What we learned on opening day of the 2014 NCAA tournament ...
1. In the most overtime-abundant Day 1 in NCAA tournament history, there was a link between the fallen and the rattled.
If someone tells you defense alone can win a championship, tell them to wise up: The track record of No. 6-or-higher seeds with a top-15 ranking in defensive efficiency and a 75-or-lower ranking in offensive efficiency has been terrible of late in the NCAA tournament. Of the 18 schools that fit that profile since 2006 on kenpom.com, 11 have underperformed their seed's expected wins total:
Louisville's 2012 Final Four team is the one exception; it had the No. 1 overall defense and was helped the unexpected emergence of Russdiculous in the Elite Eight.
2. The 2014 version of Louisville, which has the offense to match its stout D, was the big outlier in the "rattled" favorites club on Thursday. The Cardinals have an elite offense to match their stout D; they were just at a loss for much of their 4-13 game against Manhattan over how to handle what former Rick Pitino assistant Steve Masiello was throwing at them. The only person who wasn't scared, apparently, was former Louisville power forward Chane Behanan, who responded to my favorite Tweet of the night:
"@marquezjohnson5: Keep yal composer" we been thru this we good
— Chane Behanan (@chanetrigga) March 21, 2014
The many-times suspended and eventually dismissed Behanan was correct: the Cardinals had been through this before, and Luke Hancock, just as he did in the Final Four, was there to rescue them with clutch threes. As for the glorious exhortation "KEEP YAL COMPOSER," I need to see this on T-shirts. Adidas, ditch the "Cardinal Way" nonsense and print up a new batch for the upcoming rounds. Louisville was on the verge of getting upset because it lost handle of its Handel.
3. The baller of the day, and perhaps the whole weekend, was Michigan State senior Adreian Payne, who after telling coach Tom Izzo he wanted to leave a legacy, scored 41 points in just 24 minutes against Delaware. Louisville title-pickers have to be a tad worried about their brackets after Thursday, while Michigan State-pickers have to be pumped after seeing their 6-foot-10 center open up his final NCAA tournament like a man possessed. Just how incredible was Payne's performance? Fifteen players have scored more than 40 points in a game this season, but Payne did it in the fewest minutes played and with the second-highest efficiency. Only Wisconsin's Frank (The Tank) Kaminsky can claim a better outing, but his happened back in November:
4. Scenes of the Day: a) For pathetic personal reasons (because it prevented the magazine's bracket from going a perfect 16-of-16) I had trouble relishing Cameron Ridley's buzzer-beater that lifted Texas over Arizona State, and found myself feeling more aligned with this incredible image of the Sun Devils' bench (via @jose3030):
The Agony of Defeat (Arizona State) pic.twitter.com/hE0whqJYZy — 3030 (@jose3030) March 21, 2014
b) A moment you may have missed: No. 15 seed Milwaukee's players going into the stands to directly thank their fans after a loss to Villanova in Buffalo (via @BrendanPrunty). Such a great move. This is how you stand out in defeat.
Great March moment- Milwaukee walking directly into the stands to thank its fans individually after it lost. pic.twitter.com/mCVuIkL8yd — Brendan Prunty (@BrendanPrunty) March 21, 2014
c) And finally, from North Dakota State's team Twitter account, a shot of center Marshall Bjorklund and star guard Taylor Braun after they took a beating from Oklahoma -- and survived to become America's darlings.
The scene in the NDSU locker room right now. pic.twitter.com/3Qhym7tWIDThe Bison didn't pull off their upset by playing grind-it-out D, either. They did it by brining the nation's 20th-most efficient scoring attack to Spokane and out-gunning the Sooners. On opening day of this tournament, offense was king.
— NDSU Basketball (@NDSUmbb) March 21, 2014