NCAA Tournament Day 1 recap and awards


The first day of March Madness was everything we hoped for.

Well, at least the early games were.

Four of the first five finishes ended with a shot made with less than five seconds on the clock. One of a certified buzzer beater. Another came with 0.4 seconds left on the clock. All told, seven of the 16 games were decided by five points or less, and even Michigan State’s disappointing first round exit featured a comeback from 23 points down and a shot to win the game.

There may have been some snoozers later in the day — I’m looking at you, UConn — but all in all is was an eventful and exciting first day of hoops.

Here’s a recap of everything the folks that celebrated St. Patrick’s Day missed. Or forgot…

Game of the Day: Butler 60, Old Dominion 58

This game was just as good as we all hoped it would be. Neither team led by more than six points. The lead changed hands 21 times. It’s only fitting that a game between two grind-it-out, blue collar teams was decided when a 50-50 ball ended up in Matt Howard’s hands, who layed it in only tenths of a second before the buzzer went off.

The Monarchs came in with the reputation as one of the country’s best rebounding teams, but it was the play of Butler’s frontcourt that made the difference. Matt Howard and Andrew Smith combined for 26 points, while Khyle Marshall and Garrett Butcher had 12 boards, eight of which came on the offensive end. Butler advanced to play Pitt in the second round.

Team of the Day: Morehead State Eagles

With Kenny Faried and Demonte Harper struggling — they combined to go 7-28 from the floor for just 20 points — it was the play of Terrance Hill and Ty Proffit that made the difference. They combined for 36 points on 8-12 shooting from beyond the arc to keep Morehead State within striking distance.

In the clutch, however, coach Donnie Tyndall relied on his stars. Harper drilled a three at the top of the key with 4.5 seconds left that gave Morehead State a 62-61 lead with 4.5 seconds left, and Faried blocked Mike Marra’s shot — it looked like close to being a foul, but looking at replays Faried made a clean defensive play — that sealed the win. Morehead State will play Richmond in the second round.

Player of the Day: Marquise Carter, Gonzaga

Carter has really come on late in the season. He averaged 13.1 ppg in the Zags’ last seven games, combining with David Stockton to solidify the point guard spot. But easily his best game of the season came against the Johnnies, as Carter exploded for a career-high 24 points, six assists, and six boards in an 86-71 win.

Gonzaga has desperately needed a playmaker all season. The knock on this team was that they haven’t been able to replace Matt Bouldin’s production. Expecting this kind of performance out of Carter for the rest of the tournament is too much, but if he can become a consistent playmaker in the tournament the way he was down the stretch of the season, Gonzaga becomes a much more dangerous team.


Temple 66, Penn State 64: The Owls survived a tough test against a scrappy Penn State team. The started slow — neither team is known for their potent offense or exciting style of play — but the finish was classic. The two team traded baskets over the last five minutes, with Temple opening up a three point lead in the final minute. But the Owls lost track of Talor Battle, who drilled a deep three to tie the game. At the other end of the floor, Juan Fernandez — who had 23 points, which tied for the team-high with Ramone Moore — hit a tough, leaning 15 footer with 0.4 seconds left for the win.

Kentucky 59, Princeton 57: Brandon Knight struggled, but John Calipari put the ball in his hands on the final possession, and Knight delivered. He scored on a driving layup that gave Kentucky a 59-57 lead with 2.0 seconds left, he first points of the game. Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb also struggled, but Kentucky’s veterans stepped up. Josh Harrellson had 15 points and 10 boards while Darius Miller went for 17. Kentucky will face West Virginia Saturday.

Richmond 69, Vanderbilt 66: Kevin Anderson hit three threes in a 1:41 span during the second half as the Spiders’ 12-0 run to erase a 48-39 deficit. Down the stretch, Vandy could not execute offensively. They missed three free throws in the final minute, turned the ball over with a chance to tie, and then failed to get a good look on an out-of-bounds play with 2.5 seconds left. The Spiders, behind 25 points from Anderson, advance to play Morehead State.

