NCAA Tournament 2014: Best and worst of all the madness from day 2

Your bracket's dead. I heard. Tom told me. Look, we all feel bad about this, but the only thing to do now is move on and try to enjoy the rest of the tournament.

SB Nation 2014 NCAA March Madness Coverage

Second acts are hard, especially when what's being followed is considered by many to be among the best pieces of work in the history of the field.

Thursday gave the college hoops world four overtime NCAA Tournament games on the same day for the first time ever, four legitimate upsets and a bona fide buzzer-beater. You have to give Friday credit for at least trying...and doing a hell of a job.

These have been as strong a pair of opening days of the tournament as I can remember, which has me giddy about everything the next two weeks might hold. Before starting down that road, however, we must look back at everything that took place on day two.

Yes, we must.


1. (12) Stephen F. Austin 77, (5) VCU 75 (OT) (South)

Stephen F. Austin has not lost since Nov. 23. That fact is still possible to talk about this morning thanks to one of the more insane comebacks in recent NCAA Tournament memory.

The Lumberjacks trailed for the bulk of the game's 40 minutes, including by 11 with seven minutes to play and a 65-59 deficit with just 56 ticks left. In what has become a bit of a theme in this tournament, VCU then missed four of its next five free-throws to leave the proverbial door ajar. Still, a Briante Weber freebie pushed the lead to four and made it a two possession game with 21 seconds to play.

Or did it.



Is that a foul? No, it's not. If you're seeing one it's only because you want to. But allow me to be the 8 billionth person to point out that JeQuan Lewis has no business challenging that shot in that manner in that situation. The only things that can come as a result of that act are negative, and what ended up happening to Lewis and his team was the absolute worst case scenario.

The teams traded big shots in the extra period before, in an especially cruel twist of fate, a wide open three-pointer from Lewis at the buzzer went wanting and SFA notched its 10th straight win.

Say it with me: Stephen F. Austin, and the F is for finisher.

Now I have a theory that what we saw Friday evening was the other side of a deal made with the tournament devil (a real thing) at some point in early 2011. What many people forget about VCU's miracle run from the First Four to the Final Four that year is that they had no business making the field of 68. Were they one of the better teams in the country? The run would certainly seem to indicate so, but their resume before that by no means warranted at-large conclusion. So how did it happen? I'm saying an unholy barter, the other side of which we all witnessed in San Diego.

Sometimes the simplest explanations are the right ones, and an unholy deal with some sort of NCAA Tournament demon is the only logical theory available here.

Stephen F. Austin/VCU might not be the best game of the past five rounds of 64, but it's pretty far up the list.

2. (14) Mercer 78, (3) Duke 71 (Midwest)

From the tournament's signature game to its signature upset.

Anyone who watched the bulk of this tilt will tell you that this wasn't a fluke. Mercer was the better team for about 30 of the 40 minutes played Friday afternoon. They did not advance to the round of 32 by virtue of key injury, bogus officiating or anything else of that realm.

The Bears became the second Atlantic Sun team ('sup, Dunk City?) in as many years to stun the world thanks in large part to a starting lineup comprised of five seniors, including Jakob Gollon (20 points) and Daniel Coursey (17 points). The group shot 56 percent for the game -- 58 percent in the second half -- and responded to each and every body blow Duke could manage. The 14 seed finished the game on a 20-5 run that included a spell where they scored 11 straight points.

Mercer now gets another double-digit seed (No. 11 Tennessee) on Sunday with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line.

3. (6) North Carolina 79, (11) Providence 77 (East)

Bryce Cotton finally got his moment in the spotlight, and he took full advantage. The Providence senior who has been one of college basketball's most unheralded stars since the late '90s (or last three years) dropped a career-high 36 points on North Carolina, but it was three short of the number he needed to carry his squad into Sunday.

This was a tremendous game in a lot of respects, but I want to spend this blurb on what is, to me, one of the most unfathomable things about college basketball: coaches simply refuse to go 2-for-1 in any situation.

Providence led this game 77-74 with 1:10 to play before Macus Paige's three-pointer tied things up. The Friars then called timeout to set up a play for what should have been, at the very least, the game's third-to-last possession. If Providence takes a shot, any shot within the first 25 seconds of this key possession, then its worst case scenario is having the ball back with a chance to tie or win the game after a Carolina score. Instead, they ran the shot clock all the way down, missed a shot around the rim, and put themselves in a position where UNC had the ball with 36 seconds left. Suddenly, the Friars' best possible scenario was overtime.

We legitimately see NBA teams go 2-for-1 every single time the opportunity presents itself. Why the trend still has not made the transition to the college game is beyond my realm of comprehension.



