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Wolfpack collapse headlines day of chaos in NCAA tournament opener

Saint Louis Billikens 83, N.C. State Wolfpack 80 (OT): Rob Loe, Billikens make late 14-point rally thanks to missed Wolfpack free throws.
Saint Louis Billikens 83, N.C. State Wolfpack 80 (OT): Rob Loe, Billikens make late 14-point rally thanks to missed Wolfpack free throws.Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The NCAA tournament had its first major day and night of action on March 20. The day started with the Dayton Flyers pulling a last-second upset over the Ohio State Buckeyes, and ended after 1 a.m. est with the San Diego State Aztecs surviving an overtime upset bid. In between, the NCAA tournament lived up to its March Madness billing with even greater madness, especially when the N.C. State Wolfpack let a sure fire upset slip away against the Saint Louis Billikens.

Warren, Turner let Wolfpack down in late collapse
Warren, Turner let Wolfpack down in late collapsePhoto by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

While the Billikens won by 83-80 in overtime, the score and results were misleading. The 12'th seeded Wolfpack, who already survived Selection Sunday and the First Four to get this far in the NCAA tournament, were poised for another surprise all night. The slumping Billikens were crumbling against the surging Wolfpack, to the point of being down by 59-45 with five minutes left.

Then the Wolfpack missed 13 free throws over the next 10 minutes, while the Billkens found their footing. Yet Saint Louis missed a late free throw of its own after a tying layup by Jordair Jett, although N.C. State couldn't take advantage and had to go to overtime. After that, T.J. Warren missed yet another free throw of his own in the final minute that could have tied the score, leaving the Wolfpack to play catch up and fail.

N.C. State's failure set the early bar for collapses in the NCAA tournament. This came on a day where No. 5 seeds like the Cincinnati Bearcats and Oklahoma Sooners lost, where the defending champion Louisville Cardinals almost lost, where the Florida Gators and Villanova Wildcats couldn't put away wins until the second half, and where the Colorado Buffaloes and American Eagles were utterly throttled.

Four overtime games, three wins from double-seeded wins, and many near-misses from other underdogs made this a true day of March Madness. Since this was only the first crowded day of the NCAA tournament, the mind boggles as to how much more chaos lays ahead. The Wolfpack won't be a part of it nonetheless, while the Billikens hope their reprieve wasn't a one-time favor.

The accompanying slideshow lists the 16 results from the start of the second round, as they provided big heroics and big blowouts all day and night.