The Madness of March 15th: Game-by-Game Recaps from the First Day of Tournament Action
The most wonderful time of the year has finally arrived for sport fans alike. The Madness officially began yesterday and it did not disappoint. In this quick piece I’ll go over the outcome of every game, some of the top performers, and the many reactions on social media. Without further ado, lets jump right in.
10Oklahoma Sooners 78 – 7Rhode Island Rams 83 (OT)
The first game of the day was a nail-biter to the very end. E.C Matthews buried a 3-pointer with 28 seconds left in overtime to put the Rams up 5 and they never looked back. Rhode Island shot a cool 39% from deep (11/28) on the afternoon and had 4 different players with double digit scoring totals. Trae Young, the nation’s leading scorer, led the way for the Sooners with 28 points but Rhode Island’s guards pestered him all game forcing Young into 6 sloppy turnovers. This loss marks the 13th defeat in the past 17 games for the Sooners while the Rams have won a March Madness game for the second straight year.
14Wright State Raiders 47 – 3Tennessee Volunteers 73
More like Wrong State, haha, why is nobody laughing? This was the most lopsided game of the day by far. Regardless, this was the most successful season the Raiders have ever had in D1 but they were no match for the high-powered Tennessee team. Lamonte Turner poured in 19 points and dished 9 assists to pace the way for the Volunteers.
13NC-Greensboro Spartans 64 – 4Gonzaga Bulldogs 68
This game had legitimate “busted bracket” potential for a while. The score was tied 64-64 before Zach Norvell Jr. drained a go-ahead 3 with just 20.8 left on the clock. The Zags have been labelled as a trendy sleeper pick by some pundits so a loss here would have been an epic disaster. Jonathan Williams was the offensive catalyst for Gonzaga putting up 19 points and 13 boards in a winning effort. The scrappy Spartans held the 9th best offense in the country to just 68 points but they could not close down the stretch.
16Pennsylvania Quakers 60 – 1Kansas Jayhawks 76
History was not made on Thursday as it was business as usual in the 1 v. 16 matchup. The Jayhawks faced a 10 point deficit early in the first half but once they grabbed the lead they never surrendered it. Devonte Graham, the Big 12 player of the year, was a beast in this one dropping 29 points, 6 boards, and 6 assists for Kansas. Shockingly, the Kansas starters were responsible for 72 of the 76 points scored in this one which means bench play has to be a cause for concern for the rest of the tournament.
15Iona Gaels 67 – 2Duke Blue Devils 89
Another game that was never particularly close. The Blue Devils come into the tournament as one of the odds-on favourites to cut down the nets and they looked like worthy competitors in this match-up. Freshman Marvin Bagley III was his exceptional self with 22 points (on 71% shooting) and 7 rebounds in this one. Grayson Allen (16 points, 9 assists) also successfully managed to have social media talking about his performance instead of a dirty play. This was a good first step for a team looking at much bigger things.
11Loyola-Chicago Ramblers 64 – 6Miami Hurricanes 62
This game was a perfect example for why the tournament is called March Madness. After Lonnie Walker IV missed a free throw with 9 seconds left, the Ramblers’ Donte Ingram buried a deep 3 at the buzzer to push Loyola-Chicago onwards. This was their first tournament appearance in 33 years and they did not disappoint as that finish will be etched in the minds of fans for years to come. The end of this game was a bigger adrenaline rush than seeing those three dots pop up after you sent the “you up?” text at 2 A.M.
12South Dakota State Jackrabbits 73 – 5Ohio State Buckeyes 81
The upset that never was. Despite the best efforts of Mike Daum (27 points, 6 rebounds) the Buckeyes were too much for South Dakota to handle. The Buckeyes launched a ridiculous 40 3-balls in this contest and had 3 players that topped the 20 point plateau. Keita Bates-Diop had 24 points and 12 rebounds for the 5th seeded Buckeyes who now get to face Gonzaga in the round of 32.
9North Carolina State Wolfpack 83 – 8Seton Hall Pirates 94
There were 66 total free throws taken in this high-scoring affair. Khadeen Carrington put up 26 points for the Pirates while Desi Rodriguez also chipped in 20 off of the bench. The game’s leading scorer was Allerik Freeman from NC State who had 36 points and was 6/8 from deep. Seton Hall led wire-to-wire and were able to withstand any runs the Wolfpack had in them. Their formula for success was ball security (only 7 turnovers) and efficiency at the free throw line (31/39).
