Inside the compulsive thrills of Day 1 of the NCAA Tournament

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It did not disappoint. It never disappoints.

The NCAA Tournament provided its annual thrills on Day 1 with multiple upsets and riveting finishes destroying millions of brackets.

Here’s a recap of the highlights for anyone who was unable to spend 12-plus hours in front of one or more screens on Thursday — a look ahead to Friday’s busy slate:

Biggest upset

New Jersey shook up the nation for the second straight year. Following in the footsteps of the magical Saint Peter’s run last March, No. 15 Princeton scored the final nine points of its first-round game against No. 2 Arizona to secure a stunning 59-55 win.

The Tigers, who earned their first NCAA Tournament win since 1998, took their first lead with 2:03 remaining and held the Pac-12 champions scoreless for the final 4:43.

It was the third straight year — and 11th time since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985 — that a No. 15 seed topped a No. 2 seed. Princeton will face No. 7 Missouri — which beat No. 10 Utah State, 76-65 — in the second round on Saturday.

Play of the day (of the tournament?)

Furman scores the winning basket to upset No. 4 seed Virginia in the first round of the 2023 NCAA Tournament.The sequence of Furman’s game-winning 3 against Virginiavia YouTube/Bleacher Report

No. 13 Furman, appearing in its first tournament since 1980, trailed No. 4 Virginia by 12 with just over 15 minutes remaining. Against a Tony Bennett defense, it was the equivalent of a 20-point deficit.

Yet the Paladins clawed back to get within two in the final seconds. Following a made free throw, Furman trapped senior guard Kihei Clark in the corner of the court. Clark, who famously saved Virginia’s 2019 title season with a brilliant, buzzer-beating assist in the Elite Eight, surprisingly panicked — failing to use the team’s remaining timeout or see the open teammate across the court — and heaved a desperation pass towards midcourt.

Garrett Hien intercepted it and passed the ball to JP Pegues, who drilled a deep 3-pointer with 2.2 seconds left to give Furman a 68-67 win.

It was the third time Virginia has been upset in the first round of the tournament in its past four trips, beginning with the 2018 upset to 16-seed UMBC. Furman will next face No. 5 San Diego State in the second round.

Player to watch

Brandon Miller #24 of the Alabama Crimson Tide dribbles the ball against Simeon Fryer #22 of the Texas A&M-CC Islanders during the first half in the first round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Legacy Arena at the BJCC on March 16, 2023 in Birmingham, Alabama.If Brandon Miller is less than 100 percent, it will dent Alabama’s national title hopes.Getty Images

Brandon Miller. The top overall seed’s biggest star was held scoreless — going 0-for-5 from the field — and played just 19 minutes in Alabama’s 96-75 win over No. 16 Texas A&M Corpus-Christi.

Crimson Tide coach Nate Oats later revealed Miller has been battling a groin injury since the SEC Tournament. The SEC Player of the Year’s health likely will determine whether Alabama can reach the Final Four for the first time in school history.

Coach to watch

Acting Head Coach Norm Roberts of the Kansas Jayhawks reacts against Howard Bison during the first half in the first round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Wells Fargo Arena on March 16, 2023 in Des Moines, Iowa.Norm Roberts patrolled the sideline for Kansas due to the ongoing absence of BIll Self.Getty Images

Bill Self. The two-time national champion was absent from Kansas’ first-round win over No. 16 Howard.

Former St. John’s coach Norm Roberts filled in for Self, who also missed the Big 12 Tournament after undergoing a heart catheterization. Self is currently with the team, but his timeline to return to the sideline is uncertain.

Worst beat

Micah Parrish #3 of the San Diego State Aztecs celebrates with teammates against the Charleston Cougars during the second half in the first round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Amway Center on March 16, 2023 in Orlando, Florida.Charleston bettors had to lament the final margin for Micah Parrish and San Diego State.Getty Images

If you also took Charleston, you already know. The No. 12 seed trailed San Diego State by three with 25 seconds remaining and looked set to get the ball back when Jaylon Scott was whistled for a questionable foul on a desperation 3-pointer by Matt Bradley, who hit two attempts. Still, the Cougars were in great shape to cover the +5.5 line, holding the ball, down four (after a layup followed by a SDSU free throw), in the final seconds.

After Micah Parrish collected a missed drive with five seconds left, Charleston tried to snatch the ball back. The clock continued running. Then, just before the buzzer sounded, a foul was called with 0.7 seconds remaining. Parrish then hit both free throws to give the Aztecs the cover.


