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NCAA Tournament 2016: Best and worst of everything from Day 1

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If you missed anything from the opening Thursday of the NCAA Tournament, we've got you covered.

After a historically unpredictable regular season and one the most memorable opening days in tournament history coming a year ago, it's not a stretch to say that more pressure than ever was on the first Thursday of the Big Dance to produce a quality product.

It's become nearly a yearly occurrence that if a No. 15 seed doesn't beat a 2 within the first four hours of the tournament, the sports world immediately starts in with the "I thought it was supposed to be 'March Madness'" talk. While there may not have been a halfcourt buzzer-beater or a Ron Hunter falling out of his chair moment, for the most part, the first day delivered.

Day one of the NCAA Tournament is always better than just about every other day on the sports calendar, and the 2016 edition was no different. Over the course of about 12 hours we saw double-digit seeds advance, a couple of real high quality finishes, one of the best postgame interview moments in recent history and all the other highlights and lowlights you'd expect from March Madness.

Here's everything you need to know about what went down on Thursday.


1. (12) Arkansas-Little Rock 85, (5) Purdue 83 (2 OT) (Midwest)

For almost 36 minutes, nothing happened in Purdue-Little Rock to warrant mention on this list, let alone sit in the top spot. The Boilermakers had been, and remained, in complete control, holding a 14-point lead with 4:06 to play that was making certain writers who had all-but-guaranteed a UALR victory feel more than a little foolish.

Then, everything went wrong for Purdue. Like, everything. Some of it was self-inflicted, some of it was bad luck, and some of it was simply the Little Rock players making plays you had to tip your cap towards, but none of it was in accordance with the previous 35 minutes or the Boilermakers' overall plans.

A furious Trojan really ended up with Purdue electing not to foul with a three-point lead, and allowing Josh Hagins to hit the shot of the tournament so far.

That shot came after a previous three-pointer from Lis Shoshi that took as odd a bounce on a corner three as you're ever going to see before falling straight down and through the hoop. Shoshi also did some sort of Jedi mind trick to get his right foot safely behind the three-point line.

Purdue then bafflingly failed to advance the ball up the court to take a final shot in regulation, neglected its future NBA big man (A.J. Hammons) for two overtimes and had an atrocious final possession when they still had a shot at snatching a victory in the final seconds.

Ultimately it was both the day's most exciting contest, and one of the most bewildering late-game collapses that we've seen from an opening weekend tilt in quite some time.

2. (9) Providence 70, (8) USC 69 (East)

Some ugly possessions, a botched defensive set and a host of missed free throws in the game's closing stages have pretty much overshadowed the fact that for 38 minutes or so, this was the most entertaining game that Thursday had to offer.

The fast pace of play was predictable, but it was the quality of the shot making from both sides that was a bit surprising, even with Providence superstar Kris Dunn sidelined with foul trouble for much of the night.

In the end, however, it's going to be USC's inability to put the game away, and this was final basket by Rodney Bullock with under three seconds to play that people are going to remember.

The basket gave Providence its first NCAA Tournament victory since God Shamgod carried the Friars all the way to the Elite Eight back in 1997.

3. (12) Yale 79, (5) Baylor 75 (West)

The first double-digit seed to advance in 2016 also happened to be the upset game that everybody you know who filled out a bracket had pegged, but that didn't make it any less exciting or enjoyable.

The Yale Bulldogs hadn't beaten an AP Top 25 team since 1952, and hadn't won a game in the NCAA Tournament ever before Thursday. That changed thanks in large part to Makai Mason's career-high 31-point performance, which included a perfect 11-for-11 effort from the free throw line.

Unlike Thursday's other 12/5 upset, Yale pretty much controlled this game for the entirety of the second half, leading by as many as 13 points before Taurean Prince carried Baylor back to within one at 76-75. After a free throw from Nick Victor, the Bears had one final shot to tie the game or take the lead, but Lester Medford slipped while attempting to make a cut and turned the ball over.

