The final game of the night ended in very non-dramatic fashion as Syracuse crushed No. 13 Montana 81-34 to move on to the Round of 32.
There were a lot of other blowouts on the day, including wins by Arizona, VCU, Michigan, Louisville and St. Louis.
No.3 Marquette avoided a thrilling upset attempt from Davidson earlier in the day with a last-second layup to move on, but another 14 seed did pull the upset as Harvard dropped New Mexico with consistent play throughout the night.
Overall, it wasn’t the most exciting day of college basketball, but the tournament will surely pick up with plenty of excitement on Day 2. Check back in for our tournament live blog on Friday, too, to keep up with all the scores, upset alerts and more.
12:22 a.m.: It’s all over, folks. The smartest guys in the tournament — arguably, of course — have just pulled the biggest upset of the tournament thus far.
A big win for the boys at Harvard and a tough loss for No. 3 New Mexico. That was a totally unexpected turn of events on an otherwise uneventful day of basketball, and if you stayed up late enough to watch then you just witnessed maybe the game of the opening weekend.
Big props to Laurent Rivard (17 points), Wesley Saunders (18) and especially coach Tommy Amaker for a great job with this group. Now, the attention turns to No. 6 Arizona and Saturday night’s showdown in Salt Lake City.
12:16 a.m.: Saunders is cool as the other side of the pillow usually, but just had a big miss on that free throw.
Luckily, a good defensive stand gave the Crimson the ball back and a pair of free throws upcoming could extend that lead to seven. Only 24 seconds left, this could be it.
12:13 a.m.: How many timeouts can you have in one minute of play, seriously?
There have been about five timeouts in the past 1:00 of play. Let’s just let the kids get up and down the court and see who wins.
In the meantime, The Lobos cut the lead to four and there are about 48 ticks left on the clock. Let’s do this, Crimson.
12:10 a.m.: Harvard is still in the lead, but don’t start counting the Lobos out just yet.
Even up five with under 1:30 left in the game, New Mexico is starting to lock down on defense and just nailed a big three. Don’t be surprised if this comes down to one big, final possession from Harvard.
12:04 a.m.: What’s most impressive about Harvard’s potential upset over No. 3 New Mexico? They lost their two senior captains before the season even started.
This was supposed to be a down year for Harvard. Instead, they won the Ivy again and are up four points and three minutes away from a berth in the Round of 32.
11:59 p.m.: The lead is growing and the time is ticking away for New Mexico.
Harvard is deep in the midst of a potential upset, and they’ve extended their lead out to six with just over four minutes to play.
Rivard continues to make plays, scoring 17 points on the night, and Wesley Saunders is complementing him perfectly as the No. 14 Crimson are making a big push.
Can we say Roll Crimson? Yeah, let’s do that.
11:55 p.m.: If you’re a fan of underdogs, then you’ll love what’s going on over on TNT.
Harvard is in the middle of a dogfight with No. 3 New Mexico, leading them 55-53 with just over six minutes remaining. This one looks like it will be going down to the final minute, if not the final possession.
I’ll have all your updates as the game continues to progress, so be sure to keep it locked here for all your Crimson info.
11:52 p.m.: Another one is in the books down in Lexington, Kent.
Colorado State’s size finally proved too much for Frank Haith and Missouri, as the Rams outrebounded the Tigers 42-19 in what turned out to be an 84-72 win.
Dorian Green put on maybe the best individual performance of the tournament thus far with a 26-point showing to lead the Rams. He’ll be one to watch when they take on No. 1 Louisville on Saturday night.
11:49 p.m.: Harvard is still fighting the good fight for the Ivy League, but New Mexico has finally taken its first lead of the night.
The Lobos put together a nice run midway through the second half and have finally taken a two-point lead off the strong interior play of center Alex Kirk.
Laurent Rivard is still jacking up threes for the Crimson, but Harvard will need to reestablish its interior presence if they hope to stay in this down to the wire.
11:40 p.m.: It’s all over down South with VCU laying a shellacking on Akron with an 88-42 victory.
Daniels and Reddic combined for 44 points — more than Akron’s entire output, embarrassingly — and VCU took no prisoners in doubling up the Zips.
If Michigan wasn’t worried about VCU before, they better be locking down on some film and preparing for this full-court press all the way until the tip on Saturday night.
As for Cuse, they’re up 23 points on Montana at the half and look to have a win all but locked up.
11:31 p.m.: And just like that, Missouri has clawed their way back into this game.
