The NCAA basketball tournament is one of the nation's best loved sporting events. There are many great moments from the tournament but here are ten that caught our eye from the first week of action.
In a blowout game, powerhouse Duke drubbed bracket-fodder Hampton 87-45. But the return of elite point guard Kyrie Irving for the defending champion Blue Devils, after he missed three months of action, could have been the beginning of the end for the rest of the field. Irving checked in with 15:19 left in the first half to a standing ovation from the Duke fans. Is he really good enough to make a difference after so long a break?
Derrick Williams, a player-of-the-year candidate, scored 22 points and pulled down 10 rebounds, but his game-ending swat of an offensive rebound is what preserved a 77-75 Arizona win over upset-minded Memphis.
In a March Madness classic, Temple won a nail-biter. With less than a second left in the game, Juan Fernandez sank an off-balance 18-footer. Double-teamed but out of time, the shot was off balance and didn't have a chance to go...but it went anyway. While the Owls did lose to San Diego State in a grinding 2OT affair (definitely not a classic), they enjoyed an amazing moment first.
After a shocking run to the national championship game last year, including some NCAA magic in Salt Lake City, could Butler manage to make noise without Utah Jazz draft pick Gordon Hayward? With a buzz-beater tip-in from Matt Howard for a 60-58 win over Old Dominion, the answer was definitely "yes." And, the Bulldogs weren't and still aren't finished yet.
Just after tiny No. 13 seed Morehead State beat Louisville in Denver (later in this list), No. 12 seed Richmond got a win on the same floor with a 69-66 decision over Vanderbilt from the SEC. Kevin Anderson scored 25 points for the Spiders, including the game winner with 18 seconds left. When Morehead State and Richmond met in the next round, the Spiders advanced easily.
Trailing favored Louisville by two, Morehead State's Demonte Harper dribbled at the top of the key like he had a lead and watched the clock tick down. Following his coach's orders from a dream the night before, he didn't drive but stepped up behind the 3-point line and drained a shot with 4.2 seconds for a 62-61 victory over No. 4 Louisville. The upset was the first of many to follow in the NCAA Tournament's opening week.
While the national and social media praise Jimmer Fredette, other guys in Cougar uniforms showed up and sent Gonzaga home. While this selection in this list adds a little local flavor, there is no denying that Noah Hartsock hitting all five of his shots and scoring 13 points in 20 minutes against "superior" size, surprised everybody as did the 89-67 win. Locals are buzzing about the Cougars but one more win, perhaps two and this team and Jimmer become permanent fixtures in NCAA lore. Even if that doesn't happen, BYU enjoyed a magical moment.
Virginia Commonwealth won a play-in game against USC Wednesday, knocked down Georgetown on Friday and then put a beating on No. 3 seed Purdue on Sunday. None of the wins were a fluke as the barely-made-it team dominated teams from "power conferences". The Rams next face No. 10 seed Florida State, the first time a No. 11 vs. No. 10 has happened in the NCAA Tournament.
After saving his team in the previous game against Memphis with a block, Derrick Williams converted a no-look basket and the foul shot for a 70-69 game winner. The game against Texas provided plenty of drama as the Longhorns staged a furious comeback and a five-second call went against the Wildcats during the frantic, final moments. Texas' J'Covan Brown appeared to win the game with a jumper before Williams hit his blind shot.
Matt Howard made a free throw with .8 seconds left and preserved another Bulldog upset after it seemed all was lost. One foul call on each team in the last two seconds caused each time to ride emotional roller coasters sending Gordon Hayward's former team to the Sweet 16 for the second year in a row. This 71-70 finish over Pitt will be talked about for years.