For those wondering whether the excitement of the 2014 NCAA tournament could live up to the hype, Thursday's opening day of the round of 64 didn't make folks wait long to find out.
With every fan carrying a printout of their bracket to work and looking on while hoping it all doesn't crumble, Dayton opened this year's Dance by eliminating anyone who took Ohio State on a deep run, ousting the sixth-seeded Buckeyes in a thriller. That game was picked by some as a potential upset, and it may set the tone for what's expected to be the most unpredictable tournament in recent memory.
Nate Silver, who knows a thing or two about predictions, can only give a 15 percent chance his mathematical favorite (Louisville) pulls it out. Similar stories are told by the likes of Ken Pomeroy, whose advanced metrics system has helped revolutionize the way we look at college basketball.
To put it in the most cliche way possible: Expect the unexpected.
No. 12 Harvard looked like a good bet to defeat No. 5 Cincinnati in the East Region, and they were able to do so, while No. 4 San Diego State could provide the day's biggest upset in the nightcap out West. And the great thing about the first couple days of the round of 64 is the upsets you never see coming ruining your bracket and keeping that billion dollars in Warren Buffett's pocket.
With that in mind, lets check in on how the early Thursday games played out, and check back here as we update with results throughout the day.
|South||12:15 p.m.||No. 6 Ohio State||No. 11 Dayton||CBS||Dayton 60-59|
|South||30 min after Ohio State vs. Dayton||No. 3 Syracuse||No. 14 Western Michigan||CBS||Syracuse 77-53|
|South||1:40 p.m.||No. 8 Colorado||No. 9 Pittsburgh||TBS||Pittsburgh 77-48|
|South||30 min. after Colorado vs. Pittsburgh||No. 1 Florida||No. 16 Albany||TBS||Florida 67-55|
|East||2:10 p.m.||No. 5 Cincinnati||No. 12 Harvard||TNT||Harvard 61-57|
|East||30 min after Cincinnati vs. Harvard||No. 4 Michigan State||No. 13 Delaware||TNT||Michigan State 93-78|
|East||6:55 p.m.||No. 7 Connecticut||No. 10 Saint Joseph's||TBS||UConn 89-81 (OT)|
|East||30 min after Connecticut vs. Saint Joseph's||No. 2 Villanova||No. 15 Milwaukee||TBS||Villanova 73-53|
|Midwest||7:10 p.m.||No. 2 Michigan||No. 15 Wofford||CBS||Michigan 57-40|
|Midwest||30 min after Michigan vs. Wofford||No. 7 Texas||No. 10 Arizona State||CBS||Texas 87-85|
|Midwest||7:20 p.m.||No. 5 Saint Louis||No. 12 NC State||TNT||Saint Louis 83-80 (OT)|
|Midwest||30 min after Saint Louis vs. NC State/Xavier||No. 4 Louisville||No. 13 Manhattan||TNT||Louisville 71-64|
|West||12:40 p.m.||No. 2 Wisconsin||No. 15 American||truTV||Wisconsin 75-35|
|West||30 min after Wisconsin vs. BYU||No. 7 Oregon||No. 10 BYU||truTV||Oregon 87-68|
|West||7:27 p.m.||No. 5 Oklahoma||No. 12 North Dakota State||truTV||NDSU 80-75 (OT)|
|West||30 min after Oklahoma vs. North Dakota State||No. 4 San Diego State||No. 13 New Mexico State||truTV||San Diego State 73-69 (OT)|
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San Diego State Goes Wins in Record 4th OT Game
It was only fitting that the final game of what was a crazy first day of the NCAA tournament went into overtime. San Diego State's 73-69 victory was the fourth game that couldn't finish in regulation, breaking the record for most in one day of the Big Dance:
San Diego St. survives New Mexico St.'s upset bid, wrapping up the 4th OT game today: a new record for a single day of the NCAA Tournament.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 21, 2014
The Aztecs looked to have this one all wrapped up, and then Kevin Aronis hit a three-pointer in the waning seconds to tie the game at 60-60. It was part of a 14-4 run by New Mexico State that was part of a frenzied second-half comeback.
However, as much as the Aggies stayed in this game, they never presented too much of a threat. After all, they never once had the lead. It was the most one-sided close game you'll see for a long time.
No. 7 Texas Wins on Buzzer-Beater
No two points of the 17 Cameron Ridley scored on Thursday night were more important than his last. After Jonathan Holmes missed a potential game-winning three-pointer, Ridley grabbed the rebound and laid the ball in as time expired, giving Texas an 87-85 win.
Ridley finished with a double-double, adding 12 boards to his 17 points.
