NCAA Tournament 2018: Day 1 live blog spectacular!

BOISE, ID - MARCH 15: The Buffalo Bulls bench celebrates a three point basket in the second half against the Arizona Wildcats during the first round of the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Taco Bell Arena on March 15, 2018 in Boise, Idaho. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
BOISE, ID - MARCH 15: The Buffalo Bulls bench celebrates a three point basket in the second half against the Arizona Wildcats during the first round of the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Taco Bell Arena on March 15, 2018 in Boise, Idaho. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

[live_blog_entry image=”1409819″ title=”A banner Day 1 is in the books” author=”31139″ id=”LBE56″]After a Michigan-Montana closer whose second-half energy-level is best described by a power outage and sleeping children in the stands, that’s a wrap on Day 1 of the 2018 NCAA Tournament. We had bracket busters (Buffalo!) and buzzer beaters (Loyola!) and chronic underperformers (Oklahoma!) and blow-outs (Villanova!) and countless games that came down to the wire. It was everything you could ask for in a first day, unless of course, the games didn’t go your way.

Thanks for following along with our live blog. Stop by tomorrow to see what we have in store for Day 2.

[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE55″ title=”Buffalo’s marching band needs to do laundry” author=”31139″]Never has a group of college students been more excited to do laundry.

[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE54″ title=”RIP Pac-12 2018″ author=”28125″]Arizona was the Pac-12’s last best chance at March Madness glory in 2018, and yet Sean Miller’s squad ran into a western New York buzzsaw, losing 89-68 to Buffalo, a team that had never previously won an NCAA tournament game. We’re close to wrapping the first day of the NCAA tournament, and both Trae Young and Deandre Ayton will watch the rest of the Dance from the comfort of their respective dorm rooms.

So will the rest of the Tournament of Champions. UCLA was bounced in the First Four by St. Bonaventure, which sparked irate Bruins fans to hire a prop plane to fly over the Westwood campus pleading for coach Steve Alford’s ouster. Arizona State—at one point, the hottest team in Division I and the nation’s third-best team—slept walked through the other First Four game, losing to Syracuse and ending the Sun Devils’ careers of Tra Holder, Kodi Justice, and Shannon Evans. According to ESPN Stats and Info, none of the “power 6″ conferences have ever failed to send at least one squad to the Round of 32, a stat that dates back to 1996-96, when the Big 12 was created.

In just 24 hours, the entirety of the Pac-12 was bounced from the NCAA tournament, ending the agony of a league that has been in the national spotlight all season long for the wrong reasons. The last squad west of the Mississippi to win a college title? Arizona, in 1997, and the ignominious streak will continue for yet another season.

[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE53″ title=”The schadenfreude is strong” author=”28954″]Look on the bright side Arizona Wildcat faithful, at least now there will be one less banner to take down when the Sean Miller investigation ends five to 15 years from now.[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE52″ title=”Can Mo Wagner lead Michigan’s defense? ” author=”26935″]Michigan’s tipped off and we should talk about how much Mo Wagner has improved this season. The 6-foot-10 junior has bumped his defensive rebound rate up from 15.3 percent to 25.6. As a result, the Wolverines are able to close out defensive possessions more often. Nowadays Michigan’s rocking a top 10 defense in the country. Wagner is a big reason why.

[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry title=”For all the talent on this Arizona roster, it simply isn’t a good team” author=”28125″ id=”LBE51″]Sean Miller acknowledged weeks ago that this was not a vintage Arizona squad. Specifically, his team—historically built on Miller’s pack-line principles and capable of hamstringing an offense no matter how explosive—was not very good on the defensive side of the ball. The Wildcats allowed teams to score nearly 1 PPP, the highest defensive efficiency rate for a Miller-coached UA team since he arrived in Tucson, and the team didn’t have a defensive stopper capable of taking an opponent’s best option out of his rhythm (a la Kadeem Allen or TJ McConnell).

Fast forward to Thursday night, and those defensive miscues have begun to haunt the Pac-12 team. Through 31 minutes, the No. 13 seed Buffalo—a team that has only attempted three free throws so far—has dropped a whopping 1.33 PPP. Of course, the Wildcats have time and the benefit of the prospective top pick in the 2018 draft (Deandre Ayton) on their side, but the frustration is mounting, and UA could be the second low seed to end its March Madness journey sooner than expected.

