You want upsets? Drama? March Madness hasn't disappointed through the first day and a half of the second round.
This year's NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament field is stocked full of quality teams from top to bottom, as evidenced by the close games. Blowouts have been few and far between thus far, and there promises to be even more theatrics as we get deeper into the tournament.
Here's a look at the results from the first half of Friday's full slate of 16 games plus analysis of the biggest matchups. Check back for more updates throughout the day as more results go final.
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|(14) Mercer||78 - 71||(3) Duke|
|(6) Baylor||74 - 60||(11) Nebraska|
|(10) Stanford||58 - 53||(7) New Mexico|
|(1) Arizona||68 - 59||(16) Weber State|
|(11) Tennessee||86 - 67||(6) Massachusetts|
|(3) Creighton||76 - 66||(14) La.-Lafayette|
|(2) Kansas||80 - 69||(15) Eastern Kentucky|
|(8) Gonzaga||85 - 77||(9) Oklahoma State|
(14) Mercer 78, (3) Duke 71
The Mercer Bears showed why they call this event "The Big Dance" as they busted out some moves on the floor following their 78-71 upset of perennial powerhouse Duke.
Mercer entered this matchup as the heavy underdog with an unremarkable regular-season resume that included just one win against an RPI Top 100 opponent. But the Bears matched up well with the Blue Devils, and it also helped to have the support of a loud student section that made the trip from Macon, Ga., to Raleigh, N.C.
Nicole Auerbach of USA Today described the confidence Mercer had before entering Friday's matchup:
Mercer coach Bob Hoffman predicted ahead of time, based on seeding and a gut instinct, that his team would get paired up with one of the most storied programs in all of the sport.
Hoffman said Duke wasn't a typical power-conference team, that the Blue Devils didn't have the size inside that high-major programs usually have — and he's right. Better yet, he exploited it. His big men did whatever they wanted inside as part of a brilliant game plan, paving the way for a 78-71 win against No. 3 seed Duke.
In a remarkable show of class, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski went to the Mercer locker room after the game to congratulate the team, per Auerbach.
Coach K just came into Mercer locker room: "If we got beaten, at least we got beaten by a hell of a basketball team." pic.twitter.com/5vrkF4RQYR— Nicole Auerbach (@NicoleAuerbach) March 21, 2014
It was a festive atmosphere in the arena afterwards as players were busy videobombing interviews with sweet dance moves in the background. Kevin Canevari became an instant celebrity with his rendition of the "Nae Nae" dance.
THIS JUST IN: Dancing Mercer bro has better dance moves than EVERYONE EVER » pic.twitter.com/e5QKOWeFF9— SportsNation (@SportsNation) March 21, 2014
Mercer's defense stifled the Blue Devils all day long, holding Duke to 35.5 percent shooting. Jabari Parker (14 points on 4-of-7 shooting) was held in check while Rodney Hood (6 points on 2-of-10 shooting) also struggled from the floor.
Meanwhile, Mercer shot 55.6 percent, relying on well-crafted possessions for quality shots. Four senior starters had double-digit points for the Bears—Jakob Gollon (20), Daniel Coursey (17), Anthony White (13) and Langston Hall (11)—while Ike Nwamu also chipped in 11 off the bench.
With 2:42 left in the game, White nailed a three to tie things up at 63. From there, Mercer built a six-point lead, highlighted by Coursey's and-one conversion on a layup with 1:08 remaining.
If Mercer wants to keep this Cinderella run going in to the Sweet 16, it'll have to get past No. 11 seed Tennessee on Sunday in the third round.
(11) Tennessee 86, (6) Massachusetts 67
The Tennessee Volunteers have moved from First Four to the round of 32 in a matter of a days.
On Friday, the Vols looked sharper than Massachusetts from the get-go, going into the locker room with a 41-22 victory. Tennessee would go on to win by 19 points, beating UMass 86-67 in Raleigh, S.C., in the latest upset for what's been a wild start to March Madness.
