Cards-light cross-post from SB Nation. There's still some stuff in here you should enjoy...I hope
It happens just about every other year. A 15 seed doesn't beat a 2 or a 14 doesn't upset a 3, and everybody immediately starts in with the "I thought it was supposed to be 'March Madness'" talk.
As much as I'd like to fork-stab these people for tampering with a perfectly lucid basketball buzz, they had more than a legitimate gripe on Thursday than they ordinarily do.
While there was competitive basketball and the potential for a historic upset taking place, there weren't any buzzer-beating finishes, there was only one game that might accurately be dubbed a "classic" at tournament's end, and that upset bid ultimately finished with an especially disappointing thud.
Still, day one of the tournament is always better than just about every other day on the sports calendar, and the 2012 edition was no different.
Here's everything you need to know about what went down on Thursday.
5 BEST GAMES
1. 12) Virginia Commonwealth 62, 5) Wichita State 59
The only real classic game produced on Thursday, and the unchallenged owner of this top spot.
Virginia Commonwealth and Wichita State went blow-for-blow in the game's final minutes before Bradford Burgess' three-pointer with 1:33 left gave the Rams a one-point lead they would not relinquish. Darius Theus' floater in the lane one possession later extended the VCU lead to three, and Wichita State center Garrett Stutz's rushed three-pointer at the buzzer found only iron.
All the talk after the game centered around the potential of VCU making another Cinderella run in the tournament a year after the Rams crashed the Final Four as an 11-seed. The potential for at least one more win appears to be there, as Shaka Smart's team maintained incredible poise after the talented Shockers came all the way back from a 13-point deficit and appeared on the brink of running away with the game late.
Next up for the Rams is No. 4 Indiana on Saturday night at 7:10 p.m. ET.
Get ready to hear "could this year's VCU be...VCU!?" more times than you'd care to over the next 24 hours.
2. 1) Syracuse 72, 16) UNC-Asheville 65
UNC-Asheville flirted with the ultimate American upset - a 16 seed beating a one in the first (or second) round of the NCAA Tournament - before a handful of highly questionable calls late in the game quelled their chances and left the college basketball world with a sour taste in its collective mouth.
The Bulldogs became just the seventh 16 seed to ever carry a lead over a top seed into intermission, and led the contest with just over six minutes to play. They trailed by only three with a little over a minute to go when an inbounds pass appeared to clearly go out-of-bounds off of the hands of Orange guard Brandon Triche, but the ball was subsequently awarded to Syracuse. That decision came after what appeared to be a clear goaltend and then a clear foul by SU on a shot attempt both went uncalled.
The Orange were ultimately able to hit their free-throws down the stretch and run the all-time record of No. 1 seeds in the first round to 109-0 (Kentucky made it an even 110-0 later on).
The questionable calls at the end of the game might not have mattered had Asheville star Matt Dikcey not given such an uncharacteristically poor performance. The Big South Player of the year hit just one of his 13 field goal attempts, and was just 1-of-9 from beyond the arc.
3. 5) New Mexico 75, 12) Long Beach State 68
Long Beach State over New Mexico was an even trendier than usual 12/5 upset pick, but the champions of the Mountain West earned their spot in the round of 32 by bottling the 49ers up when the game was on the line.
Casper Ware, The Beach's star and the Big West Player of the Year, was limited to just 5-of-19 shooting and was held scoreless for a period of 25 minutes. Much of the credit for that goes to New Mexico guard Kendall Williams, who harassed Ware with his length and athleticism for 40 minutes and also scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half.
The 49ers came back from an eight-point second half deficit and had all the momentum in the world after a breakaway windmill slam dunk from James Ennis put them in front, 61-59. Williams then took over, burying back-to-back shots to put the Lobos back on top for good.
Next up for New Mexico is fourth-seeded Louisville in the late game on Saturday night.
4. 11) Colorado 68, 6) UNLV 64
A furious UNLV rally couldn't bring the trendy sleeper pick all the way back from an almost unfathomable 20-point deficit.
