Day one of March Madness has come and gone and there’s really only one thing the first day lacked — madness.
14 of the 16 better seeds were victorious. And even one of the “upsets” was a consensus favorite to win their game.
No matter how the way the games went down, it was still a great day of action in the NCAA Tournament. 1-seeds were pushed, the old classic 5-12 upset occurred, the Ivy League tried to steal the show for yet another year, and a program making their long-awaited tournament debut advanced because of a wild mistake.
The entire West region second round is officially set as the whole region was in action on Thursday.
You’re well aware by now that the 2-seed Arizona Wildcats took care of business in Salt Lake City with a win over 15-seed North Dakota Fighting Hawks, 100-82, behind 20 points from Lauri Markkanen.
Waiting for the Wildcats on Saturday will be the Saint Mary’s Gaels, who handled the VCU Rams, 85-77, in their 7-10 matchup.
The Gaels looked to blow VCU out and did a good job of it from the get go, taking a 15 point lead to the half. The Rams clawed back and got the lead down to two midway through the second half. But Jock Landale, center for Saint Mary’s and owner of the most 1980’s teen movie bad guy name of all time, wouldn’t let the Gaels slip. He finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds.
Arizona and Saint Mary’s meet on Saturday with an approximate 4:45 PM PT tip-off.
Also in Salt Lake City, the 1-seed Gonzaga Bulldogs struggled to put the 16-seed South Dakota State Jackrabbits away but eventually got the job done with their vicious defense, 66-46.
Up next for Gonzaga is a meeting with the program that celebrated their first game —and first victory — in NCAA Tournament history on Thursday, the 8-seed Northwestern Wildcats.
It didn’t come easy for Northwestern. But, then again, maybe it did.
With SLC packed with purple, the Wildcats engaged in a battle with 9-seed, Vanderbilt. Late in the game, the Commodores took the lead on a Riley LaChance drive to the hoop, giving Vandy a 1 point lead.
But then, with 14 seconds remaining, inexplicably, Commodores guard Matthew Fisher-Davis, who led the team with 22 points, apparently lost track of the score and intentionally fouled Northwestern, to send them to the line. Wildcat guard Bryant McIntosh sank both free throws and Northwestern held on for their first tournament win in program history.
The only high seed to grab a victory in the West region on Thursday was the Xavier Musketeers, who defeated the Maryland Terrapins in their 6-11 matchup, 76-65. Trevon Bluiett scored 21.
They’ve got the 3-seed Florida State Seminoles up next. The Noles were a popular pick to be upset by Cinderella darling, 14-seed Florida Gulf Coast. But FSU was too much for Dunk City, with Dwayne Bacon’s 25 points and nine rebounds.
And, finally, the 4-5 matchup is set for Saturday as both the West Virginia Mountaineers and Notre Dame Fighting Irish advanced to round two. Both teams struggled mightily with their first round opponent, both showing weakness. Saturday’s meeting between the two should be highly interesting, with West Virginia’s chaotic defense trying to cause turnovers from a team that is normally calm, cool, and collected.
OTHER NOTABLE RESULTS
South region - 12-seed Middle Tennessee State 81, 5-seed Minnesota 72
MTSU did it again but this time, it was a little more expected. The Blue Raiders, who pulled off one of the biggest upsets in last year’s tournament as a 15-seed, were actually favored over the Golden Gophers on Thursday. They advanced to the second round for the second year in a row behind Reggie Upshaw’s 19 points and nine rebounds.
They play the 4-seed Butler Bulldogs on Saturday.
Other Saturday matchups decided:
East region - 1-seed Villanova Wildcats vs. 8-seed Wisconsin Badgers
East region - 4-seed Florida Gators vs. 5-seed Virginia Cavaliers
Midwest region - 4-seed Purdue Boilermakers vs. 5-seed Iowa State Cyclones