Sidelines with John Clay

Buffalo busts brackets and more links from first day of NCAA Tournament

Arizona coach Sean Miller kneels by the bench during the first half of his team’s 89-68 loss to Buffalo in a first-round game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament Thursday, March 15, 2018, in Boise, Idaho.
Arizona coach Sean Miller kneels by the bench during the first half of his team’s 89-68 loss to Buffalo in a first-round game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament Thursday, March 15, 2018, in Boise, Idaho. Associated Press

Links from the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and beyond:

▪ Check out our coverage of Kentucky’s 78-73 win over Davidson in the Cats’ opening game of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday.

▪ Buffalo fans are pinching themselves, says Jerry Sullivan of the Buffalo News. “The moment when I really began to believe it could happen came early in the second half. Arizona, which had trailed by two at halftime, seemed determined to assert itself as the favorite coming out of the locker room. But when UB scored on the break early in the second half, announcing that it had no fear of the mighty Pac-12 favorites, Sean Miller called a timeout to settle his team down. When Miller called it, just before he’d have gotten a TV timeout, UB coach Nate Oats pumped his fist in delight as his players gathered around him.”

▪ A stunning end to Arizona’s turbulent season, writes Greg Bishop of “As Buffalo’s lead stretched from five to 10 and then 25—25!—points at the Taco Bell Arena late Thursday in the NCAA tournament, the faces on the Arizona bench told the story of the Wildcats’ strange, tumultuous season. Heads fell into hands. Eyes locked onto sneakers. Tears welled. The bench watched, minute after excruciating minute, shot after shot surrendered, the faces growing longer with each subsequent Bulls celebration, of which there were many.”

▪ Pac-12 tourney flop is worst ever by a power conference, reports Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo. “Having already built a 25-point lead, crushed Arizona’s spirit and neutralized college basketball’s best NBA prospect, Buffalo coach Nate Oats twisted the knife one final time. Oats inserted his benchwarmers into the game en mass Thursday night with just over a minute remaining in the Bison’s 89-68 first-round NCAA tournament upset.”

▪ Alabama gets first NCAA win since 2006, reports Ben Jones of the Tuscaloosa News. “The flurry from Virginia Tech came early. The fury from Alabama sustained long enough to give the Crimson Tide an 86-83 win. Alabama (20-15) held on in the first half as Virginia Tech (21-12) shot 68 percent from the field to stay within a couple possessions in Thursday night’s NCAA Tournament first-round game. The Crimson Tide edged ahead in the second half, then held the lead for the final 7:50.”

▪ Alabama-Villanova will be point guard duel to watch, says Matt Norlander of CBS Sports. “College basketball's most highly regarded NBA point guard prospect will square off against college basketball's most highly esteemed point guard Saturday. Alabama's Collin Sexton vs. Villanova's Jalen Brunson. One-and-done vs. three-and-flee. Two very different players, one Sweet 16 bid on the line. This might be amazing.”

▪ Florida uses defense to blast St. Bonaventure, reports Kevin Brockway of the Gainesville Sun. “In the bowels of the American Airlines Center, shortly after sixth-seed Florida moved on with a 77-62 win over 11th-seed St. Bonaventure in the NCAA Tournament, Florida coach Mike White offered a simple, two-word explanation for the victory. ‘We guarded,’ White said.”

▪ Tennessee shuts down Wright State, reports Mike Wilson of the Knoxville News-Sentinel. “Tennessee basketball didn’t play much like a team that was experiencing the NCAA Tournament for the first time Thursday. Instead, the Vols erased any early jitters quickly and locked in on defense and rebounding – the two things that junior center Kyle Alexander stressed lead to championships last week in St. Louis.”

▪ Tom Crean should make people care about Georgia basketball, writes Mark Bradley of the AJC. “Georgia had a plan. It executed that plan. Five days after firing Mark Fox, Greg McGarity has landed the best-credentialed coach in the history of Georgia basketball. Tom Crean has been to the Final Four and has never been in trouble with the NCAA. Hugh Durham and Jim Harrick ticked only one of those boxes.”

