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NCAA Tournament First Round: Friday Recap


(7) Michigan State vs. (10) USC

Final: Michigan State 72, USC 62

There is a long history about the mythological city of Troy and the story of the Trojan War. The Trojans and the Spartans of Greece fought for a decade against each other. The Spartans won the mythological war and took down the Trojans. 

Fast forward thousands of years later and now you have a 40 minute long battle between the Trojans and the Spartans. However this time, there is no myth about it. The first game of Friday, and the 17th game of the first round, ended with the Spartans sticking true to history and defeating the Trojans. Legendary Spartan ruler Tom Izzo shows time and time again his ability to win in March. He also showed his ability to snap a whiteboard in half. I don’t think it’s going to be his party trick, but could turn out to be his timeout truck from time to time. 

Izzo was able to laugh about it after the game though. “It’s just part of the fun, Im glad you’re making fun of me. I love it,” Izzo said to Jaime Erdahl postgame. 

There was a total of eight double-digit scorers in the game, four for each team. Joey Hauser led the Spartans with 17 points. Joshua Morgan led the Trojans with 14. 

(3) Xavier vs. (14) Kennesaw State

Final: Xavier 72, Kennesaw State 67 

Just a great 3 vs. 14 game. There was over 10 lead changes, multiple tied scores, and Kennesaw State actually held the largest lead of the game at 13. After a late block by Jack Nunge – one of his two in the game – and four late free throws from Souley Boum, Xavier pulled out the win against the Owls. 

Obviously when the better seeded team struggles like the Musketeers did today, tempers flare. But nothing should allow it to get to this level. 

Thankfully for Xavier fans, Sean Miller got his team together and they pulled away for the victory. Jerome Hunter scored 24 for X, leading all scorers, and Nunge logged a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Terrell Burden and Chris Youngblood combined for 28 for Kennesaw State. 

(3) Baylor vs. (14) UC Santa Barbara

Final: Baylor 75, UCSB 56

While this game wasn’t as entertaining long term as Xavier-Kennesaw State, UC Santa Barbara gave Baylor all it had in that first half. UCSB led 36-35 after the first 20 minutes, and showed why some were right in doubting Baylor’s ability to go deep in the tournament. UCSB would hang around tightly for the beginning of the second half, but the Bears eventually pulled away and got the win. 

Starters Miles Norris and Ajay Mitchell combined for 28 points for the Gauchos. They were the only double-digit scorers for the team on Friday. Baylor’s guard trio of Adam Flagler, LJ Cryer and Keyonte George combined for 42 of the teams 74 points. Flagler led all scorers with 18 on the night. Caleb Lohner had 13 points off the bench for Scott Drew’s team. The Bears have now won five straight first-round games. 

(5) Saint Mary’s vs. (12) VCU

Final: Saint Mary’s 63, VCU 51 

Saint Mary’s fans are grateful for four people this weekend: Mitchell Saxen, Alex Ducas, Augustas Marciulionis and Logan Johnson. Those four players accounted for 59, of Saint Mary’s 63 points. They were the only ones to get multiple field goals. And they won the game for the No. 5 seed. Kyle Bowen was the only other Saint Mary’s player to score in the game. 

VCU put up a heck of a fight. Ranked as one of the best defensive teams in the country, the Rams were a mighty Cinderella favorite heading into the first round. They ultimately couldn’t hang on and move onto the second round, but facing this year’s Saint Mary’s team is rough. Just ask Gonzaga about them. Adrian Baldwin and co. have a lot to be proud of. 

(2) Marquette vs. (15) Vermont

Final: Marquette 78, Vermont 61

This was a non-competitive game for about 75% of the matchup. Tyler Kolek didn’t even have the best game scoring eight points on the night. Yet 2-seed Marquette cruised to victory over 15-seed Vermont. The rest of the starting five, and David Joplin off the bench, all scored in double figures. 

Kam Jones caught fire in the second half, scoring 18 of his 19 points all in a row. This solo run by the Golden Eagles’ leading scorer boosted the team to a really comfortable spot that never got below double-digits again. 

Robin Duncan, Dylan Penn, and Matt Meretto scored 11 points each, combing for over half of Vermont’s total score with 33 points. 

