March Madness Takeaways: As Alabama’s Miller goes scoreless, more serious issues linger

On a day when two massive upsets showcased the beauty of March Madness, the NCAA’s top team continued its winning ways — but raised eyebrows while doing so.

Top-ranked Alabama, playing in-state in Birmingham, avoided the fate of fellow heavyweights Arizona and Virginia by beating little Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 96-75 on the opening day of the tournament.

The Crimson Tide rolled to victory Thursday while getting exactly zero points from top NBA Draft prospect Brandon Miller, who was at the scene of a fatal shooting of a 23-year-old woman earlier this year — causing national headlines for the program.

After Thursday’s win, Alabama coach Nate Oats said Miller is dealing with a groin injury.

“It doesn’t really matter how much I score. I think our whole team are just winners,” Miller said. “The final score at the end of the game, that’s what we care about.”

The scoreless game is the latest news item in a season full of them for Miller, who transported the gun to the scene of the shooting — according to police testimony — but was not charged with any crime. There have been capital murder charges against former teammate Darius Miles and another man. Another Alabama player, Jaden Bradley, also was at the scene, but was not charged with a crime.

Miller has said he never touched the gun.

Alabama faced criticism for not suspending Miller, but has repeatedly said it did not feel it was the right thing to do — while acknowledging the horrible tragedy.

Before Thursday’s game, TV analysts Charles Barkley and Clark Kellogg both said on CBS they felt Alabama should have sat out Miller for at least a few games after the details emerged.

This week, Miller, who is projected to go as high as No. 2 or 3 in this year’s NBA Draft, has had armed security with him after Oats said he was the target of threats.

“It doesn’t bother me,” Miller said of the threats, adding he forwards them to university officials. “I send it to the right people and they handle it.”

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, The New York Times reported freshman walk-on Kai Spears was also at the scene of the shooting. The university, Spears and his father, the athletic director at Marshall have said the report is wrong.

A New York Times spokeswoman told The Associated Press the newspaper stands by its reporting. Police in Tuscaloosa did not return an email sent Thursday by The AP seeking comment on the report.

This story isn’t going anywhere — and is as much a part of the 2023 tournament as bracket-busting results.

Early Madness

It didn’t take long for most brackets to be torn apart.

In the second game of the day, No. 13 seed Furman shocked No. 4 Virginia 68-67 on a brilliant play by the Paladins in the dying seconds.

With Furman down two, the Paladins’ Garrett Hien intercepted Kihei Clark’s ill-advised, lengthy pass at midcourt and then dished it to JP Pegues, who drilled a three from the right elbow with 2.4 seconds left to give unheralded South Carolina university a win in its first NCAA appearance since 1980.

“As soon as I saw it go into Garrett Hien’s hands, I was like, I want the ball. I feel like those are moments I’ve created my whole life, and I feel like I’m built for,” Pegues said. “I had full belief that it was going in, and it did.”

Back on campus, many of the 2,600 undergraduate students at the small school likely took notice.

For Virginia, its tournament roller-coaster ride continues. The Cavaliers lost for the third time in its past four appearances against a double-digit seed (including the only loss for a No. 1 seed against a No. 16 in 2018 versus UMBC). One year after that historic loss, Virginia won the national title.

Speaking of upsets…

How about No. 15 seed Princeton knocking off No. 2 Arizona 69-65?

It continued the trend of No. 15 seeds having success in the first round.

An Ivy League school, Princeton hadn’t won a March Madness contest since 1998.

“Pretty surreal feeling,” guard Matt Allocco said. “To beat a great team like that on this stage is a pretty special feeling. But also I can’t say I’m surprised. This team has been so good all year, so gritty. On paper, it’s going to look like a big upset. But we believe in each other and we think we’re a really good team. When we’re at our best, then I think we can beat anybody in the country.”

Arizona is now part of history. The Wildcats are the only team to lose twice as a No. 2 seed to a No. 15 — Steve Nash and Santa Clara upset Arizona in 1993. Eleven No. 15 seeds have now won an opening-round game.

Sizeable Difference

Purdue’s Toronto-born star Zach Edey will lead his top-seeded team into its tournament opener on Friday against huge underdog Fairleigh Dickinson.

The New Jersey-based Knights, who never have won a game in the main portion of March Madness, are going to have to get creative when defending the seven-foot-four Edey — as their tallest player is six foot seven (and he happens to be a Canadian deep on the team’s bench, Pier-Olivier Racine of Gatineau, Que.).

The Boilermakers got a look at the Knights on Wednesday as the latter team beat Texas Southern 84-61 in a play-in game to advance.

