March Madness Friday recap: Purdue takes 1st step in exorcising 2023 demons with monster Zach Edey effort

The SEC stumbled yet again on Friday, and the final perfect brackets were eliminated before the first round ended

Purdue has taken the first step.

The top-seeded Boilermakers didn't lose to No. 16 seed Grambling State on Friday. The 78-50 win over the Tigers would normally stand as an unremarkable NCAA tournament outcome on a busy day of basketball. But this is no ordinary No. 1 seed.

The Boilermakers are coming off one of the biggest upsets in U.S. sports history last season, a 63-58 defeat to No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson in the first round of the NCAA tournament. In doing so, they became just the second team in the history of the tournament to lose as a No. 1 seed to a No. 16 seed.

Making a statement here mattered. The Boilermakers did just that — as much as a superior team can against a 16 seed in the NCAA tournament.

Zach Edey dominated. He tallied 31 points, 20 rebounds and three blocks while shooting 11 of 17 from the field. The 30-20 game was the first in the NCAA tournament since Maryland's Joe Smith posted 31 points and 21 rebounds in 1995.

It was the type of bully ball fans should expect from a 7-foot-4 presumptive two-time National Player of the Year against an outsized and outmatched Grambling State front line.

Zach Edey looked like a two-time National Player of the Year against Grambling State. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Zach Edey looked like a two-time National Player of the Year against Grambling State. (AP/Michael Conroy)

This time around, Edey got help from his teammates. After shooting 35.8% against Fairleigh Dickinson last season, the Boilermakers connected at a 47.5% clip against Grambling State. Four of Edey's teammates posted at least eight points.

In short, this is what Purdue was supposed to do. Now comes the hard part.

Purdue can look to the first and only other No. 1 seed to lose to a 16 seed for inspiration. The 2019 Virginia Cavaliers followed up the ignominy of their 2018 loss to UMBC with the program's first national championship.

Matching the Cavs would require five more wins. Up next for Purdue is a matchup with No. 8 Utah State. If they win that game, the winner between Gonzaga and Kansas awaits in the Sweet 16. No. 2 seed Tennessee and No. 3 seed Creighton lurk on the other half of the Midwest bracket.

Things will obviously get considerably tougher. But the Boilermakers can at least turn the page on last seasons's historic letdown. How they play moving forward will determine how they can actually move on.

SEC stumbles hard in first round

The SEC is off to an awful start in the NCAA tournament.

After the first round, the conference is just 3-5 in the event so far, a record that improved only after a pair of late wins on Friday night.

That, of course, generated plenty of laughs at SEC commissioner Greg Sankey — who has been calling for the NCAA tournament to expand in recent years.

No. 13 Yale rallied in the second half to pick up just its second-ever NCAA tournament win on Friday afternoon. The Bulldogs, after closing a 10-point deficit in the second half, held on in a wild final sequence to grab the two-point win and leave Auburn stunned.

That sent Yale into the second round, where it’ll take on San Diego State next on Sunday.

In Indianapolis, a porous defense did No. 7 seed Florida in. The Gators scored 100 points against No. 10 seed Colorado and still managed to lose. A unit that ranked 85th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency looked like a problem coming in. It was.

Colorado shot 63% from the field and 60% from 3-point distance. It scored on 16 of 18 possessions during a second-half span that gave the Buffaloes a 13-point lead in the game’s final minutes. The Gators rallied to tie the game, but KJ Simpson buried them with a game-winning jumper in the final seconds to secure the 102-100 win.

The two losses on Friday followed a rough start to the tournament for the SEC on Thursday. Mississippi State, Kentucky and South Carolina all lost their opening round games. Only Tennessee, which blew out Saint Peter’s, managed to pick up a win. That brought the conference to a mere 1-5 in the tournament at the time.

The SEC redeemed itself a little bit on Friday night. No. 9 Texas A&M flew past No. 8 Nebraska, 98-83, and No. 4 Alabama rolled past No. 14 Charleston without any issue. But still, three wins for the conference — especially after Sankey’s comments — over two days is not a great start whatsoever.

James Madison, Grand Canyon grab big upsets late

A pair of 12 seeds pulled off two great upsets to close out the first round on Friday night.

First, it was James Madison that rolled to a very straightforward win over No. 5 Wisconsin. The Dukes ran past the Badgers 72-61 at the Barclays Center to pick up what was their 14th straight win. It also marked the program’s first time in the second round of the tournament since 1983. They forced Wisconsin to commit a season-high 19 turnovers in the loss and they led the entire way through.

That set up a matchup with No. 4 Duke in the second round. The Blue Devils pushed past Vermont in the second half of their opening game.

Then, late in Spokane, Grand Canyon shut down No. 5 Saint Mary’s in the second half of their matchup to secure a 75-66 win. The Antelopes opened the second half on an 18-7 tear, and held the Gaels to without a field goal for a near-seven minute stretch in the middle of the period to break open a double-digit lead. They even had a ridiculous lob off an inbounds pass during that stretch.

Though Saint Mary's cut it to single digits briefly down the stretch, the Gaels couldn't get all the way back in it. Grand Canyon held on to grab the nine-point win. The Antelopes will now move on to face No. 4 Alabama in the second round. The Crimson Tide beat Charleston 109-96 earlier on Friday.

No more perfect brackets

There weren’t many to start the day, but the dream of a perfect bracket died on Friday afternoon.

All but 116 brackets survived the first day of the NCAA tournament after a number of upsets Thursday knocked most users out of Yahoo’s bracket game. That number was cut almost in half instantly after Northwestern’s overtime win over Florida Atlantic to start the day.

Then it was Colorado and Yale who finished the day off. Colorado beat No. 7 Florida 102-100 on a last-second shot from KJ Simpson. Almost 73% of users had picked Florida to make it out of the first round. Then Yale rallied back to knock off No. 4 Auburn 78-76 in what was just the Bulldogs’ second-ever NCAA tournament win. More than 90% of users had picked Auburn to win its first game.

Those two games knocked out the final perfect brackets, ending the annual quest.

While there are still a few perfect brackets that survived on the women’s side — just 0.3% of brackets survived the opening day — the men’s tournament didn’t make it through the first round this season. Better luck next year.