[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE50″ image=”1409727″ title=”All in on the Bonnies’ Mobley” author=”28125″]It is time people realize the sui generis talent that is Matt Mobley, St. Bonaventure’s guard and a well-traveled offensive savant. The guard started his career at Central Connecticut State before transferring to the Atlantic 10 program prior to the 2015-16 season, and he has paired with Jaylen Adams to form one of the nation’s most efficient backcourts: the two guards account for 44 percent of the squad’s scoring. In the team’s First Four win against UCLA, Mobley dropped 14 points.

What makes Mobley so intriguing is his offensive profile—while far from a chucker, the 6-foot-3 guard has attempted more than 150 two-point (50 percent) and 250 three-point field goals (38 percent) while playing an absurdly high percentage of SBU’s minutes (92 percent). According to College Basketball Reference, only three other Division I players are as instrumental to their team’s success as Mobley.

[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE49″ title=”Kentucky’s 3-point problem” author=”28125″]Perimeter shooting has been Kentucky’s bugbear throughout 2018. It’s not that the Wildcats didn’t make many 3a, it’s that the SEC squad hardly ever attempted a shot from beyond the arc. Per KenPom, the team’s 3-point field goal attempt rate (26.2 percent) is the lowest of any team in the tournament field. Still, though, UK isn’t perimeter-adverse and made at least one 3-pointer in every game this season — until the tournament’s first round. Kentucky attempted six 3s, and missed all of them in the 78-73 win against 12-seed Davidson. According to ESPN’s John Gasaway, this isn’t the first time a team has gone an entire 40 minutes in March without converting from deep, but it is certainly rare: In the second round of the 2014 NCAA tournament, 10-seed Stanford attempted nine 3-pointers and missed them all against Kansas. Like the Wildcats, the Cardinal won the game, advancing one more round before losing to Dayton in the Sweet 16 (and making 5 3s in that game). Against either No. 4 Arizona or No. 14 Buffalo, though, John Calipari’s team is going to have to stretch the halfcourt through perimeter shooting—both teams are ranked within KenPom’s top 100 for defensive block rate (unlike Davidson, which blocked about six percent of opponents’ field goals and ranked second to last among the field).

[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE47″ title=”Obama is a Ramblers fan” author=”28125″]Former President Barack Obama’s college hoops allegiances may have aligned with Duke during his time in office—Reggie Love, his bodyman, was a Blue Devil—but in 2018, Obama is all about Chicago.

[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE48″ title=”How important is Keenan Evans to TTU?” author=”28125″]It’s been a slow start for Texas Tech’s stud senior guard Keenan Evans against 14-seed Stephen F. Austin, a team that, while different from the iteration that upset West Virginia in 2016 (behind Thomas Walkup and Brad Underwood), is still awfully Cinderella-y. Evans only has nine points through the game’s initial 31 minutes, and as the 6-foot-3 guard doesn’t appear to be his normal All-America self, how important is Evans to Chris Beard’s squad? Very, it turns out: Per, in the final four games of the season, including the Big 12 regular season loss to WVU (in which Evans missed with a toe injury), the Red Raiders scored 1.09 PPP but also allowed the exact same efficiency rate. Prior to Evans’ injury? A ridiculous +.22 EM (1.13 PPP; .91 OPPP), so TTU better hope the senior is able to round into form before the Lumberjacks are able to prolong midnight for yet another March Madness.

[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE46″ title=”Heating up for Houston” author=”28120″]Houston is doing an excellent job at running their offense tonight, which isn’t exactly a big surprise. The Cougars have generated open look after open look all night long both in transition and in the half court, led by Rob Gray. Gray is unlikely to ever be an NBA player due to his size but he scores in so many ways, at so many levels, that he should make a ton of money playing basketball professionally and is the type of player that can get really hot for a few games and carry his team to an upset or two.

[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE45″ title=”Dunk of the day?” author=”27297″]Texas Tech’s Zahire Smith put a whole new spin on the game against Stephen F. Austin with a 360-degree dunk to cap off an alley oop that’s straight out of a dunk contest. Keenan Evans set the shot up with a lob toward the rim while Smith, in the middle of SFA traffic, posted up and dunked the ball with a full twist.