Phil Pressey isn’t giving up on the Tigers’ NCAA hopes, and he’s led them on a 10-2 run to get them back within seven points of the Rams.
There’s still five minutes to play, but if Mizzou continues to stick on defense like this then Colorado State will be in some trouble.
11:25 p.m.: Harvard went into the half with a lead over New Mexico, and they’re holding firm with their defense-first philosophy.
The Lobos clearly have the talent advantage on the floor, but right now the Crimson are playing with a lot more determination and heart, even in the early going of this second half.
The lead isn’t enough to feel comfortable, especially against the Mountain West champs, but Harvard should at least be confident in they way they’ve shut down Tony Snell and the rest of the Lobos’ attack.
11:12 p.m : This just isn’t fair for either Akron or Montana right now.
For a pair of teams considered to be potential Cinderella sleepers, both are getting absolutely worked by their power conference counterparts tonight.
Syracuse has Montana down by double digits just 10 minutes into the game, and VCU has already doubled up the Zips and there’s still more than 10 minutes to play.
At least there’s some hope for Montana, but you’ve got to feel for Akron. At this point, what do you even have to play for? Devastating deficit.
11:00 p.m.: Mizzou is sticking around with Colorado State, Syracuse is up big on Montana early and VCU has all but wiped it’s hands of Akron already.
The big game right now is going on over in Salt Lake City, Utah where Harvard still has a four-point lead over New Mexico, 31-27, at the half.
Laurent Rivard is leading the way with nine points and Wesley Saunders and Christian Webster have combined for 12 points to help provide some assistance. But the defense has been the big key, holding the Lobos to just 35-percent shooting and just 1-for-6 from three.
10:52 p.m.: Missouri got off to a slow start in the first half, which was partially responsible for their nine-point deficit at the half. But they’ve exploded onto the scene in the second.
Phil Pressey has really taken advantage of the Rams’ defensive lapse and led the Tigers to a 5-0 run to start the half. Now, Mizzou is down just four and they look to be in good position to make a solid game of this heading down the stretch.
10:38 p.m.: Shaka Smart had his guys prepared for the tournament yet again, because VCU isn’t joking around with Akron.
The Rams head into the half with a 50-25 lead and are shooting a lights out 61 percent from the field. Their aggressive defense has also forced nine turnovers, which hasn’t made things any better for the Zips.
Unless something drastic happens, we are pretty safe to say this five seed won’t be packing up and heading home.
10:29 p.m.: Colorado State held firm through much of the first half and takes a nine-point lead over Mizzou into the half.
Green’s 17 points is arguably the best individual single-half performance in the tournament so far. We’ll see if Frank Haith has anything up his sleeve to slow Green down and get this offense going in the second.
Over on TNT, Harvard put on an early show against No. 3 New Mexico and holds an 11-6 lead over the Lobos with just over 10 minutes left in the half. It’s not quite “upset alert” worthy just yet, but it’s definitely something to keep track of.
10:18 p.m.: VCU isn’t messing around, they’re just taking it right to Akron.
Troy Daniels and Juvonte Redic have combined for 21 points so far and the Rams extended their lead out to 39-22, which should instill some fear in the 12th-seeded Zips.
As for out in the East, Mizzou has climbed back within reasonable striking distance and are slowly cutting into Colorado State’s lead ahead of the half. But Rams star guard Dorian Green is leading a highlight show with 15 points already on the night.
10:08 p.m.: It wasn’t pretty, but Cal pulled it out by the whiskers on their chin.
Both sides missed key free throws down the stretch, but in the end UNLV just made too many costly errors, as well as some bad luck from a terrible no-call from the officials, and the day’s second No. 12 seed advances on.
In other action, VCU is crushing Akron by double digits and Colorado State has extended a 13-point lead on Mizzou. Jumping in on that noise now.
10:00 p.m.: Cal is puking on themselves, and UNLV is running like the Rebels should.
Anything can happen. It is March after all.
9:54 p.m.: The flagrant-1 call benefited Cal in the first half, giving them a three-point play and giving them momentum heading into the half. But UNLV didn’t take advantage quite as well.
Now, the Rebels are down five with under a minute to go and it looks like Cal might pull this one off after all.
9:43 p.m.: Down in Salt Lake City, Arizona has put Belmont away for good.
The Wildcats broke the game open late in the first half and pummelled the Bruins in the second half en route to a 81-64 win. Mark Lyons led the way and the Cats followed.
Now, Zona will wait for the winner of the winner of the New Mexico/Harvard tilt for a showdown on Saturday.
