NCAA Tournament 2014: Winners and Losers of Day 1
After months of anticipation, the NCAA tournament has begun. Can you feel the madness yet?
The first round, better known as the First Four, kicked off on Tuesday night in Dayton. Both NC State and Albany earned their spots in the field of 64, while Xavier and Mount Saint Mary's are already packing up and heading home. It can all be over so quickly.
Here are the winners and losers from the first two games of the 2014 NCAA tournament.
Winner: Will Miller
Despite his team losing, Mount Saint Mary's freshman Will Miller had a night that will be remembered in NCAA tournament lore.
The 6'6" freshmen sunk seven three-pointers for a team-high 21 points, and single-handedly kept the Mountaineers in the game against Albany.
After the contest, Mount Saint Mary's coach Jamion Christian told reporters (via Jake Rill of the Carroll County Times) that Miller's performance was no surprise:
We felt Will was going to have a huge game for us. He’s been a kid all year long playing on big stages, against big teams. He’s made a lot of 3’s. And we knew he was capable of getting hot.
...I believe in his career some day he’ll hit 10 of these [in a game]. I thought that might have been tonight. He got to seven. Had he got to 10, we would all be in here jumping for joy, at least I would.
Loser: Mount Saint Mary's Comeback
Mt. St. Mary's did not have a good start to the game. The surprise NEC champions found themselves in a 0-13 hole barely six minutes in, shooting just 1-of-13 from the field in that span.
The Mountaineers decided to stick with the three-pointer, which is their bread and butter, but didn't even make a single one until they were down by 19 points in the first half. It would have paid to have a Plan B.
They came back and made it close at the end, but a game-tying three-point attempt fell short with 19 seconds on the clock. The Mountaineers must be wondering what could have been had they found their mojo earlier.
Winner: Short Guys
It was a good day for the vertically challenged members of winning basketball teams.
Senior guard DJ Evans, only 5'9", launched Albany to victory over Mount St. Mary's on Tuesday. He scored 22 points and grabbed nine rebounds, the latter of which impressed fellow backcourt mate Peter Hooley, per Martin Rickman of SI.com.
"DJ is a terrific player," Hooley said. "I knew that coming in. He’s really an unbelievable player, every part of the court. He got nine rebounds and he’s about 4'8", so that’s really impressive."
Tyler Lewis, the 5'11" sophomore at NC State, helped fuel the Wolfpack's victory with eight assists to only one turnover.
Loser: The First Four
It's a futile exercise to argue against the First Four. The play-in games—I mean, the first round of the tournament—make money and they are here to stay. But they certainly don't feel like the NCAA tournament.
The crowd in Dayton was far from electric, and the games weren't overflowing with the type of buzz and excitement that makes the NCAA tournament so special.
Gregg Doyel of CBS Sports was in Dayton, but, as he reported, he wasn't joined by many fellow media members:
After the NCAA-mandated 10 minutes to cool off, the locker room was opened to the media. To me. The players inside had no idea what they were missing, but they were missing a flood of TV cameras and microphones. They were missing a locker room so full of reporters that there's no room for the players, so they break away to the steamy shower just to breathe. They were missing what will await the other No. 16 seeds in the real NCAA Tournament.
Winners: T.J. Warren and NC State
A week ago, it looked like the NC State Wolfpack were headed to the NIT. Now, they're into the second round of the NCAA tournament, where they will face No. 5 seed St. Louis on Thursday.
The Wolfpack were the last team added to the field of 68, sneaking in only after their upset win over Syracuse in the ACC tournament. They made the most of their opportunity, playing some of their best basketball of the season and completely dominating Xavier in a 74-59 victory.
T.J. Warren, the ACC Player of the Year, led the Wolfpack with 25 points. As the icing on the cake, he set a single-season NC State scoring record along the way (via NC State men's basketball on Twitter).
This was just not a very good showing from Xavier.
The Musketeers had no answers for NC State or T.J. Warren in the second half, and they looked like a team that didn't belong in the Big Dance at all. They ran out of gas on defense and couldn't get anything going on offense.
When the buzzer sounded, they had lost by 15 points, and it didn't even feel that close. What a disappointing end to the season for Xavier, who lost four of its last five.