A Day Of Upsets In College Basketball

Thursday was a day of buzzer-beating shots and nail-biting overtime wins. Much of it happened at the NCAA tournament site in Spokane, Wash.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

I love March Madness. Sixteen more games in the Men's Division I college basketball tournament today. They'll have to live up to all the excitement yesterday. It was a day of upsets, buzzer beating shots, and nail-biting overtime wins, and much of it happened at the NCAA's tournament site in Spokane, Washington. NPR's Tom Goldman was there to take it all in.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: This is the kind of day it was in Spokane. The last game of four was a taut overtime thriller between the San Diego State Aztecs and New Mexico State Aggies. But I'm not going to talk about it other than to say the fourth seeded Aztecs won 73-69. Why? Because it was expected and we all know the madness in March is about the unexpected.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERS)

GOLDMAN: Even better than an overtime game? An overtime game that's also an upset win. North Dakota State head coach Saul Phillips celebrated the two-fer after his 12th seeded Bison's knocked off fifth seeded Oklahoma 80-75 by running across the court, planting himself in front of the yellow and green clad North Dakota state fans and thrusting his arms in the air. Somewhere, the producers of CBS's tournament-ending one-shining-moment montage said thank you, Saul.

Phillips struck the pose thanks to a great team effort and a couple of moments of individual brilliance. The first came with 12 seconds left in regulation, North Dakota State behind by three. Bison's junior guard Lawrence Alexander elevated for a three pointer, and while the crowd held its breath, he thought only one thing...

LAWRENCE ALEXANDER: Buckets!

(LAUGHTER)

GOLDMAN: Hey, March Madness isn't for the meek. Even if you're a supposed-to-be-meek freshman, like North Dakota State guard Carlin Dupree.

(SOUNDBITE OF GAME)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: Dupree, getting the bucket on a little floater!

GOLDMAN: Carlin Dupree was only in the game, in overtime, because star guard Taylor Braun fouled out. Coach Phillips, who put him in for his ball handling skills and speed against the Oklahoma press, figured Dupree would pass and catch the ball and get it to someone else. But there he was, cold off the bench, hitting the floater, as heard on TruTV, hitting two key free throws, and becoming a hero to bench-sitters everywhere.

Phillips, not one to hold back, didn't in the giddy moments after the game.

SAUL PHILLIPS: Carlin Dupree just played the loudest two minutes in the history of the NCAA basketball tournament.

GOLDMAN: Dupree said afterwards he sat on the bench last night saying what he's learned to say in his first college season: be ready. It hasn't always been easy for a player who says he always started - never came off the bench. Phillips credits Dupree's older Bison's teammates for keeping him engaged.

PHILLIPS: Didn't let him mope, didn't let him pout. Pretty big.

GOLDMAN: Which is what they're saying in Cambridge, Mass today about Harvard Crimson basketball. For a second tournament in a row, Harvard pulled off the upset - last year as a 14 seed, this year as a 12. Yes, another 12 knocking off a five - in this case, Cincinnati. But Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin didn't think it was an upset, nor did Harvard junior guard Wesley Saunders.

WESLEY SAUNDERS: Leading up to this game, coach emphasized and we all talked about just living up to our values and our standards, and doing the things that have gotten us to this point. And so we felt as though if we were able to do that, that we would have a great chance of coming out with a victory. And luckily we were able to do that tonight and I guess the scoreboard reflected that.

GOLDMAN: Leave it to Harvard, where the NCAA doesn't have to feel sheepish about using the term student-athlete, to teach us all a little something about March Madness. Call it values and standards, or crazy upsets, it's officially underway. And only the start. Tom Goldman, NPR News, Spokane.

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