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March Madness Day 1 recap: Middle Tennessee, Northwestern steal spotlight

Northwestern Wildcats celebrate the 68-66 victory against the Vanderbilt Commodores following the first round of the NCAA tournament at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Northwestern Wildcats celebrate the 68-66 victory against the Vanderbilt Commodores following the first round of the NCAA tournament at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports less

The hysteria of March Madness is contingent upon first-round upsets. On the first day of the NCAA tournament's first round, the slipper did not fit for many of the likely Cinderellas and the ones that did happen felt like foregone conclusions anyway.

Middle Tennessee State pulled off the biggest upset on the first day of on Thursday.

Then again, it really wasn't an upset.

Ridiculously misseeded by the selection committee, the Blue Raiders (31-4) made the fifth-seeded Minnesota Gophers look like the underdog in the program's second consecutive year of knocking off a single-digit seed. Except last year's stunning upset over No. 2 seed Michigan State no one saw coming.

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"I think we're totally different than we were last year," MTSU coach Kermit Davis said. "I just think (about) our depth and our experience and the amount of games we've won (31)."

In other words, this year's team is no Cinderella, and appears poised to reach the Sweet 16 if it can play its A-game against Butler, a program it's striving to emulate.

Along with No. 11 Xavier, which knocked off Maryland (one No. 11 seed has advanced for 13 consecutive years now), there were only two upsets, the lowest on the Big Dance's first-round-opening Thursday since 2012.

Northwestern waited 77 years to Dance, and won a thriller

After punching its first ticket to the NCAAs, the Wildcats escaped Vanderbilt, 68-66, to win their first tournament game. But the play that ultimately defined the game's outcome was a costly gaffe by Vanderbilt. After the Commodores scored the go-ahead basket with 18 seconds left, Matthew Fisher-Davis inexplicably fouled Bryant McIntosh — an 86% free-throw shooter — to help Northwestern seal the historic victory. Afterwards, Fisher-Davis said, "I made a dumb (expletive) foul."

THURSDAY'S SCORES

► No. 12 Princeton suffered heartbreak, coming up just short against fifth-seeded Notre Dame, despite two chances to win in the game's closing seconds; the Tigers lost 60-58.

► No. 12 UNC Wilmington similarly couldn't pull it off against fifth-seeded Virginia, despite taking a commanding double-digit lead early in the first half; the Seahawks lost 76-71.

► No. 13 Winthrop got walloped by fourth-seeded Butler; the Eagles lost 76-64.

► No. 13 East Tennessee State was trounced by fourth-seeded Florida; the Buccaneers lost 80-65, which followed ETSU's coach dissing Florida as not a great team.

► No. 13 Bucknell used hot shooting to nearly offset fourth-seed West Virginia's pressing defense, but ultimately lost 86-80.

► Top-seeded Gonzaga took care of business against No. 16 South Dakota State, pulling away for a 66-46 win after a sluggish start.

► No. 1 Villanova avoided the biggest upset of all-time in finally shaking off Mount Saint Mary's, 76-56. The Wildcats led by just one at halftime, cooking up the buzz for the streak of 130-0 by top seeds to be snapped.

► Purdue made sure to advance this year after last year's first-round upset, dispatching Cinderella favorite Vermont, 80-70.

► Monte Morris and No. 5 Iowa avoided the final 12-5 scare of the day, holding on for an 84-73 win. Morris almost had a triple-double with 19 points, eight assists and eight rebounds.

► Saint Mary's has been overshadowed by Gonzaga all season but has a chance to step further into the spotlight in the NCAAs. The Gaels looked impressive in an 85-77 win over VCU. Jock Landale had 18 points and 13 rebounds.

► No. 8 Wisconsin got past Virginia Tech, 84-74, thanks to eight three-pointers from veteran Bronson Koenig.

► No. 14 Florida Gulf Coast hung with third-seeded Florida State all game but ultimately didn't have enough in an 86-80 decision.

► No. 2 Arizona was too much for 15th-seeded North Dakota to handle in a 100-82 outcome.

© 2017 KGW-TV


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