After the wild and bracket-busting first day of men’s March Madness, Candace Parker saw the future on the postgame show. The future Hall of Famer said that after so many upsets on Thursday, coaches of higher-seeded teams would be able to point to that and get their squads focused on the challenge of the tournament.
And focused they were. Only four lower seeds won in the second half of the first-round matchups, all four came from major conferences, and none seeded lower than 11th.
In the South Region, No. 9 TCU walloped No. 8 Seton Hall, 69-42, in San Diego. Over in the Midwest, there were two double-digit seed winners, as No. 10 Miami knocked off No. 7 USC, 68-66, in Greenville, S.C., and No. 11 Iowa State notched what could barely even be considered an upset, 59-54, over No. 6 LSU after the Tigers fired Will Wade. And in one of the early games in San Diego, West No. 11 Notre Dame followed up its First Four victory over Rutgers by burying No. 6 Alabama, 78-64, behind 10-for-18 shooting on threes to the Crimson Tide’s 8-for-24.
That’s not to say that there wasn’t excitement, just that it was a far more successful day of outcomes for the chalk.
Illinois, the South’s No. 4 seed, barely survived Chattanooga, 54-53, in Pittsburgh, while Michigan State, No. 7 in the West, squeaked past No. 10 Davidson, 74-73, to set up a duel of legends Tom Izzo and Mike Krzyzewski on Sunday after No. 2 Duke’s 78-61 dismissal of Cal State Fullerton.
By comparison, then, Midwest No. 3 Wisconsin’s 67-60 victory over No. 14 Colgate in a virtual home game in Milwaukee was a cakewalk, but really it was anything but that. The Raiders had a 52-48 lead with 10:40 left, then went more than seven minutes without scoring. By the time Jeff Woodward hit a pair of free throws with 3:33 to go, the Badgers had scored 10 straight points to take a lead they’d never give up.
Whether or not the upset parade gets going again on Saturday, we do know that there will be a Cindrella in the Sweet 16, because No. 7 Murray State and No. 15 St. Peter’s play in Indianapolis at 7:45 Eastern for a trip to Philadelphia.
But that might be it. When Friday’s winners meet on Sunday, the only teams from outside the Power 5 football conferences will be in the South – and both are favored: No. 2 Villanova (against No. 7 Ohio State) and No. 5 Houston (against No. 4 Illinois, which is seeded higher despite being four spots lower in the last AP poll, at No. 19). And, with that phrasing, Notre Dame, because the Fighting Irish don’t play in a Power 5 football conference, but do play in the ACC in basketball… but also, the way that Texas Tech wiped the floor with Montana State in the first round, 97-62, the No. 3 seed in the West has to like its chances against a Notre Dame team that will be playing a third game in five days.