The NCAA tournament is always epic. On Thursday, it was unforgettable.
Could Friday possibly replicate an opening day of action that included four overtimes, three major upsets, little Manhattan nearly knocking off Final Four favorite Louisville and a whole slew of game-winning shots and memorable moments?
This is the NCAA tournament—of course Friday can live up to the hype!
Below, we'll track all of the day's results, take a look back at the action and provide Saturday's schedule as the Round of 32 gets underway.
All Your Bracket Essentials:
|Midwest||No. 14 Mercer||78-71||No. 3 Duke|
|West||No. 6 Baylor||74-60||No. 11 Nebraska|
|South||No. 10 Stanford||58-53||No. 7 New Mexico|
|West||No. 1 Arizona||68-59||No. 16 Weber State|
|Midwest||No. 11 Tennessee||86-67||No. 6 UMass|
|West||No. 3 Creighton||76-66||No. 14 Louisiana-Lafayette|
|South||No. 2 Kansas||80-69||No. 15 Eastern Kentucky|
|West||No. 8 Gonzaga||85-77||No. 9 Oklahoma State|
|East||No. 8 Memphis||71-66||No. 9 George Washington|
|East||No. 6 North Carolina||79-77||No. 11 Providence|
|Midwest||No. 1 Wichita State||64-37||No. 16 Cal Poly|
|South||No. 12 Stephen F. Austin||77-75 (OT)||No. 5 VCU|
|East||No. 1 Virginia||70-59||No. 16 Coastal Carolina|
|Midwest||No. 8 Kentucky||56-49||No. 9 Kansas State|
|East||No. 3 Iowa State||93-75||No. 14 NC Central|
|South||No. 4 UCLA||76-59||No. 13 Tulsa|
|Saturday Round of 32 Schedule|
|12:15 pm||South||No. 1 Florida vs. No. 9 Pittsburgh||CBS||March Madness Live|
|2:45 pm||Midwest||No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 5 Saint Louis||CBS||March Madness Live|
|5:15 pm||Midwest||No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 7 Texas||CBS||March Madness Live|
|6:10 pm||West||No. 4 San Diego State vs. No. 12 North Dakota State||TNT||March Madness Live|
|7:10 pm||South||No. 3 Syracuse vs. No. 11 Dayton||TBS||March Madness Live|
|7:45 pm||West||No. 2 Wisconsin vs. No. 7 Oregon||CBS||March Madness Live|
|8:40 pm||East||No. 4 Michigan State vs. No. 12 Harvard||TNT||March Madness Live|
|9:40 pm||East||No. 2 Villanova vs. No. 7 UConn||TBS||March Madness Live|
Thursday started with Dayton knocking off in-state opponent Ohio State in a big upset. On Friday, Mercer saw Dayton's upset and raised them a stunner, knocking off No. 3 Duke and freshman phenom Jabari Parker.
Led by Jakob Gollon (20 points, five rebounds) and Daniel Coursey (17 points), underdog Mercer knocked off a popular Final Four choice in Duke. In the end, the Blue Devils couldn't overcome the struggles of Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker (20 combined points, 6-of-24 from the field).
So much like Thursday, Friday opened with a pretty huge surprise. Or should we have been that surprised by the result? Consider the following, from Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated and ESPN Stats and Information:
In the end, Duke's suspect defense was their downfall. Doug Gottlieb of CBS passed along one of the keys of the game:
In March, the thrill of victory is accompanied by the agony of defeat, as the old cliche goes. Cindy Boren of The Washington Post passes along the thrill...
... while Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated reminds us of the agony...
The day's second game didn't have quite as much drama, as No. 6 Baylor knocked off No. 11 Nebraska, 74-60. Cory Jefferson (16 points, 6 rebounds) and Isaiah Austin (13 points, seven rebounds) led the way for the Bears.
Game No. 3 was tight, however, as No. 10 Stanford held off a late challenge from New Mexico to earn the upset victory. Chasson Randle was the hero for the Cardinal, as he scored 23 points, pulled down five rebounds and added two steals and two assists.
For New Mexico, the result was deja vu, as SportsCenter on Twitter noted:
Added Andy Glockner:
Meanwhile, top-seed in the West, Arizona, spotted Weber State eight points and nearly allowed the No. 16 seed to make a late comeback, but held on to earn their first victory of the tournament. Nick Johnson (18 points) and Aaron Gordon (16 points, eight rebounds) led Arizona, while Davion Berry (24 points) and Joel Bolomboy (11 points, 16 rebounds) paced the underdogs.
