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Best of the NCAA tournament, Day 3: Dayton dazzles, Villanova fizzles

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1. The Sweet 16 will have at least one double-digit-seeded darling. Eleventh-seeded Dayton, which was 1-5 in the Atlantic 10 only eight weeks ago, continued its late-season surge by toppling third-seeded Syracuse 57-55 to advance to the second week of the tournament for the first time in three decades. Tyler Ennis had two chances to rescue Syracuse in the final seconds, but both his potential go-ahead jump shots missed the mark. With Trevor Cooney mired in a month-long shooting slump and not enough scoring support for Ennis and C.J. Fair, the Orange lost six of nine to end the season after starting 25-0.

2. The other underdog to reach the Sweet 16 did so via an "upset" that didn't really feel like an upset. Shabazz Napier shook off a bruised shin to score a game-high 25 points as seventh-seeded UConn cruised past second-seeded Villanova 77-65 to set up a Sweet 16 matchup against either North Carolina or Iowa State at familiar Madison Square Garden. There will be frustration at Villanova because of the Wildcats' lack of postseason success the past two weeks, but realistically, this team overachieved dramatically to be in contention for a No. 1 seed leading up to Selection Sunday. UConn had more talent, especially on the perimeter, and it showed.  

3. It was a good day to be a national title contender because most of the top teams handled their round of 32 matchups with ease. Florida squeezed the life out of Pittsburgh with its defense. Louisville wore down Saint Louis. And Michigan's 3-point barrage buried Texas. The only popular championship pick that endured a scare was Michigan State, which trailed Harvard by a point late in the second half after a go-ahead corner 3-pointer from Laurent Rivard. The Spartans kept their composure, regaining control thanks to threes from Travis Trice and Gary Harris en route to an 80-73 victory.

4. This was supposed to be a transition year for San Diego State since the Aztecs lost Jamaal Franklin and Chase Tapley, returned no double-digit scorers and won't get a top-10 recruiting class on campus until next fall. Instead San Diego State has not only sustained its recent success but exceeded it, capturing the Mountain West regular season title and reaching the program's second Sweet 16 in four years. Xavier Thames was the hero of the Aztecs' 63-44 rout of North Dakota State on Saturday. He scored 30 points and dished out six assists to send San Diego State to the geographically friendly Anaheim regional.

5. In Bo Ryan's otherwise ultra-successful tenure as Wisconsin coach, the Badgers have only advanced past the Sweet 16 once. If they're going to do it for the first time since 2005 next week, it will probably be because of their offense. Ben Brust buried a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:09 to play Sunday night as Wisconsin rallied from a 12-point halftime deficit and defeated seventh-seeded Oregon 85-77. The second-seeded Badgers advance to the Anaheim Regional where they will meet either Creighton or Baylor in the Sweet 16.

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Click the image above to see the best fan photos of the day.

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"I think if I got to know President Obama and he did an executive order, maybe an amendment somehow, we could get Kentucky to our place.  But short of that I don't think it is going to happen." -- Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall on the idea of a home-and-home series with Kentucky. The undefeated Shockers will meet the Wildcats on Sunday in Saint Louis in the marquee game of the opening weekend. 

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Dayton's mascot poses for photographs before the Flyers' big win (AP)

Check out more NCAA tournament coverage on Yahoo Sports:

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

 

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