NCAA Tournament Recap: Day 1

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The NCAA Tournament is finally here. We needed a tipoff to verify its manifestation in the sporting world. After a year of brewing uncertainty that still looms, a year of global terribleness, we were gifted something back, a path to a shining moment. The First Four gave us cautious hope Thursday night, and Florida and Virginia Tech gave us relief yesterday morning.

NCAA Tournament Day 1 Recap

It has been two years since the last NCAA Tournament was played in its entirety. As a refresher, Virginia defeated Texas Tech 85-77 on April 8, 2019.

On Thursday night, eight schools played in what was one of the most anticipated beginnings of the college basketball postseason in recent memory. Texas Southern, Drake, Norfolk State, and UCLA all earned hard-fought tight victories to advance to the field of 64. The combined difference of those four contests was 16 points, two of the games coming down to just one point.

Friday morning, Florida and Virginia Tech picked up where the other eight left off.

First Game: (7) Florida 75, (10) Virginia Tech 70 (OT)

The Gators and Hokies delivered a fitting start to the day. Neither team truly pulled away from the other, and the foul-riddled, drawn-out conclusion to regulation was worth the wait. With seven seconds left, and the Gators leading 64-61, Florida forward Anthony Duruji missed two free throws. He only needed to hit one to seal the game. Virginia Tech’s Nahiem Alleyne buried a three with just 1.7 seconds remaining to force overtime.

Thank you, March Madness.

It was all for naught, however. Duruji redeemed himself with a thunderous slam to start the scoring in extra time, and Florida would never trail from that point. The Hokies’ Keve Aluma and Justyn Mutts both fouled out early in overtime, and the dagger came when Florida’s Tre Mann hit a 3-pointer with 23 seconds left. What a start to the day.

Best Game

Though Florida and Virginia Tech, North Texas and Purdue, and Clemson and Rutgers gave fans some poignant anxiety on Friday, no game was better than Ohio State and Oral Roberts.

Oral Roberts was down big early in the first half. It appeared Ohio State was going to cruise to the second round. Then the Golden Eagles started hitting their 3-pointers. Oral Roberts took the lead into halftime and kept the game close in the second half. The final moments were tense as E.J. Liddell was dominating the paint and almost sealed the Buckeyes’ victory with an offensive rebound and a 64-62 lead. However, he missed his free throw, and Golden Eagles’ Kevin Obanor hit both of his on the opposite end of the court to send the game into overtime.

Then it was all the Obaner and Max Abmas show in extra time. The two stars had all but one of Oral Roberts’ points in overtime. Obaner led with seven points and Abmas added three. Both players finished with 30 and 29 points, respectively. Duane Washington Jr. tried to take over for the Buckeyes, but unfortunately, the star guard fell short down the stretch.

And that was that.

Biggest Upset

This selection is obvious. Oral Roberts became the ninth 15-seed to knock off a two-seed in the first round of the NCAA Tournament—Ohio State was a -15.5 favorite. The program’s last tournament win was back in 1974 against Louisville.

Though almost everyone’s bracket was busted, 95.2% to be exact, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise as the numbers would indicate. Abmas is the nation’s leading scorer at 24.4 points per game. The Golden Eagles take the fifth most three-pointers in the country and have the best free throw percentage (82.17). They are a dangerous team to play against, and as discussed in our South preview, matchups mattered for the Buckeyes. Ohio State had trouble defending the three all season and it led to an early exit from the NCAA Tournament.

Other upsets on Friday including the famed 12-five trap game. Oregon State defeated Tennessee handily, 70-56. Wisconsin had no problem against North Carolina, controlling the whole game in route to an 85-62 victory. North Texas shocked Purdue in overtime, 78-69. Rutgers continued their storybook season by taking down Clemson, 60-56. Last but not least, Jim Boeheim did it again, this time with his son, Buddy Boeheim, leading the way. The Orange defeated San Diego State 78-62.

NCAA Tournament Scores: Day 1

Most of the top seeds took care of business on Friday. Illinois, Baylor, Houston, and West Virginia dominated their respective opponents. Arkansas survived a slight scare while Oklahoma State battled against a good Liberty team until the last few minutes. The Texas Tech and Utah State game disappointed—especially the Aggies—and Winthrop didn’t live up to the hype.

Here’s the full list of results from Friday’s action:

South Region

(7) Florida 75, (10) Virginia Tech 70

(3) Arkansas 85, (14) Colgate 68

(6) Texas Tech 65, (11) Utah St. 53

(15) Oral Roberts 75, (2) Ohio State 72 (OT)

(1) Baylor 79, (16) Hartford 55

(9) Wisconsin 85, (8) North Carolina 62

(13) North Texas 78, (4) Purdue 69 (OT)

(5) Villanova 73, (12) Winthrop 63

Midwest Region

(1) Illinois 78, (16) Drexel 49

(8) Loyola-Chicago 71, (9) Georgia Tech 60

(12) Oregon State 70, (5) Tennessee 56

(4) Oklahoma State 69, (13) Liberty 60

(2) Houston 87, (15) Cleveland State 56

(10) Rutgers 60, (7) Clemson 56

(11) Syracuse 78, (6) San Diego State 62

(3) West Virginia 84, (14) Morehead State 67

Looking Ahead

It now appears Baylor has a clear path to the Final Four as the South region is a mess. Basketball fans also saw the Big Ten, the country’s most heralded conference this year, have some very mixed results. It was a wild start to the NCAA Tournament. We saw three overtimes, major upsets, disappointing performances, and tears from players and tournament challengers alike.

Let’s just hope Saturday is just as wonderful.

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