Tennessee continued their hot ways, absolutely rolling UMass behind big performances from Jarnell Stokes (26 points, 14 rebounds) and Jordan McRae (21 points). And Creighton took Louisiana-Lafayette's best shot but came away with a win, led by the man, they myth, the legend Doug McDermott.
From SportsCenter on Twitter:
Just another day at the office for Mr. McDermott.
Two of college basketball's biggest stars were in action in the afternoon, though with opposite results. Freshman phenom Andrew Wiggins (19 points) helped lead Kansas past Eastern Kentucky, but despite a huge effort from Marcus Smart (23 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists, six steals), Oklahoma State was knocked out of the round of 64 for the second straight season.
Smart made history, however. From ESPN Stats and Information:
So, with eight games in the books, Mercer will now face a Tennessee team that has now won seven of its last eight games. After knocking off Duke, however, Mercer will feel very confident they can match up with either team and reach the Sweet 16.
Meanwhile, Baylor will face a tough Creighton side. Surely, the Bears were probably hoping they could avoid McDermott (26.9 PPG, 7.0 RPG), one of the nation's top players and the sort of performer capable of leading a team on a deep run.
Arizona now has to look forward to a scrappy Gonzaga side. That's no easy task, though the Wildcats may be relieved they don't have to match wits with Smart.
And Stanford now gets Kansas. Stanford survived New Mexico, but can they get past Wiggins and company?
It's certainly possible. It's just not very probable.
The evening was filled with thrillers as well. While Wichita State shocked no one in disposing of 16th-seeded Cal Poly 64-37, there's no discounting the clout coach Gregg Marshall's squad wields in this tournament. That win got the Shockers to 35-0 on the season—an NCAA record.
The selection committee appeared to get the 8-9 matchup between Memphis and George Washington right based on Friday's compelling battle. It came down to Colonials star and leading scorer Maurice Creek having a three-pointer to tie in the closing seconds, but an air ball doomed the lower seeds. Creek was just 2-of-13 shooting in the losing effort, while the Tigers were led by Michael Dixon Jr., who scored 19 points off the bench.
Providence took North Carolina down to the wire on the strength of a 36-point effort by Friars senior Bryce Cotton. However, the No. 11 seed fell short to the Tar Heels 79-77 and got crushed on the boards, conceding 21 offensive rebounds. ESPN's Mike Greenberg provided a fitting summary:
Although Stephen F. Austin was a No. 12 seed and taking on the relentless VCU Rams, the Lumberjacks stretched their winning streak to a whopping 29 games with an epic, come-from-behind overtime win to advance to the round of 32.
It will be interesting to see how SFA responds after the immense success. This is a squad accustomed to winning, but a tangle with UCLA will be a big test for this Cinderella story.
Speaking of underdogs, Coastal Carolina was leading the East's No. 1 seed in Virginia by five points at the half, but eventually succumbed as the Cavaliers stormed ahead to a 70-59 triumph. Dan Wolken of USA Today noted how the prohibitive favorites didn't intimidate the Big South champions:
If the Chanticleers got more out of guard Elijah Wilson, who was just 2-of-13 shooting and entered averaging 16.1 points per contest, it would have been mighty interesting to see what the 16th-seeded upstarts could have done.
Kentucky's freshmen-laden bunch roughed out a 56-49 win over Kansas State. It may not have been pretty, but coach John Calipari hardened his team with valuable experience and advanced in the process in this battle of Wildcats.
Iowa State lit up the scoreboard in beating NC Central 93-75, but the victory was of the Pyrrhic variety since standout sophomore forward Georges Niang broke his foot and will miss the rest of the tourney, per SportsCenter's official Twitter account:
That is an unfortunate blow as the Cyclones move on to play the athletic Tar Heels, whose size and athleticism in the frontcourt will give Iowa State issues, especially without Niang in the fold.
The Bruins had their hands full with Tulsa in the round of 64, but strong play toward the end from star guards Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams allowed UCLA to pull away to a 71-54 win.
UCLA's win capped off one of the craziest stretches in NCAA tournament history, with so many double-digit seeds advancing, a slew of overtime games and other contests coming down to the wire. There will be no shortage of storylines to follow for the remainder of March Madness, and the third round still has plenty of mid-majors fighting for an unlikely spot in the Sweet 16.
Many will be aboard the bandwagons for teams such as Dayton, Stephen F. Austin, Harvard, North Dakota State and Mercer. How these programs handle their success and whether or not they can get up for another big game after landmark victories will go a long way in determining how exciting the round of 32 is overall.
This impending stage of the tournament has a lot to live up to based on what's happened so far, but the parity in this field has revealed itself. Plenty of brackets are busted, so all bets are literally off as to what will happen from here.