The 2017 NCAA Tournament opened with several really good games, but unlike last year, there were no early, bracket-busting upsets. In fact, of the 16 games on Thursday, the higher seed won 14 times, and the favorite (based on the pre-game spread) also came out on top 14 times. Thursday’s games weren’t boring, but the results were largely expected.
Even the lower-seeded teams that won were not surprising. The South’s 12-seed, Middle Tennessee State came out on top, as did the West’s 11-seed Xavier. Middle Tennessee was actually favored by 1.5 over Minnesota before the game tipped off, and Xavier was only a two-point underdog against Maryland. And, frankly, the Musketeers should have been favored over the Terps. They were a much better team all season.
Meanwhile, Vanderbilt (the West’s No. 9 seed) was actually favored by two points over No. 8 seed Northwestern. The Wildcats won thanks to a crazy finish and an all-time gag, but it’s hard to label that a true upset.
So the two upsets (judging by the spread) weren’t really upsets, and neither were the two wins by lower-seeded teams. In no way does that mean the games weren’t entertaining. It was a fun day of basketball, with some really nice back-and-forth action. Princeton and Notre Dame put on a great show, as did UNC-Wilmington and Virginia, while West Virginia and Bucknell had a solid battle. Vanderbilt and Northwestern obviously had a great finish as well.
The tournament doesn’t need huge upsets to provide excitement, but I’d be shocked if Friday’s action doesn’t give us a few unexpected twists.
Here are the scores and some notes from all of Thursday’s action:
(5) Notre Dame 60, (12) Princeton 58
Princeton’s Devin Cannady missed a 3-pointer with seven seconds left in regulation that would have given the Tigers a lead.
(5) Virginia 76, (12) UNC-Wilmington 71
London Perrantes had 24 points to lead the Cavaliers as they shot 50 percent from the field.
(4) Butler 76, (13) Winthrop 64
Butler out-rebounded the Eagles 42-27 and held them to just 40.3 percent shooting from the field.
(1) Gonzaga 66, (16) South Dakota State 46
Gonzaga led by just four at the break, but outscored the Jackrabbits 40-24 in the second half.
(4) West Virginia 86, (13) Bucknell 80
The Mountaineers’ bench outscored Bucknell’s 37-5.
(4) Florida 80, (13) East Tennessee State 65
Devin Robinson had 24 points, seven rebounds and two blocks in 33 minutes to lead the Gators.
(12) Middle Tennessee State 81, (5) Minnesota 72
This is the second-straight year the Blue Raiders have beaten a higher-seeded Big Ten team on the first day of the tournament. They took out Michigan State last year.
(8) Northwestern 68, (9) Vanderbilt 66
Northwestern now has the highest winning percentage in NCAA Tournament history (1-0).
(11) Xavier 76, (6) Maryland 65
Xavier guard Trevon Bluiett scored 18 of his game-high 21 points in the second half.
(1) Villanova 76, (16) Mount St. Mary’s 56
Freshman guard Donte DiVincenzo came off the bench to lead Villanova in points (21), rebounds (13) and minutes (37). The rebounds and minutes totals were both career-highs.
(7) Saint Mary’s 85, (10) VCU 77
VCU committed 32 fouls, compared to just 20 for the Gaels.
(4) Purdue 80, (13) Vermont 70
Purdue All-American Caleb Swanigan scored 16 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to secure his NCAA-best 27th double-double of the year.
(3) Florida State 86, (14) Florida Gulf Coast 80
The Seminoles shot a ridiculous 68.3 percent (28-41) from inside the 3-point line.
(8) Wisconsin 84, (9) Virginia Tech 74
Wisconsin senior guard Bronson Koenig led all scorers with 28 points while adding three rebounds and three assists.
(2) Arizona 100, (15) North Dakota 82
All five Wildcats starters were in double figures and the team shot 58.1 percent from the field.
(5) Iowa State 84, (12) Nevada 73
Iowa State senior guard Monte Morris just missed a triple-double as he finished with 19 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.