ST. LOUIS – His voice strained after 40 minutes of yelling, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo remained steadfast that his second-seeded Spartans had the makings of a national championship contender.
If only they could have survived Round 1.
“We just got beat,” Izzo managed to croak out after the Spartans’ 90-81 loss to No. 15 seed Middle Tennessee State on Friday in the Midwest Region first rounded ended the Spartans’ pursuit far sooner than expected. “But I want everybody to know this team had a chance to win a national championship. I don’t feel one bit different.”
In that case, what does the future hold for the Blue Raiders?
Reggie Upshaw had 21 points and Giddy Potts finished with 19 for Middle Tennessee State (25-9), which became the eighth No. 15 seed to knock off a No. 2 since seeding began in 1985.
The Blue Raiders will try to do the same against No. 10 seed Syracuse on Sunday.
“I’ll be honest with you, in my wildest dreams I didn’t think they’d hit some of the shots they hit,” Izzo said. “We didn’t guard them good, but man, they made some shots.”
The Spartans (29-6) were a trendy pick to win it all after capturing the Big Ten Tournament title. Part of it had to do with the experience of Denzel Valentine and the seniors, and part of it had to do with Izzo’s impressive postseason pedigree.
They got sent home without ever leading in their only game.
Michigan State’s Matt Costello matched a career-best with 22 points, and Valentine had 13 points and 12 assists, but he also had six turnovers — one of them coming with the Spartans trailing 79-76 and less than three minutes to go.
No. 10 Syracuse 70, No. 7 Dayton 51: In St. Louis, Malachi Richardson scored 21 points, Syracuse stumped Dayton with its trademark zone and the Orange rolled to a victory in their return to the NCAA Tournament.
No. 2 Villanova 86, No. 15 UNC Asheville 56: In New York, Ryan Arcidiacono scored 14 points, including a buzzer-beating 3 at the end of the first half, and Daniel Ochefu had 17 points inside as Villanova beat UNC Asheville to roll into the second round.
No. 13 Hawaii 77, No. 4 California 66: In Spokane, Washington, Hawaii won its first NCAA Tournament game in school history, when the Warriors ended California’s tumultuous week with an upset victory.
The Golden Bears’ played without popular assistant coach Yann Hufnagel, dismissed amid allegations of sexual harassment, and the loss of leading scorer Tyrone Wallace, who broke his hand Wednesday in practice.
Quincy Smith scored a career-high 19 points and Roderick Bobbitt had 17 points for the champions of the Big West Conference regular season and tournament.
No. 5 Maryland 79, No. 12 South Dakota State 74: In Spokane, Maryland needed a turnover in the closing seconds to avoid an upset, holding off South Dakota State behind a career-high 27 points from Jake Layman.
No. 7 Iowa 72, No. 10 Temple 70 (OT): In New York, Adam Woodberry put back a missed shot at the overtime buzzer to give Iowa a victory over Temple.
No. 2 Xavier 71, No. 15 Weber State 53: In St. Louis, James Farr had 18 points and 15 boards, fellow big man Jalen Reynolds added 12 points and Xavier pulled away late for a win over pesky Weber State.
No. 14 Stephen F. Austin 70, No. 3 West Virginia 56: In New York, Thomas Walkup scored 33 points and Stephen F. Austin faced down West Virginia’s full-court pressure with some of its own in-your-face defense, pulling off a rugged first-round upset of the Mountaineers.
No. 6 Notre Dame 70, No. 11 Michigan 63: In New York, V.J. Beacham scored 18 points, including the 3-pointer that gave Notre Dame the lead for good.
No. 7 Wisconsin 47, No. 10 Pittsburgh 43: In St. Louis, Ethan Happ had 15 points and nine rebounds, none bigger than one he pulled down in the closing seconds, as Wisconsin edged Pittsburgh.
No. 1 Oregon 91, No. 16 Holy Cross 52: In Spokane, carrying the marquee for the underachieving Pac-12, Oregon showed no nerves playing as a top seed and rolled past Holy Cross.
Chris Boucher led Oregon (29-6) with 20 points, while Dillon Brooks and Elgin Cook both added 11 points as the Ducks won their ninth straight.
No. 2 Oklahoma 82, No. 15 Cal State Bakersfield 68: In Oklahoma City, Buddy Hield scored 27 points to help Oklahoma defeat Cal State Bakersfield.
No. 3 Texas A&M 92, No. 14 Green Bay 65: In Oklahoma City, Danuel House scored 20 points as Texas A&M pulled away in the second half against Green Bay.
No. 11 Northern Iowa 75, No. 6 Texas 72: In Oklahoma City, Paul Jesperson banked in a half-court shot at the buzzer to give Northern Iowa a win over Texas.
No. 10 VCU 75, No. 7 Oregon State 67: In Oklahoma City, JeQuan Lewis had 21 points, eight assists and seven rebounds as Virginia Commonwealth won its first NCAA Tournament game since 2013.
Gary Payton II scored 19 points to lead the Beavers (19-13).
No. 8 Saint Joseph’s 78, No. 9 Cincinnati 76: In Spokane, Isaiah Miles sank a 3-pointer with 9 seconds left to lift Saint Joseph’s after a dunk at the buzzer by the Bearcats was waved off.