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Mike Lopresti | | March 21, 2014

Lopresti: Just another Thursday in March

Not bad for a first Thursday, hey?

What if all three weeks go like this? The 2013 NCAA tournament had only one overtime finish its entire run. The 2014 NCAA tournament has already had five in 20 games

Notes from a raucous and swaying day at the NCAA tournament:

• Light a candle for the No. 5 seeds. In terms of peril, their assignment ranks not far below bomb squad. At least one No. 5 seed has been upset by a No.12 in 24 of the last 26 tournaments, and this was Bloody Thursday. Down went Cincinnati to Harvard. Down went Oklahoma to North Dakota State.

The No. 5 seeds would have gone 0-3 had Saint Louis not come from 16 points behind to escape North Carolina State in overtime, with a desperate pressing defense that head coach Jim Crews more or less made up as he went along. How much was improvised? Said Crews, "All of it."

So it has long since stopped being a surprise to see a No. 5 seed with grim looks on its collective faces. "In my mind," Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin said of the loss to Harvard, "[Thursday's] game was anything but an upset."

VCU, you're on the clock. The No. 5 seed Rams face 31-2 Stephen F. Austin on Friday.

• What if all three weeks go like this? The 2013 NCAA tournament had only one overtime game its entire run. The 2014 NCAA tournament had four by 10 p.m. Thursday.

• Let's hear it for the reserves. That was Dayton's Vee Sanford coming off the bench to hit the winning shot against Ohio State.

And Oregon's Elgin Cook -- who had scored in double figures once since Dec. 14 -- coming off the bench to score 23 against BYU.

And Florida's Dorian Finney-Smith lighting a fire beneath the sleepy Gators with 16.

And Michigan State's Travis Trice scoring 19 to help keep Michigan out of trouble against Delaware.

And there was Mr. Inexplicable. North Dakota State freshman Marlin Dupree never getting off the bench until the last two minutes of overtime, then promptly scoring four critical points to help upset Oklahoma. "He played the loudest two minutes in the history of the NCAA basketball tournament," head coach Saul Phillips joked.

Then again, all 81 of Saint Joseph's points in the overtime loss to Connecticut came from its starters.

• Pittsburgh 46, Colorado 18 at halftime. Really, that was an 8-9 seed game?

• Free throws shooting? In a word, yecccchhh. At least in some places. Harvard missed 11 of 28 against Cincinnati but still managed, and this was not the first time. The Crimson can sometimes seem blindfolded at the line. "We always find ways to get around that," Laurent Rivard said afterward.

North Carolina State hit only 20 of 37 and you could say that might have cost the Wolfpack in their overtime loss to Saint Louis. "It's heartbreaking," head coach Mark Gottfried mentioned. Then again, the Billikins were 12-for-26. Are they sure the line in Orlando was actually only 15 feet away?

Good stat of the day: Adreian Payne's 41 points for Michigan State, when he went 10-for-15 from the field and 17-for-17 from the line.

Bad stat of the day: Wofford put up 19 3-pointers against Michigan. The Terriers made one, "We couldn't make a shot," head coach Mike Young said. "Last time I checked, that's a pretty important aspect of the game."

• Aaron Craft was college basketball's most renowned defender. No way, this would be how he went out. Dayton's Sanford blowing past him to beat Ohio State. Not in the Buckeyes' worst nightmares would that happen. But in real life, it did.

"It's amazing how it's going to end with a kid getting a game-winner on me," Craft said about Sanford's drive. He also added the words that echo with every loser in March.

"I can't change it.''

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