NCAA Tournament 2014: Winners and Losers of Day 3
From nail-biters to blowouts, upsets, overtime games and buzzer beaters, Day 3 of the 2014 NCAA tournament delivered everything we could possibly ask.
By now, you probably know the 16 teams that won and lost, but who were the real winners and losers on Thursday?
In addition to Warren Buffett definitely hanging onto his billion dollars, we've got the 10 biggest winners and the 10 biggest losers from a wild and crazy day.
Winner: Talib Zanna
They went ahead and played the rest of the game, but that Pittsburgh vs. Colorado game was over within the first 14 minutes.
The Panthers jumped out to a 13-0 lead, and Talib Zanna had eight of those points. With six minutes remaining in the first half, Pittsburgh held a 33-9 lead, and the fifth-year senior had 12 points and three rebounds.
For kicks and giggles, he added a steal and two blocks early in the second half before Jamie Dixon decided to save his big man for Saturday's showdown with Florida.
Of course, this is just business as usual for Zanna. Over Pittsburgh's previous seven games, he averaged 15.7 points and 11.1 rebounds per game.
Loser: Layup Drills
Within the first hour of the tournament, fundamentalist coaches were already having fits.
It didn't much matter in the grand scheme of the Badgers' 40-point victory, but Sam Dekker missed a breakaway layup late in the first half while the end result was still in question.
In the other early game, missed layups ended up being pretty crucial. Both LaQuinton Ross and Sam Thompson botched breakaway layups for Ohio State in what eventually turned into a one-point loss.
Then, in the Cincinnati vs. Harvard game, Titus Rubles missed a point-blank layup in the final minute that could have brought the Bearcats back to within one point.
The pathetic part is that all four of those guys are 6'7" or taller. If I was that tall, I would be dunking whenever possible.
Thompson did throw down dunks on Ohio State's next two possessions, but the Buckeyes sure could have used those lost two points.
Winner: Aaron Craft Haters
I love Aaron Craft, but I get it.
The Dan Dakichs of the world have talked him up so much over the past four years that it could be hard to respect the fact that he isn't exactly Superman on the offensive end of the court. Between the likes of Adam Morrison, Greg Paulus and Tyler Hansbrough, there has always been some scrappy player in the tournament that more than half the nation grew way too tired of hearing about throughout the season.
Craft played his heart out in the final few minutes of the game. He forced turnovers and jump balls on defense and made acrobatic layups on offense.
But when it mattered the most in the final five seconds, he was unable to contain Vee Sanford on defense and couldn't hit the game-winning bucket on offense.
As he lay on his back after the final buzzer, perhaps coming to grips with the fact that his collegiate career finally came to an end after what felt like 17 years to many people, some of the heartless adults among us gleefully rooted for a 23-year-old kid to burst into tears.
Loser: Marko Vasic
We weren't expecting American's fourth-leading scorer to put on a show, but Marko Vasic's final line was pretty fantastically unspectacular.
25 minutes, 0 points, 0 rebounds, 0 assists, 0 steals, 0 blocks, 2 personal fouls.
How in the world do you play 62.5 percent of a basketball game and not even accidentally grab a rebound?
Prior to the 2011-12 season, Harvard went 66 years between NCAA tournament appearances.
Now, the Crimson are an annual Cinderella story.
Tommy Amaker's squad knocked off New Mexico in the second round of last year's tournament and had a little bit of deja vu on Thursday afternoon in a hard-fought, low-scoring win over Cincinnati.
Incredibly, the Crimson pulled off the upset despite Siyani Chambers having his worst game in more than two months. The sophomore point guard shot 2-of-10 from the field and had just one assist against two turnovers. He made three huge free throws in the final minute, though, keeping the Bearcats at bay.
Most impressive was their ability to hold Sean Kilpatrick in check. Cincinnati's leading scorer did have 18 points on 13 field-goal attempts, but he was held scoreless for a stretch of more than 12 minutes in the second half. His inability to get into a groove resulted in an early exit for Cincinnati.
After the game, Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin told reporters, "In my mind, today's game was anything but an upset. They've got a great team. Tough draw for us. In my opinion, they're one of the best teams we played all year."
Loser: Teams in the South Region Not Named Syracuse
Perhaps you saw a No. 3 seed doing what it's supposed to do against a No. 14 seed, but I saw a Syracuse team doing exactly what got it to No. 1 in the country.
Trevor Cooney had been a professional bricklayer from three-point range over the last month, but he hit four out of eight triples on Thursday afternoon.
