NCAA Tournament 2014: Best and worst of Sunday's madness

What did the final day of a tremendous opening weekend have for the sports world? Only two of the best Round of 32 games in recent memory.

SB Nation 2014 NCAA March Madness Coverage

The final day of the NCAA Tournament's first weekend delivered in just about every area that makes the tournament attractive. There were terrific games featuring top seeds, there were multiple contests won via made shots in the closing seconds, and there were Cinderella teams that America has fallen in love with shooting to extend their season for at least another five days.

Somewhere Vanessa Williams was nodding slowly as it all went down. That's not a "Save the Best for Last" reference, she's actually just an enormous fan of the Harrison twins who possesses an enviable ability to keep her emotions in check.

Here's everything that the final day of weekend one had to offer.

3 BEST GAMES

1. (8) Kentucky 78, (1) Wichita State 76 (Midwest)

Even if this winds up being one of the best overall tournaments in recent memory, there's a very real chance that we won't see a game better than the one Sunday afternoon provided us with. That's how good Kentucky/Wichita State was.

The game felt like a regional final from the opening tip to the final horn, as the 35-0 Shockers and the preseason No. 1 Wildcats traded blow after blow after blow until Fred VanVleet's final swing came up empty and Big Blue Nation could celebrate.

Shocking

The game saw 14 lead changes, only 20 total turnovers and a pair of huge banked three-pointers in the final six minutes. Both teams shot better than 54 percent from the field and better than 44 percent from behind the three-point line.

Cleanthony Early and Ron Baker were both tremendous in defeat, combining to score 51 points (Early had 31 alone) and hit 8-of-12 shots from beyond the arc. But the Harrison twins were up to the challenge, combining to score 39 points and hit five treys, the perfect accent to big man Julius Randle's 22nd double-double of the season.

The only disappointing thing about this remarkable contest is that it felt like it was played one Sunday too early. This wasn't fair to Wichita State, a 35-0 one seed that deserved better protection. I don't think there's one other eight or nine seed that keeps the Shockers from the Sweet 16, but now that's a part of their story that doesn't get to be told.

As for Kentucky, this is starting to feel a bit like an ultimate redemption run. Everyone expected the Wildcats to be a No. 1 seed, and had you watched Sunday's game with no knowledge of the events of the prior four months, you would have just assumed they were.

Next up? The last team to beat Wichita State before Sunday: fourth-seeded Louisville. I'm told the Cardinals and Kentucky have a bit of history, but I'm going to need to do a little digging to confirm.

This tournament is the best.

2. (3) Iowa State 85, (6) North Carolina 83 (East)

SB Nation's interview with Fred Hoiberg

The postgame narratives were already in place. For Iowa State, it was a promising season and a potential run to the Final Four wrecked by the loss of big man Georges Niang, who broke his foot in the Cyclones' tournament opener on Friday. For North Carolina, it was finding consistency and becoming a legitimate national title threat after one of the most erratic starts to a season in college basketball history.

The undermanned Cyclones trailed for the first 16 minutes of the second half, and found themselves down 76-68 with 3:56 to play. Then Melvin Ejim, DeAndre Kane and Naz Long went to work. The result was Iowa State putting itself in a position to take the last shot in a game tied at 83.

Kane, the controversial transfer from Marshall who was considered a character risk when he came to Ames, was up for the moment.

Iowastgw_medium

And then things got a little weird, which is a shame. The clock didn't start when North Carolina inbounded the ball, the clock operator attempted to correct his mistake by making more time run off, UNC tried to call a timeout and then the officials gathered for the all-too-familiar 30-minute monitor session to try and get things untangled. The conclusion was that the game was over, which both sides seemed to agree with.

It was an awful final 1.6 seconds that, sadly, became almost as big of a story as the 39 minutes and 58.4 seconds of tremendous basketball that preceded it. But we here at SB Nation college hoops remember, Iowa State and North Carolina ... we remember, and we'll always remember.

3. (10) Stanford 60, (2) Kansas 57 (South)

The world can finally stop being afraid of Kansas, the team with the crazy ability to lose and still be both feared and loved by fans, computer rankings and potential opponents all at the same time.

