For the first time in three years, the 2022 men’s NCAA tournament feels normal again. The fans in the stands have created an atmosphere the event has not enjoyed since 2019, a year before the tournament was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.
In our reseeding of the first round, there will not be a lot of movement. The top seeds are still the top seeds and the lower seeds — even those that scored major upsets — remain the lower seeds. All of that could change on Saturday and Sunday.
There is some movement, though. We think Tennessee is one of the top teams in America right now, and its seed should reflect that. Also, many thought Houston as a 5-seed was too low. We fixed that, too.
But the rest of these seeds will look familiar. Expect more chaos ahead.
Original Seed: No. 1 overall
First-round result: Defeated No. 16 Georgia State, 93-72
Gonzaga found itself in a battle Thursday night. Rob Lanier’s squad refused to back down against a team with two Wooden Award candidates (Drew Timme, Chet Holmgren) — to the point that the Zags were leading by just four points (62-58) with 10:38 left to play. The Bulldogs had been cold (28% from 3) the whole game, but then a 21-0 run turned things in their favor.
Holmgren played like a projected top-three NBA draft pick and Timme’s teammates started to feed him the ball more often down the final stretch. Good idea. Some folks believe Gonzaga got “exposed” in this game. Nah. Lanier just had his team ready to compete. Timme (32 points, 13 rebounds) and Holmgren (19 points, seven rebounds, seven blocks, five assists, two steals) are still the most imposing duo in the NCAA tournament, and Gonzaga remains the top team going into the second round.
Up next: vs. Memphis (Saturday, 9:40 p.m. ET, TBS)
Original seed: No. 1
First-round result: Defeated No. 16 Wright State, 87-70
Prior to Friday’s win over Wright State, Tommy Lloyd had won a multitude of NCAA tournament games as Mark Few’s longtime assistant at Gonzaga. This time, he experienced a postseason victory as the head coach of a team with a top seed. With Kerr Kriisa (10.1 PPG) sidelined with an ankle injury, Arizona still managed to connect on 55% of its shots (55% from 3, too) against Wright State.
In his first season as a head coach, Lloyd won his first NCAA tournament game as a Division I head coach and also gave the Wildcats their first NCAA tournament win since 2017. They scored 39 points on uncontested looks, per ESPN Stats & Info, too. Bennedict Mathurin (18 points) and Christian Koloko (17 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, five blocks) helped Arizona advance.
They weren’t perfect (see: 19 turnovers), but the Wildcats are 16-1 in their last 17 games and a legit contender to not only reach a Final Four in Lloyd’s first season, but also cut down the nets if they get there.
Up next: vs. TCU (Sunday, 9:40 p.m. ET, TBS)
Original seed: No. 1
First-round result: Defeated No. 16 Texas Southern, 83-56
While some questioned Gonzaga’s status as the top seed following its early struggles against Georgia State, Kansas didn’t give anyone a chance to doubt its, as it bullied Texas Southern on Thursday night. That’s what is supposed to happen in a 16-1 matchup. It’s common. The Jayhawks had a 47-19 lead at halftime. They outscored Texas Southern 28-12 in transition and made 48% of their 3-point attempts.
Not much you can glean from that, with KU doing what was expected. But Remy Martin (15 points, four assists) putting together one of his best efforts of the year was a promising development for a team that could use some additional depth while still waiting for Mitch Lightfoot (who played just seven minutes on Thursday) to fully recover from the left knee sprain he suffered in the Big 12 tournament. Martin might be blossoming at the perfect time.
Up next: vs. Creighton (Saturday, 2:40 p.m. ET, CBS)
Original Seed: No. 1
First-round result: Defeated No. 16 Norfolk State, 85-49
In its lopsided win over Norfolk State, Baylor resembled the team that beat Kansas and Villanova by double digits during the regular season. The Bears registered 139 points per 100 possessions on Thursday. To put that into perspective: The Phoenix Suns have the top offensive efficiency mark in the NBA and they’re averaging 114 points per 100 possessions this season.
