WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
The biggest upset of the NCAA Tournament’s first round went down on Friday afternoon when No. 11 seed USC, a First Four team, knocked off No. 6 seed SMU as the Trojans only led for 50 seconds of that game. Elijah Stewart knocked in the game-winning three-pointer as the Trojans once again came back from a double-digit deficit to win.
Following in USC’s footsteps was No. 11 seed Rhode Island out of the Midwest Region as they defeated No. 6 seed Creighton. A popular first-round upset pick, the Rams proved those people right by getting five players to finish in double-figures as Jeff Dowtin led the way with 23 points.
The third trendy “upset” pick of the day was No. 10 Wichita State picking off No. 7 seed Dayton, and the Shockers made that happen. That sets up a fascinating battle between the Shockers and, as long as they don’t choke, No. 2 seed Kentucky. All the story lines.
Friday’s action got off to a positive start once again as No. 7 seed Michigan took down No. 10 seed Oklahoma State in the Midwest Region as the matchup of point guards Derrick Walton Jr. vs. Jawun Evans didn’t disappoint. Both elite floor leaders flirted with triple-doubles as Michigan and Walton continue to look like a dangerous team in this tournament. I have more on Walton’s ridiculous recent stretch here.
There is a reason that Tom Izzo is known as Mr. March. Despite trailing by as many as a dozen points in the first half, the No. 9 Michigan State Spartans knocked off No. 8 Miami by 20 points. Freshmen Nick Ward and Miles Bridges were just too much for the Hurricanes to handle.
Late turnovers and a controversial Flagrant 1 call helped lead No. 8 seed Arkansas over No. 9 seed Seton Hall in the South Region. The Razorbacks took advantage of two untimely Pirate turnovers and a Flagrant 1 call on Seton Hall’s Desi Rodriguez with 18 seconds left to get by with a win.
No. 2 seed Kentucky advanced despite getting an off night from Malik Monk, and No. 3 seed UCLA advanced despite playing defense like a CYO team.
Sindarious Thornwell and P.J. Dozier, South Carolina — Thornwell and Dozier combined for 50 points as the Gamecocks knocked off No. 10 seed Marquette, coming from behind to beat the Golden Eagles in Greenville, S.C. This was the first NCAA tournament win for the South Carolina basketball program since 1973. That’s 44 years ago.
Elijah Stewart, USC — The junior guard is your hero for the Trojans as he knocked down the game-winning three-pointer with 36 seconds left. After going scoreless in 31 minutes during USC’s win over Providence in the First Four, Stewart responded with a team-high 22 points as he was a huge factor going 6-for-13 from three-point range.
Derrick Walton Jr. vs. Jawun Evans — This one got the day going as Michigan and Oklahoma State had a one-point game that went into the 90s. Walton and the Wolverines won as the senior finished with 26 points, 11 assists and five rebounds. Evans did plenty of damage of his own as he ended up with 23 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds while also becoming a hero for some with his buzzer-beating three.
Troy Caupain, Cincinnati — Caupain had a disappointing senior season, but he saved his best game for the biggest moment, going for a season-high 23 points in a win over No. 11 Kansas State. With the win, the Bearcats because the only No. 6 seed to advance.
WHO GOT UPSET?
- A First Four team moves on to the Round of 32 again as No. 11 USC shocked No. 6 SMU in the East Region.
- Shortly after USC won, another double-digit advanced as No. 11 Rhode Island beat No. 6 Creighton in the Midwest Region.
THE REST OF FRIDAY’S ACTION
- It didn’t take long before No. 1 seed North Carolina ran away from No. 16 seed Texas Southern for a double-digit win. Justin Jackson knocked down five three-pointers to finish with 21 points.
- No. 1 seed Kansas made light work of No. 16 seed UC Davis.
- No. 2 seed Louisville had an off-day from Donovan Mitchell but had a balanced effort in a double-digit win over No. 15 Jacksonville State in the Midwest Region. Mangok Mathiang led the Cardinals with 18 points.
- It took a little bit more effort than No. 2 Duke would have liked, but the Blue Devils eventually pulled away from No. 15 Troy to advance to the second round.
- For a little while it looked like No. 3 seed Baylor might have difficulty with another double-digit seed but they pulled away from No. 14 seed New Mexico State in the East Region. Al Freeman paced the Bears with 21 points while Johnathan Motley had 15 points and 10 rebounds.
- Easy win for No. 3 seed Oregon in the Midwest Region as they scored 55 points in the first half to run past No. 14 seed Iona. Sophomore guard Tyler Dorsey had 24 points for the Ducks while Jordan Bell had 17 points and 10 rebounds.