The first round of the 2022 NCAA men’s basketball tournament concluded Friday night with no more casualties among the contenders. After a Thursday of surprises, the top three seeds survived the second day of the first round without so much as a scare.
Arizona, Duke, Auburn and Villanova all posted wins.
Texas Tech, with a 97-62 blowout of Montana State, showed that it belongs at the same top level.
But no team was more dominant Friday than the best title bet of them all: the South Carolina women.
They led 16th seed Howard 20-0, then 42-2, then 63-8. Midway through the third quarter, only one Howard player had scored. The Gamecocks broke a record for fewest points allowed in the first half of an NCAA tournament (4). They shot just 8 of 38 from long range…and still pulled off a 79-21 win.
His challengers also sailed. Louisville won by 32, and No. 2 seeds Iowa and Baylor by 40 apiece. Stanford, the defending champions, held Montana State scoreless in the first quarter and eased to a final margin of 41.
But this South Carolina team is unparalleled. He beat six top 10 opponents and 11 top 25 opponents during the regular season. He knocked down No. 2 twice. On Friday, he caught 30 offensive reboundsand showed no signs of slowing down in March.
This mind-boggling pre-eminence was the story of a day when March Madness didn’t live up to its name.
Near misses make a day without drama
Day 2 of the men’s tournament was not necessarily without drama. But the madness that so often marks tight tournament matches was instead a collection of near misses.
In Greenville, South Carolina, USC’s Drew Peterson took a shot from half court as the final buzzer sounded. Miami held its breath, then exhaled as Peterson’s potential game winner jumped off the backboard, off the rim and out.
In Pittsburgh, 13th-seeded Chattanooga led Big Ten regular-season champion Illinois for more than 39 minutes. But the Mocs froze in the final stretch. They failed to make a single field goal in the final four minutes and 30 seconds of the game. They coughed up the lead they had had for the entire game at the last minute. And when Malachi Smith had a chance to undo all that slow agony, his jump shot over the buzzer went off.
In Milwaukee, No. 14-seeded Colgate and his misfit gang of sharpshooters gave No. 3 Wisconsin a shot, but faded late. The Badgers survived, 67-60, and advanced to face 11th-seeded Iowa State. The day passed without much masculine surprise.
Friday’s biggest surprise
With Chattanooga and Colgate falling, the biggest surprise of the day belonged to Florida’s Gulf Coast. It was one of those predictable upsets, where the No. 12 seed doesn’t have to be a No. 12 seed. But it was an upset nonetheless.
The Eagles were 29-2. They have a WNBA prospect and NCAA tournament experience. So it wasn’t entirely surprising when that prospect, Kierstan Bell, who already declared for the draft, led FGCU to an 84-81 win over fifth-seeded Virginia Tech.
In fact, four of the first six games of the women’s tournament were won by lower-seeded teams, as many upsets as there were all day on the men’s side.
First Four Magical Resumes
In all but one year since the NCAA created the First Four in 2011, a play-in winner has won a true first-round game. Notre Dame continued that trend on Friday.
The Fighting Irish avoided Rutgers in double overtime on Wednesday night. Some 40 hours later in San Diego, they made light work of sixth-seeded Alabama. And the Crimson Tide radio hosts were NOT happy.
The best conference in the United States has been the best conference in the NCAA tournament
Ken Pomeroy has been tracking the relative strength of men’s college basketball conferences for two decades, and not since the 2003-04 ACC, a league powered by Chris Paul and JJ Redick, has one conference been as far ahead of the rest as 2021. – 22 12 grand.
Unfortunately, the Big 12 have had other solid regular seasons. He spent six consecutive years at the top of the Pomeroy rankings. They earned just three Final Four appearances, zero national titles, and plenty of early-round flops, raising suspicions that the force on paper was weak.
But in 2022, so far, so good, perfect, actually, in both the men’s and women’s tournaments.
The Big 12 teams have played 10 games so far in two days of Madness. They have won all 10, by a combined margin of 222 points. They received expected contributions from Baylor, but also blowouts like the 69-42 drubbing of TCU Seton Hall on the men’s side that showed the depth of the league.
There will be tougher tests to come, but the men from Baylor, Kansas and Texas Tech, and the women from Baylor and Texas look like Final Four contenders.