There were upsets. There were overtime games. There was a classic in-state battle that came down to the wire. And all of that happened before the day was even over.
Ho-hum. All in a day's work at the NCAA tournament.
Below, we'll look back at the day that was and project what it might mean going forward.
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Day 1 Results
|Saint Louis||83-80||NC State|
Updated Tourney Outlook
Here's what we know for sure—in the South Region, No. 11 Dayton will take on No. 3 Syracuse after the Flyers upset Ohio State, while the Orange absolutely rolled Western Michigan. Florida will take on Pitt, after the former struggled a bit with Albany and the latter made Colorado look like a team that wouldn't have fared well in the NIT.
In the East, popular upset-pick Harvard knocked off offensively challenged Cincinnati, though awaiting them is everyone's favorite national champion pick, Michigan State.
And out West, sneaky-good Oregon will take on the best offensive team Bo Ryan has had at Wisconsin in a game that should be fun.
So what did we learn from the early slate of games on Thursday?
Well, for one thing, Adreian Payne is really, really good. The senior scored 41 points against Delaware, which is more than two teams scored in total (at the time of publication). While there is no way he can keep up that type of scoring pace, if he's dominant moving forward, the Spartans are going to be really, really tough to beat.
Said his coach Tom Izzo to the Associated Press (via ESPN), "He was playing in another zone, not even in the ozone. He was in Pluto and beyond."
Yes, yes he was.
We also learned that if Trevor Cooney has rediscovered his shooting touch, Syracuse will be a tough out. Defying a late-season slump, Cooney responded in a big way to start the tournament, scoring 18 points and hitting four of his eight shots from beyond the arc.
From ESPN Stats and Information:
Trevor Cooney scores a game-high 18 Pts in Syracuse's win vs Western Michigan. He hit 4-of-8 from three; was 10-for-51 in previous 7 games.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 20, 2014
The Orange absolutely swarmed the Broncos with their patented zone defense and forced nine turnovers in the first 12 minutes. They are not a team that the other contenders in the South Region will want to get hot.
But pesky Dayton won't make things easy for Syracuse, especially after knocking off Ohio State.
Florida certainly looked shaky in its first game, and another performance like its sleepwalk against Albany won't fly against Pittsburgh. Head coach Billy Donovan said as much to the Associated Press (via ESPN):
It was good enough to win, but is it good enough to play against a team like Pittsburgh? Probably not. But I'm proud of our guys because they found a way to win when they didn't play their best. And you know what? They've always been really good at being able to learn valuable lessons in a lot of ways. So hopefully they'll be able to come back and correct that and do a little bit better.
If they don't, they'll ruin a lot of brackets.
We also learned that Shabazz Napier is pretty good. Wait, we already knew that. The UConn guard led his team to a hard-fought victory over a very good St. Joe's team in overtime, as he notched 24 points, eight rebounds, six assists and two steals. Talk about doing a little bit of everything.
Oh, and we learned that NC State can't hold a lead. Or maybe we learned that Saint Louis is one heck of a resilient team. This is how regulation ended, via Seth Davis of CBS Sports:
NC State led by 14 pts with 5 mins to go, made 9 for 21 free throws last 5 mins. Say it with me: Not how you get Capone.— Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) March 21, 2014
In the end, Saint Louis pulled out the win in a wild and crazy overtime. Of course, barring a shocker, they will now likely be facing Louisville. You know, the team that has won 16 of its last 18 games.
If the first day of action is any indication, Friday should be absolutely brilliant. Plus, we get to see Andrew Wiggins, Doug McDermott, Jabari Parker, Aaron Gordon, Marcus Smart, Julius Randle, Marcus Paige and Kyle Anderson, among others.
In other words, we'll all be glued to our couches.