We did have two or three major upsets in the first day of the real NCAA tournament, but the teams expected to go long mostly avoided any problems, as Wisconsin beat American, Syracuse overcame Western Michigan, Florida struggled against Albany, Michigan State had no problem against Delaware, Villanova destroyed Milwaukee and Louisville found it quite difficult to overcome Manhattan.
As we mentioned, not everything went smoothly, and Florida, a #1 seed and the number one team in the nation going into the tournament, found life quite difficult against Albany. The Big Danes showed momentum, following their win in the First Four, counts for a lot in college basketball, making the Gators sweat until the final minutes. Florida needed Dorian Finney-Smith with big 16 points off the bench to carry them through, getting a 16-6 run late in the game to finally create some separation and win 67-55.
Wisconsin probably got the most impressive result of the night if you ignore their opponents. The Badgers and American out of the Patriot league were able to make a game out of it through the first half, ending 32-22. The second one? The Badgers allowed only 13 points en route to a 75-35 win, getting 18 points from Traevon Jackson, setting the #2 seed with a game against Oregon in the round of 32.
At this point of the season Syracuse aren’t the favorites they were once considered to be, but a #3 seed is still expected to go places. They had no problem showing they can win on neutral ground, at least against woeful Western Michigan, 77-53. Trevor Cooney was red hot from beyond the arc with 18 points, getting help from C.J. Fair with 14 and Tyler Ennis with 16 points. Next up for them are Dayton, hoping they’ve wasted their fortune on the Buckeyes.
For Michigan State, it seems that more than any presidential backing they’ve been getting, it’s the return of injured players that means Final Four potential for them. Delaware were no match for Adreian Payne having a career game with 41 points and 8 rebounds. The Fighting Blue Hens kept sending him to the line, and Payne knocked down 17-of-17 shots, as the Spartans advance to face Harvard next.
Villanova get the #2 seed despite being a Big East team, and they proved that facing the likes of Milwaukee isn’t going to be a challenge. The Wildcats won 73-53 with a good game from Darrun Hilliard II, scoring 16 points. They’ll be playing their former Big East rivals UConn in the next round.
Last but not least are Louisville, who probably deserved a higher seed than #4, found themselves in a more complicated than expected game vs Manhattan. The Cardinals, the American conference champions, overcame through 18 points from Russ Smith, setting them up with a game against the very tough Saint Louis.