Tuesday, April 13, 2021

N.C.A.A. Tournament Live: Updates from Round 1


UConn point guard R.J. Cole (concussion protocol) has officially been cleared to play for the No. 7 Huskies against No. 10 Maryland on Saturday, Coach Dan Hurley announced.

Butler Blue IV met Sister Jean.

That’s the news, and it is delightful.

The English bulldog installed last year as Butler’s mascot greeted Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, the 101-year-old nun who has been the team chaplain for Loyola-Chicago since the mid-1990s.

Sister Jean traveled to Indianapolis after the N.C.A.A. and the university reached a deal this week for her to attend the Friday game. The eighth-seeded Ramblers are meeting No. 9 Georgia Tech in the first round in the Midwest region.

If you just want to read about a dog and/or Sister Jean, we’ve got you covered.

No. 15 seeds are 8-132 (.057) all time against No. 2 seeds, but Max Abmas and Oral Roberts are trying to add to the list against No. 2 Ohio State. Abmas, the leading scorer in Division I at 24.2 points per game, has 18 at halftime.

Illinois won in a blowout against Drexel.
Credit…Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

A quarter of the day’s games are done. No upsets — yet.

  • Illinois, the top seed in the Midwest region, dispatched No. 16 Drexel, 78-49. Kofi Cockburn, the 7-foot sophomore center, scored 18 points for Illinois. The Fighting Illini did not exactly rely on 3-point shots to capture a double-digit victory, attempting seven and making just two.

  • The Arkansas Razorbacks, the third seed in the South region, overcame a near-disastrous first half to oust Colgate, the 14th seed, from the tournament. Although Colgate trailed by only 3 at the intermission, the Razorbacks outscored the Raiders 49-35 in the second. Final score: 85-68, Arkansas.

  • The seventh seed in the South, Florida, needed overtime to finish off No. 10 Virginia Tech. Colin Castleton, a junior forward, led the Gators with 19 points to help steer Florida past a scoring outburst by Virginia Tech’s Nahiem Alleyne, who finished with 30 after his 3-point shot sent the game into extra minutes.

  • Texas Tech, the South’s sixth seed, extinguished No. 11 Utah State’s ambitions with a 65-53 victory at Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Ind. Texas Tech managed a 13-0 run at one point in the second half.

No. 6 seed Texas Tech defeated No. 11 seed Utah State, 65-53.

Mac McClung led the Red Raiders with 16 points.

Ohio State, the No. 2 seed in the South region, is down at halftime to No. 15 Oral Roberts. The score at Mackey Arena: 36-33, Oral Roberts.

Top-seeded Illinois romped past 16th-seeded Drexel, 78-49.

Whoever wins between Loyola-Chicago and Georgia Tech is next up.

There was a small dose of March Madness right out of the gate in the first game of Friday’s round of 64.

Virginia Tech’s Nahiem Alleyne hit a 3-pointer with 1.4 seconds left in regulation to force overtime against Florida. Still, the Gators ultimately prevailed, 75-70, by outscoring the Hokies 48-37 after trailing at the half. The Gators came back from a 10-point deficit in the win.

Florida advanced to the second round for the eighth straight time in the N.C.A.A. men’s tournament and will face the winner between No. 2 Ohio State and No. 15 Oral Roberts in the South region.

Tre Mann’s 3-pointer with 22 seconds left in the overtime gave Florida a 74-70 lead. He finished with 14 points. Colin Castleton went for 19 points and 14 rebounds and Scottie Lewis tallied 15 points and four rebounds.

Alleyne poured in a career-high 28 points for the Hokies, including 14 straight bridging the second half and overtime.

Virginia Tech had two key players foul out in the overtime. Keve Aluma fouled out with 7 points and four rebounds and Justyn Mutts left with 6 points, five rebounds and four assists.

No. 3 seed Arkansas beat No. 14 seed Colgate, 85-68.

