By: Lane Fahey, Columnist and Greg Peterson, Sports Editor
March Madness finally found its way back to Greenville for the first time since 2002. The first and second rounds of the tournament were played in the Bon Secours Wellness Arena.
Game 1: Arkansas vs. Seton Hall
To kick off the big dance in Greenville, #9 Seton Hall took on #8 Arkansas. The game was a constant back and forth, with the Seton Hall Pirates leading for 10:41 and Arkansas leading for 22:28.
Despite Seton Hall’s eight point lead with 9:29 left in the game, the Arkansas Razorbacks were able to hold off the Pirates to win a tight one, 77-71. Junior guard Khadeen Carrington scored 22 points for the Pirates to lead the team, while Arkansas senior forward Moses Kingsley led the Razorbacks in scoring 23 points.
With the Pirates down by one with 18 seconds left in the game, a controversial flagrant foul against Seton Hall Pirate forward Desi Rodriguez ultimately led to their loss. Arkansas moves on to play #1 University of North Carolina in the round of 32.
Game 2: North Carolina vs. Texas Southern
Former UNC coaching legend Dean Smith had the coaching philosophy of “pointing to the passer,” which is when scorers will show appreciation to the passer by pointing to the man who gave the assist. In UNC’s first round matchup, there was a whole lot of pointing in part due to the Tar Heels’ 18 assists and 39-point beat down over Texas Southern University, winning 103-64.
The Tar Heels had a sluggish start, and were at one time down to the Tigers 10-8 early in the first half. The Tigers just couldn’t compete with UNC’s fast pace and big men, and found themselves down 52-27 at the half.
The second half saw continued North Carolina dominance that led to head coach Roy Williams emptying out his reserves late in the second half after being led by junior forward Justin Jackson, who had 21 points.
The #1 Tar Heels advance to face the #8 Arkansas Razorbacks.
Game 3: Troy vs. Duke
#2 Duke looked to beat #15 Troy in the third game of Round 1 in Greenville. With 21 consecutive appearances in the NCAA tournament since 1996, Duke and Coach Mike Krzyzewski look to have a different year than last, after losing to Oregon in the Sweet 16.
“Each year it’s different,” Coach K told The Paladin. “You have a different team. You’re not Brady and Belichick coming back or hopefully the Cubs do it again. I’m a Cubs fan. We have most people back. Should have kept Fowler. It’s a different journey every time. And I like my team a lot. I’m proud of them. I think they’ve become men. And that’s a good thing.”
The Blue Devils were able to defeat the Trojans 87-65. Junior guard Grayson Allen led the Blue Devils with 21 points and helped his team lead for all but 12 seconds of the game.
Game 4: South Carolina vs. Marquette
The final game of the night was a match up between #7 South Carolina and #10 Marquette. Even though the Gamecocks were down the whole first half, a winning second half led to a South Carolina win, with the final score 93-73. A key factor in the Gamecocks win was the strong South Carolina crowd in attendance, seeing that they are playing in their home state.
“It [the crowd] helped the momentum when PJ got those couple fastbreak dunks,” said senior guard Sindarius Thornwell. “And the atmosphere went crazy. It just gave us the confidence we needed to get over the edge and push through the final minutes of the game.”
The Gamecocks advance to take on the #2 Duke Blue Devils in the second round.
Game 1: UNC vs Arkansas
The Tar Heels were in for a scare going up against the #8 seed Arkansas Razorbacks in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. UNC started out the game hot with a 10-2 run, and at one point in the first, had a 17 point lead. The Razorbacks would battle back to make it a five point game at halftime, with the Tar Heels clinging to a 38-33 lead.
The second half brought out even more excitement, with the Razorbacks continuing their furious comeback and even held a 65-60 lead with a little over three minutes remaining in the game.
When all hope seemed lost for the Tar Heels, they finished the game on a 12-0 run which was capitalized by senior forward Kennedy Meeks tip-in basket with 44.2 seconds left in the game.
North Carolina advances to their 33rd Sweet Sixteen appearance in program history, and will face #4 seed Butler on Fri., March 24 in Memphis, Tennessee.
Game 2: Duke vs South Carolina
Even after winning the ACC Championship this year, #2 seed Duke Blue Devils were eliminated in Round 2 against the #7 South Carolina Gamecocks, 81-88. This is the first time since 2008 that the Blue Devils will not advance to the Sweet 16. Previously 0-3 against Duke in the Big Dance, the Gamecocks advance past the Second Round for the first time since the tournament advanced to 64 teams.
The Blue Devils had a seven point lead going into the second half, but an explosive offense from the Gamecocks, much like its second half against Marquette, led to a win for South Carolina.
“I think at halftime — we’re very positive,” said South Carolina head coach Frank Martin. “You can’t have these kids that have been through what they’ve been through for four years to build this program, and go in at halftime and doubt in who they are. We were very positive at halftime, like we are 99 percent of the time.”
Duke ended its season with freshman forward Jayson Tatum, sophomore guard Luke Kennard and senior guard Matt Jones all fouling out of the game. South Carolina will look to beat #3 seed Baylor in New York City on Friday, Mar. 24.