Could the first day of the NCAA Tournament have been any better? Let’s take a closer look at one of the most exciting days of March Madness in recent memory.
No. 7 BYU 99, No. 10 Florida 92
The day got under way in Oklahoma City with a game that would lay the foundation for a thrilling day of basketball.
Florida had a chance to hit a game-winning bucket at the end of both regulation and overtime, but could not convert. Ultimately, the Cougars outlasted the Gators in double-overtime.
Jimmer Fredette led the Cougars with 37 points and Chandler Parson has 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Gators.
No. 11 Old Dominion 51, No. 6 Notre Dame 50
The second game of the day was an ugly but competitive game, and in the end the Irish couldn’t solve the Monarchs’ 2-3 zone.
The Irish had a chance to knock down a three to tie the game in the waning seconds, but had to settle for a lay-up as time expired after Carelton Scott’s three-point attempt rattled out.
Frank Hassell led the Monarchs with 15 points and nine boards, while the Irish got only four points out of star Luke Harangody, all in the final minute.
No. 2 Villanova 73, No. 15 Robert Morris 70
Next up was a thriller for the Wildcats, who have struggled recently, came out flat and allowed the Colonials to hold the lead throughout the majority of the game. However, the Wildcats were able to pull even, force overtime, and survive a last-second three-point bid as overtime concluded.
The Colonials played incredibly well and deserved to win, but in the end the Wildcats' talent and depth were too much. After starting the game on the bench for a minor team violation, Scottie Reynolds finished with 20 points, mostly from the line, and carried Villanova down the stretch.
Karon Abraham was absolutely incredible for the Colonials, scoring 23 points and showing signs of what’s to come for the talented freshman.
Murray St. 66, No. 4 Vanderbilt 65
Just when you thought the tournament couldn’t get any better, the Vanderbilt Commodores and Murray State Racers started the second set of games with a contest no one will soon forget.
After trailing most of the game, Vanderbilt was able to claw its way back on top, 65-64, with less than 13 seconds left. The Racers’ B.J. Jenkins missed a three-pointer, but Murray State was able to maintain possession after the rebound was deflected out of bounds with just over four seconds remaining.
On the ensuing play, the Racers’ Isaac Miles dished to Danero Thomas, who knocked down a contested jumper at the buzzer for a 66-65 victory—and perhaps sent a Cinderella story in motion.
Miles led a balanced Murray State attack with 17 points and six boards, and Vandy’s star, A.J. Ogilvy, scored 12 and collected six boards.
No. 3 Baylor 68, No. 14 Sam Houston St. 59
The Baylor Bears became a hot pick in brackets are all over the country this week. On Thursday afternoon, they gave those who picked them to go deep into the tournament quite a scare, as Sam Houston State gave the Bears everything they could want and more.
The Bearkats led 31-30 at the half and had the game tied at 55 with just 3:50 remaining. At that point the Bearkats began to miss more shots than they made, and the Bears’ superior talent won out.
Baylor got a huge game from big man Ekpe Udoh, which was key since star guards LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter both had poor games. The Bearkats received an excellent effort from Gilberto Clavell, with 23 points and seven rebounds, in the loss.
No. 2 Kansas St. 82, No. 15 North Texas 62
Denis Clemente, cousin of baseball legend Roberto Clemente, led Kansas State in the tournament’s first blowout. North Texas kept the game close for about 10 minutes, but the Wildcats were simply too much for the Mean Green.
Kansas State, which led by 16 at the half, got great performances from Clemente (17 points and six assists), guard Jacob Pullen (15 points), and UConn transfer Curtis Kelly (15 points).
North Texas gave a valiant effort, led by Tristan Thompson's 28 points, but couldn’t compete with a Kansas State team that silenced its doubters.
No. 10 St. Mary’s 80, No. 7 Richmond 71
The tournament committee put together an intriguing matchup when it paired WCC tournament champion St. Mary’s with A-10 power Richmond.
The game was tied at 36 at the half, but St. Mary’s big man Omar Samhan proved to be too much for the Spiders in the second half.
Riding Samhan’s hot hand, the Gaels were able to pull away. They impressed with their team-first style of play and tremendous shooting.
In addition to Samhan’s 29 points and 12 boards, the Gaels got 23 points and six boards from guard Mickey McConnell. David Gonzalvez had 18 points and five boards to lead Richmond.
No. 5 Butler 77, No. 12 UTEP 59
The UTEP Miners looked to be on their way to pulling an upset when they converted a last-second layup to end the first half with a 33-27 lead. However, Butler coach Brad Stevens found a way to turn his team’s fortunes around.
The Bulldogs came out like gangbusters in the second half and nearly ran the Miners out of the building. On the back of fantastic shooting from downtown, the Bulldogs hit 13 threes in the game, and Butler went on to outplay, outhustle, and outclass UTEP on its way to victory.
Louisville transfer Derrick Caracter led the Miners with 20 points and nine boards, while guard Randy Culpepper added 16 points. The Bulldogs’ Shelvin Mach knocked down seven threes on his way to 25 points.
No. 9 Northern Iowa 69, No. 8 UNLV 66
The Rebels and Panthers played a back-and-forth game that was decided after Ali Farokhmanesh hit a long three, his fifth of the game, with 4.9 seconds left.
The game was close, with neither team taking a lead of more than eight points. Both teams pride themselves on their defense and ability to hit the three, but in the end it was the Panthers who executed the game plan more effectively.
Farokhmanesh finished with 17 points and Jordan Eglseder added nine points and 10 rebounds for the Panthers. Oscar Bellfield (13 points) led the charge for the Rebels.