In the end, the Longhorns' total team performance won out over Arizona State's more top-heavy production.
A total of five players scored at least nine points, with Jordan Bachynski leading the way with 25 points. Jahii Carson and Jermaine Marshall combined for 36 points as well.
Texas, on the other hand, got at least three points from eight different players, six of which scored in double figures.
Defending Champion Louisville Survives Scare Against Manhattan
The biggest difference between Louisville and Manhattan is talent. That was plain for all to see, as the Jaspers executed perfectly down the stretch, and yet, they still found themselves at the mercy of the Cardinals.
Manhattan had no answer for Russ Smith and Luke Hancock, three-pointer with 27 seconds put Louisville up 68-62. It would go on to win 71-64.
Although they are the reigning champs, the Cardinals came in with a point to prove. Many felt the selection committee made a mistake by making the Cards a No. 4 seed, but on the strength of that victory, they did little to prove the committee wrong.
No. 2 Villanova Cruises Against No. 15 Milwaukee
On the strength of a second half in which it outscored Milwaukee 46-30, Villanova picked up a comfortable 73-53 victory on Thursday.
The Wildcats are viewed by many as the weakest of the four No. 2 seeds, and few pegged them as a Final Four team. With the way they played in that second-round win, though, they may need a reevaluation.
Nova held the Panthers to 18-of-63 shooting, blocked 10 shots and out-rebounded Milwaukee 46-37. It dominated every facet of the game.
North Dakota State Becomes Second No. 12 to Win on Thursday
Overtimes for everybody!
For the third straight game, two halves wasn't enough to decide a winner in the NCAA tournament. No. 12 North Dakota State defeated No. 5 Oklahoma 80-75 in overtime.
The Bison showed a lot of determination in this game. They had a 37-29 lead at halftime and remained six points ahead, 56-50, with 6:22 to go.
Then the Sooners made their run. They kept knocking on the door until finally breaking it down with 1:30 to go. Isaiah Cousins hit two free throws to give Oklahoma a 62-61 lead. It would grow to four points, 65-61, following a jumper from Cameron Clark and a free throw by Jordan Woodard.
But the Bison wouldn't go away. Taylor Braun hit two free throws to get back to within two points. Cousins bumped it back to three points with another free throw.
Then Lawrence Alexander hit a three-pointer with 12 seconds to go, tying the game at 66-66.
Oklahoma had three shots in its final possession to win, but all three missed the target.
North Dakota State then pulled away in the overtime period.
Alexander was the star performer. He led all scorers, with 28 points, far outshining Braun, who missed eight of his 11 shots, finishing with 11 points.
The Bison will no doubt need Braun if they're to get past either Louisville or Manhattan in the next round.
No. 12 North Carolina State Throws Game Away Against No. 5 Saint Louis
You'd think that a 16-point second-half lead would be enough to beat any team in the NCAA tournament, unless you're Cal Poly.
No. 5 Saint Louis clawed back from the abyss, beating No. 12 North Carolina State, 83-80, in overtime.
With 8:13, T.J. Warren put the Wolfpack up 55-39. Little did Warren and his teammates know, it would only go downhill from there.
The Billikens patiently chipped away at the lead. They got defensive stops, and in an interesting strategy by Jim Crews, fouled NC State shooters in order to send them to the line. The Wolfpack could've iced this game away, but they finished 20-of-37 from the charity stripe.
As NC State foundered, St. Louis was on the ascension.
Jordair Jett tied the game at 70-70 with 18 seconds left. Tyler Lewis had an open jumper rim out as the buzzer sounded, meaning the second game in a row went into overtime.
The OT period became a battle of attrition, as neither team looked like it wanted to win. NC State couldn't find a bucket, while St. Louis was missing chances at the foul line to ice the game away.
The Billikens proved the less awful and walked away with an impressive comeback victory.
No. 7 Connecticut Outlasts No. 10 St. Joseph's
The NCAA tournament said a sad goodbye to young Philip Martelli, as No. 10 St. Joseph's lost to No. 7 Connecticut, 89-81 in overtime.
The last 10 minutes of this game were crazy. Both teams were exchanging the lead on what felt like every possession. Neither the Huskies nor the Hawks could create much separation from one another.
Eventually, UConn took a 67-66 lead with a little over two minutes in regulation following a three-pointer from DeAndre Daniels. Chris Wilson subsequently hit a jumper and two free throws to put St. Joe's up 70-67.
Amida Brimah tied the game after hitting bucket and then getting fouled, converting the and-one opportunity. Shabazz Napier's three at the buzzer went begging, sending the game into OT.
