2024 March Madness: Oakland’s stunning win over Kentucky highlights Day 1 action

The opening day of the 2024 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament was filled with upsets, highlights and plenty of dramatic finishes.

College basketball fans were treated to 16 games on Thursday, which started with Michigan State’s 69-51 victory over Mississippi State and concluded with Kansas’ dramatic 93-89 win over Samford.

Catch up on all the action from Day 1 of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament here:

(4) Kansas 93, (13) Samford 89

What appeared to be a clean block by Samford’s A.J. Staton-McCray was instead called a foul with less than 15 seconds left, sending Nick Timberlake to the free throw line for Kansas in a one-point NCAA Tournament thriller. He extended the Jayhawks’ lead to three, and Bill Self’s team got the stop it needed to survive and advance by the skin of their teeth, 93-89. 

After trailing by 22 with just over 16 minutes left, it looked as though there was no shot for Bucky McMillan’s Bulldogs to be the trendy upset pick everybody had against a Kevin McCullar-less Kansas team. But Jaden Campbell and Achor Achor powered the Samford surge and got the Bulldogs within one in the final moments. The Jayhawks found a way through Hunter Dickinson, who showed why he was an All-American on Thursday night. The senior posted 19 points, 20 rebounds and five assists, while KJ Adams led five players in the scoring column with 20 points in the victory. 

With McCullar (knee) out for the remainder of the season, it means that the players around Dickinson have to step up. Dajuan Harris had 13 points and seven assists, while Timberlake and Johnny Furphy combined for 35. It got a little shaky, but for a Jayhawks team that entered the Big Dance having lost four of their last five games, all that matters is that they’re on to Saturday, and what a showdown that will be.

Kansas. Gonzaga. Saturday in a standalone TV window at 3:15 p.m. ET. The matchup between Dickinson and Graham Ike will be theater, as will the showdown between Harris and Ryan Nembhard at point guard. It’s an elite coaching matchup between Bill Self and Mark Few, who have combined for over 1,500 wins.

– John Fanta

(11) NC State 80, (6) Texas Tech 67

North Carolina State is getting a little tired of being asked if it’s tired.

The way the Wolfpack are playing, it’s hard to blame them.

Ben Middlebrooks scored a career-high 21 points and 11th-seeded N.C. State surged past sixth-seeded Texas Tech 80-67 on Thursday night in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Wolfpack (23-14), who won five games in five days in the ACC Tournament to earn an automatic bid, didn’t look hung over emotionally or physically while capturing their first March Madness game in nine years.

“We heard a lot about fatigue,” Middlebrooks said. “It seems like we’re getting stronger every game we play.”

It certainly seemed that way. N.C. State didn’t miss a beat when DJ Burns ran into foul trouble in the first half. Middlebrooks stepped in and found plenty of room to work inside against the smaller Red Raiders.

The 6-foot-9, 275-pound Burns finished with 16 points. Mo Diarra had 17 points and 12 rebounds for N.C. State, and DJ Horne also scored 16. The Wolfpack, who dropped four straight games at the end of the regular season to play themselves off the tournament bubble, have now won six straight.

N.C. State will face 14th-seeded Oakland on Saturday, ensuring a double-digit seed will advance to the South Region semifinals. The Grizzlies beat third-seeded Kentucky 80-76 earlier Thursday night.

– The Associated Press

(7) Washington State 66, (10) Drake 61

Style points mean nothing this time of year, so a grinding win was absolutely beautiful as far as Washington State coach Kyle Smith was concerned.

Isaac Jones had 20 points and 11 rebounds, Isaiah Watts’ first 3-pointer in three games gave Washington State the lead with 1:51 left and the seventh-seeded Cougars beat No. 10 Drake 66-61 in the NCAA Tournament on Thursday night.

The Cougars (25-9) shot just 29.6% while trailing most of the second half, but Drake’s season-worst 6-of-14 performance at the free-throw line allowed them to win in their first tournament appearance since 2008.