The Razorbacks came back from an early hole in the first half, then broke it open in the second.

No. 7 seed Florida held off No. 10 seed Virginia Tech in overtime, 75-70.

The Gators will play the winner of the Ohio State-Oral Roberts game.

For those of you tracking buzzer beaters (like some of us in our NYT non-bracket challenge challenge), don’t count that 3-pointer from Nahiem Alleyne for Virginia Tech to tie it against Florida. The Gators had less than 2 seconds to respond and we’re in overtime.

The first No. 1 seed to play this tournament, Illinois, isn’t busting your bracket yet. The Fighting Illini lead Drexel, 39-21, at halftime.

Arkansas, after scoring 17 straight points in about three minutes, leads 36-33 going into the second half after chasing Colgate guard Jack Ferguson around for much of the first. There are definitely more Razorbacks fans than Raiders fans, judging by their cheers.

N.C.A.A. President Mark Emmert is at Hinkle watching Virginia Tech and Florida. He said he is happy to meet with the #NotNCAAProperty players, but not until after the tournament. “I want the focus to be on basketball,” he said.

It’s maybe a little early for an upset alert, but Colgate has raced to a lead over third-seeded Arkansas. The Raiders are up by 8 with less than eight minutes to go in the first half.

Colgate Raiders team members during the national anthem prior to the start of their game against the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Credit…Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Colgate has had an exceptional season. Fourteen wins. One loss. Victory in the Patriot League tournament.

But, um, the 14th-seeded Raiders have played five teams all season. Friday’s game against Arkansas, a fearsome No. 3 seed out of the Southeastern Conference, will expand its résumé.

Still, the Raiders arrived in Indiana with a stellar place in the N.C.A.A. Evaluation Tool, known as the NET: No. 9, ahead of powers like Virginia and Kansas and, yes, Arkansas. Critics of the NET argue that Colgate unreasonably benefited from the algorithm, which draws in even the results of an opponent’s opponents.

Let’s turn to Matt Langel, Colgate’s coach, to sort out how the Raiders got there with some help from Army, one of Colgate’s time-and-again opponents this season:

It’s a little bit of a mathematical outlier because we didn’t have nonconference games. Army and Navy did have a few nonconference games. They did well in those nonconference games — you know, Navy beating Georgetown, Army beating Buffalo, who’s a good team, playing Florida really close. Then we beat Army three out of four times and only lost by two and Army beat Navy. As you run the algorithm, it spits you back out something that doesn’t necessarily identify what everything else that everybody looks at in the country.

Colgate played in the last N.C.A.A. tournament, which was held in 2019, and narrowly lost to another high-seeded SEC team, Tennessee.

But now it’s back. And it has a nifty NET ranking for history, no matter what unfolds in Indiana on Friday, when the Raiders took an early lead against the Razorbacks, or over the coming weeks.

“In what’s been a crazy year,” Langel said, “it will be a little bit of an asterisk star, a trivia question.”

A handful of Colgate players took a knee to start their game against Arkansas on Friday while the Razorbacks dipped their heads during the national anthem. Fans sprinkled throughout the arena followed suit — while there are few of them for both teams, they certainly made their cheers heard early.

If Virginia Tech’s ball movement, motion and patience looks familiar, Hokies Coach Mike Young was the long-time coach at Wofford, which two years ago put a scare into Kentucky in the second round.

Indianapolis is filled with March Madness logos this week.
Credit…Darron Cummings/Associated Press

As in recent years, the men’s games will be broadcast on CBS, TBS, TNT and TruTV. The official way to stream the tournament is through the N.C.A.A.’s March Madness Live app, which requires logging in through a TV provider. (The Paramount+ app, formerly known as CBS All Access, will also carry games broadcast on CBS.)

Here’s a look at the men’s bracket and the schedule for Friday (all times Eastern):

  • No. 7 seed Florida vs. No. 10 seed Virginia Tech, 12:15 p.m.