16Radford Highlanders 61 – 1Villanova Wildcats 87
This was basically a shootaround for the top scoring offense in the nation. Villanova dominated this matchup start to finish and shot a ridiculous 59.6% from the field. Every one of the Wildcats starters hit double digits in points as Jalen Brunson led the charge with 16. A dominant debut for one of the favourites in the tournament.
12Davidson Wildcats 73 – 5Kentucky Wildcats 78
Wildcat-ception saw Kentucky fail to score a 3-pointer in a game for the first time since 1988, but they still managed to pull out the W. The boys in blue dominated the foul line (26/32 compared to Davidson’s 14/17) which was the biggest difference in an otherwise tight game. Kevin Knox was the game’s leading scorer registering 25 points on the stat sheet while Jon Axel Gudmundsson was Davidson’s top threat with 21 points. Davidson has not won a tournament game since the 2008 Steph Curry run.
14Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks 60 – 3Texas Tech Raiders 70
This is the first tournament win for Texas Tech since 2005 and they did it mainly on the back of senior guard Keenan Evans. He had 23 points for the Raiders and has seemingly been flying under the radar compared to other star players in the field. The Lumberjacks kept the game close for the majority of the contest but were simply outmatched by the guard play of the Raiders.
11San Diego State Aztecs 65 – 6Houston Cougars 67
Rob Gray was arguably the best player on any court during Thursday’s matchups as the senior guard put up 39 points to propel the Cougars to their first tournament win since 1984. Gray laid in the go-ahead bucket with just 1.1 seconds left in the game while San Diego’s buzzer beater heave would not go. If Gray keeps this up for the rest of the tournament the Cougars may be that annual lower seed that sneaks their way into the Elite 8.
9Alabama Crimson Tide 86 – 8Virginia Tech Hokies 83
Freshman point guard Collin Sexton was the player of the game for the Crimson Tide in this contest. Down 43-41 at half, Sexton scored 21 of his 25 points in the second stanza to will Alabama to a victory. This game saw 10 lead changes but Alabama was able to roll with the punches before pulling away late. It was another unfortunate loss for Virginia Tech who now only have one tournament win since 1997.
13Buffalo Bulls 89 – 4Arizona Wildcats 68
This game didn’t just bust my bracket, it eviscerated it. The Bulls were able to hound Arizona’s bigs all game long while handily winning the 3-ball battle (Bulls were 15/30, Arizona 2/18). This was a colossal failure for Arizona who was pegged as a legitimate Elite 8 contender in large part due to the presence of star freshman Deandre Ayton. He still had 14 points and 13 boards in the loss but the Bulls stingy defense really kept him under wraps. The defensive side of the ball was the biggest difference of the game as Arizona looked absolutely lost on D against the speedy Bulls squad. The Buffalo backcourt dominated with Wes Clark and Jeremy Harris chipping in 25, and 23 points respectively.
11St. Bonaventure Bonnies 62 – 6Florida Gators 77
Egor Koulechov, who sounds more like a KGB sleeper agent than a college basketball player, was the focal point of the Gators offense on Thursday night. The lanky Russian import led the game with 20 points on 8/17 shooting. The Bonnies just could not hang in the second half but they should be proud of what they accomplished this season nonetheless. It was the defense that really did it for the Gators as they had 11 steals and forced 18 Bonnies turnovers.
14Montana Grizzlies 47 – 3Michigan Wolverines 61
It is unfortunate that this was the last game of the day because I have a feeling it put many viewers to sleep. The Big-10 Champions are able to say they moved on although the win failed to inspire much confidence offensively. Charles Matthews was the hero for the Wolverines as he dropped 12 of his 20 points in the first half while the game was very much up for grabs. The Grizzlies simply just fell apart in the second half getting outscored 30-19 and shooting a paltry 25% from the field (7/28). The Wolverines were one of the hottest team’s coming into the tournament and they managed to survive a poor start to this game. They need to be better against Houston in the next round.