Men's March Madness 2024: First-round tournament takeaways

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Friday started with Northwestern winning an overtime thriller over Florida Atlantic and ended with 12-seed Grand Canyon knocking out 5-seed Saint Mary's. In between, there was 13 hours of drama that only the first round of the NCAA tournament could provide.

If Jack Gohlke was the NCAA tournament legend from Thursday, Yale's John Poulakidas took the throne on Friday after scoring 28 points in an upset win over Auburn. There was arguably the game of the tournament, Colorado's 102-100 win over Florida featuring KJ Simpson's winner in the final seconds. There was upset after upset -- although the popular New MexicooverClemson pick didn't come through. In addition to 13-seed Yale's win over Auburn, a pair of 12-seeds in James Madison and Grand Canyon advanced to the second round.

Live projections: ESPN's March Madness forecast

East region: No. 13 Yale 78, No. 4 Auburn 76

Is the Ivy League underappreciated? For the second straight year, the Ivy League champions took down a Power 5 champion in the round of 64. After Princeton's run to the Sweet 16 as a No. 15 seed last year and, now, Yale's takedown of Auburn, is it worth considering the possibility that the Ivy League doesn't have to be a one-bid league? This Yale team finished in a second-place tie during the regular season behind Princeton, which likely didn't receive much at-large consideration despite losing just three regular-season games (and was a No. 2 seed in the NIT before losing to UNLV). Nothing about Yale's win or Princeton's two last year felt fluky. Perhaps it's just a blip of overachievement, but it shouldn't be a surprise if the academic giants keep finding success in March.

What it means for Yale: In 128 years of basketball, this might be the school's most iconic win. The only other NCAA tournament triumph came in 2016 against Baylor, when the Bulldogs advanced as a No. 12 seed. Friday's stunner in Spokane was the product of a career night from junior guard John Poulakidas, who scored 28 points on 10-of-15 shooting, including 6-of-9 from deep. There was a gulf in athleticism that Yale had to overcome, but its guards -- Bez Mbeng, August Mahoney and Poulakidas -- all matched up well and 7-foot sophomoreDanny Wolf's size and mobility was key.

What it means for Auburn: This was Auburn's biggest upset loss in NCAA tournament history. Previously, the lowest seed to beat the Tigers came in 1984 (as No. 5 against No. 12 Richmond) and the biggest gap in seeding was two years ago when they lost as a No. 2 to 10-seeded Miami. This was worse on both fronts and comes after winning the SEC tournament, which had elevated expectations about a possible run. -- Kyle Bonagura

James Jones and the perfect job: At Yale, head coach James Jones has been the embodiment of success. He's won or shared six Ivy League regular-season championships. He's reached the NCAA tournament four times. Now he has a win over a good Auburn team and his second trip to the second round. Two years ago, Jones signed an extension that will keep him at the school through 2031. He's 60 years old and despite his success, he only talks about his love for Yale. In an era when many coaches seem to constantly search for the next move, the idea of finding the right job is overlooked. Yet, Jones seems to want to be at Yale forever. It's the perfect marriage and it has paid off with another huge postseason win. -- Myron Medcalf

West region: No. 12 Grand Canyon 75, No. 4 Saint Mary's 66

Would GCU's regular-season success translate against better teams? There were signs during the regular season -- particularly a win against San Diego State -- that indicated it could, but it's another story to do so on the sport's biggest stage. The reality is that GCU wasn't regularly challenged playing in the WAC, so it was difficult to gauge what its 29-4 record was reflective of. So, yeah, this was quite the statement. Had a neutral observer with no previous knowledge of either team watched the win against Saint Mary's, it would have been impossible for them to call it an upset. GCU looked every part the better team for most of the game, which had an exhibition-type feel at times only because of how often GCU was dunking -- and how emphatic those dunks were.

What it means for Grand Canyon: The win was Grand Canyon's first in NCAA tournaments history. The Antelopes reached the tournament in 2021 and 2023 but lost in the round of 64 both times. This time, they left no doubt. The reward: a matchup with Alabama, which rolled the College of Charleston 109-96. It promises to be a much different game stylistically as Alabama and Saint Mary's are polar opposites when it comes to pace. GCU has the personnel to hang with Alabama, but whether it can, of course, remains a big question. Alabama used 12 players in its win, while GCU coach Bryce Drew kept a tight rotation, using just two players off the bench.