[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry image=”1409641″ title=”Villanova’s Jalen Brunson has an NBA future” author=”32707″ id=”LBE44″]I like Jalen Brunson as an NBA prospect. He may not be a first-round pick, but he’s going to be a good NBA player. He reminds me of a Malcolm Brogdon/Fred Van Vleet-type who can be a really solid backup point guard or fringe starter on a good team. He’s a good decision-maker, multi-faceted scorer and strong defender, and one of the most efficient guards in the nation. A lot of his value will be dependent on fit, but he should be a pleasant surprise for some NBA team next year.

[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE43″ title=”Ohio State’s comeback over SD State, specifically Mike Daum” author=”31139″]Ohio State was in it to win it.

[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE42″ title=”Ish Sanogo coming in clutch” author=”28120″]Ish Sanogo is making some big-time plays down the stretch for Seton Hall. Just finding a way to get his hand on rebounds on both ends of the floor: An offensive rebound, defensive rebound, steal sequence on three straight possessions. Sanogo is a guy that has meant a lot to the Pirates program over the last few years so it’s cool to see him help them put away their first win since 2004.

[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE41″ title=”NC State just can’t stay in it” author=”28120″]It sure feels like the end of this NC State – Seton Hall game isn’t going to be as fun as a close game should be. Fouls are being called left and right and a whole group of players on both teams are in big foul trouble. Just not a ton of flow right now because of how often the game is stopping for free throws.

[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE38″ title=”From Steph Curry range” author=”28125″]That three-pointer by Donte Ingram was just the second field goal make that Loyola made in the final four minutes versus No. 7 Miami. The Ramblers went ice-cold from the field, until it mattered the most.

[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE40″ title=”Keita Bates-Diop” author=”28125″]In his first two seasons at Ohio State, Big Ten player of the year Keita Bates-Diop only played in three NCAA tournament games, but since missing the remainder of the 2017 season with a leg injury, the 6-foot-7 wing’s effect on the Buckeyes’ fortunes has been transformative. Unfortunately, though, Bates-Diop and his Buckeye squad were slated by the Selection Committee to meet Mike Daum—aka the Dauminator—and South Dakota State in what could possibly be a classic 5-12 upset. In the initial twenty minutes, the Jackrabbits—which have played in five of the last seven NCAA tournaments—dropped a scintillating 1.16 PPP, fueled by a whopping 57 percent 3FGA rate (connecting on 52 percent of those attempts), and are tied at halftime 43-43. Since becoming head coach of tOSU, Chris Holtmann, Bates-Diop, and the other Buckeyes have been one of Division I’s feel-good stories, but depending on how well the Summit League’s auto-bid winner continues to shoot, this could a short March for the nation’s most improved player who, with 17 points already, has been the Buckeyes’ offensive spark.

[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry title=”Loyola dropped the hammer” author=”26935″ id=”LBE39″]Gregg Popovich might have the Spurs study this hammer set. What a beauty.

Even Draymond loved the hammer play.


[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE37″ title=”What matters for Miami and Loyola?” author=”28120″]Miami and Loyola have finally found a bit of a rhythm. For the most part Loyola has been getting better a bit more over the last few minutes but Miami’s size and athleticism has allowed them to stay ahead thanks to second chances. If Loyola can find a way to eliminate that while executing the way they have been on offense, they can pull this one out. Miami really needs to get Lonnie Walker IV some shots down the stretch.

[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE36″ title=”Counterpoint” author=”31139″]Loyola vs. Miami is good.

[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE35″ image=”1409537″ title=”Meanwhile, in Duke news” author=”26935″]Marvin Bagley III is one of the biggest mismatches in the country and if your team doesn’t have someone who can handle his presence on the interior, you’re in trouble. So far, Bagley’s got 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting from the field. He’s knocked down a 3, but most of his work is being done around the basket where he’s 5-of-5 on layups and dunks.

