Next up for Purdue is a second-round game against the winner of Nevada-Iowa State.
It was Vermont’s first loss of 2017. The Catamounts (29-6), the regular-season and tournament champions in the America East, had the nation’s longest active win streak at 21 games. But they were unable to make up for a huge disadvantage inside against the bigger, stronger Boilermakers. — Associated Press
No. 11 Xavier Advances Past No. 6 Maryland
We have our first true upset of the day.
No. 11 seed Xavier knocked off No. 6 Maryland in Orlando, 76-65, after trailing by one at halftime. The Musketeers’ defense was terrific in the second half, switching between a 1-3-1 and a 2-3 zone to fluster the Terps, who went 7 of 27 from 3-point range.
Xavier’s victory makes this the 13th straight year that a No. 11 seed has defeated a No. 6 seed. 2004 was the last time all four No. 6 seeds won.
And, in case you were wondering, Middle Tennessee State’s win over Minnesota, though a major upset in terms of the seeding, did not surprise the handicappers in Vegas, who had the Blue Raiders favored.
Northwestern Advances With Some Help
It took Northwestern nearly eight decades to finally the reach the N.C.A.A. tournament. And it needed a miracle to advance.
In the most exciting finish of the N.C.A.A. tournament thus far, Vanderbilt, the No. 9 seed, had opportunities to seemingly seal the win. Ahead by one with 14.6 seconds remaining, the Commodores inexplicably fouled Northwestern’s top shooter, Bryant McIntosh, despite already being in the bonus. McIntosh delivered on both free throws, putting Northwestern back ahead.
With no timeouts (Vanderbilt Coach Bryce Drew expended his final timeout with more than seven minutes remaining), the Commodores still had a chance to win. Despite success getting to the rim, point guard Riley LaChance pulled up from well outside the 3-point line. His shot clanged off the back rim, and Northwestern held on.
Doug Collins, the father of Northwestern Coach Chris Collins, was one of many Wildcat fans caught up in the moment.
The game was one of considerable runs, as Vanderbilt and Northwestern swapped momentum back and forth. The Wildcats led by as much as 15 midway through the second half, but a 12-0 run by Vanderbilt tightened up the action again.
Matthew Fisher-Davis scored 22 points off the bench for Vanderbilt. McIntosh (25 points) and Dereck Pardon (14 points, 11 rebounds) led Northwestern, which advances to face top-seed Gonzaga on Saturday.
The fallout from Vanderbilt’s last-second foul gaffe has already begun. Replays showed Drew pointing at McIntosh, supposedly directing Matthew Fisher-Davis to apply pressure as he dribbled up the floor. But Fisher-Davis misread it as a call to foul McIntosh — a decision that cost them in a big way.
Of course, the Commodores could have talked over their gameplan if they had had any timeouts left.
Middle Tennessee State Does It Again
The players saw another upset coming before anyone else. Middle Tennessee’s Ed Simpson hit a 3-pointer just before halftime and skipped downcourt, arms at his side. JaCorey Williams drove for a layup early in the second half, then turned toward his bench and smiled.
And when Minnesota threatened late in the second half, and Reggie Upshaw swished a 3-pointer from the left wing, Upshaw faced his team’s blue-clad rooting section and hopped in glee.
Another season, another NCAA Tournament bracket-buster for the Blue Raiders.
One year after Middle Tennessee bounced the Big Ten power Michigan State in the first round — a rare instance of a No. 15 seed beating a No. 2 — the Blue Raiders did it again. A 12th seed this time, Middle Tennessee ousted fifth-seeded Minnesota, another Big Ten team, 81-72.
“There was no doubt in their minds that they thought they were going to win the game,” Middle Tennessee Coach Kermit Davis said.
The Blue Raiders will play No. 4 seed Butler (24-8), an earlier 76-64 winner over Winthrop, in the South Region’s second round on Saturday.
Seeding aside, whether this qualified as an upset at all depended on who you asked. Many experts had picked Middle Tennessee (31-4) to win, considering them massively underseeded at No. 12.
“The only difference was, last year we were a major underdog, and this year everybody kind of had us winning by two or losing by two,” said Upshaw, who had 19 points and 9 rebounds. “But we still kept the same mind-set.”
So Minnesota’s early 7-0 lead rattled no one. And Middle Tennessee’s primary defense, a 1-3-1 zone, throttled the Gophers’ leading scorer, Nate Mason, holding him to 5 points, all in the second half. Middle Tennessee also outrebounded the Gophers (37-24) and outscored them off the bench (22-11).
“We couldn’t stop them,” Minnesota Coach Richard Pitino said. “We talked about defense and rebounding and we couldn’t do either one.”
Another Challenge From an Underdog Comes Up Short
West Virginia brought a No. 4 seeding and a nationally known smothering, turnover-forcing press into its game against Bucknell of the Patriot League. Not only was West Virginia a 13 1/2-point favorite in the game, it was a sneaky pick by a lot of pundits to go deep in the tournament.
Bucknell had other ideas. The Bison dealt with the press, giving up 15 turnovers, but forcing 13 of their own. They found Nana Foulland down low; he finished with 18 points on 7-10 shooting. They got to the free throw line and made their shots, going 17-23.
West Virginia could never shake Bucknell entirely off. But Bucknell could never quite close the gap either.
West Virginia hung on to win, 86-80, a moral victory for the Bison, and a somewhat disquieting one for the Mountaineers.
Jackrabbits Push Gonzaga in First Round
A No. 16 seed has never beaten a No. 1 seed, but a few have put scares into them.
The latest is South Dakota State, winner of the Summit tournament, which led Gonzaga by 6 early and still led with two minutes left in the half.
