With the NCAA Tournament finally underway, we’ll be bringing you the stars of the night after each day of action. For those of you with day jobs, it’s hard to keep up with all the action. 16 games were on the schedule Thursday (while four are still in progress) so lets take a look at the stars of the day.
Vander Blue, Marquette: In perhaps the game of the day (so far), No. 3 Marquette overcame a 1-for-12 shooting start from 3-point range to overcome a late nine-point deficit to survive a major upset from No. 13 Davidson. Marquette, the worst 3-point shooting team in the tournament, was saved by Blue when he knocked down a big three and then made the game-winning layup with 1.0 seconds to play to defeat the Wildcats 59-58. Blue finished with 16 points.
Damyean Dotson, Oregon: Dotson led the Pac-12 tournament champions, the No. 12 seed Oregon Ducks, to an upset over No. 5 Oklahoma State. Despite their similar records — Oregon (27-8) actually had a better record than Oklahoma State (24-9) — and resumes this season, Oregon had a gripe with the NCAA selection committee for the low seeding. Nonetheless, behind Dotson’s 17 points (including three 3-pointers) the Ducks handled the Cowboys 68-55.
Derrick Beltran, Southern: Thanks to Beltran’s 21 points, Southern nearly became the first No. 16 seed in the history of the NCAA tournament to beat a No. 1 seed. Southern fell to Gonzaga 64-58, but Beltran kept them alive shooting 4-of-8 from 3-point range. They had the No. 1 seed of the West region on the ropes until the final minute of the game. Beltran was the only player to score in double-figures for the Jaguars. Let the No. 1 seed debates begin…
Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga: On the winning side of that game was Olynyk, who Gonzaga can thank for pulling them up in the second half. The Wooden Award finalist scored 17 of his 21 points in the second half and dominated the glass with 10 rebounds. It’s becoming obvious that the ‘Zags will go as far as Olynyk takes them in this tournament.
Russ Smith, Louisville: Gonzaga can take note of how fellow No. 1 Louisville took care of business against No. 16 North Carolina AT&T. The Cardinals routed the Aggies 79-48 behind Russ Smith’s game-high 23 points and a Louisville NCAA tournament record eight steals. The Cardinals are a popular pick to cut down the nets in Atlanta, and this surely was not a bad start.
Mark Lyons, Arizona: After a 14-0 start, the Wildcats have been slumping as of late. They finished the season 5-5 in their last 10 games, but Mark Lyons’ 23 points and four rebounds helped break them out of their late season swoon. No. 6 Arizona handled No. 11 Belmont Thursday night, a team that was a sexy upset pick by many experts 81-64.
Troy Daniels/Juvonte Reddic, Virginia Commonwealth: Daniels and Reddic combined for 44 points Thursday night, including six 3-pointers from Daniels. The Akron Zips? 42 points total. Ouch. Once the NCAA’s hottest team — winners of 19 straight — lost to VCU by 46 points (88-42). In their six regular season losses, the Zips lost by a combined 49 points. VCU will play Michigan in a highly anticipated Round of 32 matchup Saturday afternoon.
Dorian Green, Colorado State: Behind Dorian Green’s 26 points (the highest total of the day), Colorado State advanced in the NCAA tournament for the first time in 24 years after beating Missouri 84-72. They’ll face No. 1 overall seed Louisville Saturday afternoon, who took care of business Thursday, beating No. 16 North Carolina AT&T 79-48.
Harvard’s Starting Lineup, Harvard: From the opening tip to the final buzzer, the Crimson were the better team. No. 14 Harvard upset No. 3 New Mexico 68-62 to win its first NCAA tournament game ever. Four out of five players in Tommy Amaker’s starting lineup scored in double-figures Thursday night. Wesley Saunders led the way with 18 points, four rebounds, three assists and a steal. This wasn’t just the biggest upset of the day, Harvard has arrived on the national stage a year early. At the start of the season Harvard’s two co-captains, Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry, withdrew from school in an attempt to preserve their final year of eligibility after an academic cheating scandal.
Stat line of the night, Harvard: 7 U.S. presidents, 19 Supreme Court Justices, 46 Nobel laureates and now, 1 NCAA tournament victory
Play of the day
Ben Baroff is a basketball journalist who blogs for SheridanHoops.com. Follow him on Twitter here.