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Observations: Manhattan's Masiello brilliant in NCAA debut despite loss

By Jon Rothstein | CBS Sports

More NCAA hoops: Tournament bracket | Complete NCAAs coverage | Latest news

1. Steve Masiello was the breakout star on Thursday.

And it wasn't even close. Manhattan's third-year head coach nearly pitched the perfect game and came up just short. The Jaspers outplayed Louisville for 38 minutes and nearly upset the defending national champions before falling by seven. Many, including myself, wondered how Manhattan would match up with Rick Pitino's squad, but Masiello -- an assistant under Pitino for six seasons -- stood toe to toe with his mentor. This was one of the more impressive performances that we've seen in recent memory from a coach making his debut in the NCAA Tournament.

2. Harvard's brand continues to grow under Tommy Amaker.

The Crimson won an NCAA Tournament game for the second successive year after Tommy Amaker's squad beat Cincinnati on Thursday, and anyone who has followed this team didn't chalk it up as a surprise. Harvard might play in the Ivy League, but the Crimson certainly are not viewed that way nationally. Harvard is an excellent passing team and has the talent, experience and poise to compete with most programs in America. Before Amaker's arrival, the Crimson last reached the field of 68 in 1946. On Saturday, they'll play Michigan State in the in Round of 32 for a chance to go to the Sweet 16. It's amazing how much this program has grown since Amaker was hired in 2007.

3. Shabazz Napier had a brilliant all-around game against Saint Joseph's.

The facts are the facts. Napier has had to carry Connecticut all season long, and Thursday night against the Hawks was no different, despite shooting 7 for 22 from the field. Saint Joseph's freshman DeAndre Bembry did a terrific job defensively on Napier, but the senior guard didn't let his offensive struggles affect the rest of his game. Napier finished with 24 points, eight rebounds, six assists and two steals in the 89-81 overtime victory against the Hawks and made a huge shot in the lane during the extra five minutes to give the Huskies separation. Special players can affect the game in a plethora of ways, and that's just what Napier did on Thursday night. The potential All-American led UConn in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals. That's special.

4. NC State's loss to Saint Louis will stick with Wolfpack fans for a lifetime.

Mark Gottfried's team wasn't just ahead -- it was on cruise control. North Carolina State led Saint Louis by 14 points with just over eight minutes to play but completely unraveled down the stretch due to some poor decision making and awful free-throw shooting. The Wolfpack missed 15 free throws in the second half and allowed the Billikens to force overtime and escape with an 83-80 victory. Saint Louis got unbelievable production from two of its seniors -- Rob Loe and Jordair Jett -- down the stretch. Loe finished with 22 points and 15 rebounds while Jett tallied 18 points, five rebounds and four assists.

5. Pittsburgh's Talib Zanna has played like one of the best big men in the country his past five games.

And that's something that should concern Florida. The Panthers dominated Colorado from tip to buzzer in a 77-48 rout and Zanna again was a main reason why. The fifth-year senior had 18 points and five rebounds against the Buffaloes and is averaging 15.8 points and 10.8 rebounds during his past five games. Jamie Dixon's squad has played incredibly well since an overtime victory March 8 at Clemson and has all the requisites to push Florida when the two teams meet Saturday.

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