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2023 NCAA Tournament Thursday Recap: Round One busted the brackets

Upsets a’plenty were the highlight, defensive struggles reared their heads, and some surprise blowouts punctuated Round One

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament First Round-Furman vs Virginia Russell Lansford-USA TODAY Sports

We have 32 games to get through. For those of you without the free time to obsess over regional low-major basketball teams, or the patience to stay awake until 1:00 a.m., here’s your recap of Round One action:

South Region

No. 1 Alabama had a quiet day from B Mill, who played hard but took just 5 shots and only played 19 minutes as he was going at half-speed with injury. He wasn’t needed, however. The bench nailed down 31, Mark Sears rediscovered his outside stroke, Pringle was exciting AF, and the Tide played with their food. Keep an eye on Steve Lutz at 16-seed play-in TAMUCC. He runs a good program and looks like a young up-and-comer.

No. 5 SDSU put their size to work against the perimeter-oriented, undersized No. 12 CoC Cougars. Many had pointed to this one as a possible upset. But the Aztecs length frustrated Charleston all day. San Diego State dominated the glass, and kept COC from getting into a rhythm with those outside shots.

People had also pointed to NET darlings, No. 10 Utah State, as a dark horse in the region. No. 7 Mizzou was having none of it. Led by Kobe Brown, the Tigers’ athleticism was simply too much for the Ags to match. It was a comfy double-digit win, and USU never seriously threatened MU. SEC was 3-1 on the day, and none were particular upsets.

No. 8 Maryland mudwrestled No. 9 WVU in a thrilling last-second win. After a day where the whistles were infrequent, the Terps were the beneficiaries of several late ones down the stretch. The ‘Eers just were never able to defensively adjust to the way the game was called in the waning moments. Frustrating as hell if you’re West Virginia, for sure. Still, UMD was able to negate the press with solid ball movement and unselfish play.

No. 2 Arizona fell flat on their face against No. 15 Princeton, in one of the least-inspiring coaching efforts you’ll ever see. Zona was content to rely on their size, and tried to dominate the post in their two-man game, rather than run n’ gun, as they had done all season (it was the only P5 team that played anywhere near as fast as Alabama). That deliberative half-court strategty played exactly into the Tigers style of play and comfort zone. It wasn’t an upset if you watched it. Princeton was simply the better halfcourt team.

No. 4 Virginia did their usual Virginia thing again vs. No. 13 Furman. The bad last minute play will get blamed, but the perimeter shooting was the real culprit against a Paladins team that uses the three-ball as an equalizer. Still, do you want to see the dumbest pass you’ll ever find in postseason play?


No. 5 Duke came into the tournament playing as well as anyone. A lot of folks looked to No. 12 Oral Roberts’ outstanding three-and-tempo game to make this one competitive. It was not. The Devils ran them off the court.

No. 4 Tennessee played the ugliest damned game of basketball you’ve ever seen vs. No. 13 ULL. I’m not kidding either. 58-55, Vawls.


No. 1 Houston ran into a feisty No. 16 NKU Norse team that loves to play defense too. Sasser was already injured, and he got hurt even worse in this one. It was as ugly as you’d think it was. The Cougs are banged up, and then have to play another physical team tomorrow. Looking really vulnerable, TBH.

No. 8 Auburn exploited the soft underbelly of an even softer No. 9 Iowa defense. The Tigers never let the Hawkeyes get their perimeter offense going, and uglied it up down the stretch with a lot of gritty hustle. Not sure they’re the better team, but this was a favorable matchup. You can’t go into a knife-fight with a spork...and the Big 10 brought a lot of plastic cutlery this year.

No. 7 Texas A&M whined all week about the lack of respect in their seeding. Their reward was a red-hot No. 10 Penn State team that has been balls out down the stretch. As we’ve cautioned you here before, Buzz Ball and begging for whistles does not travel very well out of Reed. The Nittany Lions were able to both match the Aggies physicality and play some great offense. This was a satisfyingly hilarious blowout, and PSU looks like a legit dark horse.

No. 2 Texas destroyed No. 15 Colgate. Not much to say about this. A title contender looked like it.


No. 1 Kansas, who a lot of people had projected to struggle a bit, looked nothing but least in the second half. The Howard Bison played a great first half, but Kansas remembered who they were in the final 15 minutes.

No. 2. UCLA, another team that had been playing iffy the last few games likewise dispatched their tasty cupcake. UNC-Asheville was only close at the opening tip.

No. 10 Boise State was another midmajor darling that the basketball literati thought could make a little noise. The only noise they made is the sound of closing suitcases. The No. 7 Northwestern Wildcats used their superior ability to penetrate and get to the line — and then made their chances at the stripe count. Close-ish on the scoreboard, but NW never trailed.

No. 8 Arkansas played Big, Dumb Arkansas Basketball and bullied No. 9 Illinois. The Illini made a run in the second-half, as the Hogs tried to implode — because of course they did. But unusually, Arkie got their act back together, leaned on their talent, and closed out the game with a crisp, physical 5-6 minute stretch to put it away. As good or as bad as anyone in the country, Arkansas is the Agent of Chaos out West.


Based on how they played in the game, which was the bigger upset?

This poll is closed

  • 20%
    Furman over UVA
    (45 votes)
  • 52%
    Princeton over Arizona
    (118 votes)
  • 21%
    Equally surprising
    (47 votes)
  • 5%
    Neither were surprising
    (13 votes)
223 votes total Vote Now