But while the final set of Thursday’s games get underway, all eyes are still focused on a four-point game over in San Jose between Cal and UNLV.
9:41 p.m.: UNLV went an ice cold 0-for-15 from the field in the middle of the second half, but somehow they’re only down six with four minutes to go.
Mike Moser’s energy has helped power the Rebels’ attack, but the power of Cal’s Robert Thurman (eight points) has been too much on the interior to counter.
9:27 p.m.: When Mike Moser injured his elbow around midseason, there was doubt about his potential return. But even since his return, he hasn’t been quite the same.
Even with a little less firepower on offense, the Runnin’ Rebels are a different team when Moser is out there on both ends of the floor. He adds a defensive presence in the paint alongside Bennett and is a great distributor even if he can’t score quite as prolifically.
Moser needs to stay out there and steady things as Cal looks to extend their lead back out to a more comfortable spot.
9:15 p.m.: With two more games in the books and Arizona laying the smack down on Belmont, the best of the early night games is the showdown between Cal and UNLV.
A stalemate at the break, Cal has taken charge in the second half building a lead as big as eight. But the Anthonys, both Marshall and Bennett, have helped guide the Runnin’ Rebels back and are now within just a few points of the lead.
With Alan Crabbe in foul trouble (three), the Bears might need to be a little more conservative the rest of the way, too.
9:09 p.m.: It’s all over for the jumpin’ Jackrabbits of South Dakota State.
They kept pace with Michigan for the first half, but ultimately the B1G powerhouses turned on the jets behind Glenn Robinson III and Tim Hardaway Jr. and cruised to a 71-56 win.
Over in the Midwest, No. 1 Louisville cruised to an easy rout of 16th-seeded NC A&T with a 79-48 victory. Russ Smith led the way with 23 points and the Cardinals’ frisky defense forced 25 turnovers on the evening.
Next up for Michigan will be a meeting with the winner of the VCU/Akron game, while Louisville gets the winner of the Missouri/Colorado State showdown.
8:58 p.m.: Belmont kept things pretty close for much of the first half, but Arizona has really opened things up in the second.
The Wildcats have extended their lead out to 17 points (43-26) behind the solid play of Mark Lyons (12 points) and Kaleb Tarczewski (eight points, four rebounds).
Belmont is not a great three-point shooting team, either, so this one could be in the books soon if Zona doesn’t have a serious mental letdown.
8:45 p.m.: So, that didn’t last long.
Burke went off the court briefly and was deemed healthy enough to return. Now, he’s back on the floor and the Wolverines have jumped on top of the Jackrabbits, leading 57-45 with just over eight minutes left to play.
8:43 p.m.: Scary moment over in the Michigan-SDSU game.
Big Ten Player of the Year Trey Burke fell hard to the floor and seems to be in some serious pain after a tough rebound attempt.
Burke has been ice cold from the floor tonight, shooting just 1-for-10 from the field with four points, but he has been dishing out the assists (six) and playing solid defense to help guide the Wolverines.
If he is done for the game, or even out for a significant period, the Jackrabbits could be primed for a comeback and SDSU star guard Nate Wolters would be open for a major breakout.
8:37 p.m.: UNLV charged back offensively after a stagnant start to the game that included an 8-0 deficit, but at the half they’re locked into a slugfest with No. 12 Cal.
Richard Solomon and Pac-12 Player of the Year Alan Crabbe have steadied the attack for Cal, combining for 16 points. But the Runnin’ Rebels are using their own star power behind Bryce Dejean-Jones and Katin Reinhardt, totalling 18 points, to counter the Golden Bears.
If UNLV is expecting to pull out the victory, they’ll need some help from freshman phenom Anthony Bennett, who currently has just two points and four assists.
8:33 p.m.: That Arizona-Belmont tilt is officially at the halfway mark, and the Pac-12 powerhouse has bullied the Bruins into a bit of a hole.
The Wildcats extended their lead to 32-20 heading into the locker rooms and if you’re pulling for the No. 11 seed then you better be hoping for a major Zona letdown. If they keep playing anything like they did in the first half, this one will be over far before the final buzzer sounds.
8:28 p.m.: Michigan went into the half clinging to a four-point lead and is one bad run away from playing catchup. But the second half has been a very different story.
Glenn Robinson III has taken over on offense with the Wolverines’ first 11 points of the second half, prompting them out to a double-digit lead five minutes into the half.
Michigan is also playing better defense on the streaking Carlson, holding him scoreless so far in the second half and keeping the Jackrabbits at bay.