  • No. 3 seed Arkansas vs. No. 14 seed Colgate, 12:45 p.m.

  • No. 1 seed Illinois vs. No. 16 seed Drexel, 1:15 p.m.

  • No. 6 seed Texas Tech vs. No. 11 seed Utah State, 1:45 p.m.

  • No. 2 seed Ohio State vs. No. 15 seed Oral Roberts, 3 p.m.

  • No. 1 seed Baylor vs. No. 16 seed Hartford, 3:30 p.m.

  • No. 8 seed Loyola Chicago vs. No. 9 seed Georgia Tech, 4 p.m.

  • No. 5 seed Tennessee vs. No. 12 seed Oregon State, 4:30 p.m.

  • No. 4 seed Oklahoma State vs. No. 13 seed Liberty, 6:25 p.m.

  • No. 8 seed North Carolina vs. No. 9 seed Wisconsin, 7:10 p.m.

  • No. 2 seed Houston vs. No. 15 seed Cleveland State, 7:15 p.m.

  • No. 4 seed Purdue vs. No. 13 seed North Texas, 7:25 p.m.

  • No. 7 seed Clemson vs. No. 10 seed Rutgers, 9:20 p.m.

  • No. 6 seed San Diego State vs. No. 11 seed Syracuse, 9:40 p.m.

  • No. 3 seed West Virginia vs. No. 14 seed Morehead State, 9:50 p.m.

  • No. 5 seed Villanova vs. No. 12 seed Winthrop, 9:57 p.m.

Facing a swell of outrage and accusations that it had prized men’s basketball players more than students competing in next week’s women’s tournament, the N.C.A.A. apologized Friday for vast disparities in workout facilities at its marquee championship events.

Players at the men’s tournament in Indiana have benefited from an enormous, well-stocked complex in downtown Indianapolis. But the stars of the women’s game, who will play their championship tournament in Texas, were left with just a smattering of gear.

By Friday morning, with the public furor building and the N.C.A.A. already battered by years of pressure over student-athlete rights, the association offered unmitigated regrets — a striking, sudden comedown for an organization frequently criticized for insularity and defiance. Dan Gavitt, the N.C.A.A.’s vice president of basketball, apologized for “dropping the ball, frankly.”

“We will get it fixed as soon as possible,” he said from Indiana.

Credit…Maxx Wolfson/Getty Images

Similarly, Lynn Holzman, who played at Kansas State and rose to become the N.C.A.A.’s vice president of women’s basketball, said Friday that organizers “fell short.” Her voice sometimes catching during a videoconference with reporters, she acknowledged that the episode was a “blemish.”

“I’ve experienced when you don’t have something that’s the same,” she said, adding that there would be an “accountability aspect” to future discussions about what had transpired in Texas.

“When it is personal, it is as real as it can get,” she said. “It hurts. And when people passionately care about something — in this case, women’s basketball — our fans, our student-athletes who are playing this game, it is our responsibility to give them a great championship experience and one they can be proud of. It’s disappointing. It is. I don’t even have the words to describe how painful it is personally.”

The frustrations in Texas came during a week when student-athletes were already using the vast stage of the tournaments to air their grievances with the N.C.A.A. and its limits on how players may profit off their fame. Earlier in the week, players began tweeting with the hashtag #NotNCAAProperty to protest the association’s rules. Although much of that dissent has been publicly concentrated around the men’s tournament, it had also surfaced in the women’s competition.

Tre Mann of the Florida Gators being introduced before the start of their first round game against Virginia Tech on Friday.
Credit…Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The first game of the first round has two crucial story lines connected to health and medicine.

Let’s start with No. 7 Florida, which is making its fourth consecutive tournament appearance. But the Gators will be without the playing presence of someone it figured would be a wire-to-wire star of this season.

