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Everything you need to know about Thursday's NCAA tournament action.
In his last game before the NCAA tournament, Arkansas-Little Rock's Josh Hagins scored five points on seven shots against Louisiana-Monroe. You didn’t even notice him on the court, especially if, like me, you weren’t watching the Sun Belt championship game and had no idea who Hagins was. But I know now.
Hagins scored 31 points against Purdue on Thursday, but that’s like saying Usain Bolt won the Olympic 100-meter dash or a hockey locker room stinks. It’s true, but it still feels like a massive understatement. The Trojans trailed Purdue 63-49 with 4:06 left. Hagins scored 11 points in that 4:06, including a three-pointer from Steph Curry territory to force overtime. Later he hit a floating, leaning two that should have counted for four. Little Rock won, 85-83.
Day 1 of the NCAA tournament was not an all-time classic, but a) that just means Day 2 probably will be, and b) Day 1 was still pretty great.
Highlights? Providence hit a game-winning open layup off an inbounds pass with 1.5 seconds remaining to beat USC. Indiana whipped Chattanooga the way Indiana does—no team gets hot like the Hoosiers. Duke almost lost to UNC-Wilmington, but didn’t and might not for a while. Virginia coach Tony Bennett collapsed from dehydration and Arizona's Sean Miller set a record for perspiration. (I don’t know what Miller could even do about his over-sweating. Bathe in Right Guard? Starch his chest?)
To be fair: Wichita State could give a lot of coaches the night sweats. The Shockers sent the Wildcats and Miller packing, preferably with fresh shirts, and if you were surprised, you must be on the selection committee. The Shockers are No. 9 in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings (Arizona is No. 16) and are an established national power at this point. (Wichita State’s last three tournaments: Final Four, loss to eventual finalist Kentucky, Sweet 16.) Making Wichita State a No. 11 seed was unfair—not just to the Shockers, but to Arizona.
Speaking of non-surprise “surprises": Officially, 12th-seeded Yale stunned Baylor in the West Regional, but really: Were you stunned? Have you ever watched the Bears in the tournament? With each passing minute, Scott Drew looked more like Marco Rubio, and that’s not a political cheap shot: He really did look kind of like Rubio to me. I couldn’t tell if it was the hair or the fact that he came in with so much hype and showed no ability to adjust in key moments. Yale looked just as good as Baylor, and better if we’re evaluating uniform designs, and if you’re wondering how Yale outrebounded Baylor, you shouldn’t be surprised. Yale is a terrific rebounding team, ranking 20th in the nation in rebounds per game. Yale vs. Duke on Saturday should be a blast.
The performance of the day, though, belonged to Hagins, who joins Bryce Drew and C.J. McCollum and Kemba Walker and Tyus Edney and, well, you can insert nine other names off the top of your head. We have to move along before Friday’s games start.
Safe to say, though, that the names you come up with will be guards. This is a guards’ tournament. This has been true for a long time. Tim Duncan made one Elite Eight in four years at Wake Forest. Shaquille O’Neal won one tournament game in three years with LSU. That was eons ago (Shaq averaged 27.6 points, 14.7 rebounds and five blocks as a sophomore, then returned to school—imagine THAT today) but the tournament has not changed as much as you might think.
Purdue earned a No. 5 seed thanks to a bruising inside game led by 7-footer A.J. Hammons and 6'9" freshman Caleb Swanigan, who is so big that his nickname is “Biggie”. That’s just not a recipe for NCAA tournament success.
Teams that rely heavily on one or two great post players usually don’t last long. There are a lot of reasons for this. For one, by the time a 7-footer rounds out his game, he is usually in the NBA, and for another, the three-pointer has traditionally been a bigger factor in college games (though that has changed). Guards rule in March. We saw this clearly when Hagins hit those ridiculous shots, and when Purdue had the ball late in regulation and nobody knew how to dribble it.
There are exceptions, but really: Not that many. This is why the people who picked Stony Brook to beat Kentucky didn’t really think it through. You don’t beat a team with several future NBA players, including an outstanding college point guard (Tyler Ulis) with a team led by one impressive big guy (Jameel Warney), unless the team with all the NBA players is shaving points, drunk or both.
Look around Thursday, and you saw great guards making big plays. Wichita State had Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker. Butler had Kellen Dunham. Yale had Makai Mason, who drained all 11 of his free-throw attempts on his way to 31 points. There are 16 more games waiting to be unwrapped Friday. Enjoy.
College basketball fans had to stay up late to watch the last of Thursday’s slate of NCAA tournament games. The Seton Hall-Gonzaga game didn’t tip off until 10:53 p.m. ET and when it finished early Friday morning on the East Coast, the Bulldogs became the seventh lower-seeded team to win in the first round with a 68–52 win.
Gonzaga’s frontcourt duo of Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis carried the load (34 points and 21 rebounds) for the Bulldogs while Seton Hall’s leading scorer, sophomore guard Isaiah Whitehead, struggled mightily to score the ball. Whitehead was 4 of 24 from the field and an NCAA tournament-record-tying 0 of 10 from behind the arc for a team-high 10 points. He appeared physically and mentally frustrated, needing to breath from an oxygen mask multiple times in the game and committing a flagrant-1 foul wrestling for a loose ball in the first half.
