Gonzaga Avoids NCAA Tournament Upset; Louisville Wins by 31

Gonzaga University defeated Southern University 64-58, using an 8-2 scoring run in the closing minutes to avoid becoming the first No. 1 regional seed to ever lose to a 16th seed at the men’s college basketball national tournament.

The University of Louisville, the top seed in the Midwest region, had an easier time, routing North Carolina A&T 79-48 in its opening game. Marquette, Wichita State, Butler, Michigan State, Saint Louis, Memphis, Michigan, Arizona, California, Oregon, Virginia Commonwealth and Colorado State also won today as the first full round of tournament play began at four regional sites around the U.S.

No. 1 regional seeds are now 114-0 against 16th seeds since the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament field expanded in 1985. Gonzaga had been tied 56-56 against the Southwestern Athletic Conference champions with 3 1/2 minutes remaining. Southern’s six-point loss was the closest by a 16 seed against a No. 1 since 1996, when Western Carolina lost by two against Purdue.

“Southern was a heck of a basketball team,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few, whose team is the top seed in the West region, said in a televised interview. “The more I watched tape on them, the more I kept saying, ‘Uh oh.’ They were a handful.”

Gonzaga (32-2) advanced to face ninth-seeded Wichita State, which topped No. 8 Pittsburgh 73-55 in the Panthers’ final game as a member of the Big East conference. Pittsburgh joins the Atlantic Coast Conference next season.

Louisville Rolls

Louisville never trailed in its rout of 16th-seeded North Carolina A&T, forcing 25 turnovers and shooting 56 percent in Lexington, Kentucky. Russ Smith had 23 points and seven steals for the Cardinals (30-5), who next play No. 8 Colorado State, which defeated ninth-seeded Missouri 84-72.

Marquette, the No. 3 seed in the East region, erased a seven-point deficit in the final two minutes to pull out a 59-58 win against Davidson College. The Golden Eagles hit three straight 3-pointers after missing 11 of their first 12 attempts and got a driving layup from junior guard Vander Blue with one second left to pull out the victory.

Marquette moves on to face No. 6 seed Butler, which beat No. 11 Bucknell 68-56 by outscoring the Bison 37-19 over the final 10 minutes in Lexington.

Wichita State got its first NCAA tournament win since 2006 as senior guard Malcolm Armstead led all scorers in the Salt Lake City matchup with 22 points. The Shockers limited Pittsburgh to 35 percent shooting, including one 3-pointer in 17 attempts.

Spartans Advance

Michigan State, the third seed in the Midwest, defeated Valparaiso 65-54 behind a 23-point, 15-rebound effort from Derrick Nix. The Spartans led by as many as 27 points in Auburn Hills, Michigan, and will next face No. 6 Memphis.

Memphis survived a last-second 3-point attempt by 11th-seeded Saint Mary’s to win 54-52.

Saint Louis, the No. 4 seed in the Midwest, topped 13th-seeded New Mexico State 64-44. The Billikens next face 12th-seeded Oregon, which beat No. 5 Oklahoma State 68-55 in the first significant upset in the round of 64.

Fellow Pac-12 conference member California, the 12th seed in the East, followed with a 64-61 win against No. 5 Nevada Las Vegas. At least one No. 12 seed has now beaten a fifth seed for six straight years and 12 of the past 13. The winner of tonight’s game between No. 4 seed Syracuse and No. 13 seed Montana will play California in the next round.

Michigan Cruises

Michigan, which is seeded fourth in the South region, cruised past No. 13 South Dakota State 71-56 as Tim Hardaway Jr. and Glenn Robinson III each scored 21 points. Next up for the Wolverines is No. 5 Virginia Commonwealth, which routed 12th-seeded Akron 88-42 in the most lopsided game of the day.

West No. 6 seed Arizona beat No. 11 Belmont 81-64 to drop the Bruins to 0-6 all-time in NCAA tournament games. Mark Lyons scored 23 points to lead the Wildcats, who will play the winner of tonight’s West regional game between third-seeded New Mexico and No. 14 seed Harvard.

The NCAA championship game is April 8 in Atlanta.

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