It wasn't exciting for the first 33 minutes, but kudos to the Rebs for making a monster run in order for the final game of the night to be watchable.
5. 1) Kentucky 81, 16) Western Kentucky
No, the game was never in doubt, but it makes the list because of the surprisingly entertaining opening ten minutes, and then the Kentucky dunk show in the second half.
5 TEAMS THAT WON IT THE BEST
The Badgers are always going to be a trendy pick to get upset early because of their deliberate style of play. But the nation's top scoring defense never allowed the champions of the Big Sky to get closer than 10 after the break, and rolled to a convincing 73-49 victory.
Bucky held Grizzlies star Will Cherry to just nine points on 3-of-14 shooting, and allowed just one of his teammates to score in double figures.
When the news of Fab Melo's ineligibility broke, all you heard from national pundits was talk about the Orange potentially falling to Kansas State or Vanderbilt. No one even mentioned that this might be clearing the way for Wisconsin - which is seeded better than both of those teams - to make a run into the regional finals. They looked fully capable of accomplishing that feat on this day.
2. Murray State
The Racers had the privilege of kicking this whole thing off on Thursday afternoon, and after a bit of a slow start, they showed the college basketball world exactly how they got to 30-1. Isaiah Canaan looked like the All-American candidate that he is, and even with one of their better defenders -- senior Donte Poole -- sidelined with a broken nose, the Racers were able to put the clamps on Colorado State and hold them to a tournament-low 41 points.
Anyone who thinks Murray doesn't have at least a puncher's chance against third-seeded Marquette on Saturday hasn't been paying attention.
The SEC champions were well aware of the talk. After losing games in their tournament opener as a four or five seed in 2008, 2010 and 2011, the Commodores shouldn't have been surprised to hear so many people predicting yet another one-and-done performance in 2012. They silenced the critics early on, building a quick lead that would eventually blossom to 18 in the second half before the Crimson made a late run to keep the final mark (79-70) respectable.
4. New Mexico
There was a reason Long Beach State was a trendy 12/5 upset pick, but the Lobos offered up an impressive combination of poise and grit to to hold serve in the West region. Drew Gordon is a man in the paint, and he's going to give Louisville (and whoever else New Mexico faces should they advance) all it can handle.
West Virginia's apparent lack of enthusiasm was the story after the round two beatdown they took, but yeah, the Zags were the ones administering the beating down, and they obviously deserve some credit for that.
5 BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENTS
When the brackets came out and people said, "oohh, Kentucky vs. Connecticut!" they should have known better. All of them. The Huskies, who returned five of the six leading scorers from a national championship team and added a likely lottery pick in freshman center Andre Drummond, looked listless once again and never really threatened to knock off Iowa State. Their season came to a close in appropriate fashion when Jeremy Lamb bricked a windmill dunk just before the final horn sounded.
Now UConn looks toward what will perhaps be the most tumultuous offseason in program history. The Huskies are currently ineligible to compete in the 2013 NCAA Tournament because of low APR marks, rumors are everywhere that Jim Calhoun may call it a career, Lamb and Drummond appear locks to head to the NBA, and a handful of other players may either follow suit or transfer.
Wear out those 2010 championship DVDs, Husky fans.
2. West Virginia
The Mountaineers looked like they'd rather be anywhere else from the opening tip to the final horn of their 77-54 loss to Gonzaga. In a game where "toughness" was supposed to be West Virginia's major advantage, it showed zero. After the game, Bob Huggins called this the "worst defensive team" he's ever coached, and senior star Kevin Jones blamed the loss on his teammates for not being able to make open shots when Gonzaga chose to double him in the post.
You almost want to give the Bears a pass because they're so young, but they're also way too talented to fall behind and be pushed by a team like South Dakota State. After setting the Big 12 Tournament on fire, Perry Jones III reverted to his old disappearing act once again and scored just two points (he also had this happen to him). This was a bit of a blow to those who believed the Bears had changed their sleep-walking ways and could make a legitimate run at the Final Four.
