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March Madness 2024 scores, winners and losers: Pac-12 looks good in NCAA Tournament, SEC stumbles early

A series of elite individual performances highlighted first-round NCAA Tournament action on Thursday as the Big Dance began with a bang. There were upsets, comebacks and heroics throughout the day as the bracket quickly devolved into chaos.

Oakland guard Jack Gohlke stole the show with his 32-point performance in the No. 14 seed Grizzlies’ stunning 80-76 win over No. 3 seed Kentucky, but he wasn’t the day’s only superstar. Jermaine Couisinard scored a career-high 40 points for No. 11 seed Oregon in its 87-73 victory over No. 6 seed South Carolina.

Illinois wing Marcus Domask became the first player since Ja Morant in 2019 to post a triple-double in an NCAA Tournament game during the No. 3 seed Illini’s 85-69 win over No. 14 seed Morehead State. Gonzaga forward Anton Watson came one assist short of posting his own triple-double later in the day as the No. 5 seed Bulldogs crushed No. 12 seed McNeese. Kansas star Hunter Dickinson scored 20 points and pulled down 19 rebounds to help the Jayhawks survive a scare from Oakland and secure a 93-89 win. 

On the coaching side, Tennessee’s Rick Barnes set up a shot at revenge against his former employer Texas with a dominant 83-49 win over Saint Peter’s. Washington State’s Kyle Smith led the Cougars to their first NCAA Tournament win since 2007 with a 66-61 triumph over Drake. 

Those performances stood out in a good way. But there was also some pain and agony, particularly for teams like Kentucky. It’s March, and for every bit of elation there is an equal if not greater reaction of despair. With that, here are the winners and losers from Thursday’s action.

Loser: Kentucky falters again

It has been five years since Kentucky played beyond the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, and the Wildcats are exiting early once again. No. 14 seed Oakland stunned No. 3 seed UK 80-76 behind a career-high 32 points from 3-point marksman Jack Gohlke. The Wildcats struggled defensively all season, and their freshman-laden roster obviously tightened up when confronted with a tense postseason situation. Star guards Robert Dillingham and Reed Sheppard combined to make just 3 of 14 shots from the floor after standing out for their offensive brilliance all season. It made for another stunning exit from the Big Dance for the Wildcats, and it will only ratchet up the heat on coach John Calipari, who has been falling short of the standard he set in the early years of his tenure at one of the sport’s top jobs. — David Cobb

Winner: Duquesne, Dambrot’s are still alive 

Earlier this week, Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot announced his plans to retire after the season. LeBron James’ former high school coach at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School guided Duquesne to its first Atlantic 10 title since 1977 last weekend, and on Thursday, he helped extend his coaching career for at least 40 more minutes. No. 11 seed Duquesne upset No. 6 seed BYU 71-67 for the program’s first NCAA Tournament victory in 55 years. It’s been a magical final season for Dambrot and company. — Cameron Salerno

Loser: SEC starts slow

The SEC tied with the Big 12 for most NCAA Tournament teams with eight. But its contingent dwindled considerably on Thursday. No. 8 seed Mississippi State’s 69-51 loss to No. 9 seed Michigan State marked an anticlimactic end for the Bulldogs, who throttled Tennessee just six days earlier in an impressive SEC Tournament quarterfinal performance. No. 6 seed South Carolina looked equally feeble in an 87-73 loss to No. 11 seed Oregon. The Gamecocks prided themselves on defense and physicality during an otherwise excellent season but allowed the Ducks to shoot 59.6% from the floor. Then, there was Kentucky. Woof. It was not a banner day for the SEC. Tennessee did offer the conference some excitement when they defeated Saint Peter’s 83-49. Alabama, Auburn, Florida and Texas A&M are all in action on Friday. — Cobb

Winner: Pac-12 improves to 4-0 in the NCAA Tournament

In a few short months, membership within the Pac-12 will shrink from 12 to two. It’s hard to imagine the NCAA Tournament without the “Conference of Champions” but it appears the Pac-12 could be due for one more exciting tournament run. Colorado opened things up yesterday with a win over Boise State in the First Four, and the good vibes continued on Thursday with Arizona recording an 85-65 win over Long Beach State. Oregon defeated South Carolina 87-73 later in the day and Washington State ended the night with a 66-61 comeback win over Drake. Colorado is in action Friday against Florida. — Salerno

Winner: Gonzaga goes off

McNeese emerged as one of the trendiest upset picks in the bracket after winning the Southland Conference in coach Will Wade’s first season on the job. But the No. 12 seed Cowboys were no match for No. 5 seed Gonzaga as the Bulldogs began the Big Dance with an 86-65 win. Five different players reached double figures for the Zags, who are now one victory away from reaching the Sweet 16 in nine consecutive NCAA Tournaments. — Cobb