UCLA 78, Michigan State 76: UCLA didn’t win as much as it survived. The Bruins opened up a 64-41 lead with 8:30 remaining. When the Spartans finally woke up — and, more importantly, finally started defending — they were able to make their run. A Keith Appling three with 4.4 seconds left cut the lead to one, but after the Bruins went 1-2 from the line, Kalin Lucas traveled and was unable to get off a potentially game-winning heave. Draymond Green led the comeback charge with 23 points, 11 boards, and 10 assists. Tyler Honeycutt led four players in double figures with 16 points, five boards, five assists, three steals, and three blocks.

West Virginia 84, Clemson 76: Clemson looked great early, jumping out to a double-digit lead. But the Mountaineers used a 15-1 run that spanned both halves, eventually taking a 46-41 lead and pushing that out to double digits. The Mountaineers allowed Clemson to cut the lead to 74-71 with 90 seconds left, but Dalton Pepper, playing the top of the Mountaineer’s 2-3, picked off three consecutive passes — two of which led to layups — as WVU used a 6-0 run in the span of about 15 seconds to put the game away. The Mountaineers advance to face Kentucky.

Kansas State 73, Utah State 68: Jacob Pullen overcame a bout with the flu to score 22 points and hand out five assists as the Wildcats knocked off the Aggies. Don’t be fooled, this was an impressive win. Utah State is a senior-laden team that is tough defensively with a couple of offensive weapons. The final score was only five, but Kansas State controlled the second half. It should be fun to see the Wildcats take on the Badgers on Saturday.

BYU 74, Wofford 66: The Cougars struggled early against Wofford, allowing the Terriers to take a six point lead midway through the first half, but the Jimmer and company were just too much. Fredette finished with 32 points and seven assists, but it was the fact that BYU held Wofford, who was 42nd in the nation in offensive efficiency coming in, to under 40 percent shooting from the field while grabbing nine steals.

Wisconsin 72, Belmont 58: It turns out that Wisconsin was just too much for Belmont. Jon Leuer had 17 of his 22 points in the second half and Jordan Taylor added 21 points as the Badgers pulled away in the second half.

Cincinnati 78, Missouri 63: After falling behind 9-2 in the first few minutes, Cincinnati asserted its will on this game. The Bearcats handled Missouri’s press and obliterated the Tigers in the paint and in the halfcourt. Yancy Gates led four players in double figures with 18 points and 11 boards.

San Diego State 68, Northern Colorado 50: Devon Beitzel scored 25 points to keep this thing close for a while, but in the the Aztecs were too much. Kawhi Leonard had 21 points and 10 boards while Billy White added 12 and 13. The Aztecs advance to face Temple.

Pitt 74, UNC-Asheville 51: Pitt was Pitt. They dominated the offensive glass and Ashton Gibbs scored 26 points on 6-9 shooting from deep. Pitt gets Butler next.

Florida 79, UC Santa Barbara 51: Florida was the first team of the day to flex their muscles over an inferior opponent. Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton combined for 31 points on 11-17 shooting.

UConn 81, Bucknell 52: Beat. Down. The final score doesn’t do it justice. Kemba finished 18 points, 12 assists, and eight boards.

Clark, Iowa end perfect South Carolina season in Final Four

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

DALLAS – Caitlin Clark overwhelmed the reigning champions with another sensational game, scoring 41 points to help Iowa spoil South Carolina’s perfect season with a 77-73 victory on Friday night in the Final Four.

The spectacular junior guard set a record for the highest-scoring semifinal game and became the first women’s player to post back-to-back 40-point games in the NCAA Tournament. She now has the Hawkeyes in a spot they’ve never been in before – one victory away from a national championship.

They’ll have to beat another SEC team to do that as Iowa (31-6) will face LSU in the title game on Sunday afternoon. The Tigers beat Virginia Tech in the other national semifinal.

It’s the Tigers’ first appearance in the title game as Kim Mulkey became the second coach to take two different teams to the championship game.

Thanks to the spectacular play of Clark and the historic year by South Carolina, this was one of the most talked about and highly anticipated matchups in women’s Final Four history,

The game lived up to the hype surrounding it- the best player vs. the best team – much to the delight of the sellout crowd of over 19,000 fans.

Coach Dawn Staley and South Carolina (36-1) had won 42 in a row, including last year’s championship game.

This was Iowa’s first appearance in the Final Four in 30 years. The last time the Hawkeyes advanced this far was 1993 and C. Vivian Stringer was the coach of that team that lost to Ohio State in overtime.