8:11 p.m.: One game we haven’t touched on just yet is the No.12 vs. No. 5 matchup out East.
Cal jumped out to an early 8-0 lead on UNLV, but the Runnin’ Rebels did exactly as their name would indicate nd charged back to take a one-point lead, 15-14, about halfway through the half.
Cal has as close to a home game as they could with them posted up in San Jose for the opening weekend, so they have a clear advantage. But the fifth-seeded Rebels aren’t at a grave disadvantage either with only about a five-hour drive separating them from their home court in Las Vegas.
So, home court shouldn’t be as much of a factor as it might seem, but there are definitely more Cal fans in the stands than UNLV faithful.
8:04 p.m.: South Dakota State was running all over the Wolverines early, but Tim Hardaway Jr. said “not in my state.”
Hardaway hit a few big threes and ended the first half with a team-high 12 points as Michigan hit the locker room with a 30-26 lead.
As for SDSU, Brayden Carlson has been lights out, shooting 6-for-8 from the field and leading the way with 16 of their 26 points.
If Michigan has any chance at holding off the Jackrabbits, Big Ten Player of the Year Trey Burke will have to be a little more effective than the two points and three assists he managed in the first half.
7:47 p.m.: Over on TNT, one of the tournament’s underdog favorites, Belmont, isn’t playing like the upset specialists they were billed to be.
The much more veteran Arizona squad has been bullying them early and often, and are building a good lead (11-4 at the 14:00 mark) which could force Belmont into a more wide-open game.
The Belmont Bruins may not be doing so hot just yet, but watch out because they’re tough and relentless. Oh, and speaking of Bruins, feel free to check in on the Boston Bruins here, seeing as they just dropped the puck up in Ottawa.
7:33 p.m.: The third slate of games on this lovely Thursday are underway and, as expected, No. 1-seed Louisville is off to a hot start against North Carolina A&T.
The Cardinals are up 25-7 with just under 10 minutes left to play in the first half.
Meanwhile, over on CBS, No. 4 Michigan is having a tough time with those pesky Jackrabbits from South Dakota State. Many experts pegged this one as a dangerous 4/13 matchup, and dynamic point guard Nate Wolters and Co. haven’t disappointed yet.
7:07 p.m.: A No. 16 may not have made history over No. 1 just yet, but we have found our annual No. 12 upsetting a No. 5 seed.
Oregon set the pace against Oklahoma State early on in San Jose, Calif., and they eventually pulled off the upset with a 68-55 win.
Damyean Dotson scored 17 points to lead the Ducks, but it was Arsalan Kazemi, who scored 11 and pulled down 17 rebounds, that really steadied the pace in the win.
Travis Ford, in his fifth season as Oklahoma State head coach, makes an early exit in the tournament for the third time with the Cowboys and could be feeling the pressure to break through next year.
The Ducks will move on to face St. Louis on Saturday afternoon, which should be a great defensive battle between two of the quickest growing programs in the nation.
6:50 p.m.: Southern had Gonzaga on the ropes right up until the end of their second-round matchup, but the No.16 seed just couldn’t pull it off.
The Zags pulled away in the final two minutes, hitting a deep three from the corner to extend the lead to four, and adding a pair of free throws to clinch the 64-58 win.
People across the county, maybe aside from the Great Northwest, were rooting for the first ever No. 16 seed to pull the upset, but in the end the Zags were just a little too tough for those pesky Jaguars.
Even without the win, you’ve got to love the effort from Southern and their drive all game long to make history. If you’re Mark Few, though, you’ve got to feel pretty silly for not doing a better job of scouting Southern. Teams are in the tournament for a reason, even if they are seeded so low.
6:10 p.m.: Gonzaga is better than Southern. There is no doubting that. However, the Zags have had some problems with Southern this afternoon, but it looks like the No. 1 seed is about to pull away.
Southern hasn’t scored in almost three minutes, and Gonzaga has pushed its lead to six midway through the second half. Unsurprisingly, Kelly Olynyk is having himself a nice game with 14 points and seven rebounds.
In the other game going on right now, Oregon isn’t showing any signs of letting Oklahoma State back into the game, and we could be looking at our seemingly annual 12-5 upset there.
5:55 p.m.: There were plenty of analysts who thought Oregon was a little underseeded as a No. 12 seed. Those people are looking pretty smart right about now.
The Ducks are all over No. 5 Oklahoma State right now, and Oregon has a 37-26 lead over the Cowboys at halftime.
5:40 p.m: Wow. March Madness is officially upon us.
