Defending champion University of Louisville erased a three-point deficit in the final 3 1/2 minutes to beat Manhattan College on the first full day of the men’s college basketball tournament as Harvard and North Dakota State pulled off the biggest upsets.
The Cardinals, the fourth seed in the Midwest Region and one of the oddsmakers’ favorites to win the national title again, closed the game with a 16-6 scoring run to beat 13th-seeded Manhattan 71-64 last night in Orlando, Florida.
“Nobody wants to go home on the first day,” said Louisville’s Luke Hancock, who hit two 3-pointers in the final 81 seconds. “We’re trying to build a legacy and this is another step. It would have been tough to go home.”
The day featured a record four overtime games -- after there were a combined two in the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament the previous two years -- and two other games decided by shots at the end of regulation. Villanova, Michigan, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Wisconsin and Oregon all won their tournament openers by at least 17 points, and top-seeded Florida pulled away for a 67-55 win against Albany.
Harvard became the first Ivy League team in 30 years to collect an NCAA tournament win in consecutive years by beating the University of Cincinnati 61-57 as the 12th seed in the 16-team East Regional. North Dakota State also won as a No. 12 seed in the West, upsetting Oklahoma 80-75 in overtime.
It marked the 24th time in the past 26 years that at least one team seeded 12th eliminated a No. 5 seed.
“We have kind of embraced being the underdog and we were able to come out and get a victory,” said Ivy League Player of the Year Wesley Saunders, who led Harvard with 12 points.
The day started with an upset, as Dayton, the No. 11 seed in the South Region, beat No. 6 Ohio State 60-59 when Vee Sanford made a running shot off the backboard with less than four seconds remaining. Ohio State’s Aaron Craft missed a driving attempt at the final buzzer.
Texas, the seventh seed in the Midwest, won its opening game as time expired yesterday, topping Arizona State 87-85 in Milwaukee as Cameron Ridley grabbed a wild 3-point attempt and scored on a put-back. It was the first basket to win an NCAA tournament game with no time remaining since 2011, when Butler topped Old Dominion.
“I’ve never made a game winner in my life,” Ridley said. “To walk off the court and know that you’re the one who made the play to take us to the next round was a great feeling.”
San Diego State avoided an upset in the day’s final game, as the West Region’s No. 4 seed blew a seven-point lead in the final minute of regulation before pulling out a 73-69 win against New Mexico State in overtime.
Connecticut and Saint Louis also won in overtime.
Connecticut, the seventh seed in the East, defeated 10th-seeded St. Joseph’s 89-81 in Buffalo, New York, in the Huskies’ return to the NCAA tournament after being banned from the postseason a year ago due to academic sanctions.
Saint Louis, the fifth seed in the Midwest, also won in overtime, beating No. 12 North Carolina State 83-80 in a game that featured a combined 31 missed free throws. The Billikens overcame a 16-point second-half deficit and advanced to face Louisville, which survived a scare against Manhattan as Hancock and Russ Smith combined for 14 points in the final 3 1/2 minutes to overcome a 58-55 deficit. Manhattan is coached by Steve Masiello, a former assistant of Louisville’s Rick Pitino.
“That’s why I didn’t want to play them,” Pitino said. “Although I’m elated, it hurt me tonight going against him.”
There are 16 more games today, with No. 1 regional seeds Wichita State, Virginia and Arizona among those in action.
Florida, the top seed in the South Region, was tied with Albany with just more than 14 minutes remaining in Orlando before the Gators closed the game with a 28-16 scoring run. It was the 27th straight victory for Florida (33-2) and improves No. 1 seeds to 117-0 all-time against 16th seeds.
“Coach Donovan was saying to us after the game, this isn’t going to be enough to keep our season going,” said Patric Young, who had 10 points and 10 rebounds for Florida. “We didn’t have our style of play for 40 minutes, we didn’t sustain that, and we’re going to have to do that if we’re going to hopefully make it on to the Sweet 16.”
The Gators advanced to face ninth-seeded Pittsburgh (26-9), which routed No. 8 Colorado 77-48.
Harvard next will face No. 4 seed Michigan State, which won 93-78 against 13th-seeded Delaware. Also in the East, Connecticut advanced to meet second-seeded Villanova, which defeated Wisconsin-Milwaukee 73-53.
Wisconsin, seeded second in the West, outscored 15th-seeded American 43-13 in the second half and cruised to a 75-35 victory in Milwaukee. The Badgers next play seventh-seeded Oregon, which rolled to an 87-68 win against 10th-seeded Brigham Young University.
Michigan, the No. 2 team in the Midwest, next faces Texas after winning 57-40 against 15th-seeded Wofford.
The tournament concludes with the national championship game on April 7 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.