So yeah, the Bears were cruising. They made 57.4% of their field goal attempts and scored 21 points off turnovers, per ESPN Stats & Info. Matthew Mayer (22 points) had his best offensive game since scoring 20 in a Jan. 18 win over West Virginia. James Akinjo finished with 10 assists.
The Bears are now 8-2 in their last 10 games. But the road ahead could get more complicated with LJ Cryer (13.5 PPG, 47% from 3) missing the early rounds — and perhaps more — with a foot injury.
Up next: vs. North Carolina (Saturday ,12:10 p.m. ET, CBS)
Original seed: No. 2
First-round result: Defeated No. 15 Jacksonville State, 80-61
Auburn squandered its shot at a top seed with a 5-4 finish in its last nine games prior to the NCAA tournament — including a first-round loss to Texas A&M in the SEC tournament. But the Tigers looked the part of a team with staying power in their win over Jacksonville State, the Atlantic Sun’s regular season champion who only represented the league because Bellarmine (the ASUN tournament champ) was ineligible for the NCAA tournament.
Walker Kessler finished with a stat line (13 points, 10 rebounds, nine blocks) that was just one block shy of a points-rebounds-blocks triple-double that only Shaquille O’Neal and Cole Aldrich have secured in NCAA tournament history (since blocks were first recorded in 1986), according to ESPN Stats & Info. Jabari Smith, a projected top-five draft pick, finished with 20 points and 14 rebounds. The Tigers also made 38% of their 3-point attempts and held Jacksonville State to a 31% clip from the field. That version of Auburn will be tough for any opponent to handle.
Up next: vs. Miami (Sunday, 7:45 p.m. ET, truTV)
Original Seed: No. 3
First-round result: Defeated No. 14 Longwood, 88-56
By halftime on Thursday, Tennessee had a 54-29 lead. The Vols magnified the notion, and the metrics, that have identified them as one of America’s best teams over the last six weeks. They were aggressive on the perimeter against a Longwood squad that shot 38.3% from 3 this season — a top-10 mark — but only 32% on Thursday.
When Santiago Vescovi (18 points, seven assists), Kennedy Chandler (13 points, four steals) and Josiah-Jordan James (17 points, nine rebounds) all play in sync the way they did in this first-round game, Tennessee is a tough matchup for any team. Since Feb. 1, it ranks 18th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency, per Barttorvik.com, and hasn’t allowed a team to score at a rate of 100 points per 100 possessions since beating Texas A&M (113 points per 100 possessions). This is a balanced squad that goes into Saturday having won eight games in a row.
Up next: vs. Michigan (Saturday, 5:15 p.m. ET, CBS)
Original seed: No. 2
First-round result: Defeated No. 15 Delaware, 80-60
For just the second time since 2014, Villanova failed to win the Big East’s regular season championship. But entering the NCAA tournament it seemed like Jay Wright had a team with the potential to go on a run in March, that also lacked the potency of the 2016 and 2018 national title teams. Villanova finished 6-4 against the Big East teams that reached the NCAA tournament this season. It also owns a double-digit win over Tennessee.
This group is capable, however, of uncanny offensive performances. Although Delaware kept pace with the Wildcats early on Friday, it couldn’t overcome a marksmanship few teams have matched: 51% from the field, 46% from 3 and 92% from the free throw line. Per ESPN Stats & Info, Villanova is the only team with two 50/40/90 games in NCAA tournament history. The last Nova team that achieved those marks in the NCAA tournament won the 2016 national championship.
Up next: vs. Ohio State (Sunday, 2:40 p.m. ET, CBS)
Duke Blue Devils
Original seed: No. 2
First-round result: Defeated No. 15 CSU Fullerton, 78-61
In recent days, Mike Krzyzewski has talked about the youth and inexperience on his roster. He has also used the word “pressure” a lot — which might have played a role in the Blue Devils’ collapse in the season finale against North Carolina, and their loss to Virginia Tech in the ACC tournament title game. “Hopefully, winning this game, we can be a lot more loose,” Krzyzewski said, following his team’s first-round victory on Friday.
