Less than 12 hours removed from the culmination of an entertaining First Four games, the 2021 men’s NCAA Tournament formally began Friday.
No. 1 seeds Baylor and Illinois will be in action later in the afternoon, with other intriguing matchups sprinkled throughout, in the first true day of March Madness in nearly two years. And if Friday’s games rival the First Four in terms of down-to-the-wire finishes and drama, college basketball fans will be in for a real treat.
Follow along from the first tip to the final buzzer for the latest updates, reaction and analysis from USA TODAY Network reporters, editors and columnists.
West Virginia pulled away fully from Morehead State in the second half to advance with a 84-67 win. Miles McBride led the way for the Mountaineers with 30 points.
The victory was the 900th of WVU coach Bob Huggins’ career.
The Wildcats got a good challenge from the Eagles but proved in to the end to be too much for the No. 12 seed in a 73-63 victory. Villanova has not lost its first NCAA Tournament game since 2013.
Buddy Boeheim was brilliant, scoring 30 points on 11-for-15 shooting, including a 7-for-10 mark from 3-point range. His efforts helped the No. 11-seeded Orange cruise past Mountain West champion San Diego State, 78-62.
No. 10 Rutgers downed No. 7 Clemson 60-56 in a back-and-forth contest in the Midwest Region. The victory was the Scarlet Knights’ first in the NCAA Tournament since 1983.
Caleb McConnell, Jacob Young and Geo Baker all scored 13 points for Rutgers and Ron Harper Jr. joined them in double-digits with 10 points.
No. 3 seed West Virginia entered halftime against No. 14 Morehead State with a 38-31 lead. A victory by the Mountaineers would mark the 900th win in Huggins’ distinguished coaching career.
The No. 5 Wildcats lead feisty Winthrop 34-33 at halftime. Will we see yet another big first-round upset?
No. 11 seed Syracuse is eyeing an upset after hitting halftime with a 32-18 lead on San Diego State. Buddy Boeheim, son of Orange coach Jim Boeheim, is leading the way with 16 points on 6-for-8 shooting. The Aztecs are shooting just 22.6% from the field.
At the end of a back-and-forth first half, Clyde Trapp raced the length of the floor for a buzzer-beater layup to put the seventh-seeded Tigers up 26-23. The Scarlet Knights are 2 of 13 from deep.
FINAL: No. 13 North Texas 78, No. 4 Purdue 69
One day, three overtimes. Oh how we missed you, March Madness. This result brought the third major upset of the day; Oral Roberts knocked off Ohio State, while Oregon State defeated Tennessee.
The Mean Green outscored the Boilermakers 15-8 in the overtime to complete the upset. Javion Hamlet scored 20 points with 11 rebounds and five assists.
It was North Texas’ first NCAA men’s basketball tournament win ever.
Counting Michigan State’s loss in the “First Four” to UCLA, the Big Ten is 0-3 in overtimes this tournament.
Check out this ridiculous and-one to tie the game late by Purdue freshman Jaden Ivey, who has been excellent for the Boilermakers.
FINAL: Houston 87, Cleveland State 56
Unlike fellow two-seed Ohio State, which lost via a remarkable upset by Oral Roberts, Houston had little trouble in its first-round matchup, dispatching the Vikings with ease. Quentin Grimes paced Houston with a team-high 18 points and dished out four assists.
FINAL: Wisconsin 85, North Carolina 62
Not many people saw this coming, as the Badgers blew out the Tar Heels in somewhat shocking fashion.
Wisconsin had been inconsistent on offense all season, but the Badgers found their stroke on Friday, going 13-for-27 from deep as a team. It was Roy Williams’ first career loss in the Round of 64 and the Tar Heels’ earliest tournament exit since 1999.
Wisconsin’s Brad Davison led all players with 29 points.
Oklahoma State skates by Liberty
FINAL: No. 4 Oklahoma State 69, No. 13 Liberty 60
The final margin showed a nine-point victory for the Cowboys over No. 13 seeded Liberty, which couldn’t hold onto a halftime lead. Cade Cunningham began making things happen in the second half, got to the free throw line and finished with 15 points.
The storyline of Day 1 of the men’s tournament has been the stark disparities between what’s happening in Indiana and the NCAA women’s tournament in Texas — whether it pertains to coronavirus testing, amenities or gifts.
“In a season that has focused on justice and equality it’s disheartening that we are addressing the glaring deficiencies and inequities in the WOMEN’S and men’s NCAA tournament experiences for the student-athletes, but here we are,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said.