What it means for Saint Mary's: This is a rare way for Saint Mary's to end its season. In its nine previous trips to the NCAA tournament under longtime coach Randy Bennett, Saint Mary's has only once previously been eliminated by a lower-seeded team (it lost to No. 10 Purdue as a No. 7 seed in 2012). The loss, in which they faced a tremendous athleticism disadvantage, ends what was shaping up to be one of Bennett's best seasons after winning the WCC regular season and tournaments titles for just the second time. --Kyle Bonagura

Bryce Drew making his case for another Power 5 job: At Grand Canyon, head coach Bryce Drew enjoys one of the most devoted and animated fan bases in college basketball. The support is so strong that most Power 5 teams won't play a game there. With that backing, Drew has elevated Grand Canyon and his own profile five years after he was fired at Vandy in 2019 following a nine-win season. On Friday, he led Grand Canyon to the second round for the first time as a Division I institution. His team beat San Diego State earlier this season and completed another strong year. Drew has now won 76 games over the past three years. Five years after his stint at Vanderbilt ended, Drew has made himself a top candidate again in college basketball. That's the power of the NCAA tournament. But he also knows he's found a home with Grand Canyon. He's in a great spot. -- Myron Medcalf

Midwest region: No. 8 Utah State 88, No. 9 TCU 72

Can the Aggies spoil another tournament for Purdue? It's not a long shot. Utah State won the Mountain West regular-season championship and were ranked a top 50 team, according to Against a tested TCU team that has a win over Houston this season, the Aggies were in control for the bulk of the second half. Utah State did a ton of damage in the paint and center Isaac Johnson, a 7-foot sophomore, showed the ability to play inside and also knock down a couple of 3-pointers. Forcing Purdue's Zach Edey to defend the perimeter could be a fun matchup. But the Aggies will need a top-notch performance to take down a Purdue squad that is greatly improved from a year ago.

What it means for Utah State: The reward for beating TCU? A matchup against No. 1 Purdue in what will be a de facto home game for the Boilermakers. Utah State has lost its past 18 attempts to make it past the second round. In order for the Aggies to do that for the first time since 1970, they will have to overcome the Big Ten regular-season champs and one of the game's most dominant players.

What it means for TCU: The Horned Frogs reached the NCAA tournament for the third straight year, the longest consecutive streak in program history. That speaks to the history that preceded coach Jamie Dixon's hire in 2016. In eight seasons, TCU has made the tournament four times. The next step? Making it past the first weekend, something the Horned Frogs have never done since the tournament expanded to 64 teams. -- Ben Baby

Isaac Johnson could be the key on Sunday. While Edey is a completely different challenge to TCU, the fact that Johnson is playing his best basketball could be a boost for the Aggies. Johnson, who started his career at Oregon, had a career-high 19 points against TCU, knocking down a pair of 3-pointers. That came on the heels of another double-figure effort against San Diego State in the Mountain West tournament. Johnson's ability to pull Edey away from the rim will be interesting to monitor. The 6-foot-11 junior Kalifa Sakho has the length to at least throw five fouls at Edey and double-double machine Great Osobor is one of the best rebounders in the country. It's also worth watching whether Purdue can consistently get open looks against Utah State. Purdue is second in the country in 3-point percentage, while Utah State ranks third nationally in 3-point percentage defense. -- Jeff Borzello

South region: No. 12 James Madison 72, No. 5 Wisconsin 61

How dangerous is this James Madison team? Well there aren't many teams that have 32 wins. Duke should be concerned considering its recent struggles and the depth of James Madison, which rolls with a nine-man rotation. That could pose serious problems for the top-heavy Blue Devils. James Madison looked like the better team from start to finish against Wisconsin. The Dukes were the more physical, athletic and active team. The Dukes finished with 14 steals against the Badgers. Ultimately, they were a deserving runaway winner. The Dukes (32-3) already have wins over Michigan State and Wisconsin this season. Duke could easily be next if it isn't careful. James Madison looks like a dangerous Cinderellateam with its veteran roster.

What it means for James Madison: The Dukes have a shot to reach their first Sweet 16 with a balanced attack led by Terrence Edwards Jr., T.J. Bickerstaff and Julien Wooden. Edwards had 14 points against Wisconsin while Bickerstaff and Wooden added 12. The Dukes have the nation's longest winning streak at 14 games after earning their first NCAA tournament win since defeating LIU in 2013. No wonder they were popular upset picks in many brackets.

What it means for Wisconsin: The Badgers picked a bad evening for a poor offensive performance. They never got it going while shooting 37% from the floor. Even leading scorer AJ Storr had his struggles in a 5-of-14 shooting performance and finished with just 13 points. It caps an up-and-down season for Wisconsin (22-14) which saw it reach as high as No. 6 in the country before a midseason slumber and sudden resurgence leading into the tournament. For the Badgers, this is just the second time in their past eight trips to the tournament they made a first-round exit. -- Jordan Raanan

Wisconsin should be back in a strong position in 2024-25: Looking ahead to next season, the only senior on Greg Gard's roster is Tyler Wahl, who struggled down the stretch with a knee injury. But in an ideal world, everyone else should be back for the Badgers. Storr developed into one of the best players in the Big Ten for most of the season before going 5-for-14 in the NCAA tournament loss. Starting guards Chucky Hepburn and Max Klesmit should both be back, 7-footer Steven Crowl should return and freshman John Blackwell is poised for a bigger role after hitting double-figures 14 times in his first season. Gard is also bringing in a pair of four-star freshmen. Of course, the portal is always lurking and there's a chance there are some departures - but Wisconsin should also go into the portal and find a frontcourt piece ready to contribute immediately. -- Jeff Borzello