[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE34″ title=”Saved you a click” author=”22435″]Loyola/Miami is a tire fire, go watch Duke instead

[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE33″ title=”Razzle Dazzle” author=”24492″]

[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE32″ image=”1409503″ title=”Devonte’ Graham over everything” author=”26935″]If you’re looking for a 2018 version of Kemba Walker or Shabazz Napier, you could do a lot worse than Kansas’ Devonte’ Graham. The 2018 Big 12 Player of the Year dropped 29 points on 9-of-24 shooting in the Jayhawks’ opening round win over No. 16 Penn. Graham’s running mates are better than what Walker and Napier had when they won titles, but the Kansas guard makes everything go for his team.

[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE31″ title=”The Cinderella model can be wrong” author=”28125″]No. 14 seed UNC Greensboro didn’t look like a prototypical Cinderella. The Spartans, which defeated East Tennessee State in the Southern Conference tournament final, are one of the nation’s stickiest defenses, pairing a ridiculous turnover rate (swiping 22 percent of opponents’ possessions) and a propensity to keep those same teams from additional chances (grabbing a quarter of teams’ misses).

But as skilled as the team has been on defense, it’s been a different story on the other side of the ball — only eight teams in the field had a lower offensive efficiency rating than UNCG (1.05 points per possession) — so heading into the Boise match-up with No. 3 Gonzaga, Wes Miller’s squad wasn’t truly expected to contend. And yet, we almost experienced our first upset of the 2018 tournament, with the Bulldogs escaping the pseudo home game with a 68-64 win. Despite the loss, though, Greensboro showed that the Cinderella modeling we’ve come to rely upon isn’t concrete.

All the aspects that supposedly contribute to a Cinderella — specifically pace, perimeter shooting, and turnovers — weren’t part of UNCG’s CV: Gonzaga only turned the ball over on 14 percent of its possessions and the Spartans hauled in just 29 percent of its opponent’s misses. When coupled with UNCG’s offensive failings — the squad shot 3-of-22 from beyond the arc and attempted just 10 free throws — there is no way Miller and Co should have been able to keep this first round game close until the final 15 seconds. We all know March is unpredictable, and yet even when you try to comprehend the chaos, you can be burned.

[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE30″ title=”What’s wrong with Kansas?” author=”22435″]Kansas has been less than appealing to watch in their first round game. Bill Self even had to go to big man Udoka Uzubuike for a short stretch due to the lack of production from Lightfoot and De Sousa. The one thing that has to have Jayhawk faithful feeling pretty good has been the play of LeGerald Vick. He has 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting including two 3s. Vick’s shot hasn’t really been there for most of the season, but if Kansas does get by Penn, and Vick continues this shooting stretch it makes the Jayhawks that much more dangerous.

[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE29″ title=”Is this good? I feel like this is good…” author=”24492″]

[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE28″ title=”Where’s Tillie?” author=”26935″]Can anyone confirm Killian Tillie actually made the trip to Boise?

[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE27″ image=”1409481″ title=”Johnathan Williams has been everything for Gonzaga” author=”22435″]Johnathan Williams has been Gonzaga’s best player today. Greensboro has gummed up the Bulldogs’ offense, beating up Killian Tillie around screens and tightly contesting shooters. This is a game that’s needed toughness and physicality inside, and Williams has given them that, with 19 points and 13 rebounds. He’s a very solid athlete, and that advantage he gives Gonzaga vertically over the feisty Jordy Kuiper has kept Gonzaga afloat. His performance is really helping to sprout the idea that the senior forward might be NBA caliber.

[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE25″ image=”1396809″ title=”Bye, Felicia” author=”28954″]Outside of a Steph Curry/Kemba Walker run through the NCAA Tournament this was the best outcome for Trae Young. Young captivated the nation early in the season with 30-foot 3-pointers, solid handle, and precision passing. As the season went on some of the shine on Young’s game dulled and the things that brought him hype (i.e. shot selection) soon became reasons to question him. Against Rhode Island we saw good Trae and with the volume of talent in Pittsburgh for the opening two rounds there’s no question scouts from numerous teams were on hand. It very likely could’ve been the first time some organizations are seeing the freshman point guard in person. To end his season on this — nearly carrying his team to victory by himself — could help push him back towards the top half of the lottery.

[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE26″ image=”1409459″ title=”If Tennessee wins and nobody sees…?” author=”26935″]Tennessee won. And nobody noticed. The Vols might be the most slept on No. 3 seed in years.

