Finally, the madness of March has arrived. The best of college basketball is laid out in the form of 64 teams taking the hardwood to begin the NCAA Tournament.
Note: The update was written through the afternoon and does not include the night games. Those games will be part of the following update.
No. 10 Oklahoma Sooners vs. No. 7 Rhode Island Rams: The critiqued Oklahoma squad had been the object of scrutiny headed into the tournament, with a 2-8 record coming in despite leading college hoops scorer Tre Young. Even with the disturbing tailspin, the Sooners were still the pick to advance.
Early on things went as expected; Young notched 10 points, the Sooners had the 35-31 lead at the half and points were not hard to come by for either team.
In the second half, the Rams came alive by knocking down 3-pointers and hitting 42 percent from range. They took the game to Oklahoma, playing distance basketball and challenging anyone but Young to make shots. Jared Terrell hit a shot from the bleachers on his way a Rams lead and 13 points. Fatts Russell chipped in 15 off the bench, while the Sooners went ice cold.
But Young found his shot late, knocking down jumpers and free throws on his way to 28 points, sending the 69-69 match to overtime. In OT, the reliance on Young proved too great an obstacle and cost them an 83-78 loss.
Gonzaga allowed plenty of open looks from range to UNC Greensboro, who promptly shot 0-13 in the first half from deep. It will not burn them in the first round, but it is something to watch for in later rounds.
Tennessee lit up Wright State to the tune of 26 points. Playing tough down low on both ends and riding Admiral Schofield’s 15 points, 12 rebound double-double. If Miami advances, Tennessee will give the 3-point shooting Hurricanes trouble.
The biggest rap on Kansas was the reliance on the 3-pointers to fuel their offense. Pennsylvania gave them a run for their money early, leading for all but the final three minutes as the Jayhawks struggled to find a shot.
Devonte’ Graham was huge in the first round win for the Jayhawks, with 29 points and six assists. His 19 first-half points were the only thing that kept the Jayhawks ahead in their sluggish start.
The South Dakota State Jack Rabbits came in as the heavy underdog to Ohio State. However, their 52 percent shooting from deep have kept them neck-in-neck with the Big Ten opponent. Mike Daum lead the charge with 17 first-half points, doing what he has done all season long: Tossing a barrage of 3-pointers up.
Another exciting prospect with a hot start to the tournament as Marvin Bagley III went 10-for-14 shooting with 22 points and seven rebounds. With Oklahoma already bounced, Bagley might just be the best player in the Midwest bracket.
No. 3 Tennessee Volunteers 73-47 over No. 14 Wright State Raiders
No. 7 Rhode Island Rams 83-78 (OT) over No. 10 Oklahoma Sooners
No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks 76-60 over No. 16 Pennsylvania Quakers
No. 2 Duke Blue Devils 89-67 over No. 15 Iona Gaels
No. 4 Gonzaga Bulldogs 68-64 over No. 13 Greensboro Spartans
Photo: Oklahoma’s Jamuni McNeace (4) grabs a rebound in front of Rhode Island’s Stanford Robinson (13) during the first half in the first round of the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament, Thursday, March 15, 2018, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)