STATE OF SHOCKER: In an up-and-down year for Wichita State, the basketball action to open the NCAA tournament was decidedly up. Photo courtesy Harry How/Getty Images

STATE OF SHOCKER: In an up-and-down year for Wichita State, the basketball action to open the NCAA tournament was decidedly up. Photo courtesy Harry How/Getty Images

Perhaps it was due to unfairly high expectations, but the first day of March Madness wasn’t QUITE as “mad” as we expected it to be. Don’t get me wrong, there was madness to be had, but given how crazy the regular season was at times this year, Thursday’s action — especially the first half — was rather mundane.

That’s not to say there wasn’t things to comment on, though. Oh, yes, there was plenty of that! And here are just a few thoughts from the tournament’s first full day of action.

Bulldogging It
If Gonzaga wanted to prove their doubters wrong on Thursday, the game against Southern was an unequivocal failure. Rather than forcefully dismissing the champion of the laughably bad SWAC, the team atop the AP Poll played a #1-#16 game that went down to the wire.

Up four with under two minutes to go, Gonzaga began to run clock, and you could almost hear the likes of Duke, Miami, Georgetown and a handful of other schools more deserving of a top  seed chuckling.

To make matters worse, Wichita State, who Gonzaga will play Saturday, looked ferocious as they tore apart the Pitt Panthers. Could it even be possible that the Bulldogs could be the emotional underdog heading into that game? Maybe then, with the roles reversed, this squad will find their groove once again.

FULL MOON: The Lobos may want to wonder if they're cursed after yet another early tournament exit. Photo courtesy Harry How/Getty Images

FULL MOON: The Lobos may want to wonder if they’re cursed after yet another early tournament exit. Photo courtesy Harry How/Getty Images

Mountain Weak Conference
If you told me UNLV or New Mexico were going to lose yesterday, I’d say you’re wrong. If you told me BOTH would lose yesterday, I would’ve started laughing and walked away. Well, I’m glad you didn’t put me in that position.

The Lobos and Rebels looked far from the best two teams from the conference with the highest RPI this season. New Mexico was a LEGITIMATE title contender and UNLV was only a few steps behind. And they go down to the worst team in the Pac-12 and the Ivy League auto-bid? Come on, now.

March isn’t madness because there’s so many upsets, it’s because the upsets that DO happen are inexplicable. Illogical, even. There is literally no rational explanation as to how Harvard, a team who lost in this very round with a significantly better team last season, could take down the school with the second-highest RPI in the nation. Oh and UNLV? You lost to the school that was bumped out of the Pac-12 tournament by STANFORD. Cal’s so bad they lost to — get this — HARVARD during the regular season.

Although, I heard those guys got a big win last night.

‘Cats Fall Flat
Davidson! Ugh, Davidson, you almost had it! For the better part of forty minutes, the SoCon champs had one of the higher-seeded teams from the Big East on the ropes. Marquette wasn’t just struggling, they were kicking and flailing in the middle of a crimson ocean. And then, just as they left an opening for the knockout blow, the Wildcats essentially handed them the victory.

Everyone knows the team down late wants to extend the game. If you’re winning, you’re probably going to get fouled, but how much time can you take off? It was, in trying to answer that question, where Davidson got cute, threw one poor pass, and turned the ball over. No free throws, no points. And you don’t have ball.

That sort of fundamental mistake would be fatal against any team, let alone a power conference juggernaut. All I kept thinking was, “what in the hell were they doing?” Now Davidson will have all the time in the world to reflect just as I did, because their season is over.

Ore-Gonna Prove You Wrong, Selection Committee
The #5-#12 matchup between Oregon and Oklahoma State looked just how a game between two teams seven seeds apart should have looked. Well, with one exception: Oregon looked like the #5 team.

Everyone thought the Ducks got jobbed on Selection Sunday and they solidified that notion Thursday with a resounding victory over a very tough team. In fact, come nightfall, I’d say it was the second least-competitive game on the day,  only behind St. Louis. The Billikens, as it turns out, have Oregon next, too. And if I were them, I’d play them, at the very least, like a #5 seed.

Otherwise, they could be headed home prematurely just like the Cowboys.

BUNCH OF QUACKS: Oregon reminded the selection committee just how offensive a #12 seed was to them with a shellacking of Oklahoma State. Photo courtesy Jeff Chiu/AP

BUNCH OF QUACKS: Oregon reminded the selection committee just how offensive a #12 seed was to them with a shellacking of Oklahoma State. Photo courtesy Jeff Chiu/AP

Don’t PAC It In Just Yet
It doesn’t take a member of Mensa to figure out the Pac-12 just isn’t what it used to be. Still, the conference looked SUPER strong on the first day of tournament action.

Oregon throttled Oklahoma State, California knocked off UNLV, and Arizona survived the upset darling that was Belmont. I’m not above admitting I was wrong and I had all three of these teams losing today.
Now, though, you have one #12 seed that played as strong as any team in the field, a second that beat an outside Final Four favorite, and a #6 seed that didn’t falter as per expectations.

Now only UCLA and Colorado need to win tomorrow and the conference will pull off an improbably second round sweep. Yes, the Buffaloes may have their hands full with Illinois, but if there’s one thing we learned on Thursday it’s that it would be a mistake to write off ANY of these member schools prematurely.

Havoc Reigns Supreme
Did you SEE what VCU did to Akron last night? I was surprised the Rams weren’t taken away by Auburn Hills P.D. for felonious assault. Usually when we talk about March Madness, we’re talking about big, unpredictable upsets. This was no upset, but it certainly was madness.

However, don’t let this look like Michigan is in trouble. Akron had no backcourt which spelled disaster against VCU’s full-court press. The Wolverines, on the other hand, have one of the best point guards in the country if not THE best.

What the game seemed to do, rather, is even the playing field. VCU-Michigan already looked like it was going to be a good game, but let’s face it: the advantage went to Big Blue. They’re the more talented team and they’re playing a defacto home game. NOW, though, I’d say the playing field looks rather even.