The young squad has been scrutinized as it works to send Coach K into retirement with a sixth national title. There have been moments where the buzz seemed to affect these Blue Devils. Against CSU Fullerton, however, Duke played like a carefree squad. Paolo Banchero (17 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks) was dominant. Wendell Moore Jr. (3-for-4 from beyond the arc) was reliable. AJ Griffin (10 points, six rebounds) and the other four starters — four of whom are projected first-round draft picks, along with Trevor Keels — all recorded double figures. Mark Williams had five blocks. It will get harder in the coming rounds, but Duke has the most talented roster in the field. That’s clear.
Up next: vs Michigan State (Sunday, 5:15 p.m. ET, CBS)
Original Seed: No. 3
First-round result: Defeated No. 14 Colgate, 67-60 (Friday)
In a close game in the first round of the NCAA tournament, it’s always nice to have a projected lottery pick on your roster. That’s probably what Greg Gard was thinking late Friday night. With Wisconsin up 62-56 at the 1:26 mark, Johnny Davis (25 points, eight rebounds, two steals) caught a pass near the top of the key and launched the 3 that extended Wisconsin’s lead and ended any Colgate comeback ambitions.
It was not the first time Davis had been asked to deliver in a crucial moment. No matter the scenario, Wisconsin knows it will usually have the best player on the floor. Davis is fearless.
In a game that clearly wasn’t one of Wisconsin’s best displays, the Badgers outplayed the Raiders in the final minutes, committing just five turnovers. They will have to play better if they want to advance to the later rounds. With Davis, however, anything seems possible.
Up next: vs. Iowa State (Sunday, 6:10 p.m. ET, TNT)
Original seed: No. 3
First-round result: Defeated No. 14 Yale, 78-56
Throughout the regular season, Matt Painter maintained a simple strategy: Give the ball to 7-foot-4 star Zach Edey and dare opposing teams to defend him knowing they’ll probably give up buckets or foul him, then let Jaden Ivey — a projected lottery pick and perhaps the most talented player in the entire country — cook off the dribble and either score, draw a foul or both since no one in America can stay in front of him in one-on-one situations. Against the Ivy League tournament champion, Edey finished with 16 points (8-for-10 from the free throw line) and Ivey finished with 22 (7-for-9 from the charity stripe). Purdue also held Yale to under 60 points in a strong defensive effort that contrasts its subpar metrics.
Painter will continue to follow this blueprint and hope his two stars, and a fiery offense that was regularly in the top-3 in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency rankings behind them — improved defense, too? — will continue to help the Boilermakers advance.
Up next: vs. Texas (Sunday, 8:40 p.m. ET, TNT)
Texas Tech Red Raiders
Original seed: No. 3
First-round result: Defeated No. 14 Montana State, 97-62
Three years ago, Texas Tech made a Final Four run under Chris Beard, which is a name you probably shouldn’t mention on your next trip to Lubbock. That Red Raiders squad was lauded for its defensive fortitude. Mark Adams, who stepped up to the helm when Beard left for Texas last year, was the coordinator of that defensive attack. That’s why Texas Tech’s suppressive effort against a Montana State squad — the Bobcats were outscored 38-16 in the paint — was not surprising.
But Texas Tech also put together its most impressive offensive performance of the season. Its 97 points (147 points per 100 possessions) and 67% clip from the field (Bryson Williams and Terrence Shannon Jr. both finished with 20 points apiece) allowed the Red Raiders to bulldoze Montana State. If America’s best defensive team hits its offensive stride in the days and weeks ahead, Texas Tech could be a Final Four sleeper.
Up next: vs. Notre Dame (Sunday, 7:10 p.m. ET, TBS)
Original Seed: No. 5
First-round result: Defeated No. 12 UAB, 82-68
After losing Marcus Sasser and Tramon Mark to season-ending injuries in December, Houston could have folded. Instead, Kelvin Sampson’s squad relied on its aggressiveness and balance (top-15 in adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency) to run through its AAC slate and win the AAC tournament championship. As one coach who recently faced the Cougars told ESPN: “You’re not going to be tougher than them.”
