If it was possible to have a day that was the opposite of Thursday, we pretty much had it on Friday. Whereas Thursday was a wild day with historic upsets – three double-digits seeds won by a point on the same day for the first time in NCAA Tournament history – Friday was, well, ho-hum. In fact, it was almost a historic day in just about the opposite fashion.
The first 15 games of the day saw every higher seed win. Since the NCAA Tournament field expanded to 64 teams, there has never been a day in the round of 64 where all 16 higher seeds won. Then we had the last game of the day. It was one that was full of ridiculousness, quite frankly, but the most important thing is that the game kept the day from being historic. No. 11 Dayton beat No. 6 Providence 66-53, providing the lone upset of the day.
Even before the Flyers embarked on shutting down Providence stars LaDontae and Kris Dunn, there was the reality of the game being played in Columbus – not far from Dayton’s campus, despite the fact that they were the lower seed – as well as the tip time. They game tipped minutes before 11 p.m. Eastern time and was in Columbus, so it was in the Eastern time zone. The games in Seattle – three hours behind Columbus – were all done an hour before this one was. Something about that just seems wrong. It’s the kind of start time you expected to see on the high school travel circuit back in the day.
The start time of this game goes back to the first game of the day tipping after 2 p.m. Eastern, while the first game in Seattle, oddly, tipped before 1 p.m. Eastern. That means in Seattle, they started before 10 a.m. local time. It then left arena officials in Columbus scrambling after the second game. As is the case at many conference tournaments, tickets are sold for a doubleheader session, meaning that the arena must be cleared in between sessions. The third game in Columbus tipped after 8 p.m. as a result.
The late start may well have affected the quality of play, and possibly the officiating, though no one on the two teams would ever admit that. The two teams were very slow out of the gates, combining for just 13 points by the midway point of the first half, and the fact that it was 28-25 Dayton at the half was amazing. For much of the first half, it seemed neither team would crack 20. They didn’t top 20 combined points until almost 12 minutes into the game.
Providence stayed right with the Flyers for the early part of the second half, but then went almost five minutes without scoring. Then once the Friars got within 44-41, they seemed to run out of gas. Dayton got the lead back to 50-42 by the last media timeout. It was at that point that the game got out of hand, in more ways than one.
As Providence head coach Ed Cooley walked into the team huddle, he threw his chair out of the way in frustration with his team. He was then assessed a technical foul. Naturally, Cooley was livid, and plenty of people weighed in on social media about it. It helped seal the deal, as Providence wasn’t going to capture some offense in time to win it.
Since the game technically ended after 1 a.m. Eastern time, one can say that Friday was a perfect day for the higher seeds – but that’s not how this works. At the end of the day (no pun intended), there has still never been a Round of 64 day in which all 16 higher seeds won. Friday was a close one, though.
NCAA Tournament Round-Up
- The No. 1 and No. 2 seeds that played on Friday all won by double digits. No. 1 Duke (South) ran out to a big early lead and was never seriously challenged in their 85-56 romp over No. 16 Robert Morris. Later, No. 1 Wisconsin (West) got a big double-double of 27 points and 12 rebounds from Frank Kaminsky to beat No. 16 Coastal Carolina 86-72. No. 2 Kansas (Midwest) got the Big 12 on the board by handling No. 15 New Mexico State 75-56, while No. 2 Virginia (East) got a good push from No. 15 Belmont before beating the Bruins 79-67 despite 25 points and nine rebounds from Craig Bradshaw. And in one of the last games of the day, No. 2 Gonzaga (South) made a 13-point halftime lead stand up with an 86-76 win over No. 15 North Dakota State.
- Duke will take on No. 8 San Diego State, who knocked off No. 9 St. John’s 76-64 despite 21 points and ten rebounds from Sir’Dominic Pointer. Staying in the South Region, Gonzaga will take on No. 7 Iowa, who surprisingly ran away from No. 10 Davidson 83-52, outscoring the Wildcats 45-23 in the second half.
