Just one year after stunning Michigan State in the first round of last season's Tournament, Middle Tennessee pulled off another upset of a Big Te team on Thursday, as they took down No. 5 Minnesota, 81-72. Reggie Upshaw had 19 points in the upset win, while Giddy Potts added 15 for the Blue Raiders, who led the entire way. Middle Tennessee led by as many as 17 in the game, and held off a late rally by the Golden Gophers. This win comes as less of a surprise compared to last season, as they set a school record in victories, and a Conference-USA record with 17 league wins this season. They now move on to battle No. 4 Butler in the Round of 32 on Saturday. The Gophers' tournament experience ends quickly just one year after a struggling eight-win season.
Nova, Gonzaga Roll as Top Seeds
Possibly the two favorites to win it all in Phoenix were in action on Thursday as well, both as top seeds in their regions. First, the defending champs, Villanova, cruised past 16th-seeded Mount St. Mary's, 76-56. Donte DiVincenzo had 21 points, as the Wildcats shook off a slow start in which they led by just one point at the break. Although, they opened the second half on a 21-6 run, as they attempt to become the first back-to-back champions since Florida did it in 2007. Nova battles Wisconsin in the second round on Saturday. Meanwhile, Gonzaga used a dominant second half as well, after leading by four at the break, for a 66-46 win over South Dakota State. The 33-1 Bulldogs were led by Jordan Matthews' 16 points, as they outscored the Jackrabbits 40-24 in the final 20 minutes. South Dakota State did lead for the first 17 minutes of the game, coming in hot as winners of nine of their past 11 games. But now, Gonzaga takes on Northwestern, who's coming off their first Tournament win in school history.
Westbrook's Triple-Double Gives OKC Key Road Win
Russell Westbrook is back on a streak of triple-doubles, which is scary for the MVP race, as he recorded his fourth-straight type of game on Thursday for a 123-102 Thunder win over the Toronto Raptors. Westbrook had 24 points, 16 assists, and 10 rebounds for the Thunder, good for his 34th triple-double of the season. He sits just seven behind Oscar Robertson's all-time record of 41 from the 1961-62 campaign. OKC led the entire way north of the border, holding as large as a 32-point lead on the night. All five Thunder starters finished in double-digits, combining for 80 points, including 23 from Victor Oladipo. The big quarter was the third, as the Thunder outscored the Raptors by 17 coming out of the break. DeMar DeRozan had 22 points to lead Toronto in the loss.