NCAA Tournament 2014: Winners and Losers of Day 2
Tennessee and Cal Poly, welcome to the main bracket. Texas Southern and Iowa, thanks for playing, make sure to grab your commemorative souvenirs on the way back to the airport.
The second day of the 2014 NCAA tournament is in the books, with Wednesday's final pair of "First Four" games in Dayton bringing the field down to a more appealing field of 64.
Cal Poly downed Texas Southern 81-69 for its first-ever NCAA win in the opener, while Tennessee outscored Iowa 14-1 in overtime to win 78-65.
The real madness gets going on Thursday, but for now, here's a look at Wednesday's winners and losers from Dayton, Ohio.
Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.
Winner: Aaric Murray, Texas Southern
There was no debate needed when it came to who the best player was on the court in Wednesday night's first game: Aaric Murray was head and shoulders above everyone.
And not just because, at 6'10", the Texas Southern senior was at least an inch taller than everyone else. Murray simply could not be stopped, scoring 38 points on 14-of-23 shooting. He made all seven free throws and even stepped out to hit 3-of-5 three-pointers, showing a versatile game that will no doubt keep him on NBA teams' radars as the draft approaches.
While the SWAC's Player of the Year and Defensive MVP wasn't able to stop Cal Poly, Murray still had the kind of night that served as a solid finish to a rocky college career that saw him transfer out of two other Division I schools (La Salle and West Virginia).
Loser: Roy Devyn Marble, Iowa
Roy Devyn Marble entered Wednesday night as Iowa's fifth all-time leading scorer. He'll end his career in that spot after scoring a season-low seven points on just 3-of-15 shooting.
Marble was 0-of-6 from three-point line, and while he did force overtime with a jumper with 18 seconds left in regulation, the 6'6" senior was almost a non-factor and a big reason why the Hawkeyes' first trip to the NCAA tournament since 2006 ended almost before it started.
Winner: Jarnell Stokes, Tennessee
The beefy junior power forward was a beast on the blocks, recording his 20th double-double of the season with 18 points and 13 rebounds.
He was 5-of-7 from the field, but his offensive impact was best felt at the free-throw line, where the 67 percent foul shooter made 8-of-11, including all five in overtime.
Loser: Big Ten's Reputation
Despite having the national runner-up last season and frequently sending a team to the Final Four, the Big Ten Conference seems to annually take a hit in terms of reputation when the NCAA tournament comes around.
Having it start out 0-1 even before the first full day of the tourney doesn't help with that.
Iowa's loss to Tennessee puts the Big Ten in an early hole, but the league still has five other teams that can help turn things around. Four of them are seeded sixth or better, so don't lose faith, Big Ten fans!
Winner: Reese Morgan, Cal Poly
Morgan had played in just seven games all season for Cal Poly heading into Wednesday's matchup with Texas Southern, averaging less than six minutes and 1.9 points for a team that was 10-19 a week ago.
So, naturally, he'd have the game of his life on the biggest stage he and his team have ever seen.
Morgan's nine points were only fourth on the team, but each of his three-pointers came at huge moments of the Mustangs' win.
Even more amazing? Morgan had made just one three (on 12 attempts) all season.
Loser: SWAC Basketball
Texas Southern fell to 0-5 in NCAA tournament games with its 81-69 loss to Cal Poly, furthering the Southwestern Athletic Conference's dismal tourney reputation.
SWAC teams are now 5-33 all time in the NCAA tourney, with only one victory coming in the last 20 years. That was in 2010 when Arkansas-Pine Bluff beat Winthrop in an opening-round game, the only victory in seven tries by the league in play-in/First Four games.
Sure, it's not the easiest channel to find on the cable or satellite dial, but TruTV is making the most of its brief annual invitation to the spotlight.
According to Awful Announcing, Tuesday's First Four games averaged an 0.9 overnight rating, which was a 13 percent increase from the first day of play in 2013. The late game featuring Xavier and North Carolina State drew a 1.2 rating, the best ever for a game on the channel, and there's no reason to believe Wednesday's ratings won't be similarly strong.
Those numbers won't win ratings battles on a network station, but they're plenty good for cable sports. Consider this: Saturday's Pac-12 Conference final between Arizona and UCLA on Fox Sports 1 earned just an 0.4 rating, according to ShowBuzzDaily (h/t to Paulsen of SportsMediaWatch.com).
Once the NCAA tournament is over, we'll mostly forget about this channel that used to be known as CourtTV. But for the next two weeks, TruTV has found its way onto basketball fans' favorites list.
This Ohio community has opened its arms to whichever random teams have been shipped there since play-in games became been part of the NCAA tournament in 2001. For most years, it was a pair of tiny low-major schools, but with the creation of the First Four, that lineup has grown to feature more prominent programs.
Regardless of the teams, the local fans have done their best to come out and cheer them on. Which makes it a crying shame the NCAA selection committee decided the hometown Dayton Flyers were actually too good of an at-large team to get placed in the First Four.
While it might have provided the Flyers with a decided home- court and crowd advantage (instead of getting lined up with in-state big brother Ohio State in Buffalo), having Dayton get to play in Dayton would have been a great way of saying "thank you" to those who have supported this offshoot of the NCAA tourney.