The Jayhawks are done thanks to a tremendous 40-minute effort from Stanford that I'm not sure anyone saw coming. The Cardinal held KU to just 32.8 percent shooting from the field and won the rebounding battle by two.

Kansas big man Tarik Black did his best to make up for the absence of Joel Embiid by scoring a team-high 18 points, but he was the only one of Bill Self's starters who managed to score in double figures. Andrew Wiggins was a total non-factor in what figures to be his final college game, attempting just six shots and finishing with as many turnovers (4) as points.

Dwight Powell led the Cardinal with 15 points and Chasson Randle chipped in 13, as Stanford finished the game with a 44.7 field goal percentage despite not making a single three-point shot. The Cardinal will take on 11th-seeded Dayton with a spot in the Elite Eight on the line.

3 TEAMS THAT WON IT THE BEST

1. Baylor

The Bears hit seven of their first eight three-pointers to build a quick double-digit lead that they would hold onto for the entirety of their blowout win over Creighton. Despite CU's reputation for being one of the most dangerous outside shooting teams in the country, the Baylor zone just swallowed the Bluejays whole. Doug McDermott had only three points at halftime, and the 12 he added in the second half were meaningless.

It was a bitter ending for the (Doug) McDermott era at Creighton, one which saw the Jays make the NCAA Tournament in each of his final three seasons, but never advance to the Sweet 16. Creighton still has not won multiple games in the Big Dance since 1974. Credit the Bears for keeping that streak alive, a six seed that appeared bigger, faster and better in every facet of the game than the opponent seeded three lines above them.

2. Kentucky

We've already discussed it, but the Wildcats looked good on Sunday. Like, Final Four good. Like, "how the hell did you lose 10 games while playing in the SEC before this" good.

Kentucky has elite size and talent, which was always going to make it a difficult matchup for about 95 percent of the teams in the tournament. But that alone wasn't going to be enough to advance past Wichita State, which made shot after shot after shot when it had to against UK. A "Julius Randle is dominant down low, James Young and the Harrisons make a couple shots and we get a bunch of second-chance points because we're big" effort wasn't going to cut it, and Kentucky got one of its first complete performances of the season at the perfect time.

It was a scary thing to watch for any team, including archrival and defending national champion Louisville, which will face the Cats in the showcase game of the Sweet 16.

3. Arizona

You could have gone with Arizona or Virginia here, as both one seeds were dominant in advancing to the Sweet 16, but we'll go with the Wildcats for the simple reason that their final margin of victory was five points more.

Going up against what was billed as one of the most efficient teams in the country, 'Zona forced 21 turnovers, including 15 steals, and never allowed Gonzaga to even think it had a shot at being in this game. Afterward, Zags coach Mark Few said the Cats were as good as any team he could remember, a scary thought for the other three teams remaining in the West.

3 BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENTS

1. Creighton

The Jays occupied this same spot after the Round of 32 a year ago when they could manage just 50 points in their most important game of the season. Twelve months later they could manage just 55 in the same situation and were blown out by 30. It was about as disappointing and unfitting an ending for the college career of Doug McDermott as one could imagine.

2. Kansas

Still think the Jayhawks have a shot to be dangerous in the Sweet 16, and the crazy thing is they probably have a shot at moving up to a one seed thanks to Wichita State's loss and Florida's less-than-stellar second-round performance against Albany.

I kid, I kid, but I'm not kidding when I say Kansas had no business losing to Stanford with or without Joel Embiid. No team's early exit is more disappointing than the Jayhawks'.

3. Memphis

You had one job, Tigers: keep things interesting enough during your time as the only viewing option so none of us had to think about work or respect the alternate programming demands of significant others. You failed miserably.

For all the moderately justified criticism Josh Pastner has received over the past half day, he still has two more NCAA Tournament wins than John Calipari did in his first five seasons with the Tigers. That's something.

THE ALL-DAY 4 TEAM

Cleanthony Early, Wichita State

The All-American candidate played like one, dropping 31 points and hitting big shot after big shot with the game on the line against Kentucky. You would have loved to have seen him get a touch on the game's final possession, but the Cats weren't going to let that happen.

Jarnell Stokes, Tennessee

Predictably, Mercer had no answer for the Volunteer big man, who finished with 17 points and 18 rebounds.

