NCAA Tournament: 5 Day 1 Storylines
The NCAA Tournament never fails to deliver, and day one was full of memorable upsets and terrific performances. It also brought about a couple of injuries that could significantly impact the bracket.
Brandon Miller Injury
Alabama’s Brandon Miller might be the brightest future star in the NCAA Tournament. He is projected as a top-three pick in the upcoming NBA Draft and has been one of the best players in the country all season. Alabama is the number one overall seed, but they have reason for concern as Miller was held scoreless in limited action in round one. It was revealed that Miller has a groin injury he sustained in the SEC Championship Game against Texas A&M. This situation is worth monitoring. It could make the second-round matchup against Maryland much more interesting. The Crimson Tide are currently listed as 8.5-point favorites.
Marcus Sasser and Auburn’s Home-Court Advantage
Speaking of groin injuries, Houston’s star guard Marcus Sasser entered the tournament with one of his own, and he surprisingly tried to play in round one against Northern Kentucky. Sasser quickly reaggravated the injury in the first half and spent the rest of the game on the bench. Kelvin Sampson did not appear too optimistic about Sasser’s availability for Saturday’s game against the Auburn Tigers, but he was more visibly frustrated with another element of that game. Despite being the number one seed in the region, the Houston Cougars will be tipping off against the Auburn Tigers in Birmingham. It will be a short drive for the Tiger faithful, and with Sasser and a couple of other Houston players hampered by injury, the game could be a very tough one for Houston. The Cougars are currently 5.5-point favorites.
Arizona Stunned by Princeton
The Arizona Wildcats were one of the favorites to advance to the Final Four and challenge for the National Championship. However, the PAC-12 Tournament Champions went ice cold over the final five minutes on Thursday night and lost to the 15-seeded Princeton Tigers by a score of 59-55. The Wildcats never gained separation from the Ivy League Champions, but they had established a decent lead with around five minutes to go. The Tigers scored the game’s final nine points, and Princeton grabbed its first lead of the game with 50 seconds remaining. The Wildcats could not muster a response, and the 14.5-point favorite was going home as first-round losers.
The Duke Blue Devils entered the NCAA Tournament as one of the nation’s hottest teams. There were lingering questions about just what their winning streak meant since it came against the weak ACC. An early loss by Virginia intensified those questions. Duke responded with a resounding answer. They jumped on top of 12-seed Oral Roberts and never relented, eventually blowing out the Golden Eagles 74-51. The Blue Devils have athleticism and length at every position, and their offense is beginning to match the potential many felt they had at the beginning of the season. This is a scary five-seed, and they are small favorites against four-seed Tennessee on Saturday.
After fellow PAC-12 two-seed Arizona was stunned by a 15-seed on Thursday, the UCLA Bruins took the court and ensured no such fate awaited them. They blasted the UNC-Asheville Bulldogs with a comprehensive 86-53 victory. The Bruins led by 21 points at halftime and coasted to the win. UCLA got 17 points from Jaime Jaquez and Amari Bailey and double figures from Mac Etienne, David Singleton, and Kenneth Nwuba. They look every bit like a team capable of reaching another Final Four. The Bruins will take on Northwestern and are currently 7.5-point favorites.