When Princeton beat UNLV 69-57 in the first round of the 1998 NCAA Tournament, a player named Mitch Henderson scored 19 points and dished out six assists for the Tigers. Almost 25 years to the day, the Tigers finally won another game in the Big Dance as No. 15 seed Princeton turned into March Madness' best story Thursday with a stunning 59-55 defeat of No. 2 seed Arizona.
Princeton's coach today? Mitch Henderson. Now 47 and a Princeton basketball institution, Henderson out-dueled one of the sport's rising stars on the opposite sideline in Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd as Princeton held the Wildcats to a season-low in points and made 3-pointers. The outcome marked the third straight season in which a.
"We ran into a good team today that made the right plays at the right time," Lloyd said. "We weren't able to separate from them enough when we had opportunities. That's what happens when you're able to stick around a basketball game. They made enough plays down the stretch and we didn't. I'll tip my hat to them. They're a hard team to play against. I knew it was going to be a tough game. I know that program has a ton of pride. They're well-coached, have great fundamentals. That showed today."
The Princeton-Arizona game was just one of 16 games on Thursday as the first round of the NCAA Tournament began with upsets, mayhem and plenty of moments that will appear in the "One Shining Moment" montage once a champion is crowned on April 3.
Here is the full rundown of all the winners and losers from the day.
Losers: Virginia's NCAA Tournament woes continue
No. 4 seed Virginia's stunning 68-67 loss to Furman was made all the more confounding because of the late turnover leading to Furman's go-ahead 3-pointer from JP Pegues with 2.2 seconds left. Fifth-year senior point guard Kihei Clark committed a bewildering turnover while trapped in the corner with under 10 seconds left, which set up the Paladins' go-ahead basket. Clark was a key piece of UVa's 2019 national title team and has been a steadying presence for the Cavaliers for a half-decade. But as he departs, he will do so with some painful memories to go along with glory of the 2019 triumph.
The loss dropped Virginia's record against double-digit seeds to just 3-4 over its last seven opportunities, a stretch which includes the program's historic 2018 loss to No. 16 seed UMBC and marked the fourth time in Virginia's last five NCAA Tournament appearances that it has lost to a No. 13 seed or worse.
Winner: Furman makes history
Before Thursday, the last time Furman won a game in the NCAA Tournament was 1975 in a season when the event featured only 25 teams. The Paladins hadn't even played in the Big Dance since 1980 before locking up a spot in this year's field with a victory over Chattanooga in the SoCon Tournament title game. Merely reaching the field marked a historic accomplishment for the program, but becoming the first Furman team in almost 50 years to win an NCAA Tournament game ensures this team's place in university lore, especially because of how it happened. The shot from JP Pegues to put the Paladins ahead with 2.2 seconds left will go down as one of the , regardless of what happens from here on out. "I was born for those moments," he said.
Loser: Arizona stumbles as highly-seeded team (again)
The Wildcats became the 11th team in NCAA Tournament history to down a No. 2 seed on Thursday as the 15th-seeded Tigers stunned No. 2 seed Arizona 59-55 as Arizona became the first team in NCAA Tournament history to twice lose in the first round as a No. 2 seed. Princeton trailed for a majority of the game but locked down defensively to race ahead in the closing stretch. Arizona failed to score for nearly five minutes of game action to close the contest, opening the door for Princeton – which it jumped right through – to grab the lead with two minutes left.
Winner: Maryland fights back (again)
No. 8 seed Maryland stood at 12-7 on Jan. 22, and it seemed Kevin Willard's first season as the program's coach might be destined for the NIT. But the Terps have shown a propensity for rallying with their backs against the wall this season, and they did so again during a 67-65 win over No. 9 seed West Virginia. After trailing 19-6 early and rallying for a 32-30 halftime lead, Maryland fell behind again in the second half by eight points only to rally once more. As Willard explained to Tracy Wolfson at halftime, that's just par for the course with these Terrapins.
Loser: Utah State goes cold at wrong time
No. 10 seed Utah State entered Thursday's action ranked No. 22 nationally in made 3-pointers per game at 9.4 and fifth in 3-point percentage at 39.3%. The Aggies picked the wrong time to go cold in a 76-65 loss to No. 7 seed Missouri. The Tigers limited USU to just 4 of 24 shooting from beyond the arc, which translated to 16.7% for team that is reliant upon the long-ball. It tied Utah State's season-low for made 3-pointers and doomed their chances of advancing beyond the first round for the first time since 2001.
Winner: Self-less Kansas advances
Playing without head coach Bill Self, who is continuing to recover from the health issue that forced him to miss last week's Big 12 Tournament, No. 1 seed Kansas took care of No. 16 seed Howard by a score 96-68. All five KU starters reached double figures as the Jayhawks racked up 22 assists. Howard hung tough for the first 15 minutes, tying the game at 33 with 5:27 remaining in the first half. But it was all Jayhawks from there. As for Self, his status for Saturday's second round game remains undetermined.
"I'm feeling much better. I've got more energy. Been with the team all week on a limited basis," Self said in a video posted to KU's Twitter account. "I'm there every day, doing a lot of sitting in practice. Never really done that. I feel better, but still I'm not ready to coach the game."