DeAndre Kane, Iowa State

Put the Cyclones on his back with Georges Niang out and scored 24 points, including the game-winning basket with 1.6 seconds left.

Andrew Harrison, Kentucky

Despite injuring his wrist near the end of Kentucky's win over Kansas State, the freshman point guard scored 20 points and hit some crucial free throws down the stretch.

Thomas Walkup, Stephen F. Austin

The sophomore guard scored 22 points and snagged 11 rebounds, but it wasn't nearly enough to keep the Lumberjacks dancing.

3 SUNDAY JEERS

1. The end of the Iowa State/North Carolina game

We've already discussed what happened, but it's just such a shame that a totally unforgivable error in the final 1.6 seconds of a game can taint what was otherwise destined to be one of the best contests of the whole tournament.

I'm just blown away by the fact that college basketball continues to have clock issues on such a consistent basis. There are video game systems that will do things for you when you talk to them now. You would think the clock problems would have been solved.

2. Trolling Missouri Twitter account

I don't see how you can hate from outside the tournament. You can't even get in. Leggo.

3. The constant shots of the crying Kansas kid on CBS

And really shots of crying fans in general. We get it, a team is losing and there are supporters of that team who are sad. The constant visual reminders are no longer necessary.

3 SUNDAY CHEERS

1. Kentucky-Wichita State

Yes, it deserves yet another mention. It was that good.

2. Jarnell Stokes sporting Google Glass during postgame interviews

I see lots of talk about and pictures of people wearing these for various things, but I've never actually seen anything come out of the experience. Still, they look funny and make me laugh, so I'm cheering them.

3. The Stanford band

Regardless of whether or not they actually smuggled booze into the Scottrade Center with their tubas, they are awesome. This is just one example.

BEST DUNK

A few solid choices out there, but it's hard to go anywhere other than this Cleanthony Early cram.

Shockdunk

BEST IMAGE

Another situation where "best" feels like the wrong word, but all the feels for this shot of the McDermotts embracing one last time as coach and player.

THREE NOTABLE SUNDAY QUOTES

1. "You all understand this was an Elite Eight game, right? The winner of this should've gone to the Final Four." --John Calipari

2. "I'm sad for our team, and I'm sad for him. It wasn't our day, and it wasn't his day today." --Bill Self on Andrew Wiggins and Kansas' loss

3. "It's nice and it's a big accomplishment, but they don't hang Sweet 16 banners up in Pauley Pavilion." --UCLA guard Kyle Anderson

THE WEEK AHEAD

Everybody breathe. You're going to need that air in four days.

THURSDAY, MARCH 27 (7:00 PM-12:00 AM, ET)

Tip (ET)

Network

Site

Game

Play-by-Play/Analyst//Reporter

Producer/Director

7:15 p.m.

CBS

Memphis I

Stanford vs. Dayton

Kevin Harlan/Len Elmore/

Reggie Miller//Rachel Nichols

Craig Silver/Mike Arnold

7:47 p.m.

TBS

Anaheim I

Wisconsin vs. Baylor

Marv Albert/Steve Kerr//

Craig Sager

Scott Cockerill/Lonnie Dale

After conc. I

CBS

Memphis II

Florida vs. UCLA

Harlan/Elmore/Miller//Nichols

Silver/Arnold

After conc. I

TBS

Anaheim II

Arizona vs. San Diego State

Albert/Kerr//Sager

Cockerill/Dale

FRIDAY, MARCH 28 (7:00 PM-12:00 AM, ET)

Tip (ET)

Network

Site

Game

Play-by-Play/Analyst//Reporter

Producer/Director

7:15 p.m.

CBS

Indianapolis I

Michigan vs. Tennessee

Jim Nantz/Greg Anthony//

Tracy Wolfson

Mark Wolff/Bob Fishman

7:27 p.m.

TBS

New York I

Iowa State vs. Connecticut

Verne Lundquist/Bill Raftery //Allie LaForce

Bob Mansbach/Suzanne Smith

After conc. I

CBS

Indianapolis II

Louisville vs. Kentucky

Nantz/Anthony//Wolfson

Wolff/Fishman

After conc. I

TBS

New York II

Virginia vs. Michigan State

Lundquist/Raftery//LaForce

Mansbach/Smith

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.