Whitehead did a nice job setting up his teammates with eight assists, but the Pirates’ shooting woes weren't limited to him. As a team, Seton Hall was 20 of 61 (32.8%) from the field and 8 of 21 (38.1%) from the free throw line. The Pirates cut their deficit to six points with less than seven minutes left in the game but their comeback bid fell apart.
Forward Angel Delgado fouled out with 4:45 left in the game and Ismael Sanogo had to be helped to the locker room with a dislocated right shoulder 23 seconds later. On the next play, Michael Nzei turned the ball over on the inbounds pass, which led to a bucket for Sabonis that put the game out of reach.
Why it matters
For the eighth straight season, Gonzaga has won at least one game in the NCAA tournament. The Bulldogs won their sixth straight game at a road or neutral site by knocking off a surging, incredibly athletic Seton Hall team. After a regular season that left more to be desired, the Zags defeated one of the hottest teams in the country and held one of the country’s premier scorers to the worst shooting night of his career.
Even with its first round exit, Seton Hall took a step forward as a program this season, winning the Big East tournament and making its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2006. The team has a strong core with six sophomores and it only loses rotation guard Derrick Gordon to graduation. The future looks bright at Seton Hall, but the Pirates will have to experience the rest of this year’s tournament as viewers, while Gonzaga advances to the second round yet again.
A second round matchup against No. 3 seed Utah awaits Gonzaga on Saturday, which will be a battle between strong West Coast teams with prolific big men. Sabonis will match up against fellow sophomore Jakob Poeltl, who is averaging 17.6 points and 9.0 rebounds per game. Both teams have tremendous size and experienced veterans, setting the stage for an exciting matchup in Denver.
Kris Dunn did everything he could to make up for his absent first half. The Big East Player of the Year’s outstanding second half elevated the Friars, and Providence grabbed its first tournament victory since 1997.
Rodney Bullock found a seam in the USC defense with 3.3 seconds remaining, and his lay-in propelled Providence to a thrilling 70–69 win over the Trojans on Thursday night in Raleigh. USC looked prepared to seal the game in the final 30 seconds, but two missed free throws on the front ends of one-and-one fouls opened the door for Dunn and Providence. Dunn’s long-range three tied the game at 68 with 1:27 remaining before a series of chaotic sequences of turnovers, blocked shots, missed free throws and, eventually, Bullock’s game-winning layup with 1.5 seconds remaining.
Dunn sat the final 11:20 of the first half with foul trouble, but had 13 points in the second half to help keep the Friars in a game they looked ready to lose on several different occasions. Sophomore forward Ben Bentil led the Friars with 19 points and Bullock, the hero, finished with 16.
The game was fast-paced, much the way USC coach Andy Enfield likes it, and the Trojans looked primed to grab their first tournament win since 2009. But a disastrous final minute of poor ball movement and missed free throws denied Enfield his signature win since taking the USC job in 2013.
Why it matters
It gives the nation at least one more opportunity to see Dunn, who is expected to be a lottery pick in this summer’s NBA draft. The Friars were forced to play at USC’s kinetic pace, but still established an inside presence with Bentil and knocked down nine three-pointers to hang in the game. While coach Ed Cooley’s team will be heavy underdogs against North Carolina on Saturday, the Friars showed they can handle and win against teams with high tempo.
Providence meets No. 1 North Carolina on Saturday afternoon in front of a heavy Tar Heel presence in Raleigh.
Stony Brook stayed within two scores of Kentucky for the first 13 minutes of Thursday night’s first-round matchup, but the Wildcats’ overwhelming talent ultimately prevailed and they ran away with the game in the second half en route to an 85–57 win.
The two teams started 7 of 41 from the field, recording more combined blocked shots (8) than made field goals in the first 10-plus minutes. Neither team could buy a shot, especially the Seawolves, who were 3 of 27 from the field to start the game.
As contested jumpers were continuously off the mark, the matchup between Stony Broo’'s Jameel Warney and Kentucky’s frontcourt took center stage. Warney had six points, 10 rebounds and two blocks in the first half, while Skal Labissiere, the former five-star recruit who has struggled to find his rhythm this season, was halfway to a triple double before halftime with six points, four rebounds and five blocks.
Warney finished with 23 points, 15 rebounds and two blocks, but the Seawolves weren’t competitive in any facet of the game besides rebounding. Stony Brook was 20 of 76 from the field as Kentucky blocked an NCAA tournament-record 15 shots. Kentucky’s Jamal Murray took over in the second half, scoring 15 of his team-high 19 points, as all five of the Wildcats’ starters scored in double figures.
Kentucky doubled up Stony Brook early in the second half and sprinted to the finish line, setting up a massive second-round matchup with No. 5 Indiana.