South region: No. 1 Houston 86, No. 16 Longwood 46

Did the Cougars really leave that ugly Big 12 title game loss to Iowa State behind them?Kelvin Sampson had said, because of the Cougars' injury situation last weekend, that the 28-point loss to Iowa State in the Big 12 championship game "wasn't a fair fight" and that any potential hangover was "of little, or no, consequence to him" because the Cougars knew the situation going in. But March is fraught with a first-round pothole or two for the tournament heavyweights each year -- ask Auburn or Kentucky -- but the Cougars were feisty defensively, smooth offensively and simply took care of business across the board in FedEx Forum. They put the exclamation point on, as the final winner of the day, in what was the hammer-down site for the victors -- Baylor won by 25, Clemson by 21 and Texas A&M by 15 before the Cougars took the floor. Houston opened the game with a 10-0 run, surrendered just one shot attempt to the Lancers in the first 4:12 and kept the pressure on virtually every minute the rest of the way. L.J. Cryer and Damian Dunn led the Cougars with 17 points each while the Cougars had four players overall in double figures.

What it means for Houston: The Cougars (31-4) will now get a far sterner test for their swarming defense. Texas A&M, which had not been a good 3-point shooting team for much of the season (28.4%), poured in 13 3s in the win over Nebraska and Aggies coach Buzz Williams has found the right formula with his backcourt of Wade Taylor IV and Manny Obaseki as Texas A&M has scored at least 90 points in each of its past three games. But Houston is as healthy as it has been since early in the season -- Sampson said the team's 5-on-5 work in practices earlier this week was the team's first since Feb. 23, the night before the Cougars' game at Baylor. Houston defeated Texas A&M, 70-66 on Dec. 16 in Houston.

What it means for Longwood: Despite a tough night, the Lancers (21-14) carved more out of the season than they might have expected a few weeks ago. They had a stretch this season when they lost 10 of 12 games and finished the regular season fifth in the conference -- 6-10 in league games. But a run to win the Big South tournament earned Longwood its second NCAA berth of coach Griff Aldrich's tenure (the Lancers went in 2022 as well). Longwood had an early blip, when it closed things to 14-9 after the Cougars were up 12-2 to open the game, but that 5-0 run was the Lancers' biggest. -- Jeff Legwold

Cougars, defense and a rematch with Texas A&M: When Houston defeated Texas A&M by four at the Toyota Center in Houston, the Aggies actually put together a good 20 minutes of offense. With 43 points after halftime, A&M made the Cougars work to record the victory. Taylor IV connected on six 3s and, though it took 22 shots, he did score 34 points in a losing cause.

Now these teams will meet again in the round of 32 in Memphis. While UH's vaunted defense is good at forcing missed shots, it's even better at forcing turnovers. That might be difficult with the Aggies, however. Taylor, Tyrece Radford and their teammates commit a very low number of turnovers. A&M is also renowned for getting second chances, and Houston was just average on the defensive glass in Big 12 play.

Even though it's a No. 9 seed, Texas A&M has sufficient reason to believe it can succeed to a certain extent against this Houston defense. For their part, the Cougars are likely reviewing the tape of the Aggies' 43-point second half in December and vowing to do better. -- John Gasaway

South region: No. 4 Duke 64, No. 13 Vermont 47

Will Duke's lack of depth eventually catch up to them? The Blue Devils grinded out this win against the Catamounts. It's a game they should have won handily, but center Kyle Filipowski was a no-show offensively with Vermont doubling him every time he touched the ball and Duke had trouble filling that scoring void. Part of it is the lack of depth without freshman Caleb Foster as part of the rotation. Foster was ruled out this week for the remainder of the season with an ankle injury. The Blue Devils also got nothing from their bench. Coach John Scheyer seems to have little interest in his reserves. He didn't insert a single substitute until almost 10 minutes into the game and the trio of Sean Stewart, Ryan Young and Jaylen Blakes finished with four points, three rebounds and no assists. It's going to be hard moving forward against bigger and better teams if the Blue Devils must rely solely on their starting five. What if Filipowski or forward Mark Mitchell get in foul trouble or their starting backcourt has a bad shooting game? Duke probably won't survive.

What it means for Duke: The Blue Devils advance again. In this case, they will take it any way it comes considering they entered the tournament on a three-game losing streak. With Filipowski getting doubled, he managed just one shot attempt. It wasn't pretty butMark Mitchelland Jared McCain, with 15 points apiece, did enough to get Duke into the next round. But the Blue Devils know they will need to play better if they are to make a long run.