The trendy pick to beat Baylor and Duke in the South won't get a shot at either after coming out flat against Colorado and not having enough gas in the tank to complete a furious second half rally. The Rebs have (had) far too much talent to have their season already be over right now.
I'll miss you most of all, Mike Moser. You had mid-March household name potential.
A one seed pushed to the brink in its first game. Duh.
ALL-DAY ONE TEAM
Rodney McGruder, Kansas State
Dominated the inside against Southern Miss, hitting 11-of-17 shots and finishing with a game-high 30 points in the Wildcats' 70-64 win. Classic McGruder.
Jae Crowder, Marquette
The Big East Player of the Year had a monster day, scoring 25 points and snagging 16 rebounds as the Golden Eagles had little trouble with "First Four" winner BYU.
John Jenkins, Vanderbilt
The junior made sure he'd get his first taste of an NCAA victory by hitting 7-of-12 shots and 10-of-13 free-throws on his way to a game-high 27 points in Vandy's 79-70 win over Harvard.
Terrence Jones, Kentucky
The preseason first team All-American knows that this tournament is his chance to make up for a disappointing sophomore year. He took that knowledge out on overmatched Western Kentucky to the tune of 22 points and 10 rebounds.
DeShaun Thomas, Ohio State
Loyola (Md.) had zero answer for OSU's "other big man," as Thomas became the tournament's early high-scorer by netting 31 points to go with 12 boards in a 78-59 Buckeye rout.
5 DAY ONE JEERS
1. Syracuse/UNC-Asheville Officiating Crew
You can't blame the multitude of folks who stated that the officiating down the stretch of No. 16 seed UNC-Asheville's attempted upset of top-seed Syracuse almost seemed deliberately bad. You can argue that the lane violation shouldn't have been called because it's a rule that is rarely enforced, but the fact remains that it was technically the correct whistle. The no-call on the goaltend, the incorrect call on the ball out-of-bounds, and the no foul call on Syracuse, however, were unforgivably atrocious and crippled the Bulldogs' run at history.
2. The Southern Mississippi Band
Chanting "Where's your green card?" at a hispanic player is always jeer-worthy, but when he was born in Puerto Rico (which is part of America) and raised in Miami (also America), it's especially ignorant. Southern Mississippi's president issued an apology after the game.
3. Jeremy Lamb's Likely Final Moment As A Husky
Won a national championship, has had a tremendous college career, will probably declare for the NBA Draft and be a lottery pick, but let's just say he could have ended things on a brighter note.
4. Kevin Jones
Playing in his last game for West Virginia, Jones -- who led the Big East in both scoring and rebounding -- made just 5-of-14 shots and collected just four rebounds as the Mountaineers were dominated by Gonzaga. Following the game, Jones opted to throw his teammates under the bus, saying: "They were doubling down on me, and my teammates were unable to hit open shots. That's been the story of all year."
5. Broken Net-Fixer Guy
Loyola's Erik Etherly broke the net on one of the goals during the first half of the Greyhounds' loss to Ohio State, which wouldn't have been a major issue had the man sent onto the floor to fix the problem had any idea how to thread a net into a basketball rim.
You didn't want him to get hurt, but you wanted him to fall off that ladder. Be honest with yourself. Come on. And after ten minutes of failed net-repair attempts, you really wanted him to fall off that ladder, and you were OL with a flesh wound or, like, an index finger break.
5 DAY ONE CHEERS
1. The UNC-Asheville Bulldogs
That was about as valiant an effort as we've ever seen from a 16-seed, and about as heartbroken a group of college players as you'll ever see in a game's closing seconds. These guys made an otherwise blase afternoon extremely entertaining for the college basketball world. A thousand thanks for that.
Also, credit UNCA head coach Eddie Biedenbach for restricting his players from commenting on the officials after the game. He's a far better man than I.