“Playing against shorter guys is a different look than playing against taller guys. Not necessarily easier all the time, the way you have to play with them have, treat them almost with like safety gloves because almost because anything I do since I’m bigger looks really bad,” said Edey, the likely NCAA player of the year. “So I really have to keep that in mind, stay out of foul trouble with it and really try to dominate the game.”

Recent history should motivate Purdue.

Last year as a No. 3 seed, the Boilermakers lost to a No. 15 seed from New Jersey — the Saint Peter’s Peacocks — in a Sweet 16 stunner.

Carr rides on

Another prominent Canadian with a legitimate chance to win the tournament is off to a winning start.

Toronto’s Marcus Carr had 17 points as No. 2 seed Texas beat Colgate 81-61.

Carr was the leading scorer this season for a Longhorns team that won the Big 12 title last weekend.

Friday’s Games


No. 10 USC vs. No. 7 Michigan State, 12:15 p.m. ET / 9:15 a.m. PT

No. 14 Kennesaw State vs. No. 3 Xavier, 12:40 p.m. ET / 9:40 a.m. PT

No. 14 UCSB vs. No. 3 Baylor, 1:30 p.m. ET / 10:30 a.m. PT

No. 12 VCU vs. No. 5 Saint Mary’s, 2 p.m. ET / 11 a.m. PT

No. 15 Vermont vs. No. 2 Marquette, 2:45 p.m. ET / 11:45 a.m. PT

No. 11 Pittsburgh vs. No. 6 Iowa State, 3:10 p.m. ET / 12:10 p.m. PT

No. 11 North Carolina State vs. No. 6 Creighton, 4 p.m. ET / 1 p.m. PT

No. 13 Iona vs. No. 4 UConn, 4:30 p.m. ET / 1:30 p.m. PT

No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson vs. No. 1 Purdue, 6:50 p.m. ET / 3:50 p.m. PT

No. 11 Providence vs. No. 6 Kentucky, 7:10 p.m. ET / 4:10 p.m. PT

No. 12 Drake vs. No. 5 Miami, 7:25 p.m. ET / 4:25 p.m. PT

No. 14 Grand Canyon vs. No. 3 Gonzaga, 7:35 p.m. ET / 4:35 p.m. PT

No. 9 Florida Atlantic vs. No. 8 Memphis, 9:20 p.m. ET / 6:20 p.m. PT

No. 14 Montana State vs. No. 3 Kansas State, 9:40 p.m. ET / 6:40 p.m. PT

No. 13 Kent State vs. No. 4 Indiana, 9:55 p.m. ET / 6:55 p.m. PT

No. 11 Arizona State vs. No. 6 TCU, 10:05 p.m. ET / 7:05 p.m. PT


No. 9 Marquette vs. No. 8 South Florida, 11:30 a.m. ET / 8:30 a.m. PT

No. 10 West Virginia vs. No. 7 Arizona, 12 p.m. ET / 9 a.m. PT

No. 10 Georgia vs. No. 7 Florida State, 1:30 p.m. ET / 10:30 a.m. PT

No. 16 Norfolk State vs. No. 1 South Carolina, 2 p.m. ET / 11 a.m. PT

No. 15 Holy Cross vs. No. 2 Maryland, 2:30 p.m. ET / 11:30 a.m. PT

No. 11 UNLV vs. No. 6 Michigan, 3 p.m. ET / 12 p.m. PT

No. 14 Southern Utah vs. No. 3 Notre Dame, 3:30 p.m. ET / 12:30 p.m. PT

No. 15 Southeastern Louisiana vs. No. 2 Iowa, 4 p.m. ET / 1 p.m. PT

No. 16 Chattanooga vs. No. 1 Virginia Tech, 5:30 p.m. ET / 2:30 p.m. PT

No. 14 Hawaii vs. No. 3 LSU, 5:30 p.m. ET / 2:30 p.m. PT

No. 11 Mississippi State vs. No. 6 Creighton, 6 p.m. ET / 3 p.m. PT

No. 16 Sacred Heart vs. No. 1 Stanford, 7:30 p.m. ET / 4:30 p.m. PT

No. 15 Gardner-Webb vs. No. 2 Utah, 7:30 p.m. ET / 4:30 p.m. PT

No. 9 San Diego State vs. No. 8 USC, 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT

No. 9 Gonzaga vs. No. 8 Ole Miss, 10 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. PT

No. 10 Princeton vs. No. 7 North Carolina State, 10 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. PT

— With files from AP.


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