The Gators and Mountaineers both advanced on Thursday.
It looked like there was a potential to see the first upsets of this year’s NCAA Tournament on Thursday afternoon, with the first No. 4 vs. No. 13 matchups of the day.
At times, it appeared as if fourth-seeded West Viriginia was in danger of potentially being knocked off by No. 13 Bucknell in its first-round matchup in the West Region. The Mountaineers had a nine-point lead 42-33 at halftime, but the Bison wouldn’t let the Mountaineers run away with things in the second half, pulling within five points at multiple times throughout the half.
WVU’s offense was able to keep Bucknell at a distance, however, and the Mountaineers would go on to win by a final score of 86-80. WVU guard Tarik Phillip came off the bench to score a team-high 16 points, adding two more rebounds and assists.
The Mountaineers will face No. 5 Notre Dame in the second round, as the Fighting Irish defeated No. 12 Princeton by just two points, 60-58, on Thursday.
Like West Virginia, the No. 4 Florida Gators had a tight contest in the first half, facing No. 15 East Tennessee State in an East region matchup. The Gators went to the locker room with just a 33-32 lead. But Florida’s defense came out strong in the second half. The Gators’ offense on the day was led by Devin Robinson, who shot 59 percent from the floor, and finished with 24 points and seven rebounds. The Gators benefitted from points scored off East Tennessee State’s 16 turnovers on the day, as well.
East Tennessee State came in as a popular upset pick for Thursday afternoon, and even the Eagles’ head coach emphasized to his team to not be afraid of facing the Gators, and added Florida greats of the past such as the likes of Corey Brewer and Al Horford weren’t coming out of the tunnel.
Florida prevailed despite East Tennessee State’s energy in the first half, and waiting in the wings is No. 5 Virginia, who defeated No. 12 UNC-Wilmington on Thursday afternoon.