Loser: Distractions continue for Alabama
No. 1 overall seed Alabama took care of No. 16 seed Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 96-75, advancing to play No. 8 seed Maryland on Saturday. But the beginning of the NCAA Tournament has provided some additional off-court distraction after the New York Times reported that a fourth Alabama player, Kai Spears, was present at the scene of a fatal January shooting that led to capital murder charges against now-former player Darius Miles. Alabama, Spears and Spears' father, Marshall athletic director Christian Spears, have each issued firm rebuttals to the report by claiming that it is inaccurate. The saga is just the latest twin in a grim scandal that isn't going away as the Crimson Tide try and reach a Final Four for the first time in program history.
As far as on-court storylines go, the revelation made by coach Nate Oats after the game that star freshman Brandon Miller is dealing with a hamstring issue adds a bit of stress to Saturday's matchup with No. 8 seed Maryland.
Winner: Mountain West's drought ends
At long last, the Mountain West has finally won an NCAA Tournament game for the first time since 2018. If you're new to college basketball, "Mountain West" is not the name of a university in Utah. It's the name of a conference that consistently ranks among the best mid-major leagues in the country. But you wouldn't have known it from the collective performance of the conference in March over the last several years. The league's teams had dropped 11 straight in the tournament before No. 5 seed San Diego State finally snapped the streak with a 63-57 win over No. 12 seed Charleston on Thursday. With the win, the Aztecs are well-positioned to dance into the Sweet 16 as they will take on No. 13 seed Furman on Saturday.
As for the rest of the league? Well, there's still some warts, as evidenced by Nevada's blowout loss against Arizona State in the First Four, Utah State's 11-point defeat against Missouri and Boise State's loss to Northwestern. But hey, you've got to start somewhere.
Winner: Duke continues surge with dominant win
It was just two years ago that Oral Roberts stunned No. 2 seed Ohio State as a No. 15 seed and went on to the Sweet 16. This season, the Golden Eagles entered the Big Dance as the only team in the country to go unbeaten through conference play a conference tournament. As a result, ORU was a No. 12 seed and a trendy upset pick against the young Blue Devils. But despite relying heavily on five freshmen making their NCAA Tournament debuts, Duke had no problem with Oral Roberts in a wire-to-wire 74-51 win. Duke led 15-0 early and held ORU scoreless for over eight minutes to start the game. This team has won 10 games in a row now and looks like a threat to emerge from the East Regional.
No. 15 seed Colgate was a trendy darkhorse bracket pick after giving Arkansas a good fight two seasons ago and Wisconsin a fight last season – both as a No. 14 seed. But No. 2 seed Texas put that to bed right away in its first-round game with a dominant 81-61 win in which it trailed only briefly early in the game. The Longhorns held sharpshooting Colgate – the No. 1 team in 3-point shooting percentage – to just 3 of 15 from beyond the arc in an impressive showing on both sides of the ball. A No. 2 seed did wind up losing again this year – No. 2 seed Arizona fell to No. 15 seed Princeton – but Texas came out to prove it wanted no part in making that sliver of history a part of its dossier.
Loser: Shaky Illinois season ends in fitting fashion
Early season wins over Texas and UCLA propped Illinois up all year as a potential sleeping giant come tourney time, and there was always a mystique about this team's ceiling given its sometimes-great guard play, but the dreams of Illini fans died a swift death in a first-round exit to No. 8 seed Arkansas. Illinois struggled to make shots in a near-unwatchable offensive outing, failing to take down an Arkansas team that similarly struggled to find success. And so Illinois' season comes to an end in the most fitting of fashion: with an up and down showing that flashed potential but ultimately fizzled.
"Every time we made a run, we missed a layup, we turned it over, we missed free throws," said Illini coach Brad Underwood. "The one thing we fought to do all year was get started. I think we went the first three possessions and we didn't run anything. … When you're playing uphill that quickly in the NCAA Tournament, it's a challenge."
Loser: Houston wins at a cost
Houston survived a gamely effort from No. 16 seed Northern Kentucky to win 63-52, advancing to face No. 8 seed Auburn in the second round. But the Cougars' victory carried a cost. Star Marcus Sasser played just 14 minutes before exiting because of continued groin discomfort. The AAC Player of the Year first suffered the groin injury in the semifinals of the AAC Tournament last week and was considered questionable entering Thursday's game. Now, his status looms large for the rest of the tournament.
"I basically told [Sasser] to just rest it," said coach Kelvin Sampson after the game. Furthermore, Sampson revealed that Jamal Shead, another key guard, is dealing with a knee injury. "I'm very concerned," Sampson told sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson.
Winner: UCLA balls out
Of all the No. 2 seeds, UCLA seemed like it could've been the most vulnerable entering the day. The Bruins are without top perimeter defender Jaylen Clark for the postseason because of an Achilles injury and began tournament play without starting center Adem Bona, who injured his shoulder in the Pac-12 Tournament. Despite the missing pieces, the Bruins crushed No. 15 seed UNC-Asheville 86-53. Amari Bailey and Jaime Jaquez scored 17 points apiece, and five Bruins reached double figures. UCLA scored 30 points off turnovers and won the battle of paint points 56-24
Winner: Penn State dominates
Penn State picked up its first NCAA Tournament victory since 2001 behind a 13 for 22 shooting performance from beyond the arc. Andrew Funk set the pace with an 8-of-10 night from 3-point range, and the Nittany Lions limited Texas A&M to just 33.9% from the floor.