Do you think that 15th seed St. Peter’s win over Kentucky’s No. 2 seed Thursday night would be the end of the madness for the first round of the NCAA Championship? If so, think again. While the seeders weren’t dropped on Friday, there were surprises, dramatic finishes, heroic individual efforts, bookmakers’ devastating finishes and some notable events (looking at you, Jabbari Smith).
In short, it was another day in March as more double-digit seeds advanced to the second round and more scenes revealed that would end in the “One Bright Moment” video montage after the National Champion was crowned. As the sun rose on a new day after Kentucky’s historic loss, some of the tournament’s top seeders looked particularly refreshed to avoid similar fates to wildcats.
Fellow No. 2 seed Auburn, Villanova and Duke took over the business with double-digit victories, while top seed Arizona retained the feisty Wright State squad. It wasn’t all about the top-ranked teams roaring, though, as the first round continued to deliver captivating stories.
Here are the winners and losers from Friday as the field of 68 continued to shrink.
Winner: Texas crumble drought
Texas claimed their first NCAA Championship win since 2014 by defeating the 11th seed Virginia Tech 81-73. The Longhorns went through Shaka Smart’s six-year run without winning the Big Dance, but it only took Chris Beard one season to reclaim UT in the second round. Next is the confrontation with the Purdue which will be in contrast to the tactics where the Longhorns spread their miserly defense against the attack of the high-powered Boilermakers.
Winner: Therese Hunter
Iowa state guard Teresa Hunter scored 23 points in the career level for the 11th-ranked Hurricanes, which advanced to the second round with a 59-54 win over LSU. For the team that finished last season 2-22, just going 0.500 in coach TJ Otzelberger’s first season would have been a fantastic progression. But the Hurricanes are dancing in the NCAA Championship, thanks in large part to Hunter’s Big Night. Combined the phenomenon of the novice with teammate Isaiah Brockington with a total of 42 points. It’s a good thing they were hot, because their teammates combined to go only 6 of 27 off the floor.
Loser: LSU enters the night
With LSU seeking its next coach following the firing of Will Wade last week, the future looks a little scary for the Tigers, who still face post-season bans or other penalties for alleged violations committed during Wade’s tenure. Five-star signer Julian Phillips announced Friday that he has been laid off from his LOI, and reshaping the roster could prove difficult for the next coach at the time amid the prospect of penalties looming. The NCAA Deep Course under interim coach Kevin Nickelberry may have changed the narrative surrounding the program quite a bit. But the Tigers are now entering an uncertain night with Athletic Director Scott Woodward’s track record of hiring coaches who shine as the only light in what may end up as a bleak tunnel for the LSU program.
Winner: First TCU Championship win since the Reagan presidency
The TCU achieved its first NCAA Championship win since 1987 by defeating Seton Hall 69-42 to reach the second round, where it will face top-ranked Arizona. The last time the show won a Big Dance match, 56-year-old coach Jimmy Dixon was the team’s second leading scorer. The Horned Frogs dominated the coating with a 40-14 edge as second guard Mike Miles led the way offensively with 21 points. As for Seton Hall? Weft. The Pirates were on a six-game winning streak before losing to UConn in the Big East Tournament quarter-finals. Now he finished the season in a two-game losing streak, dropping his NCAA Championship record to 1-5 under 12th-year coach Kevin Willard.
Winner: Next Storybook Sunday
Sunday’s story will be in Greenville, South Carolina, when Michigan State’s No. 7 seed Duke plays the final battle between retired Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and longtime rival Tom Izu. The Spartans nearly failed to maintain their end of the bargain in creating that match on Friday, but they managed a 74-73 win over Davidson’s side that includes former Spartans guard Foster Lauer.
Loser: Colgate come short again
3 seed Colgate gave Arkansas a run for its money in the first round last season before the Razorbacks pulled out late to win 85-68. Back in 2019, the Raiders only lost 77-70 to second seed Tennessee in the first round. Colgate was also competitive as the 16th seed in losses against Kansas and Yukon in 1995 and 1996. But unfortunately for the small private school in Hamilton, New York, her Big Dance 2022 trip brought more of the same. Colgate took a lead midway through the second half before faltering late in a 67-60 loss to third seed Wisconsin. Jonny Davis of Wisconsin scored 25 points high in the game even on an ankle that was clearly not 100% healthy. Colgate’s first NCAA win will have to wait another year.
Winner: Cormac Ryan
Notre Dame goalkeeper Cormac Ryan picked a brilliant moment to score 29 career points. Ryan hit 10 of 13 shots from the ground, including a 7 of 9 from a 3-point range to lead the Fighting Irish in a 78-64 win over the number 6 seed Alabama. Ryan and his crew had less than 48 hours to recover after defeating Rutgers in a double overtime match as part of the All-Forest Four in Dayton, Ohio, on Friday. But cross-country travel to San Diego doesn’t seem to bother Notre Dame, particularly Ryan. Next is a test against one of the nation’s top third-ranked defenses at Texas Tech. But even after that race is over, Ryan and the Irishman will remember Friday’s performance for a while.
Loser: Alabama is drowning in smoke
The roller coaster season at Crimson Tide ended, aptly, in a pile of defensive debris as the No. 6 West Zone seed fell to Notre Dame. Alabama struggled all season to replicate the defensive prowess they enjoyed last season, and the Fighting Irish took advantage of that weakness. Of course, there will always be a “what if” factor from this match for Alabama. What if Jahon Quinnery didn’t hurt his knee in the first half and missed the rest of the match? It might not have made a difference against the hot Notre Dame side, but playing without a starting point guard certainly didn’t help Alabama.
