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Five Things: NCAA Tournament Opening Weekend

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Devin Oliver #5 of the Dayton Flyers reacts after defeating the Syracuse Orange 55-53 in the third round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament (credit: Elsa/Getty Images)

Devin Oliver #5 of the Dayton Flyers reacts after defeating the Syracuse Orange 55-53 in the third round of the 2014 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament (credit: Elsa/Getty Images)

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By Andrew Kahn

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Thursday Thrillers

Playing hooky last Thursday would have been a good idea for any college basketball fan. Four NCAA Tournament games went to overtime, setting a one-day Tournament record: Connecticut beat St. Joseph’s; St. Louis rallied from a 14-point deficit with five minutes left in regulation to force overtime and win against North Carolina State; North Dakota State hit a late three to tie the game and then beat Oklahoma in an extra session; and San Diego State collapsed in the final minute of regulation but beat New Mexico State in overtime in the last game of the night.

Friday: Not Bad Either

While Day Two of the Tournament was not as exciting as Day One, it had its share of unexpected outcomes. The first game of the day was a stunner, as 3 seed and heavily favored Duke lost to 14 seed Mercer 78-71. The Bears shot 55 percent from the field, allowing them to withstand Duke’s 15 made three-pointers (in a whopping 37 attempts) and 16 offensive rebounds. Jabari Parker shot 4 for 14 and finished with 14 points. This was Duke’s third loss to a double-digit seed in the opening round since 2007 (losses to 15 seed Lehigh in 2012 and 11 seed VCU in 2007). Meanwhile, VCU led by 10 with five minutes left against Stephen F. Austin but lost 77-75 overtime. VCU missed four free throws in the final 32 seconds of regulation and allowed a game-tying four-point play with three seconds left. In overtime, VCU missed an open three at the buzzer that would have won it.

Wichita’s Perfect Season Comes To An End

John Calipari said it felt like a regional final, and it sure looked that way to viewers. The reality, however, is that 35-0 Wichita State couldn’t make it out of the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, falling to Kentucky 78-76 on Sunday. It was a back-and-forth game throughout, with both teams playing well. Wichita got the last shot, a decent look from star point guard Fred VanVleet from the top of the arc that would have won it, but it clanked off the rim as time expired. Cleanthony Early finished with 31 points on 12 of 17 shooting, while Ron Baker scored 20. For Kentucky, this was the best offensive performance against Wichita this season. Julius Randle, who tallied 13 points and 10 rebounds, is the last of the heralded freshmen still standing (Parker, Andrew Wiggins, and Tyler Ennis are out).

The Other 1s Roll

Wichita is the only 1 seed that has been eliminated. While the other three had some shaky moments in their opening games, they dominated in the second round. Florida beat Pittsburgh 61-45; Virginia led Memphis by 15 at half and won 78-60; and Arizona dominated from the tip against Gonzaga and won 84-61. All will face dangerous four seeds in the Sweet 16.

Cinderella Stories

By far the most unlikely Sweet 16 matchup is Dayton-Stanford. The 11 seed Flyers started Thursday’s madness by beating Ohio State 60-59. The in-state matchup was a thriller, as Georgetown transfer Vee Sanford hit the game-winner over Aaron Craft with 3.8 seconds left. Craft’s buzzer-beater rimmed out. Jordan Sibert, who started his career at Ohio State, scored nine for Dayton, which beat Syracuse 55-53 on Saturday to reach the Sweet 16. Since Feb. 1, the Flyers have only lost two games, both to St. Joe’s. They will face 10 seed Stanford, which got off to a great start against New Mexico and held on for a 58-53 win. The Cardinal pulled off a huge upset of 2 seed Kansas on Sunday, winning 60-57 behind Chasson Randle’s 23 points. Stanford has advanced because of its defense, which has limited both opponents to their second-worst offensive outputs of the season.

Andrew Kahn is a contributor to CBS Local Sports who also writes for Newsday and The Wall Street Journal. He writes about college basketball and other sports at AndrewJKahn.com. Email him at andrewjkahn@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn

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