Did you think that No. 15 seed Saint Peter’s beating No. 2 seed Kentucky on Thursday night would be the end of the madness for the first round of the NCAA Tournament? If so, think again. While no 2-seeds went down Friday, there were upsets, dramatic finishes, heroic individual efforts, devastating finishes for bettors and some big-time highlights (looking at you, Jabari Smith).
In short, it was just another day in March, as more double-digit seeds advanced to the second round and more scenes unfolded that will end up in the “One Shining Moment” video montage after a national champion is crowned. As the sun rose on a new day following Kentucky’s historic loss, some of the tournament’s top seeds seemed particularly invigorated to avoid similar fates as the Wildcats.
Fellow No. 2 seeds Auburn, Villanova and Duke took care of business with double-digit victories, while No. 1 seed Arizona kept a feisty Wright State squad at arm’s length. It wasn’t all roses for higher-seeded squads, though, a first round kept delivering captivating stories.
Here are the winners and losers from Friday’s action as the field of 68 continued to shrink.
Winner: Texas snaps drought
Texas picked up its first NCAA Tournament victory since 2014 by defeating No. 11 seed Virginia Tech 81-73. The Longhorns went through Shaka Smart’s entire six-year tenure without winning in the Big Dance, but it only took Chris Beard one season at the helm to get UT back in the second round. Next up is a showdown with Purdue that will be a contrast in styles as the Longhorns deploy their stingy defense against the Boilermakers’ high-powered attack.
Winner: Tirese Hunter
Iowa State guard Tirese Hunter scored a career-high 23 points for the No. 11 seed Cyclones, which advanced to the second round with a 59-54 win over LSU. For a team that finished 2-22 last season, merely going .500 in coach TJ Otzelberger’s first season would have constituted nice progress. But the Cyclones are dancing on in the NCAA Tournament, thanks in large part to Hunter’s big night. The freshman phenom combined with teammate Izaiah Brockington for 42 points. It’s a good thing they were hot, because their teammates combined to go just 6 of 27 from the floor.
Loser: LSU enters the night
With LSU seeking its next head coach after Will Wade’s firing last week, the future looks a bit frightening for the Tigers, which could still face a postseason ban or other penalties for alleged violations committed during Wade’s tenure. Five-star signee Julian Phillips shared Friday that he was released from his letter of intent, and restocking the roster may prove to be difficult for then next coach amid the possibility of looming sanctions. A deep NCAA Tournament run under interim coach Kevin Nickelberry might have changed the narrative surrounding the program a bit. But now the Tigers enter an uncertain night with athletic director Scott Woodward’s excellent track record of hiring coaches shining as the only light in what may wind up as a bleak tunnel for the LSU program.
Winner: TCU’s first tourney win since Reagan’s presidency
TCU picked up its first NCAA Tournament victory since 1987 by pummeling Seton Hall 69-42 to reach the second round, where it will take on No. 1 seed Arizona. The last time the program won a game in the Big Dance, its 56-year-old head coach Jamie Dixon was the team’s second-leading scorer. The Horned Frogs dominated in the paint with a 40-14 edge as sophomore guard Mike Miles led the way offensively with 21 points. As for Seton Hall? Woof. The Pirates were on a six-game winning streak before losing to UConn in the Big East Tournament quarterfinals. Now it ends the season on a two-game losing streak, dropping its NCAA Tournament record to 1-5 under 12th-year coach Kevin Willard.
Winner: Storybook Sunday ahead
It will be a storybook Sunday in Greenville, South Carolina, when No. 2 seed Duke plays No. 7 seed Michigan State in the final battle between retiring Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and longtime rival Tom Izzo. The Spartans almost failed to hold up their end of the bargain in creating that matchup on Friday, but they managed to squeak out a 74-73 victory over a team Davidson team featuring former Spartans point guard Foster Loyer.
Loser: Colgate comes up just short again
Colgate gave No. 3 seed Arkansas a run for its money in the first round last season before the Razorbacks pulled away late for an 85-68 win. Back in 2019, the Raiders lost just 77-70 against No. 2 seed Tennessee in the first round. Colgate was also competitive as a No. 16 seed in losses against Kansas and UConn in 1995 and 1996. But unfortunately for the small private school in Hamilton, New York, its trip to the 2022 Big Dance brought more of the same. Colgate led midway through the second half before faltering late in a 67-60 loss to No. 3 seed Wisconsin. Wisconsin’s Johnny Davis scored a game-high 25 points even on ankle that was clearly not 100% healthy. Colgate’s first NCAA Tournament victory will have to wait for another year.
Winner: Cormac Ryan
Notre Dame guard Cormac Ryan picked a great moment to score a career-high 29 points. Ryan hit 10 of 13 shots from the floor, including 7 of 9 from 3-point range to lead the Fighting Irish in a 78-64 win over No. 6 seed Alabama. Ryan and crew had less than 48 hours to recuperate after beating Rutgers in a double-overtime game as part of the First Four in Dayton, Ohio, on Friday. But the cross-country travel to San Diego didn’t seem to bother Notre Dame, and especially not Ryan. Up next is a test against one of the nation’s best defenses in No. 3 seed Texas Tech. But even after this run ends, Ryan and the Irish will remember Friday’s performance for a while.
Loser: Alabama goes down in smoke
The Crimson Tide’s roller-coaster season ended, fittingly, in a pile of defensive wreckage as the No. 6 seed in the West Region fell to Notre Dame. Alabama struggled all season to replicate the defensive prowess it enjoyed last season, and the Fighting Irish exploited that weakness. Of course, there will always be the “what if” factor from this game for Alabama. What if Jahvon Quinerly didn’t injure his knee in the first half miss the rest of the game? It may not have made a difference against a hot Notre Dame team, but playing without its starting point guard certainly did not help Alabama.