Today’s men’s schedule:

** = Howie Hoops’ best bets for the day

12:15 p.m. ET, CBS: No. 7 Michigan State (-1.5) vs. No. 10 USC
12:40 p.m. ET, truTV: No. 3 Xavier (-12.5) vs. No. 14 Kennesaw State
1:30 p.m. ET, TNT: No. 3 Baylor (-10.5) vs. No. 14 UC Santa Barbara
2:00 p.m. ET, TBS: No. 5 Saint Mary’s (-4.5) vs. No. 12 VCU
2:45 p.m. ET, CBS: No. 2 Marquette vs. No. 15 Vermont (+10.5)**
3:10 p.m. ET, truTV: No. 6 Iowa State vs. No. 11 Pitt (+4.5)**
4:00 p.m. ET, TNT: No. 6 Creighton (-5.5) vs. No. 11 NC State

4:30 p.m. ET, TBS: No. 4 UConn (-9.5) vs. No. 13 Iona

Read more: SERBY: Rick Pitino lives for March Madness
Iona on UConn matchup: ‘We have to almost play perfect’

6:50 p.m. ET, TNT: No. 1 Purdue (-22.5)** vs. No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson

Read more: CANNIZZARO: Don’t tell FDU they can’t upset Purdue

7:10 p.m. ET, CBS: No. 6 Kentucky (-4.5) vs. No. 11 Providence
7:25 p.m. ET, TBS: No. 5 Miami (-1.5) vs. No. 12 Drake
7:35 p.m. ET, truTV: No. 3 Gonzaga (-15.5)** vs. No. 14 Grand Canyon
9:20 p.m. ET, TNT: No. 8 Memphis (-1.5) vs. No. 9 Florida Atlantic
9:40 p.m. ET, CBS: No. 3 Kansas State (-7.5) vs. No. 14 Montana State
9:55 p.m. ET, TBS: No. 4 Indiana (-4.5) vs. No. 13 Kent State
10:05 p.m. ET, truTV: No. 6 TCU (-5.5)** vs. No. 11 Arizona State

Today’s back page

The back cover of the New York Post on March 17, 2023New York Post

Read more:

🏈 The issues holding up Jets-Packers’ Aaron Rodgers deal

🏈 New Giant Bobby Okereke won’t repeat his Daniel Jones mistake

🏒 Chris Kreider’s late goals lead Rangers to win over Penguins

MUSHNICK: Why I was surprised Joe Pepitone lived to 82

Edwin Diaz: See you in 2024?

Wait ’til next year.

The trumpets fell silent yesterday, as Mets general manager Billy Eppler announced All-Star closer Edwin Diaz will likely miss the entire season with a torn right patellar tendon, which he suffered while celebrating Puerto Rico’s win Wednesday night in the World Baseball Classic.

Diaz, who needed a wheelchair to exit the field in Miami, underwent surgery Thursday afternoon. Eppler said Diaz is expected to return in eight months while noting rare recoveries from the injury could take six months.

Edwin Diaz leaves the field in the wheelchairMets closer Edwin Diaz exits the field after tearing his patellar tendon after Puerto Rico’s game on March 15.AP

“We will see how the recovery starts and how much he is able to weight-bear and how active he is,” Eppler said. “I’m thinking we are not updating this timeline for a while.”

Diaz, 28, was coming off an incredible season in which he recorded a 1.31 ERA with 32 saves and 118 strikeouts in 62 innings, earning a five-year, $102 million deal with the Mets this offseason.

Diaz authored one of the best local comebacks in recent years, bouncing back from a 5.59 ERA in his first season with the Mets, incessant booing from fans at Citi Field and a demotion to become a dominant force and fan favorite.

His next shot at redemption likely won’t come until this time next year.

These bizarre injuries hurt our brain

Diaz will be with us all season. His name will be uttered at the end of close games. His injury will color late-inning collapses. His absence may define the legacy of a team expecting to win the franchise’s first World Series since 1986.

But strangely, the odd circumstances surrounding Diaz’s devastating news pales in comparison to some of the bizarre injuries suffered by notable New York athletes in recent years:

Plaxico Burress

New York Giants football player Plaxico Burress (R) and his lawyer Benjamin Brafman (L) enter Manhattan Criminal Court March 31, 2009 in New York. Burress, who shot himself accidentally in December, is appearing on charges of carrying a concealed firearm.Plaxico Burress’ 2008 season ended when he shot himself in the leg in a nightclub. AFP via Getty Images

The Mets may be able to achieve their ultimate goal without Diaz. The Giants couldn’t without their star receiver. The defending Super Bowl champions looked primed to repeat, winning 10 of their first 11 games. Then, Burress — who caught the title-winning touchdown less than one year earlier — accidentally shot himself in the leg with a gun he brought to a nightclub. The Giants lost four of their final six games — including a home playoff game to the Eagles — and Burress served 20 months in prison.