Winner: Michigan State in March

No. 9 seed Michigan State entered the NCAA Tournament with fewer wins (19) and more losses (14) than any other at-large team. The Spartans had also dropped five of their last seven games entering the Big Dance. Naturally, they turned in one of their most complete performances of the season in a 69-51 win over No. 8 seed Mississippi State. The Spartans shot 50% from the floor and scored 29 points off turnovers while marching on for a massive second round clash with No. 1 seed North Carolina. It’s March and it’s Michigan State. What more needs to be said? — Cobb

Loser: BYU died with the 3-pointer

No. 6 seed BYU ranked second nationally in made 3-pointers per game at 11.2 entering the NCAA Tournament. In a 71-67 loss to No. 11 seed Duquesne, the Cougars hit just 8 of 24 attempts from beyond the arc as the Dukes took away BYU’s lifeblood. The Cougars were 10-0 this season when making 14 or more 3-pointers. On Thursday, they fell to 3-7 when making eight or fewer. This team lived by the 3-point shot, and against Duquesne, they died by it as well. — Cobb

Winner: South Carolina’s Couisnard buries his old team

Former South Carolina guard Jermaine Couisnard went off for a career-high 40 points to lead No. 11 seed Oregon in its 87-73 win over the No. 6 seed Gamecocks. Couisnard became the first player from a double-digit seed to score 40 points in an NCAA Tournament  victory since Stephen Curry did for Davidson against Gonzaga in 2008. The fact that he did it against his old school only made the performance more incredible. The Ducks led just 34-29 at halftime. Couisnard scored 26 after the break to carry his team into a second round game against No. 3 seed Creighton. — Cobb

Loser: Nevada falls apart late

No. 10 seed Nevada took a 56-39 lead on No. 7 seed Dayton with 7:39 remaining and looked ready to cruise into the second round. Then, it let Dayton find life. The Flyers flew back with a 24-4 run to close the game to secure a stunning 63-60 victory. This one will haunt Nevada for a while, both because of what happened in the second half and because of the promise this team showed. Coach Steve Alford’s club entered the NCAA Tournament having won 10 of its previous 12 games while navigating a challenging Mountain West. But if followed 33 great minutes with a a 7-minute, and its season is over as a result. — Cobb

Winner: Illinois’ Domask joins elite company

Illinois wing Marcus Domask became the first player since Ja Morant in 2019 to post a triple-double in an NCAA Tournament game as he stuffed the stat sheet in the No. 3 seed Illini’s 85-69 win over No. 14 seed Morehead State. The 6-foot-6 senior finished with 12 points, 11 rebound and 10 assists. It was just the 10th triple-double in Big Dance history and put Domask in the company of players like Shaquille O’Neal, Dwyane Wade and Draymond Green. The rebounds and assists were the easy part for Domask. But he didn’t reach 10 points until drilling a 3-pointer with under three minutes remaining.  — Cobb

Loser: Mountain West limps out of the gate

The Mountain West got six teams into the NCAA Tournament, but MWC proponents still argued the league was disrespected because of how unfavorably those six teams were seeded. Through one day of first round action, the league has done nothing to bolster its reputation. No. 10 seed Colorado State lost 56-44 against No. 7 seed Texas while shooting just 29.3% from the floor, and No. 10 seed Nevada blew a 17-point lead in the final eight minutes of a 63-60 loss to No. 7 seed Dayton. Those performances followed Boise State’s loss to Colorado in a First Four game on Wednesday night. It will be up to No. 5 seed San Diego State, No. 8 seed Utah State and No. 11 seed New Mexico to salvage some dignity for the Mountain West on Friday. — Cobb

Winner: Monson goes out with dignity

Just over one week ago, Long Beach State moved to part ways with long-time coach Dan Monson right before reeling off three wins in three days to claim the Big West Tournament and an NCAA Tournament appearance. What’s followed the last week has been nothing short of awkward, with a lame duck coach playing out the string for a team that unexpectedly made the tourney. But whether it was making quips about him feeling like he was in a Seinfield episode or showing his real emotions on a more serious note, he seems to have won some people over with his handling of a tough situation – even if his Beach were bounced big in Round 1. 

“It was emotional in the locker room, but I made ’em look me in the eye because there’s no heads down because I can’t be more proud,” he said postgame. “This group needs their heads up high. I want to thank them for the ride.

Monson doesn’t have a job he’s had for nearly two decades anymore but he’s going out with dignity and there’s a lot to respect for how he’s traversed a tricky situation. — Kyle Boone

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