March Madness Live Blog

UMass and Duke heading home early.

Mar. 21, 2014— -- Twenty games down, 67 to go. Sixteen more March Madness matches are on the docket today, and if they are anything like Thursday's batch, it should be a lucrative Friday for America's cardiologists.

For the first time in the tournament's long history, four of the first day's games, not including Tuesday and Wednesday's play-in games, went to overtime. North Dakota State, Connecticut, San Diego State and the St. Louis Billikens all survived and advanced, the latter overcoming a 16-point deficit with less than 10 minutes to play. And then there was Texas. Longhorns big man Cameron Ridley delivered the night's signature scene: a buzzer beater the left the Arizona St. bench beaten down.

Today will surely bring more images like that, as the great powers of yesteryear (like, last year) take on some sexy up-and-comers: Kentucky, the perennial powerhouse turned 2014 No. 8 seed, tips off with mercurial Kansas State in St. Louis, while North Carolina, champions twice in the past decade, will have their hands full with a crafty Providence squad later today in San Antonio.

The early headliners include everyone's favorite coach, Mike Krzyzewski, and his Duke Blue Devils. The always dangerous -- dangerous in that they might make a run, dangerous in that they might sputter out early -- will have mid-major troublemaker Mercer on its plate at 12:15 p.m. ET. The Bears have three senior starters, experience that should suit them well if they can hang with Duke's dynamic freshman, Jabari Parker.

One more piece of narrative shenanigans to watch out for today: Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) coach Shaka Smart took the wood to his Duke University counterpart during an interview on ESPN Tuesday. Krzyzewski, on the Saturday before Selection Sunday, questioning whether VCU's A-Ten Conference had produced enough quality this season to deserve as many as six tournament bids. Smart did not appreciate Coach K's suggestion, saying, "First of all, comparing your own league (the ACC) to someone else’s league is like me saying that my daughter is cuter than your daughter. There’s a level of bias that comes into play that you shouldn’t even make those comments." And so forth. Both coaches have plenty to deal with today -- 5-seed VCU also plays today, against SF Austin's Lumberjacks tonight in San Diego -- but one suspects they'll sneak a peek at the away scoreboards sometime before the end of NCAA Basketball business tonight.

(Note: Smart must have been smiling last night, when St. Louis, the A-10 Regular Season champion, knocked off the ACC’s North Carolina State Wolfpack.)

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