“As teams scout you and everyone has film on you, they try to make it ugly against us a little bit,” Smith said. “Just a big win. It’s ugly ball. Get on the glass and don’t turn it over.”

WSU will play Saturday in the East Region second round against No. 2 Iowa State (28-7), which beat South Dakota State, 82-65.

– The Associated Press.

(2) Tennessee 83, (15) Saint Peter’s 49

Dalton Knecht scored 23 points and Tennessee shot 64% in the first half to build a huge lead before beating Saint Peter’s 83-49 on Thursday night in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Jonas Aidoo added 13 of his 15 points by halftime for the Midwest Region’s No. 2 seed, which quickly erased any chance of another improbable March Madness run for the 15th-seeded Peacocks. Tennessee (25-8) ran out to a double-digit lead in the first eight minutes, used a 9-0 burst to push the margin past 20, then increased that margin to 29 shortly before halftime.

There was no sign of the hiccups from multiple recent March stumbles, setting up a reunion for coach Rick Barnes and his former Texas program in the second round.

The Volunteers came in ranked third in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency by allowing 91.2 points per 100 possessions. And they were smothering, both in contesting shots early and using their strong frames to assert complete ownership of the glass (47-21).

Knecht, voted a first-team All-American by The Associated Press earlier this week, buried a 3-pointer on a catch-and-fire inbounds pass just 20 seconds in, finishing with eight rebounds and four 3s.

The 6-foot-11 Aidoo also had a fast start, following Knecht’s 3 with a pair of quick dunks. He added a third slam moments later, putting a little extra swing and kick while hanging on the rim after being futilely fouled from behind by Mouhamed Sow — a play that had Saint Peter’s coach Bashir Mason say to Sow from the sideline simply: “Why?”

There was little the Peacocks (19-14) could do in response, between the Vols repeatedly getting point-blank or clean looks while Saint Peter’s struggled to knock down much of anything.

Latrell Reid scored 17 for Saint Peter’s, which became a March Madness legend two years ago by becoming the only No. 15 regional seed to reach a regional final. The hope was to re-create a taste of that magic against the Volunteers despite a nearly complete overhaul of roster and coaching staff, but the Peacocks missed 17 of their first 20 shots to watch this one get away quickly.

– The Associated Press

(2) Iowa State 82, (15) South Dakota State 65

Milan Momcilovic looked nothing like a freshman while pouring in 19 points, Tamin Lipsey had 17 with seven assists, and No. 2 Iowa State used big runs to start each half to beat No. 15 seed South Dakota State 82-65 on Thursday night in the NCAA Tournament.

Keshon Gilbert had 15 points and Hason Ward dunked his way to 10, helping the Cyclones (28-7) avenge an embarrassing first-round loss to Pittsburgh a year ago. They advance to a second-round matchup with seventh-seeded Washington State or No. 10 seed Drake.

South Dakota State (22-13) showed plenty of gumption after allowing Iowa State to race to a 17-3 lead to start the game, cutting the deficit in half by the break. But the Cyclones blitzed the Jackrabbits to start the second half, too, going on a 14-5 run to pull away.

Zeke Mayo hit four 3s and had 19 points for South Dakota State, which has never won an NCAA tourney game in seven tries. William Kyle III added 14 points and Charlie Easley finished with 11.

At game’s end, Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger and his counterpart. Eric Henderson, shared a high-five and a hug. Otzelberger got his college head-coaching start at South Dakota State in 2016 and hired Henderson to be his top assistant.

– The Associated Press

(5) Gonzaga 84, (12) McNeese State 65

Graham Ike scored 16 points and Anton Watson added 13 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists to power fifth-seeded Gonzaga over No. 12 seed McNeese State 86-65 in the Midwest Region on Thursday night.

Ike made all six of his field goals and all four free throws while grabbing 10 rebounds.

