Welcome to day two of my first ever March Madness Journal! Even though the Indiana Hoosiers’s season is over, that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the two best sports days of the year. In fact, I’m going to cover all 32 first round games! Here are below are my game recaps and reactions written immediately after each game ended. I hope you all enjoyed the games and enjoy this little experiment:
Michigan 92, Oklahoma State 91
Honestly I could have just watched this game for 12 hours and be happily entertained. Back-and-forth and more offense than you can ask for, this was a great start to Friday. Derrick Walton Jr. (26 points, 5 rebounds, and 11 assists) is really starting to remind me of Kemba Walker and this Michigan team ( combined 11 of 15 from deep in second half) really believes it can take this magical run all the way to a championship. I don’t think they’ll get much further than the Sweet 16, but then again I never expected they’d get this far just a few weeks ago.
Baylor 91, New Mexico State 73
The victim of multiple first round upsets in recent years, you can’t blame me and others to think the same thing was going to happen when Baylor trailed New Mexico State 40-38 at half. What transpired afterward was a great psychological win for the Bears as they didn’t let the pressure of the past control them and went out and dominated in the second half. I didn’t get to watch much of this game because of the Michigan-Oklahoma State game, but the fact that they dominated in the second half points to the fact that this is a different Baylor team from years past.
Arkansas 77, Seton Hall 71
This was a great gamed that had a terrible end. Khadeen Carrington got trapped and accidently traveled down one with 24 seconds. Then a desperate attempt to foul led to Desi Rodriguez pushing Jaylen Barford from behind resulting in the feet getting tangled and Barford falling down. This was eventually called a flagrant 1 foul and it basically ended any chance of Seton Hall beating Arkansas. To be fair, Arkansas totally deserved to win but it was just a disappointing end to an otherwise great game.
Oregon 93, Iona 77
Didn’t get to watch much of this game either but Oregon definitely showed that the injury of Chris Boucher isn’t going to slow the Ducks down. Tyler Dorsey was sensational with 24 points on an excellent 9 of 14 shooting. Jordan Bell did a great job stepping up in Boucher’s absence as he finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Iona made things a little interesting but you never really felt Oregon was ever in danger.
Louisville 78, Jacksonville State 63
Louisville showed in the first half why I think they will have a hard time advancing very far in the NCAA Tournament. The Cardinals missed 11 of their first 12 shots and fell behind Jacksonville State by eight points early in the game. The problem is that offensive shortages like this are common for Louisville and while the Cardinals’ defense is excellent, a run similar to the Gamecocks’ run would be much harder to come back from against a better team. Also shoutout to Norbertas Giga, who scored 30 points for Jacksonville State on 11 of 13 shooting including a perfect 5 0f 5 from deep.
USC 66, SMU 65
Our first LEGIT upset! USC continues to amaze me how they are able to overcome big deficits (13 wins in which the Trojans trailed by double-digits), this time down 12 to SMU. It’s a shame the Mustangs are out because they had multiple players that I think could have had memorable tournament runs such as Semi Ojeleye (24 points and 10 rebounds) and Shake Milton (11 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and some big shots down the stretch). Meanwhile, USC head coach Andy Enfield, formerly the head coach of Florida Gulf Coast’s magical run, is showing he can possibly orchestrate another tournament run.
North Carolina 103, Texas Southern 64
Not much really to say about this game but the fact that unlike with Villanova and Gonzaga, there was never even a hint of drama in this game as North Carolina dominated throughout. Fun fact about is that the Tar Heels’ bench combined for 46 points, 25 rebounds, and 12 assists. The Texas Southern team only had 18 more points (64), 2 more rebounds (27), and 3 less assists (9).
Rhode Island 84, Creighton 72
Just like Michigan, Rhode Island continued its hot play into the first round of the tournament as the Rams led from the start and besides a 17-17 tie with 6:26 left in the first half, had the lead for the entire game. It obviously helps when you go 28 of 31 (90.3%) from the free throw line. The second round game with Oregon will be a great matchup of the Ducks’ offense vs the Rams’ defense.