No. 1 Kentucky 100, No. 16 East Tennessee St. 71
Kentucky started its quest for a national championship in impressive fashion, coming out fast and building a 28-point halftime lead.
The Wildcats took their foot off the gas some and the Buccaneers did themselves proud by keeping pace with the Wildcats in the second half.
Freshmen John Wall (17 points and 11 assists) and Eric Bledsoe (29 points) and junior Patrick Patterson (22 points) all had big games for Kentucky. The Bucs were paced by guards Micah Williams (19 points) and Justin Tubbs (15).
No. 14 Ohio 97, No. 3 Georgetown 83
Who could have seen this coming?
With Georgetown coming off an impressive run to the Big East finals, everyone looked past Ohio to a potential second-round clash with Tennessee.
The Bobcats outplayed the Hoyas from start to finish, led by as many as 19, and never let the Hoyas get closer than seven in the second half.
Ohio’s Armon Bassett lead the charge with 32 points and fellow guard D.J. Cooper chipped in 23 points and eight assists. Ohio trashed the Hoyas' defense and pulled off an upset that won’t soon be forgotten.
No. 11 Washington 80, No. 6 Marquette 78
Another great finish.
After a closely contested first half, Marquette took command in the second and built a lead of 15 with 14:11 remaining.
However, the Huskies refused to go away.
Led by Elston Turner and Quincy Pondexter, the Huskies came storming back and took a 72-71 lead with 5:13 to go. The game was back-and-forth from there, but Pondexter had the last laugh when he hit a driving layup with 1.7 seconds left.
Pondexter finished with 18 points and 11 boards, and Isaiah Thomas added 19 points and eight assists for the Huskies. Lazar Hayward scored 20 points and Darius Johnson-Odom had 19 for Marquette.
No. 9 Wake Forrest 81, No. 8 Texas 80
What a strange and disappointing season it has been for the Texas Longhorns.
They were ranked No. 1 at one point, but have struggled mightily since and ended up an 8 seed.
On Thursday night, things get even stranger and more disappointing.
The Longhorns blew a 10-point lead in both halves, and the game went to overtime tied at 68. Texas then built an eight-point lead in overtime with just 3:04 remaining. However, Ishmael Smith completed a third Wake comeback by knocking down the go-ahead 17-foot jumper with 1.3 seconds remaining.
Smith finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds, and Al-Farouq Aminu added 20 points and 15 rebounds for Wake Forrest. The Longhorns got 20 points from freshman J’Covan Brown off the bench.
No. 1 Kansas 90, No. 16 Lehigh 74
The second 16 vs. 1 matchup of the day started well for the long shot.
Lehigh took a quick 12-4 advantage, but the Jayhawks came storming back to take an 11-point lead. However, the Mountain Hawks made a nice run at the end of the half to cut the lead to six.
In the second half Lehigh kept things close until about the nine-minute mark, when Kansas was finally able to pull away. Despite the strong showing from the Mountain Hawks, the hawks of a different feather were able to build a big lead.
Marcus Morris had 26 points and 10 boards to help No. 1 seeds move to 102-0 against 16 seeds. Despite a slow start, the nation’s leading freshman scorer, C.J. McCollum, led Lehigh with 26 points and seven boards.
No. 6 Tennessee 62, No. 11 San Diego St. 59
With 6 seeds already 0-2 on the day, the Vols knew they would have their hands full with the Aztecs, and they certainly did.
The first half included several lead changes, but Tennessee headed to the locker room happy after building an eight-point lead in the final minutes.
The Aztecs came out strong in the second half and quickly cut into the Vols' lead. With 9:21 remaining, the Aztecs were able to take a 45-44 lead. However, the Vols battled back, and San Diego State’s Kawhi Leonard missed a 25-footer as time expired.
Guards J.P. Prince and Melvin Goins led the Vols with 15 points apiece. The Aztecs' D.J. Gay played all 40 minutes and scored 16 points, while Leonard scored 12 points and collected 10 rebounds.
No. 3 New Mexico 62, No. 14 Montana 57
Coming off a storied comeback in the Big Sky championship game against Weber St. that included 34 second-half points from Anthony Johnson, Montana had dreams of pulling off the second 14-over-3-seed upset of the day.
The Grizzlies led New Mexico 29-28 at the break, but the Lobos came out on fire in the second half and built an 11-point lead.
The Grizzlies would not give in, and the lead was cut to one with less than two minutes remaining. However, two late free throws from Dairese Gary put the game away for New Mexico.
New Mexico got 19 points and six boards from Roman Martinez, and swingman Darrington Hobson added 11 points and 11 boards. Brian Qvale was the only Montana player who scored in double digits. He had 26 points and added 13 boards.
Player of the Day: Armon Bassett, Ohio
Bassett was simply awesome in the Bobcats' stunning upset of Georgetown, as the junior guard poured in 32 points. Robert Morris freshman guard Karon Abraham deserves an honorable mention after scoring 23 points against Villanova.
Game of the Day: Villanova over Robert Morris
It lacked the buzzer-beater magic of the Murray State game, but the way both the Wildcats, in regulation, and Colonials, in overtime, pulled themselves back into the game made this my pick.
Upset of the Day: Ohio over Georgetown
As a 14 seed over a 3 seed, it was the biggest upset on paper. Even more impressive was the fashion in which the Bobcats disposed of the Hoyas. The Mid-American champs absolutely manhandled the Big East powerhouse.
Play of the Day: Danero Thomas, Murray St.
Thomas’ buzzer-beater to beat No. 4 Vanderbilt is the runaway winner.