1. When NC State's BeeJay Anya scored a last-second basket in the lane to topple LSU on Thursday night, he didn't just cap the Wolfpack's rally from a 14-point halftime deficit. Anya also ensured the first day of this year's NCAA tournament would set a record for drama. Five of Thursday's 16 games were decided by a single point, the most in NCAA tournament history for one day. North Carolina also edged Harvard by two points on a late dunk by Justin Jackson, Arkansas slipped past Wofford 56-53 and Ohio State needed overtime to edge VCU 75-72. In all, there were eight games that finished with a one-possession margin on Thursday. March Madness, indeed.
2. The conference anointed as the nation's best since November didn't exactly validate its hype. The Big 12 went 0-for-3 on the opening day of the NCAA tournament, with two of the losses coming at the hands of No. 14 seeds. Third-seeded Iowa State endured a nightmare shooting night five nights after winning the Big 12 tournament and fell to unheralded UAB. Third-seeded Baylor surrendered the final 13 points against Georgia State and lost by one on a late R.J. Hunter 3-pointer. And Texas did what Texas has done the past three months — lose a close game against a quality opponent, this time 56-48 to Butler. The remaining four Big 12 teams open play tomorrow, and the league could really use a bounce-back day.
3. If Thursday was a nightmare for the Big 12, it was a dream for the oft-maligned Big East. Villanova, Butler, Georgetown and Xavier all won their opening-round games, giving the Big East a perfect 4-0 mark for the day. Maybe the most impressive win of the bunch belonged to Georgetown, a trendy upset pick given its recent NCAA tournament history and its potentially dangerous opening-round draw. The Hoyas built a 10-point lead by halftime against sweet-shooting Eastern Washington and extended it to as much as 23 seven minutes into the second half en route to a 84-74 victory.
4. If UCLA isn't America's luckiest team, the Bruins certainly have to be in the running. They made the main draw as a No. 11 seed on Selection Sunday when most mock brackets didn't even have them in the First Four. They edged sixth-seeded SMU by a single point Thursday when Bryce Alford's errant attempt at a go-ahead 3-pointer controversially resulted in a game-winning goaltending call. And as a result of that victory, they will meet 14th-seeded UAB in the next round and be favored to reach the Sweet 16. The Bruins beat the Blazers by 12 in the seventh place game of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament during Thanksgiving weekend.
5. Four teams seeded seventh or better fell on Thursday, but Iowa State's loss was the only one to have any impact on the national title picture. Every other championship contender won, mostly in emphatic fashion. Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson combined for 45 points as Arizona opened a double-digit lead in the opening minutes against Texas Southern and rolled to a 93-72 victory. All five Villanova starters scored in double figures as the Wildcats clobbered 16th-seeded Lafayette 93-52. And No. 1 overall seed Kentucky held overmatched Hampton to 28.8 percent shooting and cruised to a 79-56 win.
Notre Dame's Demetrius Jackson's got skills ...
"I saw him cannonball off his chair. I told him, they've got to get him a chair with a back or something because that wasn't going to work."
— Georgia State's R.J. Hunter on seeing his coach (and father) Ron Hunter fall off his rolling stool and to the floor after R.J.'s game-winning three-pointer against Baylor on Thursday
— Nicole Auerbach (@NicoleAuerbach) March 19, 2015
Northeastern's upset bid may have come up short against Notre Dame, but at least it'll always have the time their mascot danced to Blackstreet's "No Diggity."
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