Marquette scored 13 points in the final 1:33, and they have somehow come back to beat Davidson. Give Davidson credit for making it such a game, but in the end, it was Marquette who hit some big, big shots in the final minute. The fact that Davidson turned it over with just 5.6 seconds to play didn’t help, and that set the stage for Vander Blue to hit a layup with 1.0 second remaining.
5:35 p.m.: We’re still a long way from saying that Gonzaga is in real danger, but Southern has given them a game through 20 minutes. Gonzaga only leads 34-31 at the half, and they made a late run in the half to take the lead.
Marquette, however, may really be in trouble. They’re down by three with a minute to play. Jamil Wilson just hit a 3-pointer to pull the Golden Eagles to within three and make it a one-possession game.
5:05 p.m.: The 4:30-4:45ish games have tipped off, and we’re on upset alert already.
Granted it’s really, really early, but No. 16 Southern is already giving top-seeded Gonzaga some trouble early on. The Zags jumped out to an early 7-0 lead, but Southern weathered the storm, and they actually lead 19-16 in the early going.
Meanwhile, Davidson continues to give Marquette fits down at Rupp Arena. The No. 14 Wildcats just pushed their lead to four, which is enough to put Marquette on upset alert. They have struggled all day with Davidson, and it looks like that one is going to go down to the wire.
4:50 p.m.: For a while in the second half, it looked like Memphis was going to be in trouble. However, they were able to hold on and defeat a scrappy St. Mary’s team that showed no quit.
Saint Mary’s actually had a chance to win it at the buzzer. Eividas Petrulis hit a 3-pointer in the final seconds, and the Gaels then forced a turnover on the ensuing inbound pass. However, Matthew Dellavedova wasn’t able to convert what would have been a game-winning 3-pointer.
The Tigers won 54-52, and their two-point win means that game was the closest of the day so far. Five games have been completed, and the four games prior to Memphis-St. Mary’s were won by an average of 15.25 points.
4:35 p.m.: Memphis hasn’t made a shot in more than three minutes, and that has allowed St. Mary’s to get back into the game.
The No. 11 seed in the Midwest region trails 44-40 with a little more than four minutes, and they’re still very much in this game.
We’re still waiting on a couple of games to tip as well. Gonzaga and Southern will tip off in a few, as will Oregon and Oklahoma State.
Marquette trails Davidson by two at halftime.
4:15 p.m.: Pittsburgh couldn’t make shots. Because of that, their season is over.
The Panthers were rolled 73-55 by Wichita State in the tournament’s first “upset” with Pitt ranked No. 8 and the Shockers seeded No. 9.
4 p.m.: We’ve decided to move over to the Memphis-St. Mary’s game, the 6-11 matchup in the Midwest regional. It was all Memphis in the early going, but the Gaels narrowed the gap before halftime and opened the second half on a mini-run. You have to think, however, that the whole playing two days ago thing comes back to get them at some point.
Elsewhere, Saint Louis is all over New Mexico State (up 20 with 5:08 to play) while Pitt is just 2:07 from being put of its misery by Wichita State.
Marquette, who was having some problems early against Davidson, has battled back to take a one-point lead with about five minutes to play in the first half.
3:50 p.m.: You can go ahead and stick a dagger in Pitt.
The Panthers trail by 15 with 5:00 to play. If there was still 25 minutes to play they might not score 15 points with how their offense is playing right now. This is simply putrid.
In other Big East news, Marquette is struggling early on. They’re a trendy darkhorse pick, and the No. 3 seed in the East region trails by five a little more than 11 minutes into their game with Davidson.
Meanwhile, Memphis leads St. Mary’s by 10 at halftime.
3:40 p.m.: Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon said coming out of halftime that his team just needed to start making some shots.
They’re starting to do that maybe just a little bit more, but there’s still plenty of work to do. They just hit the 8-minute TV timeout, and they’re trailing 47-39.
The Panthers are shooting just 30 percent from the floor. That includes a real rough day from Tray Woodall, as the senior guard is just 1-for-9 from the floor with five turnovers. That’s not going to get it done.
3:29 p.m.: Davidson is revving things up against Marquette in Lexington, where the No. 14 Wildcats are spoiling for an upset.
St. Louis still has a comfortable lead in its opening game.
Pittsburgh, meanwhile has some work to do if it wants to avoid another early tournament exit. Jamie Dixon’s Panthers just haven’t been able to catch the Shockers despite the two teams having equally bad shooting numbers, turnovers and total rebounds.
