By Josh Cook
Whew what a Thursday!
The first day of the men's NCAA Tournament was one of the best in recent memory. Here is a brief look at some of the winners and losers of the first day of the Big Dance.
The fans - Three of the 16 first-round games went into overtime (one of those was a double OT game between BYU and Florida) and at least three other games ended with game-winning shots in the final seconds of regulation. Five double-digit seeds won games, led by 14th-seeded Ohio beating No. 3 seed Georgetown and 13th-seeded Murray State beating No. 4 seed Vanderbilt on a last-second shot. It was a great day for basketball fans, even if it wasn't a great day for brackets.
University of Kentucky - The Wildcats, the No. 2 overall seed in the tournament, played like a team very capable of cutting down the nets with their domination of East Tennessee State. Eric Bledsoe had a huge game (29 points) and UK did its best to dispel any doubt about its outside shooting by hitting 15 of 33 three-pointers.
Danero Thomas - The Murray State senior forward was money at crunch time, hitting a fadeaway shot at the buzzer to give the Racers a 66-65 upset over Vandy. It was easily the play of the day on the first day of the tourney and is one that is sure to show up again on CBS's "One Shining Moment" montage after the championship game.
Indiana University transfers - The Hoosiers didn't make the NCAA Tournament again this year as Tom Crean continues to clean up Kelvin Sampson's mess, but two former Hoosiers (who transferred after Sampson's ousting) had good days for a pair of double-digit seeded teams who advanced. Armon Bassett scored 32 points to lead Ohio in its upset of Georgetown. Meanwhile big man Ben Allen had six points and six rebounds as 10th-seed St. Mary's beat seventh-seeded Richmond. One other IU transfer, Jordan Crawford, will play today for Xavier as ex-Hoosiers try to go 3-0 in the tournament.
UK fans - Apparently a CBS mix-up caused local television viewers to miss the first few minutes of Kentucky's game against East Tennessee State. WLKY-TV ran a scroll across the bottom of the screen later during the game apologizing to fans for the flub and gave those who wanted to complain two numbers (both with New York area codes) to call and voice their displeasure. Also surprising was the number of empty seats at New Orleans Arena considering how well UK fans travel. The guess here is that Wildcat fans are probably saving their travel for the regional round of the tourney in Syracuse.
Big East Conference - The Big East had more teams (eight) than any other conference in the Big Dance. But the Big East went just 1-3 Thursday. The conference's only win was a narrow one as No. 2 seeded Villanova escaped the first round with a 73-70 overtime win over Robert Morris. That may not bode well for the University of Louisville, which plays California tonight in its first-round game.
Luke Harangody - The Notre Dame senior is the Big East's all-time leading scorer (UofL fans would probably say that half those points came against the Cardinals), but he had only four points (all late) in the sixth-seeded Fighting Irish's loss to 11-seed Old Dominion.
People who went with the better seeds in their office pools - Thursday was definitely a day of office pool bracket-busting. If you played it safe and took the better seeded teams - and in recent years that's been the best way to go - then your bracket took some serious hits because seven lower-seeded teams upset higher-seeded teams. But don't tear up those brackets just yet, we've got a long way to go.
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