just as Buffalo Coach Nate Oats predicted on Wednesday, in fact:
Want another angle? Sure you do!
Meanwhile, countless people from coast to coast were left to bemoan the decidedly busted state of their brackets, given that Arizona was a popular pick to make it out of, or at least go far in, the South region. CBS Sports said that of the brackets filled out at its website:
- 92.8 percent had Arizona over Buffalo
- 60.5 percent had the Wildcats in the Sweet 16
- 22.4 percent had them in the Elite Eight
- 18.1 percent had them in the Final Four
- 11.1 percent had them in the national championship game
- 4.2 percent had them winning it all
ESPN said that 90.2 percent of the 17.3 million brackets filled out at its site picked the Wildcats over the Bulls, 18 percent had Arizona in the Final Four and almost five percent had the school taking the title. Ouch! Here is a sampling of some of the hand-wringing.
- No. 7 Rhode Island 83, No. 10 Oklahoma 78 (OT)
- No. 3 Tennessee 73, No. 14 Wright State 47
- No. 4 Gonzaga 68, No. 13 UNCG 64
- No. 1 Kansas 76, No. 16 Penn 60
- No. 2 Duke 89, No. 15 Iona 67
- No. 11 Loyola Chicago 64, No. 6 Miami 62
- No. 5 Ohio State 83, No. 12 South Dakota State 71
- No. 8 Seton Hall 94, No. 9 N.C. State 83
- No. 1 Villanova 87, No. 16 Radford 61
- No. 5 Kentucky 78, No. 12 Davidson 73
- No. 6 Houston 67, No. 11 San Diego State 65
- No. 3 Texas Tech 70, No. 14 Stephen F. Austin 60
- No. 9 Alabama 86, No. 8 Virginia Tech 83
- No. 13 Buffalo 89, No. 4 Arizona 68
- No. 3 Michigan 61, No. 14 Montana 47
- No. 6 Florida 77, No. 11 St. Bonaventure 62
Buffalo runs away from Arizona in stunningly lopsided upset
Led by the imposing Deandre Ayton and studded with other players who could be NBA-caliber, Arizona was widely thought to be a strong contender to emerge from the South region as its No. 4 seed. Instead, the Wildcats failed to make it out of the first round, getting run off the floor by the 13-seeded Buffalo Bulls, 89-68.
With 17:22 to go, Arizona held a one-point lead at 46-45, at which point Buffalo went on a 44-22 run to close out the stunning upset. What the contest lacked in late-game drama, it made up for in sheer surrealism, with the Bulls notching the first NCAA tournament victory in school history while posting the second-largest win by a 13 seed over a 4 seed since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985 (per ESPN).
Buffalo senior Wes Clark led all players with 25 points, adding a game-high seven assists, while junior teammate Jeremy Harris was next with 23. Ayton, a 7-foot-1 freshman in contention to be the No. 1 pick in this year’s NBA draft, had 14 points and 13 rebounds, while fellow seven-footer Dusan Ristic led the Wildcats with 16 points.
Combined with the losses of UCLA and Arizona State in Tuesday’s play-in games, the Pac-12 was bounced at 0-3 in the tournament before the first full day was even over. It became the fifth conference to go 0-3 or worse in the tournament since the 1985 expansion (per ESPN).
“I can’t say enough about our guys,” said Buffalo Coach Nate Oats, whose team moves on to a second-round game against fifth-seeded Kentucky. “I thought we had a shot.
“I didn’t think we’d win it like that, but I thought we could win this game.”
Michigan handles Montana in low-scoring affair
Michigan and Montana combined to score just 14 more points Thursday than Seton Hall did all by itself. That’s just fine with the third-seeded Wolverines, considering they scored 14 more than the Grizzlies and are moving on to the next round.
Holding just a three-point lead at halftime, Michigan ground down Montana over the next 20 minutes for a 61-47 win. The 14th-seeded Grizzlies score just 19 points in the second half, and they hit only three of 15 three-point attempts for the game.
The Wolverines were scarcely much better from beyond the arc, going five of 16 from three-point range, but they shot much better overall, hitting .447 percent of their field goals, compared to .321 for Montana. Michigan also doubled up the Grizzlies, 22-11 in free-throw attempts, making 14 to Montana’s eight.
The Wolverines will face sixth-seeded Houston and its red-hot guard, Rob Gray, in the second round. Gray scored 39 points Thursday, plus the game-winner with just over a second left, to help oust San Diego State.