Winner: Auburn returns to form
With a record of just 5-4 over its last nine games after a 22-1 start, Auburn entered as a No. 2 seed, but not a particularly frightening one. The Tigers looked like their old and much better selves during spurts in an 80-61 win over Jacksonville State. An 11-0 run to end the first half helped Auburn gain separation, 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 dunk from Smith has to to be a lock to appear in “One Shining Moment.”
Winner: Ohio State gets redemption
A first-round NCAA Tournament loss against No. 15 seed Oral Roberts in 2021 cast a pall over Ohio State’s basketball program, but the Buckeyes emerged from the cloud with a 54-41 win over Loyola-Chicago. The nature of the win was nice for Ohio State as well. A year after letting ORU’s Max Abmas and Kevin Obanor combine for 59 points in the first round, the Buckeyes held the Ramblers below that total as a team. Ohio State is not known as a great defensive team, but it was fierce on that end against a Ramblers team that knows a thing or two about winning in March.
Loser: Duke bettors
Duke entered its first-round game against Cal State Fullerton as an 18.5 point favorite against the No. 15 seed Titans. The Blue Devils led comfortably throughout the second half and advanced on to the second round with relative ease after winning 78-61. But when Cal State Fullerton’s Tray Maddox Jr. scored on an uncontested dunk in the final seconds, Blue Devils fans with a betting interest likely felt sick. To the Duke fans who needed their team to cover, just remembers this: losing against the spread as a No. 2 seed is far less painful than losing straight up. Just ask Kentucky fans.
Winner: Miami advances with a close win over USC
Miami all season has been the king of close losses – seven of its 10 losses were by two possessions, and three were by one point – so in fitting fashion, the Hurricanes advanced on the right side of a closely contested game. Miami defeated No. 7 seed USC 68-66 thanks to Isaiah Wong’s 22 points and Charlie Moore’s strong closing stretch. The Trojans nearly delivered a dagger at the horn with a 3 that banked in and out, but Miami’s much-deserved positive regression in close games finally hit at a perfect time.
Winner: Texas Tech’s offense
Texas Tech is known for its defense, and the Red Raiders were solid in that regard during a 97-62 win over Montana State. But the TTU offense was out of this world, posting a season-high in points while shooting 66.7% from the floor. All five TTU starters reached double figures, led by Terrence Shannon and Bryson Williams with 20 apiece. Montana State is not known as a defensive juggernaut, but if the Red Raiders are getting hot, then look out. This is a physical group with age that can match up with basically anyone, and it is off to a great start.
Loser: Chattanooga sees the other side of March
Chattanooga experienced the best March has to offer on March 7 when it beat Furman in the SoCon Tournament title game on David Jean-Baptiste’s deep 3-pointer at the buzzer. That legendary shot lifted the Mocs back to the Big Dance for the first time since 2016 and made them one of the month’s early darlings. But after experiencing that high, Chattanooga felt the other side of it in Friday’s 54-53 loss against No. 4 seed Illinois. The Illini never led until the game’s final minute and only held on after Malachi Smith’s potential game-winner bounced off for the Mocs as time expired. Chattanooga has nothing to hang its head about, but now it knows all too well that March cuts both ways.
Winner: Purdue’s stars shine bright
While a number of highly seeded teams struggled in Round 1 to even advance, No. 3 seed Purdue sent a statement on the national scene, blasting No. 14 seed Yale 78-56 to advance to Round 2. The Boilermakers got out to a blistering start and led for all but 19 seconds of action behind 22 points from Jaden Ivey and a 16-point, nine-rebound showing from big man Zach Edey . It was an impressive all-around showing from a Purdue team that has at times struggled on defense, as it allowed Yale to shoot just 23 of 63 from the field and 4 of 17 from 3-point range, including a stretch in which it is limited Yale without a bucket for more than nine minutes.
Loser: Houston’s doubters
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 AAC regular season and tournament titles. There were also plenty of reasons to doubt the Cougars as they faced a tough opening-round matchup with No. 12 seed UAB and its elite scorer Jordan Walker. But the doubters seem to forget that Houston is coached by Kelvin Sampson, who knows a thing or two about handling adversity. Houston jumped out to an early 18-point lead and held Walker to 1-of-10 shooting from 3-point range in an 82-68 thrashing of the Blazers. Up next is a date with No. 4 seed Illinois, an opponent that looked vulnerable on Friday.
Loser: Arizona commits 19 turnovers
Arizona’s 87-70 win over No. 16 seed Wright State is nothing for Wildcats fans to be upset about. But for a team with national title aspirations, committing 19 turnovers is a concern. Only twice this season did Arizona commit more turnovers and both occasions came before Christmas when the team was learning first-year coach Tommy Lloyd’s system. Point guard Kerr Kriisa did not play against the Raiders as he continues to recover from an ankle injury suffered in the Pac-12 Tournament last week. Without him, every starter turned the ball over at least twice.
Winner: Villanova gets going
Villanova trailed Delaware 23-22 late in the first half as the No. 15 seed Blue Hens looked plucky enough to potentially pull a Saint Peter’s in the early going. But the Wildcats closed the half on a 13-2 run and never looked back on the way to an 80-60 victory. Villanova shot 50.9% from the field, which included a 13 of 28 mark from 3-point range. It had been over a month since the Wildcats reached 80 points.