Why it matters
Kentucky knocked off potentially pesky Stony Brook, which made its first NCAA tournament appearance on Thursday, in a game in which the Seawolves, not the Wildcats, entered the game with the most consistent post presence. As the Wildcats’ backcourt got off to a slow start, Labissiere, Alex Poythress and Derek Willis collectively challenged Warney. When Kentucky’s backcourt found its groove, Stony Brook didn’t have an answer and the game was quickly out of reach.
Tom Crean and John Calipari can’t force Indiana and Kentucky to play each other as part of their nonconference schedules, but luckily the NCAA selection committee can. The two decorated programs will meet on Saturday for the first time since the 2012 NCAA tournament. On a day in which three No. 9 seeds, a No. 11 seed and two No. 12 seeds won, Indiana and Kentucky each avoided upsets and puts the blueblood programs on a collison course for Saturday.
The two teams met twice in the 2011–12 season—Indiana beat No. 1 Kentucky in Assembly Hall thanks to Christian Watford’s buzzer beater and Kentucky won the second meeting in the Sweet 16—but the two sides have since been unable to come to terms to renew their annual series.
Kentucky guards Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray will face Indiana point guard Yogi Ferrell in an epic backcourt battle with a Sweet 16 appearance on the line. You won’t want to miss this.
A wild finish between No. 9 Providence and No. 8 USC on Thursday night ended with the Friars scoring on a last-second, go-ahead layup.
After a bizarre final two minutes filled with missed opportunities, free throws, and turnovers on both ends, Providence salvaged a late chance and completed the come-from-behind win. After a loose ball deflected off USC, setting up an out-of-bounds play under the basket, Rodney Bullock freed himself beneath the basket and banked in a wide-open look.
The Trojans missed a full-court attempt with a second left to seal the result, 70-69.
Providence advances to face No. 1 North Carolina on Saturday.
Ron Baker scored 13 points and Fred VanVleet added 12 as No. 11 Wichita State beat No. 6 Arizona, 65–55, in one of the more impressive performances from the opening day of first-round play in the NCAA tournament.
The Wildcats struggled to score early against the Shockers’ defense, which entered Thursday leading the nation in adjusted points allowed per possession, according to Kenpom.com. Arizona missed 12 of its first 15 shots, scored only 0.64 PPP in the first half and trailed Wichita State by double digits going into the break after VanVleet and Baker, the Shockers’ star senior guards, combined for 17 points. It only got worse from there for Arizona, as Wichita State opened up a 24-point lead midway through the second half. The Wildcats cut into the lead with an 11–0 run, but the Shockers regained control with a pair of baskets by forward Anton Grady and then cruised to a comfortable victory. The defining image of the final 20 minutes was Wildcats coach Sean Miller, having already perspired through his dress shirt, frustratingly shouting instructions from the sidelines.
Why it mattered
Wichita State was considered a bubble team entering selection Sunday. In its two games, however, it’s looked like one of the better squads in the tournament. After notching a 20-point win over a Vanderbilt team with multiple NBA prospects in the First Four, the Shockers rolled an Arizona team that led the Pac-12 in offensive efficiency during conference play, per Kenpom. The Wildcats could not contain VanVleet and Baker, and the Shockers stifled Arizona on the other end of the floor. If there were any skepticism about Wichita State when it dropped two of three games to Illinois State and Northern Iowa during conference play, the Shockers have erased it. Coach Gregg Marshall’s team looks primed to make a deep run.
Wichita State will take on No. 3 Miami in the second round on Saturday in Providence. The Hurricanes beat No. 14 Buffalo, 79–72, earlier on Thursday. Miami should pose a tougher challenge for the Shockers than Arizona, as the Hurricanes are of the nation’s top offensive teams, ranking 12th nationally in adjusted points per possession, according to Kenpom.com, and are also led by a talented and experienced backcourt.
Fresno State turned a budding blowout into an interesting game in the second half, but Utah was ultimately too much, using a 19–2 run after falling behind by one point to notch an 80–69 win in its first-round matchup in Denver. Lorenzo Bonam led the way with 17 points, while Jakob Poeltl had 16 to go along with a career-high 18 rebounds.
WHY IT MATTERS
The Utes won nine straight games before getting waxed by Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game last weekend, so even though they were 8.5-point favorites over Fresno State, it had to feel good to get back on the right path. Utah was absolutely dominant on the glass, but it racked up 20 turnovers, which kept the Bulldogs in the game much longer that it appeared they would be at halftime. Fresno State was among the most active defenses in the country this season, but Utah is going to have to play a much cleaner game on Saturday to advance to the Sweet 16. It also can’t afford a scoring drought from Poeltl like the one he suffered in the second half against the Bulldogs.
Utah moves onto the second round to take on the winner of Seton Hall and Gonzaga in what should be a wildly entertaining game, regardless of the opponent.
