No. 1 seeds Baylor and Illinois will be in action later in the afternoon, with other intriguing matchups sprinkled throughout, in the first true day of March Madness in nearly two years. And if Friday’s games rival the First Four in terms of down-to-the-wire finishes and drama, college basketball fans will be in for a real treat.
Follow along from the first tip to the final buzzer for the latest updates, reaction and analysis from USA TODAY Network reporters, editors and columnists.
Arkansas handles Colgate after early scare
FINAL: Arkansas 85, Colgate 68
From 14 down in the first half to a 17-point victory, the Razorbacks handled Colgate with relative ease throughout the second-half after leading at halftime by three. Justin Smith poured in 29 points for Arkansas.
For Colgate, due to the Patriot League’s scheduling, it was just their sixth opponent this season.
Florida survives overtime against Virginia Tech
The first “real” game of March Madness delivered, as No. 7 Florida defeated No. 10 Virginia Tech, 75-70.
SEC Player of the Year Tre Mann delivered the dagger with 23.4 seconds remaining in overtime to sink the Hokies, who forced the extra five minutes on Nahiem Alleyne’s a 3-pointer with 1.4 seconds remaining in regulation to tie the game at 64 and force overtime in the first game of the day — a fitting start to March Madness.
Florida trailed by 10 at one point.
Top plays: Between the legs! Rejected!
Early candidate for pass of the day here by Arkansas’ Davonte Davis:
And early candidate for rejection of the game by Florida’s Colin Castleton:
Florida’s Appleby helped off court after being struck
Florida guard Tyree Appleby was helped off the court during his team’s first-round NCAA Tournament game Friday after being hit by an inadvertent elbow from Virginia Tech’s Keve Aluma.
Appleby was defending Aluma closely when the Hokies forward went to make a one-handed pass across the court and caught Appleby in the forehead. The junior immediately went down holding his head and blood was visible on the court.
Florida leads Virginia Tech late.
Quad-box it: Four games in action
No. 11 Utah State and No. 6 Texas Tech are trading runs early in the first half on that matchup, while No. 1 Illinois is having little trouble handling 16-seed Drexel, as the Illini took a 39-21 lead into halftime.
Colgate and Arkansas are back from halftime, while Virginia Tech and Florida appears it will come down to the wire.
Arkansas storms back vs. Colgate
Colgate jumped out to a 14-point lead in the first half vs. Arkansas, but the Razorbacks scored 17 unanswered points to take a three-point lead into the locker room. The last Colgate points, on a Jack Ferguson 3-pointer, came with 5:30 remaining in the half. Arkansas reeled off its run over a four-minute span to head into halftime with a 36-33 lead.
Jordan Burns, the Patriot League Player of the Year, has yet to score and was 0-for-6 from the field. He picked up his third foul with 46 seconds left in the half.
Hokies lead at half, Colgate hanging
In the first game of the first round, No. 10 Virginia Tech matched up against No. 7 Florida. The Hokies started 5-for-9 from three-point range, and Hunter Cattoor made his first three attempts from deep, while the Gators as a team were 1-for-6 from three.
Virginia Tech used some seriously selfless play to create space (and this isn’t bad defense from Florida, either).
In the same corner of the South region, No. 14 Colgate and No. 3 Arkansas was the second game of the day to tip off (TruTV). Through the first 14 minutes, Colgate has yet to be outmatched physically and is shooting well from deep to build an 11-point lead.
Colgate doesn’t look totally overmatched physically in this game but they’ve left some points on the board early.
— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) March 19, 2021
NCAA acknowledges difference between men’s, women’s tournament
Pictures surfaced Thursday showing the stark differences in gifts that were presented to women’s basketball players compared to men’s. Stanford sports performance coach Ali Kershner posted photos of the facilities inside the Indianapolis-area bubble (where the men are playing) compared to the San Antonio bubble (where the women are).
The NCAA acknowledged the discrepancy in amenities, citing space limitations — although those on the ground quickly disputed the point — and said “we want to be responsive to the needs of our participating teams, and we are actively working to enhance existing resources at practice courts, including additional weight training equipment.”
The men’s tournament had outdoor space at a nearby minor league baseball stadium, while the lone opportunity for fresh air on the women’s side is the walk from the team hotel to coronavirus testing sites. There is even a sizable quality difference between the “swag bags” men’s and women’s players received.
Contributing: Chris Bumbaca, Scott Gleeson, Erick Smith
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY Sports: 2021 NCAA tournament live updates: Scores, news from March Madness