It was a fitting ending for a Baylor team that did everything you're not supposed to (more on that later) when looking to avoid a second straight first-round upset at the hands of a double-digit seed. Scott Drew's Bears, if you remember, were stunned by 14th-seeded Georgia State on the tournament's opening Thursday a year ago.

4. (9) Connecticut 74, (8) Colorado 67 (South)

Unlike Providence-USC, this was more of the "competitive rock fight" style that were used to seeing from the so-called 8/9 death game.

Connecticut went into halftime down 35-27 after quite possibly the worst half a team has ever played when only trailing by eight at the break. They shot 33.3 percent from the field and 27.3 percent from beyond the arc, and had just four assists to five turnovers, the statistical result of an offense that seemed incapable doing anything more than standing around for 25 seconds before hoisting a desperation shot.

Kevin Ollie's team, as it has been known to do, flipped the script in half No. 2. They attacked Colorado's overmatched guards on one end of the court and attacked the paint on the other, finishing a beautiful 22-of-23 from the charity stripe. The result was a 24-6 run that left UConn with a seemingly insurmountable 13-point lead with just 3:05 to play.

Then, Kevin Ollie's team, as it has been known to do, had to make things interesting. Colorado scored nine consecutive points and ultimately got to within a single possession at 66-63 before the Huskies buried eight free throws in the game's final minute to salt the victory away.

People love pointing out that UConn was on the ropes in its 2014 tournament opener against Saint Joseph's before its magical run kicked into high gear. Could this, on the heels last week's crazy AAC tournament title run, be the start of something similar? Beat Kansas on Saturday and then we'll really discuss it.

5. (4) Duke 93, (13) UNC Wilmington 85 (West)

Miami-Buffalo could have just as easily slid into this slot since it was pretty much the exact same game, but we'll give it to Duke-UNC Wilmington since it was the first tip of Thursday afternoon and it did a sufficient job of keeping us all entertained.

Carrying a 43-40 lead into halftime, UNCW appeared poised to join the ranks of American heroes like Lehigh and Mercer. But alas, a mighty performance from a mask-less Marshal Plumlee along with some heavy-duty work from the free throw line deprived the country of celebrating a Duke upset.

Plumlee finished with a career-high 23 points on 9-of-10 shooting from the field. The only Blue Devil to give a better shooting performance in a tournament game? Christian Laettner's famous 10-for-10 effort in the 1992 East Regional final. Duke's current version of Laettner, Grayson Allen, also had a monster afternoon, finishing with 23 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.


1. Indiana

After an extremely disappointing one-and-done performance in the Big Ten Tournament, an Indiana team that people had already seemed skeptical of immediately became a trendy upset pick when the brackets were revealed Sunday evening. It was understandable given that the Hoosiers' biggest weakness all season had been their propensity for turning the ball over, and their first-round opponent had built its sparkling 29-5 record largely by forcing turnovers on 20.3 percent of its opponents' possessions.

Despite that seemingly lethal mixture, IU managed to dodge the upset bullet that hit both of its fellow No. 5 seeds on Thursday, connecting on 37-of-57 field goal attempts and running away with a 99-74 victory that never appeared to be in doubt. Yogi Ferrell had 20 points and a season-high 10 assists to lead the onslaught, while Bloomngton hero of the hour O.G. Anunoby chipped in 14 points.

This is the final tournament run for Ferrell, who tied former teammate Jordan Hulls for the most all-time games played in Hoosier history with 135. If he wants to have a shot at getting the Hoosiers past the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2002, he'll have to give yet another stellar performance against a Kentucky team that may have the best backcourt in the tournament.

2. Kentucky

Speaking of those Wildcats, they guaranteed that Saturday's border battle would take place by seeing Indiana's 25-point victory and raising it by three.

