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Excitement, but not the norm: A look back at the first day

There were plenty of good games and one incredible play, but the usual spate of upsets wasn’t in the works.

Northwestern v Vanderbilt
Never go full Jeff Robinson
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Yesterday’s Opening Day of the NCAA Tournament was notable more for what it wasn’t than for what it was. There were no major upsets (more on that later), no incredible comebacks, and nary a buzzer beater in sight. That’s not to say it was dull, it certainly wasn’t if you like basketball, but it wasn’t the usual mix of complete absurdity that seems to accompany the start of festivities.

Play of the day:

This one comes more from the realm of the negative than the positive, but that’s the way the cards are dealt sometimes. We mentioned in the lead in to the tournament that you never know what Vanderbilt basketball is going to serve up. That said, no one expected what did happen. Matthew Fisher-Davis had scored 14 of his 22 in the second half to lead his team back from 15 down against Northwestern. After Vandy had completed their storming comeback to take a lead with 17.6 seconds left, Fisher-Davis grabbed Northerwestern’s star guard Bryant McIntosh around the waist to send him to the line for what was, ultimately, the win. For Xavier fans, it was reminiscent of Jeff Robinson doing much the same. Unfortunately for Vandy and Fisher-Davis, all the heroics will disappear into one sports tragic moment of forgetting time and situation.

Game of the day:

That very same Vanderbilt and Northwestern tilt. The crowd was excited to watch a high-major team that finally ascended to the same heights as other vaunted eight seeds like Arkansas. The first half was tight, but with under 14 minutes to play Northwestern hit a three to go up 15. With the whole building behind them, they seemed likely to race away to the win. Instead, they started to fold as Vanderbilt heaped up the pressure and started knocking down shots. It was inexorable, but with seven to play everyone knew that this was a game. It went back and forth with the teams trading shots, and Matthew Fisher-Davis willing his team back, until that final fateful 17 seconds.

Player of the day:

Florida State’s Dwayne Bacon had himself a game. FGCU gamely kept this one close despite being surrounded by better athletes, but they had no answer for Bacon. Dwayne went for 25/9/2 and tossed in two steals while shooting 11-17 from the floor. Without Bacon’s effort, this may well have turned into the upset of the day. Instead the Seminoles advanced to meet Xavier. Great.

Upset of the day:

Well, there really weren’t any. Xavier beat Maryland but X held the higher KenPom rating over one of the most overseeded teams in the tournament. MTSU beat Minnesota, but the Blue Raiders were a trendy upset pick and sit only six slots below the Gophers in the KenPom. Throw in Minnesota missing a starting guard and this one looks a lot more like one good team beating another one. Princeton came close against Notre Dame, FGCU gave it a run, UNCW stormed out early before Virginia woke up, and Bucknell nearly shot themselves into one, but there just weren’t any big bracket busting losses.