“It’s … time for the NCAA leadership to reevaluate the value they place on women,” she added.
Oklahoma State is no longer the lone No. 4 seed in trouble, although the Cowboys have maintained a small lead on Liberty (TBS).
Fourth-seeded Purdue, playing in its home state, trails No. 13 North Texas 32-24 (TNT) at halftime. The Boilermakers are shooting 25% from three-point range and 30.4% overall. The Mean Green, champions of Conference USA, clearly have upset on the mind.
Wisconsin entered with six losses in its last eight. That didn’t stop the eight-seeded Badgers from putting up 40 points (to UNC’s 24) in the first half thanks to 6-for-14 shooting as a team from 3-point range. Brad Davison had 16 points.
No. 13 Liberty took a 30-27 lead into halftime and is playing the game at its own pace. CadCunningham did not register a field goal and had one point through the first 20 minutes.
FINAL: No. 12 Oregon State 70, No. 5 Tennessee 56
The second significant upset of Day 1. The Beavers ripped through the Pac-12 tournament to earn an automatic bid and haven’t looked back.
Key stat: Oregon State went 10-for-21 (47.6%) from 3-point land, while Tennessee mustered a 5-for-26 showing from behind the arc.
Cade Cunningham, a potential No. 1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft, will be on display leading the Oklahoma State Cowboys against No. 13 Liberty and Atlantic Sun Player of the Year Darius McGhee. The game is on TBS.
FINAL: No. 8 Loyola-Chicago 71, No. 9 Georgia Tech 60
In a tightly contested game (maybe the whistle favored the victors), the Ramblers outrebounded the Yellow Jackets on the offensive glass 13-0 and that proved to be the difference, especially considering Georgia Tech shot 57.4% from the field.
Lucas Williamson finished with 21 points, six rebounds and four assists, while four Ramblers starters reached double-digit points. Braden Norris added 16 points, eight assists and was 4-for-7 from 3-point range (as was Williamson).
Georgia Tech certainly missed Moses Wright, the 6-foot-9 ACC Player of the Year.
The best part of all this? More Sister Jean – and the Ramblers will play again Sunday against No. 1 seed Illinois.
No. 12 Oregon State, one of the hottest teams in the country fresh off its Pac-12 Conference tournament title, leads fifth-seeded Tennessee 50-34 at the under-12 media timeout.
The Beavers have led by as much as 20.
FINAL: No. 1 Baylor 79, No. 16 Hartford 55
A slow 10 minutes did not stop Baylor from blowing out Hartford. MaCio Teague led the Bears with 22 points. Neither 1-seed that played Friday appeared to be bothered much by their 16th-seeded opponents. The Bears had to be pleased with the other result in the top of their region, as Oral Roberts upset 2-seed Ohio State.
FINAL: No. 15 Oral Roberts 75, No. 2 Ohio State 72
It didn’t take long for the first major upset of the 2021 men’s NCAA Tournament to happen, as the Golden Eagles and Buckeyes delighted with an overtime thriller.
It is Oral Roberts’ first NCAA Tournament victory since 1974; the Golden Eagles are the ninth No. 15 seed to knock out a No. 2.
Oral Roberts’ Kevin Obanor played the part of hero with 30 points. His free throws with 13 seconds left in overtime sealed the win after he made two free throws with 14.9 seconds left to tie the game at 64 and force overtime.
Sophomore guard Max Abmas – the nation’s leading scorer – made key plays down the stretch to help the mid-major pull off the bracket-busting upset and finished with 29 points.
The Buckeyes had multiple chances to tie it in the final seconds – including a wide-open look for Duane Washington Jr. (18 points) from the top of the key. E.J. Liddell led Ohio State with 23 points.
ACC Player of the Year Moses Wright is unavailable for No. 8 Georgia Tech against No. 9 Loyola-Chicago because he tested positive for COVID-19. Teammate Jose Alvarado, a senior guard, is wearing Wright’s No. 5 in his honor.
The Yellow Jackets jumped out to an early lead against the Ramblers thanks to scoring in the paint.
Texas Tech’s dominant 2nd half downs Utah State
FINAL: No. 6 Texas Tech 65, No. 11 Utah State 53
The Red Raiders trailed by three at halftime, but they outscored the Aggies by 15 in the second half to walk away with a comfortable victory. In his first NCAA tournament game, Mac McClung wasn’t efficient (6-for-16 from the field), but he had a game-high 16 points and was one of four Texas Tech starters to hit double figures.
