NCAA BK

The Latest: UCLA coach says he's not focused on openings

Players and coaches come off the bench as Virginia guard Marial Shayok (4) scores against UNC Wilmington during the second half of a first-round men's college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament, Thursday, March 16, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. Virginia defeated UNC Wilmington 76-71. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Players and coaches come off the bench as Virginia guard Marial Shayok (4) scores against UNC Wilmington during the second half of a first-round men's college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament, Thursday, March 16, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. Virginia defeated UNC Wilmington 76-71. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

The Latest on the NCAA Tournament (all times EDT):

8:55 p.m.

UCLA coach Steve Alford is focused on the NCAA Tournament, not what job is open - even if it is at Indiana.

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Alford played four seasons in Bloomington and led the Hoosiers to the 1987 NCAA title, so his name was one of the first to come up when Indiana coach Tom Crean was fired on Thursday.

''I love UCLA. I love Los Angeles. You're talking about arguably the greatest `brand' anywhere on the planet, and we got things going at a very high level now and we're very excited about it,'' Alford said before the Bruins' NCAA Tournament game against Kent State. ''We're excited about being in this tournament and seeing what we can do in this tournament.''

Alford played at Indiana from 1983-87 and left as the school's all-time leading scorer, steals and 3-point shooting. After a brief stint in the NBA, he went into coaching, making stops at Southwest Missouri State, Iowa and New Mexico before becoming UCLA's coach in 2013.

Alford was thought to be on the hot seat heading into this season after the Bruins failed to make the NCAA Tournament a year ago, but has turned the program around with a strong recruiting class headed by point guard Lonzo Ball.

UCLA enters the NCAA Tournament 29-4 and expected to make a deep run into March.

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8:45 p.m.

UPSET ALERT: No. 11 seed Xavier, no stranger to pulling off upsets in the NCAA Tournament, leads sixth-seeded Maryland 65-58 with less than 4 minutes to play in Orlando, Florida.

It would be a huge victory for the Musketeers, who are without second-leading scorer Edmond Sumner and lost seven of 10 entering the tournament.

Xavier is playing in its fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament and is 23-20 in NCAA play since 1990.

- Mark Long reporting from Orlando, Florida.

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8:40 p.m.

Defending champion and top overall seed Villanova has opened the second half on a 21-6 run after playing from behind for much of the first half to No. 16 seed Mount Saint Mary's.

The Wildcats are up by 13 points with 9 minutes left in the game.

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8:20 p.m.

Vermont senior Kurt Steidl has left the Catamounts' game against Purdue with a left leg injury.

Steidl went down after he jumped out to defend a 3-point attempt with about two minutes left in the first half. A trainer worked on his leg for a short while before the swingman was helped to the locker room, walking on his own, but with a pronounced limp.

Vermont trailed No. 4 seed Purdue 37-36 at halftime.

- Jay Cohen reporting from Milwaukee

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8:05 p.m.

Villanova, the top-seeded team in this year's NCAA Tournament, is in some trouble at halftime.

The Wildcats have been outplayed by No. 16 seed Mount St. Mary's and only lead 30-29 after 20 minutes. The Mountaineers jumped to a 10-2 lead and are going to sneaker to sneaker with the defending NCAA champions, who are attempting to be the first school to win consecutive titles since Florida in 2007.

Villanova missed its first eight shots and didn't take the lead until Eric Paschall powered in a dunk with 2:33 left in the half.

Since the NCAA introduced seeding in 1985, no top seed has ever lost to a No. 16 seed, a record of 129-0.

- Tom Withers reporting from Buffalo.

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7:25 p.m.

Actor Bill Murray made the trip to Orlando to support Xavier and his son, Luke, who is an assistant for the team.

Murray sat in the first row in the Musketeers section, but was mostly subdued during the first half.

Murray is a huge sports fan, notably rooting for Chicago's pro sports teams. He was in attendance throughout the Cubs' postseason run, and was in Cleveland for the Game 7 World Series win.