The Shockers are up 41-31.
What Dixon can provide is one of those stellar coaching action shots that make us all remember why we love March. Keep it real, sir:
3:15 p.m.: Joe Jackson is just swatting shots out of the air over in the Memphis-St. Mary’s game. The Tiger got a nice piece of that ball, and Memphis is up 19-13.
Wichita State is still edging out Pittsburgh, 33-28, with 14:41 left in that game. It’s that time of the afternoon where you just have to pace yourself and know that the wild finishes are just around the corner. In the meantime, there’s always pickle rolls. Thanks, AT&T.
3 p.m.: Saint Louis is making good on the lofty expectations. The Bulldogs are up 29-16 going into the half. New Mexico will have to do the damage in this tournament, because New Mexico State does not appear to be up to the task.
Also, did you hear that Saint Louis got stuck in traffic on the way to watching the Selection Show on Sunday? The team watched its name get called from a Best Buy in New Jersey.
Memphis has an early 7-5 lead over St. Mary’s.
2:48 p.m.: The state of Indiana can breathe a sign of relief, and Bucknell fans can hope they don’t have to wait another seven years before returning to the Big Dance. Butler took care of things down the stretch and was just more stable when it counted. The Bulldogs win 68-56.
So, there won’t be an upset here to start the day, but a few good matchups are coming up right now. St. Mary’s could be due against Memphis, and Davidson tips off against Marquette in just 20 minutes.
Wichita State is at halftime right now with a 26-21 lead over Pittsburgh.
2:42 p.m.: There are 39.3 seconds left in this game, with Butler up 62-53. It will require a miracle for Bucknell to prevail, but it is that time of the year in college basketball.
Another game is set to tip off shortly on CBS. At 2:45, St. Mary’s, which got in via a play-in win, takes on 30-win Memphis in Auburn Hills, Mich.
2:36 p.m.: The Bison are going to have to start fouling. Rotnei Clarke just canned a huge 3 to put Butler up 56-45 with less than two minutes to go.
2:35 p.m.: It’s the 2:14 mark, and Butler is up 53-45. Bryson Johnson just nailed a 3 for Bucknell, but it may be too little, too late. He usually averages 11.1 a game.
Bucknell is putting on a press, but Butler’s guards are one of the team’s strengths. They’ve been solid handling the ball today and had just four turnovers to Bucknell’s nine.
In other action, Wichita State is up 22-21 on Pitt with the end of the first half nearing, and Saint Louis has an early 11-4 lead.
2:27 p.m.: Butler is getting a little bit of breathing room. After Bucknell challenged and took the lead for a bit, the Bulldogs’ defense has pulled Butler back into the game. Bucknell has missed its last six shots, and Butler leads 49-42.
Butler has been able to space the ball on offense and get some key rebounds. With just 2:59 left in this one, Bucknell has to get it within a couple of buckets if it wants to get back into upset mode.
2:15 p.m.: This Butler-Bucknell game is as good as advertised. Bucknell was relentless in its attack and has been getting big shots, but Butler won’t let them get away. The Bulldogs have stepped up on defense and hit some long-range shots to keep this game close.
Butler leads 43-42 with 6:08 to go. Joe Willman continues to be huge for Bucknell.
2:10 p.m.: Michigan State has just about finished off Valparaiso, but it’s true channel-changing time now. New Mexico State and Saint Louis are due to tip off in San Jose, and, as we detailed below, this could be a good one. New Mexico State has the 7-foot-5 Sim Bhullar, and Saint Louis is a team a lot of pundits (OK, couch fans) like heading into this year’s tourney.
The Bucknell-Butler game has been great, and Wichita State and Pitt are in a low-scoring contest early.
2:05 p.m.: Here come the Bison. Bucknell had trailed since eight seconds into the game, but the Bison just went ahead of Butler 32-31. Cameron Ayers nailed a 3-pointer right after that to put Bucknell up 35-31 with 10:56 left in the game.
Joe Willman is shooting a torrid 8-for-12 for Bucknell for 16 points. He also has four rebounds.
1:55 p.m: Butler is getting a challenge from Bucknell in the second half. The Bulldogs are 0-for-10 on 3-pointers, and Bucknell has chipped within 29-26 at the 15:10 mark. The Bison went on an 8-0 run.
Butler is 12-for-34 (35.3 percent) from the field overall.
1:50 p.m.: Carl Hall is, indeed, dreadlock-less. He just popped in a free throw, and it’s a different look for the player who’s become synonymous with his one-of-a-kind ‘do.