Keyontae Johnson, a junior forward who was voted the Southeastern Conference’s preseason player of the year, has not played since December, when he collapsed during a game at Florida State. A swirl of speculation about his health followed, but the Johnson family said in a statement last month that the “medical emergency was not related to or a result of a previous or current Covid diagnosis.”

But until Johnson’s family spoke, his collapse had prompted conversation and speculation around the college sports world about how the virus might endanger athletes.

Johnson hopes to begin basketball activities this summer but has lately been working with the team as a scout.

“In the past, we’d had some guys, some instances, where players got hurt and mentally kind of went away, got disengaged,” Johnson told the Gators’ website. “I wanted to learn from that and stay engaged. This was the best way I could also learn while not playing and still study guys, study teams, study plays. I like it.”

Then there’s No. 10 Virginia Tech, which enters the tournament having played just three games since a win on Feb. 6 at Miami. After that win, Atlantic Coast Conference officials canceled five Virginia Tech games because of virus-related issues, leaving the Hokies with few chances to show off their leading scorer, Keve Aluma, or a rebounding defense that was among the league’s best this season.

Former President Barack Obama picked the Gonzaga Bulldogs to win it all.
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Former President Barack Obama is forecasting some first-round upsets but only limited chaos late in the men’s and women’s tournaments.

In the brackets he released on Thursday, the former president chose Gonzaga to win the men’s title, with a Final Four rounded out by the other No. 1 seeds: Baylor, Illinois and Michigan. In the women’s tournament, Obama predicted No. 2 Baylor would win the national championship after a Final Four that would include top seeds Stanford and North Carolina State, as well as No. 2 Maryland.

Obama expects eight upsets in the first round of the men’s tournament, including No. 12 U.C. Santa Barbara over No. 5 Creighton and No. 13 Ohio over fourth-seeded Virginia.

And while it was not an upset pick, he predicted that No. 5 Tennessee would beat No. 12 Oregon State, where his brother-in-law was the men’s basketball coach for six seasons.

In a bracket that pitted Gonzaga against Illinois for the men’s title, there was at least one sign of a second thought. In the South region, Obama crossed out No. 9 Wisconsin as a first-round pick and instead went with No. 8 North Carolina, which won a title during his presidency.

The former president’s crystal ball was, apparently, a bit clearer for the women’s tournament, which will begin on Sunday in Texas: No scratched-out picks. But he saw eight more first-round upsets, including No. 10 Michigan State over No. 7 Iowa State and No. 11 South Dakota over No. 6 Oregon.

But even Obama’s picks sometimes laughingly bristled over his predictions.

“Of course, we have ourselves beating anybody we go against,” Arella Guirantes, a guard for Rutgers, said on Thursday. “But it’s cool to see him picking us in the first round.”

The Texas Longhorns are ready for their tournament run.
Credit…Darron Cummings/Associated Press

Still filling out your bracket ahead of the noon Eastern deadline for many pools? Here’s a lightning round of last-minute advice:

Virginia is one of several teams that has had coronavirus issues leading up to the tournament.
Credit…Nell Redmond/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

Virginia, the 2019 title winner, is technically the reigning champion, since the tournament was canceled last year. But the Cavaliers had to withdraw from a semifinal game in last week’s Atlantic Coast Conference tournament after a positive test, subsequent quarantines and contact tracing within the program.

Coach Tony Bennett said most of the team, seeded No. 4 in the West Region, spent the week in quarantine in Charlottesville, Va. The Cavaliers are expected to arrive in Indianapolis Friday ahead of Saturday night’s game against No. 13 Ohio. They will have to jam in a lot during practice on Friday to prepare for their first game in nine days.

“I’m just really hopeful that we’ll be able to play this weekend,” the redshirt senior forward Sam Hauser said. “Quarantine is not that fun, but we’re allowed to at least go and walk around, get some fresh air, so just trying to keep a basketball in your hand as much as possible.”