North Carolina’s 25–6 run over the first 8:30 of the second half put away any hope that history would be made in Raleigh, but the Tar Heels may have some concerns after a difficult first half in their 83–67 win over Florida Gulf Coast on Thursday. Senior forward Brice Johnson anchored a blistering start to the second half to keep the Heels from becoming the first No. 1 seed to ever lose in the first round in front of a raucous home crowd just 27 miles from campus. The win showcased some of the best and worst that Carolina has to offer. Their usual breakneck pace on offense and Johnson’s tenacious interior defense withered the Eagles as soon as the second half started, but a host of defensive lapses in the first half kept the game unnecessarily close at half.
The No. 16 Eagles, three years removed from their magical run to the Sweet 16, pulled to within one point at halftime after making nine of 11 their last eleven shots to end the first half. But that energy disappeared within the first minute of the second half as North Carolina overwhelmed the smaller, thinner and presumably tired Eagles both inside and from the perimeter.
Why it matters
The second half was a prime exhibition of why some pundits have North Carolina winning the NCAA tournament. Johnson, the runner-up for ACC player of the year, finished with 18 points, seven rebounds and an astounding eight blocks, but it was his post play that prevented FGCU from keeping the game close. After the Eagles succeeded with a series of interior passes and close-range baskets in the first half, Johnson and junior forward Kennedy Meeks locked down the post to keep the Eagles to just 27 second-half points. Johnson’s eight blocks set a North Carolina record for an NCAA tournament game.
Florida Gulf Coast’s one-point deficit at halftime was due primarily to strong interior play and effective finishing near the basket. The Eagles entered halftime shooting 60.0% from the floor and 11 points from burly sophomore forward Antravious Simmons, a reserve who averaged only seven points per game all season. It was a surprise that the Eagles thrived against North Carolina’s large lineup early, sinking nine of their last eleven shots of the opening 20 minutes and outrebounding the Heels in the first half. The Heels’ interior defense wasn’t considered a weakness entering the tournament, but surrendering 40 first-half points (16 in the restricted area) in the opening 20 minutes was troubling. Johnson’s standout second half may have mitigated those worries, but it was hardly the mark of a No. 1 team to be exploited so seamlessly.
North Carolina will take on the winner of No. 8 seed USC and No. 9 Providence on Saturday afternoon.
No. 12 seed Chattanooga stayed competitive for the first 15 minutes or so against No. 5 seed and Big Ten regular-season champion Indiana, but ultimately fell to the Hoosiers, 99–74. A three-pointer by reserve sophomore guard Robert Johnson with 3:58 left in the first half gave Indiana a six-point lead, which ballooned to nine points at the half and didn’t shrink below seven for at any point in the second half. Senior guard Yogi Ferrell led IU with 20 points and 10 assists, his first career double double.
Why it matters
Indiana looked like a potential No. 2 or 3 seed in the NCAA tournament at the end of the regular season, but a loss in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals to Michigan helped to put the Wolverines in the Big Dance—and dropped Indiana to the five-seed line. But the Hoosiers looked motivated to show they were undervalued heading into the NCAA tournament. Five Hoosiers—Ferrell, freshman forward OG Anunoby (14), freshman forward Thomas Bryant (13), junior forward Troy Williams (12) and senior forward Max Bielfeldt (10)—scored in double figures. Indiana’s offense is elite, coming in at No. 7 in adjusted efficiency on kenpom.com, and it showed on Thursday, as Indiana shot 64.9% from the floor and 58.8% from three.
Indiana will play the winner of No. 13 seed Stony Brook and No. 4 Kentucky. If the Wildcats prevail, as they are favored to, it will set up a colossal second-round matchup between two of the most storied programs in college basketball. Des Moines could be the place to be on Saturday.
On a chaotic day in March, sometimes it helps to have an Angel. And a Sheldon. Senior guards Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan combined for 44 points to help their Hurricanes avoid an upset against No. 14 seed Buffalo on Thursday, taking care of the Bulls, 79–72. Lamonte Bearden led the Bulls with 19 points on 7-of-16 shooting and hit a tough shot in the lane to cut Miami’s lead to four points with 1:45 remaining as part of a 12–4 run. But Bearden missed a three on the next trip down the court before two Rodriguez free throws helped diminish the Black and Blue threat.
WHY IT MATTERS
In the tournament for just the third time since 2002, Miami showed why it could provide one of the toughest tests for overall No. 1 Kansas in its region. McClellan had a double-digit night for the 21st straight game while Rodriguez scored a season-high 24 and ignited the offensive unit. Those two will drive the Hurricanes however far they go, but their big men also proved up to the task. An average rebounding team on the year, Miami outrebounded Buffalo, 44–31. The Canes also showed the mental resolve on which one of this year’s most experienced squads can rely. Everything went Buffalo’s way in the opening minutes as the underdog opened up a 12–4 lead, but Miami regained control with a 7–0 run later in the period and never really let go.
Miami will face either No. 6 seed Arizona or No. 11 Wichita State on Saturday in Providence.
