The first two days of the 2017 NCAA Tournament are in the books and 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 top four seeds advancing to the second round, few upsets, no buzzer beaters and overall being anti-climatic. The biggest story arguably is the eighth seeded 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 one and Gonzaga by four. Even though both teams won by 20, it was surprising to see that type of opening round effort from both teams. 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 the opening tip to the closing buzzer for 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, they came to win and stepped up and made day one of the 2017 NCAA tournament interesting. The Wildcats faced off against the Vanderbilt Commodores in Salt Lake City, a game which witnessed six lead changes in the final 1:36 of regulation. The Wildcats pulled out the narrow win 68-66 after blowing a 15-point lead, but its the play that led to the sixth and final lead change is what everyone is talking about. Vanderbilt’s Matthew Fisher-Davis who led Vandy with 22 points in the game, committed a costly foul in the backcourt late with his team up 66-65 with 14.6 remaining giving Northwestern a couple of 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
Middle Tennessee defeated 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 after fifth seeded Notre Dame is still alive after Princeton blew a few potential game-winning shots in the final seconds to fall 60-58. Virginia started slow and fell behind to UNC Wilmington, but the Cavaliers’ offense found its rhythm down the stretch winning by just five points with a 76-71 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 when trying to finish a lob. He fell on his back grimacing with pain. He did manage to get up and fight through pain to shoot free throws and then limped to the locker room at halftime, returning in the second half and 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 Rohde Island upsets 6 seed Creighton just like many predicted
In Rhode Island’s first NCAA tournament appearance in 18 years, 11th seeded Rhode Island (Atlantic-10 tournament champs), 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 sixth seeded Creighton Blue Jays all the way to a 84-72 victory. Creighton stars Marcus Foster and Justin Patton combined to shoot just 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 set and done.