What it means for Vermont: The Catamounts have nothing to be ashamed of after dominating the American East this past season (15-1) and challenging Duke. They pulled within two in the second half. If Vermont shot it better from 3-point range, where it hit only 25% of its shots, the result could have been different. The Catamounts won 28 games and could return three starters, including their two leading scorers in TJ Long (who was injured late) and Shamir Bogues. -- Jordan Raanan

Will Kyle Filipowski bounce back in the second round? While Duke's complementary pieces stepped up against Vermont, the Blue Devils will need their All-American to be more of a factor offensively against either Wisconsin or James Madison. This was his first game without a field goal since Feb. 11, 2023, against Virginia. His three points were his fewest since that game, too. However, Filipowski was effective in other ways. He grabbed 12 rebounds -- including four on the offensive end -- dished out four assists, blocked three shots and racked up three steals. He was key in Duke's terrific half-court defense, constantly switching and rotating onto different Vermont players, making it difficult to get space. We wouldn't expect Filipowski's scoring drought to continue on Sunday -- in the next game after that scoreless effort against Virginia last season, he scored 22 points. -- Jeff Borzello

Midwest region: No. 1 Purdue 78, No. 16 Grambling 50

Is last year's upset loss finally behind Purdue? Absolutely. After Grambling did a good job of keeping it close, Friday's game quickly became a showcase for Purdue in front of a raucous home crowd in Indianapolis. Purdue waited a year to avenge last year's 16-seed loss to Fairleigh Dickinson. The Boilermakers, led by star Zach Edey's 30-point, 21-rebound showing, gave their supporters plenty to scream about. And with this hurdle behind Purdue, it can focus on making further amends. Coming into the game, Purdue coach Matt Painter said losing in the Sweet 16 in 2022 was also disappointing. This year's group, with a more experienced backcourt, is positioned to make a deep run that extends well past the first weekend.

What it means for Purdue: The Boilermakers will face TCU or Utah State on Sunday after a cleansing victory in many ways. Not only was Purdue looking to dull the memory of last year's upset, but it was also coming off a loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten tournament championship game. Purdue hasn't lost a game to a nonconference opponent all season.

What it means for Grambling: This will go down as a record year for the Tigers. Grambling made the NCAA tournament for the first time and also joined the ranks of HBCU teams that have won a game with a win in the First Four. -- Ben Baby

The Boilermakers begin to put the past behind them: They needed this. All of it. Purdue's public therapy session began shortly after its loss to Fairleigh Dickinson, a 16-seed, a year ago. Painter kept the notes he scribbled on a quiet bus ride about everything that had gone wrong for his team in the second 16-over-1 victory in NCAA tournament history. At the start of the season, Edey and his teammates said they had digested the reality that they had been viewed as disappointments after their loss to an underdog, albeit without the redemption Virginia achieved when it won the 2019 national title a year after suffering Purdue's fate -- a first in NCAA tournament history -- in the opening round in 2018. They were ready to move forward. But all of the talk about putting that loss behind them meant nothing until the Boilermakers, a No. 1 seed again, beat 16-seed Grambling State and officially wiped the slate clean. "We did what we're supposed to do," Edey said after the game. Purdue knows that better than most. But a dominant win over Grambling State was the relief the team needed and proof their dreams are still alive, now that they've begun to escape last year's nightmare. -- Medcalf

South region: No. 9 Texas A&M 98, No. 8 Nebraska 83

Can Texas A&M live the good 3-point life like that again? For one night, the Aggies (21-14) certainly found the FedEx Forum far more comforting than, well, almost any other place they've shot a basketball this season. A team that shot 28.4% from 3-point range in the 34 games before Friday went 9-of-15 from beyond the arc in the first half alone. Junior guard Wade Taylor IV went 5-of-5 in 3-point attempts in the 58-point opening half. Overall, the Aggies were 13-of-23 from 3-point range (56.5%) -- just the third time this season the Aggies had made at least 13 3s in a game. They simply overwhelmed the Huskers. Nebraska led 31-30 with 8:40 left in the first half, but never again.

What it means for Texas A&M: The Aggies have flourished the more Manny Obaseki has played down the stretch. Friday continued that trend as Buzz Williams once again paired Obaseki with Taylor in the backcourt. The latter had 25 points to go with Obaseki's 22. Obaseki had made 17 3-pointers all season and was 3-of-4 in the first half. The Aggies have scored 97, 90 and 98 points in their past three games. They will need every bit of another outing like this one from the pair if the Aggies want to get past Houston's swarming defense Sunday in the second round.