Despite their lower seeding, the Vols were a trendy pick to beat UMass, who many believed didn't earn a No. 6 seed in this year's field.
Jarnell Stokes showed that the number in front of the team on the bracket doesn't matter much, as he dropped a career-high 26 points to pace the Tennessee offense. Stokes went 7-of-12 from the floor, 12-of-13 from the free-throw line and also added 14 rebounds in a solid all around effort.
Forward Jeronne Maymon also had a double-double (11 points, 11 rebounds) for the Vols, but it was Jordan McRae (21 points) who set the tone in the first half with his monster dunk in transition. Wes Rucker of GoVols247.com passed along comments from McRae's teammates in the locker room.
#Vols' Darius Thompson on Jordan McRae: "I passed it to him from midcourt. I couldn't believe he took off from there. But I was like, 'OK.'"— Wes Rucker (@wesrucker247) March 21, 2014
Coupled with their overtime win against Iowa on Wednesday in the first-round, the Vols have a bit of momentum going into their Sunday showdown with Mercer. According to Grant Ramey of the Maryville Daily Times, Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin said his team benefited from the play-in game experience.
Cuonzo on the First Four getting rid of the jitters in Dayton: "I think so. I really think it helped us, just get in the flow of the game"— @GrantRamey (@GrantRamey) March 21, 2014
But the Vols know all about Mercer, as the Bears ended Tennessee's season last year with a 75-67 victory in the first round of the NIT.
#Vols' Jarnell Stokes: We don't need to get too far ahead of ourselves. Mercer is good. Mercer ended our season last year.— Wes Rucker (@wesrucker247) March 21, 2014
(10) Stanford 58, (7) New Mexico 53
In another mild upset on Friday afternoon, Stanford knocked out New Mexico with a 58-53 victory in a chippy affair that turned into something of a free-throw shooting contest down the stretch as both teams battled foul trouble.
The Cardinal got off to a hot start and took a 20-4 lead to start the game, before UNM started chipping away at the lead before cutting its deficit to five by halftime. Ben Weixlmann of Scout.com broke down Stanford's first half performance.
Stanford started out 5-for-5 from the field, and went 6-for-23 the rest of the way. Cardinal up 32-27 at half.— Ben Weixlmann (@BWeixScout) March 21, 2014
Coming out of the locker room, Lobos star forward Cameron Bairstow started to catch fire. Considering the final 3 points of the first half he scored for his team, his 4-for-4 start to the second period gave him 11 straight for UNM as it fought back into the game.
Ryan Fagan of Sporting News weighed in on Bairstow's performance to start the second half.
Cam Bairstow is 4-4 in the second half. If there's any big man in the country with a better midrange jumper, I haven't seen him.— Ryan Fagan (@ryanfagan) March 21, 2014
The Lobos kept on pecking away at the lead, eventually pulling even at 45-45 with about 10 minutes to go on Cullen Neal's layup, which he converted despite being fouled. But Neal couldn't convert the and-one attempt to put the Lobos ahead.
From there, Stanford went on a 7-0 run to take control of the game as New Mexico's offense went cold. Center Alex Kirk picked up his fourth foul midway through the second period, talented point guard Kendall Williams was essentially a non-factor all game, and Bairstow started to show signs of fatigue as he played 39 minutes in his final college game.
Now it really gets iffy for the Lobos. Williams and Bairstow are seniors. And Kirk graduates in May and is considering a 5th-year transfer.— Mark Zeigler (@sdutzeigler) March 21, 2014
Chasson Randle led his team with 23 points, while center Stefan Nastic (10) and guard Anthony Brown (10) also notched double-digit points for Stanford, which shot just 38.8 percent from the field.
Up next for the Cardinal is a date with No. 2 Kansas, where the Jayhawks figure to be huge favorites to advance to the Sweet 16. But Stanford showed nice grit, defense and team play in this victory, a big one for coach Johnny Dawkins and his team.