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College Basketball

Mercer, Stephen F. Austin and the "Nae Nae" make for a great two days

Photo: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Mercer is a fitting Cinderella after its impressive win over Duke in the Round of 64.

On Thursday, the NCAA tournament went off like a box of fireworks dumped into a furnace.

On Friday, someone tried to set fire to the furnace.

It was an epic stare-down between the first and second days of Round of 64 games, and everyone was the better for it. First came the parade of upsets and overtimes on Thursday. Then Friday began with Mercer's upset of Duke and continued with Kansas and North Carolina surviving and then rolled into overtime with Stephen F. Austin's thrilling comeback against VCU.

Even the historic upset that wasn't -- No. 16 seed Coastal Carolina putting a scare into No. 1 seed Virginia, in a game that was tied with eight and a half minutes left before the Cavaliers won 70-59 -- was invigorating.

There are six rounds to this tournament, and the Round of 64 was nearly enough. The NCAA logo cup runneth over already.

Biggest Upset: Nothing could compare to Mercer ousting Duke from the tournament in Raleigh, miles down the road from Cameron Indoor Stadium, mostly thanks to the overload of schadenfreude that accompanied it. After ripping the inclusion of six teams from the Atlantic 10 in the brackets, Mike Krzyzewski's crew couldn't get past the Atlantic Sun.

Breakout Star I: Many people expected North Dakota State to beat Oklahoma on Thursday. Few expected it would require a game-tying three-pointer as time expired in regulation, but Bison guard Lawrence Alexander provided it. That was just part of a 28-point, eight-rebound night that fueled the school's first NCAA tournament win.

Breakout Star II: Adreian Payne is good. No one is confused about the Michigan State center's talent for the game of basketball. But the first 40-point game in the NCAA tournament is something else entirely. Payne powered the Spartans along with a 41-point, eight-rebound detonation against Delaware on Thursday.

Best Moment: Mercer beat Duke. But then Kevin Canevari won the NCAA tournament. The senior guard's solo postgame celebration dance caught by cameras and broadcast nationally -- his brilliant interpretation of the "Nae Nae" while surrounded by teammates -- should comprise the entire "One Shining Moment" montage, on a continuous loop.

Best Climax: Texas' late-game execution was miserable against Arizona State on Thursday. But its late-game offensive rebounding was fine. So one rushed three-pointer turned into a massive scramble for a loose ball, which ended up in the hands of Longhorns center Cameron Ridley. The sophomore flipped a shot off the glass, with his off hand, with a fraction of a second left on the clock. It counted, and it sent Texas past the Sun Devils with an 87-85 win at the buzzer.

Best Comeback: Stephen F. Austin was down 10 with three and a half minutes left. It was still down four in the final seconds against VCU. And then point guard Desmond Haymon clapped his hands together. He received a pass. He hoisted a three-pointer. He made the three-pointer, he was fouled, and then the Lumberjacks' point guard hit a free throw with 3.7 seconds left to send a game against VCU into overtime. The real capper was VCU missing a potential game-winning three-pointer as time ran down in the extra session, giving Stephen F. Austin the 77-75 win. But the sequence for Haymon's shot was too preposterous not to mention.

Worst Anticlimax: Bryce Cotton vivisected North Carolina's defense for the better part of a Friday night Round of 64 game, with the Providence senior guard recording 36 points, eight assists, five rebounds and two steals. And his college career ended this way: Getting his hands on a long rebound with less than two seconds left and his team down two...and then dropping the ball and watching it bounce out of bounds.

Biggest Injury News: Iowa State cruised to a 20-point win over North Carolina Central on Friday. Then afterward, it was announced that forward Georges Niang suffered a fractured foot and would be lost for the rest of the season. It was a massive loss for the Cyclones, who seemed to have momentum for an NCAA tournament run. Niang had the highest possession percentage (27.6) of anyone on the roster, even star point guard DeAndre Kane. He was the unsung fulcrum of a potent offense. His loss was immense with North Carolina looming Sunday.

Worst Warmups: Little-used Kansas State sophomore Brian Rohleder dunked in warmups before the team faced Kentucky on Thursday. That is against the rules. That incurred an "administrative technical foul." That provided the Wildcats from Lexington two free throw attempts before the jump ball against the Wildcats from Manhattan. Kentucky made one, and had the rare 1-0 head start before the clock started ticking.

Mercer takes down Duke in biggest upset so far
Sports Illustrated's Maggie Gray & associate editor Ted Keith discuss the upset the Mercer Bears pulled over Duke, beating the Blue Devils 78-71.

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