Meanwhile, game-action-wise, Wichita State and Pittsburgh are playing even early. The Shockers are up 7-5 at the first commercial break.
Michigan State is up 52-31 and should have no problem polishing this one off and gearing up for the next round.
1:42 p.m.: Wichita State and Pittsburgh have tipped off, and Wichita State, which has one of the best monikers in the sport — the “Shockers” — was told to “have fun” today. All right, then.
1:25 p.m.: Halftime. Michigan State and Valparaiso are coming out for the second half, and it’s perfect timing for the channel-flippers. Butler leads 21-14 going into the break, and Michigan State is still up 35-18.
In just 15 minutes, the third game will tip off between Wichita State and Pittsburgh. The biggest pregame news coming from there is that Wichita State senior Carl Hall has apparently cut his famous dreadlocks. Could this be the Shockers’ downfall, a la Samson?
1:18 p.m.: Nice! We have our first ball getting stuck on the hoop!
This was not your standard stuck-ball (which the commentators are calling a “net ball” — but, um, there’s no net involved).
This was a pretty solid way to get stuck — it wasn’t the usual wedge right in the corner between the rim and the hoop, but was rather a couple of inches up — more above the hoop than next to it.
Butler leads 18-14.
1:05 p.m.: OK, so when are we going to get to the point in the day when there’s no commercials — just every time you switch the channel, basketball is on? Two games isn’t enough to do it so far.
Michigan State is running away from Valpo, up 35-18 with 28 seconds in the half. We’ll probably keep our eyes in Lexington, where Butler leads Bucknell 13-10 with 7:12 to go.
1 p.m.: It’s been a long time — 2005, in fact — since Bucknell upset No. 3 Kansas as a No. 14 seed. The Bison would love another upset today, as a No. 11 seed to Butler’s No. 6.
But no one needs to be reminded that Butler knows a little about upsets, and, you know, going all the way to the title game two years in a row as a mid-major that no one knew about.
These upset specials unfortunately have to face each other in the first round this year.
12:50 p.m.: Butler and Bucknell have started over on truTV, and Butler’s up early. This should be a far more entertaining game than Michigan State-Valparaiso, and not just because Butler and Bucknell are such great March Madness teams. The 12:15er is just a slow defensive struggle right now.
Michigan State is starting to get some separation, going up 21-7 after a 13-4 run. It’s still a sloppy game, though (what else would you call that back-and-forth that ended with a Spartan slam — and had Verne Lundquist beside himself?).
Gary Harris leads Michigan State with six points, but Michigan State is shooting just 8-for-23 (34.8 percent). Valpo isn’t much better (4-fo4-16).
And yes, for those wondering, Valparaiso did make our Top 10 buzzer-beaters gallery. We’re going to make you click on it to figure out where Bryce Drew’s moment ranks.
12:31 p.m.: What do we think of Valpo’s mustard uniforms? We’ll accept any shade at this point, as long as it’s not Zubaz (those may be rearing their heads any minute now).
Valpo is staying even in this game so far, which is at 11:24 in the first half. On a few plays, the Spartans looked downright dominating, but the Crusaders have held them to an 8-8 tie in a game full of shoves and airballs.
12:15 p.m.: Tip-off! Valpo-Michigan State, here we go.
11:30 a.m.: Excited yet? Check out our Top 10 gallery of buzzer-beaters to get in the March Madness spirit.
11 a.m.: We’re just about an hour from tip-off, so let’s get looking at some matchups.
A few teams should have no problems with their opponent today, especially the top overall seed in the tournament, Louisville, and No. 1 Gonzaga. The Zags, in fact, could be the first mid-major to take the championship since UNLV in 1990, and the road to that hope starts today.
But here are a couple of games where things could get interesting. In the Midwest region, No. 11 St. Mary’s has been protesting about not getting a better berth. The Gaels made it in thanks to a Thursday night play-in win, and they may be due for an upset over No. 6 Memphis — although the under-the-radar 30-win Tigers could be as good as their record.
Another matchup to watch is No. 12 Oregon against No. 5 Oklahoma State. Some people think the Ducks should have had a better seed, and this will be their chance to prove it.
One upset to expect that really isn’t an upset, as it’s a No. 9 seed taking on a No. 8, is Wichita State vs. Pittsburgh. Pitt has a tendency to flame out early in the tournament, and Wichita State should be able to get the job done.
The other seeds should be expected to go down in order, even for the Massachusetts faithful hoping to see No. 14 Harvard topple No. 3 New Mexico. The Lobos are a great team this year.
