The Buffalo Bulls became the first true bracket busters of the 2018 NCAA Tournament on Thursday, when they defeated the Arizona Wildcats in the first round of South region play.
Fourth-seeded Arizona (27-8) came into the game as a heavy favorite. But after a tightly contested first half, Buffalo (27-8) dominated down the stretch, eventually pulling away for an overwhelming 89-68 victory. Senior Wes Clark led the way for the Bulls with 25 points, while Jeremy Harris added 23.
While Buffalo came into the game fully believing they could win, the margin of victory was a surprise to everyone on the team.
“It’s easy to look at us as a team that can’t compete with a high-major, a team that has four NBA prospects,” Clark said after the game. “We knew deep down from looking at the film and getting our confidence right that we could play with those guys. We came and played hard.”
For Buffalo, the No. 13 seed in the South region, the win sets up a second round contest with the Kentucky Wildcats (25-10). Fifth-seeded Kentucky survived a scare to get by No. 12 seed Davidson 78-73. According to Bovada, Kentucky is a six-point favorite over the Bulls, with the winner moving on to the Sweet Sixteen.
Ramblers Win on Buzzer Beater
The South region was home to the two biggest upsets on the first day of the NCAA Tournament. No. 11 seed Loyola-Chicago (29-5) defeated No. 6 Miami (22-10) in a back-and-forth affair that was finally settled when Donte Ingram hit a long three-pointer with 0.3 seconds remaining to take the 64-62 win.
“As a kid, this is what you grow up seeing, hoping that you can be in that moment,” Ingram said. “For me to be in this position with these guys, with this coaching staff, I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
The Ramblers will move on to play No. 3 seed Tennessee. The Volunteers easily moved past Wright State 73-47, and are a six-point favorite over Loyola-Chicago in their second round matchup.
No Madness in the Midwest
Early action in the Midwest region played out much more to form, with the highest seeds winning all four games played on Thursday. Top seed Kansas (28-7) shrugged off a slow start to dispatch a competitive Penn (24-9) team by a 76-60 final. They’ll face Seton Hall (22-11) in the second round, after the Pirates defeated North Carolina State 94-83.
One of the best games of the first round saw seventh-seeded Rhode Island (26-7) score an 83-78 victory over Oklahoma (18-14) in overtime thanks to a balanced attack that saw four players score in double figures. The Rams did just enough to contain Oklahoma guard Trae Young, who scored 28 points on 9-18 shooting to lead the Sooners in a losing effort.
“We didn’t want to change our style of play and not be aggressive against him just because of who he is,” said Rhode Island guard Fatts Russell. “We just tried to contain him and it worked.”
Rhode Island will move on to play Duke (27-7), which had a relatively easy time in an 89-67 victory over Iona. The second-seeded Blue Devils are widely expected to make a deep run in the tournament, and have been posted as a 9.5-point favorite over Rhode Island for their meeting on Saturday.