Oh my gosh, can you guys believe that we have to wait another week for some tournament games?!? I am probably going to be doing nothing for the next week until basketball comes back on. But I’m back with a recap of how the seven Big Ten teams did in the NCAA Tournament first and second round games! So let’s cut the chit-chat and get right down to business!
#13 Vermont Catamounts vs #4 Purdue Boilermakers
-The drought is finally over for the Boilermakers. Vincent Edwards and company finished it off with one big push against Vermont. Edwards scored 15 of his 21 points in the second half, and the Boilermakers held off the Catamounts 80-70 on Thursday night for their first victory in the NCAA Tournament in five years. Caleb Swanigan added 16 points, 14 rebounds and four assists for fourth-seeded Purdue, which lost to Arkansas-Little Rock in double-overtime in the first round last year. They also dropped its tournament opener to Cincinnati in 2015. Vermont played a very good first half and was only down 37-36 at the half. But they were unable to come from behind. It was Vermont’s first loss of all of 2017. The Catamounts were the regular-season and tournament champions in the America East and had the nation’s longest active win streak at 21 games. But they lost versatile senior Kurt Steidl to a knee injury in the first half and were unable to make up for a huge disadvantage inside against the bigger, stronger Boilermakers. Anthony Lamb had 20 points and nine rebounds, and Trae Bell-Haynes finished with 15 points, seven boards, and six assists.
#9 Virgina Tech Hokies vs #8 Wisconsin Badgers
-To be honest, there’s little left for Bronson Koenig to accomplish at Wisconsin. Over four years, he has done it all for the Badgers. He’s not ready for his run to end quite yet. Koenig made a school-record eight 3-pointers and scored 28 points while fellow senior Nigel Hayes added 16 as NCAA Tournament-tested Wisconsin advanced in the East Region with an 84-74 victory over Virginia Tech. No team understands the survive-and-advance mentality in this tourney better than Wisconsin, the only school in the country to make the Sweet 16 in the last three years. And the Badgers turned to Koenig and Hayes, two of their four senior starters, to get the job done and get one step closer. Virgina Tech’s Zach Leday scored 17 of his 23 points in the second half to pace the ninth-seeded Hokies, whose first NCAA visit since 2007 ended quickly. Virginia Tech was still within 74-73 when Hayes, who leads all active players with 146 career points in the tournament, scored underneath and completed a three-point play to give Wisconsin a little breathing room and basically ice the game.
#12 Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders vs #5 Minnesota Golden Gophers
-Middle Tennessee took down another Big Ten team in the NCAA Tournament, though the latest victory didn’t really feel like an upset. The Blue Raiders stood up to Minnesota’s rugged defense, then blew past the foul-prone Golden Gophers for an 81-72 victory on Thursday. Middle Tennessee proved it was no one-year wonder after shocking Michigan State as a No. 15 seed last year. Reggie Upshaw scored 19 points and Giddy Potts added 15 for the Blue Raiders who move on to face fourth-seeded Butler in the second round in the next round. No longer a mystery team in March, Middle Tennessee played like seasoned NCAA veterans with the way they held off the Gophers’ comeback attempt from a 17-point deficit in front of a loud and large fan base of Minnesota fans. Blue Raiders’ Reggie Upshaw, a senior captain, responded with seven straight points, including a 3-pointer and a reverse layup during a 7-3 run to help give Middle Tennessee a 10-point lead with 3:40 left which basically iced the game. The Blue Raiders set a school record for victories and a Conference USA record with 17 league wins. A season of regeneration came to an end for fifth-seeded (overseeded) Minnesota which bounced back from an eight-win season in 2015-16 to return to the NCAAs. Amir Coffey had 17 points to lead Minnesota, while Dupree McBrayer added 16 but it wasn’t enough as the Gophers went home early.
