A pair of double-digit seeds advanced Thursday -- No. 12 Middle Tennessee and No. 11 Xavier -- but otherwise we lacked the seed upsets some expected.
We have grades for all of Thursdayâs winners, rating their performance along with a look ahead to whatâs next in the second round.
76-56 over (16) Mount St. Maryâs
Allâs well that ends well, I guess, but nerves were high at halftime when Villanova was only up by one point at halftime against the 16-seed Mt. St. Maryâs. The best thing to come from Thursdayâs win was to see the Wildcatsâ bench show up with Donte DiVincenzo and Eric Paschall offering quality contributions as they pulled away in the second half. Much tougher tests await in the second round, where that bench could be a key to advancing to the Sweet 16.
84-74 over (9) Virginia Tech
The Badgers exchanged haymakers with Buzz Williamsâ Hokies team in the First Round. But Bronson Koenig showed up in a big way (28 points), and the team with more tournament experience ended up making the big plays down the stretch. If Koenig is hot, the Badgers are much more dangerous tournament team, and now post a serious threat to Villanova in the Second Round on Saturday.
76-71 over (12) UNC Wilmington
Virginia played Villanova earlier this season in Philadelphia, led by nine at halftime but saw that edge evaporate as the Wildcats caught fire from deep in the second half. As they lost the lead, and eventually the game, there were a handful of empty possessions that made Virginia look like a team that was lacking offensive options in those half-court, crunch-time moments. London Perrantes and Marial Shayok changed that narrative on Thursday, rallying UVA from 15 down with 47 combined points vs. UNC Wilmington. Those players assuming those roles at this time is huge, and good news for Tony Bennett should the Cavaliers meet up with Villanova later in the tournament.
80-65 over (13) East Tennessee State
Devin Robinson is, and has been, a phenomenal talent and capable of having a long and productive career at the next level. Against East Tennessee State, the dominated above the rim and led the Gators with 24 points, matching a career high for the 6-8 junior. Other than Robinsonâs great performance, things werenât great for Florida. KeVaughn Allen couldnât get anything going (1 for 11), there were 14 turnovers and an underwhelming showing in the first half. Given Virginiaâs strong performance against earlier in the day, Florida will likely need more than Robinson to advance to the Sweet 16.
66-46 over (16) South Dakota State
Gonzaga didnât cover the spread, but thatâs about the only criticism on the table after putting South Dakota State away in the second half of a solid first round win. SDSU star Mike Daum got 17 points, but the best defensive team Mark Few has brought into the tournament lived up to its reputation.
68-66 over (9) Vanderbilt
No one had a better day than Northwestern, adding to the memorable run of this first-ever NCAA Tournament by holding on in a two-point thriller. The house was packed with purple-clad Wildcats fans who had made the trip into town, and Bryant McIntosh was dialed in (25 points on 16 attempts). There pressure of making the tournament is gone, now Chris Collins has them playing loose and they could be a handful for Gonzaga on Saturday.
60-58 over (12) Princeton
Notre Dame didnât have a good rhythm on offense, and it allowed Princeton to hang around long enough to get a great look at burying the Irish with three-pointer in the final seconds. Bonzie Colson got 18 points, seven rebounds and a pair of blocks, but heâs about to run into a much tougher front line with West Virginia in the second round. Mike Brey praised his teamâs defense after the game, but offense is whatâs gotten them to the Elite Eight each of the last two years and theyâll need a better performance on that end to get back in 2017.
86-80 over (13) Bucknell
The Mountaineers dominated on the boards, pulled down 42 percent of its misses and squeezed the upset hope out of Bucknell with their full-court pressure. Tarik Phillip and Lamont West brought great effort, energy and scoring off the bench, and having great bench play is going to be a big-time factor in WVUâs second-round matchup against Notre Dame. The press can get Notre Dame out of sync offensively, and if Bob Huggins can go eight or nine deep in his rotation they can press all day.
76-65 over (6) Maryland
In a game where Melo Trimble was the biggest advertised star and Edmond Sumnerâs absence was the prevailing storyline for Xavier, Trevon Bluiett proved to be the deciding factor in powering this experienced Musketeers team to the Second Round. Bluiett dropped 18 of his 21 points after halftime, and if he can turn his late-game explosions into a 40-minute performance itâs not crazy to think he can carry Xavier deep in this tournament.
86-80 over (14) FGCU
Too much size, too much talent, too many dunks, even for Dunk City. Florida Gulf Coast brought the fight but the Seminoles responded well, putting on a dunk contest of their own thanks to above-the-rim play from Dwayne Bacon and Jonathan Isaac. The Seminoles overwhelmed FGCU throughout the game but could not put it away easily with 61.5 percent free throw shooting.
85-77 over (10) VCU
Joe Rahon never got to play in the NCAA Tournament during his two freshman and sophomore seasons as a starter for Boston College, but now heâs here in 2017 with Saint Maryâs and making the most of the opportunity. Rahon had 16 points, and star big man Jock Landale had 18 points and 13 rebounds, giving the country a preview of the potential thorn in Arizonaâs side for Saturdayâs Second Round matchup.
100-82 over (15) North Dakota
A good portion of the country is going to wake up to the Lauri Markkanen here in the NCAA Tournament. The 7-foot freshman had 20 points in the First Round, doing most of his work inside the arc. Saint Maryâs might have to deal with his 43 percent three-point shooting in the next round, and the continued emergence of freshman Rawle Alkins (20 points, four rebounds, five assists) as on of Arizonaâs most important players.
84-73 over (12) Nevada
Iowa State and Nevada played the up-tempo game we expected, but the Wolf Pack played catch up all night, chasing Monte Morris. The Cyclonesâ dynamic guard had 19 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. He was the star of their Big 12 conference tournament title run and heâs already in takeover mode. This is bad news for Purdue.
80-70 over (13) Vermont
Caleb Swaniganâs 27th double-double of the season put him in college basketballâs single-season record book next to Thomas Robinson, behind only Michael Beasley (28), Tim Duncan (29) and Blake Griffin (30). Vermont was riding a hot streak but had no answer for Swanigan down low, though there are few teams in the country, much less the Midwest Region, that do. This was the best team in the Big Ten for a reason, and when they get the ball inside and attack the rim Purdue looks like one of the best teams in the country.
81-72 over (5) Minnesota
Middle Tennessee made history as a 12-seed betting favorite, then proved the oddsmakers right with a great win, advancing to the Second Round for the second-straight season. Minnesota got into trouble with fouls, and once Reggie Lynch was on the sideline it was an open rim for Reggie Upshaw, Giddy Potts and the rest of the Blue Raiders. Middle Tennessee wonât be a betting favorite against Butler on Saturday, but this win proves theyâre worthy candidate for this yearâs Cinderella story.
76-64 over (13) Winthrop
Avery Woodsonâs 18-point outburst, more than double his average, is a good sign for the weekend, but Butler was not overly efficient on offense in the win. If Keon Johnson or Xavier Cooks had been shooting the ball a little bit better the Bulldogs might not have held a double-digit lead over Winthrop in the final minutes. Not a bad performance, but not Butlerâs best.