Clearly the biggest story of the first round is the UMBC Retrievers becoming the first sixteen seed to ever win a game in the tournament. However, there are still a few key storylines from Round 1 in the East Region that are worth taking note of.
NCAA Tournament: Storylines from Round 1 in the East Region
Purdue Loses Star Center
Although the Boilermakers took care of business in the first round against Cal State Fullerton, they received news after the victory that they will be without senior center Isaac Haas for the remainder of the tournament. The fractured right elbow means that not only is his season over, but also his career at Purdue.
Yes, Purdue does still have a playmaker at guard in Carsen Edwards. But moving on in this tournament will be no easy task for the Boilermakers without the seven-footer down low. We will find out Sunday just how important this loss is for Purdue when they take on the Butler Bulldogs.
Alabama Stays Hot
Regardless of the fact that Alabama fell apart down the stretch of the regular season, they proved they belonged on Thursday night with a hard-fought victory over the Virginia Tech Hokies. Thanks to the 22-point performance in the second half for Collin Sexton and John Petty shooting 75% from three, the Crimson Tide were able to pick up their first tournament win since 2006.
Even if the Tide can continue that momentum into Saturday’s game with Villanova, they still may find themselves overmatched against Jalen Brunson and the top-seeded Wildcats.
Wichita State Exits Early
Until this year, Greg Marshall has been able to get the Shockers out of the first round in each of the last five NCAA Tournaments. Throughout the season, many people could quickly see that the inconsistency of this team could be the downfall once March came around. That was clearly the case as they fell victim to the Marshall Thundering Herd’s first ever tournament victory. This means that for the second straight season, the Sweet 16 will not feature the Wichita State Shockers.
Arkansas Gets Handled by Butler
The Razorbacks became the first SEC team to fall in the tournament on Friday afternoon, followed later by the Missouri Tigers. After the Bulldogs of Butler began the game on a 21-2 run, things looked to be over before they even got started in Detroit for Arkansas. Although the Razorbacks were able to make a comeback to make the game interesting, it was the Bulldogs who walked away with the 17-point victory over Mike Anderson’s Razorbacks, giving LaVall Jordan his first career NCAA Tournament win.
The big win over Arkansas will set up a matchup on Sunday with the in-state rival Purdue Boilermakers. With Haas being sidelined, this game could be an intriguing matchup for the 10-seed Bulldogs.