You’ve got your laptop, your friend’s laptop, a TV, a second TV and a tablet for streaming. It’s Day 1 of the NCAA Tournament with 16 games over 12 hours of mostly nonstop basketball.

That’s Madness of the March variety.

As you settle into the dent on your couch, The Athletic is breaking down the action. Our takeaways from Thursday’s first-round games:


PITTSBURGH – Oakland delivered the biggest upset on the opening day of the NCAA Tournament so far, birthed a new legend of March Madness and lit Kentucky coach John Calipari’s seat completely on fire Thursday night. Behind Jack Gohlke’s 10 made 3-pointers and 32 points off the bench, the 14th-seeded Golden Grizzlies stunned No. 3 seed Kentucky, 80-76.

Calipari, a Hall of Fame coach who led the Wildcats to the 2012 national championship, has now failed to make the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament for a fourth consecutive season. He missed the tournament in 2021, lost to 15-seed Saint Peter’s in 2022 and fell in the second round to Kansas State last year. Now this. Kentucky and athletic director Mitch Barnhart, for the first time since hiring Calipari in 2009, must seriously consider whether it’s time for a change.

One major deterrent is Calipari’s massive buyout, north of $30 million if he’s fired this offseason, but another postseason flameout should be enough to at least consider it. — Kyle Tucker


Kansas survives as late foul call hinders Samford’s upset bid

SALT LAKE CITY — Kansas survived an upset bid no one will soon forget, coming in the form of a Samford team and coach that left the court drained and dejected.

A controversial late foul call on what appeared to be a clean block by Samford’s A.J. Staton-McCray with 14.7 seconds left will forever stay with the Bulldogs. They trailed by one at the time and allowed a run-out against coach Bucky McMillan’s patented pressing defense. Kansas guard Nicolas Timberlake went up for an open layup but was met at the rim by Staton-McCray. The foul call resulted in two free throws and a four-point Kansas lead.

“I thought AJ made an incredible play on it,” McMillan said after the game. “I’m not faulting the call. People can see it different ways.”

Kansas coach Bill Self praised Timberlake saying that he “attacked the basket well.” As for Staton-McCray, he didn’t know if it was a clean block.

“Clean block? I dunno,” Staton-McCray said shrugging. “I don’t know what more I could’ve done in that situation. But, you know, the chips fall where they fall.”

Samford, having come back from a 22-point second-half deficit, couldn’t close the gap all the way. The fourth-seeded Jayhawks survived, 93-89, to advance to a second-round date with Gonzaga.

While the controversial call will get the attention, both teams deserve loads of credit. Kansas encountered the brand of game known as Bucky Ball — McMillan’s swarming, pressing, running, 3-point shooting style — and executed enough to stay alive. The Jayhawks shot 60.3 percent from the field, mostly on dunks and layups. They scored 93 points while making only six 3s. They were dicey all night from the free-throw line, going 17 for 27, but made enough in the closing minutes. — Brendan Quinn


Duquesne’s coach can’t retire yet after Dukes upset BYU

OMAHA, Neb. — Duquesne has been one of the best defensive teams in college basketball during a nine-game winning streak that now has the Dukes on its way to the round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament.

The Dukes won their first tournament game since 1969 with a 71-67 win over sixth-seeded BYU. The Cougars missed their first eight shots and struggled with Duquesne’s constant pressure.

It was a masterful defensive game plan from veteran coach Keith Dambrot, who is retiring at the end of the season. His team has embraced a defensive identity late in the season, and with BYU surging down the stretch, Duquesne’s Jimmy Clark III jumped into a passing lane and threw down a dunk to put the Dukes up four.

BYU went on a 4-0 run to tie the game, but Clark then went on his own 5-0 run. Clark, who was dismissed from VCU in 2021 for unclosed reasons, took over the game with his speed down the stretch. He finished with 11 points and four steals.

Anyone not named Jaxson Robinson struggled to make a perimeter shot for the Cougars. Robinson scored 25 points and made 5-of-11 3s, and the rest of the team was 3-of-13 from distance. Duquesne guarded the Cougars tight on the perimeter, getting body to body on on off-ball screening action and bumping cutters.