Sister Jean. Butler Blue IV. All of the cuteness. The basketball has been good, but this might be better.
Connecticut women’s head coach Geno Auriemma told reporters that the women are receiving daily antigen testing for COVID-19, while the men’s side receives PCR daily testing.
NCAA President Mark Emmert told three news outlets, including USA TODAY Sports, there are no different risks from either test.
“I’m not a medical expert so not going to get into a debate about PCR and antigen. All the health experts said the protocol that we’re using in all of our venues and all of our championships has no different at all in terms of our ability to mitigate risk,” Emmert said.
There have already been complaints about disparities between the two tournaments in other aspects (see bottom for more).
FINAL: Illinois 78, Drexel 49
No drama here for the 1-seed Illini, who had four players score double digits.
Arkansas handles Colgate after early scare
FINAL: Arkansas 85, Colgate 68
From 14 down in the first half to a 17-point victory, the Razorbacks handled Colgate with relative ease throughout the second half after leading at halftime by three. Justin Smith poured in 29 points for Arkansas.
For Colgate, due to the Patriot League’s scheduling, it was just its sixth opponent this season.
FINAL: Florida 75, Virginia Tech 70
The first “real” game of March Madness delivered, as No. 7 Florida defeated No. 10 Virginia Tech.
SEC Player of the Year Tre Mann delivered the dagger with 23.4 seconds remaining in overtime. The Hokies forced the extra five minutes on Nahiem Alleyne’s 3-pointer with 1.4 seconds remaining in regulation to tie the game at 64 in the first game of the day — a fitting start to March Madness.
Florida trailed by 10 at one point.
Early candidate for pass of the day here by Arkansas’ Davonte Davis:
And early candidate for rejection of the game by Florida’s Colin Castleton:
Florida guard Tyree Appleby was helped off the court during his team’s first-round NCAA Tournament game Friday after being hit by an inadvertent elbow from Virginia Tech’s Keve Aluma.
Appleby was defending Aluma closely when the Hokies forward went to make a one-handed pass across the court and caught Appleby in the forehead. The junior immediately went down holding his head and blood was visible on the court.
Florida leads Virginia Tech late.
No. 11 Utah State and No. 6 Texas Tech are trading runs early in the first half on that matchup, while No. 1 Illinois is having little trouble handling 16-seed Drexel, as the Illini took a 39-21 lead into halftime.
Colgate and Arkansas are back from halftime, while Virginia Tech and Florida appears it will come down to the wire.
Colgate jumped out to a 14-point lead in the first half vs. Arkansas, but the Razorbacks scored 17 unanswered points to take a three-point lead into the locker room. The last Colgate points, on a Jack Ferguson 3-pointer, came with 5:30 remaining in the half. Arkansas reeled off its run over a four-minute span to head into halftime with a 36-33 lead.
Jordan Burns, the Patriot League Player of the Year, has yet to score and was 0-for-6 from the field. He picked up his third foul with 46 seconds left in the half.
In the first game of the first round, No. 10 Virginia Tech matched up against No. 7 Florida. The Hokies started 5-for-9 from three-point range, and Hunter Cattoor made his first three attempts from deep, while the Gators as a team were 1-for-6 from three.
Virginia Tech used some seriously selfless play to create space (and this isn’t bad defense from Florida, either).
In the same corner of the South region, No. 14 Colgate and No. 3 Arkansas was the second game of the day to tip off (TruTV). Through the first 14 minutes, Colgate has yet to be outmatched physically and is shooting well from deep to build an 11-point lead.
Pictures surfaced Thursday showing the stark differences in gifts that were presented to women’s basketball players compared to men’s. Stanford sports performance coach Ali Kershner posted photos of the facilities inside the Indianapolis-area bubble (where the men are playing) compared to the San Antonio bubble (where the women are).
The NCAA acknowledged the discrepancy in amenities, citing space limitations — although those on the ground quickly disputed the point — and said “we want to be responsive to the needs of our participating teams, and we are actively working to enhance existing resources at practice courts, including additional weight training equipment.”
The men’s tournament had outdoor space at a nearby minor league baseball stadium, while the lone opportunity for fresh air on the women’s side is the walk from the team hotel to coronavirus testing sites. There is even a sizable quality difference between the “swag bags” men’s and women’s players received.
Contributing: Chris Bumbaca, Scott Gleeson, Erick Smith