Kentucky blocked an NCAA Tournament record 15 shots against a Stony Brook team that quickly discovered points in the paint against the Wildcats were going to be tougher to come by than they had been against their competition in the America East. Three-time conference Player of the Year Jameel Warney finished his college career with a 23-point effort, but it took him 21 shots to get there.

Though the game was well in hand for almost the entirety of the 40 minutes, Kentucky fans couldn't have felt good about the fact that the Cats shot just 32.4 percent from the field in the opening half. Those fears were quickly quieted by a second half in which UK shot a blistering 75.9 percent and in which Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray both settled down and got into a rhythm.

3. Kansas

Yeah, I'm putting an overall No. 1 seed that dispatched of an 18-17 No. 16 seed in here over the likes of Iowa State and Wichita State. The reason? The Jayhawks became the first team to hit triple digits in the Big Dance in four years with their 105- 79 win over Austin Peay. Need more? They also advanced to the Round of 32 for a 10th straight year, which is easily the best active streak in college basketball.

We all want to see big points over the course of these three weeks. I'm just attempting to reward that type of behavior early on so that it will hopefully continue.


1. Arizona

Sure, Wichita State winning its second game in three days wasn't exactly a stunner, and sure, everyone was well aware that this Arizona team wasn't of the caliber of the last two that Sean Miller has taken to the dance. Still, the way the Wildcats went out without much of a fight on Thursday night was awfully surprising, and more than a bit disappointing.

Arizona's point total in the 65-55 loss was its lowest of the entire 2015-16 season, and it also snapped a streak of 40 consecutive NCAA Tournament games in which the Wildcats had scored at least 60 points. One more 60+ point performance would have made 'Zona's streak the longest in college basketball history.

2. Seton Hall

The Big East Tournament champions didn't exactly get the world's best draw, but their performance in Thursday night's final game wasn't in line with anything we've seen from the Pirates over the past three weeks. Kevin Willard's guys shot just 32.8 percent from the field, including just 27.3 percent in the first half, and often appeared to lack composure in their 68-52 loss to 11th-seeded Gonzaga.

Seton Hall advanced to the big dance for the first time in a decade thanks to its highly talented group of sophomores, but the fact that the Pirates were the youngest team playing in the Denver regional was painfully apparent on Thursday. SHU players made silly turnovers, assisted on just eight made shots and missed 13 of their 21 attempts from the free throw line.

If all of those sophomores return to Jersey for another run, then the Hall could easily be back here next year enjoying a very different result. If one or two of those guys decide to bolt, however, the group's lone effort in the Big Dance is going to forever linger as a disappointing one.

3. Purdue/Baylor

Plot twist: The Bears and the Boilermakers were secretly the same team this whole season.


Makai Mason, Yale

The sophomore guard sparked the tournament's first major upset with a career-high 31 points that included an 11-for-11 effort from the free throw line.

Georges Niang, Iowa State

Niang wasn't going to let his final NCAA Tournament run end the way his penultimate one did, scoring 28 points to go along with six rebounds and three assists in Iowa State's 94-81 win over Iona.

Domantas Sabonis, Gonzaga

Gonzaga's force in the middle showed why he's a likely first-round pick with a dominant 21-point, 16-rebound effort against Seton Hall.

Josh Hagins, Arkansas-Little Rock

Hagins dropped 31 points, hit the shot of the tournament so far, and outscored Purdue 21-20 by himself in the final 15 minutes of the Trojans' upset win.

Marshall Plumlee, Duke

The man in the middle for Mike Krzyzewski was the difference in the second half against UNCW, finishing with a career-high 23 points to go with eight boards and three blocks. Use up all those "there's always a Plumlee at Duke" one-liners while you still can.


1. Purdue's synchronized pain

Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

2. Yale's pure joy

Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

3. Ron Baker's hair celebrates a ninth NCAA Tournament win

It's crazy to think that the only season in which Baker and Fred VanVleet failed to win multiple games in the Big Dance was a season where they lost a total of one game.