With a matchup against UAB in the opening round, Houston wasn’t granted any favors from the selection committee. The Blazers were ranked within the top-50 on KenPom. Kyler Edwards (25 points, 6-for-8 from 3) and Fabian White (14 points, six rebounds), however, led Houston to its 10th win in its last 11 games. In that stretch, Houston has connected on just 32% of its 3s. But the Cougars hit 48% of their shots from beyond the arc on Friday. That might not become a trend for this team, but its intangibles have made this shorthanded crew a challenge for any opponent.
Up next: vs. Illinois (Sunday, 12:10 p.m. ET, CBS)
Original seed: No. 4
First-round result: Defeated No. 13 Akron, 57-53
Throughout Thursday night, the Bruins had the look of a squad that never anticipated a gritty game against a double-digit seed. Last year, they were the underdogs who had pushed through the NCAA tournament after starting in the First Four. With 5:58 to play, however, Akron held a 49-42 lead.
The talent gap between the two teams became evident during UCLA’s game-altering 15-4 run down the stretch. The Bruins used their ability to rally in games during last year’s Final Four run, too. But is Johnny Juzang OK? Since missing back-to-back games with an ankle injury in late February, he is 3-for-11 from 3 in his last five games. On Thursday, he finished with nine points and a 3-for-11 clip from the field. Instead, Jaime Jaquez Jr. (15 points) and Tyger Campbell (16 points) led the way for a squad that could have unraveled with its top player still not back to his pre-injury form.
Up next: vs. Saint Mary’s (Saturday, 7:10 p.m. ET, TBS)
Original Seed: No. 4
First-round result: Defeated No. 13 South Dakota State, 66-57
Ed Cooley spent the past week watching experts and prognosticators across the sport pick his team to lose to a South Dakota State squad that led the nation in 3-point shooting percentage and had not lost a game since Dec. 15. But the Jackrabbits hadn’t dealt with a physical, aggressive team like the Friars, and their 30% clip from 3 showed as much. Cooley clearly took the upset talk personally, and his team did, too. The Big East regular-season champs, who also have wins over Texas Tech and Wisconsin, were the same grimy bunch we saw in league play. It got ugly at times — Providence connected on just 39% of its field goal attempts — but that style was comfortable for them. South Dakota State couldn’t adjust, and the Friars advanced.
Up next: vs. Richmond (Saturday, 6:10 p.m. ET, TNT)
Original seed: No. 4.
First-round result: Defeated No. 13 Vermont, 75-71
Since losing its first three SEC games (to Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Texas A&M), Arkansas is 16-3 over its last 19 matchups, including the first-round NCAA tournament win against Vermont. That surge has included wins over Auburn, Tennessee and Kentucky. On Thursday, Stanley Umude (21 points) finished with at least 19 points for the fifth time in his last 10 games. JD Notae scored all of his 17 points in the second half. Jaylin Williams (13 points, 10 rebounds) finished with a double-double.
The Razorbacks ran into a tough Vermont team with 28 wins under its belt, a proven head coach (John Becker led the Catamounts to seven consecutive America East tournament titles, six of them in consecutive years) and one of America’s top duos (Ben Shungu and Ryan Davis finished with 40 points combined). There is no shame in squeezing by a good team with veteran leadership.
It was the sixth time in seven games, however, that Arkansas surrendered at least 104 points per 100 possessions to an opponent. That’s a dangerous way to live in the single-elimination gauntlet known as the NCAA tournament.