[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE24″ title=”Living and dying by the 3″ author=”28125″]Much has been made about No. 16 Penn’s ability to chase teams off the 3-point line and defend beyond the arc, but what about when the script is flipped. That is, do the Quakers have the statistical profile to pull the ultimate of upsets? So far, Penn has looked better than advertised from deep — more than 40 percent of the team’s attempts in the first half have been 3-point attempts, and Steve Donahue’s squad has converted 41.7 percent of those looks. That said, No. 1 Kansas enters halftime still leading by seven, 33-26, and should the Ivy League representative follow through on its upset bid, Penn is going to have to live and die on the 3-point line.

[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE23″ title=”Lets hear it for experience” author=”30722″]Every time Oklahoma looked like they had the momentum Rhode Island would steal it right back. When it came down to it senior guard E.C. Matthews put the team on his back. He hit the 3-pointer to give the Rams a two-point lead, and with the score 76-74 E.C. Matthews did it again with a step back 3 with the shot clock winding down to effectively seal the game. This is why the Rams have to be taken seriously, veteran leadership at the guard position is absolutely crucial in the tournament, and the four seniors willed their way to victory against Trae Young and Oklahoma.

[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE22″ image=”1409410″ author=”24492″]The first twenty minutes of No. 4 seed Gonzaga’s first round game versus No. 13 UNC-Greensboro has not been an offensive clinic for the WCC squad. As detailed below, UNCG has one of the nation’s stingiest defenses, holding opponents to 91.4 points per 100 possessions, and the Zags have struggled mightily with the SoCon auto-bid winner’s defensive pressure, scoring just 81 points per 100 possessions — one of its lowest offensive efficiency rates of the season.

[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE21″ title=”Free Basketball! (Amid all the other free basketball!)” author=”24492″][/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE20″ title=”Gonzaga officially is on the ropes” author=”22435″]UNC-Greensboro’s offense is getting to the rim a fair amount today, but they haven’t been able to convert shots once there. That’s a problem for Gonzaga, who is having a difficult time with the Spartans’ defense on the other end. Remember, UNCG is fifth in the country in defensive rating at 91.4 points allowed/100 possessions, per Sports-Reference — they suffocate you on the perimeter and force your guards into bad decisions, which have plagued Josh Perkins today. The Spartans are an average shooting team, but they’re much better than shooting 30 percent from the field. If those uncontested looks regress to the mean, the Bulldogs are in trouble.

[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE19″ title=”TRAE ALOISIUS YOUNG, ESQUIRE” author=”24492″]

[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE18″ image=”1409376″ title=”Can Rhode Island close out?” author=”30722″]Rhode Island has done everything they needed to do this second half to take control of this game. Rhode Island is 6-of-9 from deep in the second half, and while Oklahoma has blocked and altered some shots the Rams have had better success in the paint. The most important factor about them taking control of this game is that they held Trae Young scoreless from about the 10 minute mark of the first half to the 7 minute mark of the second half. They have absolutely hounded him all day. “Fats” Russell has been the catalyst on both ends of the floor and is a big reason why they’re up in this game. We’ll see if they can finish this out

[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE17″ title=”Gonzaga is now the hunted” author=”28954″]Gonzaga has risen in college basketball ranks from Cinderella to bracket buster to championship contender over the years. Though they enter this NCAA Tournament as a No. 4seed, there are many projecting that the Bulldogs make a return to the Final Four again. Before they can get to San Antonio though they need to get out of Boise. Right now, the Wes Miller-led UNC Greensboro squad is giving them a run for their money. In sports, there’s always a discussion of whether it’s easier to be the hunters or the hunted. Gonzaga has been the hunters for most of their history come March Madness, but now they are being hunted. If Mark Few and the returnees from last year’s national title game want to repeat their run to the Final Four they have to first get by a team looking to make a name for themselves just like Gonzaga once did.