Once into overtime, UConn showed an aggression it had lacked in regulation. Napier also stepped up in a big way, scoring nine of the Huskies' 19 points in the extra period.
Although Napier shot only 7-of-22 from the field, he led UConn in points (26), rebounds (8) and assists (6). He put the Huskies on his back, especially late in the game.
No. 2 Michigan Stifles No. 15 Wofford
Defense was the name of the game in Michigan's 57-40 win over Wofford. The second-seeded Wolverines held the No. 15 Terriers to 18-of-53 from the field and a paltry 1-of-19 from three-point range. Karl Cochran led Wofford in scoring with 17 points, and the next closest guy was Justin Gordon, who had eight.
Compare that to Michigan, which made 22 of its 46 field-goal attempt. Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III combined for 29 points, while Jordan Morgan recorded a double-double, with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
The 40 points are the fewest the Wolverines have ever surrendered in the NCAA tournament:
The 40 points allowed by Michigan is the fewest the Wolverines have ever allowed in a tournament game— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 21, 2014
This game was pretty much over at halftime. Michigan was up 14 points, largely due in part to the fact that it was setting the nets on fire:
Key to Michigan's first-half success? 75% shooting OUTSIDE the paint pic.twitter.com/NNIRnotky5— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 21, 2014
The Wolverines will get the winner of the Texas-Arizona State game.
No. 4 Spartans Bring the "Payne" against No. 3 Delaware
Adreian Payne wrote his name into the Michigan State record books with the No. 4 Spartans' 93-78 win over the No. 3 Delaware Blue Hens. The senior forward scored 41 points in the victory, the most ever for an MSU player in the NCAA tournament:
Adreian Payne has scored an MSU NCAA Tournament-record 35 points, breaking previous mark held by Greg Kelser (34 vs. Notre Dame, 1979).— Spartan Basketball (@MSU_Basketball) March 20, 2014
It also the highest total since 2002:
Adreian Payne's 41 points are most in a tourney game since Tayshaun Prince scored 41 for Kentucky against Tulsa in 2002— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 20, 2014
Even hacking Payne and sending him to the line didn't work. He made all 17 of his free throws. Payne also hit four of his five three-point attempts, further illustrating how the bucket must have look like an ocean for him.
Payne's teammates also ran into few roadblocks on the offense end. The Spartans shot a cool 52.6 percent from the field, including 10-of-19 from three-point range.
Some experts pegged Michigan State as a Final Four team, and others picked MSU as national champion. With the way the Spartans played on Thursday, it's not hard to see why.
Michigan State will play No. 12 Harvard on Saturday.
No. 1 Florida Avoids Historic Upset, Pulling Away Late Against No. 16 Albany
That was a little too close for comfort for Florida fans. The top-ranked Gators encountered a game Albany team, but they slowly but surely distanced themselves from the Great Danes, winning 67-55.
It was a great team performance from Florida. Five different players scored in double figures, and the Gators shot 51.0 percent from the field.
They were particularly dominant in the paint, per ESPN Stats and Info:
Florida was 19 for 28 in the paint ... Albany was 6 for 19— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 20, 2014
Albany had no answer for Patric Young, who finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds for the double-double. Scottie Wilbekin and Casey Prather also played well, scoring 10 and 16 points, respectively.
Dorian Finney-Smith was the biggest surprise. The sophomore forward came off the bench to score 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting.
In terms of the overall performance, the Gators left a lot to be desired. Perhaps that's the best thing for them, as it won't get any easier from here. The players might have needed that little push to realize exactly how hard it is to be the last team standing.
Florida will play No. 9 Pittsburgh on Saturday. The Panthers hammered No. 8 Colorado earlier in the day, so it could be a very close game.
No. 7 Oregon Runs Away in Second Half to Beat No. 10 BYU
When the starters aren't working, try something new. It's an old coaching adage that often disappears whenever the pressure ratchets up in March. But for Dana Altman, his move to the bench was the overarching cause of his move to the round of 32.
Elgin Cook came off the bench to score a career-high 23 points and added eight rebounds, as seventh-seeded Oregon put on a scoring show in the second half to defeat BYU, 87-68, in Milwaukee.
Cook, whose minutes have dwindled as the season has gone along, was a lightning rod for the Ducks' offense. Attacking inside the paint and drawing consistent attention from the undersized Cougars front line, Cook made eight of his nine shots and got to the free-throw line 10 times. Ahead eight points at the break, Oregon had a 48-37 advantage after the break to score an easy victory.