Ben Gregg had 12 points, Nolan Hickman scored 11 and Dusty Stromer finished with 10 for the hot-shooting Bulldogs, who spoiled McNeese State’s first trip to the NCAA Tournament in 22 years.

They will face either No. 4 Kansas or 13th-seeded Samford in the next round.

Gonzaga, which shot 52% from the field and 48% from 3-point range, feels right at home in Salt Lake City, playing here more than any other site over the years and posting a 9-3 record.

Christian Shumate and Shahada Wells had 19 for the Cowboys.

– The Associated Press

(14) Oakland 80, (3) Kentucky 76

Thursday night in the NCAA Tournament reminded everybody why it’s the best postseason in sports, because in this event, David can beat Goliath. Cinderella’s carriage picked up the Oakland University Golden Grizzlies and brought them to Pittsburgh, where 40th-year head coach Greg Kampe earned his first-ever Round of 64 victory. But it didn’t just come against anybody in upset fashion. The greatest basketball moment for the school and Kampe came against John Calipari’s No. 1 recruiting class and No. 3-seeded Kentucky, 80-76. 

The Wildcats fell to 1-4 in their last five NCAA Tournament games. This upset had everything. The shot of the night: Division II transfer DQ Cole delivered a cold-blooded triple from the corner with 28 seconds left and the shot clock winding down to make it 78-74 Oakland. 

The hero of the night: another Division II transfer, Jack Gohlke, who has attempted 347 of his 355 shots on the season from beyond the 3-point arc, went 10-for-20 from 3-point territory, marking just one off the tournament record (Jeff Fryer, LMU in 1990). 

In total, Oakland shot 15-for-31 from downtown, won the battle on the glass, 40-29, and had just seven turnovers, limiting UK from transition. The Wildcats shot just 9-for-28 from 3-point land and never really found an offensive rhythm, with star freshman duo Reed Sheppard and Rob Dillingham succumbing to the bright lights of the Big Dance, going just 3-for-14 from 3-point territory.

It was a game that Kentucky really never ceased control of, with their sub-100 defense giving way to Gohkle’s wild night that featured seven triples in the first half. Junior Trey Townsend, who led Oakland to the Horizon League title game win with 38 points, was also key to the win with 17 points including some big second-half buckets. The victory marked Oakland’s second all-time win in the NCAA Tournament, with the school beating Alabama A&M in a 2005 play-in game as well.

Per USA Today’s Steve Berkowitz, Kentucky spent $23.6 million on its men’s basketball program this past year. Oakland spent $2.3 million. But in the Big Dance, none of the bells and whistles matter when the ball is tipped. 

Oakland captivated the country on Thursday, and will get either Texas Tech or NC State on Saturday for a trip to the Sweet 16. 

– John Fanta

(7) Texas 56 (10) Colorado State 44

Max Abmas and Dylan Disu each scored 12 points, and No. 7 seed Texas held Colorado State to 11 points in the first half en route to a 56-44 victory on Thursday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Longhorns (21-12) will meet the winner of second-seeded Tennessee and No. 15 St. Peter’s on Saturday.

Isaiah Stevens and Joel Scott paced the Rams (25-11) with 10 points each. The Rams shot 29% from the field.

Colorado State, which held Virginia to 14 first-half points in their First Four game on Tuesday, jumped out to an 8-2 lead before the wheels came off.

The Rams missed 18 of their next 19 shots and scored just three points over the final 15 1/2 minutes of the first half. Texas closed the half on a 25-3 run to take a 27-11 lead into the locker room after Abmas hit from downtown at the buzzer.

Despite the ugly first half, the Rams would battle back to cut the lead to six after Texas’ Brock Cunningham was whistled for a flagrant one foul for an elbow to the head and Scott scored off a dish from Stevens with four minutes left.

But the Longhorns thwarted the rally and Chendall Weaver pushed the lead back to 12 when he scored on a driving layup and drew a foul for a three-point play.

After getting bounced in their first-round game in the Big 12 Tournament against Kansas State, the Longhorns responded with a strong defensive effort. Texas lost in the Elite Eight last season, but is eager to get back.