The Cougars finally figured out the solution was getting to the second and third side of the floor and drive on the Dukes. They started scoring once they got to the paint, chipping away at a 14-point lead that Duquesne held early in the second half. But the Cougars missed too many shots in close, particularly center Foussey Traore, who was 4-of-12 from the field.

Duquesne made just enough shots down the stretch, with Clark’s steal and dunk coming at a perfect time when the offense was struggling to get any quality looks. Duquesne leading scorer Dae Dae Grant led the Dukes with 19 points. Freshman Jakub Necas also had the game of his career, finishing with a career-high 12 points, six rebounds and three blocks.

It was the first-ever tournament win for Dambrot, who made three tournament appearances at Akron. — CJ Moore


Oregon’s Jermaine Couisnard scores 40 in win over South Carolina

PITTSBURGH — A 40-burger for Jermaine Couisnard, a career high and the most in Oregon history in an NCAA Tournament game. While I haven’t been as well traveled to NCAA games as my college-focused colleagues, this was the best individual performance I’ve seen in person at any college game this season.

Couisnard dominated at all three levels: plowing his way to the rim, scoring on runners and post-ups, and hit five of his nine 3-point attempts. He also handed out six assists, inlacing a spectacular one-handed driving dime to set up a Kwame Evans dunk, and only committed one turnover. He hasn’t been a prominent guy on NBA Draft radars because he’s an older player with an iffy jump shot, but this performance (as well as his strong Pac-12 tournament) will certainly get NBA teams’ attention as far as players to consider for 2-ways and summer league.  — John Hollinger


Have a Day(ton)

SALT LAKE CITY — For much of the day the Wolfpack were in control with their talented 1-2 backcourt punch of Jarod Lucas and Kenan Blackshear controlling much of the flow of the game. But something awoke in the Flyers late.

Trailing 56-39 with just over seven minutes remaining, the Flyers went on a swift 14-0 run to climb to within striking distance. One of the best 3-point shooters in the country, junior Koby Brea, brought Dayton within two with a huge 3-point shot with 2:45 to go.

Then star DaRon Holmes II showed why he was named the Atlantic 10 co-player of the Year. A dunk attempt went awry but he stayed with the attempt mid-air and got the layup to fall and was fouled to give the Flyers their first lead since the first half.

Holmes II also forced a steal on Nevada forward Nick Davidson who attempted to cross him over and start toward the basket with 17 seconds remaining.

The Flyers advance to Saturday’s Round of 32 matchup with No. 2 seed Arizona who beat No. 15 Long Beach State, 85-65. — Christopher Kamrani


Is Michigan State poised for another March run?

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — If this is the Michigan State team that comes to play Saturday at Spectrum Center, the Spartans need to be taken seriously in that game.

Presumably, they will be taking on West Region No. 1 seed North Carolina in the round of 32, if North Carolina takes care of No. 16 seed Wagner. The No. 9 seed Spartans handled No. 8 seed Mississippi State impressively in the first game of the round of 64, rolling 69-51 behind 19 points from Tyson Walker and 15 from Jaden Akins.

Those two were 6-for-13 combined from 3-point range on a 10-for-23 day (40.9 percent) for the Spartans. Getting efficient shooting from those two is as much a necessity as anything for this team if it wants to advance. MSU shot 27-for-54 from the field as a team, carving up Chris Jans’ pressuring zone with layups and open corner looks.

And the Spartans followed the obvious defensive scouting report in the second half — don’t give Bulldogs freshman star Josh Hubbard an inch of space.

Hubbard kept his team in the game in the first half with 13 points on 5-for-9 shooting. In the second? He was 1-for-9 for two points. And most of those were forces from extra long range with a defender in his face.

This is where Tom Izzo is at his best, the second day of an NCAA Tournament weekend with the short turnaround. The Spartans are 24-7 under Izzo in such games. Izzo is now 56-24 (.700) overall in the NCAA Tournament, third among active coaches in percentage behind John Calipari (48-19, .716) and Bill Self (52-21. 712). He is tops among active coaches in total NCAA wins. — Joe Rexrode


CSU could not apply serious pressure to Texas

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Colorado State got Virginia out of its game in the second half, at least to some extent, but the Rams couldn’t get any closer to Texas than six points and fell 56-44 to the Longhorns at Spectrum Center.