It's a performance that won't get a lot of national love today because it ended while the bulk of the East Coast was asleep, but UCLA looked like a team capable of giving No. 1 overall seed Florida all it wants if that matchup happens next week.

The Bruins thumped Tulsa, 76-59 behind Jordan Adams' 21 points, and appeared incapable of being stopped on offense for extended stretches. Their combination of next-level offensive talent and total inconsistency made them one of the most intriguing teams in the field of 68 heading into this week, but after watching this performance, I'm ready to call them the biggest threat to the Gators in the South Region.

2. Creighton

The basketball world has seemed to be more torn on Creighton than any other team since the brackets were released six days ago. The general consensus has been that the Jays have a great player, some great shooters, a favorable draw, an awful defense and an untrustworthy recent tournament history.

Greg McDermott's team had to morph at least a few skeptics into believers on Friday, as they turned the upset pick of a number of advanced statistic programs into a double-digit victory. The game wasn't a blowout by any stretch of the imagination, but this seemed like a bad opening draw for Creighton, and they handled the moment well. That's a terrific sign for their chances of winning multiple games in the big dance for the first time since 1984.

3. Mercer

We kind of already talked about it, but the Bears were tremendous against Duke and deserve to be the third team honored here. It's just like we've all been saying: it's so unfair to Wichita State that the Shockers got placed in the same region as Michigan, Louisville, Kentucky and Mercer.


1. Oklahoma State

Not that I didn't try to warn you.

6. Oklahoma State is in prime position to win "The Arizona" award

I have very few "bracket rules," but the only one I follow religiously is to pick against the underachieving 8/9 seed that everyone says has the potential to upset a No. 1 seed in the round of 32. It never fails, and the team that achieves the feat receives an award I've decided to call "The Arizona" for the tremendous work in the field that the Wildcats have provided in seasons past.

Three weeks ago, I stated that this year's recipient of The Arizona was going to be a resurgent Oklahoma State team that would be facing Gonzaga for the right to play Wichita State. Instead, it'll be the Cowboys and the Zags for the right to face ... Arizona. It's almost too perfect. Pick Gonzaga.

It's as close to a sure thing as there is in March. Also, congratulations to the Cowboys on their award. It should arrive in Stillwater shortly.

2. New Mexico

The Lobos dug themselves into a 20-4 hole, shot just 4-of-21 from beyond the arc and wound up being upset by a double-digit seed in the round of 64 for a second straight year. The good news is that the performance didn't elicit a rage quit from a member of the UNM media this season.

3. Kansas State

Sure, there wasn't much expected of them heading into this weekend, but the Wildcats still gave a performance against Kentucky that demands at least a small amount of public shaming. K-State missed 16 of 21 thee-point attempts, shot 35.8 percent from the field and 50 percent from the foul line, and was stuck on 38 points from the 8:32 mark of the second half until the game's final TV timeout. The positive is that the performance allowed the round of 32 matchup that everyone wants to see on Sunday to happen. That was nice.

All-Day Two Team

Bryce Cotton, Providence

We touched on it earlier, but Cotton was simply outstanding in his final college game, netting a career-high 36 points and almost single-handedly carrying the Friars into the round of 32.

Jarnell Stokes, Tennessee

He scored 26 points on 11 shots and grabbed 14 rebounds, as Tennessee became the first team in the tournament to win two games after they hammered a UMass team that everyone in the world knew was over-seeded.

Doug McDermott, Creighton

Thirty points, 12 rebounds...standard afternoon.

Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga

The Bulldogs' standout guard played second fiddle to David Stockton in the WCC Tournament, but he was the star of stars for the Zags on Friday, dropping a game-high 26 points in their win over Oklahoma State.

Clenathony Early, Wichita State

It was a workmanlike performance from the All-American, who scored 23 points and grabbed seven rebounds in just 19 minutes as the Shockers did what one seeds are supposed to do and dismantled Cal Poly.

Three Day Two Cheers

1. Kevin Canevari

The easiest "cheer" selection in the history of this series.


Canevari might wind up being the first player in tournament history to not score a point and still warrant an All-Region selection.

2. Warren Buffett

Buffett's billion is safe, as no one who took him up on his challenge to complete a perfect bracket made it through the round of 64 unscathed. In related news, the "random champion" bracket I filled out after the draw on Sunday currently ranks in the top 1,000 of the 11 million (or whatever) entered over at has Stephen F. Austin winning the national title.

3. The Stephen F. Austin locker room celebration

Always one of the best things about any tournament. Those are your future national champions.

Three Day Two Jeers

1. Georges Niang's injury

Perhaps the biggest bummer of Friday was the news that Iowa State star forward Georges Niang broke his foot and is done for the rest of the NCAA Tournament. It's a huge blow to the Cyclones' chances of beating North Carolina on Sunday and advancing to the tournament's second weekend. Niang's final performance of the season included 24 points and six rebounds.