– The Associated Press

(7) Dayton 63 (10) Nevada 60

DaRon Holmes II and seventh-seeded Dayton staged a huge March Madness rally, closing with a 24-4 run to erase a 17-point deficit and beat 10th-seeded Nevada 63-60 in the West Region on Thursday.

Holmes, the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year, finished with 18 points, including a three-point play with 2:01 remaining that gave Dayton its first lead since the first half.

The Flyers (25-7) trailed 56-39 with 7:36 remaining but responded with a 17-0 run that included two 3-pointers by Koby Brea, who finished with 15 points.

Enoch Cheeks’ layup with 34 seconds left gave Dayton the lead for good, and he made two free throws for the final margin. He scored 12 points as the Flyers picked up their first NCAA Tournament win in nine years.

Dayton will face No. 2 seed Arizona in the second round on Saturday.

– The Associated Press

(11) Oregon 87, (6) South Carolina 73

Jermaine Couisnard scored a career-high 40 points to haunt South Carolina — his former school — while leading Oregon to an 87-73 victory in the first round of the NCAA Tournament’s Midwest Region on Thursday.

Couisnard, who spent three years at South Carolina before transferring in part because of a coaching change following the 2022 season, made five 3-pointers and went 14-of-22 from the field to pace the 11th-seeded Ducks (24-11).

Oregon advanced to the second round to face No. 3 seed Creighton, a 77-60 winner over No. 14 seed Akron in the first of four games at PPG Paints Arena.

The Creighton-Oregon matchup will have a family feel, as it will reunite Ducks coach Dana Altman and Creighton, where he spent 16 years and built the Nebraska school into one of the nation’s best mid-major programs.

Altman has done OK for himself while coaching out West as well. The Ducks improved to 8-0 in first-round NCAA Tournament games under him.

– The Associated Press

(3) Illinois 85 (14) Morehead State 69

The extended 25-9 run that broke open Thursday’s first-round game between No. 3 Illinois and No. 14 Morehead State encapsulated why the Illini might be more dangerous now, in the NCAA Tournament, than at any point this season. And it has to do with the continued emergence of center Dain Dainja as a reliable scorer after two strong efforts in the Big Ten Tournament last week.

Dainja’s team trailed the Eagles by two with 16:44 remaining in the second half when the reserve big man imprinted himself on the game. The 6-foot-9, 270-pound junior scored 15 points in a little more than seven minutes to showcase the interior scoring presence that Illinois often lacks from starting center Coleman Hawkins, who prefers to operate on the perimeter and is an excellent 3-point shooter. But against a Morehead State team that lacked traditional size in the low post, Dainja found ways to feast in an eventual 85-69 win.

Consider all the ways Dainja dismantled the Eagles: He used his nimble footwork for an array of layups and short hooks near the rim. He ran the floor in transition for a thunderous dunk after a pinpoint pass from Terrence Shannon Jr. He converted at the free-throw line when the Eagles decided that fouling was their only reasonable course of action. Dainja made all nine of his shots from the field to finish with a season-high 21 points and eight rebounds.

The output from Dainja gave Illinois a consistent third option behind Shannon (26 points) and guard Marcus Domask (12 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists), both of whom were All-Big Ten performers. Shannon was particularly brilliant after scoring 102 points in three games during the conference tournament last week. That he picked up right where he left off in Minneapolis bodes well for Illinois’ chances of making a deep NCAA Tournament run.

Illinois will take on No. 11 Duquesne in the Round of 32.

– Michael Cohen

(1) North Carolina 90, (16) Wagner 52

Armando Bacot had 20 points and 15 rebounds, and No. 1 seed North Carolina never trailed in beating 16th-seeded Wagner 90-62 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday.

Jae’Lyn Withers had a season-high 16 points and matched his best rebounding work with 10 boards for the West Region’s headliner. That helped the Tar Heels (28-7) finish the game shooting 55% while dominating up front against a short-handed upstart aiming to pull off only the third opening-round takedown of a 1-seed in March Madness history.