Gonzaga entered halftime up, 26-22, after being out-rebounded by the Jackrabbits and shooting just 2-14 from 3-point range.
Gonzaga got its act together in the second half and pulled away to win, 66-46, to bring the top seeds’ overall record to 129-0 against No. 16 seeds. Jordan Mathews had 16 points for the Zags, and Mike Daum had 17 in defeat.
The shaky effort might give Gonzaga backers pause as they get set to face off against better competition, beginning Saturday against Northwestern or Vanderbilt.
In another game in which form held, fourth-seeded Butler cruised past Winthrop, 76-64. Winthrop is now 1-10 all time in the tournament.
N.C.-Wilmington Scares Virginia, but Loses Steam
These North Carolina-Wilmington Seahawks were not around the program when they reached the N.C.A.A. tournament in 2003, when they lost to Maryland on a buzzer-beater, or in 2006, when they blew an 18-point lead against George Washington, but most were present last year, when they led Duke by three at halftime.
“A lot of times as a mid-major, when you come into this tournament, you’re excited to be here,” Coach Kevin Keatts told reporters Wednesday. “For us, we felt like we could have won the game.”
Despite leading Virginia by 15 points in the first half Thursday, the Seahawks trudged off the Amway Center court Thursday seized by that familiar feeling of regret. Their 76-71 loss denied the tournament its first upset, one that seemed eminently possible when No. 12 U.N.C.-Wilmington was drilling 3-pointers and pressuring the No. 5 Cavaliers to grab a 26-11 advantage.
But as its ability to force turnovers waned, so did its lead. Virginia slipped ahead at halftime and went in front to stay, at 46-45, with about 13 minutes remaining on a basket by London Perrantes, who paced the Cavaliers with 24 points.
After Devontae Cacok’s tip-in drew U.N.C.-Wilmington to within 71-69, Marial Shayok, whose 23 points helped Virginia’s bench outscore the Seahawks by 28-2, made a jumper with about 25 seconds left.
Virginia (23-10) advances to play the Florida-East Tennessee State winner on Saturday, while U.N.C.-Wilmington, like so many of its forebears, heads home after one game.
Princeton Almost Pulls Off Upset in Opener
The first game of the N.C.A.A. tournament is in the books, and, of course, it came down to a last-second shot. Fifth-seeded Notre Dame avoided the upset and edged Princeton, 60-58, after Devin Cannady missed a long 3-pointer that could have won the game.
Princeton was let down by its 3-point shooting throughout the game, winding up 8-31 after the crucial Cannady miss. Cannady had extra motivation in the game too: He is from South Bend, Ind.
Princeton had rallied from 11 points down in the second half. Notre Dame’s versatile star forward, Bonzie Colson, led all scorers with 18 points. Spencer Weisz had 15 for Princeton. Next up for Notre Dame is the winner of West Virginia-Bucknell starting shortly.
Thursday’s Top Story Lines
Top seeds: Gonzaga and Villanova play Thursday, and while it is highly unlikely that any No. 16 seed pulls off an upset (No. 1 seeds are 128-0 vs. 16s in tournament history), there is certainly no Goliath in this year’s field. Since 1998, only four No. 1 vs. No. 16 matchups have been decided by single digits. Two of them came in 2013 and featured two of the top seeds in this year’s tournament: Kansas (which inched past Western Kentucky by 7) and Gonzaga (a 6-point winner over Southern).
Wildcats’ Wait is Almost Over: Northwestern fans have waited 78 years, so they can wait a little bit longer to finally see the Wildcats in the N.C.A.A. tournament. Fortunately, it will not be too late: No. 8-seeded Northwestern faces No. 9 Vanderbilt at 4:30 p.m. Eastern time. Do you think there might be some purple in the crowd in Salt Lake City? When CBS visited Evanston, Ill., for the first time earlier this month for a game against Purdue, the broadcaster Jim Nantz said it was the highest decibel level at a game he has ever covered.
Star guards: Guard play is always a key factor in the N.C.A.A. tournament, and there are some studs in action Thursday. Iowa State’s Monte Morris again leads the N.C.A.A. in assist-to-turnover ratio — he has nearly 1.5 more assists than the player ranked second. Winthrop’s Keon Johnson is averaging 22.5 points per game, and he is only 5-foot-7. How about Mount St. Mary’s Junior Robinson? The 5-foot-5 point guard scored 23 points in a win over New Orleans on Tuesday. West Virginia’s Jevon Carter is a nonstop workhorse, averaging 13.1 points and a Big 12-best 2.6 steals per game. And Gonzaga’s Nigel Williams-Goss, a former McDonald’s All-American who transferred from Washington, has given the Bulldogs stability and leadership from the point.
Early Upsets: Las Vegas actually favors the No. 12-seeded Middle Tennessee State over No. 5 Minnesota, but expect their game at 4 p.m. Eastern to go down to the wire. Two other No. 5 seeds, Virginia and Notre Dame, also appear vulnerable in their early afternoon matchups against U.N.C.-Wilmington and Princeton, respectively. Both those games tip off in the noon hour. And at night, high-energy Florida Gulf Coast is an intriguing matchup against Florida State, making its first tournament appearance in five seasons, in Orlando.
Biggie vs. Small: As far as individual matchups go, the contrast of Purdue’s formidable frontcourt versus Vermont’s strong perimeter play could be a fascinating cat-and-mouse game. Led by Caleb Swanigan, a national player of the year contender known as Biggie, and 7-foot-2 center Isaac Haas, the Boilermakers are 17th in the nation in rebounding margin at nearly seven per game. Vermont does not have anybody taller than 6-8, but the Catamounts shot 49.6 percent from the field this season. And they have pulled off a miracle as a No. 13 seed before. Remember, Syracuse?
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