2. Trollin' Indiana Baby
New Mexico State Aggies: B-Break it down...
I'll say it: star of the tournament so far.
3. The Louisville Defense
Rick Pitino's team plays a great deal of zone, which you'd think would play into the hands of a Davidson squad that possesses a bevy of outside shooters. But the 13th-seeded Wildcats managed to hit just 4-of-19 three-pointers, and finished 16 points below their season average of 78.0. The Cardinals have defended the perimeter tremendously well all year, but they've taken things to another level in the postseason.
From the beginning of the Big East Tournament through Thursday's game, here's how U of L opponents have shot from beyond the arc:
Seton Hall - 16%
Marquette - 15%
Notre Dame - 12%
Cincinnati - 21%
Davidson - 21%
For those of you who don't hablo matematicos, that isn't good. Not surprisingly, all five of those games wound up being Cardinal victories, including Thursday's 69-62 triumph.
4. Nerdy Vanderbilt Sign
You knew Harvard/Vanderbilt would produce at least one nerd-tacular sign, but this one takes the Pi.
Yeah, I'll be on the jeer list Saturday morning.
5 BEST DUNKS
1. Anthony Davis, Kentucky:
2. Quincy Miller, Baylor
3. Terrence Jones, Kentucky
4. Royce White, Iowa State:
5. Erik Etherly, Loyola (Md.)
5 BEST QUOTES
1. "Syracuse is better than Asheville. Tonight, we were better than Syracuse." --UNC-Asheville head coach Eddie Biedenbach
2. "That's why they make scoreboards." --Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim in response to Biedenbach's remark
3. "I'm not a home run coach. I didn't hire home run assistant coaches. We just want to be a good pitch team. And I think for the most part, we were able to throw good pitches today.'' --Marquette coach Buzz Williams
4. "I'm glad they got to experience this, because this was the only success that they had not experienced since being in our program." --Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings on his team finally getting through their first game in the tournament
5. "For them, if they want to advance and win a national championship, going to have to shoot the ball better from perimeter. But they're talented; they're extremely talented." --Western Kentucky coach Ray Harper on Kentucky
FIVE MOST INTRIGUING GAMES OF DAY TWO
These might not end up being the most competitive games on the docket, but I think they'll be the ones that generate the most interest. The potential for a significant upset or two appears much higher on Friday than it was on Thursday, and at least a couple of the games below are going to demand America's attention. Get excited.
1. 4) Michigan vs. 13) Ohio (7:20 ET/TNT)
Ohio is going to beat Michigan. This is going to happen. If you'd like to watch, you now know the time and channel where it's going to occur.
2. 3) Georgetown vs. 14) Belmont (3:10 ET/truTV)
Belmont hasn't been as good as the college basketball world has wanted them to be since nearly shocking Duke in their season-opener. That said, they can put points on the board against anyone, which should be more than enough to worry a Hoya squad that was stunned by a similar 14-seed (Ohio) just a couple of years ago. Not only were they upset in that game, they were blown out.
3. 7) Saint Mary's vs. 10) Purdue (7:27 ET/truTV)
The exciting pace of a Saint Mary's game coupled with Robbie Hummel's last hoorah in the big dance. This warrants at least a small chunk of your Friday night.
4. 2) Duke vs. 15) Lehigh (7:15/CBS)
The world wants to see Duke lose, so when C.J. McCollum gets going early and the Mountain Hawks look like they might be capable of turning this tournament upside down, the world will tune in. It won't last, but it'll be fun. We'll make a shadow box.
5. 2) Kansas vs. 15) Detroit (9:57, truTV)
A touch of intrigue was added to this one when Kansas senior Tyshawn Taylor said on Thursday that Detroit star Ray McCallum Jr. doesn't like to defend. The Titans are one of the more dangerous 15 seeds in recent memory, so giving them any extra incentive before a second round game seems like it would be a foolish move. Then again, Tyshawn's always had his own way of doing things.