Ohio features Jason Preston, a 6-foot-4 junior point guard who is averaging 16.6 points, 7.2 assists and 6.8 rebounds and has been called “the LaMelo Ball of college hoops” by ESPN’s Jay Bilas. Both Bilas and former President Barack Obama are picking Ohio to upset Virginia.

Credit…Amy Kontras/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

Kansas, the No. 3 seed in the West region, will also be playing its first game in nine days on Saturday — against No. 14 Eastern Washington — after withdrawing from the Big 12 tournament. The junior big man David McCormack is expected to practice in Indianapolis on Friday after having been in virus protocols. Coach Bill Self said the sophomore guard Tristan Enaruna would miss at least the first two games following a positive coronavirus test on Sunday “after numerous negative tests in a row.” The freshman forward Jalen Wilson, averaging 12.1 points and 8.2 rebounds, will miss at least the first game after testing positive last Friday.

Wilson’s former high school teammate, De’Vion Harmon of Oklahoma, will also miss his team’s first game against Missouri on Saturday after testing positive. Harmon is the Sooners’ second-leading scorer, with 12.9 points per game. Kansas beat Oklahoma last Thursday in the Big 12 tournament before Kansas pulled out because of Wilson’s positive test.

“I think it will be an adjustment, but not as much as what a lot of people think,” Self said. “We may not play well, but it won’t be because, I don’t believe, that we’ve been thrown a curveball that we can’t hit.”

Georgia Tech, the A.C.C. tournament champion and the No. 9 seed in the Midwest region, was dealt a huge blow. Moses Wright, who won the A.C.C. Player of the Year Award, will miss at least the first game against No. 8 Loyola Chicago on Friday because of virus-related issues, according to multiple reports.

Wright, a 6-foot-9 forward, is averaging 17.4 points, 8 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.6 blocks per game. Coach Josh Pastner will now have to use a smaller lineup against Loyola, which features the 6-foot-9 Cameron Krutwig, the Missouri Valley Conference player of the year, who averages 15 points and 6.7 rebounds.

Video

Cinemagraph
CreditCredit…Elijah Walker

This year’s N.C.A.A. men’s basketball tournament is a metaphorical color wheel. Green for the hundreds of millions of dollars it will reap, even without fans. Red for the anger that some players are expressing over being cut out of the profits they generate. And blue for the isolation others are feeling while marooned in a hotel at the start of 68-team, three-week game of survivor.

Chromatically speaking, however, those pale in comparison to the Midwest bracket, where there is — in very living color — a pigment that is not often a primary one in the world of sports: orange.

And there is lots of it.

On Friday, you’ll see Illinois orange and Oklahoma State orange. There is Clemson orange, which is very orange. And there are the Syracuse Orange, who are also orange. And when Tennessee plays Oregon State, there will be a veritable orange crush, a spectacle muted only by limits on the number of (in this case, orange-clad) fans allowed to attend the tournament.

Here’s a richer look at the statement color that has been used much more in college sports than the pros in the United States:

North Carolina Coach Roy Williams directs his team during a game against Notre Dame during the A.C.C. tournament.
Credit…Gerry Broome/Associated Press

Five of the seven active Division I men’s basketball coaches in the Naismith Hall of Fame are involved in this N.C.A.A. tournament.

Michigan State’s Tom Izzo kicked things off against U.C.L.A. on Thursday night, losing 86-80 in overtime.

Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim and North Carolina’s Roy Williams have teams playing on Friday. And Bill Self of Kansas and Rick Pitino of Iona start their tournament runs on Saturday.

Neither Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski nor Kentucky’s John Calipari got a bid, the first time since 1976 that both programs are out of the tournament.

Villanova’s Jay Wright, a finalist for the Hall of Fame this year, is back in the tournament after winning two of the last four N.C.A.A. titles, and Villanova plays Winthrop on Friday night.

Among active coaches, only Krzyzewski (five) and Williams (three) have more titles than Wright.





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