With round one of the NCAA Tournament in the books, let’s recap the West region, beginning with the top seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs.
Gonzaga vs. South Dakota State
The Jackrabbits came out swinging in this game and made Gonzaga fans sweat. South Dakota State held the lead for the first 17 minutes of this game and the impossible was all a sudden within reach. Then Gonzaga showed the world why they are a number one seed and blew the Summit League champions out of the water in the second half. The California transfer had 16 points in the blowout win which ended 66-46.
Northwestern vs Vanderbilt
This game has definitely had the highlight of the tournament so far. Unfortunately for Vanderbilt star by Matthew Fisher-Davis it is a highlight he will want to forget. Vanderbilt had a 66-65 point lead with 17 seconds left in the game when Fisher-Davis fouled Northwestern star Bryant McIntosh intentionally obviously thinking they had a foul to give. But Vanderbilt was actually in the bonus and the senior McIntosh knocked down both free throws to give Northwestern the lead and win their first ever NCAA tournament game 68-66. They will have a tough task ahead of them as they face the number one seeded Gonzaga on Saturday.
Notre Dame vs Princeton
This game looked like it was on the verge of an upset. Notre Dame could not finish off this pesky Princeton team. More than a few times Notre Dame was able to get the lead to double digits in the second half, and every time Princeton would fight back. The Fighting Irish would eventually win 60-58 but Princeton had two open looks at the end of the game to give themselves the lead, both hitting the back rim and into the arms of Notre Dame center Bonzie Colson who had a game-high 18 points.
West Virginia vs Bucknell
Another agonizingly close game from start to finish, West Virginia never seemed to be able to put the Bison away. Bucknell struggled to beat the renowned West Virginia Press all game and were repeatedly turned over in the first half, heading to the locker room with a 12 point deficit. Three-point specialist Kimbral Mackenzie brought Bucknell within three, hitting a number of big shots. But with star forward Nana Foulland on the bench for much of the second half, the heroics of Mackenzie were not enough and Bucknell succumbed 86-80. West Virginia will take on the number five seed Notre Dame in the second round.
Maryland vs Xavier
Trevon Bluiett stole the show with an incredible second half, hitting five straight threes to make turn a close game into a seemingly done deal for Xavier. The star guard struggled mightily in the first half, going 1-8 from the field for only three points but came alive in the second half, going on a 13-0 run by himself. Maryland simply did not have an answer for him as their lack of depth became apparent. Melo Trimble struggled in this game, and the supporting cast could not pick up the slack, eventually falling 76-65.
Florida State vs Florida Gulf Coast
FGCU tried their best to recreate the magical run they had a few seasons ago but ran into a Florida State team that was just too talented. Future NBAer’s Dwayne Bacon and Jonathan Isaac combined for 42 points as the Seminoles never really looked threatened despite fairly close score of 86-80. This was the first appearance in the tournament for Florida State in five years and they look like a really strong team that could cause some problems in the later rounds. They will take on a very pesky Xavier team in the next round. They will hope that their length and athleticism will be able to slow down Trevon Bluiett.
Saint Mary’s vs VCU
A lot of people questioned Saint Mary’s because of their rather easy schedule, but there is no doubt that this team has talent. They demolished VCU on the glass and could not miss a shot in the first half, hitting over 60% of their shots to have a 15 point lead by half. It was pretty smooth sailing from there on out despite the heroic attempts by VCU senior JeQuan Lewis in the second half. The Gales won 85-77, lead by Jock Landale who scored 18 points and also grabbed 13 rebounds.
Arizona vs North Dakota
This game was a blowout from start to finish as Arizona ascerted their dominance over the Fighting Hawks. Future NBA lottery pick Lauri Markkanen had a big night, scoring 20 points on eight of 12 shooting while Drick Bernstein also scored 20 for North Dakota. Arizona was on another level than North Dakota Friday night and won comfortably 100-82. They will face Saint Mary’s, a team with the second best defence in the country in the second round, it could be the first stunning upset of the tournament.