The first round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament had plenty of suspense and it ended with a bang.
The final two games played on Friday were decided in the closing seconds. Fans saw No. 5 seed Mississippi State fall to a No. 12 seed Butler, and the defending champion Maryland barely lives to play another day — avoiding an upset of their own.
By the end of the first round, the top seeds, Kentucky (Midwest), Oklahoma (East), Texas (South) and Arizona (West) easily advanced to the second round.
The goal for all the tournament teams is a trip to the Final Four, scheduled for April 5 and 7 in New Orleans
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Here's a recap of Friday's action:
A desperate three-pointer by defending national champion Maryland's Drew Nicholas helped push No. 6 seed Terrapins into the second round, beating No. 11 UNC-Wilmington 73-75. Maryland will face Xavier in the South bracket.
David West and the Xavier Musketeers want to prove they're worthy of a No. 3 seed. Handed their highest seed ever in the NCAA tournament, Xavier got through a sluggish start and held off No. 14 seed Troy State for a 71-59 victory in the South bracket.
West, the Atlantic 10 player of the year, was slowed by foul trouble and scored only 12 points. Lionel Chalmers hit five 3-pointers to lead the Musketeers with 20, and Romain Sato added 18 as Xavier won for the 17th time in its last 18 games.
In other games, Kentucky crushed IUPUI's dreams of an upset in the Midwest bracket by beating the small school 95-64.
The Wildcats extended their winning streak to 24 with the rout. Kentucky (30-3) hasn't lost since Dec. 28, and the Wildcats weren't about to slip against the Jaguars. They shot a staggering 61 percent, hitting 40 of 65 attempts from the field.
IUPUI was making its first NCAA appearance, having won the Mid-Continent Conference tournament.
The next college to have the "pleasure" to face Kentucky in the Midwest bracket will be No. 9 Utah. The Utes was able to squeeze by No. 8 Oregon with a 60-58 win.
Utah overcame its worst shooting performance of the season to win yet again in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Nate Jacobson hit two of three freethrows with 14.4 seconds left to win the game. Oregon had a chance to win, but James Davis missed two three-pointers off the rim in the final seconds.
Dereck Whittenburg fell short again, and this time there was no one to bail him out. No. 2 Pittsburgh beat No. 15 Wagner to advance to the second round of the Midwest bracket in the NCAA men's basketball tournament. Pittsburgh ruined Wagner's first NCAA tournament, and nothing Whittenburg told his players was enough, 20 years after he began one of the event's most memorable moments.
In the 1983 championship game, his long shot for North Carolina State didn't reach the rim, but Lorenzo Charles caught it and scored at the buzzer to beat Houston 54-52.
Now it's Pittsburgh that hopes to reach the Sweet 16 for the second straight year, and perhaps go even further.
They will face No. 7 Indiana, which held off No. 10 Alabama in their 67-62 win in the Midwest bracket. Bracey Wright scored all 17 of his points after halftime, and Tom Coverdale had 23 points, eight assists and the game's final rebound to lead Indiana to victory.
No. 6 seed Oklahoma State overtook No. 11 seed Pennsylvania for a 77-63 win. It seems Oklahoma State pulled out of its slump at just the right time. Victor Williams scored a career-high 29 points and the Cowboys made enough free throws down the stretch to win for only the second time in six games. Their next opponent will be Syracuse in the second round of the East bracket.
The first win of the day came from the No. 3 seed Syracuse. The Orangemen defeated No. 14 seed Manhattan 76-65.
Syracuse's Carmelo Anthony waited until the second half to show why he's one of the nation's top players. Anthony scored 10 of his 17 points after the break to carry his team to the second round of the tournament.
Coach Rick Pitino made a return to the NCAA men's basketball tournament for the first time since 1997. This time he guided his No. 4 seed Louisville to a win against a flustered No. 13 seed Austin Peay. Louisville won 45-33 in their East bracket.
Pitino's team will face No. 12 Butler, which stunned No. 5 Mississippi State. Butler's Brandon Miller hit a runner with 6.2 seconds left to lift the Bulldogs to a 47-46 upset. Miller raced around the court pumping his fist while teammate Michael Monserez stood on the press row table, once again celebrating Butler as an NCAA tournament darling.
No. 1 seed Texas beat No. 16 seed UNC-Asheville 82-61. T.J. Ford took the opening tip, streaked down the court and sliced through several defenders for an easy layup. Five seconds into the NCAA tournament, Texas was off and running.
Thought by many to be a shaky top seed, the Longhorns overwhelmed North Carolina-Asheville at the start and had little trouble in an 82-61 victory. Ford finished with only eight points, but had 11 assists. He also corralled seven rebounds.
Texas will meet No. 9 seed Purdue in the South bracket's second round after the Boilermakers defeated Louisiana State by a blowout score of 80-56. Purdue scored the first 13 points of the second half and 28 of the first 36 points. They turned a 32-all tie into a 60-40 lead.
Freshman Melvin Buckley scored 20 points, matching his combined total from the last six games. Kenneth Lowe added 14, all in the first half.
Jaime Lloreda had 21 points and 14 rebounds for LSU.
No.7 seed Michigan State beat No. 10 seed Colorado 79-64 in their South bracket. They will fight for a spot in the Sweet 16 against No.2 seed Florida. The Florida Gators reached the second round by beating No. 15 seed Sam Houston State 85-55.
No. 2 seed Wake Forest beat a relentless No. 15 seed East Tennessee State 76-73. Wake Forest moves to the East bracket's second round and will play Auburn to fight for a place in the Sweet 16.
No. 10 seed Auburn pulled a small upset by beating No. 7 seed St. Joseph's in overtime, 65-63. Auburn's Marquis Daniels scored 25 points, five of them in overtime, and the Tigers withstood a brilliant second-half performance by Saint Joseph's star Jameer Nelson to hold on to a victory. They move to the second round in the East bracket.
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