▪ Michael Porter, Jr. casts more light on his return, writes Vahe Gregorian of the Kansas City Star. “The big reveal in the saga of Michael Porter Jr. at Missouri will be unfurled on Friday night at Bridgestone Arena as the Tigers try to win their first NCAA Tournament game in eight years when they take on Florida State. Much of the meaning of his fleeting MU career will hinge on whether Mizzou prevails to play another day and take advantage of his improbable and at-times puzzling path to return from back surgery.”

▪ Stephen F. Austin coach blames loss on millennials, reports Matt Bonesteel of the Washington Post. “Apparently, you can add Stephen F. Austin Team 2017-18 to the long list of things that millennials have ruined. The 14th-seeded Lumberjacks’ upset bid of third-seeded Texas Tech fell apart in the second half of a 70-60 NCAA tournament loss Thursday in Dallas. They led by eight early in the second half and held that lead until four minutes remained, when the wheels fell off. Stephen F. Austin would score two more points the rest of the game.”

▪ Loyola-Chicago advances with miracle finish, reports Shannon Ryan of the Chicago Tribune. “Loyola players bounced around the American Airlines Center court, hugging and screaming and wondering how it all just happened. Donte Ingram’s 3-pointer just before the final buzzer delivered the 11th-seeded Ramblers’ first NCAA tournament victory in 33 years — a 64-62 upset of No. 6 seed Miami.”

▪ Even in defeat, North Carolina State thinks it made people notice, reports Steve Wiseman of the Raleigh News and Observer. “From a personal standpoint, Allerik Freeman came to N.C. State from Baylor with an NCAA tournament history and used his one year with the Wolfpack to add to it. From a program standpoint, Freeman and the players coach Kevin Keatts cobbled together to form a team last summer set the foundation for NCAA tournaments appearances that should come with more frequency.”

▪ Kansas overcomes a pesky Penn, reports Gary Bedore of the Kansas City Star. “It took some firm yet calming words — and a bunch of points — from senior leader Devonté Graham to steady the ship as the Jayhawks overcame a 10-point first-half deficit and advanced to Saturday’s second-round match against Seton Hall, a 94-83 winner over North Carolina State. That game will tip off at 6:10 p.m. and air on TBS.”

▪ Duke breezes past Iona in first round, reports Jonathan Alexander of the Raleigh News and Observer. “The pregame jitters for Duke's freshmen starters were there, but it didn't show as the No. 2 seed Blue Devils dominated 15th seeded Iona 89-67 in the Round of 64 of the NCAA tournament on Thursday. Duke (27-7) improved to 29-4 in first round NCAA tournament games since 1985, and will play seventh seeded Rhode Island in the Round of 32 on Saturday.”

NCAA Tournament television schedule

Friday, March 16

  • 12:15 - Providence vs. Texas A&M (CBS)
  • 12:40 - CS Fullerton vs. Purdue (truTV)
  • 1:30 - Marshall vs. Wichita State (TNT)
  • 2:00 - Georgia State vs. Cincinnati (TBS)
  • 2:45 - Lipscomb vs. North Carolina (CBS)
  • 3:10 - Butler vs. Arkansas (truTV)
  • 4:00 - Murray State vs. West Virginia (TNT)
  • 4:30 - Texas vs. Nevada (TBS)
  • 6:50 - Kansas State vs. Creighton (TNT)
  • 7:10 - Bucknell vs. Michigan State (CBS)
  • 7:20 - Texas Southern vs. Xavier (TBS)
  • 7:27 - Charleston vs. Auburn (truTV)
  • 9:20 - UMBC vs. Virginia (TNT)
  • 9:40 - Syracuse vs. TCU (CBS)
  • 9:50 - Florida State vs. Missouri (TBS)
  • 9:57 - New Mexico State vs. Clemson (truTV)

Saturday, March 17

  • 12:10 - Alabama vs. Villanova (CBS)
  • 2:40 - Rhode Island vs. Duke (CBS)
  • 5:15 - Buffalo vs. Kentucky (CBS)
  • 6:10 - Loyola-Chicago vs. Tennessee (TNT)
  • 7:10 - Seton Hall vs. Kansas (TBS)
  • 7:45 - Ohio State vs. Gonzaga (CBS)
  • 8:40 - Florida vs. Texas Tech (TNT)
  • 9:40 - Houston vs. Michigan (TBS)
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