John Fanta’s 2023 March Madness instant reaction: Vols stop Duke, leaving East wide open

The first round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament was marred by major upsets. Will it continue to the round of 16?

Here’s a preview of some things I’m looking for as the action returns on Saturday:

I’ll have a full breakdown of all the games on Saturday, but before that, be sure to check out some key items: our NCAA Tournament schedule, the NCAA Tournament schedule, 50 reasons to be excited about March Madness, and the best plays of the first. round

Here’s a full recap of Day 2. Then stay tuned for exclusive interviews, analysis and more from Day 3.

No. 4 Tennessee 65, No. 5 Duke 52

Jon Scheyer’s first season is over and the East Region is wide open

Every time Duke started to come in, Olivier Nkamhoua and Tennessee punched.

The Volunteers senior forward scored a career-high 27 points and hit three 3-pointers – he had 15 all season before this game! — in a dominating win over the Blue Devils.

Tennessee, even without star Zakai Zeigler (out for season – torn ACL), will travel to New York City for the Sweet 16 next week.

Duke, after winning 10 straight and playing as well as anyone over the past month, saw Scheyer’s first season come to an end on Saturday with a 27-9 rout.

For Rick Barnes, Saturday put to bed the criticism that he can’t get Tennessee to go on a deep NCAA Tournament run. How did they do it? Well, we went in wondering how the Vols would score. A team that entered the season shooting 33% from beyond the arc had a shifty day from downtown, going 9-for-21 from 3. With Zeigler down, it has made Santiago Vescovi must assume an even more important role. He made four triples, scoring 14 points, with five rebounds and as many assists. March Madness can bring a different wave out of a team, and we saw that in the Vols offense on Saturday.

But it all goes back to the game. Duke is defensive-minded, but that played right into Tennessee’s hands. The Vols are wired for that style of play, ranking first in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency.

For the Blue Devils, they couldn’t match Tennessee from the perimeter and Kyle Filipowski needed 16 shot attempts to score 13 points. With Jeremy Roach battling foul trouble and playing with four for the final 12 minutes, that also contributed to some struggles. Duke was also without freshman forward Mark Mitchell, who injured his knee in practice.

The Blue Devils went 19-1 with their full roster. They were 8-9 when they weren’t at their best.

Overall, Scheyer’s first year should be considered a solid one, with a freshman class that took time to develop and a team that dealt with injuries. The second weekend of the NCAA Tournament is obviously the benchmark in Durham with the Final Four every few years, if not more often, but it was Year 1. Scheyer will bring in the best recruiting class in the country next season

Big takeaway: Tyrese Proctor should go early in the NBA Draft this June. He had 16 points and six assists, making some great offensive plays along the way.

The Big Picture: Tennessee should rejoice. The path to an Elite Eight is to get past 9-seed FAU or 16-seed FDU.

At the same point, Kansas State and Kentucky, along with Marquette and Michigan State, have a possible path to a regional title compared to others.

The hottest team entering the tournament, Duke, is gone. The 1 seed, Purdue? They are already home.

The east is wide open.

No. 5 San Diego State 75, No. 13 Furman 52

This ranked as San Diego State’s year to get on the national map in a big way.

In an isolated TV window to herald Saturday’s NCAA Tournament action, the Aztecs put on their best performance and punched the program’s first ticket to the Sweet 16 since 2014 with a rout of Furman.

Head coach Brian Dutcher, who was Steve Fisher’s right-hand man at SDSU from 1999-2017, is now having his signature moment as the program’s leader. A year after the heartbreak against Creighton in the first round, the Aztecs welcomed back four of five starters from a 23-win team, and it has produced a great redemption story.

In the win over the Paladins, who were coming off a program-record 28-win season and their first March Madness win since 1974, the Aztecs showed why they are as strong defensively as any team in the country

For the third straight game, SDSU held its opponent to its season-low production as the Aztecs held the Paladins to just one field goal in the final 11 minutes of the first half.

Furman led 16-12 through nine minutes. The Aztecs then put their stamp on the game, turning stops into scores and going on an 18-1 run behind junior Micah Parrish, who scored 14 of his game-high 16 points in the first half and knocked down two triples. Matt Bradley, the fifth-year senior leader, shot just 3-of-10 from the floor, a reflection that the Aztecs aren’t limited to him like they were last year.

Dutcher addressed those needs in the trade portal last offseason, adding Darrion Trammell (Seattle), who had 13 points in the win. Lamont Butler, a steady point guard, had 12 points, six assists and six rebounds.

The Aztecs outshot the Paladins in the paint, 40-16. They led in bench points, 27-11. None of those things were surprising, but with 17 assists on 29 made field goals, that’s telling for SDSU in the big picture as they won their sixth straight game.

With the winner of Alabama/Maryland advancing to the Sweet 16, the key is simple: Can this team continue to find enough offensive balance and hit some timely 3s?

For now, it’s celebration time for the Aztecs and the Mountain West, who badly needed it from their flagship program.


No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 8 Arkansas

No. 7 Missouri vs. No. 15 Princeton

#1 Houston vs. #9 Auburn | 7:10 p.m. ET

No. 2 Texas vs. No. 10 Penn State | 7:45 p.m. ET

No. 2 UCLA vs. No. 7 Northwestern | 8:40 p.m. ET

when 1 Alabama vs. when 8 Maryland | 9:40 p.m. ET

John Fanta is a national college basketball broadcaster and writer for FOX Sports. He covers sports in a variety of capacities, from calling games on FS1 to serving as lead host on the BIG EAST Digital Network to providing commentary on The Field of 68 Media Network. Follow him on Twitter @John_Fanta.

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