The 10 Best Moments From The NCAA Tournament’s First Weekend

This past weekend was one to remember in college basketball. The Madness always brings us excitement and this year was no different. The first Thursday and Friday of the tournament may be the best day in sports and can leave your bracket busted before you even reach the third round. This year we saw some classic buzzer-beaters, amazing comebacks and shocking defeats.

Here are the best moments from the first weekend of the 2014 NCAA tournament.

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10. Dayton tops Ohio State at the buzzer
The Madness couldn’t have started off with a better game than a battle between two Ohio schools. Dayton and Ohio State fought to the horn but the Buckeyes were upended by the Flyers. With 3.8 seconds remaining in the game, Vee Sanford of Dayton hit a layup that ended the career of Ohio State’s star senior Aaron Craft and sealed the fate of the Buckeyes’ season.

9. Texas knocks off Arizona State with a buzzer-beater
One of the best games of the weekend might have been this 7-versus-10 matchup. With the game tied, Texas’ Jonathan Holmes launched a three-pointer that slammed off the glass and fell to the floor. With time expiring, forward Cameron Ridley picked up the ball and put it through the hoop, sending Texas to the third round and the Sun Devils back to Tempe.

8. Stephen F. Austin pulls of a shocker
Many had picked Stephen F. Austin to upset VCU, but it didn’t happen the way they had thought prior to the tournament. VCU trailed at the half, but stormed back in the second half with their pressure defense to take the lead. The Rams went on a huge run and as the end of the game approached it looked as if Shaka Smart‘s team would be advancing on. However, the Lumberjacks continued to fight and with 3.6 seconds left, down four points, Desmond Haymon threw up a three-point shot while being fouled that found the bottom of the net. Stephen F. Austin carried their late heroic momentum into overtime, where they held off the Rams to conclude the upset.

7. Record five overtime games in second round
Think that March Madness is overrated? Guess again. Thursday and Friday had a combined five overtime games that resulted in some of the most exciting finishes in recent tournaments. Connecticut was down three points with 49.2 seconds left before forcing overtime to hold off Saint Joe’s. North Carolina State blew a 16-point lead late in the second half to Saint Louis because of their inability to hit free throws. North Carolina State went 20-for-37 from the charity stripe and star player T.J. Warren was just 6-for-14 from the line. North Dakota State hit a three-pointer with 11 seconds left against Oklahoma that forced overtime. The Bisons went on to complete the upset in overtime, beating the Sooners, 80-75. Late Thursday night, San Diego State needed overtime to hold off No. 13 seed New Mexico State and Stephen F. Austin pulled off a miracle 4-point play to win in overtime on Friday.

6. Duke falls in second round for second time in three years
Remember two years ago when No. 15 seed Lehigh stunned the Blue Devils in the second round of the tournament? No way that could happen again this year, right? I mean they had Jabari Parker… they couldn’t lose. Can they? That’s what most of you probably were saying when filling out your brackets last week. How could a team full of NBA talent and star recruits fall to No. 13 seed Mercer, a small school from the state of Georgia? Well it happened.

Mercer pulled off the biggest upset of the week with its 78-71 victory over Duke. Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood both had probably their worst games of the season, scoring only 20 points combined. The Blue Devils chucked up threes all game, finishing the game with 37 three-point attempts! Mercer was consistent on offense, keeping up with the Blue Devils, and got to the foul line for some easy points. Mercer had more free throw attempts than Duke, shooting 28 compared to the Blue Devils’ 13.

Duke could not get stops on defense and could not score inside. The Blue Devils relied heavily on their three-point game and were beat by a veteran Mercer team that out-hustled and outworked Mike Krzyzewski‘s team.

5. Down goes Wichita State
Although Kentucky was a No. 8 seed, the Wildcats may have pulled the biggest upset of the first weekend. The Shockers and Wildcats were locked in an epic battle for 40 minutes and in the end, John Calipari‘s young squad pulled out a win.