(6) Iowa State vs. (11) Pittsburgh

Final: Pittsburgh 59, Iowa State 41 

In his first four seasons at Pitt, Jeff Capel never got his Panthers program into the NCAA Tournament. The Panthers hadn’t even made the NCAA Tournament since 2016, and hadn’t made the Sweet Sixteen since 2009. Now in 2023, Capel has turned a new leaf for his program in the blue and gold. Pitt was at one point first in the ACC regular season standings. That didn’t end up being the case at the end of the regular season, but by the time Selection Sunday came, the committee thought Pitt narrowly deserved a nod into the field over some of the other bubble teams – including ACC foes Clemson and North Carolina. 

The committee sent the Panthers to Dayton to face Mississippi State on Tuesday night. Pitt won that game, and had to get ready for its next opponent Iowa State. Fast forward three days later, and lo and behold, an 18-point victory over the 6-seed sends Pitt into the second round of the tournament. It was dominance from the moment the ball was tipped. Pitt’s largest lead was 22. Pitt senior guard, Nelly Cummings, led all scorers in the game with 13 points. 

(6) Creighton vs. (11) NC State

Final: Creighton 72, NC State 63 

If the magician from Frosty the Snowman was asked to describe the outlook of this game before tip-off, he would’ve responded in the only way he knew how, “Sneaky. Sneaky. SNEAKY!” 

Creighton, as detailed in our NCAA Tournament superlatives column, was a trendy dark horse to make a run to the Final Four. When the Bluejays are 100% healthy and playing at their best, they can compete with some of the best teams in the country. Ryan Kalkbrenner, Creighton’s best player, went for 31 points and 7 rebounds. If he keeps putting up performances like that, Alabama, Baylor and Arizona – oh wait, Princeton – better watch out. 

On the other side of that is the fact that NC State is no slouch. What if I told you Kalkbrenner wasn’t even the leading scorer in the game? Terquavion Smith, NC State’s best player, went for 32 points on the night. Insane performances by the two best players in the game. The Wolfpack had an up and down year, but they held wins over Duke and Miami – the ACC Tournament and regular season champions respectively – and only lost by six to No. 1 seeded Kansas. This is a season Kevin Keats and his team should be proud of. They competed with the Bluejays on Friday, but Greg McDermmott’s team ultimately came out with the win and second-round birth. 

(4) UConn vs. (13) Iona

Final: UConn 87, Iona 63 

The first half of this game was the best half of basketball all tournament. The first five minutes of this game might’ve been the best five minutes of college basketball ever. Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but when a game starts out like this one did, it’s hard to believe what you’re watching. 

Here’s every scoring play from the first five minutes of action: 3-pointer, 3-pointer, Dunk, 3-pointer, Jumper, 3-pointer, 3-pointer, Layup, Dunk, & Dunk. UConn led 14-11 after all of that madness, and had six assists on all six field goals. They would end up losing the half to Iona, 37-39. The second half would become mostly non-competitive as the Huskies quickly pulled away, but credit to Iona for sticking close to arguably a top five team in the country for 25 minutes of this thing. 

Adama Sanogo erupted for his best game of the season. The big man logged 28 points and 13 rebounds, leading both categories for either team. Jordan Hawkins scored 13 points, shooting 3-7 from 3-point range which would prove to be a theme for the team as UConn shot 44% from beyond the arc. That is almost 10% better than their season average. 

Iona’s three starting guards all scored in double figures, combing for 42 of the Gaels’ 63 points. Now the clock is ticking on how long it will be till Rick Pitino officially announces he’s staying at Iona or taking the St. John’s head coaching position. If he makes the move, he will be back coaching in the Big East, and will have regular meetings with Dan Hurley moving forward. 

(1) Purdue vs. (16) Fairleigh Dickinson

Final: Fairleigh Dickinson 63, Purdue 58

Harvard, 1998 NCAA Women’s Tournament. 

UMBC, 2018 NCAA Men’s Tournament. 

Fairleigh Dickinson, 2023 NCAA Men’s Tournament. 

The three members of the most exclusive club in all of college basketball. For those three teams, it’s the greatest win of their lifetime. For those three teams, they become immortal. And to own March immortality, you have to have done something unfathomable. Going 4-22 last season and then making the tournament this season? Fathomable. Being in a conference that has never won a tournament game, and being 0-5 as a program in the tournament, but win a first four game? Fathomable. Put up a strong fight against a top five team as a sub-250 ranked team? Fathomable. 