[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE16″ title=”Rhode Island is finally making shots” author=”24492″]

[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE14″ author=”25669″]According to Hoop-Math, 25 percent of Rhode Island’s offense came via transition this year, and it appears Dan Hurley’s squad is willing to live and die with pace this afternoon. Though it would appear to be a strength of Oklahoma’s as well, the Rams have been able to put full-court pressure on Trae Young and slow down the Sooner offense. And it helps that no one can really stop Rhode Island’s offense in transition. The Rams have gotten more easy looks than expected, and the result of the game will likely be decided by which team converts fast break opportunities.[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE15″ title=”This is Lance Stephenson distance” author=”24492″]

[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE13″ title=”TRAVEL DANCE” author=”22435″] Right before halftime, Oklahoma guard Kameron McGusty took a few too many steps on an isolation attempt. Rhode Island’s bench had a pretty strong opinion of what happened on the play, and when the travel was called, brought quite the celebration along the sideline.[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE12″ image=”1409340″ title=”Oklahoma’s defense” author=”26935″]Oklahoma entered the NCAA Tournament with the 87th best defense in the country based on adjusted efficiency, per KenPom, but the Sooners held Rhode Island to a meager 0.89 points per possession in the first half. The key? Controlling the interior.

Although the Rams took eight layups in the opening stanza, 15 of their total field goal attempts – nearly half their shots – were other 2s. They made just five of them. Oklahoma’s frontcourt combined for three blocks and most importantly, forced Rhode Island into difficult shots just away from the rim. Take a look at the Rams’ first half shot chart.

Although the Rams were getting plenty of driving lanes, they weren’t quite layups, making them more challenging to convert. The difference shows on the scoreline.

[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE11″ image=”1409337″ title=”Size matters” author=”30722″]Oklahoma has a noticeable size advantage against Rhode Island, but we knew that coming into the game. It has definitely been affecting Rhode Island, because they can’t buy a bucket when they get to the paint. They’re only shooting 37 percent from the floor, and 22 percent from three. They can’t stop attacking the paint, but they need to figure something out to make things easier for themselves at the rim because McGusty is having a day on the defensive end.[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE10″ title=”What can UNC Greensboro do against Gonzaga?” author=”22435″]

Gonzaga/UNC Greensboro is going to be a very interesting game, especially if you like international flair. You’re probably pretty familiar with Gonzaga’s internationals, Killian Tillie of France and Rui Hachimura of Japan, but UNC Greensboro relies heavily on two internationals as well — junior guard Francis Alonso from Spain, and senior center Jordy Kuiper, from the Netherlands.

The SoCon champs don’t have a lot of size, but they have a suffocating perimeter defense that ranks 28th on KenPom. Kuiper in particular can be very physical, and his matchup with Tillie and Johnathan Williams will be a good test for both Bulldog bigs. This wasn’t a popular upset pick, but Gonzaga could be in trouble here if Kuiper keeps Tillie in check and Alonso — who shoots 41 percent from 3 on nearly eight attempts per game — gets hot, Gonzaga might have a tough time in what should be a very physical and demanding game with the Spartans.

[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE9″ title=”Questionable officiating?” author=”28954″]Trae Young getting off to a hot start (10 points on 4-of-4 shooting) is something we all could have seen coming. What we also should’ve been prepared for, poor officiating.

How bad the referees were was the talk of the town following last season’s final between North Carolina and Gonzaga. It is already coming back into focus halfway through the opening game of this year’s NCAA Tournament. Young is currently on the bench with two fouls —both charges.

The first was a bang-bang play and even though the defender wasn’t set the tie goes to the defense in block/charge calls. The next call was more egregious. Danny Hurley has surely been in the officials ears about Young’s persistence to push off to create space, but Young never even discharged Fats Russell and ended up getting his second foul for it.

Hint to NCAA officials: millions of people are tuning in to watch the kids, not you guys. Let the kids play a little

[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE8″ title=”Early turnovers for Trae Young” author=”28125″]With that offensive foul, Oklahoma’s Trae Young has now committed four turnovers — the freshman guard has given away the ball less in only six OU games this season.[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE7″ title=”The South could be chaos” author=”28125″]

According to FiveThirtyEight’s prediction model, No. 3 seed Tennessee, which tips next against No. 14 seed Wright State, has a 10 percent chance of making the Final Four, which, while seemingly obvious (the Vols are a No. 3 seed), underscores the inherent chaos of the South Region. Virginia is without De’Andre Hunter, Davidson and Loyola Chicago are uber-popular upset picks, and Cincinnati shares a similar statistical profile with Rick Barnes’ squad.