Kansas 100, UC Davis 62
And just like that, we’ll have to wait another year to see the 16-1 upset. Not that surprised since none of the one-seeds looked vulnerable, not even Gonzaga. The Jayhawks finished the game shooting 56.3% (36 of 64) from the floor and 44% (11 of 25) from deep in a game that was close for only the first 15 minutes. Frank Mason III off to a great start in the tournament with 22 points, 5 rebounds, and 8 assists.
Wichita State 64, Dayton 58
Not the most dazzling basketball in the world, but this was “grind-it-out” game between two teams that deserved better seeds. The key of the game was Wichita State’s domination on the boards, where the Shockers outrebounded Dayton 48-29. Scoochie Smith did his best to keep the Flyers around, scoring almost 25 of the team’s 58 points. It will be interesting, especially since the game took place in Indianapolis, if Dayton Head Coach Archie Miller gets a call from IU about a coaching interview. More than likely, it’s too soon to make that call and besides Dayton isn’t that far away.
Duke 87, Troy 65
Like Michigan and Rhode Island before them, Duke showed that it was still feeling it after the Blue Devils’ ACC Tournament run as they easily beat Troy. Jayson Tatum was easily the best player on the court, finishing with 18 points, 12 rebounds, 4 steals, and 4 blocks. When you consider that this team has succeeded this season with mainly Luke Kennard and Grayson Allen carrying the team, Tatum’s performance is a great sign for Duke and a bad sign for the rest of the field.
Cincinnati 75, Kansas State 61
I picked Kansas State over Cincinnati because I wasn’t sure Cincinnati could score enough points. Well I was really wrong about that as the Bearcats scored 75 points on 62.8% shooting. Troy Caupain was the leader behind this attack going 7 of 10 from the floor for 23 points. Obviously thinking Cincinnati will continue to shoot above 60% during the rest of the tournament is silly, but if the Bearcats can hit around 50-55% of their shots and combine that with their trademark defense, this just became a scary team.
Michigan State 78, Miami 58
After a 17-5 start by Miami, it looked like Tom Izzo and his inconsistent and young Michigan State team were headed to another first round exit. Then something clicked as the turnovers stopped and the Spartans outscored the Hurricanes 33-10 over the rest of the first half, taking an 11 point lead into halftime. The Spartans wouldn’t let up as Izzo showed yet again that even with one of his weaker teams it’s hard to beat Izzo in the month of March.
South Carolina 93, Marquette 73
This was a back-and-forth game that ended up turning into a blowout thanks to a great stretch from SEC Player of the Year Sindarius Thornwell as he had 10 points during a 22-4 South Carolina run starting at the midpoint of the second half. He finished with a game-highs in points (29) and rebounds (11). Playing in their home-state may help the Gamecocks when they face Duke on Sunday
UCLA 97, Kent State 80
UCLA’s bad defense kept this a relatively close game for most of it as Kent State once narrowed the Bruins’ lead to just five. Thankfully for UCLA its offense rarely missed, hitting 62.7% of its shots and thus never letting the Flashes get much closer. Lonzo Ball (15 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists) was very good but not great while it was T.J. Leaf (23 points and 6 rebounds) and Thomas Welsh (16 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 assists) that impressed me the most. Aaron Holiday also posted a double-double finishing with 15 points and 11 assists.
Kentucky 79, Northern Kentucky 70
I’m so used to Kentucky blowing out mid-major teams in the NCAA Tournament by 20+ points that I was really confused by this game. Give a lot of credit to Northern Kentucky, who down to the final minute and down 10 still didn’t give up, but it was surprising that the Norse even had a chance that late in the game. My friend who is a Kentucky fan explained the Wildcats have played to the level of their competition all year, which really explains a lot and thus shouldn’t put much doubt in those who have Kentucky going deep in their brackets.