1. Baylor's complete lack of composure

Baylor held a clinic Thursday on how not to shake a stigma. The Bears came out with little urgency despite having been upset by a No. 14 seed in the first round last year, they committed silly turnovers, they picked up a silly technical and their two best players got into it on the sidelines in the middle of the second half.

Remarkably, things didn't end well for the Bears.

This would have been an embarrassing exhibition from any team in the tournament, but the fact that it came from a senior-laden team that had been here before just made it all the more disappointing.

2. Isaiah Whitehead

The Seton Hall sophomore has been one of the best players in college basketball over the last month, but the Brooklyn product did not give his best performance under the brightest of lights on Thursday. Whitehead misfired on 20 of his 24 field goal attempts and tied an NCAA Tournament record by going 0-for-10 from behind the three-point line.

If this was his final collegiate performance, it certainly wasn't one that he'll look back on fondly.

3. Sean Miller's sweaty shirt

I'm not saying an undershirt would completely solve this problem, Sean, I'm just saying it might alleviate the issue enough to make it a worthwhile investment on your end.

Miller did change shirts at halftime, but the issue quickly resurfaced.

Until next year ...

4. The NCAA denying entry to Butler Blue III

For those unaware, Butler has two Bulldog mascots: a sort of crappy normal guy in a suit one, and a super awesome actual dog one.

See? Super awesome.

Because it apparently it goes against "protocol," the NCAA refused to allow super awesome Butler Blue III to enter PNC Arena for his team's game on Thursday. He proceeded to watch the Bulldogs' victory over Texas Tech from the team bus, and then completely trashed his hotel room in a blacked out rage hours later.

5. Everything Purdue did in the final two minutes of regulation against Little Rock

Almost exactly a year ago, the Boilermakers were in this spot under the title of "everything Purdue did in the final minute of regulation against Cincinnati." If Matt Painter and company have a monster lead with three minutes to go in the first round of the 2016 tournament, I wouldn't get overly confident.

The collapse also ruined what had been one of the strangest statistical trends of the season: Purdue had been 16-0 in games played on weekdays, and just 10-8 in games played on Saturday or Sunday.

BONUS JEER: This reporter's question:

That ... don't do that.


1. Taurean Prince's press conference answer

He may have drawn some negative press for his in-game confrontation with teammate Rico Gathers, but Taurean Prince's response to a bad postgame press conference question was an all-time classic.

For the sake of getting the full story, here's the complete exchange (via ASAP Sports):

Q. You said you got out-rebounded and I checked the stats; you did, 36-32. How does Baylor get out-rebounded by Yale? How does that happen?
TAUREAN PRINCE: They had more rebounds than us.

Q. You said you got out-rebounded, you did, 36-32. How does Yale out-rebound Baylor?
TAUREAN PRINCE: You go up and grab the ball off the rim when it comes off, and then you grab it with two hands, then you come down with it, and that's considered a rebound. So they got more of those than we did.

Yale, for what it's worth, has outrebounded its opponents by an average of 11.1 rebounds per game, the second-best margin in college basketball.

2. Kentucky's block party

The Wildcats' much-maligned frontcourt swatted an NCAA Tournament record 15 shots in the team's blowout win over Stony Brook. Six of those blocks went to freshman Skal Labissiere.

3. A sad Colorado cheerleader being comforted by the Colorado mascot

I think I speak for everyone when I say there's not enough mascot consolation in sports.

This is why we have March. It's also the antithesis of the nightmare dabbing Friar.

4. The First Four streak riding on

Wichita State's win over Arizona means that the First Four has produced at least one at-large team that has won at least one game in the main draw in every season since its inception in 2011. Four of those teams have gone on to advance to the Sweet 16, and one of them has crashed the Final Four.

Eventually, we'll stop brushing aside the at-large tilts in Dayton on the tournament's opening Tuesday and Wednesday as games that "don't matter."