Clark wowed the crowd that included Harper Stribe, a young fan of the team who has been battling cancer. She was featured in a surprise video that informed the Hawkeyes’ star that she was the AP Player of the Year.

Trailing 59-55 entering the fourth quarter, South Carolina scored the first five points to take the lead. Clark answered right back with two deep 3-pointers and an assist to Monika Czinano to give the Hawkeyes a 67-62 lead.

South Carolina got within 69-68 on Raven Johnson’s 3-pointer before Clark got a steal for a layup with 3:32 left. Neither team scored again until star Aliyah Boston was fouled with 1:37 left. She made the second of two free throws.

Clark then scored another layup on the other end out of a timeout to make it a four-point game. After a layup by Zia Cooke made it a two-point game with 58 seconds left, the Hawkeyes ran the clock down with McKenna Warnock grabbing a huge offensive rebound off a Clark miss with 18 seconds remaining.

Clark hit two free throws after South Carolina fouled her with 13.5 seconds left. They were her 38th and 39th point, moving her past Nneka Ogwumike for the most points scored in a Final Four semifinal game.

After a putback by Johnson with 9.9 seconds left got the Gamecocks within 75-73, Clark sealed the game with two more free throws.

As the final seconds went off the clock Clark threw the ball high in the air and galloped around the court.

The loss ended a spectacular season for the defending champion Gamecocks, who were trying to become the 10th team to go through a season unbeaten.

Cooke led the Gamecocks with 24 points. Slowed by foul trouble, Boston had just eight points and 10 rebounds as the Hawkeyes packed the paint, daring South Carolina to shoot from the outside.

The Gamecocks finished 4-for-20 from behind the 3-point line and couldn’t take advantage of their 49-25 advantage on the boards that included 26 offensive rebounds.

Mulkey, LSU women rally in Final Four, reach first title game

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

DALLAS – Kim Mulkey is back in another national championship game, this time taking the flagship university from her home state there for the first time.

It took LSU only two seasons to get there with the feisty and flamboyantly dressed coach, and a big comeback in the national semifinal game that was quite an undercard Friday night.

Alexis Morris scored 27 points and had two of her misses in the fourth quarter turned into putback baskets by Angel Reese in a big run as LSU rallied to beat top-seeded Virginia Tech 79-72 in the first semifinal game.

“I’m never satisfied. I’m super-excited that we won, but I’m hungry,” said Morris, who jumped on a courtside table and fired up LSU fans after the game. “Like, I’m greedy. I want to win it all so I can complete the story.”

Reese finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds for LSU (33-2), which will play in the national title game Sunday against the winner of the highly anticipated matchup between Southeastern Conference foe South Carolina or Iowa in the other semifinal.

“It’s like a dream. It still hasn’t hit me that I’m at the Final Four,” said Reese, the transfer from Maryland who carries the nickname, ”Bayou Barbie.” “I’m just not even believing this right now. It’s crazy how much my life has changed in one year.”

Mulkey – in a carnation pink top this time – won three national titles in four Final Four appearances over her 21 seasons at Baylor. She is only the second coach to take two different teams to the national championship game. The other is C. Vivian Stringer, who did it with Cheyney in the inaugural 1982 women’s tournament and Rutgers in 2007.

“I came home for lots of reasons,” Mulkey said. “One, to some day hang a championship banner in the PMAC (Pete Maravich Assembly Center). Never, ever do you think you’re going to do something like this in two years.”

LSU made five national semifinal games in a row from 2004-08 – the only times the Tigers had made it this far. They lost each of those years.

The Tigers had to dig deep for this one, with neither team backing down.

Trailing 59-50 after three quarters, LSU went ahead with a 15-0 run over a five-minute span. The Tigers led for the first time since late in the first half when Falu’jae Johnson had a steal and drove for a layup to make it 64-62.

Reese had six points in that game-turning spurt, including a basket after Morris’ attempted 3-pointer clanked off the front rim. Reese had a second-effort follow of her own miss after rebounding another shot by Morris.

Elizabeth Kitley, the 6-foot-6 senior, had 18 points and 12 rebounds for Virginia Tech (31-5), the Atlantic Coast Conference champion that was in the Final Four for the first time. Georgia Amoore and Kayana Traylor each had 17 points, while Cayla King had 14.

