Seeding holds in Day One of the Big Dance, only Wichita State and UNLV get bounced, faves go 9-6-1
March Mania is in full swing and The Big Dance got off to a rousing start with most of the higher seeds advancing. Syracuse struggled throughout before getting by Ashville. Iowa State showed that they are for real by easily handling “sexy pick” UConn. The Cyclones led by 20 at one point and never looked back. Murray State, Marquette, Kentucky, Wisconsin, and Ohio State rolled. Favorites went 6-1-1 early while the dogs bounced back some in the night section going 5-3 making it a 9-6-1 day for the bullies. Here are the game-by-game thumbnails followed by a brief preview and some free plays for Friday.
Colorado State played Murray State close for a half but the 31-1 Racers outscore the Rams 35-17 for an easy 58-41 win. Sniper Isaiah Caanan led the way with 15 points and 7 rebounds. CSU has been a Mountain West doormat for years and is headed in the right direction. The Rams finished 20-12. Murray State moves on to face Marquette on Saturday.
Kansas State trailed Southern Miss by five with 12:00 to pplay but flicked the switch going on to a 70-64 victory. Rodney McGruder had 30 points for the Wildcats who move on to face Syracuse. K State has two wins against Missouri and a win over Baylor on their resume so the Orangemen could be the first No.1 seed in peril.
Louisville came up big on defense holding the Davidson Wildcats to just 4-19 shooting from beyond the arc to key a 69-62 win in the day’s lobe push. The Cards were just 1-5 from downtown themselves, the least amount of treys by a winning team since 2004. Louisville meets New Mexico in what figure to be one of Saturday’s better matchups.
Wisconsin blasted Montana with little difficulty as the Grizz were unable to deal with the bigger and more physical Badgers. Wisky was an efficient 23-48 from the field, 17-19 from the foul line, and 10-19 from three-pont land. The Badgers catch Vandy in what figures to be a very tough 4-5 matchup.
As expected, BYU had nothing left in the tank after Tuesday’s historic comeback win over Iona. The Coogs were down 15 at the half to Marquette and went down without a whimper 88-66. Jae Crowder has 17 points and 10 rebounds by the half for the Golden Eagles who looked sharp in their tune up for Murray State.
NC-Ashville became the seventh #16 seed to lead a #1 seed at the half but were unable to hold off Syracuse. The Orange were unquestionably flat after losing the services of big man Fab Melo for the tournament but did enough to get advance to a date with Kansas State.
New Mexico outscored Long Beach State 15-6 down the stretch ro win going away by eight. Drew Gordon had 18 and Kendall Williams 16 for the Lobos. A Williams trifecta was the dagger. The 49ers were led by Casper Ware. LBST was just 8-14 from the foul line and 4-16 from beyond the arc.
Vanderbilt was red-hot from the outside draining 8-18 from beyond the arc and shooting 54% from the field. Harvard played wll but was killed on the glass 35-22. The Crimson had a big year and deserved better, just drawing a bad matchup in their opener.
South Dakota State jumped out to a 19-7 lead over Baylor but the Jackrabbits were unable to hold off the Bears in a 68-60 loss. SD State has four players that shoot 40%+ from downtown but cashed just 10-30 of their trifectas. Baylor faces long-time Big 12 opponent Colorado in the round of 32.
Western Kentucky was the other team on Thursday that had advanced thanks to an act of God on Tuesday. The Hilltoppers closed their game vs Kentucky on a 16-1 run but that was just to close the losing margin to 81-66. The Wildcats will have their hands full with Iowa State up next.
This year’s two possible “Cinderellas” somehow got matched up in the first round and #12 VCU was able to replicate last year’s bracketbuster win over #5 Wichita State. The Missouri Valley Conference winning Shockers went scoreless the final 2:09 of the game. VCU went to the Final Cuatro last year and will be very live in their next game wit Indiana.
West Virginia had nothing despite playing in their own backyard in Pittsburg. Gonzaga jumped out to a quick 27-10 lead and never looked back in a 77-54 beat down of the Mounties. The loss was the second worst of coach Bob Huggins tournament career. The Zags shot 28-50 (56%) from the field.
Ohio State dominated Loyola Maryland winning the war on the glass 45-23 and the war on the scoreboard 78-59. Deshaun Thomas had 31 points and 1o rebounds for the Buckeyes. Erik Etherly had 19/7 for the Greyhounds. Ohio State figure to have a much tougher time with Gonzaga on Saturday.
Iowa State jumped on defending National Champion UConn right away drawing off to a 34-14 lead early before cruising to a 77-64 win. The Cyclones dominated the boards 37-20 and scored their last 14 points from the foul line. UConn made a run but could never get closer than six.
Indiana shot 59% from the floor, New Mexico State 55% but … in the end, the Hoosiers were 13 points better than the Aggies. Indiana has four players with 14 points or better and the beneficiaries of 17 NMSU turnovers. The Hoosiers face VCU in one of Saturday’s marquee games.
It was the same old story for UNLV who didn’t play a lick on the road all year. For whatever reason, the Rebels can’t shoot and play shoddy defense on the road. Colorado jumed out to a 20 point lead and then held off a late Rebel comback to win 68-64. UNLV was 9-38 from beyond the arc.
Free plays went 2-2 yesterday. SP3 hopes to improve on that mark today.
NC State -2.5 over San Diego State, 12:40 PM EST
Georgetown -3.5 over Belmont, 3:10 PM EST
Memphis -3.5 over St Louis, 6:50 PM EST
St Mary’s -2 over Purdue, 7:25 PM EST