What it means for Nebraska: The quest continues for the first taste of tournament success. In his fifth season, coach Fred Hoiberg lifted the Huskers to the second-most wins in a season. Their last tournament appearance was a decade ago. But this loss means the Huskers are still the only team in a power conference that has not won an NCAA tournament game, at 0-8 and counting. Brice Williams led with 24 points as Keisei Tominaga, with the game live-streamed in his native Japan, added 21 points. -- Jeff Legwold

A&M just shoots more: Nebraska might be surprised to learn the A&M team that just posted 98 points finished SEC play in last place for effective field goal percentage. The Aggies certainly didn't look that way against the Huskers, as Taylor IV shot 7-of-10 on his 3s.

Buzz Williams steered this previously poor shooting group to a bid with pretty fair defense and a downright amazing ability to generate a high number of shot attempts. A&M ranks No. 1 in the nation at KenPom for offensive rebound percentage. What's even more important, however, is a top 25 ranking in turnover percentage. You can't get an offensive board if you've already committed a turnover.

Now imagine a version of 9-seed Texas A&M that sets new standards for shot volume and is able to show some accuracy from the field. That's what Nebraska just saw. It could be the version Houston faces. -- John Gasaway

West region: No. 4 Alabama 109, No. 13 Charleston 96

Can Alabama rebound from its rough end to the year? Despite earning a No. 4 seed, Alabama came into the tournament having lost four of its past six games. Perhaps it was the wake-up call the Crimson Tide needed because their performance against Charleston was among the best by any team in the tournament. It's worth considering if their quarterfinal exit in the SEC tournament -- without winning -- might have been a benefit given it permitted extra rest for a team that plays with such a physically demanding style. Mark Sears led all scorers with 30 points, and 12 players scored for the Tide.

What it means for Alabama: If coach Nate Oats could have drawn up a dream start to the tournament, it likely would have looked similar to what transpired in Spokane. The Crimson Tide pulled away early, went for more than 50 points in both halves and cruised to the round of 32. Alabama led by as many as 31 before resting its key guys, which allowed Charleston to make the final score look more competitive than the game actually was.

What it means for Charleston: The Cougars ran into what amounts to a better version of themselves. Alabama got things rolling and once it did, there was no stemming the tide. This was, by far, Charleston's worst showing in the NCAA tournament, despite having just one win (1997 against Maryland) in six previous trips. Still, that shouldn't take away from what was an excellent season that saw the Cougars defend their Coastal Athletic Association title. -- Kyle Bonagura

Alabama on a mission to outscore the field ... but defense optional: If you believe in NCAA tournament trends, teams like Alabama don't make Final Four runs. The Tide are ranked 113th in adjusted defensive efficiency on KenPom. Teams with those numbers don't last. But the Crimson Tide also boast a top-five offense that just scored 90 or more points for the 12th time since Dec. 23. There just aren't many opposing teams that can handle an offensive attack with those capabilities. But Nate Oats' squad also surrendered 92 points. Charleston possessed the CAA's top offense and had won 12 in a row. That approach won't work against elite teams. If the NCAA tournament is decided by teams with the most potent offensive potential, however, then Alabama could be in the mix for a deep run. It's not easy to score 109 points in a 40-minute game. It's also not easy, however, to score 96. This is the most beautiful chaos this first round has produced. --Myron Medcalf

South region: No. 10 Colorado 102, No. 7 Florida 100

Can Colorado keep the good vibes rolling? The Buffaloes were in control late in the second half before things got chaotic. Florida's Walter Clayton Jr. went on an absolute heater in the final stretches. Colorado guard KJ Simpson created some separation and hit a baseline jumper with just a little over a second left. And the fans who made the trip from Colorado kept roaring long after the final whistle. The Buffaloes had five players in double figures and four scored 15 or more points for the first time in their tournament history, per ESPN Stats & Information. If Colorado's big men can get that kind of balanced effort, it will go a long way toward the Buffs making it out of the first weekend.

What it means for Colorado: Colorado will take on Marquette in the second round in the South portion of the bracket. This is already the most wins the Buffaloes have had under coach Tad Boyle, who has led the program since 2011. Now, Colorado is looking to make the Sweet 16 for the first time since that season. That year, the Buffaloes were a No. 11 seed, one spot lower than they are now.

What it means for Florida: The loss shouldn't dampen the trajectory for Florida under coach Todd Golden. Last year, the Gators were under .500 in Golden's first season. Friday was a mild upset but the Gators were back in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2021. -- Ben Baby

Colorado's rolling and Marquette is next: A little more than a month ago, Colorado was 16-9 and going nowhere fast. Then the Buffaloes pulled out a little noticed win at USC in double-overtime. That was a turning point.

Boyle's No. 10 seed has won 10 of 11 contests. Next in the South bracket is No. 2 seed Marquette. The Golden Eagles thrive on forcing turnovers, an area where Colorado struggles at times. The Buffs gave the ball away on 18% of their possessions in Pac-12 play, a rate slightly above the league average.