Florida swats aside St. Bonaventure
St. Bonaventure will have to content itself with a rousing win over UCLA in Tuesday’s play-in game, its first tournament victory since 1970, when it played in the Final Four. The 11th-seeded Bonnies ran out of gas Thursday, posing little challenge to sixth-seeded Florida after halftime in a 77-62 Gators win in the East region.
Florida senior Egor Koulechov led all players with 20 points, while senior teammate Chris Chiozza dished out 11 assists to go with his eight points. Junior Courtney Stockard topped the Bonnies with 14 points, but they consistently misfired from three-point range, hitting just three of 19.
While St. Bonaventure can go home with pride in a terrific season for the program, Florida is hoping to make the Elite Eight for the sixth time in its past seven tournament appearances, dating back to 2011. Up next for the Gators is a second-round date with third-seeded Texas Tech.
Virginia Tech falls to Sexton, Alabama
On Wednesday, Virginia Tech Coach Buzz Williams called Collin Sexton “the best guard in the country.” Alabama’s freshman sensation likely did nothing Thursday to change Williams’s mind.
Sexton led all scorers with 25 points, dishing out a team-high six assists along the way, and his ninth-seeded Crimson Tide knocked off the eighth-seeded Hokies, 86-83, in a first-round game in the East region. Expected to become an NBA lottery pick this summer, Sexton helped ice his team’s victory by going eight for 10 from the free-throw line in the final 1:06.
Junior Justin Robinson led the Hokies with 19 points and all players with seven assists. Alabama moves on to a second-round matchup with top-seeded Villanova.
Gray takes over to lead Houston past San Diego State
Well, that was a pretty decent second half for Rob Gray. All the Houston senior managed to do was score 23 of his team’s 28 points after halftime for a career-high total of 39 points, plus he hit the game-winning shot with just over a second left to lead the Cougars to a 67-65 triumph over the Aztecs.
Gray, a 6-foot-1 guard, made 12 of 25 shots, including four of seven three-point attempts, and he hit 11 of 15 from the free-throw line. The rest of the sixth-ranked Cougars combined to hit just 10 of 34 shots from the field, but Gray would not let them lose to an Aztecs squad that repeatedly rallied from sizable deficits.
“As I was dribbling the clock out, I was just trying to stay composed and just think back to all the days when I was watching March Madness,” Gray said of the final moments, noting that he grew up in North Carolina as a Tar Heels fan. “This is what I live for.”
Houston was the runner-up in the American Athletic Conference tournament, while 11th-seeded SDSU, which was led Thursday by Jalen McDaniels’s 18 points, won the Mountain West championship. Houston moves on to a second-round battle in the West region with the winner of the game later on Thursday between 3-seed Michigan and No. 14 Montana.
Texas Tech makes the plays in final five minutes to top Stephen F. Austin
When Stephen F. Austin’s Kevon Harris hit a jumper with 5:20 left in a first-round game against Texas Tech, it gave his team a 57-55 lead. The Lumberjacks would not make another shot from the field, however, and the Red Raiders made the plays they needed to go on a 15-3 run the rest of the way for a 70-60 win in the East region.
Senior Keenan Evans led the way for third-seeded Tech, scoring a game-high 23 points and driving for three layups, to go with two made free throws and two rebounds, in the final five minutes. The Red Raiders out-rebounded the 14th-seeded Lumberjacks, 43-32, and they advanced past the first round for the first time since 2005, when they were coached by Bob Knight.
Conveniently for both Texas-based schools, the game was played in Dallas. Texas Tech now awaits a matchup with the winner of the last game of the night, between No. 6 Florida and No. 11 St. Bonaventure.
Kentucky gets past pesky Davidson
Davidson was up against a Goliath of a college basketball program Thursday, and this time, the underdog could not topple the favorite. Fifth-seeded Kentucky watched its three-pointer-happy opponent go mostly cold down the stretch, and John Calipari’s young crew escaped with a 78-73 victory in a first-round game in the South region.
The A-10 tournament champion, Davidson was 10th in the nation in made three-pointers at 10.7 per game, and it hit 11 from long range Thursday. However, starting with just under seven minutes to play in the game and down just two points, the 12th-seeded squad missed six straight from long range and Kentucky began to pull away.