Become the third ever 16-seed to beat a No. 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament? Unfathomable. 

UMBC and Harvard are no longer alone, as the 16-seeded Fairleigh Dickinson Knights beat 1-seeded Purdue. The shortest team in all of college basketball defeated the tallest team and the largest man in the entire field and National Player of the Year in Zach Edey, who had one shot attempt in the final 12 minutes of the game. The Knights out-worked and out-played Purdue for the entire game and are now legends in college hoops forever. 

FDU wasn’t even supposed to be in the tournament. But because of NCAA restrictions placed on new Division I teams, FDU got the auto-bid due to Merrimack not being eligible. On Wednesday they get the win in the first four, and two days later, they make tournament history.  This is arguably the biggest upset ever in the tournament, and it is one of the greatest upsets in sports history. 

(6) Kentucky vs. (11) Providence

Final: Kentucky 61, Providence 53 

Unless you’re a Kentucky or Providence fan, there was zero reason for you to be watching the majority of the second half of this game, due to what was happening in Columbus. As the final score says though, Kentucky gets the victory, and Bryce Hopkins gets sent home by his former team. Hopkins only scored seven points on the night, grabbing eight rebounds as well. Definitely not the type of night he wanted heading in, as he cried after the game and was consoled by John Calipari in the handshake line. 

Ed Croswell got 16 points for the Friars and led them in scoring.

As for Kentucky, two players got in the 20s for two different statistical categories. Antonio Reeves continued his stretch of great games by scoring 22 for the Wildcats and going 5-9 from downtown. Kentucky will need his shooting if they’re going to continue. The other 20 stat was made by nine other than Oscar Tshiebwe who grabbed a season-high total of 25 rebounds, 11 of which were offensive. He also blocked two shots and grabbed three steals. Insane performance on the glass by the big fellow. 

(5) Miami vs. (12) Drake

Final: Miami 63, Drake 56 

This was the last 5 vs. 12 of the first round, and while many picked Drake to win this one, Miami was too much for the Bulldogs. Thanks to Miami, all 5-seeds won their first-round matchup. Nigel Pack was huge for the Hurricanes, scoring 21 points, going 3-7 from downtown and making all four free throw attempts. Norchad Omier returned from injury and logged a clean 12-point, 14 rebounds game. He only made two field goals, but made eight of his nine free throw attempts. 

Omier and Pack helped the Canes convert 23 free throws out of 29 attempts. Drake only had eight attempts for the whole game and made five of them. Drake shot better from the field at 40% compared to Miami’s 30.4%, but still ended up losing the game. Darnell Brodie had 20 points on 9-14 from the field. He also had nine rebound and two blocks. 

(3) Gonzaga vs. (13) Grand Canyon

Final: Gonzaga 82, Grand Canyon 70 

Two years ago, Mark Few lost to Scott Drew and his Baylor Bears in the National Championship game. That’s a game many, especially Few, will never forget. This year, however, features a Few-Drew matchup again. Except, it’s a different Drew family member and is a game most will forget within a month. That however doesn’t make it any less rewarding, as the Zags won their 14th straight first-round game over Bryce Drew’s Grand Canyon Antelopes. 

Drew has now made his second tournament appearance in three years coaching at GCU, giving the program more success than it had so far in Division I. The Lopes actually led for some time in this game, holding a largest lead of seven at one point. Gonzaga would figure it out in the second half, eventually getting up to its largest lead of 22-points at the 9:54 mark after a pair of Drew Timme free throws. 

Timme scored 21 in the game, second to his teammate Julian Strawther who logged 28 points and 10 rebounds. Anton Watson got 14 points and 11 rebounds as well. Rayshon Harrison scored 20 for the Antelopes. Gonzaga bested GCU in all statistical categories and (not-so-easily) came away with the victory. 

(8) Memphis vs. (9) Florida Atlantic

Final: FAU 66, Memphis 65 

Heading into this one, many believe this to the best first-round matchup of the tournament. Oh boy, it was it all it was cracked up to be. This game had an off-the-bench hero for FAU, a near fight between teammates, and just constant back-and-forth sequences between the two teams. The Owls would make the final basket of the game with two seconds left and fly away from the Tigers. 