Up next: vs. New Mexico State (Saturday, 8:40 p.m. ET, TNT)
Saint Mary’s Gaels
Original seed: No. 5
First-round result: Defeated No. 12 Indiana, 82-53
Randy Bennett and Co. thumped Indiana. The Hoosiers never really had a shot against a Saint Mary’s squad that’s 6-1 in its last seven games — with three of those wins coming against NCAA tournament teams (San Francisco, Gonzaga and Indiana). Since Feb. 1, the Gaels have shot 51% from inside the arc and 38% from 3, all while maintaining a top-50 turnover rate and a top-five adjusted defensive efficiency mark, per Barttorvik.com. The Gaels handed Indiana its worst-ever loss in the NCAA tournament. And Logan Johnson (20 points) was one of four Saint Mary’s players who finished with double digits. You can’t find many weaknesses with this squad right now. It’s built to compete against any team in America.
Up next: vs. UCLA (Saturday, 7:10 p.m. ET, TBS)
Chattanooga misses two potential game-winning shots in the final seconds as No. 4 Illinois survives with a 54-53 victory.
Illinois Fighting Illini
Original seed: No. 4
First-round result: Defeated No. 13 Chattanooga, 54-53
The box score will never tell the full story about this game. Illinois didn’t lead for the entire game — until the final 25 seconds. Chattanooga had multiple chances to extend its edge and advance to the second round throughout, but the Big Ten regular season co-champion won on a pair of Alfonso Plummer free throws. Still, Illinois struggled against a Chattanooga team that made just 32% of its field goal attempts. Malachi Smith finished 4-for-20. Kofi Cockburn (17 points, 13 rebounds) didn’t get a lot of help from a cast that finished 3-for-17 from the 3-point line, either.
Illinois is 6-4 in its last 10 games and, per Barttorvik.com, ranked 44th in the country within that stretch. Every question about Illinois’ potential in the NCAA tournament seems valid now.
Up next: vs. Houston (Sunday, 12:10 p.m. ET, CBS)
Original seed: No. 6
First-round result: Defeated No. 11 Virginia Tech, 81-73
Before Chris Beard arrived, Texas had only reached the second round of the NCAA tournament once since 2011 (in 2014). That reality had ended Rick Barnes’ tenure and put immense pressure on Shaka Smart, who left for Marquette last year. The Longhorns wanted Beard for his track record of recruiting and fielding elite teams. He also had never entered an NCAA tournament without reaching the second round. The Longhorns wanted to enjoy that March success again.
They got their wish. Beard’s streak continued on Friday when he took his third Division I program (previously Little Rock and Texas Tech) to the second round of the 2022 tournament. He had mixed results during the regular season, and Texas lost five of its last eight games prior to this week. But Beard’s postseason success continued, as Andrew Jones (one of five double-digit scorers on the roster) finished with 21 points against the ACC tournament champions — and the only ACC squad that lost in the first round.
Up next: vs. Purdue (Sunday, 8:40 p.m. ET, TNT)
Murray State Racers
Original seed: No. 7
First-round result: Defeated No. 10 San Francisco, 92-87 OT
Three years ago, Ja Morant emerged as an elite NBA prospect after leading the Racers to a first-round upset of Marquette. Tevin Brown was a freshman on that team. On Thursday, he was the veteran leader who finished with 17 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals in his team’s win against San Francisco. Five Murray State players finished with at least 12 points as the Racers extended their winning streak to 21 games.
That’s not a typo. They haven’t lost since that 71-58 loss at Auburn on Dec. 22. They’ve also been a top-10 team in offensive rebounding rate since that night.
As Thursday’s game got tighter and San Francisco’s Jamaree Bouyea heated up, Murray State didn’t fold. That’s a good sign. The Racers won’t be intimidated by any team moving forward.
Up next: vs. Saint Peter’s (Saturday, 7:45 p.m. ET, CBS)
Michigan State Spartans
Original seed: No. 7
First-round result: Defeated No. 10 Davidson, 74-73
Throughout Tom Izzo’s tenure, he has been fortunate to have a collection of stars who could carry his teams through the inevitable postseason turbulence. Mateen Cleaves, Draymond Green, Kalin Lucas and Cassius Winston became household names for their efforts in the NCAA tournament. As Davidson (40% clip from 3) continued to challenge the Spartans in the final minutes of Friday’s one-point affair, the Spartans couldn’t extend their lead enough to feel comfortable.