Winner: Auburn’s Return to Form
With a record of only 5-4 over the last nine games after a 22-1 start, Auburn entered as seeded No. 2, but she’s not particularly intimidating. The Tigers looked like their old selves and much better during the booms in their 80-61 win over Jacksonville State. An 11-0 run to finish the first half helped Auburn break away, and the front-court size of Jabari Smith and Walker Kessler proved too much for the Gamecocks to handle. Smith finished with 20 points and 14 rebounds, while Kessler contributed 13 points, 10 rebounds, and 9 blocks. Oh, and this immersion from Smith has to be a lock to appear in “one shining moment.”
Winner: Ohio State Gets Salvation
A first-round NCAA Championship loss against 15th seed Oral Roberts in 2021 cast a shadow over the Ohio State basketball program, but the Buckeyes came out of the cloud with a 54-41 win over Loyola-Chicago. The nature of the win was kind to Ohio State, too. A year after allowing ORU’s Max Abmas and Kevin Obanor to combine for 59 points in the first round, the Buckeyes kept the Ramblers below that total as a team. Ohio State isn’t known for being a great defensive team, but they were fierce in this finish against the Ramblers who know a thing or two about winning in March.
Loser: The Dukes of the Bettors
Duke entered his first-round match against Cal State Fullerton as a 18.5-point favorite against the 15th-seeded Titans. The Blue Devils advanced comfortably during the second half and advanced into the second round with relative ease with a 78-61 win. But when Tray Maddox Jr. With Cal State Fullerton an undisputed goal in the final seconds, Blue Devils betting fans will likely feel sick. For Duke fans who needed to cover their team, just remember this: losing against the spread as a #2 seed is a lot less painful than losing straight. Just ask Kentucky fans.
Winner: Miami advances with close win over USC
Miami all season has been the king of close losses—seven of its 10 losses were by two possessions, three were by one point—so in a fitting fashion, the Hurricanes advanced on the right side of a closely contested game. 7th seed Miami defeated USC 68-66 thanks to Isaiah Wong’s 22 points and Charlie Moore’s powerful stretch to close. The Trojans almost delivered a dagger at the trumpet with 3 in and out, but Miami’s much-deserved positive dip in close matches finally arrived at perfect time.
Winner: Texas Tech crime
Texas Tech is known for its defense, and the Red Raiders were solid in that regard during their 97-62 win over Montana State. But TTU’s offense was out of this world, scoring a season-high in points while shooting 66.7% from the ground. All five TTU starters reached double digits, led by Terrence Shannon and Bryson Williams with 20 each. Montana isn’t known as a defensive juggernaut, but if the Red Invaders are getting too hot, watch out. This is a body kit with age that you can match basically anyone, and it’s a great start.
Loser: Chattanooga sees the other side of March
Chattanooga had its best March showing on March 7 when she beat Foreman in a SoCon Championship title match on David Jean Baptiste’s three-pointer on the bell. That legendary shot brought the Mocs back into the big dance for the first time since 2016 and made them a darling this month. But after experiencing that high, Chattanooga felt the other side of it in Friday’s 54-53 loss to No. 4 seed Illinois. The Illini never advanced until the last minute of the game and only remained after potential game winner Malachi Smith bounced back for the Mocs with the expiration of time. Chattanooga has nothing to do with her head, but now she knows full well that March is going both ways.
Winner: Purdue stars shine bright
While a number of highly ranked teams in the first round struggled to advance, the No. 3 seed Purdue sent a statement on the national scene, as the No. 14 seed slammed Yale 78-56 to advance to the second round. The start and lead in all games except for 19 seconds behind Jaden Ivey with 22 points and a display of 16 points and nine rebounds from big man Zach Eddy. It was an impressive display from a Purdue side that struggled at times in defense, allowing Yale to shoot just 23 of 63 from the field and 4 of 17 from a 3-point range, including a limited run in which Yale was without a bucket for more than nine minutes.
Loser: The Houston Skeptics
There was plenty of reason to doubt Houston after the Cougars lost key guards Marcus Sasser and Tramon Mark to season-ending injuries earlier this season. All they did was win the regular season and championship titles. There was also plenty of reason to be suspicious of the Cougars as they faced a tough opening match with 12th seed UAB and elite scorer Jordan Walker. But skeptics seem to have forgotten that Houston is coached by Kelvin Sampson, who knows a thing or two about dealing with adversity. Houston jumped to the top early by 18 points and carried Walker into a 1-of-10 shot from a 3-point range in an 82-68 thrashing of the Blazers. Next is a date with No. 4 ranked Illinois, an opponent who looked weak on Friday.
Loser: Arizona makes 19 spins
Arizona’s 87-70 win over 16th-ranked Wright State isn’t something that irritates Wildcats fans. But for a team with national title aspirations, committing to 19 laps is a concern. Only twice this season have Arizona committed more turnovers, and both occasions came before Christmas when the team was learning first-year coach Tommy Lloyd’s system. Point guard Kerr Kriisa has yet to play against the Raiders as he continues to recover from an ankle injury he sustained in the Pac-12 tournament last week. Without him, each player turned the ball at least twice.
Winner: Villanova kicks off
Villanova trailed Delaware 23-22 late in the first half as the 15th-seeded Blue Hen looked happy enough to pull off St. Peter’s early. But the Wildcats finished the game 13-2 and never looked back on their way to an 80-60 win. Vilanova fired 50.9% from the field, which included 13 of 28 marks from a 3-point range. It’s been over a month since the Wildcats hit 80 points.
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