As is mentioned repeatedly at this time of year, all that matters is winning. Whether or not you deserved to be in postseason can quickly be erased by a single win, suddenly the naysayers drop off.
UAB and Saint Mary's were the topic of a continuous stream of bubble talk over the last week and that talk only intensified when the Blazers were included in the field of 68 while the Gaels were relegated to the NIT. Regardless of where you stood on the UAB-in, Saint Mary's-out argument, it's all a moot point now. The Blazers failed to show up for their First Four match-up with Clemson, falling behind big early and never able to recover. The Gaels were upended in the opening round of the NIT by a stingy Kent State team.
On the brighter side of things, March Madness has its first hero: UNC-Asheville's Matt Dickey kicked off the NCAA Tournament in grand style with his three-pointer in the waning seconds of regulation that forced overtime in his team's contest with Arkansas-Little Rock.
Follow along after the jump for a full day of recap from the NCAA and NIT Tournaments.
Brian Bennett of ESPN.com: "The First Four has a long way to go to match the Final Four. But as far as warm-up acts go, maybe the NCAA is onto something. The first installment of the new four-game, first-round format provided a fantastic finish -- and our first March Madness hero. His name is Matt Dickey, a junior guard for North Carolina-Asheville. Dickey's 3-pointer with 10.5 seconds left in regulation against Arkansas-Little Rock forced overtime, where the Bulldogs went on to win 81-77. One game, already one shining moment. But even Dickey wasn't originally too keen on the idea of beginning his tournament run in Dayton, calling it the "play-in game" on the postgame press conference dais. "We were kind of disappointed, because we heard we were going to be a 16 [seed] playing Duke in Charlotte, possibly, or maybe move up to a 15," he said. "But our coaches said this is a good chance to play a team on a big stage that's about our caliber. And we did."
Jack McCallum of SI.com: "This is the time of year when three words become magic: senior point guard. Not Magic, as in Johnson, but at least magic. No one knows this better than Richmond coach Chris Mooney, who, having started his adult life as a wedding planner -- long story, but that was one of his duties as part-time head coach and full-time coordinator of events at Beaver College in 1997 -- recognizes the advantage of having the right people around on special occasions. "It's a great luxury for a coach having a player like Kevin," Mooney said after his 12th-seeded Spiders defeated Dayton 67-54 on Sunday afternoon to win the Atlantic-10 Conference title and an automatic NCAA bid. "You just know that if you can put the ball in his hands, good things will happen." "Kevin" is Kevin Anderson, Mooney's 6-foot quarterback, who is among the more overlooked seniors in the nation. (Then again, aside from Jimmer Fredette, not much attention is paid to seniors anywhere.) But Anderson, who scored 22 points in the A-10 semifinal against a strong Temple team and 23 in the championship clincher, is well-known and well-regarded in his own area. He was A-10 Player of the Year as a junior -- another lead guard, junior Tu Holloway of Xavier, took that away from him this year -- and as composed a player with the ball as you'll find in this year's tournament."
Steve Irvine of the Birmingham News: "A large portion of the crowd that grew to over 10,000 at the University of Dayton Arena on Tuesday night began filing out with 8:12 left in the NCAA Tournament First Four nightcap.
It really didn't take that long before it became apparent it would be Clemson moving on to the NCAA Tournament second round with No. 5 seed West Virginia on Thursday in Tampa. UAB got swallowed up by the moment early on, overwhelmed by the Clemson defense throughout and fell into a hole it never crawled out of in the 70-52 loss to the Tigers in the First Four game. A tough night was made even tougher with 5:44 left when Aaron Johnson suffered what a broken right tibia while trying to defend a fastbreak. Johnson, the Conference USA Player of the Year and heart and soul of UAB's team, left the court immediately and went to the locker room with help from UAB trainer Bryan Koch."