But this season’s hurdles prepared every player in the rotation to help where needed. Joey Hauser (27 points, eight rebounds) was tapped to guide his squad through its tussle with the Wildcats. In the next round, Izzo might turn to a different player under similar circumstances. On Friday, Michigan State looked more like a mid-level team with a 9-10 record in its last 19 games than a second-weekend squad in the NCAA tournament. Resilience alone might not be sufficient going forward.
Up next: vs. Duke (Sunday, 5:15 p.m. ET, CBS)
Ohio State Buckeyes
Original seed: No. 7
First-round result: Defeated No. 10 Loyola Chicago, 54-41
At one point in Ohio State’s win over Loyola Chicago on Friday, TV analyst Reggie Miller accidentally called the Buckeyes’ head coach Chris “Hamilton.” All season, the Buckeyes seemed to compete in the shadows of the Big Ten’s top tier. They didn’t have Purdue’s NBA talent, Wisconsin’s comeback story or a high-profile star like Illinois’ Kofi Cockburn. A 1-4 record in their previous five games entering the tournament wasn’t a convincing effort.
But E.J. Liddell (16 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks on Friday) has been a national player of the year candidate all season. And Chris Holtmann‘s squad has wins over Seton Hall, Duke, Wisconsin and Illinois. That win over Loyola Chicago — star Lucas Williamson finished 1-for-10 from the field — didn’t erase the rocky times for the Buckeyes, but it reminded them, and us, of how good they could be.
Up next: vs. Villanova (Sunday, 2:40 p.m. ET, CBS)
North Carolina Tar Heels
Original Seed: No. 8
First-round result: Defeated No. 9 Marquette, 95-63
Hubert Davis isn’t on Twitter and doesn’t care about the naysayers, but they were out there, especially after lopsided losses in his first season at the helm to Tennessee, Kentucky and Duke — three programs North Carolina fans expect to compete against every year. Losses to Miami and Pitt didn’t help Davis’ cause either. Sometimes, however, it takes a new coach with a locker room full of new faces some time to put his stamp on a program. And in recent weeks, UNC has had some stunning offensive displays that illustrate the brand of basketball Davis intends to employ during his tenure.
The same UNC squad that beat Duke by 13 points to spoil Mike Krzyzewski’s final home game made Marquette look like a double-digit seed on Thursday. The Tar Heels also improved to 6-2 when Brady Manek (28 points, 11 rebounds, 5-for-10 from 3) makes at least four 3s in a game. Thursday’s was a dominant effort for a Tar Heels team that has found a higher gear in the most crucial juncture of the season.
Up next: vs. Baylor (Saturday, 12:10 p.m. ET, CBS)
Memphis’ Emoni Bates scores his first points since January as the Tigers beat Boise State.
Original Seed: No. 9
First-round result: Defeated No. 8 Boise State, 64-53
In Thursday’s win over Boise State, Memphis freshman Emoni Bates played his first minutes, nearly two months after a back injury sidelined him. If you’d told someone at the start of the season that Bates would be unavailable for the bulk of conference play and the Tigers would still secure a spot in the NCAA tournament, many would have doubted you. But the Tigers have evolved into a long, bouncy, athletic group that has played sound basketball for nearly two months and changed the narrative around its season.
Projected lottery pick Jalen Duren (10 points, 11 rebounds) became the first Memphis player with a double-double in the NCAA tournament in 13 years, per ESPN Stats & Info. Memphis as a whole (22 points off 10 turnovers) ran through Boise State with the same brand of basketball that has turned a 9-8 squad into a team that has lost just two games since Jan. 20.
Up next: vs. Gonzaga (Saturday, 9:40 p.m. ET, TBS)
TCU Horned Frogs
Original seed: No. 9
First-round result: Defeated No. 8 Seton Hall, 69-42
At one point on Friday, TCU had a 50-26 lead over Seton Hall. The cameras kept moving between the excited TCU fans and the bewildered Seton Hall fans. The Pirates had won six of their last seven games prior to the first round of the NCAA tournament. But TCU had a 4-7 record in its last 11 entering Friday, and it recorded a sub-.500 record in league play. Its résumé was held together, it seemed, by a pair of late victories over Kansas and Texas Tech.
