Would it be hyperbole to classify yesterday as the most exciting day of the college basketball season to date? It wouldn't be all that hard to argue that it isn't. Butler recaptured the March Madness magic for a day, Morehead State sent Louisville packing, Richmond did what we all knew they could do while a team of future agents from Princeton almost defeated the players they might one day be representing.
It was a grand day for our friends outside the power conferences, turning in a 4-4 performance against those school's from the big six. Furthermore, not one top-eight mid-major seed lost yesterday with the Bulldogs coming the closest, needing a last second tip-in from Matt Howard to preserve a win. Sure the Old Dominion Monarchs go home prematurely, but how can the day be anything but a success? Jimmer had 32, Kenneth Faried turned in a monster effort on the national stage and Gonzaga produced to a degree that hearkened back to the days where the Bulldogs were higher than an 11-seed.
It's just the first of many exciting days to come. Follow along after the jump for more news and reaction from the day that was.
Kieran Darcy of ESPNNewYork.com: "Morehead State's Kenneth Faried was lying on the Pepsi Center floor, hands over his eyes, writhing around. If you didn't watch what had just transpired, you might have thought he was in agony. But the native of Newark, N.J., was feeling no pain. Rather, pure joy. It's just a dream, Faried thought. Did we really just beat Louisville? Did we really just make a statement for the NCAA and people around the world? Yes, it was a dream -- a dream come true. "It feels good to know that we kinda messed up some people's brackets," Faried said after the Eagles, seeded 13th, stunned the fourth-seeded Cardinals 62-61 Thursday in the second round of the NCAA tournament. "We quieted a lot of people and opened a lot of eyes." Louisville coach Rick Pitino was the one in pain after the game. "This is as tough a loss as I've had in coaching," he said, "and I've been coaching a long time."
C.L. Brown of the Louisville Courier-Journal: "The weaknesses that the University of Louisville men's basketball team compensated for all season came back to end its season in a 62-61 loss to Morehead State on Thursday in the NCAA Tournament. Rebounding again proved to be the barometer, with the Cardinals losing on the boards 41-29. They also were outscored 19-8 in second-chance points. "I never had any illusions about this basketball team - hard-nosed, tough-working group of guys who were fun to coach," U of L coach Rick Pitino said. "But we are what we are. We're just too small, and unfortunately it's hurt us on the backboard all year." It was the eighth time this season the Cards (25-10) were outrebounded in a loss. Seven times they escaped with wins despite being outrebounded, including at Connecticut, where the deficit was 15. Morehead forward Kenneth Faried, who had 17 rebounds and 12 points, showed why he leads the nation in rebounding. He had several offensive boards in the final five minutes of the game, including one after Demonte Harper missed a three-pointer with 31 seconds left."
Tim Layden of SI.com: "On the floor of one urban arena, a shot was made at the buzzer and a little piece of karma was earned. In the basement of another urban arena, a little more than 2,000 miles to the west, a professional basketball player -- not yet 21 years old -- vicariously lived the moment with his distant college teammates. The last time a Butler basketball player attempted a shot in an NCAA tournament game, it was Gordon Hayward's half-court heave at the buzzer of last year's national championship game, a toss that bounced off the backboard and rim and dropped to the floor of Lucas Oil Stadium, allowing Duke to hang on to a 61-59 victory. (In fact, the last two Butler shots in that game were Hayward's, before that a fadeaway 12-foot baseline jumper that was inches long). Thursday afternoon, the first afternoon of the full NCAA tournament, Butler again played in March Madness and again the game was decided by a shot at the buzzer. This time it was 6-foot-8 senior center Matt Howard (whose crushing screen on Kyle Singler had freed Hayward for his bomb last April), who dropped in an offensive rebound at the buzzer to give the Bulldogs a 60-58 victory over Old Dominion."
David Teel of the Daily Press: "No, fear wasn't the issue. Butler's 18 offensive rebounds and 28 points in the paint were. Among the most damaging: Six points and five offensive boards for reserve Garrett Butcher, who averages 1.6 points and 1.3 rebounds. After one unchallenged Butcher stickback, Taylor blistered the Monarchs during a timeout, and rightfully so. Butcher is 6-foot-7 and reed-thin, not some wide-body. "Their coach (Brad Stevens) did a great job scouting us," ODU guard Kent Bazemore said. "They found holes in our defense. They kind of us had us off balance all night." The Monarchs played mostly zone defense, baiting the Bulldogs into 26 attempts from beyond the 3-point arc. But those misses created long rebounds, to which ODU seemed a half-step slow throughout."
John Branch of the New York Times: "Richmond guard Kevin Anderson listed his height as "shoes on, 6 foot," but that did not stop him from playing the biggest role in his team's upset victory over Vanderbilt on Thursday. "I've been this size my whole life," he said. Anderson scored a game-high 25 points, including a clinching fadeaway basket with 18.9 seconds remaining, to lift the 12th-seeded Spiders to a 69-66 upset victory over No. 5 Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt, down by 3 with 2.8 seconds left and the ball at midcourt, inbounded the ball to Rod Odom. His shot, from traffic atop the key, fell well short of the rim. The Commodores' bench shouted for a foul that was not called as the Spiders scampered across the court in celebration. In some ways, the result was hardly a surprise. Richmond is the only team in tournament history to win as a No. 12, 13, 14 and 15 seed. And Vanderbilt has made a recent habit of early tournament exits at the hands of underdogs, losing first-round games as a No. 4 seed in 2008 (to Siena) and 2010 (to Murray State, at the buzzer). "Whether you want to admit it or not, there's a lot of pressure when you're the higher seed," Vanderbilt Coach Kevin Stallings said."