If the Buffs can take care of the ball, this double-digit seed can extend the Pac-12's strong tournament run and give Marquette a game. Watch the turnovers. -- John Gasaway

East region: No. 1 UConn 91, No. 16 Stetson 52

Can anyone stop the Huskies? Yes, UConnwas only playing Stetson, but it sure didn't look like it Friday, unless you were watching and listening to coach Dan Hurley. The Huskies coach nitpicked a performance that was close to perfection, especially while building the second-largest halftime lead (33 points) in a tournament game over the past 20 years. The defending national champs led 52-19 at the break. It is worth noting that the past two champs lost in the round of 32, where the Huskies will face a Northwesternteam that has already proven capable of hanging with top teams this season. Still, UConn is going to be considerable favorites in a bracket with Iowa State, Illinoisand Auburnas the other top seeds.

What it means for UConn: Ittook care of business. All five starters scored in double figures, with the points being distributed fairly evenly and nobody reaching 20. Donovan Clingan led the Huskies with 19 points on 9-of-11 shooting. Stetson wasn't supposed to have a chance against the tournament's top seed. Turns out, it didn't. UConn built a 33-point halftime lead behind some torrid shooting (69%). Guard Cam Spencer led the way with 13 points in the opening 20 minutes, hitting 5 of 8 shots, including 3 of 6 from beyond the arc. UConn even held Jalen Blackmon, Stetson's leading scorer, to 14 points on 4-of-17 shooting. It was little more than a warmup for the Huskies.

What it means for Stetson: This doesn't ruin anything for Stetson, which made the tournament for the first time by winning the ASUN Conference tournament. The Hatters (22-13) weren't expected to keep this one close as 27.5-point underdogs. They fought in the second half, but they were overmatched. -- Jordan Raanan

No complacency from Hurley, UConn: If there was any question about whether UConn still had a chip on its shoulder after winning the national championship last year, that was answered Friday -- both on and off the floor. UConn set a program record for largest halftime lead in an NCAA tournament game in the shot clock era, and Dan Hurley still told the broadcast, "We got to grow up a little bit."

Against Northwestern on Sunday, the Huskies will have to be wary ofBoo Buie and Ryan Langborg, who were both terrific in the second half and overtime of the Wildcats' win over Florida Atlantic. UConn had the Big East's best 3-point defense (Northwestern shot a Big Ten-best 42.4% from 3 in league play) and the Huskies are dominant when it comes to protecting the rim, but their guards will have to be at their best Sunday. Holding Stetson to a 3-for-20 3-point performance Friday was a good start. -- Jeff Borzello

West region: No. 6 Clemson 77, No. 11 New Mexico 56

Did the lack of bracket love help Clemsonmove on? Maybe. It sure didn't hurt, as the Tigers (22-11) were a chic most-likely-to-get upset team for many once the brackets were revealed, and they certainly noticed. "It's pretty hard not to see that kind of stuff, just with the social media and stuff,'' forward PJ Hall said Thursday. Clemson was revved up early with a 19-2 run over a five-minute span in the first half and built a 19-point lead before halftime. Then they came sprinting out of the locker room in the second half, as they turned a 14-point halftime lead into a 21-point bulge before three minutes were gone in the second half. The Tigers certainly looked far different from the team that lost three of their last four games coming into Friday's affair -- losses to Notre Dame, Wake Forestand Boston Collegein ACC tournament -- and were 4-4 over their last eight of the season. The 21-point loss to BC was the Tigers' worst of the season. Senior guard Chase Hunter led the Tigers with 21 points to go with Ian Schieffelin's 16 as Hall, who spent an extended stint on the bench to open the second half with foul trouble, added 14.

What it means for Clemson: The Tigers get another chance to show which side of the season's coin they are on. The team that won Friday looked far closer to the one that posted wins over Alabama, South Carolinaand North Carolinathis season than the one that lumbered down the stretch. Clemson played with intention on the defensive end early Friday, holding the high-powered Lobos to 29.7% shooting. Clemson held New Mexico's laser-quick guard tandem of Jamal Mashburn Jr. and Jaelen House to a combined 5-of-25 shooting. The Tigers will need every bit of that effort Sunday against Baylor's spread-it-around offense. The Bears had four starters make at least two 3-pointers in their opening-round win over Colgateand they can stress teams all over the floor.

What it means for New Mexico: The journey continues for New Mexico coach Richard Pitino, who just finished his second season since arriving from Minnesota. When the Lobos (26-10), who finished sixth in the Mountain West during the regular season, won the conference tournament with four wins in four days, it meant they had their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2014. Pitino built an up-tempo lineup fueled by House and Mashburn -- a graduate student and senior, respectively -- to push the Lobos back into the postseason mix. He said Thursday he believes the momentum can be sustained moving forward. -- Jeff Legwold

Tigers, Bears and (potentially) many points: Clemson's resounding 21-point win sets up what on paper looks like one of the round of 32's most entertaining pairings. The No. 6 seed Tigers will face No. 3 seed Baylor. If you like your basketball high-scoring, this could be the game for you.

