It just wouldn't be March Madness without a stunning upset. Or two. Or three.
Saint Peter's, the 15th-seeded champions of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, shocked SEC powerhouse Kentucky 84-79 in overtime in the biggest bracket-buster of Thursday's opening-round action.
Meanwhile, a pair of mid-major 12th seeds pulled upsets of their own. Richmond knocked off trendy Final Four pick Iowa 67-63 and New Mexico State held off Connecticut 70-63.
Elsewhere, No. 1 seeds Gonzaga, Baylor and Kansas were victorious, as expected.
On the women's side, Longwood edged Mount St. Mary's 74-70 in a battle for the No. 16 seed, while Missouri State defeated Florida State 61-50 to advance as a No. 11 seed.
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Murray State outlasts San Francisco in overtime thriller
INDIANAPOLIS – KJ Williams scored six of his 18 points in overtime after Murray State blew an eight-point lead late in regulation, and the seventh-seeded Racers extended their winning streak to 21 games with a 92-87 victory over San Francisco in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday night.
The Racers (31-2) tied South Dakota State for the longest winning streak in the nation this season. With SDSU’s loss to Providence earlier Thursday, Murray State can edge ahead in Saturday’s East Region second-round game against Saint Peter’s. The 15th-seeded Peacocks toppled Kentucky 85-79 in OT.
The nightcap in Indianapolis was just as tight, with 18 lead changes and 14 ties. Murray State ultimately took control with Williams’ clutch baskets and Jordan Skipper-Brown’s timely plays in the extra session.
Jamaree Bouyea scored 36 points for USF (24-10), which made its first NCAA appearance since 1998.
Williams made a go-ahead layup with 1:15 remaining before Skipper-Brown’s layup made it 89-85 with 30 seconds left. Zane Meeks’ putback got USF within a basket, but he missed a free throw. Skipper-Brown made two free throws with 13.7 seconds left before adding another with 1.7 seconds remaining to seal the win.
— Associated Press
No. 1 Kansas hammers No. 16 Texas Southern
FORT WORTH, Texas – Remy Martin had 15 points and Christian Braun 14 as five players scored in double figures for top-seeded Kansas, and the Jayhawks opened their 50th NCAA Tournament with an 83-56 victory over Texas Southern on Thursday night.
Southwestern Athletic Conference champion Texas Southern (19-13), which won a First Four game two nights earlier, had its only lead against the Big 12 champs after Bryson Etienne made its first shot of the game.
Once the Jayhawks finally got on the board on a tying layup by Dajuan Harris after missing their first three shots, they got on a roll. They made their next six shots, and soon after that had a stretch of seven makes in a row.
Kansas (29-6) plays its second-round Midwest Regional game Saturday against ninth-seeded Creighton, which opened with a 72-69 overtime victory over San Diego State and will try to get to the Sweet 16 for the second year in a row.
John Walker III had 13 points for the Tigers.
Big 12 player of the year Ochai Agbagi had a relatively quiet night with 11 points for Kansas, but he had a short scoring outburst in the first half and his last points were a highlight play, scoring on an alley-oop pass from Harris, who finished with 12 points. Jalen Wilson had 11 points.
The Jayhawks led 47-19 after scoring five points in the final 4 seconds of the first half. It was their largest halftime lead in an NCAA Tournament game since they led by 29 over Marquette in the 2003 national semifinals.
— Associated Press
UCLA avoids upset, rallies past No. 13 Akron
PORTLAND, Ore. – The Akron Zips’ confidence was fueled by eight consecutive victories, including three upsets to win the Mid-American Conference tournament.
Their nerves were replaced by excitement for the big moment for the University of Akron and its men’s basketball program.
The 13th-seeded Zips led most of the way in a bitter battle with fourth-seeded UCLA in an NCAA Tournament East Regional game at the Moda Center before losing 57-53.
UCLA (26-7), which reached the Final Four from the First Four in 2021, advanced to meet fifth-seeded Saint Mary’s, an 82-53 winner over 12th-seeded Indiana.
