On paper, the 2014 NCAA tournament featured a tough field and no shortage of story lines for basketball fans—Wichita State went into the tournament undefeated at 34-0, Florida was a favorite in many pools, a surging Louisville looked to defend its title from a tough draw and a No. 4 seed. But when it comes to the opening rounds of March Madness, anything is possible, and the tournament’s first full day didn’t disappoint.
Thursday brought enough comebacks, buzzer beaters and upsets to satisfy big-time basketball fans. A scrappy North Dakota State Bison squad played neck and neck with No. 5 seed Oklahoma, taking the Sooners into overtime, and ultimately shocking Oklahoma 80-75. Junior guard Lawrence Alexander scored 28 points to help the Bison to their first NCAA tournament win.
In another upset, Ivy League champion Harvard, playing as a No. 12 seed, took down No. 5 seed Cincinnati 61-57. Harvard never trailed after the game’s opening moments, and played tough down the line to earn a victory in two consecutive NCAA tournaments. Last year, Harvard, playing as a No. 14 seed, upset New Mexico.
But the opening round can’t be kind to every would-be Cinderella team. N0. 4 seed Louisville squeaked past Manhattan 71-64, after the defending national champs were down by three points with less than four minutes remaining in the game. Later, No. 5 seed St. Louis rallied from a 14-point deficit to come back and beat North Carolina State in overtime.
And then there was the buzzer-beater. After a missed three pointer with time expiring, Texas needed a last-second layup to put Arizona State out of the tournament.
Day 1 also saw strong teams taking care of business: No. 1 seed Florida handled Albany 67-55 and No. 2 seed Michigan had little trouble dispatching Wofford 57-40. The other half of the field takes to the court on Friday to close out the opening round of what has already been an exciting start to March Madness.
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