Ah yes, March Madness. It’s back and there are already some crazy games, big upsets, and no perfect brackets.
Gonzaga(1) vs. Georgia St.(16)
Gonzaga came into the tourney as favorites to make it to the Final Four, and they didn’t disappoint in the first round. This game might have been the only one that wasn’t surprising at all, as a 93-72 blowout win for the Zags on the back of 32 from Drew Timme and 19-5-17 from Chet Holmgren pushed Gonzaga into the round of 32.
Boise St.(8) vs. Memphis(9)
As a 9 vs. 8 seed game this was supposed to be the closest game in the region. After the first half, Penny Hardaway’s team had a 38-19 lead over Boise State. They were dominating in the paint with Jalen Duren and DeAndre Williams, we even saw Emoni Bates drop a few points. This is March Madness though. Boise St. had to come back, and they tried to make a game of it in the second half but the big switching defense of Memphis pushed them to a 64-53 win.
UConn(5) vs. New Mexico St.(12)
Ah yes, the first true upset in the west as New Mexico St. beat UConn: 70-63. In the first half this game had all the makings of a complete embarrassment for UConn, as New Mexico St. pulled out a 10 point lead at the end of the half. The Huskies were able to make a comeback, closing to single possession game within the closing minute. They were ultimately ousted by the hero of the show, Teddy Allen, who had 37 points and closed the game with a steal and ended it with a coast-to-coast and-1 on the final possession.
Arkansas(4) vs. Vermont(13)
This was one of, if not the best game in the Western region. Both teams were trading buckets for what seemed like the entire game, and the 75-71 scoreline shows how hard Arkansas had to fight for this win. It seemed like the Razorbacks were pulling away early in the 2nd half but once Ryan Davis started getting hot, the entire floor opened up for Vermont. 20 points from Davis and Ben Shungu each weren’t enough to play spoiler for Arkansas who squeezed by with a victory.
Alabama(6) vs. Notre Dame(11)
After beating Rutgers in the First Four just a few days before facing Alabama, it seemed like Notre Dame would be playing on the back foot. A spectacular first half by Cormac Ryan kept the Irish afloat, as it seemed like only a matter of time before Alabama took advantage of the quick turnaround for Notre Dame. Like I was saying before, this is March and you can only expect the unexpected. Notre Dame kept fighting and slowly pulled a lead out on Alabama, eventually growing into the 78-64 scoreline that dropped Bama from the tournament. The Irish were predominantly carried by Ryan who had a career high 29 points, some of those shots were not supposed to go in, but got contributions from Paul Atkinson, 13pts, and Blake Wesly, 18pts, which helped them close out the game.
Texas Tech(3) vs. Montana St.(14)
Unlike other parts of the bracket, the top three stayed intact. Each team handed out a beating, as Texas Tech whopped Montana St. 97-62. These are the kind of games that you watch the first few minutes and then turn on another game. This was representative in the numbers as 6 Red Raiders had double digits compared to one from the Bobcats.
Michigan St.(7) vs. Davidson(10)
Scorewise, this game was the closest out of every game in the bracket with Michigan St. pulling out a 74-73 win. Similar to the Arkansas game, both teams were constantly going back and forth trying to match one another. The Spartans got big plays from A.J Hoggard and Joey Hauser down the stretch, while Davidson couldn’t get anything. The score might indicate a closer ending due to 2 late threes that put Davidson within striking range but never made the game extremely close at the end.
Duke(2) vs. Cal St. Fullerton(15)
Coming into Coach K’s final tourney it would have been horrific if Duke had lost in the first round. Instead the Blue Devils established themselves as legit contenders with a 78-61 destruction of Cal Fullerton. With 5 players in double digits, a solid game from Paolo Banchero, Duke was able to dismantle a Cal Fullerton team that put up a fight but didn’t have the firepower to hang with a blue blood like Duke.
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