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North Carolina v Wagner

Source: Grant Halverson / Getty

The 2024 NCAA Tournament tipped off earlier this afternoon with a doubleheader at the top of the West Region. The day started with Michigan State running away from a Mississippi State team that came in the favorite, while the second game featured the No. 1 seed in the region, North Carolina, using the final 12 minutes to route Wagner. Here is a look at what we think you should takeaway from the first session in Spectrum Center.

Don’t Let Michigan State’s Record Fool You, This Team is Here to Make Noise

The Spartans entered the tournament having lost five of their last seven games, including three to non-tournament teams, but you could tell that this afternoon. They started off hot, shooting 54.2% from the field and knocking down five threes in the first half and were able to sustain that into the second half to pull away for the 69-51 win. Tyson Walker and Jaden Akins combined for 34 of the team’s 69 points, one of their best outings of the season as a duo. There were a lot of people who questioned why this team was even in the tournament, but they proved why on Thursday and showed they should not be downplayed.

Tar Heels Players Dominante Inside, But Not Happy With the Way They Played

Tar Heel guard RJ Davis said in the postgame stand up availability that it was a goal to get the ball inside early and often today against the Seahawks and they did exactly that. The Tar Heels burned them for 48 points in the paints and 43 rebounds, including a 20-point, 15-rebound performance from Armando Bacot. This was Bacot’s seventh straight double-double in tournament action and his sixth straight tournament game with 15+ rebounds. Fellow forward Jae’lyn Withers also had a huge afternoon, scoring 16 points and ripping down ten rebounds, his best outing of his Tar Heel career since transferring from Louisville this past offseason. Even with the dominance the team showed inside, the players weren’t exactly thrilled with how they played, citing a sluggish start and lackadaisical defense as thinks they didn’t like about their performance. Those are areas they will work hard to improve upon before Saturday’s meeting with the Spartans.

Saturday’s Meeting Will Be a Clash of Tough-Nosed New York Guards

Davis and Walker will headline what should be one of the better second round matchups for a No. 1 seed in the tournament. As Davis revealed in the postgame, the two are actually teammates on a fifth grade team in Brooklyn and played against each other in high school. Both guys had strong showings in their respective games on Thursday and will now have the chance to lead their teams to the second weekend against each other.