Baxter Holmes of the Los Angeles Times: "USC Coach Kevin O'Neill has watched Virginia Commonwealth University more than a few times this season, and he has watched them quite a few more since it was announced Sunday that the Trojans (19-14) would face VCU (23-11) in the first round of the NCAA tournament here Wednesday night. Who do the Rams remind him of? Washington, a fellow Pacific 10 Conference school known to run and gun that was the preseason landslide pick to win the Pac-10; the Huskies didn't, for the record, but they did win the Pac-10 tournament -- on a spectacular shot, no less. "They shoot 28 threes a game," O'Neill said Monday. "They press a lot. They're very aggressive. They're a strip-steal team. And extremely well-coached." VCU led the Colonial Athletic Association in three-point field goals made per game (8.2), steals per game (8.5) and turnover margin (3.3). And Washington led the Pac-10 in three-point field goals made per game (8.8), was fourth in steals per game (6.7) and second in turnover margin (2.6). So, as you can see, they are similar in several ways. But which team does VCU compare USC to? "I definitely see probably ODU [Old Dominion University]. Probably -- who else?" VCU junior guard Brandon Burgess said Tuesday here."
Doug Harris of the Springfield News-Sun: "Chris Wright's last game at the University of Dayton was much like most of the 122 that came before it: Gasp-inducing dunks, impact plays on defense, an occasional lack of polish on offense and unrelenting competitive fire to the end. Wright had a team-high 21 points and a game-high 13 rebounds in the Flyers' 94-84 defeat to the College of Charleston in the NIT first round Tuesday. The Trotwood native ended up 15th on the all-time UD scoring list (1,593 points) and 10th in rebounds (882). His five dunks against the Cougars jacked his career total to 176. "It's tough to walk away," he said. "This has been my home for four years. It's a place I've grown to love. I think my four years here have been great. I'm glad BG (UD coach Brian Gregory) took an interest in me as a young kid. He was the first person to tell me I'm not that good - I still remember that. "As a kid, he gave me a sheet with everything I needed to work on. I hope I'm leaving a lasting impression on the younger guys and hopefully helped out in the community. I want to play next year on a professional level, but I love these guys and love the program."
Elton Alexander of the Cleveland Plain Dealer: "Once again, it was Norris Cole to the rescue. Cleveland State's senior guard made the go-ahead layup with 1:24 to play, then twice made a pair of free throws in the final minute to lift the Vikings to a 63-60 victory over Vermont Tuesday night in a first round game of the National Invitation Tournament at the Wolstein Center. Cole finished with 27 points and CSU (27-8) needed them all. The Vikings were dominated on the boards (45-29), shot poorly throughout (39 percent) and missed 11 of their 27 free-throw attempts against the Catamounts (23-9). Even with Cole's performance, the Vikings had to survive a four-bouncer on the rim from Vermont's Matt Glass that finally popped out to keep the game from going into overtime and make the 1,472 fans happy. "That last shot is enough to take your heart away," said CSU head coach Gary Waters."
Natalie Meisler of the Denver Post: "Colorado State's basketball team officially joined the rest of the university Tuesday on spring break. Fairfield University shocked the Rams 62-60 in the first round of the NIT to finish off CSU's once-promising year at 19-13. The Rams dropped six of their final seven games. Despite trailing most of the second half, CSU had a chance to tie at the end but Wes Eikmeier's shot at the buzzer was short. Rarely used CSU senior Andre McFarland hit one of two foul shots with 18.7 seconds left. Hartfield's Yorel Hawkins came down with the rebound, was sent to the line and hit both for a two-possession game, 61-57. When Eikmeier missed with 8.4 seconds left, it was all but over. An early morning wake-up call Monday, cross-country flight from Hartford, Conn., and jolt from sea level to 5,004 feet did nothing to deter Fairfield's frantic pace. Moreover, the 25-7 Stags had no issue with a long layoff since their last game in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference on March 6."
Steve Kroner of the San Francisco Chronicle: "St. Mary's season, which looked so promising a month ago, came to a shocking end Tuesday night. The Gaels, who thought they deserved an NCAA Tournament bid, squandered a 12-point second-half lead and lost 71-70 to Kent State in a first-round NIT game at McKeon Pavilion. St. Mary's led 67-65 at the 44.8 mark. WCC Player of the Year Mickey McConnell hit one foul shot, but missed the second. He had missed his two previous free-throw tries. For McConnell to miss three of four free-throw tries rates as a shock; he came into Tuesday leading the conference in free-throw percentage at 90.6. Two Michael Porrini baskets for Kent State bookended two free throws by Clint Steindl, meaning the Gaels led 70-69 with 10.7 seconds left."