Xavier Castaneda led UA with 18 points, six rebounds and one assist and Enrique Freeman added 14 points, 10 rebounds and an assist before fouling out.
Tyger Campbell scored 10 of his 16 points in the second half to pace the Bruins and added five assists. Jaime Jaquez Jr. added 15 points, nine rebounds and six assists. UA held Johnny Juzang to nine points, five rebounds and two assists.
No. 4 Arkansas fights off No. 13 Vermont
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Upsets were in the air at KeyBank Center on Thursday, but Arkansas hung on to avoid becoming the third team to be upset by a lower seed at the venue. The No. 4 seed Razorbacks beat No. 13 seed Vermont 75-71 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
No. 5 seeds UConn and Iowa were both upset in Buffalo earlier in the day, and while Vermont threatened in the second half, guard JD Notae came alive in the second half, finishing with 17 points to help lift the Razorbacks into March Madness' second round.
Arkansas outrebounded Vermont 39-32. Ten came from Jaylin Williams and eight were offensive rebounds that came against the team rated No. 1 in the country in defensive rebounds by Kenpom.
The Razorbacks will play No. 12 seed New Mexico State on Saturday. The Aggies defeated UConn 70-63 just before Arkansas (26-8) and Vermont (28-6) took the floor.
A review in the final nine seconds gave Arkansas possession with a two-point lead. Vermont fouled Notae, who made both free throws and made it a four-point game. Vermont missed a three and Williams grabbed the rebound to ice the win.
Creighton nips San Diego State in OT
The battle of No. 8 and 9 seeds was as close as expected as Creighton scored the last nine points of regulation to force overtime and freshman Trey Alexander converted a three-point play with 1:08 left to give the ninth-seeded Blue Jays a 72-69 win over San Diego State.
Alexander scored seven of his 18 points in the extra period as Creighton scored the last five points in overtime. All five Creighton starters scored in double digits.
Peacocks strut their stuff in upset of No. 2 seed Kentucky
Saint Peter's pulled off the biggest upset of this NCAA Tournament, becoming just the 10th ever No. 15 seed to knock off a No. 2 seed. The Peacocks stunned No. 2 Kentucky — a national title contender — with a 85-79 overtime win in the first round Thursday at Indianapolis.
Saint Peter's, a mid-major from Jersey City, New Jersey and winner of the MAAC tournament's automatic bid into the Big Dance, won its first-ever NCAA Tournament game in its first appearance since 2011. This will go down as one of the biggest upset losses in coach John Calipari's tenure with Kentucky; its his first first-round loss since taking over the program in 2009.
Daryl Banks III carried the Peacocks offensively in the upset, finishing with 27 points off five three-pointers.
— Scott Gleeson
No. 12 seed New Mexico State takes down UConn
Teddy Allen made a steal, converted a three-point play and hit four clutch free throws, all in the final 30 seconds, to lead 12th-seeded New Mexico State to a thrilling 70-63 upset of No. 5 seed UConn in the West Region.
Allen finished with a game-high 37 points and scored the Aggies' last 15 points of the game as they were able to hold off a second-half comeback by the Huskies. New Mexico State led by 10 at halftime before UConn rallied to tie the game at 52 with just over five minutes to play.
But Allen was just too tough down the stretch.
"My teammates kept looking for me, telling me to shoot it," Allen said. "That's all you can ask for, a team that believes in you, a coach that believes in you. And you see what happens."
Longwood women hold on to beat Mount St. Mary's
Longwood got off to a scorching start, leading 22-5 after the first quarter, but had to withstand a furious comeback by Mount St. Mary's to pull out a 74-70 victory in the NCAA women's First Four.
Lancers senior Akila Smith led the way with 32 points and 13 rebounds in a battle of No. 16 seeds. They'll move on to meet top-seeded N.C. State in Raleigh on Saturday.
Indiana cheerleader to the rescue!
Play was stopped early in the second half of the East Region matchup between No. 5 seed St. Mary's and No. 12 seed Indiana when the basketball got wedged in between the backboard and the TBS camera.
But never fear! It was nothing good old human ingenuity and some top-tier athleticism couldn't fix.