While Brad Brownell's team has appeared inconsistent this season, the Tigers have arrived in late March showing an impressive success rate on 2-point attempts, and PJ Hall has a lot to do with that, naturally. Clemson is nothing if not adept at giving the senior plenty of space to either score or pass from the paint.

As it happens, 2-point defense isn't a particular strength of Baylor's. What the Bears are good at, however, is scoring from just about anywhere on the floor. Surprises come in bunches in March, but if Clemson and Baylor don't manage to tally a high number of points against each other, that might qualify as an upset in its own right. --John Gasaway

Midwest region: No. 2 Marquette 87, No. 15 Western Kentucky 69

Is Marquettea Final Four contender with Tyler Kolek back? Absolutely. Kolek was the driving force for Marquette's second-half comeback. Kolek finished with a double-double (18 points, 11 assists). In his first game back from an oblique injury, he was stymied in the first half. But in the final 20 minutes, the offense ran through the senior from Rhode Island. Ten of Kolek's assists came in the second half, and that helped Kam Jones get rolling too. Jones finished with a game-high 28 points.

What it means for Marquette: Give Marquette a ton of credit. It might have been easy to buckle after Western Kentuckyended the first half with a big run and seemed primed for an upset. But coach Shaka Smart's group came out of the locker room with a 17-5 run that shifted the game in its favor. It's the kind of performance that will benefit Marquette the rest of the way.

What it means for Western Kentucky: The Hilltoppers should feel great about the program moving forward. In coach Steve Lutz's first year, Western Kentucky gave a solid Marquette squad all it could handle. Lutz has been highly regarded throughout his career, including stints as an assistant at Purdue and Creighton. After Friday's performance and what Western Kentucky did this season, it's easy to see why. -- Ben Baby

Kolek returns, Marquette rolls: Marquette played 20 minutes of quintessential Marquette basketball against Western Kentucky. On this day, at least, that was enough for the Golden Eagles to advance. After trailing the Hilltoppers by seven at the half, Shaka Smart's team rolled in the second half.

Tyler Kolek didn't merely return from the oblique injury that sidelined him for six games. The senior was his usual self. In fact, Kolek was the one player keeping Marquette afloat during its otherwise subpar first half.

Coasting for one half of basketball against a No. 15 seed was a luxury Marquette could afford this time. However, that's unlikely to be the case going forward. The South Region bracket still includes four teams that sit alongside the Golden Eagles in the KenPom top 30. -- John Gasaway

East region: No. 5 San Diego State 69, No. 12 UAB 65

Can Jaedon LeDee carry San Diego State in March? LeDee, who arrived in San Diego after time at Ohio State and TCU, was a key player a year ago, but he wasn't the guy. This season, the Aztecs were heavily reliant on him, and that remained the case Friday in Spokane. LeDee was the best player on the floor and finished with a game-high 32 points to lead SDSU to the win. If the Aztecs continue their run, they will need more help around him, but he showed he has what it takes to step up his game as the stakes increase.

What it means for San Diego State: The Aztecs were clearly the more talented team, but they came out of halftime a little complacent, and UAB took advantage to make it a competitive game until the end. Perhaps it was the wake-up call they needed to grease the skids for another deep run, after reaching the national championship game a year ago. That, of course, won't be easy, with the Auburn-Yale winner waiting Sunday and the possibility of meeting the tournament's No. 1 overall seed, UConn, in the Sweet 16.

What it means for UAB: Oh, what could have been. UAB was in position to win its first NCAA tournament game since 2015, but its inability to make the necessary plays down the stretch was the difference. Still, winning the AAC tournament in its first year in the conference to reach the Big Dance made this a successful season in coach Andy Kennedy's fourth year. --Kyle Bonagura

LeDee no longer a secret:College basketball had a multitude of stars this season, some new and some familiar. Zach Edey's campaign to win another Wooden Award and lead Purdue to a national title continues. Dalton Knecht emerged at Tennessee, where the Northern Colorado transfer will prepare for the NBA draft after the NCAA tournament. Jamal Shead, R.J. Davis and others also shined this year. But Jaedon LeDee has been somewhat under the (national) radar. Until Friday. The San Diego State star's breathtaking effort might have been an introduction for some fans, or just a reminder for those who are familiar with his talent. LeDee, a reserve on last season's Final Four team, has been a star all season. The performance he put together against UAB has become the norm.-- Myron Medcalf

East region: No. 9 Northwestern 77, No. 8 Florida Atlantic 65 (OT)

Can Northwestern give UConn a game in the second round? Northwestern didn't bring its A-game to Barclays Center in Brooklyn, and it still beat a tough Florida Atlantic team. Yes, the same FAU that made the Final Four last season. The Wildcats are not going to be a walkover for the Huskies. Northwestern has a veteran backcourt led by Boo Buie and Ryan Langborg, who showed capable of taking over on the big stage with Northwestern's first seven points of overtime, and has already proven it can handle size and top competition.