Leading scorer Joseph Young added 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting. Jason Calliste added 14 points and four assists off the bench, getting to the line a team-high 12 times.
Officiating at times took over a major role in the contest, with questionable whistles leading to a parade of free throws. Oregon made 31 of its 38 shots at the charity stripe, a jaw-dropping total until you realize BYU also took 30. In total, 54 of the game's 155 points were made in dead-ball situations.
Foul call were consisted of almost the entirety of the BYU offensive success. The Cougars shot just 32.8 percent from the field and made only five three-point shots, but managed to stay in the game temporarily by drawing whistles.
Tyler Haws was the Cougars' leading scorer with 19 points. Matt Carlino and Eric Mika both scored 15, but got theirs in far different ways. Carlino finished an inefficient 4-of-16 from the field, while Mika went to the line 16 times, making 11.
Oregon moves on to face second-seeded Wisconsin on Saturday. The Badgers scored an equally dominant win over 15th-seeded American earlier in the afternoon.
Stars Shine As No. 3 Syracuse Overwhelms No. 14 Western Michigan
So much for struggling.
Having come into the NCAA tournament losers in five of its last seven games, there was considerable reason to panic for Syracuse. Western Michigan isn't exactly a litmus test, but the Orange's performance on Thursday went a long way to quelling concern they'd be an early out.
Four players scored in double figures and the Syracuse zone curtailed the No. 14 Broncos' offense as the Orange advanced in a 77-53 rout on Thursday.
Holding the underdog to just 34.7 percent shooting. Syracuse probably could have advanced without an elite offensive performance. The MAC champions had only four more field goals (17) than turnovers (13) and got only nine points out of leading scorer David Brown, who hit just 2-of-12 shots in one of his worst performances of the season.
Rotating well and trapping hard, it was a quintessential Jim Boeheim defensive performance. Little did anyone know, the offense would come to play in a big way as well.
Struggling at times without a consistent primary scorer, the Syracuse backcourt had a sterling performance on both ends of the floor. Trevor Cooney made 4-of-8 shots from three as part of an 18-point afternoon, while Tyler Ennis was characteristically sensational running the show. Penetrating the defense with ease to find shots for himself and open teammates, Ennis scored 16 points and added six assists.
C.J. Fair, though he struggled a bit with turnovers, had a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Jerami Grant capped off the Orange's double-figure scorers with 16. Overall, Syracuse shot 49.1 percent from the floor and hit 7-of-17 shots from distance.
Syracuse's round of 32 opponent will be Dayton, which upset Ohio State earlier in the day to advance.
No. 12 Harvard Lands Day's Second Upset, Knocks Off No. 5 Cincinnati
For the second straight season, Tommy Amaker has done the impossible—win a NCAA tournament game at Harvard.
Amaker's 12th-seeded Crimson had five players score nine or more points and suffocated No. 5 Cincinnati defensively, nabbing a 61-57 win in the process. The triumph is Harvard's second in as many seasons and just the second in history.
Long a doormat in the Ivy League, Amaker has built a solid mid-major program from the ground up. Absent from the NCAA tournament from 1946 to 2012, Harvard has made the Dance each of the last three seasons and is beginning to have real success.
Wesley Saunders scored a team-high 12 points and had four assists, as Harvard and Cincinnati mirrored one another's slowed-down styles. Saunders was one of three players in double figures, though the Crimson shot only 43.2 percent from the field. Laurent Rivard (11 points) was the team's only double-figure scorer who made at least half his shots, as Siyani Chambers (10 points) struggled through a 2-of-10 outing.
Harvard likely would have had a far more comfortable victory had it been able to knock down free throws. The team shot only 60.7 percent from the charity stripe, though Saunders and Chambers came through with four clutch shots in the last minute to put the game away.
Cincinnati got a solid performance from leading scorer Sean Kilpatrick, whose 18 points led all scorers. However, nearly every other Bearcat had a rough outing. Justin Jackson's 13-point, 10-rebound outing came on 5-of-15 shooting. Titus Rubles hit only a third of his nine shots. With only seven points coming from the bench, too often Kilpatrick had to take a bad shot out of isolations forced by the Harvard defense.
Harvard, which was eliminated in the round of 32 last year by Arizona, will have to topple the winner of Michigan State-Delaware. The Spartans are largely considered the favorites to come out of the East Region.
No. 9 Pittsburgh Flexes Muscle, Wallops No. 8 Colorado
Jamie Dixon probably won't ever get Pittsburgh fans to forget his NCAA tournament struggles, but Thursday could be the start of a renewed legacy.
