March Madness 2021 officially kicked off with Thursday's First Four games, won by Texas Southern, Drake, Norfolk State and UCLA. But the first full day of fun comes Friday, with 16 men's games making up a jam-packed day, which also marks the first day of the Big Dance since Virginia was crowned champion nearly two years ago.
Sports Illustrated will keep you updated throughout Friday with final scores and brief recaps of all 16 games, which take place entirely in the state of Indiana and begin at 12:15 p.m. ET. Who will advance to the second round and keep their hopes of a long stay in Indianapolis alive?
No. 7 Florida 75, No. 10 Virginia Tech 70 (OT)
Friday’s action began with an overtime thriller at the storied Hinkle Fieldhouse. After trailing for the majority of the game, a key 7–0 run gave the Gators their first lead in close to 30 minutes of game action behind several key plays from big man Colin Castleton (19 points, 14 rebounds, three blocks). But the Hokies fought back, forcing overtime with this late three by Nahiem Alleyne.
Florida sprinted out of the gates in overtime with an absurd dunk by Anthony Duruji. Meanwhile, Hokies star big man Keve Aluma fouled out, forcing head coach Mike Young to go to his bench late. VT hung tough, but Florida’s Tre Mann drained a dagger step-back three with less than 30 seconds to go to seal the win. —Kevin Sweeney
No. 3 Arkansas 85, No. 14 Colgate 68
The Razorbacks eventually pulled away from a gutsy upset bid by Colgate, which led by as many as 14 points in the first half as it tried to shoot past third-seeded Arkansas. After blowing that lead before halftime, the Raiders went back in front in the second half before a JD Notae three-pointer gave the Razorbacks a lead they wouldn't relinquish. In the end the athleticism of Arkansas and the starring interior play of Justin Smith (29 points, 13 rebounds, five steals, two blocks) was too much for Colgate. The highlight of the game, though, might've been this clever football-inspired assist by the Hogs' Davonte Davis. —Molly Geary
No. 1 Illinois 78, No. 16 Drexel 49
The first No. 1 seed in action had no trouble, as the Illini dispatched the Dragons by 29 behind a balanced scoring attack. Brad Underwood’s club had six players score eight points or more, including a stat-sheet-stuffing 17 points, 10 rebounds and six assists for Ayo Dosunmu. Illinois led by as many as 33 in the game and didn’t trail the CAA champions in the final 33:28 of game action. Drexel shot just 30.6% from the field in the losing effort. —K.S.
No. 6 Texas Tech 65, No. 11 Utah State 53
What was billed as a defensive battle played out that way on the court, with Chris Beard's Red Raiders getting the upper hand thanks to a balanced scoring effort led by Mac McClung and a feisty team performance on D. Tech held the Aggies to a dismal 3-for-18 showing from three and turned them over 22 times, fatal errors that Utah State could not overcome. Utah State 7-footer Neemias Queta put in an solid game in defeat, flirting with a triple double with 11 points, 13 rebounds, seven blocks and five assists. —M.G.
No. 1 Baylor 79, No. 16 Hartford 55
The Bears overcame a slow start to cruise past the Hawks behind a strong game from MaCio Teague, who made four threes and finished with 22 points. Baylor's defense recorded a whopping 15 steals en route to forcing 24 Hartford turnovers and holding the Hawks to just 55 points on the day. —M.G.
No. 15 Oral Roberts 75, No. 2 Ohio State 72 (OT)
For just the ninth time ever, a No. 15 seed has knocked off a No. 2! Oral Roberts secured its first NCAA tournament win since 1974 with an overtime victory over Ohio State. Fifty-nine of ORU’s 75 points were scored by just two players, guard Max Abmas and big man Kevin Obanor. Abmas and Obanor simply wouldn’t let the Golden Eagles lose, battling back after Ohio State took a four point lead with 2:34 to go to force overtime. Once there, Obanor scored the first five points of OT and the dynamic duo scored all but one of ORU’s points in the extra session to pull the first 15–2 upset in five years. —K.S.
No. 8 Loyola Chicago 71, No. 9 Georgia Tech 60
With Sister Jean in attendance, the Ramblers moved on to face top-seeded Illinois by overcoming a rough offensive start against the Yellow Jackets, who were missing star center Moses Wright. After wresting control by halftime, Loyola Chicago didn't look back as it held serve for the 11-point win. It was a big day for senior Lucas Williamson, who scored 21 and played excellent defense to lead his team to the first-round victory. —M.G.
No. 12 Oregon State 70, No. 5 Tennessee 56
Ah, the classic 12–5 upset. After taking the Pac-12 tournament by storm to steal a bid, the Beavers kept the good times rolling against Tennessee. Oregon State earned its first win in the men's NCAA tournament in 39 years, getting off to a flying start vs. the Vols and never looking back. With John Fulkerson sidelined, Beavers center Roman Silva had a field day, going a perfect 8 for 8 from the field for a game-high 16 points. —M.G.
