**Today's Post was written by one of the newest contributors to ETSF, an old friend, The Reverend Paul Revere aka "The Rev". You can find him writing the critically acclaimed blog, The House That Glanville Built daily. Plus...its The Rev's birthday today! So do Ken and I a favor and wish him happy birthday and tell him to join Twitter! Enjoy the Day 1 recap!**
Murray State, Old Dominion, Ohio … to a lesser extent Washington and St. Mary's. Robert Morris almost toppling Villanova, Lehigh staying with Kansas for more than a half, Florida and BYU going into double overtime. These are the reasons we watch. These are the reasons the first weekend, the first day is so damn great. They amaze you. They excite you. They enthrall you.
Yesterday was one of the most memorable opening days in tournament history, and it didn't take long to capture everyone's attention. There we were, in the first slate of games, as we witnessed Robert Morris lead Villanova from start to not quite finish. Due to a minor teaching point about game preparation — word on the street is, Corey Fisher and Scottie Reynolds did not know an answer about the scouting report — Jay Wright sat his starting backcourt to start the first game of the NCAA tournament. Surely that would be no problem for the No. 2 seed against lowly No. 15 Robert Morris, right? Wrong.
Reynolds and Fisher never quite got on their game and struggled, all while Robert Morris stole the show. The world was re-introduced to freshman Karon Abraham, who led all scorers with 23 points and made spectacular play after spectacular, but in the end, it wasn't enough. Villanova was too deep, too battle-tested and too determined to come back. Reynolds, with his shot not falling (he went 2-15 from the floor), willed himself to the line, finally hit a big three, and finished with 20 points on 15-16 from the line. Mouphtaou Yarou provided an inside threat, and in the end, Robert Morris couldn't quite hang on, despite the four-point play, despite the steal, despite leading nearly the entire game. Nova came back, got Robert Morris's bigs in foul trouble, had a bunch of them foul out, and eventually hung on for a 73-70 overtime victory.
Overtime. It was a common theme. It took BYU two overtimes to outlast Florida … after Florida had a shot in regulation to win the game and the first overtime but came up short. Kenny Boynton and Chandler Parsons were no match for Jimmer Fredette and his 37 points. Yeah, 37 points — on 13-26 shooting. It made teammate Michael Loyd Jr.'s 26 points on 7-10 from the field look pedestrian. Like Reggie Miller dropping 40 in high school only to one-upped by sister Cheryl and her 105 points.
Then there was the fall of Notre Dame from the mighty Big East … which just wasn't quite mighty enough. Luke Harangody managed just four points, two of those coming on the final, meaningless bucket. Frank Hassell and ODU provided the first big upset of the day, but hardly the last.
The first slate of games were memorable, incredible, but this day will be known more Murray State and the shot. More for Ohio throttling Georgetown, bringing questions to the forefront about the big, bad Big East.
There's a good chance you didn't know a damn thing about Danero Thomas and Murray St. before yesterday. Less than 24 hours later, I bet that's all you can talk about. No doubt about, Thomas and his last-second, buzzer-beater to win the game and take down Vandy was the image, the play, the moment of the day. Thomas firmly planted himself in NCAA tournament lore, joining the Bryce Drews and Tyus Edneys and all the rest. It's a shot we'll be seeing in montages for ages. I was practically jumping out of my seat.
And while Thomas may have hit the shot of the day, no player was better than Armon Bassett of the Ohio Bobcats. Be honest, who even thought Ohio had a remote shot at defeating 3-seeded Georgetown. Even with Georgetown's Jekyll and Hyde season, no one could have seen this coming. I mean, Ohio finished 9th (9th!) in the MAC this season. It took a miraculous run in their conference tournament just to make the field. A 14 seed was actually generous. Meanwhile, the Hoyas were a top 25 team all season long and made it all the way to the Big East Championship game last week. This was no contest.
Well, yeah, it was. Ohio had no problems with Georgetown, disposing of the Hoyas 97-83 in a rout. And it was Armon Bassett who led the way: 32 points, 9-17 from the field, 5-10 from three, 9-10 from the line. The guy couldn't miss … and his teammates followed suit. D.J. Cooper had 23, and the Bobcats shot an absurd 58.2 percent for the game, 56.5 from three, 76.9 from the line. Ladies and gentlemen, we have your upset special.
And that's nothing to be upset about. Yesterday was exactly how this thing is supposed to be. Three games went to overtime. Five double-digit seeds prevailed. Seven lower seeds won. Seven games were decided by three points or less, nine by five or less. Hell, there were only five blowouts the entire day, and one of them was a 14 blowing out a 3.
I mean, so much incredible stuff happened that only now am I even mentioning Ish Smith and his game-winner versus Texas. That's absurd. On any other night, Smith's shot would have led Sportscenter. Now it's all the way at the bottom of the page. That's when you know it was a good day. (However, we are all waiting with baited breath to hear the reaction of the Texas faithful on this game. I'm looking at you B-Lew, E-Mill, and MattVic. -Ed.)
The NCAA Tournament got off to a bang, and there's only more to come. There were plenty of upsets, but there sure as hell wasn't anything to be upset about.
(By the way, I'm 1-1 on the upsets I called in the opening round. 3 more to go, Siena/Purdue, Oakland/Pittsburgh, and Houston/Maryland...am I nuts?)
WHAT WAS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT OF DAY 1? THOUGHTS ON ROBERT MORRIS GETTING ROBBED? WHAT'S GOOD WITH THE BIG EAST? WEIGH IN AND DISCUSS!
-Rev. Paul Revere