The Midwest Region No. 7 seed Longhorns (21-12) advanced to Saturday’s round of 32 and await the winner of Thursday’s game between No. 2 seed Tennessee and No. 15 seed Saint Peter’s. That could mean facing former longtime coach Rick Barnes, of course. Texas coach Rodney Terry was an assistant for Barnes at Texas from 2002-11, then returned in 2021 as associate head coach under Chris Beard.

The Longhorns’ top scorers had bad shooting nights, but Max Abmas and Dylan Disu — who combined to go 10-for-33 from the floor, 1-for-12 from 3-point range — managed some key baskets and scored 12 apiece. Chendall Weaver was key off the bench with 11 points and Tyrese Hunter had a spectacular defensive performance against Colorado State star Isaiah Stevens.

Stevens led the Rams with 10 points but was just 4-for-16 from the field. Colorado State had an all-time ugly first half with 11 points — after holding Virginia to 14 in the first half of its First Four win over the Cavaliers and tripled that in the second. But the Rams could never string together enough plays to apply serious pressure to Texas. The Longhorns won with a single made 3-pointer, from Abmas. — Joe Rexrode


PITTSBURGH — It was going to take 14th-seeded Akron, the 274th-best 3-point shooting team in America, shooting out of its mind to pull an upset over No. 3 seed Creighton here in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday.

And for a few magical minutes, the Zips shot out of their minds, making five of their first nine 3-point tries. So for a full half of basketball, the dream lived.

But in the second half, the law of averages and a tremendous talent disparity took over. Akron missed nine straight and 13 of 15 shots at one point, and the Bluejays’ big three of Baylor Scheierman, Ryan Kalkbrenner and Trey Alexander seemed to remember they were the best players in this game by a wide margin.

That trio, the returning core of a team that came within one shot of the Final Four last season, combined for 57 points and 26 rebounds – nearly matching Akron’s entire team in both categories. Creighton, which trailed with two minutes to go in the first half, led by as many as 20 in the second, and won 77-60.

Next up is a date with the winner of Oregon-South Carolina for a trip to a third Sweet 16 in four years under coach Greg McDermott. — Kyle Tucker


Wagner couldn’t slow down UNC

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Hubert Davis was able to insert his reserves — and even his walk-ons — with several minutes to play Thursday in No. 1 North Carolina’s eventual 90-62 win over No. 16 Wagner, which tells you all you need to know about this one.

Credit to the Seahawks, who hung tough for most of the game despite only having seven players, but Wagner never had the horses to feel good about an upset possibility. UNC scored 48 points in the paint — Wagner only had one available player over 6-foot-7 — and thoroughly dominated inside the paint.

To that extent: Armando Bacot, playing the final few games of his legendary college career, posted his sixth consecutive NCAA Tournament game with 15-plus rebounds, dating back to North Carolina’s 2022 national championship game run.

And athletic forward Jae’Lyn Withers, a Charlotte native playing back in his hometown, had his best game as a Tar Heel; he finished with a season-best 16 points, 10 rebounds and three assists in 21 minutes.

Still, the Tar Heels were not perfect. They had nine turnovers, which led to 11 Wagner points, and their lackluster defense allowed the Seahawks to make five second-half 3s. It’s one thing to out-physical a team short on bodies.

It’s another to outplay them … and while UNC did, its effort wasn’t quite as thorough as you’d like to see. Play like that against Michigan State on Saturday, and that will be a trendy upset pick. — Brendan Marks


OMAHA, Neb. — Seventh-seeded Washington State hangs on to beat 10th-seeded Drake, 66-61. Fifth-year senior Isaac Jones was everywhere the Cougars needed him to be, finishing with 20 points on 6-of-13 shooting. He added 11 rebounds and three assists. Jones’ collegiate career included stops at Wenatchee Valley and Idaho. Just how much did this moment mean to Cougars fans in the arena?

Head coach Kyle Smith caps the night by posing for a photo with a baby. The family approached Smith after his TV interview and he politely obliged. He even made small talk with the folks who leave Omaha with quite the memory. Smith then jogged to the other side of the area behind the team’s bench where more fans were waiting to celebrate with him. — Audrey Snyder


Required reading

For ticket information on all tournament games, click here.

(Photo: Gregory Fisher / USA Today)


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