The first day of the NCAA tournament didn’t bring many upsets, but it did bring a handful of highlight performances. Whether it was from NBA Draft prospects, under-the-radar freshmen or role players that stepped up their play on Thursday, without their production, a win would have been out of reach. We take a look back at day one standouts and their recruitments.
Many believed Virginia was ready to be upset by the offensively potent UNC-Wilmington bunch. While Kevin Keatt’s squad jumped out to a quick lead, if it wasn’t for Shayok, the former Louisville assistant would have secured his first tournament win. Finishing with 23 points and clinching the game with a nifty bank shot, the 6-foot-6 wing was originally slated to attend Marquette. However, coach Buzz Williams abruptly left for Virginia Tech. After finishing as a runner-up in the race for Shayok originally, Tony Bennett’s squad swooped in quickly and secured his commitment. Three years later, the Blair Academy standout was the catalyst for the Cavs’ first round win.
A slippery but skilled 6-foot-10 forward that is the ideal small ball power forward, Isaac hasn’t had the most productive of games leading up to the tournament. On Thursday, everything changed. While attempting just eight shots, Isaac finished with a final stat line of 17 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and three blocks in a win over Florida Gulf Coast. Before suiting up at FSU, Isaac was one of the best stories of the summer of 2015. Florida State was the first high-major program to offer before every top flight program in the land dished out their own to the five-star. At the end of the day, the Seminoles stood out above the rest as Isaac quickly made a commitment to the ACC program in July leading up into his senior year.
A very talented and intriguing small forward that brings a bevy of upside, Robinson has been a bit of a mystery since stepping foot onto the Gainesville campus three years ago. He is one of the remaining five-star upperclassman prospects left within the college realm, so there definitely is something there with the Virginia native, all of which he showed Thursday. Plastering 24 points on the scoreboard on 10-for-17 shooting from the field, Robinson is the primary reason why the Gators are moving on. Prior to his enrollment, Oklahoma State, Notre Dame and Indiana remained in the hunt. However, favoring the idea of following the likes of jumbo wing-forwards at Florida including Mike Miller, Corey Brewer and Chandler Parsons, Robinson decided to head outside of his locale as he committed to Florida in October of his senior year.
Much has been said about the effectiveness of Caleb Swanigan, but on Thursday, when Vermont was exhausting their mismatch abilities in the frontcourt, Edwards stepped up. The No. 124 ranked prospect in the 2014 class has had an up-and-down year, but his first session in Milwaukee showed that he belongs on the biggest of stages. Prior to his 21-point, five-rebound performance, the Purdue forward was a rather lightly recruited prospect from Ohio. Michigan remained in pursuit, as did others including Xavier, WVU and Dayton, but all it took was one official visit to take place before Edwards committed to the Boilermakers as they scooped up the 6-foot-7 Buckeye State native in September, 2013.
Villanova came out lethargic and sloppy against Mount St. Mary’s and without DiVincenzo, who knows if we would have seen the first ever 16-over-1 upset. The Wildcats pulled away and won by 20 points as the redshirt freshman took the giant platform that the NCAA Tournament allots and ran away with game MVP honors. Pitching in a final stat line of 21 points and 13 rebounds in his team’s victory, not many saw such a performance coming from the former three-star prospect. Jay Wright would like to think he did as he jumped on DiVincenzo early in the recruitment process as he committed to the Big East juggernaut in the middle of his junior year. He did narrow things down to a final group of six first, a list that consisted of the Wildcats, Florida, Rutgers, Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Vanderbilt. However, the No. 120 ranked recruit in the 2015 class liked the idea of playing close to his Wilmington, Del., home, which enabled for Wright’s program to land another building block for consistent success on the Main Line.