Kentucky’s all-freshman lineup showed poise in coming away with the tense win, and it also showed off the length and athleticism fans have come to expect from the Wildcats. John Calipari’s team actually made none of its six three-point attempts, but Kevin Knox (game-high 25 points) and Co. hit 12 more free throws on 15 more attempts, and they won the rebounding battle, 41-30.
Kentucky lost four straight in February, but it got back on track in a big way, finishing its season on a 7-1 run that included an SEC tournament championship. Now the Wildcats are set to take on the winner of a game later on Thursday between fourth-seeded Arizona and 13th-seeded Buffalo.
Villanova cruises into second round
The Radford Highlanders just didn’t have it in them to give the East’s top seed a game. ‘Nova roared on with an 87-61 win that never felt that close. Six Wildcats scored in double digits, led by Jalen Brunson’s 16 points, and no Wildcats starter played more than 29 minutes. Next up for Villanova? The winner of 8-seed Virginia Tech vs. 9-seed Alabama.
360 alley-oop gets night session off to an explosive start
It was early in the East region matchup between 3-seed Texas Tech and 14-seed Stephen F. Austin, but that didn’t keep the Red Raiders’ Keenan Evans and Zhaire Smith from shooting off some fireworks in Dallas.
The Lumberjacks shook it off and took a 30-27 lead into halftime. Think Smith’s acrobatics worried SFA’s Kevin Harris? That would be a nope.
Seton Hall goes wire-to-wire in win over N.C. State
Seton Hall scored the first basket of the game, took a solid lead a few minutes later and mostly held N.C. State at arm’s length the rest of the way in a 94-83 win. The ninth-seeded Wolfpack pulled close on several occasions but was never able to get over the hump in a first-round matchup in the Midwest region.
The Pirates got double-digit scoring from five players, led by senior Khadeen Carrington’s 26 points, while N.C. State senior Allerik Freeman led all scorers with 36 points. Seton Hall won the game at the line, hitting 31 of 39 free throws, including seven in the final 1:02. N.C. State went 16 for 27 from the line.
For the first time since 2004, the 8-seed Pirates advanced to the second round, where they will face top-seeded Kansas. Seton Hall also improved to 3-3 all-time against the Wolfpack.
Ohio State uses four-point play to hold off South Dakota State
Ohio State was viewed as an overachieving team all season, and it again defied at least a few expectations Thursday by defeating South Dakota State, 80-73, in a first-round matchup in the West region.
The experienced Jackrabbits were a popular upset pick as a 12 seed, and they gave the fifth-seeded Buckeyes all they could handle, but Kam Williams’s four-point play broke a 70-70 tie and sent OSU on its way. Williams scored 22 points, while teammate and Big 10 player of the year Keita Bates-Diop led their squad with 24.
Summit League player of the year Mike Daum led all scorers with 27 points, but teammate David Jenkins Jr. had a disastrous shooting day, making just four of 18 shots from the field, en route to 16 points. Thursday marked the fifth time since 2012 that SDSU had made the tournament, but it is still in search of its first win.
Under first-year coach Chris Holtmann, Ohio State had a surprisingly successful season, finishing second in the Big 10 during the regular season and returning to the tournament for the first time since 2015. The Buckeyes now move on to a second-round matchup with fourth-seeded Gonzaga, which also withstood a strong challenge Thursday, from its opponent, UNC Greensboro.
Loyola-Chicago shoots down Miami
March keeps rambling on.
No. 11-seed Loyola Chicago knocked off No. 6-seed Miami with a dramatic, buzzer-beating three-pointer to secure a 64-62 win in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
The Ramblers’ Marques Townes was trapped in the corner after a missed Hurricanes’ free throw, when he found Donte Ingram at the edge of the midcourt logo.
Ingram buried the triple with three-tenths of a second to play, not enough time for Miami (22-9) to answer.
Miami’s Lonnie Walker IV had a chance to push the Hurricane’s lead to three with nine seconds to play, but he missed the front end of one-and-one free throws. Ben Richardson grabbed the rebound for Loyola (29-5) and the Ramblers were off. They’ll face No. 3-seed Tennessee in the round of 32.
Four Loyola players scored in double figures, including 14 points from guard Clayton Custer. Walker led Miami with 12 points.
The Ramblers’ defense, especially down the stretch, forced the Hurricanes into situations that tested their young backcourt. Miami turned the ball over 16 times; Loyola scored 15 points off turnovers, none bigger than a Custer three-pointer to tie the game at 60 with 1:17 to play.