RJ Davis, named a first-team All-American by The Associated Press this week, had 17 of his 22 points after halftime for the Tar Heels.

UNC also played with the backing of a blue-clad crowd about 2 1/2 hours from its Chapel Hill campus. And the Tar Heels will have that again for the next step: a marquee matchup with Michigan State and Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo on Saturday.

The Tar Heels dominated this one inside, finishing with 48 points in the paint and a 43-24 rebounding advantage to go with 17 second-chance points.

Melvin Council Jr. and Julian Brown each scored 18 points for the Seahawks (17-16), who won their first-ever NCAA game by holding off Howard in the First Four on Tuesday night. Wagner shot 39.7% for the game.

– The Associated Press.

(2) Arizona 85, (15) Long Beach State 65

Everybody has talked about Purdue avenging its first-round upset demons this year, but if the Boilers hadn’t lost to FDU in historic fashion last season, Arizona would have received more national attention entering this tournament. The Wildcats, who fell to Princeton last year in the first round, weren’t on the wrong side of an upset this time. The second-seeded Cats pulled away from Long Beach State in the second half, winning 85-65 in Salt Lake City to advance to the second round. 

The biggest key for Arizona in this NCAA Tournament: Kylan Boswell complementing Caleb Love. On Thursday, Boswell set the tone for ‘Zona, leading five in double-figures with 20 points to go along with eight assists. Love added 18 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. When those two are on and Oumar Ballo is avoiding foul trouble and rebounding, this team has a well-rounded formula. They’re one of two teams, along with the East’s 4-seed, Auburn, to rank in the top-11 of KenPom offensive and defensive efficiency. You also can’t forget about what senior Pelle Larsson means to this team with his feel for the game and versatility. He added 15 points and five assists in the win, while San Diego State transfer Keshad Johnson totaled 13 points and five rebounds.

Two great nuggets: This was the first time Arizona had at least three players with five-or-more assists in an NCAA Tournament game since 2014 in a second round win over Gonzaga. This one is even better: The Wildcats, with Love and Ballo notching double-doubles, had multiple guys post a double-doubles in a tournament game for the first time since Hassan Adams and Salim Stoudamire accomplished the feat against Oklahoma State in a 2005 Sweet 16 win.

On the flip side, it marked the end of Long Beach State head coach Dan Monson’s 17-year tenure after he was fired before his team won the Big West Tournament to advance to the Big Dance. Before the game on Thursday, LBSU athletic director Bobby Smitheran told the press that “My belief and hope is that by doing what I did and the timing of it, they would play inspired, and that’s what they did. I’m not trying to pat myself on the back, but it worked.”

Well, Bobby, the only one who would pat you on the back is yourself, because nobody is going to celebrate you firing someone who gave 17 years of service to a school and led his group of young men to the NCAA Tournament. That’s his group, not yours. That statement from Smitheran is ridiculously bad. Monson took the high road and deserves credit for doing so.

– John Fanta

(3) Creighton 77, (14) Akron 60

When you think about consistent programs in college basketball, look at the one in Omaha, Nebraska. Creighton has avoided being on the wrong side of madness in the opening round yet again, as the Bluejays are moving on to the Round of 32 for a fourth straight year after a 77-60 victory over 14-seed Akron in the Midwest Region.

Two things stand out about this game: Creighton won this game with a strong end to the first half that carried right into the second stanza. Trailing 34-31 with 2:44 left, the Jays scored eight unanswered points, powered by Trey Alexander and Baylor Scheierman, taking a five-point lead into the break. It was part of a 14-2 run that Akron was never able to fully battle back from. 

The other thing? This team might not be deep, but their starting five is so complete, it’s not a major issue. In fact, the starters accounted for every point the Bluejays scored. At the end of the day, this team’s shotmaking with Scheierman (15 points, 13 rebounds) notching his 16th double-double and Alexander (19 points), coupled with Naismith Defensive Player of the Year finalist Ryan Kalkbrenner,’s rim protection and production (23 points, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks), makes them a Final Four dark horse. 

