And now, finally, an answer to one of the biggest questions as the men’s NCAA Tournament began Thursday: What the heck is a Paladin?
Turns out it’s a heartbreaker. Specifically, it’s a heartbreaker for the Virginia Cavaliers.
In all seriousness, a Paladin is a knight, often known for honor and heroism.
Perhaps they should also take credit for good defence.
The 13th-seeded Paladins of Furman stole the show on Day 1, topping No. 4 seed Virginia 68-67 in a wild finish that gave us the first big upset of the day. A few hours later, No. 15 seed Princeton joined the party, beating No. 2 seed Arizona.
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This is what we want on the first day of Madness: Brackets cracking across the country and double-digit seeds shocking everyone (except themselves, at least if you’re Princeton).
MEN’S TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE:Complete 2023 NCAA Men’s Tournament schedule, results and times
But other top seeds looked dominant — which is what they should look like, especially in their first-round games. It all comes together to make for an exciting second round. But first we have a whole day more of first round games, which could cause even more chaos.
So far, here are the winners and losers from Day 1.
There’s nothing like an upset – or two!
First, in the Virginia-Furman game, the Paladins’ suffocating, collapsing defense panicked Virginia senior Kihei Clark, and he heaved a dangerous pass across the field as the game’s final seconds wound down. That pass was intercepted by Furman’s Garrett Hien, who kicked it to JP Pegues, who had missed his previous three long-range attempts. Pegues calmly buried the 3 to go up 68-67. After a timeout, Virginia’s game-winning attempt was extinguished.
Then, at Arizona-Princeton, the Wildcats went ice cold from the field in the final 4:43 (0-for-7) as Princeton pulled off an improbable 59-55 upset. Arizona missed several shots in the final few minutes that could have won it, and Princeton spoiled the win with free throws. It is the third year in a row that a 15 beats a 2.
After trailing by as many as 13 in the first half and looking half asleep in the first game of the day, the Terrapins came back with 17 points and nine rebounds from sophomore forward Julian Reese to beat West Virginia 67-65. The win advanced Maryland to the second round, where the Terps will take on overall No. 1 seed Alabama. In a back-and-forth slugfest — the game featured nine ties and 11 lead changes — points in the paint (34-24 Maryland) were the difference.
The Terps will have to start and play much better to compete with the Tide on Saturday, but getting a win and coming from behind should give them confidence. This is especially important when you consider how bad Maryland has been away from home (5-11 on Thursday) this season.
A glimpse of the No. 2-seeded Bruins’ dominance Thursday: At one point late in the first half, UCLA had made more shots (16) than UNC Asheville had attempted (15). That didn’t end up being the case at the end, but it was still an impressive 86-53 blitz. The Bruins scored 30 points off Asheville turnovers and dominated the boards 40-25. All five starters scored 10 points or more, except Tyger Campbell – he had seven points but dished out 10 assists.
On a tough day for the ACC (see Virginia), the Blue Devils were never challenged in their 74-51 win over Oral Roberts. One of the best teams in the country over the last few weeks of the regular season, the Blue Devils shot 48.4% from the field and dominated the rebounding game (46-32). Led by Jeremy Roach’s 23 points (on just 17 shots), Duke advances to play No. 4 seed Tennessee on Saturday.
The best freshman in the country, and perhaps the best player in the country, had a rough first NCAA Tournament. The 6-foot-9 forward, a likely NBA lottery pick despite controversy swirling around him, went 0-for-5 from the field in 19 minutes of play and finished with five rebounds, three assists and three turnovers. The No. 1 overall seed still cruised to a victory without him, but Miller’s play will be crucial going forward.
Fans of offense
Man alive, there was some nasty shooting Thursday. A staggering 19 of 32 teams in action shot 43% or less from the field, with 11 teams shooting under 40% – and some of those teams won! No one was worse than Northern Kentucky, which shot 27.5% from the field.
Teams missed easy shots, took bad shots and missed badly on all kinds of shots. The defense is great, but so is watching the ball go through the net. We hope that Friday’s games are more beautiful all around.
No. 1 seed Cougars won 63-52. But the decision to play American guard Marcus Sasser just days after he suffered a serious groin injury will be anyone’s guess, and deservedly so.
Sasser, initially injured in the AAC tournament semifinals last week, is key to the Cougars’ title hopes. After injuring himself again in the first half vs. Northern Kentucky, he didn’t see the floor in the second half. Did the Cougars just cost themselves?
Trivia time: What happened to Virginia basketball on March 16? If you said, “they made history,” you’d be right. It was not the good kind of history – and this year history repeated itself. This is becoming a jinxed date for UVA.
On March 16, 2018, Virginia became the first No. 1 seed to lose to a 16 seed in the Men’s NCAA Tournament. Five years later to the day, UVA again blew a game where it was a clear favorite. What’s worse is how it happened. Tony Bennett’s teams are typically disciplined and smart, so it’s tough to lose because of an extremely stupid pass.
Virginia has not won an NCAA tournament game since the 2019 title, losing twice in the first round since then.