Talib Zanna scored 16 of his 18 points in the first half and the No. 9 Panthers shot over 50 percent as they advanced in a 77-48 decimation of No. 8 Colorado. The win was Pittsburgh's first over a higher-seeded opponent since 1981, according to ESPN's Jeff Goodman.
Watching this team from the opening tip, it was clear these Panthers had no idea three decades' worth of history was on the line. Zanna scored six of 13 points as part of a 13-0 run that started the game's trajectory and left Colorado searching for answers early. The Buffaloes got on the board with a Wesley Gordon three, but all that did was start another 17-4 run that essentially put the game away with more than 27 minutes remaining.
Pittsburgh took a 48-18 lead into halftime and never looked back. Though the second half was far more respectable, Colorado could never find any semblance of momentum on either end of the floor to come back.
One of the most turnover-prone teams in the country, the Buffaloes gave 17 possessions back to Pitt, which had only three turnovers of its own. Askia Booker and Xavier Johnson led the way with four turnovers. Booker in particular had an off afternoon, shooting just 2-of-9 from the field en route to a six-point performance. The Buffaloes shot 35.7 percent as a team.
Pittsburgh moves on to play the winner of Florida-Albany, with the top overall seed Gators being the obvious favorite.
No. 2 Wisconsin Rebounds from Shaky First Half, Dominates No. 15 American
Twenty minutes into Thursday, it looked like American could be this year's Florida Gulf Coast. Twenty minutes of game time later, Wisconsin proved that it was no Georgetown.
Traevon Jackson scored 18 points and Ben Brust added 17 more, as the No. 2 Badgers pulled away in the second half for a 75-35 defeat over American in their round of 64 matchup.
A popular choice for an early ouster because of its shaky March history, Wisconsin played the part early. After an 8-2 run to start the game, the bucket went dry for the Badgers, and American was soon pushing a double-digit lead. Jesse Reed's three-pointer with 9:50 remaining in the first half gave the 15th-seeded squad a 17-10 advantage, sending the Wisconsin faithful in Milwaukee into a state of shock.
Right until reality set in.
The Badgers went on a 22-5 run of their own to close out the half, setting the tone for what would be a dominant second-half performance. Hitting shots from distance, making their free throws and playing lockdown defense, the final 30 or so minutes were quintessential Bo Ryan basketball. Wisconsin finished 10-of-23 from beyond the arc and hit all but one of its 14 free throws.
Brust led the way with four threes. By the time the second half opened, so did the floodgates. Wisconsin held American to just one field goal in the first 14-plus minutes, quelling all hopes of an upset. Ryan was able to take out most of his starters down the stretch and give young or seldom-played guys a chance to come in.
Wisconsin moves on to play the winner of Oregon-BYU.
Vee Sanford Outduels Aaron Craft, as No. 11 Dayton Upsets No. 6 Ohio State
For a few seconds, it looked as if Aaron Craft had extended his collegiate career for one more game. Down one point with 17 seconds remaining, he barreled his head into the lane and made a difficult layup to put the Buckeyes ahead 59-58.
Craft just left too much time remaining.
With the Ohio State star playing lockdown defense on the perimeter, Dayton's Vee Stanford knocked down a pull-up jumper in the lane with less than five seconds remaining and Craft missed another game-winner as the No. 11 Flyers pulled off a 60-59 upset.
The contest was a grind-it-out, close game throughout, but Dayton's win felt like an upset in seed only. The Flyers held a three-point halftime lead and were up by as many as seven points early in the second half. Even when Ohio State went on a run to get back into the game, Dayton typically kept it within a possession and forced a series of bad turnovers.
Craft, who had a solid all-around game otherwise, had five turnovers to go along with his 16 points, five rebounds and four assists. LaQuinton Ross, who disappeared for long stretches, matched his turnover total to his field goals made (five). It was actually the relatively unheralded Sam Thompson who stepped up most for the Buckeyes, scoring a team-high 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting, including a two-point jumper in the final minute to put Ohio State ahead.
For the Flyers, the game came down to a well-prepared team just taking advantage of every opportunity. When Shannon Scott committed a bone-headed foul on a Dyshawn Pierre three-pointer with 26 seconds left, Pierre coolly stepped to the line and knocked down all three. When Craft or Ross made a turnover, the Flyers got out in transition to make sure Ohio State couldn't settle into his vaunted half-court defense.
Pierre led the way with 12 points on just two field-goal attempts. He was one of five Dayton players who scored at least nine points, including Sanford's 10 off the bench. Sanford's point total was one more than the entire Ohio State bench.
Dayton moves on to play the winner of No. 3 Syracuse and No. 14 Western Michigan.
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