The first two days of the 2017 NCAA Tournament are in the books. The field is now cut down from 68 teams down to just 32.
The first round can be described as a lack of competitive games with all 1-4 seeds advancing to the second round. Few upsets, no buzzer beaters, and anti-climatic. The biggest story arguably is 8 seed Northwestern getting their first-ever tournament victory.
1 seeds struggle on the first day but have better showing the second day
Both Villanova and Gonzaga allowed their 16 seeds to get out to early leads, and both held very slim advantages at halftime, with Nova leading by just 1 and Gonzaga by 4. Even though both teams won by 20, it was surprising to see that type of opening round effort.
On the other hand, the North Carolina Tar Heels and Kansas Jayhawks did the exact opposite on day two. UNC dominated Texas Southern Tigers from the tip all the way to an easy 103-64 first round victory. Kansas started a little slower than the Tar Heels, but still had no issue picking apart the UC Davis Aggies, 100-62.
8 seed Northwestern wins its first-ever NCAA tournament game
Northwestern isn’t satisfied with merely being first-time attendees at the Big Dance, as they have come to win, stepping up while making Day 1 of the 2017 NCAA tournament interesting.
The Wildcats faced off aginst the Vanderbilt Commodores in Salt Lake City, a game which witnessed six lead-changes in the final 1:36 of regulation, as the Wildcats pulled out the narrow win 66-68 after blowing a 15-point lead. But it’s the play that led to the sixth and final lead change is what everyone is talking about.
Matthew Fisher-Davis, who led Vanderbilt with 22 points in the game, committed a costly foul in the backcourt late with his team up 66-65 with 14.6 remaining. This gave Northwestern two free throws to secure their first-ever tournament victory.
The most exciting game of the first day of the tournament belonged to a team making their first appearance ever. https://t.co/TywC5bcIgI
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 17, 2017
12 seeds continue to have success in the first round
12 seed Middle Tennessee defeated 5 seed Minnesota 81-72, which wasn’t actually an upset since the Blue Raiders were 1.5 point favorites in the game. MSU was the only 12 seed to advance to the second round. 5 seed Notre Dame is still alive after Princeton blew a few potential game-winning shots in the final seconds falling 60-58. Virginia started slow early and fell behind by 12 seed to UNC Wilmington, but the Cavaliers’ offense found its rhythm down the stretch, winning by just 5 points with a 71-76 victory.
Lonzo Ball plays through hip bruise as UCLA cruises to first round win
UCLA cruised to an easy 97-80 win over Kent State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday night, but there was a scary moment for the Bruins as freshman Lonzo Ball took a hard fall late in the first half. The injury happened when ball was undercut went up for what looked like an ally-oop pass, falling on his back grimacing with pain. He did manage to get up and fight through the pain. He shot both free throws and then limped to the locker room at halftime. Ball returned in the second half, finishing the game with 15 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists in the Bruins’ victory.
Lonzo Ball took a HUGE spill, but he looks to be okay pic.twitter.com/DZegVa2tfD
— Complex Sports (@ComplexSports) March 18, 2017
11 seed Rhode Island upsets 6 seed Creighton just like many predicted
In Rhode Island’s first NCAA tournament appearance in 18 years, 11 seeded Rhode Island, winners of the Atlantic-10 tournament championship, played like it certainly belonged there and was deserving of a higher seed. The Rams, led by Coach Danny Hurley, have relied on tenacious half-court defense all season, and they turned up the pressure up against 6 seeded Creighton Blue Jays all the way to a 84-72 victory. The Blue Jays stars Marcus Foster and Justin Patton combined to shoot 9-29 from the field and Creighton committed 11 turnovers. Rhode Island struggled with its outside shot (4-21 from 3-point) but still managed to put more than 80 points on the board when it was all said and done.