The first round of the N.C.A.A. men’s basketball tournament included many upsets.
A No. 2 seed, Kentucky, and two No. 5 seeds, Iowa and Connecticut, fell on Thursday, and on Saturday the teams that pulled off those surprising wins will be back on the court.
Eight second-round games will take place in Buffalo; Indianapolis; Fort Worth; and Portland, Ore. The games begin at 12:10 p.m. Eastern, with No. 8-seeded North Carolina taking on Baylor, a No. 1 seed.
Here’s what to watch for on Saturday:
Can 15th-seeded St. Peter’s pull out another win?
Pretty much nobody foresaw Daryl Banks III and No. 15-seeded St. Peter’s stunning second-seeded Kentucky, 85-79, in overtime on Thursday night. But it really happened.
Banks and the Peacocks will once again be underdogs when they face seventh-seeded Murray State, which has won 21 straight games since late December. The Racers, led by juniors Tevin Brown and K.J. Williams, can force turnovers at a high rate and immediately convert those mistakes into points. They average 79.7 points per game and outscored San Francisco 92-87 in their overtime victory on Thursday.
The Peacocks, led by coach Shaheen Holloway, are a hard-nosed defensive team that allows 63 points per game.
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- A Scout at Heart: Omar Minaya, a former Mets general manager, is a proud dad at Providence games. But he’s also watching for pro talent.
Holloway said many of his players believe they belong at big-time basketball programs.
“And I give the guys freedom to play offense,” he said. “As long as they do what they have got to do for me on defense, on offense, they have their freedom.”
Three No. 1 seeds will be on display.
While underdogs stole a lot of attention on Thursday, many favorites still took care of business.
No. 1 seeds Gonzaga, Kansas and Baylor won by a combined 84 points. The fourth No. 1 seed, Arizona, was matched up against No. 16 Wright State on Friday night in the first round.
Gonzaga overcame a somewhat slow start to roll Georgia State by 21 points, Kansas routed Texas Southern by 27 and Baylor, the reigning national champion, romped past Norfolk State by 36.
Things figure to get more interesting for the top contenders as the tournament progresses.
Gonzaga, which got a combined 51 points and 30 rebounds from its frontcourt duo of Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren, will face Coach Penny Hardaway and Memphis, a confident team that has won 13 of its last 15 games.
Kansas, the Big 12 Tournament champion, gets a high-scoring Creighton team that showed guts in forcing overtime with a second-half rally to beat San Diego State. And Baylor could have the stiffest test of the top seeds when it faces a North Carolina squad with some big wins (at Duke, versus Michigan) and several blowout losses.
“There’s always things you can improve on,” Coach Scott Drew said after Baylor’s first-round win. “No one plays a perfect game. But the grand scheme of it, we played well, we did what we needed to do, which is win and advance. And now it’s all about preparing, getting ready and making sure we’re in the best shape possible for the next game.”
No West Coast team has won the title since Arizona in 1997, but Gonzaga and Arizona are considered the two top favorites and could meet in the title game April 4 in New Orleans.
Check out the unicorn.
Holmgren, Gonzaga’s 7-foot-1 freshman who is in the mix to be the No. 1 pick in this summer’s N.B.A. draft, has often been called a “unicorn” by observers because he defies description as a basketball player.
The N.B.A. superstar Kevin Durant once used the term in 2016 to describe Kristaps Porzingis, the 7-foot-3 big man now with the Washington Wizards, and to compliment his 3-point shooting range and ability to block shots and defend.
Holmgren, a Minnesota native who won four state championships at Minnehaha Academy, is drawing comparisons to Porzingis six years later because he combines tremendous size and length with the ball-handling skills and agility of a guard.
Here’s a viewing strategy for Saturday.
A full day of college hoops on a Saturday. What could be better? Load up the fridge with snacks and find your favorite comfortable chair or spot on the couch.
Make sure to check out the Baylor-North Carolina game starting at 12:10 p.m. Eastern on CBS, and watch another game with a No. 1 seed with Kansas-Creighton after that.
St. Mary’s-U.C.L.A. at 7:10 p.m. on TBS gives a chance to watch two West Coast teams in an earlier time slot, and the nightcap at 9:40 p.m. on TBS is the tournament’s top favorite, Gonzaga, against Hardaway and red-hot Memphis.