Ja’Quan Newton hit a fade-away jumpshot Miami’s next possession, but those was the last field goal the Hurricanes could muster in three more possessions.
“I told them God would do his part if we would do our part,” Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, the team’s 98 year-old chaplain told TruTV after the final horn.
South Dakota State tied with Ohio State at the half
There is always a No. 5 vs. No. 12 upset lurking in the NCAA tournament year after year. South Dakota State and Ohio State could be the one in 2018. The Jackrabbits are tied with the Buckeyes, 43 all, at halftime in Boise.
SDSU’s Mike Daum and Ohio State’s Keita Bates-Diop, the Big Ten player of the year, each have 17 points.
And if you haven’t seen Mike Daum this year — he’s averaging 23.8 points and 10.4 rebounds per game — here’s a look at what he’s capable of:
Duke blows out Iona
The Blue Devils took care of business, topping the 15-seed Gaels, 89-67, in their first-round matchup in Pittsburgh. Marvin Bagley III led four Blue Devils starters in double figures with 22 points and added seven rebounds. Duke, the 2-seed in the Midwest, gets 7-seed Rhode Island on Saturday.
Grayson Allen (11 points, 5 assists) knocked down this smooth three-pointer at the first-half buzzer to tilt the Devils over the half-century mark.
Kansas pulls away from Penn
No. 1-seed Kansas treaded in some pretty hot water for a while letting No. 16-seed Pennsylvania hang around their first-round matchup in Wichita
But the Jayhawks (28-7) pulled away late for a 76-60 win behind 29 points from Devonte Graham. Kansas will face the winner of Seton Hall and North Carolina State.
A.J. Brodeur and Caleb Wood each scored 14 points for the Quakers (24-9), who kept the game in single-digits until late, when the Jayhawks’ Mitch Lightfoot took over the paint. Free throws also killed Penn, which went 5-of-14 from the line.
Gonzaga avoids a meltdown vs. UNC-Greensboro
From Tim Bontemps in Boise, Idaho: The Gonzaga Bulldogs came within a few possessions of winning last season’s national championship. Thursday afternoon, they came just as close to seeing their hopes of another Final Four run end on the NCAA tournament’s opening day.
Thanks to a three-pointer from the right wing by redshirt freshman Zach Norvell Jr. with 20.8 seconds remaining, the fourth-seeded Bulldogs survived an upset scare from No. 13 seed UNC-Greensboro, winning 68-64 here at Taco Bell Arena.
Gonzaga (31-4) found itself in trouble when Jordy Kuiper tipped in a missed shot to make it 64-62 in favor of the Spartans (27-8) with 1:47 remaining. It was the culmination of a series of aggressive attacks of the interior of Gonzaga’s defense, and briefly allowed UNCG to look like it would win.
Instead, it proved to be Greensboro’s final basket of the game.
While the Spartans played free and easy throughout an entertaining game that saw eight ties and three lead changes, an ambitious, failed attempted alley-oop from guard Demetrius Troy with 1:05 remaining kept them from extend their lead past one possession. The mistake proved costly when Gonzaga’s Josh Perkins tied the game with 51 seconds remaining.
After Greensboro’s Francis Alonso badly missed a runner off the right side of the backboard, Norvell’s jumper put Gonzaga ahead for good. The Spartans had two chances to tie, but Alonso was called for an offensive foul for pushing off a defender, and after Rui Hachimura missed two free throws, Marvin Smith’s three-pointer rattled in and out to officially snuff out Greensboro’s upset dreams.
Rhode Island prevails over Young and Oklahoma in OT
If that Oklahoma-Rhode Island game is an omen for the rest of March Madness, you’re going to rip your hair out by the time the month is over.
Rhode Island prevailed in the definition of a nail-biter, 83-78, in overtime, in Pittsburgh. Oklahoma star freshman Trae Young scored 28 points on 9-of-18 shooting. Four Rams scored in double figures, led by 16 points from guard E.C. Matthews, who hit a 24-foot three-pointer with 30 seconds left in the extra session to put the Rams (26-7) up by five and seal the game.
The Sooners (18-14) led 35-31 at the half, but seventh-seeded Rhode Island ripped off a 10-0 run to grab a lead midway through the second half. From there, Young and the Rams’ defense pitched a battle that frequently spanned all 94 feet of the floor.
