The Latest on the NCAA Tournament (all times EST):
Retired football coach Steve Spurrier made the trip to Orlando to cheer on his alma mater.
Spurrier sat a few rows behind Florida’s bench Thursday, rooting for the Gators to beat East Tennessee State.
Spurrier also might be privately pulling for the Buccaneers. Spurrier grew up in Johnson City, Tennessee, home to East Tennessee State. Spurrier called ETSU coach Steve Forbes to congratulate him on making the NCAA Tournament.
Gonzaga slowly pulled away from South Dakota State for a 66-46 victory. And they avoided the first 1 vs. 16 upset in the history of the NCAA Tournament.
It looked possible for a while.
The Jackrabbits led for the first 17 minutes of Thursday’s game in the West region and stayed in range for most of the game. Jordan Mathews scored 16 points to help Gonzaga pull away.
Gonzaga became the 129th straight No. 1 seed to beat a 16 since the bracket was expanded to 64 teams in 1985.
Other results from Thursday’s first-round games:
Butler 76, Winthrop 64
Virginia 76, UNCW 71
Notre Dame 60, Princeton 58
Fifth-seeded Virginia rallied from 15 points down to beat 13th-seeded UNC Wilmington 76-71.
London Perrantes scored 24 points and Marial Shayok added a career-high 23 off the bench.
Virginia advanced past the first round for the fourth consecutive year and won as a 5 seed for the first time in four tries. The Cavs can thank Perrantes and Shayok for making it happen.
Avery Woodson has the hot hand from 3-point range for fourth-seeded Butler in a first-round game in Milwaukee against 13th-seeded Winthrop.
The senior guard is 5 of 7 from behind the arc for a team-high 15 points to lead the Bulldogs to a 41-27 lead at halftime. Woodson is one 3-pointer short of tying his career high from behind the arc.
The game is being played at the Bradley Center, the home of Butler’s Big East rival, Marquette. Woodson scored 17 in a 68-65 win over the Golden Eagles the last time that Butler visited Milwaukee on Feb. 7.
Notre Dame avoided a 12-5 upset in Buffalo, holding off Princeton — which missed a late shot for the lead — 60-58.
Twelve-seeds are popular upset picks, having beaten five seeds 46 times in tournament history.
The West Region game — played in Buffalo — was the first contest of the full tournament.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is attending Princeton University’s NCAA Tournament game, but he’s not rooting for his state’s Ivy League university.
Christie is sitting a few rows behind Notre Dame’s bench Thursday in Buffalo and rooting for the Fighting Irish.
The Republican has been friends with Notre Dame coach Mike Brey since he worked at the University of Delaware. Christie graduated from the school.
Christie’s daughter Sarah is a student manager for Notre Dame.
Christie’s son Andrew graduated from Princeton last year and played for its baseball team.
Notre Dame guard Rex Pfleuger had to leave the game to get stitches in the first half against Princeton.
The sophomore went to the locker room after taking an elbow from Princeton’s Steven Cook while Cook was driving to the basket in their first round game.
Pfleuger returned to the bench after getting the stitches and having a concussion ruled out. Pfleuger is averaging 4.8 points and 2.8 rebounds per game for the Irish.
He didn’t seem rattled and asked a team official to take a picture of the stitches that made him look more like a hockey player than a kid in the middle of March Madness. He made it back on the floor with 4:04 left in the half.
Indiana coach Tom Crean has been fired after nine seasons.
Athletic director Fred Glass announced the decision as the NCAA Tournament was beginning.
Crean won two Big Ten regular-season championships over the last five seasons but went 18-16 in 2016-17 and missed the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time in nine years. That includes each of his first three seasons after he took over a gutted team following an NCAA scandal.
The 50-year-old Crean went 166-135 in nine seasons at Indiana.
The NCAA Tournament is underway. One of the day’s biggest story lines is top-seeded Villanova starting its quest to become the first repeat national champion since Florida in 2007.
The Wildcats (31-3) open tournament play in Buffalo against Mount St. Mary’s (20-15) Thursday night.
Some of the most intriguing games on the tournament’s opening day will include 12th-seeded Middle Tennessee State (30-4) against Minnesota (24-9). The Blue Raiders stunned Michigan State last year as a No. 15 seed.
Ivy League champions Princeton (23-6) opened the tournament against fifth-seeded Notre Dame, while 13th-seeded Winthrop faces Butler in early action.
The Princeton Tigers can boast one edge over the Fighting Irish in their first-round matchup.
The Tigers, seeded 12th in the West Region, beat Notre Dame in their last meeting.
It was an upset, in fact, as Princeton beat the then second-ranked Fighting Irish 76-62 on Jan. 3, 1977.
The schools have only met three times, with Notre Dame winning the other two meetings.
As it turns out, the West Region’s other game being played in Buffalo have a connection.
On the same night in 1977, West Virginia defeated Bucknell 112-71 in the last time those two schools met.
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