Mark Zeigler of the San Diego Union-Tribune: "There was the 22-footer than went about 17, the air-balled layup, the hook shot into the side of the backboard. The brick in the lane. The other air-balled three-pointer. The short-armed free throws. The defensive lapses. The zero offensive rebounds for the first 13 minutes. The maddening tendency of letting a No. 15 seed hang around, of letting the boys from Greeley, Colo., dream a little. San Diego State retreated to the locker room Thursday afternoon and braced for the fiery lecture they figured they deserved, similar to the hair-dryer treatment that sparked an inspired second half at Air Force last month. Coach Steve Fisher walked in the room and closed the door. Here it came ... Or not. "He talked to us like regular people do, like we were having a casual conversation," captain D.J. Gay said. "It seemed as if when he came in, he knew that we had 12 players who all had a lot going on in their heads. It put us all at ease, calmed us down, got us on the same page." Problem solved. Ship righted. After looking every bit like a team that had never won a Division I NCAA Tournament game (and was obsessing about it), the second-seeded Aztecs rolled past Northern Colorado in the second half for a 68-50 win that sent a monkey hopping into the Arizona desert after being firmly attached to their back."
Diamond Leung of ESPN.com: "The buzz from upset wins by Morehead State and Richmond still lingered when BYU took the court at the Pepsi Center. The Cougars knew all about what had happened earlier in the day and certainly didn't want it to happen to them. By the time BYU got done with Wofford, order had been restored. It was business as usual, with Jimmer Fredette scoring 32 points in a 74-66 second-round win on Thursday. And unlike last season when Fredette's monster game against Florida gave BYU its first NCAA tournament victory in 17 years, the Cougars hope this is just the start of a march to the Sweet 16. "Last year was a euphoric atmosphere," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "Guys were jumping around. "Guys today were happy with the win and look forward to the next challenge. This team is pretty business-like." Wofford actually felt it did a decent job on Fredette, a sign of just how dangerous the nation's leading scorer is. He was 10-of-25 from the field and only 2-of-9 from beyond the arc, but other players stepped up for BYU."
Scott Zucker of USA Today: "Princeton's near upset of Kentucky in the second round of the NCAA tournament had a profound effect on Tigers coach Sydney Johnson. Johnson, who starred for the Tigers in the mid-90s, was overcome with emotion in the postgame press conference as he discussed his program. He paused more than once to regain his composure as he unsuccessfully fought back tears. "You know, Kentucky has got a great tradition, and they have a fantastic coach and players, fan support," he said. "Ours is no less. I hope I'm not offending anybody. We have a proud and rich tradition. And I really like this matchup. I really thought that it was a special one for the tournament," he said as he paused to fight back the tears. "Princeton-Kentucky, from my vantage point, are two of the best basketball programs that we've seen in college basketball. "So I was very excited, and I wanted to demand from our players that we live up to that, and I think we did. I think we did that. "
Sam Amick of the New York Times: "Fran Dunphy had traveled much farther than 2,500 miles for this moment. His was a path that spanned 17 years, with 11 straight losses in the N.C.A.A. tournament while at Penn and then with Temple and a level of infamy unbefitting his sterling reputation. No coach in men's college basketball had lost as many consecutive games in the tournament as Dunphy, and the flight from Philadelphia to Arizona was a small price to pay for another chance to end his torturous streak. It finally happened on Thursday when seventh-seeded Temple outlasted 10th-seeded Penn State, 66-64, in a West Region game that made Dunphy sweat until the finish. There were 20 lead changes, 12 coming in a second half that ended with the boldest of game-winners from the junior guard Juan Fernandez. Fernandez, an Argentine native, looked stuck on the right wing as the seconds ticked away. But he avoided a double team and ducked up and under the Nittany Lions sophomore guard Tim Frazier to bury an 18-footer with 0.4 of a second left, giving the Owls their first tournament win since 2001."
Tom Kensler of the Denver Post: "Legendary golfer Bobby Jones once said, "There's golf. And there's tournament golf." Gonzaga showed Thursday night that college basketball can have a similar axiom. There's experience; and then there's tournament experience. Eighteenth-ranked St. John's trotted out four senior starters for the second-round NCAA Tournament game at the Pepsi Center, and uncommonly high number these days for a team in one of the six power conferences. But Gonzaga, although younger, had all the NCAA Tournament experience. It showed. Getting 24 points from junior guard Marquise Carter, the 11th-seeded Bulldogs (25-9) seemed to hit from everywhere and claimed an 86-71 upset victory over the Southeast Region's No. 6 seed and became the second slayer of a beast from the Big East in Denver. Earlier, 13th-seeded Morehead State sent No. 4 seed Louisville packing."