After hurting his ankle in the second half, Memphis star Kendric Davis hobbled over to the sideline with what seemed like a serious injury. After getting some treatment though, Davis got up during a timeout and started to weirdly attack verbally towards his teammates. It was unclear on the broadcast was the guard was upset about, but in a close game like this one, this is the last thing a team needs in their huddles. 

Davis would eventually deal with the injury and go back into the game to cap off a very interesting and weird sequence of events. Davis would end up making the turnover that would be the nail in the coffin for Memphis’ tournament run. He finished with 16 points, and his teammate Deandre Williams has 13 points and 13 rebounds. Giancarlo Rosado had 15 off the bench for FAU. Three starters on the Owls squad combined for 32 points. 

(3) Kansas State vs. (14) Montana State

Final: Kansas State 77, Montana State 65 

This was a battle of the semi-big cats, and the Wildcats proved to be superior to the Bobcats on Friday. This was the fourth and final 3-seed vs. 14-seed matchup of the day, as they were all played on Friday, and Kansas State stayed true to course getting the victory. All matchups were extremely close for a majority of the respective games, especially that Xavier-Kennesaw State game. However, the Wildcats eventually got their first double-digit lead in the second half, and maintained it for the rest of the game. 

Raequan Battle of Montana State led all scorers with 27 points. He shot over 50% from the field, over 50% from 3-point range, and 75% from the free throw line. Markquis Nowell continues to impress, this time getting 17 points and a whopping 14 assists. He played 37 of the 40 minutes in the game. Keyontae Johnson had 18 points and 8 rebounds on the night. This duo will continue to wreck havoc on whoever their opponents are going forward, most importantly their next opponent: Kentucky. 

(4) Indiana vs. (13) Kent State

Final: Indiana 71, Kent State 60 

Trayce Jackson-Davis has been a top-five player in college basketball all season. The All-American has led his Hoosiers squad to a 4-seed in the tournament. The All-American has led his team to a win over a good Kent State team. And the All-American might have just put himself in the front for National Player of the Year voting for sites and media outlets that don’t do awards until later in the tournament. Jackson-Davis became the first player in tournament history to log 20 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and five blocks in a single game. He was fighting for not just his playing life, but his team’s life as well. The man gave it all on Friday night. 

Race Thompson had an excellent game, getting 20 points and nine rebounds. It would’ve been one of the better stat lines from the games on Friday, had it not been for his All-American teammate. Surely Thompson will take the win over any amount of compliments though. Sincere Carry had 15 points for the Golden Flashes. He played in 39 of the 40 minutes in the ball game. Mike Woodson in his second year in Bloomington has his Hoosiers squad in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. 

(6) TCU vs. (11) Arizona State

Final: TCU 72, Arizona State 70 

For most, this score probably wasn’t what they thought it would be when the clock hit zero. Although Arizona State absolutely blasted Nevada two days ago in order to get to this game, there are two counterpoints. 

1. Nevada is in the Mountain West, and we all know how that has turned out for the past five years. 

2. TCU, when healthy like they are right now, is one of the best teams in the country. Arizona State, is not. 

Nonetheless, the Sun Devils had a strong chance to come away with a victory when the clocks hit zero. But due to a late basket by TCU’s JaKobe Coles, Arizona State would fall to the 6-seeded Horned Frogs and start to make their way home. DJ Horne was big for ASU, scoring 17 points and grabbing 6 rebounds as a guard. Mike Miles Jr., one of the best players in the country, scored a whopping 26 points. He went 12-14 from the free throw line, making as many free throws as ASU did as a team. 


(3) Xavier vs. (11) Pittsburgh | 12:10 pm | CBS

(3) Kansas State vs. (6) Kentucky | 2:40 pm | CBS

(2) Marquette vs. (7) Michigan State | 5:15 pm | CBS

(4) UConn vs. (5) Saint Mary’s | 6:10 pm | TNT

(3) Baylor vs. (6) Creighton | 7:10 pm | TBS

(9) Florida Atlantic vs. (16) Fairleigh Dickinson | 7:45 pm | truTV

(4) Indiana vs. (5) Miami | 8:40 pm | TNT

(3) Gonzaga vs. (6) TCU | 9:40 pm | TBS

*All times are ET and approximate tip times*

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