Tyler Ennis was efficient from the field and had a 6-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
C.J. Fair had 14 points and 11 rebounds. Jerami Grant added 16 points of his own.
We haven't seen the Orange firing on all cylinders in a while, but they looked very good against an underrated Western Michigan team. The Broncos were a turnover-prone team during the regular season, but it's still pretty impressive that Syracuse had seven steals before the under-eight timeout in the first half.
If Syracuse is finally waking back up, teams like Florida, Kansas and especially Dayton, the Orange's next opponent, had better take notice.
Winner: Elgin Cook
I was worried about how Oregon would shoot in a neutral-court environment. The Ducks were an incredible three-point shooting team at home, but really struggled on the road throughout the latter half of the season.
As it turns out, I was right to be concerned. The Ducks hit just two three-pointers on 13 attempts.
But I failed to account for Elgin Cook.
To be fair, Oregon's reserve forward had scored 10 points just once in the previous 23 games. Cook had a grand total of 15 points in Oregon's last four games.
He went bonkers on Thursday, though.
Cook hit eight of nine shots from the field and seven of 10 from the free-throw line for a game- and career-high 23 points. He also had eight rebounds, tying Richard Amardi for the most in the game.
Loser: No. 1 Overall Seed
OK, so, the Gators didn't actually lose, but what the heck was that?
Florida was a 22-point favorite and was tied with Albany with just over 14 minutes remaining in the game. The Gators won by 12 points, but at no point in that game did they look even remotely comfortable.
Michael Frazier II had hit at least three three-pointers in 16 of his last 20 games, but made just one field goal against Albany. Will Yeguete had more turnovers than rebounds.
It's a good thing Dorian Finney-Smith put up 16 points after scoring a grand total of three in his previous two games combined. Without his contributions off the bench, Florida legitimately might have become the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed.
Winner: Travis Trice
Michigan State's sixth man had himself a game.
It wasn't quite a career high for the junior shooting guard—Travis Trice scored 20 on Dec. 7, 2011, against Central Connecticut State—but he did have a season-high 19 points against Delaware's fast-paced and porous defense.
He scored 11 of his 19 points in a span of less than four minutes in the second half, during which the Spartans stretched a nine-point lead to an insurmountable 19-point margin.
The Spartans don't exactly have any missing pieces, but if Trice decides to have a little breakout party in the tournament, they might just outscore opposing teams to death for the next three weeks.
Loser: Plantar Fasciitis
Because he missed seven games and played much of the season while battling plantar fasciitis, I think a lot of us forgot how incredible Adreian Payne could be.
The Spartans' big man dropped 41 points and eight rebounds on Delaware in the 93-78 win. Payne shot 67 percent from the field, 80 percent from downtown and made each of his 17 free-throw attempts.
It was the best individual scoring performance in the NCAA tournament since Syracuse Gerry McNamara lit up BYU for 43 points in 2004.
If Michigan State fulfills the expectations of many and wins it all, the race for Most Outstanding Player may already be over.
Winner: Michigan's Three-Point Defense
Three-point shooting is easily the most unreliable statistic in the NCAA tournament, but Wofford hit a new low against Michigan.
As a team that made 35.9 percent of its three-pointers during the regular season, the Terriers statistically should have made 6.8 of their 19 attempts against the Wolverines. Instead, they made only one—but were somehow within eight points of Michigan with 6:55 remaining.
Wofford did shoot 50.0 percent inside the arc but settled far too frequently for shots that weren't falling. The Terriers finished the game with just 40 points on 53 field-goal attempts.
Loser: Wolfpack and Billiken Free-Throw Shooting
North Carolina State entered the day ranked 290th in the country in free-throw shooting at 66.3 percent, and that number got even worse.
The Wolfpack held a 14-point lead with five minutes remaining, but missed 12 of 21 free throws down the stretch to let Saint Louis push the game to overtime for an eventual win.
In total, NC State shot just 54.1 percent from the free-throw line. Saint Louis was even worse, making only 46.2 percent of its freebies.
Regardless of who won, we know what that team would've been working on for the next 36 hours.
Winner: Shabazz Napier
With 15 minutes remaining in the second half, Shabazz Napier was 2-of-9 for only five points.
He turned things around after that.
It wasn't the most efficient effort of all time, but Napier finished the game with 24 points, eight rebounds, six assists and two steals. Though he missed the potential game winner at the end of regulation, he made up for it by scoring nine of Connecticut's 19 points in the overtime win over Saint Joseph's.
Also helping his winning campaign, Napier went over to the Hawks' bench before the end of the game to hug departing seniors Langston Galloway and Ronald Roberts Jr., according to ESPN's Dana O'Neil.