Two members of the Indiana cheerleading squad took care of the problem with a quick overhead lift, a move they've probably practiced thousands of times. And play quickly resumed.
TBS announcer Andrew Catalon provided an enthusiastic play-by-play call as well.
Incredible scene in Portland, as an Indiana cheerleader saves the day by freeing a stuck ball. Amazing call by Andrew Catalon. pic.twitter.com/P53569THj2
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) March 18, 2022
No. 15 seed St. Peter's hanging tough with Kentucky
Junior guard Daryl Banks III has been money for St. Peter's in the first half, scoring 16 points -- including a perfect 4-for-4 on 3-pointers -- as the 15th-seeded Peacocks hit the locker room at halftime in a 37-37 tie with second-seeded Kentucky.
The game has been close throughout, with neither team holding more than a four-point lead.
In another potential upset, 12th-seeded New Mexico State has a 32-22 halftime lead over No. 5 UConn. Junior guard Teddy Allen is setting the pace with 14 points for the Aggies.
Vols' win means big bucks for coach Rick Barnes
In recent years, men’s college basketball coaches have needed to win the national championship to accumulate $1 million in bonus money.
On Thursday, Tennessee coach Rick Barnes reached that figure with the Volunteers' first-round victory over Longwood. The win added $200,000 to his total for this season — and he can get $200,000 more for each additional win except a win in the title game, which would be worth $300,000.
MORE SALARY INFO: Coaches' compensation database
Although Barnes has missed on some bonuses this season, he still could end up with more than $2 million in incentive pay.
Since USA TODAY Sports began tracking these amounts in the 2016-17 season, the top single-season totals, including amounts based on team academic performance, have been Virginia coach Tony Bennett’s $1.25 million in 2018-19 and North Carolina coach Roy Williams’ $1 million in 2016-17. Those seasons ended in NCAA titles for their respective teams.
-- Steve Berkowitz
No. 1 Gonzaga pulls away after shaky start
Georgia State made a bid to become only the second 16th seed to win an NCAA Tournament game, but in the end, top-ranked Gonzaga was too much for the plucky Panthers.
Georgia State held a 54-52 lead with 13:10 to play before the Zags finally caught fire and turned the game into the blowout everyone expected, outscoring Georgia State 31-14 over the final 10 1/2 minutes. Drew Timme led the way with 32 points and 13 rebounds.
However, the Zags' uneven performance didn't provide much support for their status as a title contender, USA TODAY Sports' Scott Gleeson writes.
Gonzaga faces Memphis on Saturday for a spot in the Sweet 16.
Did refs botch end of Richmond vs. Iowa?
Iowa was on the wrong side of Richmond's upset on Thursday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
The Hawkeyes, winners of the Big Ten tournament and a sleeper team picked by many analysts to reach the Final Four, had several calls not go their way down the stretch – including one momentous no-call off a Kris Murray three-point attempt with exactly one minute remaining. Iowa was trailing 60-57.
That’s a foul. A huge miss by the refs. pic.twitter.com/hV5swk15xu
— Troy Machir (@TroyMachir) March 17, 2022
Two NCAA referees appeared to be viewing the play and opted not to call a foul on the three-point attempt despite there being clear contact on Murray's arm by Richmond's Matt Grace.
After that play, Iowa went on to lose 67-63 thanks to a bucket and three-point play by Richmond's Nathan Cato and two clutch free throws from Jacob Gilyard.
-- Scott Gleeson
North Carolina takes it to Marquette
There's no argument over which team should have been seeded higher in this 8-9 East Region matchup. No. 8 North Carolina drubbed No. 9 Marquette 95-63.
Brady Manek had a double-double with 28 points and 11 rebounds, while Caleb Love drilled 6 of his 11 shots from beyond the arc and scored 21 of his 23 points in the first half as the Tar Heels were never seriously threatened.
Richmond upsets Iowa
Iowa entered the NCAA Tournament as one of the hottest teams, having just won the Big Ten Tournament and nine of its last 10 games.
No. 12-seeded Richmond was unfazed, stunning the Hawkeyes 67-63 to become this NCAA Tournament's first true Cinderella.