What’s next? A matchup with South Carolina or red-hot Oregon. If it’s the Ducks, head coach Dana Altman would meet his former school. He won 327 games in 16 years with the Jays from 1994-2010, making seven NCAA Tournaments. Interestingly enough, McDermott is at 324 wins at Creighton, three off the pace of the program’s winningest coach.

– John Fanta

(11) Duquesne 71, (6) BYU 67

Dae Dae Grant scored 19 points, including four clinching free throws in the final 10 seconds, and No. 11 seed Duquesne secured the first upset of this year’s NCAA Tournament with a 71-67 victory against sixth-seeded BYU.

Jakub Necas added 12 points and Jimmy Clark III had 11 as the Atlantic 10 Tournament champs celebrated their return to the Big Dance after 47 years with their first win there since 1969. The Dukes (25-11) will play No. 3 seed Illinois or No. 14 seed Morehead State for a spot in the Sweet 16 on Saturday.

The Cougars (23-11) trailed by as many as 14 in the second half before drawing even when Fousseyni Traore, who had struggled all game, slammed down the second of back-to-back baskets to knot the game at 60-all with 1:45 to go.

Clark was fouled at the other end and made two free throws, and when Traore missed a floater for BYU, the Duquesne guard got to the foul line again. He made the first of two foul shots but was able to help tie up a loose ball after missing the second, and on the ensuing play, Clark was able to break down the defense for an easy layup and a 65-60 lead with 26.9 seconds left.

Dallin Hall tried to give the Cougars a chance with four free throws and a deep 3-pointer in the final 20 seconds, but Grant — one of the nation’s best foul shooters — was stoic from the free-throw line in sending the Dukes to the next round.

– The Associated Press

(9) Michigan State 69, (8) Mississippi State 51

Tom Izzo has said it many times before: The reason he believes this Michigan State team can overcome its maddening inconsistency to make a postseason run is because of his three lead guards: Tyson Walker, A.J. Hoggard and Jaden Akins. High-level guards win games in the NCAA Tournament, and Izzo trusts his trio to always give the Spartans a chance, regardless of the opponent.

It’s a message Izzo is likely to repeat once, twice or maybe even three times during his postgame news conference following Thursday’s 69-51 win over eighth-seeded Mississippi State. All three of Izzo’s veteran backcourt players turned in excellent performances against an opponent that was noticeably overmatched on that part of the roster. There were long stretches when Bulldogs freshman Josh Hubbard, who poured in better than 17 points per game this season, seemed to be playing one against three.

The Spartans got 19 points and three 3-pointers from Walker, who led all scorers. They got eight points and eight assists from Hoggard, who battled through some turnover problems to spark Michigan State in transition. And they got 15 points and seven rebounds from Akins, who hadn’t scored that many since a win over Penn State on Feb. 14.

Izzo’s three guards combined to shoot 7-for-16 from beyond the arc for a team that only averages 6.4 made 3-pointers per game. The potency from 3-point range bodes well for Michigan State ahead of a second-round matchup between the winner of No. 1 North Carolina and No. 16 Wagner, which defeated Howard in the First Four earlier this week. Should the Tar Heels advance, the Spartans will likely need another hot-shooting effort in the second round given the style of basketball North Carolina plays. They entered the tournament having made nearly 60 fewer 3-pointers than the Tar Heels this season.

– Michael Cohen

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John Fanta is a national college basketball broadcaster and writer for FOX Sports. He covers the sport in a variety of capacities, from calling games on FS1 to serving as lead host on the BIG EAST Digital Network to providing commentary on The Field of 68 Media Network. Follow him on Twitter @John_Fanta.

Michael Cohen covers college football and basketball for FOX Sports with an emphasis on the Big Ten. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Cohen13.

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