Some guys just get it.
Loser: Saint Joseph's Bench
To be sure, Saint Joseph’s has not much relied on anything other than its starters all season. The mascot that never stops flapping may very well be the Hawks’ sixth man.
The starting five scored 90.6 percent of the team’s points during the season and 98.5 percent of their points during the A-10 tournament. Still, it’s pretty crazy that the starting five played 96 percent of the minutes against Connecticut while scoring 100 percent of the points.
They shot 53.7 percent from the field and 78.9 percent from the free-throw line through the first 35 minutes, but went 38.5 percent from the field and 62.5 percent from the line between overtime and the final five minutes of regulation.
Sounds like tired legs to me.
In unrelated news, three of the Hawks’ five starters are seniors, so next season could be an adventure.
Winner: Rob Loe
After scoring Saint Louis’ first nine points of the game, Rob Loe literally disappeared for more than an hour.
He was huge down the stretch, though.
Between overtime and the final 90 seconds of regulation, Loe was 4-of-4 from the field and 2-of-2 from the free-throw line for 11 points. He also added four of his career-high 15 rebounds during that stretch.
It was just the second double-double in the senior’s career.
Loser: Jordan Aaron
Milwaukee’s Jordan Aaron had been a scoring machine in the first two weeks of March, averaging 20.5 points in his last four games.
Sadly, he couldn’t get anything to fall against Villanova.
The senior guard finished the night with six points, six rebounds and five assists, and shot just 1-of-15 from the field. He didn’t get into the scoring column until the final 10 minutes.
On a night in which Villanova missed its first 16 three-point attempts—the probability of a 36.1 percent three-point shooting team missing 16 consecutive triples is 1 in 1,294—the Panthers really could have benefited from a few of those shots falling.
Winner: North Dakota State
South Dakota State was a popular sleeper pick in each of the past two tournaments, but Nate Wolters and Co. had the misfortune of drawing teams that were destined for deep runs.
This year’s Summit League representative was equally enticing—nearby North Dakota State—and the Bison became the second No. 12 seed of the day to upset a No. 5 seed on Thursday.
Lawrence Alexander led the way with a career-high 28 points, including the three-pointer that sent the game to overtime, and another six points in the extra session.
Carlin Dupree was the “this is why we watch these games” feel good story, though. The freshman sat on the bench for the entire game, but had to come into the game in overtime due to a couple of foul-outs. Naturally, the 58.3 percent free-throw shooter got fouled in a tie game, drained two free throws and scored a layup on the next possession.
Alexander sealed it with late free throws, but Dupree went from unrecognizable to unforgettable in a span of 30 seconds.
Loser: Oklahoma's Big Men
I said all week that I wasn’t sure how Oklahoma would handle North Dakota State’s bigs. Taylor Braun, Marshall Bjorklund and TrayVonn Wright all stand 6’7” or taller, and were among the Bison’s leading scorers.
That trio had 38 points, 17 rebounds and shot 14-of-16 from the free-throw line.
The Sooners’ trio of Ryan Spangler, Tyler Neal and D.J. Bennett had just eight points and eight rebounds.
Any time North Dakota State wanted to go inside, Oklahoma had no answer. The Bison shot 56.8 percent from two-point range, as expected.
Winner: Cameron Ridley
Cameron Ridley was overshadowed by Joel Embiid all year, but the Houston native might have been the best center in the Big 12 this season.
He certainly came to play on Thursday night.
Ridley had four points and two blocks in the first five minutes, and then apparently decided to conserve his energy until the second half.
He had a double-double in the final 20 minutes, scoring 13 points and grabbing 10 second-half rebounds, including the game-winning putback bucket as time expired.
He finished the night with a total of 17 points, 12 points, four blocks and two assists.
Loser: Mega Upsets
Teams like Florida, Louisville, Michigan and Villanova nearly sent some of us to the ICU with a heart attack.
So many brackets came close to being ripped to shreds, but when the dust finally settled, there weren't any major upsets.
Any half-hearted scholar of the game could tell you that No. 11 seeds have won 50 percent of their second-round games in the past four years, and that No. 12 seeds seem to always upset No. 5 seeds. Thus, Dayton, Harvard and North Dakota State don't count as major upsets.
I'm talking about teams seeded No. 2-4 going down in their first game. In each of the past six tournaments, we've had at least one No. 13, No. 14 or No. 15 seed advance to the round of 32. In four of those six years, we had multiple mega upsets in the second round.
But none occurred on Thursday.
You know what that means?
Buckle up for something extra crazy on Friday.
Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.