Richmond, winners of the Atlantic 10 tournament, had no shot at making the NCAAs as an at-large bid despite hanging around the bubble through February and March. On Thursday, the Spiders (24-12) proved they belonged on the big stage with a gutsy and determined performance against one of the better teams in the mighty Big Ten Conference.
— Tipico Sportsbook (@tipico) March 17, 2022
Jacob Gilyard, a 5-9 senior sparkplug point guard, helped spearhead the upset with 24 points and six assists in the win. Richmond forward Tyler Burton came up clutch from the free-throw line (9-for-10) to finish with 18 points. Senior Nathan Cayo (15 points) had a pair of crucial baskets in the final 1:30 to help the Spiders pull away.
Iowa's All-American forward Keegan Murray, who averages 23.6 points a game, couldn't find an offensive rhythm in this game – finishing with 21 points and scoring most of the baskets late. A major no-call in the final minute off Kris Murray's three-pointer sealed the Hawkeyes' fate.
Richmond will face Providence in the second round Saturday.
-- Scott Gleeson
Tennessee trounces Longwood
Fresh off its SEC tournament championship, No. 3 Tennessee dominated No. 14 Longwood end to end in a 88-56 victory. Five Volunteers scored in double-digits and the team made 14 of 24 3-pointers.
Many thought the Volunteers deserved a two-seed, and it's easy to see why. They remain a threat in the South Region. Tennessee will face 11-seeded Michigan on Saturday in the second round.
Baylor dominates Norfolk St.
Matthew Mayer finished with a career-high 22 points (4-for7 from 3-point range) to lead all scorers as No. 1 seed Baylor throttled Norfolk State 85-49. It was the largest margin of victory in a tournament for Baylor and the 24 assists are a team-high in a March Madness contest.
Meanwhile, drama brews in the Midwest Region. Fifth-seeded Iowa, a popular “sleeper” Final Four pick, enters halftime of its first-round matchup against No. 12 Richmond down 29-28.
Memphis fends off Boise State
Boise State fought back from a 19-point deficit and had Memphis on its heels in the closing minutes but couldn’t put it all together for a huge comeback. The Tigers lost momentum late in the game but did just enough to escape Boise State 64-53 in the NCAA Tournament’s first round in Portland, Oregon.
A crucial defensive play by veteran point guard Alex Lomax prompted a steal and lay-in for Jalen Duren with 47 seconds left. That proved to be the play of the game for the Tigers, stopping the Broncos’ momentum.
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Memphis draws a second-round matchup with the winner of No. 1 Gonzaga and No. 16 Georgia State.
Coach Leon Rice’s team, the regular-season champion in the Mountain West, started slow and trailed 38-19 at halftime. But Boise State kept clawing back play by play before the crowd in Portland sensed a potential March Madness moment. That moment never materialized.
Abu Kigab paced Boise State with 20 points in the loss and Memphis overcame 15 turnovers in the win.
The Mountain West hasn't won a tournament game since 2018 and the conference is off to an 0-3 start this March – and it's not even Happy Hour of the first round.
The Mountain West hasn't had a team win an NCAA tournament game since Nevada in 2018. 0-3 so far this year, San Diego State the last remaining hope for the league.
— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) March 17, 2022
-- Scott Gleeson
Big halftime leads; Tennessee underway
In what appeared to have all the ingredients of a spicy matchup, No. 9 Memphis is trouncing No. 8 Boise State 38-19 at halftime. Meanwhile, No. 1 seed Baylor is taking care of business over 16-seed Norfolk State, 43-27.
No. 3 Tennessee and No. 14 Longwood have tipped off.
Providence handles South Dakota State
A trendy upset pick, as the “expert” brackets trickled out, was No. 13 South Dakota State over Providence. The No. 4 Friars – the Big East regular season champions – took care of business over the Jackrabbits, though, winning 66-57 in Buffalo. They’ll face the winner of Iowa-Richmond in the Midwest Region’s second round.
The Jackrabbits’ 21-game win streak came to an end and their season ended with a 30-5 record. Providence’s defense held the Jackrabbits to 29 points below their season average in scoring.
— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessMBB) March 17, 2022
“I thought our players were determined … our will to win,” Providence coach Ed Cooley said after the game. “We always heard about ‘how good they (South Dakota) were, how good they were.’”
No. 11 Michigan upsets No. 6 Colorado State
It didn't take long for the first upset of March Madness. The Wolverines topped Colorado State 75-63 after a slow start that saw them trail by 15 points. They scored 46 points in the second half to pull away. Next up for Michigan: Tennessee or Longwood.
Jalen Rose pumped about Michigan
As Michigan battles Colorado State in a first-round matchup, someone is having fun.
— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessMBB) March 17, 2022
That's former Wolverine, NBA player and "Fab Five" star Jalen Rose getting hyped in the stands.
Popular upset pick trails at half
The 13-4 matchup is usually ripe for an upset, and the public settled on South Dakota State over Big East champ Providence this year. But the Friars lead the Jackrabbits 31-23 at halftime (truTV).
Memphis vs. Boise State a 'most watchable' matchup
According to our unofficial "watchability rankings," the upcoming Memphis-Boise State 8-seed vs. 9-seed game (1:45 p.m. ET, TNT) is at the top of the list.
Michigan without top point guard in opener vs. Colorado State
Michigan's top point guard DeVante' Jones did not travel with the team to Indianapolis due to a concussion. Jones averaged 10.7 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game this season. Eli Brooks, Frankie Collins and Kobe Bufkin are expected to assume a majority of the ball-handling duties.
- Detroit Free Press
Dark horses and overrated teams
When filling out your bracket, keep in mind there are bound to be many upsets, so don't forget to pay attention to these teams, such as Iowa, which is a trendy pick to make the Final Four. Also, look out for UCLA, which is trying to repeat its Final Four magic from a year ago. The Bruins are starting to get healthy at the right time and could be trouble an issue for teams that overlook them.
While there are sleepers in the field, there are also teams that either have no business in the tournament or could find their way back home before the first weekend is gone.
Teams like Houston, Texas, Iowa State, Saint Mary's and Ohio State earned at-large bids while navigating their regular-season schedule, but haven't shown why you should pencil them in when it comes to advancing through the tournament.
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Dick Vitale vs. cancer
College basketball Hall of Fame broadcaster Dick Vitale usually is pumped up for this time of year, but after being diagnosed with cancer and recovering from surgery on his vocal cords to treat lymphoma, Vitale hasn't been able to speak and show his enthusiasm for the game he loves.
"Not being able to communicate has me crying my eyes out," Vitale, 82, told USA TODAY Sports through text messages. "I love speaking with people – at lunch or dinner, with my wife and family, and especially with people in public when they come up to me for a conversation."
Vitale was set to have an evaluation to check his voice on March 16 – the day before the first round of the men's NCAA Tournament.
Bill Self tops list of highest-paid in college basketball
Kansas coach Bill Self has guided the Jayhawks to success on the court and is handsomely rewarded for his effort to the turn of being one of the highest-paid coaches in college basketball. Self is making $10.2 million this season as the Jayhawks have another team capable of making a title run.
Each of the top five coaches who earn the most have won at least one national championship.
On the women's side, South Carolina's Dawn Staley sets the standard as she is making nearly $3 million per season.
Notre Dame outlasts Rutgers in double overtime
Notre Dame forward Paul Atkinson Jr.'s made a putback layup with 1.4 seconds remaining in the second overtime lifting the Fighting Irish to a 89-87 win in the final First Four game in Dayton. The Irish now travel to San Diego in a West Region contest to face No. 6 seed Alabama.
Indiana's plane issues
After Indiana beat Wyoming in a First Four matchup, the Hoosiers had issues leaving Dayton. The team didn't leave the city until 4 a.m. because it had to switch planes because the one that was waiting for them was too small to accommodate everyone.
The plane ended up landing five hours later in Portland, giving Indiana less than 36 hours before they take on Saint Mary's in Thursday's NCAA tournament first round.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: March Madness recap: Saint Peter's, Richmond pull big upsets