The First Round of the 2023 NCAA Tournament continued on Friday, which happened to be St. Patrick’s Day, and fans got to enjoy a plethora of incredible games. Unfortunately, the most remarkable game of the day came with a Big Ten team falling short.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
-No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson Knights 63, No. 1 Purdue Boilermakers 58
While this wasn’t expected to be the Game of the Night, March is the season when expectations are thrown out the window. And they certainly were here, as Purdue was not only pushed by a 16 seed, but ended up falling short. It marked the second time a No. 1 seed has ever lost in the First Round. Virginia was the first time to do it a few years ago and Purdue became the second this week.
Let’s begin first with the game itself. Purdue found itself on its heels early thanks to an incredible defensive effort from the Knights. They routinely utilized pressure to make Purdue’s backcourt uncomfortable and kept attacking the ball, regardless of its location. It clearly made the Boilermakers uncomfortable and prevented Purdue from getting the ball into spaces it liked. While Zach Edey was still fed his share, there were far more hoisted looks from deep than usual. All told, Purdue finished with an incredibly underwhelming 0.91 points per possession on the night.
Unfortunately for Boilermaker fans, the team looked completely shook in the final minutes of game play. The team was passing up good look after good look as Purdue’s starting lineup simply looked too small for the moment at hand. There were a few sequences involving Mason Gillis and Fletcher Loyer in the closing minutes where they simply looked like they didn’t want to take any shots at all. The only player in Purdue’s lineup that looked comfortable whatsoever was Edey and he was routinely defended by multiple guys in the paint. It was a far cry from the team that dominated the Big Ten this season.
For Purdue and Matt Painter, this was a thoroughly embarrassing and gut wrenching loss. And there’s simply no spinning it. Purdue should have won this game. There isn’t a reason in the world to think Fairleigh Dickinson is a better team than Purdue. The Boilermakers are bigger, more talented, more experienced, and more battle tested. This is the epitome of a “choke” performance. Unfortunately for the Boilermakers, it came on the biggest stage.
This loss also marks a low point for Painter. These are some of his losses in the NCAA Tournament with the program during his tenure:
- 2023 - No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson
- 2022 - No. 15 St. Peter’s
- 2021 - No. 13 North Texas
- 2016 - No. 12 Arkansas Little Rock
- 2011 - No. 11 VCU
On the one hand, it’s good Purdue is making the NCAA Tournament enough to have that many losses to low seeds. However, that’s immensely difficult to spin and the list of elite coaches with that many embarrassing losses without a single Final Four is probably one. It’s something Painter and Purdue fans will have to sit with this offseason.
Purdue wraps up its season at 29-6 overall. Despite the loss, the Boilermakers did win the Big Ten title and the Big Ten Tournament, which are certainly noteworthy achievements. Unfortunately, it’s hard to imagine those will get much appreciation after Friday’s loss.
-No. 4 Indiana Hoosiers 71, No. 13 Kent State Golden Flashes 60
After a relatively underwhelming performance in the Big Ten Tournament, Hoosier fans were hoping Indiana could pick things up in the NCAA Tournament. Fortunately for fans, Indiana did just that in the First Round, cruising past a dangerous Kent State squad by double-digits. Trayce Jackson-Davis led the way with 24 points and 11 rebounds. Race Thompson also had a 20 point showing in the win.
Indiana improved to 23-11 overall with the win and will now prepare for a game against Miami (FL) on Sunday night. It’s Indiana’s first trip to the Round of 32 since 2016, when the Hoosiers made a run to the Sweet 16 before falling short against North Carolina. Indiana will hope to make its fourth trip to the Sweet 16 since 2002 this weekend.
The game against the Hurricanes looks relatively favorable. Miami (FL) narrowly got past Drake on Friday night and looked thoroughly unimpressive in the outing. Additionally, KenPom favors Indiana by three points. The key will be how Indiana’s defense holds up against a loaded Miami (FL) offense. Nijel Pack leads the way for the Hurricanes.
-No. 7 Michigan State Spartans 72, No. 10 USC Trojans 62
This was an even game at halftime, but got lopsided in the second half as Michigan State scored a double-digit win in the team’s opener. Joey Hauser led the way with 17 points and eight rebounds. Three other Spartans scored in double-digits as well.
Michigan State improved to 20-12 overall with the win and will now prepare for a matchup against Marquette on Sunday evening. Notably, this marks Michigan State’s 14th trip to the Round of 32 in of the past 16 NCAA Tournaments. The lone exceptions were the program’s First Four loss in 2021 and its upset loss in 2016. That’s an incredible run and a statement about Michigan State’s success under Tom Izzo.
Unfortunately for Spartan fans, the program’s recent stumbling block has been the Round of 32. Despite making the Round of 32 in five of the last six postseasons, Michigan State only has one Sweet 16 appearance since 2015. We’ll see if the Spartans can change that narrative this weekend against a red hot Golden Eagles squad.