While we’re talking New Mexico, let’s not forget New Mexico State. The Aggies are facing Saint Louis, a trendy pick, in the first round, but they’ve got 7 feet and 5 inches of a not-so-secret weapon in Sim Bhullar. The folks at Yahoo! Sports have an excellent story about Bhullar, so they can take it from here, but know this — he’s the kind of 7-foot-5 that can play, too.
He certainly looks 7-foot-5:
10 a.m.: Looking for some March Madness primers before settling into your couch for the next 12 hours? Check out our podcast.
9:30 a.m.: Here’s a complete rundown of today’s games. As usual, you’re going to have to bust out the channel guide and find truTV to see some of the games this afternoon.
12:15 p.m.: No. 14 Valparaiso vs. No. 3 Michigan State, CBS
12:40 p.m.: No. 11 Bucknell vs. No. 6 Butler, truTV
1:40 p.m.: No. 9 Wichita State vs. No. 8 Pittsburgh, TBS
2:10 p.m.: No. 13 New Mexico State vs. No. 4 Saint Louis, TNT
2:45 p.m.: No. 11 St. Mary’s vs. No. 6 Memphis, CBS
3:10 p.m.: No. 14 Davidson vs. No. 3 Marquette, truTV
4:10 p.m.: No. 16 Southern University vs. No. 1 Gonzaga, TBS
4:40 p.m.: No. 12 Oregon vs. No. 5 Oklahoma State, TNT
6:50 p.m.: No. 16 North Carolina A&T vs. No. 1 Louisville, TBS
7:15 p.m.: No. 13 South Dakota State vs. No. 4 Michigan, CBS
7:20 p.m.: No. 11 Belmont vs. No. 6 Arizona, TNT
7:27 p.m.: No. 12 California vs. No. 5 UNLV, truTV
9:20 p.m.: No. 9 Missouri vs. No. 8 Colorado State, TBS
9:45 p.m.: No. 12 Akron vs. No. 5 VCU, CBS
9:50 p.m.: No. 14 Harvard vs. No. 3 New Mexico, TNT
9:57 p.m.: No. 13 Montana vs. No. 4 Syracuse, truTV
8 a.m. ET: For sports fans, basketball enthusiasts and the common office worker alike, the most wonderful time of the year has come.
At 12:15 p.m., Valparaiso and Michigan State will leap after a jump ball at center court, and the best four days of sports TV will commence as the (real) NCAA Tournament begins. While North Carolina A&T took care of Liberty and St. Mary’s knocked off Middle Tennessee on Tuesday night to get those teams into the pool of 64, the action that most people are interested in begins when No. 14 Valpo tries to take down the No. 3 Spartans at the Palace of Auburn Hills in Michigan on Thursday afternoon.
The opening day of tourney action has plenty to get excited about. Butler, which has gone from a Cinderella mid-major to appearing in the title game in 2010 and 2011, is back in the tournament and facing bracket-buster favorite Bucknell. Davidson, which has had some skill in March Madness dating back to the days of Stephen Curry, plays Marquette, and the 12th-seeded Oregon Ducks will try to prove that they were overlooked when they take on Oklahoma State.
California and UNLV wage a West Coast battle, Shaka Smart’s VCU looks to hold off Akron, and the Ivy League’s Harvard will try to make it out of the first round against a New Mexico team that some are predicting will go to the Final Four. The night wraps up with the always-good-in-March Syracuse Orange playing Montana.
But, aside from the actual games, the NCAA Tournament has much more to offer. Thursday also marks the beginning of bracket fun, where diehard fans try to out-perform their mother-in-law’s choices of mascots and team colors. Every year has its upsets and Cinderellas, and with no clear-cut favorites among the No. 1 seeds (Louisville, Gonzaga, Kansas, Indiana), a surprising team or two could make a run.
March Madness also means that college basketball fans will get to reunite with some of their favorite friends from this time of year. Rick Pitino will be stomping the sidelines and hoping not to flame out in the first round. Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams will be trying to keep their vaunted but shaky ACC teams from early exits. In the Big 10, coaches that resemble their mascots (here’s looking at you, Bo Ryan) are some of the most entertaining in all of sports. And, as annoying as Bill Raftery’s “little kiss” can be, it means March is here.
We’ll be back to break down more of the matchups as the morning goes on. Until then, power up the Internet, get your bracket ready and prepare to enjoy the best days that basketball has to offer. We’ll keep you in the loop here with news and updates as the day goes on.