Tuesday and Wednesday marked the first four games of the NCAA Tournament. Here are the results now that the final 64-games are ready to start on Thursday morning.
Albany 71, Mount St. Mary’s 64
Both of these teams won their respected conferences -Albany winning the America East and Mount St. Mary’s winning the NEC- but they’d need to win one more before they get placed against the number-one team in the tournament, the Florida Gators. Albany was led by a steady dose of DJ Evans, a senior guard who is only 5’9” and 175lbs. Evans averages 11.5 points per game on the year, but he came up big and dropped 22 on Tuesday to get his team into the second round of the tournament. Mount St. Mary’s was led by freshman Will Miller, who, despite only averaging 5.6 a game on the year, put in 21 on Tuesday. The great news for the Great Danes is that they were able to make it to the tournament for the second year in the row. The bad news is they’ll play the #1 team in the nation. And for those keeping score, a #16 seed has never beaten a #1.
The Gators are 21.5 point favorites in this game.
North Carolina State 74, Xavier 59
North Carolina added to the ACC presence in the Big Dance by beating Xavier on Monday night. TJ Warren had a huge second half, scoring 16 of his 25 points in the final 20 minutes. Warren was the ACC Player of the Year this season, leading the ACC with an average of 24.8 points per game. Now that the Wolfpack advance, we have an interesting #12-#5 matchup between them and Saint Louis. The Bilikens had the best record in the A10, but in five of the last eight years a 12-seed has upset a 5. And when you look at the rest of the bracket, this could be the likely game where it could happen. Saint Louis will look to shut down Warren during their game, as they only allow 61.2 points per game and rank second in the nation for 3-point field goal percentage against.
This game had a tight spread, with the Bilikens being favored by only three against the Wolfpack.
Iowa 65, Tennessee 78
It took an extra quarter of play, but the Volunteers beat the Hawkeyes in overtime to advance to the field of 64 as an 11-seed. Now they’ll play Massachusetts in a 6-11 matchup. The Volunteers have a 22-12 record on the season, including 11-7 in the SEC. Massachusetts was one of the five teams to get a bid to the big dance from the A10, and they’ll be looking for their first win in the tournament since they went to the Final Four in 1998. While there were a few comments made this past week about the A10 getting so many qualifying bids, they’ll get a chance to prove they deserve it, if they can get a win over an SEC Tennessee team.
Cal Poly 81, Texas Southern 69
Despite losing 19 games on the season and having a sub-.500 record (16-19), the Cal Poly Mustangs are headed to field of 64. The Mustangs finished seventh in the Big West, but were able to win the tournament and get their shot at the First Four game against Texas Southern, who were the champions of the SWAC. While some will argue that Cal Poly’s run in the Big West tournament is exactly what the March Madness is about, others will argue that a sub-.500 team doesn’t belong in the tournament. The Mustangs will get a chance to defend themselves, when they take on the undefeated Wichita State Shockers on Friday night. Sure, this will be as much Wichita State showing that they belong as a top seed, as it will be Cal Poly trying to prove they deserve their spot in the field of 64. But no matter who wins that game (keep in mind a #16 has never beaten a #1), they have by far the toughest region to advance from. The winner is looking at facing either Kentucky or Kansas State, and teams like Louisville, Duke and Michigan are also in the same region.