A rested TCU squad — the Horned Frogs lost to Kansas in the second round of the Big 12 tournament last week — seemed fresh and energized enough, though. And Mike Miles (21 points, 9-for-18) carried TCU to the second round of the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1987.
Up next: vs. Arizona (Sunday, 9:40 p.m. ET, TBS)
Original seed: No. 10
First-round result: Defeated No. 7 USC, 68-66
Charlie Moore is one of college basketball’s most productive journeymen. He started his career at Cal during the 2016-17 season. Then he spent two seasons at Kansas. Prior to 2019-20, he transferred to DePaul, which is located in his hometown, Chicago, before taking advantage of his additional eligibility to go to Miami.
On Friday, Moore (16 points, four assists, four steals) led Miami to the second round of the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2016, making the go-ahead free throws that sealed the win in the final seconds. The same Miami team that got swept by Virginia and Florida State in the regular season now has wins over Duke, North Carolina — and former No. 7 USC. That’s the story of the season for Jim Larranaga’s squad, which continues to beat the odds.
Up next: vs. Auburn (Sunday, 7:45 p.m. ET, truTV)
Iowa State Cyclones
Original seed: No. 11
First-round result: Defeated No. 6 LSU, 59-54
Yes, LSU looked like a team that had experienced a variety of emotions after former head coach Will Wade was fired with cause last week, following the release of the notice of allegations against the school. The Tigers’ 54 points was their lowest tally since suffering a 64-50 road loss at Tennessee on Jan. 22. But Iowa State didn’t enter the season surrounded by optimists after last year’s two-win season, which cost Steve Prohm his job. T.J. Otzelberger’s victory in the first round of the NCAA tournament — the program’s first NCAA tournament win since 2017 — extends the greatest turnaround in America. Tyrese Hunter (23 points) led the way for a squad that was picked to finish last in the Big 12 in the preseason. The game was never pretty (Iowa State connected on just 36% of its field goal attempts) but the Cyclones move on to the second round.
Up next: vs. Wisconsin (Sunday, 6:10 p.m. ET, TNT)
New Mexico State Aggies
Original Seed: No. 12
First-round result: Defeated No. 5 UConn, 70-63
Last season, Chris Jans and his New Mexico State team made a resort in Phoenix, Arizona their home base due to COVID restrictions in their state. Jans said that experience of having to pick up and move to a new state to be able to play basketball created more cohesion within a team that boasted the WAC’s most efficient offense this season.
On the other side, UConn had been one of the Big East’s most balanced teams. But it couldn’t do anything to stall Teddy Allen (37 points), the WAC player of the year who’d made previous stops at West Virginia and Nebraska. He scored all of his team’s points in the final four minutes of the game. And Danny Hurley didn’t have any answers to slow him down.
This is the classic scenario of a double-digit seed with a star who can elevate his team against top competition on any given night.
Up next: vs. Arkansas (Saturday, 8:40 p.m. ET, TNT)
Original seed: No. 9
First-round result: Defeated No. 8 San Diego State, 72-69 OT
Adversity hasn’t stopped the Bluejays in recent weeks. Last month, Creighton lost point guard Ryan Nembhard (11.3 PPG, 4.4 APG) to a season-ending wrist injury. And during Thursday’s win over San Diego State, Ryan Kalkbrenner (16 points, 10 rebounds), who led the team in scoring and rebounding entering the game, suffered a knee injury with 2:42 to play in overtime. His team was down 68-66 at the time, but rallied for the win in a tight 8-9 seed game. The win eliminated the Mountain West entirely from the NCAA tournament before the second round. It was a tough game for a Creighton squad that could be forced to move forward without its top point guard and its best player.