5. The Yale and Arkansas-Little Rock locker room celebrations

This is the stuff, man. This is what draws us in every year.

BONUS CHEER: The return of the 12/5 upset.

Back with a vengeance after an 0-for-4 performance a year ago. At least one No. 12 seed had upset a No. 5 seed in 28 of the last 32 tournaments.


I'll be completely honest here, this was definitely not the best crop of day one dunks that we've ever seen. Still, we've got a few here that are worthy of your attention.

1. Shaquille Morris, Wichita State

This is about 30 percent for the actual dunk and 70 percent for the "go to sleep" celebration.

2. Julian Jacobs, USC

Assist here to Providence's lack of interest in playing any sort of defense.

3. Chris Flemmings, UNC-Wilmington



1. "I've been waiting 22 years to hit that shot." -- Arkansas-Little Rock's Jash Hagins on hitting the shot that sent the game to overtime on his 22nd birthday

2. "I didn't know what was going on, and I was praying just to make sure he was okay. So, yeah, it worked. I healed him." -- Virginia's Anthony Gill on head coach Tony Bennett's in-game collapse due to dehydration

3. "You're envious when you see a group of guys play that well together. Fred VanVleet, I told him after the game, please don't let anybody tell you you're not going to play in the NBA. We lived that last year with TJ McConnell. That guy will play in the NBA, and he'll be there for a long, long time. He's in total control of the game, and he's better on defense than he is on offense, and they have a two-guard who's kind of the same in Baker. And when you put those two guys out there together, considering the experience they have, it's not a good feeling playing against Wichita State. They're an excellent basketball team." -- Arizona coach Sean Miller on Wichita State

4. "I've watched. They're on every day, you know?" -- Providence coach Ed Cooley on if he's scouted North Carolina.

5. "We weren't nervous at halftime, we were just upset that we played a little bit tight in the first half. We were the ones being reactive instead of proactive, and you can't do that if you want to beat aggressive teams. It took us a while to get going, but once we did, we were fine." -- North Carolina's Marcus Paige on leading 16th-seeded Florida Gulf Coast by just one at halftime


That was enjoyable. I vote that we do it all again.

First-Round Games

Friday afternoon, March 18 (12-6 p.m. ET)

Tip (ET)





12:15 p.m.


St. Louis  I

Dayton vs. Syracuse

Brian Anderson/Steve Smith//Dana Jacobson

12:40 p.m.


Brooklyn  I

Villanova vs. UNC Asheville

Verne Lundquist/Jim Spanarkel//Allie LaForce

1:30 p.m.


Oklahoma City  I

Oregon St. vs. VCU

Carter Blackburn/Mike Gminski//Jaime Maggio

2 p.m.


Spokane  I

California vs. Hawaii

Spero Dedes/Doug Gottlieb//Ros Gold-Onwude

After conc. I


St. Louis  II

Michigan St. vs. Middle Tennessee St


After conc. I


Brooklyn  II

Iowa vs. Temple


After conc. I


Oklahoma City  II

Oklahoma vs. CSU Bakersfield


After conc. I


Spokane II

Maryland vs. South Dakota St.


First-Round Games

Friday evening, March 18 (6:30 p.m. ET-midnight)

Tip (ET)





6:50 p.m.


St. Louis III

Wisconsin vs. Pittsburgh


7:10 p.m.


Brooklyn III

West Virginia vs. Stephen F. Austin


7:20 p.m.


Oklahoma City III

Texas A&M vs. UW-Green Bay


7:27 p.m.


Spokane III

Oregon vs. Holy Cross


After conc. III


St. Louis IV

Xavier vs. Weber St.


After conc. III


Brooklyn IV

Notre Dame vs. Michigan


After conc. III


Oklahoma City IV

Texas vs. Northern Iowa


After conc. III


Spokane IV

St. Joseph's vs. Cincinnati