Amoore set a record for the most 3-pointers in a single NCAA Tournament with 24, though she had a tough night shooting – 4 of 17 overall, including 4 of 15 from beyond the arc. She passed Kia Nurse’s record 22 set in the 2017 tourney for UConn, which lost in the national semifinals on the same court. Arizona’s Aari McDonald had 22 in six NCAA tourney games two years ago.

The big run for LSU came right after Amoore made her last 3-pointer with 7:52 left for a 62-57 lead. The Hokies didn’t make another basket until King’s 3 with 1:19 left.

“I think we had a few crucial turnovers as well as missed box-outs where they scored on second-chance opportunities,” Traylor said. “I think that’s just what it came down to really.”

Morris had opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer for LSU, then had a driving layup before Reese had a layup after a steal by Johnson. That quick 7-0 run prompted a timeout by Hokies coach Kenny Brooks.

“They hit a couple of shots, gave them a little bit of momentum. They hit a 3 right off the bat … kind of changed the momentum,” Brooks said. “They were aggressive in the passing lanes. But they also were a little bit more aggressive down low.”

Virginia Tech had ended the first half with its own 11-0 run to lead for the first time, at 34-32 on Traylor’s driving layup with 53 seconds left.

But it was the Tigers who led for 17:55 of the first half with the Hokies getting off to a slow start shooting – they missed eight of their first nine shots – that an LSU cheerleader had an assist even before they officially had a shot.

King was charged with a turnover on a ball that hit the rim and bounced over the top of the backboard and got stuck there. With encouragement from officials and others at that end, a male cheerleader lifted up a female cheerleader, who knocked the ball down.

Gradey Dick to leave Kansas for NBA draft after one season

Amy Kontras-USA TODAY Sports

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas sharpshooter Gradey Dick is entering the NBA draft after one season with the Jayhawks.

The 6-foot-8 guard announced his decision in a social media post Friday.

Dick started all 36 games for the Jayhawks and averaged 14.1 points while shooting better than 40% from 3-point range. He made 83 3-pointers, a program record for a freshman.

Kansas lost to Arkansas in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, with Dick scoring just seven points in his finale.

Marquette’s Shaka Smart voted men’s AP coach of the year

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Shaka Smart has packed an entire career’s worth of experiences into 14 years as a college head coach. He led VCU to an improbable Final Four as a 30-something wunderkind in 2011, guided mighty Texas to a Big 12 Tournament title during six otherwise tepid years in Austin, and now has turned Marquette into a Big East beast.

It’s sometimes easy to forget he’s still just 45 years old.

Yet his work with the Golden Eagles this season might have been his best: Picked ninth in the 11-team league by its coaches, they won the regular-season title going away, then beat Xavier to win their first Big East Tournament championship.

That earned Smart the AP coach of the year award Friday. He garnered 24 of 58 votes from a national media panel to edge Kansas State’s Jerome Tang, who received 13 votes before guiding the Wildcats to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament, and Houston’s Kelvin Sampson, who earned 10 before taking the Cougars to the Sweet 16.

Voting opened after the regular season and closed at the start of the NCAA Tournament, where the No. 2 seed Golden Eagles were knocked out in the second round by Michigan State and Smart’s longtime mentor, Tom Izzo.

“I’m very grateful to win this award,” said Smart, the second Marquette coach to take it home after Hall of Famer Al McGuire in 1971, “but obviously it always comes back to the guys you have on your team.

“Early on,” Smart said, “we had a real sense the guys had genuine care and concern for one another, and we had a very good foundation for relationships that we could continue to build on. And over the course of seasons, you go through so many different experiences as a team. And those experiences either bring you closer together or further apart. Our guys did a great job, even through adverse experiences, even through challenges, becoming closer together.”

It’s hardly surprising such cohesion is what Smart would choose to remember most from a most memorable season.

The native of Madison, Wisconsin, who holds a master’s degree in social science from California University of Pennsylvania, long ago earned a reputation for building close bonds with players and a tight-knit camaraderie within his teams.

No matter how high or low the Golden Eagles were this season, those traits carried them through.

“Everything that we go through, whether it be the retreat that we went on before the season, all the workouts in the summer, he’s preaching his culture,” said Tyler Kolek, a third-team All-American. “And he’s showing his leadership every single day, and just trying to impart that on us, and kind of put it in our DNA. Because it’s definitely in his DNA.”