- Wisconsin’s next opponent will be No. 8 Oregon, who held off No. 9 Oklahoma State 79-73 behind 27 points from Joseph Young. The Pac-12 Player of the Year scored 23 of those points from a stretch that ran from 4:13 left in the first half to less than five minutes into the second half.
- On Sunday, Kansas will take on in-state rival Wichita State. The No. 7 seed Shockers got 27 points from Fred VanVleet and overcame a three-point halftime deficit to beat No. 10 Indiana 81-76.
- Virginia will get a rematch of an NCAA Tournament game from last year on Sunday, as No. 7 Michigan State held off No. 10 Georgia 70-63. The Spartans had a balanced attack with Denzel Valentine (16 points, six rebounds, six assists), Travis Trice (15 points, six assists), Branden Dawson (14 points, six rebounds) and Bryn Forbes (14 points off the bench) leading the way.
- Although the No. 12 seeds were trendy upset picks, especially given their history in the tournament, all four of them lost their first game this time around. Two went down early in the day, starting with No. 12 Wyoming as No. 5 Northern Iowa (East) took care of them by a 71-54 margin. Shortly thereafter, No. 5 West Virginia (Midwest) scored the last six points of the game to fend off No. 12 Buffalo 68-62. The Mountaineers got 17 points and nine rebounds from Devin Williams, but needed a three-pointer with the shot clock running down from Tarik Phillip, known as a defensive specialist, to regain the lead for good.
- Northern Iowa will take on No. 4 Louisville, who barely pulled out a 57-55 win over No. 13 UC Irvine in Seattle. Wayne Blackshear, who was a McDonald’s All-American but hasn’t exactly had a stellar career, came up big when the Cardinals needed him to, leading the way with 19 points and seven rebounds.
- West Virginia will take on No. 4 Maryland, who held off No. 13 Valparaiso 65-62 behind a balanced attack that saw three Terrapins score 14 points, including Melo Trimble, who added ten rebounds.
- Finally, Dayton’s next opponent will be No. 3 Oklahoma, who made a nine-point halftime lead stand up in a 69-60 win over No. 14 Albany.
Butler should have forward Roosevelt Jones on Saturday when they take on Notre Dame. The junior, who missed all of last season with a wrist injury, sprained his knee in the Bulldogs’ win over Texas on Thursday.
There was an NIT game and a CIT game on the slate Friday. In the second round of the NIT, Vanderbilt got a near-triple-double from Wade Baldwin (20 points, ten rebounds and nine assists) beat South Dakota State, who was fresh off a win at Colorado State on Wednesday, by a 92-77 count. In the CIT second round, Eastern Kentucky survived against visiting High Point 66-65.
By the end of the day, eight teams will be in the Sweet 16.
- The day starts in Louisville, where No. 14 UAB takes on No. 11 UCLA (12:10 p.m.) in the South Region, followed by No. 8 Cincinnati taking on No. 1 Kentucky (2:40 p.m.) in the Midwest Region.
- Portland is where the next game is, as No. 10 Ohio State takes on No. 2 Arizona (5:10 p.m.) in the West Region, followed by No. 5 Utah vs. No. 4 Georgetown (7:45 p.m.) in the South Region.
- In Jacksonville, No. 14 Georgia State battles No. 6 Xavier (6:10 p.m.) and No. 5 Arkansas taking on No. 4 North Carolina (8:40 p.m.) in West Regional action.
- Finally, in Pittsburgh No. 8 NC State takes on No. 1 Villanova (7:10 p.m.) in the East Region, followed by No. 6 Butler and No. 3 Notre Dame in what should be a good battle in the Midwest Region at 9:40 p.m.
- There is also an NIT game on tap, with Alabama visiting Miami (11:00 a.m.), and four second round CIT games, two of which are matchups of teams with over 20 wins: UL-Lafayette at Sam Houston (3:00 p.m.) and Northern Arizona at Sacramento State (10:00 p.m.).