Jared Terrell, who apparently didn’t know he could dribble in closer, hit a three-pointer from within the midcourt logo to tie the game at 44 with 16 minutes to play.
But Young answered, and got hot late in the game. Eighteen of his points came in the second half.
He nailed a deep three-pointer and then two free throws to tie the game late. Rhode Island’s Jeff Dowtin missed a layup at the other end, and Stanford Robinson grabbed the rebound, but his putback attempt rolled off the rim as the horn sounded.
“We’re a resilient team,” Matthews said in a TV interview afterward. “We’ve been through this the whole year.”
Also, Rhody’s bench was into it:
Tennessee blows out Wright State: Third-seeded Tennessee got a double-double from Admiral Schofield and 14 points from Grant Williams in a dominating 73-47 win over Wright State. The third-seeded Vols (26-8) led by 11 at halftime, and cruised in the second half. They will face either the winner of No. 6 Miami and No. 11 Loyola Chicago in Saturday’s second round.
Sir Charles gets a quick jump: Tip-off was still minutes away when Charles Barkley uttered his first controversial comment of the day.
Blabbing on CBS’s pregame show Thursday, Barkley opined that Arizona’s “DeAndre Ayton is the best college basketball player I’ve seen in 25 years.” Clark Kellogg agreed, but Kenny Smith brought a bit of balance to the conversation, reminding everyone of Anthony Davis.
Remember, the tournament’s first round hadn’t even started. Whee.
La Bamba: Mo Bamba, Texas’s 6-foot-11 big man with the nearly eight-foot wingspan, on Thursday again said that his toe is 100 percent healthy ahead of Friday afternoon’s game against seventh-seeded Nevada. Bamba, a freshman, led the Big 12 in rebounding and blocks and is seen as a likely NBA lottery pick in this year’s draft.
Bamba missed three games with a sprained big toe before returning to play 14 minutes in Texas’s Big 12 tournament loss to Texas Tech.
A full-strength Bamba could be a problem for the Wolf Pack, which does not have a player taller than 6-7.
“Unfortunately, when he sustained the injury in mid-February, it slowed him down some, but he’s healthier now than he’s been since he sustained that injury and hopefully on Friday he’ll be able to go full speed and full go,” Longhorns Coach Shaka Smart said this week. “We’re excited about that. When you look at his development, he’s made major strides and now that we’re in mid-March, it’s the time to play the best basketball of his freshman year.”
— The most important thing you’ll need to know over the first two days of the tournament — the absolute most essential information is how to find truTV, the Turner channel that assumes a lofty status along with CBS, TNT and TBS for this part of the March Madness. Here’s everything you need to know about how to quickly find it.
— This week’s play-in winners are Radford, Texas Southern, St. Bonaventure and Syracuse. Radford faces Villanova; Texas Southern plays Xavier; St. Bonaventure plays Florida; and Syracuse faces TCU. And as John Feinstein writes, Radford isn’t letting the long odds kill its vibe.
— Kansas just won its NCAA-record 14th straight conference title and is a No. 1 seed for the eighth time in 15 years under Bill Self. (Read more on Big 12 player of the year Devonte’ Graham, who plays a beautiful but understated game.)
— Miami is in its third straight tournament, and the school is already in love with 5-foot-7 Chris Lykes. Next up: All of college basketball.
— Kentucky Coach John Calipari didn’t seem thrilled with his team’s draw — or with being sent to Boise.
— There will be no team in this year’s field with more scrutiny and attention than Arizona, thanks to the ongoing FBI investigation of college basketball corruption. Some people think the FBI is cleaning up college basketball, but critics claim the bureau is wasting its time. And Jerry Brewer argues that March Madness is the sport’s greatest hypocrisy and best hope of salvation.
— Michigan is again peaking at the right time, with a tenacious defensive identity and another Big Ten tournament title.
— Forget about Kentucky and Arizona, Virginia, still has the easiest road to the Final Four. The Cavaliers face UMBC, which is embracing a “nothing to lose” attitude,” in the first round. And, unsurprisingly, the three best bets to win the NCAA tournament include Virginia, as well as Villanova and Duke. Here is a roundup of other expert picks.
— Barack Obama isn’t letting a little thing like being out of office keep him from his annual “Barack-etology” brackets. Spoiler: he has Michigan State winning the men’s title and UConn (again) winning the women’s championship.