After it looked like No. 5 Purdue was pulling away in the middle of the second half, No. 12 seed Arkansas-Little Rock stormed back on an 18-5 run in the last three and a half minutes to force overtime on a step-back, 25-foot three-pointer from senior guard Josh Hagins with just five seconds left. It took two overtimes for these two offensively challenged teams to settle it, but the Trojans finished the upset, beating the Boilermakers 85-83 in Denver to advance to the second round of the Midwest Regional. Hagins led all scorers with 31 and shot 8 of 10 from the free throw line. Junior forward Lis Shoshi added 14 points and nine rebounds. For Purdue, sophomore forward Vince Edwards led his team with 24 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.
Why it matters:
Little Rock, the Sun Belt champions, was a popular upset pick in this game, and it proved it has the talent to advance even further in the bracket. Led by the third-ranked scoring defense in the nation and offensive punch from Hagins (12.8 ppg), the Trojans are uncomfortable to play against and have enough offensive punch (39% from three, 17th in the nation) to stay in games.
On Saturday in Denver, Arkansas-Little Rock will face No. 4 Iowa State. The Cyclones beat No. 13 Iona 94-81 earlier in the day.
Little Rock guard Josh Hagins drilled a three-pointer from the March Madness logo to send the his team’s first round game against Purdue to overtime.
No. 12 Little Rock looked to be outmatched in the second half, but pulled off a furious 14-point comeback to tie the game at 70 with just seconds remaining.
Hagins dribbled the ball to just outside the three-point line before heading to his right and knocking down a step-back shot with a Purdue defender’s hand in his face.
Hagins leads the Trojans with 23 points going into overtime.
Austin Peay kept this one close—through the first two media timeouts. The Governors started 3 of 4 from the field but a 6–5 lead was the biggest, and last, advantage they had in the game. Kansas sophomore guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk came off the bench and made back-to-back threes as the Jayhawks were off to the races. Guard Josh Robinson was the lone bright spot for the Governors, scoring 14 first-half points—10 more than any of his teammates—and finishing with 24. Their offense dissolved into too much dribbling and isolation offense while Kansas's size, depth and athleticism was too much to handle. The Jayhawks took a 48–28 lead into halftime. A 10–2 Austin Peay run early in the second half forced Kansas coach Bill Self to call a timeout, but Kansas quickly regrouped and coasted to a 105–79 victory. Four Jayhawks scored in double figures, led by Mykhailiuk's career-high 23 points.
Why it matters
First and foremost, No. 1 seeds are still undefeated against No. 16 seeds. Kansas put away a pesky Austin Peay team with relative ease and took away the Governors' strengths in the process. Austin Peay senior center Chris Horton is the nation's leader in offensive rebounds and the Governors made a team-record 16 threes in their last game. Kansas out-rebounded Austin Peay by seven and held the Governors to 4 of 15 from behind the arc. The Jayhawks handled the early resistance and the second-half foul trouble of Devonte' Graham and Wayne Selden Jr. with composure. Kansas played like the No. 1 overall seed in the first round.
Kansas will face No. 9 seed Connecticut in the Round of 32 on Saturday in Des Moines. The Huskies overcame an 11-point deficit against Colorado in the first half for a 74–67 first-round win Thursday afternoon. Kansas has won 15 straight games and UConn has won its last five.
Yale sophomore point guard Makai Mason scored 31 points as the No. 12 Bulldogs upset No. 5 Baylor, 79–75, in a West Region matchup at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence. Yale came out firing against a Bears team with superior length and athleticism. Mason knocked down seven of his first 12 shots for 17 points in the first half, and forwards Brandon Sherrod and Justin Sears tallied 18 points and nine rebounds to give the Bulldogs a strong presence inside against Bears senior big man Rico Gathers. After taking a five-point lead into the break, Yale weathered an early surge by Baylor and then retook control midway through the second half. A three-point shot from Blake Reynolds gave the Bulldogs a six-point advantage around the 13-minute mark, and then Yale kept exploiting Baylor inside, with Sears converting a layup with just under nine minutes remaining to make it a nine-point edge. Wing Taurean Prince sparked the Bears with a powerful putback dunk a few minutes later and Baylor cut the Bulldogs’ lead to one inside the final minute, but Sherrod hit a pair of key free throws late to seal the win.
Why it mattered
This was basically a home game for Yale, which only had to travel 81 miles from New Haven, Conn., to Providence, R.I. Meanwhile, the Bears trekked more than 1,500 miles from Waco, Tex. How much that disparity affected the outcome is unclear, but for most of the game Yale looked like the better team than Baylor—which was also upset by a double-digit seed, No. 14 Georgia State, in last year’s tourney. Mason kept creating offense in the halfcourt against the Bears’ defense, and the Bulldogs competed on the glass against a Baylor team that entered ranked third in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage. The Bulldogs—playing under the shadow of a controversy over their senior captain’s expulsion for alleged sexual misconduct—are making their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1962 after winning the Ivy League.
Yale will face No. 4 seed Duke on Saturday in Providence. The Bulldogs fell to the Blue Devils, 80–61, in Durham, N.C., in November. Duke handled UNC Wilmington, 93–85, in its first-round matchup earlier on Thursday.