#9 Northwestern Wildcats vs #8 Vanderbilt Commodores
-At Northwestern, the party goes on, at Vanderbilt, there is only one question: What was he thinking? Northwestern’s first-ever NCAA Tournament victory, 68-66 over Vanderbilt, came after Commodores guard Matthew Fisher-Davis inexplicably grabbed Bryant McIntosh of the Wildcats on purpose, sending McIntosh to the free throw line for the go-ahead points with 14.6 seconds left. When asked about it after the game he said “I actually thought we were down one,” Fisher-Davis explained after Thursday’s heartbreaker in the West region. “Coach … pointed at him, but he was just telling me that was my matchup. I took it as (I should) foul.” And though Fisher-Davis scored 14 of his 22 points in the second half to help ninth-seeded Vandy (19-16) rally from 15 points down, his mistake was the main takeaway from this game. The sequence was set up after Vandy’s Riley LaChance made a layup with 17.8 seconds remaining to put the Commodores up by one. But seconds after the in-bounds pass, Fisher-Davis reached out and grabbed McIntosh around the waist while the Northwestern guard was dribbling up the backcourt. That put eighth-seeded Northwestern in the double bonus, and McIntosh went to the line and calmly swished the free throws with 14.6 seconds left for a 67-66 lead. They would hold on for the two-point win and their first ever NCAA Tourney win! Check out the silly foul below:
#11 Xavier Musketeers vs #6 Maryland Terripans
-After Trevon Bluiett missed his first seven shots and contributed just 3 points in the first half, Bluiett found his rhythm Thursday night to lead No.11 seed Xavier to a 76-65 upset of sixth-seeded Maryland in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Bluiett shot 6 of 7 during the final 20 minutes to finish with 21 points! Bluiett made four 3s in the second half to help Xavier come back from a 6-point deficit. The Musketeers move on in the West region, marking the third straight year they have advanced to the second round. Maryland came in favored after finishing second in the Big Ten during the regular season but the Terps seemed to be one of the more vulnerable No. 6 seeds in the tournament, primarily because of their youth. Maryland’s young players struggled at times as Xavier shifted from zone to man-to-man. Kevin Huerter finished with 19 points but was just five of 13 from the field and star junior Melo Trimble couldn’t find a rhythm against the Musketeers zone, going 1 for 9 from 3-point range to finish with 13 points, three assists, and three turnovers. Even the Maryland coach, Mark Turgeon came out and said his players had difficulty trying to beat Xavier’s defense. The Terps went long stretches without making baskets and shot just 26 percent from 3-point range, worse in the second half as Xavier played mostly zone. Maryland also had no answer for Xavier big man Sean O’Mara, who had a career night off the bench, forcing his way in the paint. O’Mara, who finished with 18 points on 5 of 6 shooting from the field and 8 of 9 from the free throw line, dominated as Bluiett struggled and kept the pressure on the Terps’ two big men. Maryland fell behind late and couldn’t come back.
#10 Oklahoma State Cowboys vs #7 Michigan Wolverines
-Derrick Walton Jr. stuck to the plan Friday. He kept running the Michigan Wolverines offense against an aggressive Oklahoma State defense and eventually things fell into place…again! Walton scored 26 points and had 11 assists as the Wolverines made a school record 16 3-pointers in a NCAA Tournament game, getting past Oklahoma State 92-91 in the first round of the Midwest Regional. Seventh-seeded Michigan needed EVERY point it could muster in a game that ended with a parade to the free-throw line, a buzzer-beating 3-pointer and a foe that refused to go away. While Michigan made only five shots inside the arc in the second half, they went 11 of 15 from 3-point range. Which drew increasingly louder roars from the crowd and more bewilderment from first-year Cowboys coach Brad Underwood. Walton wound up 6 of 9 on 3s, and Zak Irvin made four more in front of his hometown crowd. Irvin finished with 16 points. Juwan Evans scored 23 points and Jeffrey Carroll had 19 to lead Oklahoma State, but the nation’s eighth-highest-scoring team just couldn’t keep up with Michigan’s 3-point barrage. Heres Walton Jr.’s awesome highlights for the game:
#9 Michigan State Spartans vs #8 Miamai Hurricans
-Two of big time Spartan freshmen showed they could play any way they wanted in their NCAA Tournament debuts, leading the ninth-seeded Spartans to an opening-round 78-58 win over No. 8 seed Miami on Friday night. Freshman forward Nick Ward led the way for Michigan State, scoring 19 points on 8-of-9 shooting, while fellow newcomer Miles Bridges was 8 of 12 from the field and added 18 points in the win. The win came a year after the Spartans suffered a shocking first-round NCAA Tournament loss as a No. 2 seed, and after they trailed 17-5 early in the game. Michigan State then blitzed past the stunned Hurricanes after that, using a 20-2 first-half run to take control for good and shot 64 percent (16 of 25) in the second half. Nick Ward made his first six shots and capped his night with a putback dunk in the closing minutes, while Joshua Langford added 13 points in a win that improved Izzo’s record to 47-18 in the NCAA Tournament. Miami’s Ja’Quan Newton scored 16 points to lead their team, which had won at least one tournament game in each of its previous three trips. Davon Reed added 12 points and Bruce Brown had 11 for the Hurricanes, who shot just 40.4 percent (21 of 52) and struggled to slow Michigan State’s tandem of Ward and Bridges which ultimately was the reason they lost and went home early.