Now if you read my previous articles, I constantly wrote that Wichita State would fall early in the tournament. It’s different when a team who is so used to an underdog role now has to play with the biggest targets on their back. The Shockers played very well–don’t get me wrong–and should still get a lot of credit for going 35-1 this season. However, the story of this game isn’t how the Shockers are no longer undefeated, it is about Andrew and Aaron Harrison.

The twins were absolutely sensational all day for Kentucky. They made big-time shots, and played poised and under control. They didn’t rush possessions and take awful shots but rather stayed calm and executed on both ends of the floor. Aaron Harrison finished with 19 points, while his brother Andrew added 20 points. The young stars of Kentucky were fantastic from the free throw line, hitting every pressure foul shot there was as the game was concluding. As I wrote in previous articles, the play of the Harrison twins will determine how far the Wildcats advance in this tournament.

4. Stanford sends Kansas packing
Andrew Wiggins scored only four points in Kansas’ third-round matchup against Stanford. The Cardinal pulled off the shocking upset and sent Bill Self home before the Sweet 16 for the first time since they were upset by Northern Iowa in 2010.

Many believed Kansas would be okay without Joel Embiid for the first weekend of the tournament, but that was proven false. Ever since the Jayhawks lost Embiid a few weeks ago, Kansas has looked like a different team. Getting blown out in an upset against West Virginia to end the season, a loss to Iowa State in the Big 12 tournament and a tough game against No. 15 seed Eastern Kentucky were all signs of this coming.

Many believed Wiggins would be able to lead the Jayhawks to the second weekend before getting help from Embiid, but now the star freshman’s college career may be over. For Stanford, they now have a chance to defeat Dayton in the Sweet 16 and advance to the Elite Eight. Stanford’s coach Johnny Dawkins has seen his hot seat cool off in a matter of three days.

3. The No. 16 seed upsetting a No. 1 seed is coming sooner than you think
Remember when No. 1 seeds use to blow out No. 16 seeds by 20-plus points? That hasn’t been the trend as of late. This year, the No. 1 seeds struggled with inferior opponents. Florida struggled to put away Albany, winning 67-55, and Virginia had to make some big shots late to hold off Coastal Carolina, 70-59. The same could be said for Arizona, who only beat Weber State by nine points.

Last season, one-seeds Gonzaga and Kansas won their first-round matchups by less than eight points. Kansas, a No. 2 seed this year, won a tight one over Eastern Kentucky and Louisville needed a Luke Hancock 8-0 run to escape the Manhattan Jaspers. I’m not saying it’s coming next season or the year after, but the talent gap between one-seeds and No. 16 seeds is closing and the increasing parity in college basketball is admirable.

2. Star players ousted early
For one of the best freshman classes in college basketball in the past decade, it was a sour tournament for most of the stars. Jabari Parker was bounced out of the tournament early, only scoring 14 points and grabbing seven rebounds before being upset by Mercer. Andrew Wiggins had only four points in Kansas’ loss to Stanford. Tyler Ennis also might have seen his college career end after he was unable to make two jumpers in the last minute to advance Syracuse past Dayton. Marcus Smart did everything he could to advance Oklahoma State, tallying 23 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists and six steals, but it wasn’t enough. Doug McDermott saw his historic career end in the third round, scoring only 15 points against Baylor. Hopefully some of these players return for another season and try to make a run through the Madness one more time.

1. Higher seeds own the bracket
This week we will see a No. 10 seed versus a No. 11 seed to advance to the Elite Eight in the South region. In the Midwest, No. 11 seed Tennessee will try and beat Michigan to advance to the Elite Eight, where they will await Kentucky or Louisville. In the second round of the tournament we saw eight teams with a higher seed upset a lower-seeded team. Three of the No. 12 seeds (Harvard, North Dakota State and Stephen F. Austin) all pulled off the classic 12-versus-5 upset. In third-round matchups, we saw No. 11 seed Dayton advance as well as No. 7 seed Connecticut. Kentucky, Stanford and Baylor were all higher seeds that upset tournament favorites on Sunday. Don’t be overly surprised if one of these high seeds sneaks into the Final Four.

What were your favorite moments?

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