March Madness officially began just after noon on Thursday. The first three games included two games that many experts say as possible upsets. They thought Davidson might have a good chance to wear the Cinderella slipper as a 13 seed upsetting the 4 seed Maryland Terrapins. They were also eyeing a Texas Tech Red Raider victory as a 10 seed over 7 seed Boston College with the Eagles slumping at the end of the season. Both of these games turned out close, with Davidson starting the second half on a 9-0 run to open up an eight point lead before seeing themselves outscored by twenty points the rest of the way and losing to Maryland 82-70. Boston College and Texas Tech had a tight back and forth game until the Eagles took the lead about midway through the second half and never gave it up winning 84-70. In the other early game it was ugly as Louisville had a 46-20 halftime lead and cruised to a 78-58 victory over Stanford.
The next set of four games had two much anticipated upset game possibilities with many feeling Washington State could be ripe for the upset against Oral Roberts, and Old Dominion having a chance to upset Butler in the famous 12 vs 5 upset scenario. Oral Roberts proved the experts right in the first half taking a two point lead at halftime before falling apart and being outscored by 18 in the second half losing 70-54. Old Dominion also showed upset potential at halftime with a one point lead, before a 17-0 run in the second half by Butler sealed their fate as being another team unable to seal the upset, losing 57-46. Georgetown fell behind to Belmont 11-4, before they realized this is March Madness and won 80-55 putting the game away with a 13 point halftime lead. Texas A&M also held a 13 point halftime lead over Penn. Penn made a valiant run to get back into the game, actually taking the lead at one point in the second half, but eventually were blown out by 16. The dinner time game on the east coast was the biggest blow out of them all as George Washington proved despite the similarity in names and location, they were nothing like last year’s George Mason as they lost to Vanderbilt 77-42 after a 25 point halftime deficit.
In general the evenings first four games were uneventful, well….let’s correct that, the three of them were. Ohio State had a 21 point halftime lead on the way to a 78-57 victory over Central Connecticut State. UCLA was up by 18 points at halftime against Weber State on the way to a 70-42 victory. Michigan State jumped out to a 14-0 lead over Marquette as they defeated them 61-49 preserving their 12 point advantage at halftime. The one major upset of the night happened in this group of games. Many felt Duke would get a stiff challenge from #11 seed VCU, and they did. Not only did they get a challenge, Duke lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1996. Despite leads of 13 in the first half, and 9 midway through the second half Duke could not hold off VCU. Eric Maynor hit a jumper near the foul line with just under two seconds left for the 79-77 victory. Speaking of foul lines, Duke struggled there hitting only 20 of 32 foul shots in what was a significant factor in their loss.
The final four games of the day featured two blow outs, one game that was never really in doubt after halftime, and a nail biter. North Carolina defeated Eastern Kentucky 86-65, despite having a 12 point halftime lead North Carolina let Eastern Kentucky get within five points several times in the second half before pulling away. Pittsburgh defeated Wright State 79-58, but did struggle with them at times in the first half before opening up a 13 point lead late in the first half. Indiana had a five point halftime lead and cruised to a 70-57 victory over Gonzaga who was back in a potential cinderalla seed position but there was no glass slipper for them this year. The game was rather ugly with neither team shooting over 40% from the field. The final game featured BYU blowing a five point half time lead, losing in the final minute to #9 seed Xavier 79-77. The difference was at the foul line were Xavier outscored BYU by 13 points.
Overall, there was not a lot of excitement on the first day of the tournament this year. Only two games came down to the last couple of minutes. Of course anytime Duke loses in the first round it’s a significant upset, but when the only other upsets were 9 seeds defeating 8 seeds the first day pales to the excitement and drama from previous tournaments. Thirteen out of the sixteen games were decided by more than 10 points, then there were the two games decided by two points each and one decided by nine. The best individual performance was in a losing effort by Stephen Curry of Davidson who put up 30 points against Maryland.