No. 12 Yale upset No. 5 Baylor 79–75 in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Thursday.
As expected, Twitter was filled with a range of responses after the thrilling game. Here are some of the best reactions:
thank god, finally Yale catches a break— Emmy Bengtson 🧙🏻♀️ (@EmmyA2) March 17, 2016
Oh wow, someone else bailed a Yale man out of his own obvious mistake. That never happens.— UConn is good (@NoEscalators) March 17, 2016
Good to see kids from Yale finally catch a break in life.— Bryan Armen Graham (@BryanAGraham) March 17, 2016
"I don't know much about Baylor, to be honest. I just go where the pain is." - Crying Jordan— ☕netw3rk (@netw3rk) March 17, 2016
YALE BABY!— Francis Kaminsky III (@FSKPart3) March 17, 2016
I'm hurting !!!!!!!!!— Quincy Acy (@QuincyAcy) March 17, 2016
Sick— Isaiah Austin (@IsaiahAustin) March 17, 2016
Seriously though, congrats to the kid from "Blank Check."— Jon Tayler, Smiling Politely (@JATayler) March 17, 2016
Power brokers to meet privately tomorrow to discuss possible third team challenger to Duke vs. Yale.— Pete Schroeder (@peteschroeder) March 17, 2016
If your bracket strategy was just picking all the teams with nice doggy mascots, you’re doing very well so far— Seth Rosenthal (@seth_rosenthal) March 17, 2016
Yale will play Duke in the round of 32.
Baylor forward Rico Gathers emphatically blocked a dunk attempt by Yale’s Nick Victor in Thursday’s NCAA tournament game.
Victor drove down the baseline and rose for a dunk, but Gathers met him at the rim and swatted the ball away with authority.
Gathers, a 6'8" senior, has aspirations to play in the NFL as a tight end.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Brandon Ingram’s sinewy 6'9" frame, uncanny fluidity and knack for scoring flourishes bring inevitable comparisons to Kevin Durant. UNC-Wilmington coach Kevin Keatts made the analogy on Wednesday, calling Ingram the “closest thing I’ve seen” to Durant. NBA scouts note Ingram’s 190-pound frame and can’t help but compare them. Even Ingram himself admits that he studies the 6'9", 240-pound Durant’s game and considers the Thunder forward an idol.
In the two-man race for the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft between Ingram and LSU freshman forward Ben Simmons, it’s already clear who better used his time in college. Ingram played like a future No. 1 pick against UNC-Wilmington on Thursday afternoon, guiding the No. 4 seed Blue Devils past the plucky and pressing No. 13 Seahawks, 93–85. Ingram spun through the lane possession after possession, soaring high only to touch the ball softly off the glass.
He finished with 20 points, nine rebounds and two blocks and continued to close the gap between himself and Simmons. While Simmons’s season sputtered to a disappointing conclusion in a blowout loss to Texas A&M in the SEC tournament, Ingram is still soaring in both the lane and the draft boards.
Simmons, a 6'10" forward, chose LSU in part because his godfather, David Patrick, is an assistant there. This season, Simmons coasted under poor coaching from Johnny Jones and his staff. His shooting never improved and his motor stayed in neutral. Ingram is the foil to that cautionary tale, as he packed on 20 pounds, fought through some early struggles and caught up with Simmons in the minds of some NBA personnel. “At the beginning of the year, I was into myself and I was worried about my performance,” Ingram says. “I just started worrying about winning. We got better and kept getting better.”
On Thursday, Ingram snared rebounds in traffic, unselfishly passed out of double teams and showcased a solid handle for a player of his size. Sure, the competition came from the CAA and not NBA, but the smooth-jazz composure, innate touch and spell binding skill were breathtaking at times. Every stutter-step, fadeaway and feathery drop-down pass highlighted Ingram’s skills and development. “He’s much tougher than his body would indicate and may be the next Kevin Durant,” said an NBA scout. “He could go as the No. 1 pick if a team is looking for a guy who can make shots and stretch the floor.”
In the one-and-done era, collegiate legacies are manufactured quickly. All of the themes of a generation ago in college basketball—learning from mistakes, maturing through failures and growing physically—are crammed into a six-month crash course. That sped-up timetable often ends with a fittingly manic final exam—the NCAA tournament—that could last three hours or three weeks.
Two years ago, No. 3 seed Duke and one-and-done phemon Jabari Parker flopped famously against No. 14 Mercer. Parker shot 4-for-14 and got exploited on a critical Mercer pick-and-roll late in the upset loss. Last year, three precocious freshmen—Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones—led the Blue Devils on a scintillating title run before skipping town. Ingram knows the disparate fates of his predecessors, hearing tales of both in the locker room. “We’re going to take a shot at this,” Ingram said in a quiet moment in the Duke locker room Wednesday. “I’m not worried about the future. We’re going to be in this game. We can beat anyone or lose to anyone.”
