Thursday's NCAA Tournament slate wasted no time providing college basketball fans with riveting theater as first-round action began with upsets, wild finishes and big-time performances. In total, 16 teams advanced while 16 were sent home, their time in the Big Dance cut short by the heartbreak of March.
No. 13 seed Furman knocked off No. 4 seed Virginia 68-67 while making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1980. The Paladins got a go-ahead 3-pointer from from JP Pegues with 2.2 seconds left after a confounding turnover from the Cavaliers. But that was only the beginning of the madness as No. 15 seed Princeton shocked No. 2 seed Arizona 59-55, marking this the third straight year in which a No. 15 seed has defeated a No. 2.
As for the No. 1 seeds, all three took care of business, and each produced important personnel notes. Alabama star freshman Brandon Miller played in the Crimson Tide's 96-75 win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi but did not score as coach Nate Oats revealed after the game that Miller is dealing with a hamstring issue.
Meanwhile, Kansas beat Howard 96-68 without coach Bill Self, who is continuing his recovery from a health issue that forced him to miss last week's Big 12 Tournament. Self said that he's been back around the team but that he was "not ready to coach the game."
Houston survived a scare in its 63-52 win vs. Northern Kentucky, but played most of the game without leading scorer Marcus Sasser, who continues to be bothered by a groin injury. To make matters worse, Cougars coach told CBS Sports' Tracy Wolfson that starting point guard Jamal Shead is dealing a with a bad knee.
"I'm very concerned," Sampson told Wolfson.
Here's the rundown from Thursday's first round action across a loaded day of March Madness action with a few takeaways featuring the SEC, which was 5-1 on Thursday, tying the record for most NCAA Tournament wins by a conference in a single day:
Alabama's path opens
It didn't take long for Alabama's path out of the South Region to open wide. It already looked like the easiest region in the bracket, and it only got easier Thursday as No. 2 seed Arizona and No. 4 seed Virginia were eliminated. No. 3 seed Baylor plays Friday and could also be at risk of an upset against No. 14 seed UC Santa Barbara, which nearly knocked off Creighton in a first-round game two years ago.
While a second-game with Maryland on Saturday will be no pushover -- especially if Miller is limited due to his hamstring issue -- the Crimson Tide have a smooth path to Houston.
Good Arkansas shows up
Looking ahead to the second round, Kansas could face a tough matchup with No. 8 seed Arkansas, which handled Illinois 73-63 on Thursday. The Razorbacks have been erratic this season while trying to piece together a roster full of freshmen and transfers, but they showed glimpses of their full potential against the Illini.
The Razorbacks forced 17 turnovers and turned those into 19 points while Ricky Council IV drilled 11 of 12 free throws while leading the team with 18 points. Arkansas is a poor 3-point shooting team -- as evidence by its 3 of 11 clip against Illinois -- but it's an athletic squad that can thrive in transition. If Kansas gets caught looking ahead to the Sweet 16 and the Razorbacks suddenly get hot from outside, they are capable of pulling a stunner on Saturday.
Missouri's turnaround continues
Just a year ago, Missouri finished 12-21 and ranked 309th nationally in scoring. Fast forward one year and the Tigers are marching into the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The No. 7 seed Tigers handled Utah State 76-65 while continuing to demonstrate an incredible offensive turnaround under first-year coach Dennis Gates.
Originally, it seemed as though Arizona would be Mizzou's potential second-round opponent. But with Princeton's stunning upset of the Wildcats, Missouri now has a great opportunity to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2009. Beating Princeton won't be easy, but it's certainly a more desirable matchup than playing Arizona.
We'll be tracking all the mayhem here, so keep this page handy for updates and scores from the first round of the NCAA Tournament, one of the best sports days of the year.
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(8) Maryland 67, (9) West Virginia 65 -- Recap
(13) Furman 68, (4) Virginia 67 -- Upset Breakdown
(7) Missouri 76, (10) Utah State 65 -- Recap
(1) Kansas 96, (16) Howard 68 -- Recap
(1) Alabama 96, (16) Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 75 -- Recap
(5) San Diego State 63, (12) Charleston 57 -- Recap
(15) Princeton 59, (2) Arizona 55 -- Upset Breakdown
(8) Arkansas 73, (9) Illinois 63 -- Recap
(9) Auburn 83, (8) Iowa 75 -- Recap
(5) Duke 74, (12) Oral Roberts 51 -- Recap
(2) Texas 81, (15) Colgate 61 -- Recap
(7) Northwestern 75, (10) Boise State 67 -- Recap
(1) Houston 63, (16) Northern Kentucky 52 -- Recap
(4) Tennessee 58, (13) Louisiana 55 -- Recap
(10) Penn State 76, (7) Texas A&M 59 -- Recap
(2) UCLA 86, (15) UNC Asheville 53 -- Recap
CBS Sports will be with you the entire way updating this story with the latest from every first round game on Thursday. Keep it locked here for scores, analysis and highlights throughout the evening.