Luke Murray is in his second season on Chris Mack's staff at Xavier. Murray spent the previous two years at Rhode Island. He also has spent time at Towson, Wagner and Arizona.

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7:20 p.m.

Villanova has looked shaky in the opening minutes of its opener. The top-seeded Wildcats, attempting to become the first team to win consecutive titles since 2007, have missed their first eight shots, committed two turnovers and had three shots blocked by Mount St. Mary's in the opening five minutes.

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7:13 p.m.

In a classy gesture, Villanova coach Jay Wright went into Bucknell's locker room following the school's loss to West Virginia to congratulate the Bison on their season.

Wright played at Bucknell and graduated from the school in 1983.

Not long after the visit, Wright and the Wildcats began defense of their NCAA title with a matchup against No. 16 Mount St. Mary's.

- Tom Withers reporting from Buffalo.

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5:40 p.m.

Cinderella has taken the afternoon off at the NCAA Tournament.

While that might be good for your bracket, maybe not so much in the drama department for March Madness.

When fourth-seeded Florida polished off 13th seeded East Tennessee State as dinner time on the East Coast approached, the higher-seeded teams improved to 6-0 on the opening day of the tournament.

The closest call so far came in Buffalo, where 12th-seeded Princeton took fifth-seeded Notre Dame to the final buzzer before falling 60-58.

An upset on the brackets is brewing with No. 12 seed Middle Tennessee State up by double digits against No. 5 seed Minnesota, but Las Vegas casinos actually favored Middle Tennessee State.

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5:35 p.m.

Minnesota big man Reggie Lynch returned to the bench after picking up third foul with 18:51 left in the second half of the Golden Gophers' first-round game against Middle Tennessee.

Lynch is the Big Ten's defensive player of the year. But he played just 9 minutes in the first half because of foul trouble.

The Blue Raiders found more room to maneuver in the lane in the second half again when Lynch went to the bench, building a 14-point lead with 15:31 to go.

One Minnesota fan yelled from the crowd, `What are you doing?'' after Lynch picked up his third foul. Coach Richard Pitino also shot Lynch a look of disbelief and a few choice words when Lynch picked up his third foul.

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5:08 p.m.

Minnesota has a new unofficial assistant coach on its bench.

Senior Akeem Springs is out for the NCAA Tournament after tearing his right Achilles during the Big Ten tourney last week. Springs said earlier this week that he would join his teammates on the bench wearing a suit, and that's exactly what he did when the fifth-seeded Golden Gophers faced 12th-seedeed Middle Tennessee in first-round action.

Springs sported a pink tie and had a black walking boot over his right foot. He's sure to have his voice heard in the locker room with Minnesota trailing 37-31 at halftime.

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4:46 p.m.

Retired football coach Steve Spurrier made the trip to Orlando to cheer on his alma mater.

Spurrier sat a few rows behind Florida's bench Thursday, rooting for the Gators to beat East Tennessee State.

Spurrier also might be privately pulling for the Buccaneers. Spurrier grew up in Johnson City, Tennessee, home to East Tennessee State. Spurrier called ETSU coach Steve Forbes to congratulate him on making the NCAA Tournament.

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4:13 p.m.

Gonzaga slowly pulled away from South Dakota State for a 66-46 victory. And they avoided the first 1 vs. 16 upset in the history of the NCAA Tournament.

It looked possible for a while.

The Jackrabbits led for the first 17 minutes of Thursday's game in the West region and stayed in range for most of the game. Jordan Mathews scored 16 points to help Gonzaga pull away.

Gonzaga became the 129th straight No. 1 seed to beat a 16 since the bracket was expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

Other results from Thursday's first-round games:

Butler 76, Winthrop 64

Virginia 76, UNCW 71

Notre Dame 60, Princeton 58

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2:58 p.m.