Up next: vs. Kansas (Saturday, 2:40 p.m. ET, CBS)
Original Seed: No. 11
First-round result: Defeated No. 6 Colorado State, 75-63
Juwan Howard’s five-game suspension at the end of the regular season threatened to become the headline that defined the program, which started the year in the AP’s top five and stumbled into a double-digit slot in the NCAA tournament. But their 12-point win over Colorado State — without starting point guard DeVante’ Jones (concussion) — proved the Wolverines could be competitive. That is, assuming the team that showed up for a comeback in the second half on Thursday is the team we’ll see the rest of the way.
Niko Medved’s squad had a double-digit lead toward the end of the first half that it squandered as the game progressed. Five-star recruit Caleb Houstan hit a few big shots late for Michigan, and Hunter Dickinson (21 points, six rebounds, four blocks) was steady. The Wolverines made the selection committee look smart when it placed them directly into the bracket without a First Four matchup.
Up next: vs. Tennessee (Saturday, 5:15 p.m. ET, CBS)
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Original seed: No. 11
First-round result: Defeated No. 6 Alabama, 78-64
The ACC logged one of its worst seasons in recent memory. But four of its five NCAA tournament teams won their first-round matchups. One of which, Notre Dame, had to beat Rutgers in the First Four to earn a shot at Alabama. And Mike Brey’s team did not squander the opportunity. A couple of things happened in this game to give the Fighting Irish the win. Jahvon Quinerly, Alabama’s No. 2 scorer, suffered a knee injury early in the second half and didn’t return.
Then Notre Dame’s Cormac Ryan (29 points) decided he wasn’t ready to go home. Per ESPN Stats & Info, Ryan finished 7-for-7 on contested 3s, the highest mark since ESPN began tracking those shots six years ago. And now a Notre Dame team that was, like its non-Duke peers in the ACC, an afterthought entering the NCAA tournament, will join the three other ACC squads that have also advanced to the round of 32.
Up next: vs. Texas Tech (Sunday, 7:10 p.m. ET, TBS)
Saint Peter’s Peacocks
Original seed: No. 15
First-round result: Defeated No. 2 Kentucky, 85-79 OT
During his postgame interview on Thursday, Shaheen Holloway was asked if he was nervous throughout a game some Kentucky fans have called the most embarrassing NCAA tournament loss in school history. “Nah. For what? It’s basketball,” Holloway responded.
But it wasn’t just basketball; it was the biggest upset in college basketball since No. 16 UMBC beat No. 1 Virginia in the 2018 NCAA tournament. John Calipari’s salary ($8.5 million) is greater than the entire athletic budget of Saint Peter’s ($7.5 million). Daryl Banks III (27 points) was an unrated prospect in high school who led his team to a victory over players who were four- and five-star recruits. It does not make sense. A team that couldn’t beat Siena and Rider a month ago knocked off a Kentucky team that seemed to possess the talent to make a run to New Orleans.
March is wild like that. This victory has added juice to Saint Peter’s current eight-game winning streak.
Up next: vs. Murray State (Saturday, 7:45 p.m. ET, CBS)
Original Seed: No. 12
First-round result: Defeated No. 5 Iowa, 67-63
Three years ago, Chris Mooney had just completed a 13-20 season when an anonymous group of fans purchased a billboard on a major highway in Richmond, Virginia that read, “Fire Mooney.” On Thursday, the longtime coach led the Spiders to a first-round upset of an Iowa squad that many — including me — had picked to make a run to the Final Four with projected lottery pick Keegan Murray and a roster that won the Big Ten championship.
Richmond finished the regular season sixth in the Atlantic 10 and entered its conference tournament with a 3-4 record in its previous seven games.
But none of that seemed to matter. March don’t care. Iowa finished with its lowest point total since a two-point loss to Rutgers on Jan. 19. And Richmond contested 13 of Murray’s 15 shot attempts, per ESPN Stats & Info, and won its ninth game as a 12-seed or lower, the top mark in NCAA tournament history.
Up next: vs. Providence (Saturday, 6:10 p.m. ET, TNT)