For a while on Thursday against unflinching UNCW, Ingram’s Duke postseason career looked to be careening toward Parker territory. UNCW led by as many as seven in a frenetic first half that saw 11 lead changes. They never relented, cutting the Duke lead late to five points in a taut and fun game. Ingram delivered one of the game’s biggest momentum swings at the end of the first half, calmly swishing a three-pointer to beat the buzzer and cut the Duke deficit to 43–40. That shot came from savvy set play with 6.5 seconds left, as Duke inbounded to sophomore guard Grayson Allen at halfcourt, drew a double-team and hit a streaking Ingram, who calmly rose and fired with a grace uncommon for a man his size. “His handling and passing at his size while also having NBA-ready perimeter stroke and ability to score in a variety of ways makes him tantalizing,” said a second NBA scout. “He needs to physically develop, but he’s certainly in the running to be drafted No. 1.”
Whether the No. 1 or No. 2 pick, Ingram’s future is already secure.
It was interesting to hear Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski concede without prompting that Ingram will leave Duke after this season. He spoke similarly of Okafor last season. Duke’s recruiting pitch now comes straight from the Kentucky playbook, as Krzyzewski and Duke associate head coach Jeff Capel pitched Ingram directly on following the one-and-done path of Parker and Okafor. “We hope during this tournament, because it’ll be his only time in the tournament, that he takes it to as high a level as he can right now,” Krzyzewski said. “That’s all I’ve talked to him about is just take advantage of this moment.”
Ingram, 18, is so young that he owned a Nolan Smith Duke jersey growing up. Smith finished his Duke career in 2011. Ingram spent his first summer at Duke pounding peanut butter and Muscle Milk to add weight. Duke’s spree of departures to the NBA combined with a run of injuries this season, especially to senior forward Amile Jefferson, sharpened his learning curve. The Duke coaches holding him accountable and forcing him to play defense and be aggressive pushed his development. “It put Brandon in the position to be taught by the best basketball teacher out there,” said Donald Ingram, Brandon’s father.
Donald Ingram didn’t make the trip to Providence for Thursday’s game. He spoke from his job as a service coordinator at Crown Forklifts in Kinston, N.C. He’s hoping that Duke can reach the Sweet 16 so he can travel to Anaheim to watch them. Duke will need to get past either No. 5 Baylor or No. 12 Yale to go to California.
This is a flawed Duke team, limited to a six-man rotation and porous defensively. But Ingram’s performance on Thursday—combined with an inspired career high 23-point outburst by senior center Marshall Plumlee—reminded everyone the searing potential of a superstar in the NCAA tournament.
Ingram’s season at Duke has already secured his future for the long-term. For now, though, he looks mighty impressive trying to extend his college career, one victory and showcase at a time.
What happened: Hampton stuck with the top-seeded Cavaliers for the first 14 minutes and trailed by just two at 20-18 before a pair of three-pointers from Malcolm Brogdon, the ACC player of the year, and London Perrantes helped spark a 20-3 run to close the half. The Pirates didn't get any closer than that the rest of the way as Virginia rolled to an 81-45 win in Raleigh. Forward Anthony Gill scored a game-high 19 points while Perrantes added 12 and Brogdon had 11 for the Cavaliers. The most anxious moment for UVa. may have come toward the end of the first half, when head coach Tony Bennett fell to the sideline after appearing to hurt his leg or his knee. He went to the locker room but returned for the second half.
Why it maters: Bouncing back from their ACC championship game loss to North Carolina on Sunday, the Cavaliers had to play their game, and they did. Virginia shot 55.2% from the floor overall and 48.0% from beyond the arc while their stifling defense (ranking No. 4 nationally in adjusted efficiency, according to kenpom.com) held Hampton to just 30.4% and 15.8%, respectively.
What’s next: On Saturday, the Cavaliers will face No. 9 seed Butler, which earlier on Thursday defeated Texas Tech 71-61. The Bulldogs are a much tougher test for Virginia's defense, as senior Kellen Dunham went 5-9 from beyond the arc against the Red Raiders.
Virginia coach Tony Bennett fell on the sideline during the Cavaliers’ NCAA tournament game against Hampton on Thursday.
Bennett was standing on the sideline late in the first half when he dropped to the floor because of what was later reported to be dehydration. He walked back to his seat on the bench and sat down before walking off the court shortly before the end of the half. He returned to the bench to start the second half.
Bennett just collapsed on the sideline. Sitting now with water in hand.— Ava Wallace (@avarwallace) March 17, 2016
Bennett can be seen falling to the ground after appearing to hold on to his left knee.
Following his fall, Bennett said on TruTV, “I think I was crouched down and was a little dehydrated and blacked out a little bit, but I’m OK.”
Tony Bennett on TruTV: "I think I was crouched down and was a little dehydrated and blacked out a little bit, but I'm OK."— Jon Solomon (@JonSolomonAspen) March 17, 2016
Virginia led Hampton 40–21 at the half and went on to an 81-45 win.