2. Rim technicals

First, there was an awful technical called on Memphis' Geron Johnson for hanging on the rim, then Kansas State walk-on Brian Rohleder -- who has played just 31 minutes all season -- was assessed a technical before his team's game against Kentucky because he dunked during pregame warm-ups.

Here is visual proof of the violation:


An unquestionably offensive (sarcasm) act which allowed Kentucky to take a 1-0 lead into the opening tip.

This is a rule that should have been changed...well, about five seconds after it was put in place. Also, the "hanging on the rim" technical needs to only be applied if someone is like sitting on top of the rim and taking off articles of clothing after a cram. Just two ridiculous rules that are begging for officials to have an unnecessarily large impact on a game.

3. The Scottrade Center and NCAA Rules

Delays in games that were played earlier in the day coupled with NCAA rules that require arenas be emptied out after every session led to about 500 people being in their seats as Wichita State and Cal Poly tipped off Friday evening.

According to Scottrade Center and NCAA rules, the arena must be cleared after one session before allowing fans to re-enter, and their tickets have to be rescanned. This meant that the Scottrade staff had only 40 minutes to clear out 17,955 fans from the Kansas/Eastern Kentucky game, which was so close that few people left early. The result was a host of people who paid for tickets to the evening session missing a solid chunk of the Wichita State/Cal Poly game.

"I was perturbed," Shocker fan Mike Meitzner told the Wichita Eagle. "And you can quote me on that."

I'm happy they did.

Five Day Two Images


2. Thrill of victory (Stephen F. Austin)


Jeff Gross (Getty Images)

3. Agony of defeat (North Carolina Central)


4. A Virginia player was so anxious about Coastal Carolina's upset bid that he just needed to take a break


Bob Donnan (USA Today)

5. Dunking and watching in New Mexico/Stanford


Dilip Vishnawat (Getty Images)

Three Best Day Two Dunks

1. Tennessee's Jordan McRae


2. Kansas' Andrew Wiggins


Young man has a future.

3. North Carolina's JP Tokoto


Okay, it was more about the spin.

Five Notable Day Two Quotes

1. "Man, we can be playing the grandmas of North Dakota ... this is the NCAA Tournament. I'd still be scared. Not necessarily scared, but I'd still be nervous and looking forward to playing them because it's the tournament. It's the top 64 teams in the country." --Kansas center Tarik Black

2. "You guys have a hell of basketball team. I love the game, and you guys play the game really, really well. And your coach coaches it well. If we had to be beaten, I glad we were beaten by a hell of a basketball team. So good luck to you." --Mike Krzyzewski in the Mercer locker room following Duke's loss

3. "You could feel the guys: ‘Come on. What's wrong? We shouldn't be in this spot.' I said, ‘You have to come together in a way that you haven't all year, because of what's at stake.' I said: ‘They're capable of beating you. . . . Stop being afraid.' " --Virginia coach Tony Bennett

4. "That's sad. I know it's a rule, but sometimes common sense prevails,. To me, a good ref comes over and says, 'Hey, don't dunk.'" --Kansas State coach Bruce Weber on his team's pregame technical

5. "I've seen Bryce perform like that in practice, but when you get to this stage and you're able to do that -- I've been saying the whole year I think Bryce is one of the top guards in all of America. It's just for whatever reason he didn't get the national love. I think today if there is somebody in this national tournament that does that, they would be considered Superman." --Providence coach Ed Cooley on Bryce Cotton's 36 point game.


Mother of God, there's more.

Third Round Games

Saturday, March 22 (12:00 NOON-12:00 AM, ET)

Tip (ET)






12:15 pm


Orlando I

Florida vs. Pittsburgh

Brian Anderson/Dan Bonner//Kristine Leahy

Jonathan Segal/Renardo Lowe

After conc. I


Orlando II

Louisville vs. St. Louis



5:15 p.m.


Milwaukee I

Michigan vs. Texas

Ian Eagle/Jim Spanarkel//Lewis Johnson

Ken Mack/Jim Cornell

6:10 p.m.


Spokane I

San Diego State vs. North Dakota State

Spero Dedes/Doug Gottlieb//Jaime Maggio

Ryan Galvin/Mark Grant

7:10 p.m.


Buffalo I

Syracuse vs. Dayton

Verne Lundquist/Bill Raftery//Allie LaForce

Bob Mansbach/Suzanne Smith

After conc. I


Milwaukee II

Wisconsin vs. Oregon



After conc. I


Spokane II

Michigan State vs. Harvard



After conc. I


Buffalo II

Villanova vs. Connecticut



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