Luke Winn: At The Dance
  • 02:09 AM ET  03.21
Wake Forest had trouble keeping up with Cedric Jackson and Cleveland State right from the opening tap on Friday.
Bill Frakes/SI

1. The Real Cinderella is Cleveland State. The Vikings gave hints of being fairy-tale worthy in December, when point guard Cedric Jackson hit a 60-footer at the buzzer in the Carrier Dome to stun Syracuse. The Orange, one assumes, are ecstatic that they weren't the high seed who got stuck with the Vikings in the NCAA tournament -- because they had plenty of magic left in them. The unlucky team was Wake Forest, which wasn't just upset by Cleveland State on Friday -- the Deacons were steamrolled by 15 points.

Whereas Jackson and his teammates went wild on the floor of the Carrier Dome, and partied after upsetting Butler in Horizon League finals to steal an automatic bid, their margin of victory was so large against Wake Forest that there was no mob scene afterward. The Deacs looked stunned, and so was much of the nation, because this was the biggest upset of the first weekend. Wake Forest had the talent --  with three potential first-round picks in Jeff Teague, Al-Farouq Aminu and James Johnson -- to make a run at the Final Four, but was thoroughly outplayed by a mid-major that draws no attention from NBA scouts.

The last time Cleveland State was in the dance, as a 14-seed Cinderella in 1986, it upset Indiana and St. Joe's to reach the Sweet 16. Up next is 12-seeded Arizona, another team of underachieving pros, which means another trip to the Sweet 16 is a very realistic possibility for the Vikes. If Jackson, who had 19 points, eight assists and two rebounds, can outplay Teague, who had 10 points, five assists and seven turnovers, then Jackson can match up with Nic Wise. And if forward J'Nathan Bullock, who had 21 points and six boards, can outplay Aminu, who had 17 and six, then Bullock can hang with Jordan Hill. The fairy tale should continue on Sunday.

(If there's anything good that might come out of Wake's first-round loss, it's that coach Dino Gaudio might be able to convince Teague, Johnson and Aminu to stay in Winston-Salem for another season. Teague is a top-10 pick in some mock drafts, but in the pressure cooker of the NCAA tournament, he didn't look even close to NBA-ready. If all three return, the Deacons would likely be ranked in the top three in the preseason polls, and have a more realistic shot at the Final Four -- as long as they get mentally tougher. They were talented enough to beat North Carolina and Duke this season, but had the tendency not to show up for games against weaker competition, such as ACC bottom-feeders Georgia Tech and here, Cleveland State.)

2. We reached the Century Mark of Chalk in the NCAA tournament, as No. 1 seeds' all-time record against No. 16s hit 100-0. But the round number did not roll in with an emphatic statement; instead it was accompanied with warnings for future juggernauts. Anyone who watched top-seeded Pitt -- and to a much lesser degree, Louisville -- on Friday left with the feeling that the Upset of the Century is not an impossibility. The Cardinals, the No. 1 overall seed in the dance, trailed Morehead State late in the first half, before surging in the second, and their coach, Rick Pitino, explained the situation by saying, "One seeds play tight; 16 seeds don't."

Someday, a No. 1 will be so tight that it plays its way into infamy. The Panthers, whose game in Dayton provided CBS with a full montage's-worth of shots of coaches Jamie Dixon and Tom Herrion in various states of agony, looked to be headed in that direction. East Tennessee State trailed by just two, at 59-57, late in the second half, before losing 72-62. There are two stats that should further your belief in the 16-over-1 cause: 12-of-24 and 4-of-22. The first one is what the Buccaneers shot from the free-throw line; the second is what they shot from beyond the arc. They played that poorly and still nearly made history. "We didn't play our best game," ETSU coach Murray Bartow said. He told the press that a lot of things had to happen for a 16 to beat a one, including overcoming the presence of multiple pros -- like DeJuan Blair and Sam Young. "But it will happen," Bartow said. "It will happen. Could have happened today."

As for Pitt, Blair said afterwards that, "We're not like any other team that will beat teams by 40, 50. ... We're the type of team that likes to slow the game down and let the game come to us." Will they be able to get away with that against Oklahoma State, which likes to play at NASCAR speed?

3. Wisconsin over Florida State was the first legitimate upset in the 12-over-5 games. Arizona over Utah was a faux upset. I talked with Las Vegas Sports Consultants -- the guys who set the odds -- the night the brackets were announced, and they were more appalled with the seeding in Utah-Arizona than any other game. It defied logic -- Utah was overseeded as a five, 'Zona was underseeded as a 12, and the 'Cats were the more dangerous team. Vegas ignored the seeds and made Arizona a one-point favorite, and the 'Cats went out and played as if they were the five seed on Friday, rolling to an 84-71 win.

4. The Golden Bald Eagles are a resilient bunch. No. 6 Marquette's entire active roster, as well as two managers, buzzed their domes prior to the trip to Boise for their first-round meeting with No. 11 Utah State. Coach Buzz Williams, who has a permanently buzzed head -- but received his nickname for buzzing around gyms as a juco manager, not being shaven -- was an emphatic supporter of the cuts. The only player who abstained was Dominic James, the point guard whose senior season ended when he broke his foot in Feburary; he claims he's a coach now. Without him they lost five of their final six games, then were shipped off to Boise to face a West Coast team. It seemed like the circumstances were perfect for an upset -- and a high number of poolsters picked it to happen. But thanks to underrated forward Lazar Hayward, who scored 26 points, including all of their first 10, they managed to slip by the Aggies, 58-57, and ride on to meet Missouri.

5. The first round's Double Order of Onions Award goes to ... Ronald Moore, the point guard for No. 9 Siena who nailed two huge threes -- one at the end of the first overtime, and one at the end of the second -- to beat No. 8 Ohio State 74-72 in the best game of the tournament. Inimitable CBS color man Bill Raftery rightfully used his signature vegetable (and cojones substitute) to describe Moore's heroics. As the Saints' win and the Vikings' and Badgers' upsets were going into the books at the same time on Friday night, it finally felt like the madness was in full swing.


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