Despite a cold start from star senior Georges Niang, Iowa State’s red-hot shooting from the perimeter anchored a 94–81 win over No. 13 Iona in Denver on Thursday afternoon. Playing at their typical breakneck pace, the Cyclones used standout performances from junior guard Matt Thomas and senior forward Abdel Nader in the first half and a strong second half from Niang to hold off a second-half surge from the Gaels. Niang finished 11-of-23 from the floor with 26 points and all five Cyclones starters finished in double figures. Iona junior forward Jordan Washington and senior guard A.J. English combined for 54 points in the losing effort.
Why it matters
Iona was a trendy upset pick because of Iowa State’s limited depth, porous defense and hobbled point guard, Monte Morris. That pick looked shortsighted before the first TV timeout. Iona struggled to keep up with the Cyclones’ frenetic pace, failing to cover wide-open threes and allowing Thomas and Nader a series of free looks. The Cyclones would hit 10 threes on the game and exceed their season average of 81 points. It was the 21st time this season that the Cyclones eclipsed 80 points. After an unsightly loss to UAB in the first round of last year’s tournament and the departure of coach Fred Hoiberg in the off-season, the Cyclones were a bit of an unknown entering this season. Now, they look like a team that, at the very least, can run with anybody. The games will be high-scoring, but if the Cyclones keep the tempo high, they can compete with any team in the nation.
Iowa State will face the winner of No. 5 Purdue and No. 12 Arkansas Little-Rock in Denver on Saturday.
After a sluggish first half, No. 9 seed Connecticut came out firing in the second, quickly turning a nine-point deficit into a lead it would not relinquish, ultimately beating No. 8 Colorado, 74–67. to move onto the second round in the NCAA tournament. Three Huskies—junior guard Rodney Purvis (19 points), sophomore guard Daniel Hamilton (17) and senior guard Sterling Gibbs (12)—scored in double figures during the win.
Why it mattered
The Huskies may have been 0.8 seconds away from missing out on the tournament field, but a dramatic three-quarters court buzzer-beater by freshman guard Jalen Adams propelled them to the AAC championship and a No. 9 seed in the Big Dance. There just seems to be something about this program under coach Kevin Ollie once it gets into the NCAAs. Hamilton and Purvis, who combined for 36 points on 13-for-25 shooting, showed that this can be a multi-faceted offense, capable of hanging with the big boys in the field. That will be crucial, given the juggernaut they will likely face in the second round.
Unless Austin Peay can pull off the biggest upset in NCAA history, the Huskies will face off with No. 1 overall seed Kansas in the second round on Saturday in a showdown between two of the country’s tournament stalwarts.
After a tight first half that ended with Butler leading 30-28, the ninth-seeded Bulldogs slowly pulled away from No. 8 Texas Tech in the second half en route to a 71–61 win in the Midwest Regional. Butler senior guard Kellen Dunham led all scorers with 23 points, including 5 of 9 shooting from beyond the three-point line, while sophomore forward Kelan Martin had 11 points on 2 of 4 from deep. Red Raiders senior guard Devaugntah Williams led his team with 18 points off the bench.
Why it matters
Butler, which reached the national championship game in 2010 and '11 as a No. 5 and a No. 8 seed, respectively, showed signs that it could be headed for another March run on Friday. The Bulldogs have relied on their 17th-ranked offense for much of the season, and it was their key to victory in this one. If Dunham and the Bulldogs are shooting threes like they did against the Red Raiders—9 of 17 (52.9%) on the game—they’ll be a difficult matchup for any team that crosses their path.
On Saturday in Raleigh, Butler will face the winner of No. 1 seed Virginia vs. No. 16 Hampton. No doubt the Bulldogs should expect to face the Cavaliers and their No. 4 ranked defense.
Down 43–37 to UNC-Wilmington just seven seconds before halftime, defending national champion Duke got a three-pointer from star freshman Brandon Ingram to close the first half and then took the lead for good on a pair of Ingram free throws just three minutes in to the second half. The Blue Devils, the No. 4 seed in the West Regional, went up by 10 for the first time with 13 minutes remaining but could never quite put away the CAA champion Seahawks, who trailed by five and had three shots to get even closer with under a minute to go but missed all three. Duke then hit three free throws in the final seconds to win 93–85 and avoid losing to a team seeded 13th or below for the third time in five years.
Why it matters
Duke took full advantage of the fact that UNC-Wilmington was one of the smallest teams in the field, ranking 274th nationally in average height. Marshall Plumlee, a 7-foot senior, set a career high with 23 points on 9 of 10 shooting (most coming on wide-open dunks), and also recorded eight rebounds and three blocks before fouling out with 2:01 remaining. Ingram, 6'9", added 20 points and nine rebounds. If Plumlee can provide that kind of performance going forward, the Blue Devils will be a threat to return to the Final Four.
On Saturday Duke will face the winner of Thursday’s second game in Providence between No. 5 Baylor and No. 12 Yale. The Blue Devils beat the Bears in the Elite Eight in 2010 en route to coach Mike Krzyzewski’s fourth NCAA title. Yale has not played in the NCAA tournament since 1962.