No. 1 seed Duke, No. 2 seed Virginia advance in Charlotte
And along the way, two of the Atlantic Coast Conference's top teams had moments that got their attention - and maybe had them feeling a bit of March pressure - during their NCAA Tournament openers in Charlotte.
The Blue Devils, the No. 1 seed in the South Region, let 16th-seeded Robert Morris pull within 10 midway through the second half - a stretch that included an angry coach Mike Krzyzewski letting his team have it during a timeout - before the Blue Devils again found their edge and pulled away for an 85-56 win.
As for the Cavaliers, the No. 2 seed in the East, they let No. 15 seed Belmont get within a basket with about 4 1/2 minutes left before taking control in a 79-67 win.
''Every year I think the seedings become less significant,'' Cavaliers coach Tony Bennett said. ''You just look around how close the games are, the upsets are there. It's just happening more and more. ... So when you play a team, match-ups are so important.''
The Blue Devils, a No. 1 seed for the first time since 2011, have four freshmen among their eight scholarship players. And only three had played in an NCAA victory before Friday.
That's meant Krzyzewski is still teaching his group, and it was on display Friday after Jahlil Okafor blew a reverse dunk in the second half. Krzyzewski sprung up angrily and pointed for reserve Marshall Plumlee to replace the star freshman big man. Then came a timeout at the 14:53 mark, with Krzyzewski animatedly addressing his team from the edge of his chair in the huddle.
What was his message?
''You just can't do that,'' Krzyzewski said. ''So, I mean, that's an easy one.''
Okafor said Krzyzewski was focused on ''just staying sharp and not getting sloppy.''
''I don't think it's anything with being young,'' Okafor said. ''It's kind of human nature. He always said we have to battle human nature every night, not getting (complacent) or settling when we're up 20, so we keep going at it and keep battling.''
Virginia outscored Belmont 17-7 to close out its win and set up a rematch of last year's Sweet 16 matchup with Michigan State, which advanced with a 70-63 win against Georgia in the day's first game. San Diego State beat St. John's 76-64 in the nightcap.
Here are some other things to know about Friday's NCAA Tournament games in Charlotte:
ANDERSON'S HEALTH: Virginia's Justin Anderson looked more like himself again after missing about a month with a finger injury followed by an appendectomy. He finished with 15 points on 4-for-6 shooting against Belmont, a huge improvement from his 0-for-6 effort in two rusty games at last week's ACC Tournament. ''It feels good to show everybody, in a game, that I'm fine,'' he said. ''I feel great.''
TAKE IT OUTSIDE: San Diego State launched 22 3-point attempts in the St. John's win, making nine. It was the most by the Aztecs, who had a size advantage, in a game since Jan. 20. Coach Steve Fisher was OK with it, though. ''The 3s we got were wide open 3s, and they were taken by guys that can shoot and make 3s,'' he said.
SHAKY FINISH: While Michigan State had the look of a tournament-tested bunch at times, the Spartans also blew most of a 12-point lead in the final 90 seconds before hanging on. Denzel Valentine went 6 for 6 at the foul line in the final 30 seconds to seal it. ''My father told me nothing would be easy,'' coach Tom Izzo said, ''and we kind of live on that, to be honest with you.''
UNDERDOGS: Belmont's Craig Bradshaw, and Robert Morris' Rodney Pryor and Marcquise Reed turned in big scoring days against the high seeds. Bradshaw scored 25 points on 10-for-19 shooting against Virginia, including two 3s that got Belmont to within 62-60 with 4:37 left. ''I felt good about how I was shooting,'' Bradshaw said. As for Robert Morris, Pryor scored 23 and Reed scored 22 against Duke.
ODDS AND ENDS: St. John's coach Steve Lavin said suspended center Chris Obekpa's future will be decided in the coming weeks, but that he ''wouldn't be surprised at all if he doesn't return.'' ... Georgia's Kenny Gaines played through a sprained left foot and had 15 points in the loss. ... Okafor had 21 points on 9-for-11 shooting in his debut. ... Sunday's matchup between Duke and San Diego State reunites Krzyzewski and Fisher, who coached in the 1992 NCAA final featuring Christian Laettner and the Wolverines' Chris Webber-led ''Fab Five.''
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