No. 4 Oklahoma State 69, No. 3 Liberty 60
Oklahoma State got all it could handle from Liberty, a mid-major familiar with the spotlight of March. The Flames, who knocked off Mississippi State as a No. 12 seed in the 2019 tournament, led at halftime of this one and put quite the scare into Cade Cunningham and the Cowboys. Cunningham, the likely No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA draft, was limited to just one point in the first half with early foul trouble. OSU quickly regained the lead early in the second half, but Liberty refused to go quietly and was within four with just 2:48 to go. But Cunningham took over, scoring the game’s next five points to seal the win including a tough step-back three that pushed the lead to nine. The Cowboys advance to take on Oregon State Sunday. —K.S.
No. 9 Wisconsin 85, No. 8 North Carolina 62
The Badgers have lived and died by the three all year long, and they were certainly living Friday night. Wisconsin shot a blistering 13 for 27 from deep, including eight combined makes from the backcourt duo of Brad Davison and D’Mitrik Trice. And after not topping 75 points in regulation since a Christmas Day game against Michigan State, the Badgers put up 85 in this one and left the Tar Heels searching for answers on defense. A 13–3 run to close the first half gave Wisconsin a 16-point halftime lead that was never in doubt, earning itself a second-round date with No. 1 Baylor. —K.S.
No. 2 Houston 87, No. 15 Cleveland State 54
Unsurprisingly, this one wasn’t close. Houston’s athleticism and defensive intensity overwhelmed the upstart Vikings, limiting CSU to just 38.6% shooting from the field and forcing 14 turnovers. Another area the Cougars dominated was the offensive glass, snatching 15 offensive boards compared to Cleveland State’s five. Houston put six scorers in double figures, including a game-high 18 from Quentin Grimes. The Cougars have now won at least one game in each of the last three tournaments, and have a great chance to go much deeper than that in this one. —K.S.
No. 13 North Texas 78, No. 4 Purdue 69 (OT)
A valiant comeback effort by the Boilermakers to force overtime ran out of steam in the extra period as the Mean Green became the third team seeded No. 12 or lower to win on Friday. North Texas brilliantly game-planned against Purdue star big man Trevion Williams, holding him to 14 points on 7-for-15 shooting, while freshman guard Jaden Ivey shot 10 for 24 and finished with 26. Mean Green senior Javion Hamlet led the way for the victors, scoring 24 points and adding 12 rebounds. —M.G.
No. 10 Rutgers 60, No. 7 Clemson 56
Playing in the program's first NCAA tournament game since 1991, the Scarlet Knights made the wait worth it, outlasting the Tigers to win their first men's tourney game in 38 years. In a tightly-contested defensive slugfest, Rutgers got the bounces it needed and made critical plays in crunch time to overcome 14 turnovers and shooting just 39% from the field for the game. The Scarlet Knights winning the battle of the boards, 41 to 31, helped punch their ticket to the second round, where they'll face Houston. —M.G.
No. 11 Syracuse 78, No. 6 San Diego State 62
Is this going to be another Syracuse year? After sneaking into the field, the Orange looked dominant at times against a San Diego State team that hadn’t lost in two months. Syracuse torched the nets from beyond the arc, knocking down 15 of 27 attempts from deep to take a lead that ballooned as large as 27 in the second half. The leader of the charge was Buddy Boeheim, who continued his strong play of late with 30 points, at one point scoring 16 straight Syracuse points in the first half. Meanwhile, the Aztecs could never find a rhythm against the Syracuse zone, hurling 40 threes and making just 11 of them. —K.S.
No. 5 Villanova 73, No. 12 Winthrop 63
Winthrop was a trendy choice for a 12–5 upset in this spot thanks to its gaudy 23–1 record and Villanova’s struggles without star point guard Collin Gillespie. But the Wildcats reminded the nation not to count out a Jay Wright team, executing well without their senior leader to keep their season alive and advance to face off with North Texas in the second round. Big man Jeremiah Robinson-Earl was superb, tallying 22 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. The offense ran through Robinson-Earl, and the sophomore showcased his high-level passing ability while keeping things running smoothly on offense. Villanova also did an excellent job of taking care of the ball against a Winthrop team that likes to turn you over, coughing it up just six times. Meanwhile, the Wildcats were also opportunistic, turning 10 Winthrop miscues into 17 points. —K.S.
No. 3 West Virginia 84, No. 14 Morehead State 67
Bob Huggins earned his 900th career win to close out Day 1 of the men's NCAA tournament, denying a No. 14 seed from joining the day's upset fun. Miles McBride put up one of the day's brightest showings, scoring 30 points and adding six rebounds and six assists to lead the Mountaineers. Both teams shot well from three and from the floor, but the Eagles were doomed by 18 turnovers and a total of only five made free throws. —M.G.
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