Fifth-seeded Virginia rallied from 15 points down to beat 13th-seeded UNC Wilmington 76-71.

London Perrantes scored 24 points and Marial Shayok added a career-high 23 off the bench.

Virginia advanced past the first round for the fourth consecutive year and won as a 5 seed for the first time in four tries. The Cavs can thank Perrantes and Shayok for making it happen.

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2:26 p.m.

Avery Woodson has the hot hand from 3-point range for fourth-seeded Butler in a first-round game in Milwaukee against 13th-seeded Winthrop.

The senior guard is 5 of 7 from behind the arc for a team-high 15 points to lead the Bulldogs to a 41-27 lead at halftime. Woodson is one 3-pointer short of tying his career high from behind the arc.

The game is being played at the Bradley Center, the home of Butler's Big East rival, Marquette. Woodson scored 17 in a 68-65 win over the Golden Eagles the last time that Butler visited Milwaukee on Feb. 7.

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2:25 p.m.

Notre Dame avoided a 12-5 upset in Buffalo, holding off Princeton - which missed a late shot for the lead - 60-58.

Twelve-seeds are popular upset picks, having beaten five seeds 46 times in tournament history.

The West Region game - played in Buffalo - was the first contest of the full tournament.

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1:22 p.m.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is attending Princeton University's NCAA Tournament game, but he's not rooting for his state's Ivy League university.

Christie is sitting a few rows behind Notre Dame's bench Thursday in Buffalo and rooting for the Fighting Irish.

The Republican has been friends with Notre Dame coach Mike Brey since he worked at the University of Delaware. Christie graduated from the school.

Christie's daughter Sarah is a student manager for Notre Dame.

Christie's son Andrew graduated from Princeton last year and played for its baseball team.

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12:50 p.m.

Notre Dame guard Rex Pfleuger had to leave the game to get stitches in the first half against Princeton.

The sophomore went to the locker room after taking an elbow from Princeton's Steven Cook while Cook was driving to the basket in their first round game.

Pfleuger returned to the bench after getting the stitches and having a concussion ruled out. Pfleuger is averaging 4.8 points and 2.8 rebounds per game for the Irish.

He didn't seem rattled and asked a team official to take a picture of the stitches that made him look more like a hockey player than a kid in the middle of March Madness. He made it back on the floor with 4:04 left in the half.

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12:36 p.m.

Indiana coach Tom Crean has been fired after nine seasons.

Athletic director Fred Glass announced the decision as the NCAA Tournament was beginning.

Crean won two Big Ten regular-season championships over the last five seasons but went 18-16 in 2016-17 and missed the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time in nine years. That includes each of his first three seasons after he took over a gutted team following an NCAA scandal.

The 50-year-old Crean went 166-135 in nine seasons at Indiana.

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12:17 p.m.

The NCAA Tournament is underway. One of the day's biggest story lines is top-seeded Villanova starting its quest to become the first repeat national champion since Florida in 2007.

The Wildcats (31-3) open tournament play in Buffalo against Mount St. Mary's (20-15) Thursday night.

Some of the most intriguing games on the tournament's opening day will include 12th-seeded Middle Tennessee State (30-4) against Minnesota (24-9). The Blue Raiders stunned Michigan State last year as a No. 15 seed.

Ivy League champions Princeton (23-6) opened the tournament against fifth-seeded Notre Dame, while 13th-seeded Winthrop faces Butler in early action.

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12:21 p.m.

The Princeton Tigers can boast one edge over the Fighting Irish in their first-round matchup.

The Tigers, seeded 12th in the West Region, beat Notre Dame in their last meeting.

It was an upset, in fact, as Princeton beat the then second-ranked Fighting Irish 76-62 on Jan. 3, 1977.

The schools have only met three times, with Notre Dame winning the other two meetings.

As it turns out, the West Region's other game being played in Buffalo have a connection.

On the same night in 1977, West Virginia defeated Bucknell 112-71 in the last time those two schools met.

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