With the first day of the 2017 NCAA Tournament concluded, it’s safe to say Day 1 left basketball diehard’s and bracket fillers unsatisfied with plenty of chalk advancing. That shouldn’t be expected on Friday.
The lack of luster left disappointment in what many consider to be the most exciting part of this time of year: upsets. Needless to say, and besides first half struggles, No. 1 seeds Gonzaga and Villanova survived and advanced improving the seed matchup record to 130-0.
Onto the infamous 5- versus 12-seeded game, which typically ignites the field. The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame barely escaped being the first team out of the field of 68, ultimately avoiding Princeton’s buzzer-beating efforts down the stretch. It is yet to see how much luck the St. Patrick’s Day weekend will bring the Irish as up next is West (press) Virginia, who will bring its fast-paced and stifling style of defensive play after getting Bucknell’s best shot.
Virginia held on to overcome a North Carolina-Wilmington double-digit deficit after shooting 50 percent from the field and better than 40 percent from long distance, led by London Perrantes and Marial Shayok. Perhaps most impressive… all without experienced upperclassman and heavily relied upon Isaiah Wilkins (a Gwinnett County native). Head coach Tony Bennett’s system at Virginia continues to succeed and impress defensively and improve slowly on the offensive end as well. The Hoos will gear up for the Gators on Saturday in the Sunshine State.
Speaking of Gators, the reptiles were just too much to handle as Devin Robinson just wouldn’t allow Chris White’s tournament debut to falter. Perhaps the biggest difference maker, Devin Robinson utilized his length and turned NBA scouts’ heads with athleticism and highlight dunks. Ten-loss Iowa State was too experienced to allow a letdown. As we all know, ISU will only go as far as senior guard Monte Morris will take the team. Morris was two rebounds and two assists from a triple double in the opening round against the Mountain West regular season and conference tournament champion Nevada Wolfpack. A tall task (and a tall task indeed) will await the Cyclones when Purdue introduces its twin towers, ‘walking double-double machines’ Caleb Swanigan and Isaac Haas.
Vermont just simply didn’t have enough girth on its front-line to compete. Dunk City, otherwise known as Florida Gulf Coast, led by former Norcross High guard Brandon Goodwin, put forth its best effort giving Florida State all it could handle. FSU was too deep on the bench and may have played its best game all season, despite running away by six points. It should speak volumes that the ‘Noles were just too athletic for the Eagles. Butler made Winthrop look like it never even belonged in the same arena, let alone playing on the same floor with the Bulldogs.
The only near upsets of the day… 11-seed Xavier shot the leather off the ball versus Maryland at 50 percent from the field, minus one of its star guards Edmond Sumner due to injury. While the Musketeers were busy making magic, Middle Tennessee followed up last year’s shocking win over Michigan State with that of yet another Big Ten program. Only this time it was a much-improved Minnesota. Yet still no shockers there if you pay just a little attention to college basketball.
Friday shouldn’t disappoint, though with Rhode Island as near favorites with a date with Creighton who has clearly been a different team without All-American Mo Watson. Impatiently, we will all await our brackets to explode and burst into flames but thanks to which team? Beside Rhode Island, New Mexico State, Iona and Northern Kentucky are most likely to claim the title of “bracket buster.”