The Wildcats took No. 1 seedPurdueto overtime in both their Big Ten matchups during the regular season, which included a win over the Boilermakers in Evanston. That should make for an intriguing second-round matchup between Northwestern and UConn. The Huskies should be in for a tough game.

What it means for Northwestern: The Wildcats have been in the NCAA tournament three times in school history. They've won their opening game each time (2017, 2023 and 2024). That's quite a fine reflection on coach Chris Collins, who orchestrated all three appearances. The Wildcats were able to do it this year despite a rough first half and blowing a nine-point lead in the final 6:43 of regulation. They shot just 22% from the field in the opening 20 minutes against FAU and needed a Brooks Barnhizer layup with under 10 seconds remaining to get to overtime. But that is when Langborg took over. He scored 12 points in the extra session, hitting one big shot after another. Langborg scored a game-high 27 points. The Wildcats will look for their first Sweet 16 appearance on Sunday in Brooklyn.

What it means for FAU: The Owls won't repeat their magic from last season, when they made the Final Four as a 9-seed. This year, they were an 8-seed, but picked an inopportune time for their worst offensive performance of the season. FAU scored a season-low 20 points in the first half (and amazingly still led by one). The Owls showed heart in the second half, chipping away at a nine-point deficit to eventually take the lead in the final minute. But they again went cold in overtime and scored just three points. Leading scorer Johnell Davis finished 6-of-16 in the sloppy contest, which saw the teams combine to shoot 26% from the floor in the first half. It's disappointing for FAU, which still finished the season with single-digit losses and has two seniors and three juniors in the starting lineup. -- Jordan Raanan

Dusty May is on the clock: With FAU's loss to Northwestern, the coaching carousel should start to begin spinning as Dusty May is considered the biggest domino on the market. He's perceived to be the leader at both Louisville and Michigan, and the two programs are likely waiting for his decision. There has also been some Vanderbilt buzz associated with May, although the other two are obviously much better jobs. In theory, he could also opt to stay at FAU, where he's very happy. But with multiple pieces of his core likely leaving, it's a logical time to leave Boca Raton. May wanted to wait until his season ended before making his pick. His season is now over. What will he decide? -- Jeff Borzello

West region: No. 3 Baylor 92, No. 14 Colgate 67

Can Baylor continue to make the sum-of-the-parts approach work? Fewer than 24 hours before he had to face Baylor, Colgate coach Matt Langel had outlined the degree of difficulty in defending this version of the Bears' offense -- "usually three, three and a half, four, very good 3-point shooters on the court,'' Langel had said. "I don't know if you're going to be able to take away all their 3s.'' The Raiders couldn't solve the numbers game Friday in FedEx Forum as Baylor got at least two made 3-pointers from four of its starters, and got at least four from two starters, on the way to a limber-up victory. Perhaps the only reason they didn't get the fifth starter -- freshman forward Yves Missi -- on the list is because Missi didn't attempt a 3. Baylor had entered the game as the only team in the tournament with six players who had averaged at least 10 points per game and got 10 or more points from four starters Friday, led by senior Jalen Bridges' 23 points.

What it means for Baylor: That the Bears (24-10), who had lost two of their past three games coming in, settled into the tournament quite nicely, going on a 10-2 run to open the game and they led by 20 points at halftime. That was a quality first-round flex for the only team in Division I that has been at least a No. 3 seed or higher in each of the last four tournaments. It also meant the Bears quickly brushed off their 14-point loss to Iowa State in the Big 12 tournament a week ago -- their second-worst loss of the season. The Bears, who played only a seven-player rotation for much of a blowout win, will get the winner of the New Mexico-Clemson game in the second round Sunday at FedEx Forum.

What it means for Colgate: The Raiders (25-10) are left to continue to try to figure out a way to cross the bridge from dominating the Patriot League year after year to winning a game in the NCAA tournament. They were 19-2 in the Patriot League and won their fourth consecutive tournament title but haven't been able to pull off an NCAA upset. -- Jeff Legwold

The Bears are peaking: Baylor picked an opportune moment to record its best game on offense in more than three months. With 92 points in just 64 possessions, the Bears displayed peak efficiency in defeating Colgate by 25. Scott Drew's team excelled in Big 12 play this season by putting multiple perimeter threats on the floor alongside the offensive rebounding of Missi. That approach worked to perfection against the Raiders, with the added wrinkle that there just weren't many misses for Missi to rebound. BU drained 16 shots from beyond the arc, with Bridges and Jayden Nunn leading the way. The elite Baylor offense is sharing the bottom half of the West bracket with an equally efficient Arizona team. These two might meet down the road, but the Bears and Wildcats will have to win one more game for that to happen. -- John Gasaway

Related Video

Related Topics