Which is to say, Admiral Schofield, the Vols’ junior mismatch nightmare, might just be the most important player in this region; Wright State simply doesn’t possess anyone that can stop the 6-foot-5 Schofield, either on the perimeter (40 percent from deep) or when he drops to the block (per, 62 percent at the rim in the halfcourt). Schofield is the type of player who used to dot mid-major Cinderellas, but he has shined in the SEC, and against the physically exhausting defenses of Virginia and Cincinnati, Schofield’s skillset will be instrumental to whether UT can indeed make the final weekend.

[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE6″ title=”Trae Young is doing what he does” author=”24492″]Trae Young is gets buckets. Deep ones.

Young is 2-of-2 early on 3-pointers but Rhode Island is running hard and keeping the score close.

[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry author=”28954″ id=”LBE5″]As we prepared to get wrapped up in the giddiness that is the NCAA Tournament let’s not forget that despite what Mark Emmert might say publicly, the real madness in March is the money these schools rake in from these games.

Coaches get bonuses based on how far their teams advance. Administrators can establish a permanent foothold at an institution if their teams are consistently in the tournament. Alumni give willingly to schools that are successful.

Deandre Ayton’s alleged $100,000 payment made ripples across the NCAA landscape, whereas the NCAA hitting $1 billion in revenue for the first time ever wasn’t given much of a second glance.

If you don’t see the impact, just take a look at the opening game. Oklahoma made the field as a No. 10 seed despite a horrendous finish to the year. At 18-13 there are certainly more deserving teams in the NIT field than the Sooners. But what Turner and the NCAA know is that having Trae Young in the field brings viewers. And with viewers comes money.

Enjoy the tournament; cheer loud and proud for your school and your team. But don’t forget that the NCAA as we’ve come to know it is in real need of a cleanse.

[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry image=”1409296″ author=”24492″ id=”LBE4″]Everyone knows how important Trae Young is to Oklahoma’s offense and their hopes of knocking off Rhode Island in today’s first round matchup. But a look at his shot chart emphasizes just how much offensive responsibility he carries. Look how many shots Young is attempting from not just the 3-point line but well behind the NBA 3-point line. Less than 20 percent of Young’s above-the-break 3s have been assisted on this season. He creates his own shot and he loves creating it from deep.

You can find more shot charts for NCAA players at

[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE2″ author=”28125″]Rhode Island certainly doesn’t shy away from applying defensive pressure on an opponent. The Atlantic 10 squad has held opponents to well under 1 points per possession throughout the season — the team’s defensive PPP drops to .96 PPP in conference play — but to slow Oklahoma’s offensively exuberant freshman Trae Young, Rhody will need a concerted effort from its guard Stanford Robinson. The craft senior not only leads the A10 in Defensive Box Plus-Minus (6.3), but Robinson swipes nearly 5 percent of opponents’ possessions. The 6-foot-4 guard excels using his lower body to subtly bump opponents while simultaneously causing havoc with his length and hand speed. Backed by an experienced Ram squad chock full of stout defenders, it could be a brief NCAA tournament appearance for Oklahom and its stellar frosh, whose well-rested NCAA tournament debut will be encumbered by Robinson’s defensive pressure.

[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE3″ title=”Brady Manek could be an x-factor for Oklahoma” author=”26935″]Everyone knows about the importance of Trae Young to Oklahoma, but fellow freshman Brady Manek could be the x-factor for the Sooners today. Manek’s a 6-foot-7 former 4-star recruit who brings much needed shooting the power forward spot. He’s made 39.1 percent of his triples this season on nearly 5.0 attempts per game.

With both Young and Manek on the floor, Oklahoma scores 113 points per 100 possessions, per Hoop Lens, or about three points per 100 better than their season average. Manek’s floor-spacing helps open up the middle of the floor for the Sooners and as a result, they shoot about five percentage points better on 2s when both he and Young are on the court.

Given Young’s expected to face extensive pressure at the point of attack from Rhode Island’s guards in this one, Manek could give Oklahoma an important safety valve.

[/live_blog_entry][live_blog_entry id=”LBE1″ title=”Last minute bracket tips!” author=”24492″][/live_blog_entry]