That’s reflected in the way Smart, who accepted the Marquette job two years ago after an often bumpy tenure at Texas, has rebuilt the Golden Eagles program after it had begun to languish under Steve Wojciechowski.

Sure, Smart landed his share of transfers – Kolek among them – in an era in which the portal has become so prevalent. But he largely built a team that finished 29-7 this season around high school recruits, eschewing a quick fix in the hopes of long-term stability. Among those prospects were Kam Jones, their leading scorer, and do-everything forward David Joplin.

“He teaches us lots of things about the importance of each other,” Joplin said. “He lets us know, time and time again, that we can’t do anything without each other, but together we can do anything.”

That sounds like a decidedly old-school approach to building a college basketball program.

One embraced by a still-youthful head coach.

“I think being a head coach has never been more complicated, never been more nuanced, and never more all-encompassing,” Smart told the AP in a wide-ranging interview last week. “Does that mean it’s harder? You could say that.

“What makes your job less hard,” Smart said, “is having a captive audience in your players, and guys that truly understand and own what goes into winning, and that’s what we had this past year. But those things just don’t happen. There are a lot of steps that have to occur on the part of a lot of people, not just the coach, to get to where you have a winning environment.”

Purdue’s Zach Edey named AP men’s player of the year

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Zach Edey spent the days following Purdue’s historic NCAA Tournament loss lying low, his phone turned off, along with the rest of the outside world.

The disappointing finish did little to diminish the season the Boilermakers big man had.

Dominating at both ends of the floor during the regular season, Edey was a near-unanimous choice as The Associated Press men’s college basketball player of the year. Edey received all but one vote from a 58-person media panel, with Indiana’s Trayce Jackson-Davis getting the other.

“The season ended in disappointment, which really sucks, but it’s always nice to win individual accolades,” Edey said. “It kind of validates your work a little bit. The last three years I’ve played here, I’ve seen my game grow every year. AP player of the year is a great feeling, it just kind of stinks the way the season ended.”

That ending came in the NCAA Tournament’s first round, when Purdue lost to Fairleigh Dickinson, joining Virginia in 2018 as the only No. 1 seeds to lose to a No. 16.

Before that, Edey dominated.

The 7-foot-4 Canadian was named a unanimous AP All-American and the Big Ten player of the year after finishing sixth nationally in scoring (22.3), second in rebounding (12.8) and first in double-doubles (26).

Edey also shot 62% from the floor and averaged 2.1 blocked shots per game while leading Purdue to its first outright Big Ten regular-season title since 2017. He is the first player since Navy’s David Robinson in 1985-86 to have at least 750 points, 450 rebounds and 50 blocked shots in a season.

“He’s kind of a one of a kind,” Purdue guard David Jenkins Jr. said. “I’ve never played with someone like him, probably never will again.”

And to think, Edey didn’t want to play basketball when he was younger.

A hockey and baseball player growing up in Toronto, Edey resisted basketball at first. He was 6-2 by the sixth grade and the natural inclination by the adults was to push him toward basketball, where his size would be a massive advantage.

“It was something I kind avoided all my life.,” Edey said. “I didn’t like people telling me what I should be doing with my life and it felt like that’s what people were doing with basketball. When I started playing competitively, that’s when I really fell in love with the sport.”

Edey developed his game quickly. He played at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, and proved himself against some of the nation’s best high school players, drawing attention from college coaches. He ended up at Purdue, where coach Matt Painter had a proven track record of developing big men.

Edey had a limited role as a freshman, then averaged 14.4 points and 7.7 rebounds last season on a team that had talented big man Trevion Williams and future NBA lottery pick Jaden Ivey.

Already a tireless worker, Edey put in even more time during the offseason, spending extra time after practice and taking better care of his body. His already solid footwork got better, he added quickness and developed more patience with the constant double teams he faced – not to mention the barrage of physical play teams tried to employ against him.

“There’s not really any kind of cool, sexy answer,” Edey said. “I came in every day, I worked hard, I stayed after practice – stayed a long time after practice. I took care of my body and was able to steadily improve. There was nothing revolutionary I did. I just worked hard.”

It certainly paid off, even if the season ended with a huge disappointment.