Geno Smith

The former Jets quarterback’s breakout season could have come much sooner, if not for a sucker punch — from teammate IK Enemkpali — stemming from an unpaid gambling debt. At the start of a press conference during the Jets’ 2015 training camp, coach Todd Bowles revealed that Smith — the team’s starter the previous two years — suffered a broken jaw and required surgery. He would appear in just one game that season as veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick led the Jets to a 10-6 record.

Jason Pierre-Paul

Jason Pierre-Paul #90 of the New York Giants is seen with his hand taped up against the New England Patriots during the second quarter at MetLife Stadium on November 15, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.Jason Pierre-Paul donned a club on his mangled right hand in 2015 following a July 4 fireworks accident.Getty Images

On July 4, 2015, the Giants’ All-Pro defensive end infamously damaged his right hand in a fireworks accident. Pierre-Paul’s right index finger was amputated, among 10 surgeries required following the career-threatening injury, yet he miraculously returned with a padded club on his hand to play eight games with the Giants that season.

Joba Chamberlain

He could do nothing about the midges. This 2012 incident was on him, though. Days away from the start of the season, the Yankees right-hander suffered a dislocated ankle while bouncing at a trampoline park in Tampa with his son, Karter. The former top prospect was sidelined until August.

Mariano Rivera

Mariano Rivera #42 of the New York Yankees does interview before a game against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium May 4, 2012 in Kansas City, Missouri.Yankees closer Mariano Rivera suffered a season-ending torn ACL in 2012 while shagging flies.Getty Images

The legendary closer’s remarkable stretch of good health came to an end on May 3, 2012. During a routine session of shagging fly balls before a game in Kansas City, Rivera, then 42, tore his ACL and collapsed on the outfield warning track. Rafael Soriano performed well in his place (42 saves, 2.26 ERA) then departed the next year as Rivera returned to pitch his final season.

Yoenis Cespedes

Yoenis Cespedes and a wild boarYoenis Cespedes and a wild boar. Enough said.Photo Illustration

The Mets should never see a stranger injury occur than the one experienced by their one-time star. During an offseason incident at his ranch in 2019, Cespedes suffered a mysterious fall that resulted in a fractured ankle. The Post later revealed the slugger was injured after stepping in a hole during an interaction with a wild boar. He would miss the entire season and only play eight more games with the Mets.

Aroldis Chapman

The seven-time All-Star was a punching bag and a punchline during his final season in pinstripes. Last year, Chapman missed nearly a month of the season due to a leg infection from a new tattoo — a portrait of his sister — he received.

Aaron Boone

Fresh off ending the 2003 ALCS with one of the biggest home runs in baseball history, Boone was set to be the starting third baseman the next season. But in January 2004, the future Yankees manager suffered a torn ACL while playing pick-up basketball, prompting the Yankees to trade for a new third baseman. More than a dozen exhausting years with A-Rod would follow; Boone’s playing career in pinstripes lasted a total of 71 games.

Amar’e Stoudemire

Amare Stoudemire #1 of the New York Knicks wears a sling on his left arm due to a cut on his hand against the Miami Heat in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs on May 3, 2012 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.Amar’e Stoudemire was sidelined during a Knicks playoff series in 2012 after getting hurt punching a fire extinguisher case.Getty Images

The Knicks were already in trouble. The seventh-seeded underdogs had dropped the first two games of their 2012 first-round playoff series to the LeBron James-led Miami Heat. Following the Game 2 loss, Stoudemire punched the glass door of a fire extinguisher case in the visitors’ locker room, and suffered a laceration on his left hand, requiring stitches. He would miss Game 3 of a blowout loss in Madison Square Garden, and the Knicks would lose the series in five games.

Jerry Blevins

The Mets traded for Blevins at the start of their 2015 pennant-winning campaign, but only received five innings from the southpaw. In April, Blevins suffered a fracture in his pitching arm after being hit by a line drive. In August, the lefty was set to return when he slipped on a curb and re-injured his arm, sidelining Blevins for the rest of the season.

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