Day One of the NCAA Tournament — sorry, we don’t count those ridiculous play-in games — was a dud if you’re a fan of upsets and true March Madness. But if you’re a fan of higher seeds like Kentucky and Vanderbilt, it was just fine.
The Commodores toppled Harvard 79-70 and wrapped up their first tourney win since 2007. The victory snapped a streak of three first-game losses for Kevin Stallings.
John Jenkins poured in 27 points as Vandy built a double-digit lead. When the Crimson — who were no doubt jinxed by wearing black instead of their actual school color — cut the lead to 70-65, VU got tough on the defensive end and pulled away at the charity stripe.
The #5 seed Dores will next face #4 Wisconsin tomorrow in Albuquerque at 6:10pm ET on TNT.
Kentucky — the tournament’s overall #1 seed — dispatched cross-state rival Western Kentucky with ease, 81-66 in Louisville. UK shot 61.5% in the first half and coasted — almost literally — to the finish line.
The Cats allowed the Hilltoppers to close the game on a 16-1 run. Whether that’s a bad sign or meaningless garbage time sloppiness depends on the beholder.
On Saturday, the Wildcats will face #8 seed Iowa State who knocked off defending champ UConn and blocked another John Calipari-Jim Calhoun bout. The Cats and Cyclones will tip at 7:45pm ET on CBS.
Today’s SEC action tips off at 1:40pm ET on TBS as #9 seed Alabama tangles with #8 seed Creighton in Greensboro. Anthony Grant’s athletic, defense-first squad should be tested mightily by the Blue Jay’s high-scoring, up-tempo style.
At 2:10pm ET on TNT, #7 Florida will try to kickstart its frontcourt game when it faces #10 Virginia in Omaha. Experience could play a role as the Gators make their third-straight NCAA tourney appearance while the Cavaliers are going dancing for the first time since 2007.
Earlier this week we took a stats-based look at each SEC squad’s path to the Sweet Sixteen. We had Vandy and Kentucky advancing, Florida and Bama coming up short. So far, so good.