LOOK: Top 10 moments from the 1st weekend of the NCAA Tournament

Well, the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament is in the books, and what a weekend it was.

In fact, from a pure drama perspective, this might have been the best opening four days in NCAA Tournament history. We saw buzzer-beaters, upsets, multiple miraculous comebacks and plenty of terrific individual performances.

Stars were born, and college careers were ended by the cruel hands of the basketball gods.

Cinderellas were fitted for their glass slippers overnight, and just as quickly turned into pumpkins two days later.

Did you miss any of the action over the weekend? If you did, we’ve got you covered. There were far more than 10 terrific moments, but here are the top 10 that you need to know before the Sweet 16 tips off on Thursday.

10. Providence beats USC on last-second Rodney Bullock layup

With just over two minutes left in Providence’s first round matchup with USC, the Friars found themselves down by five. It looked like Kris Dunn’s college career would end with a loss to the Trojans after a relatively average game from the All-American.

But that’s when USC allowed the Friars to crawl back into it. The Trojans missed three free throws and turned the ball over two times in that final stretch to set up a final sequence where Providence found itself down one with an inbounding coming underneath the basket it was trying to score on. After running through his reads, Drew Edwards found Bullock wide open underneath the basket for an easy layup. Bullock was made a hero, and the Friars lived to fight on another day against North Carolina.

9. Yale defeats Baylor, which leads to Taurean Prince having to define a rebound to a reporter

Yale picked up its first NCAA Tournament win in program history with an upset over No. 5 seed Baylor in the first round. Makai Mason was the star of the game, scoring 31 points in leading the Bulldogs to the win.

But the star of the entire event was Taurean Prince. After the game, he was asked by a foolhardy, tone-deaf reporter how the Bears got out-rebounded by Yale. Remember, Yale was a top-10 team nationally both in offensive rebounding rate and defensive rebounding rate. The Bulldogs are arguably the best rebounding team in college basketball, and Baylor plays a zone which can sometimes leave it susceptible to offensive boards. It was a ridiculous question, and Prince knew it as it smugly came out of the reporter’s mouth.

Instead of rudely dismissing the reporter, Prince simply defined exactly how to corral a rebound.

“You go up and grab the ball off the rim when it comes off, and then grab it with two hands, and then come down with it. That’s considered a rebound,” Prince said, with a totally straight face. “So they got more of those than we did.”

A perfect answer, indeed.

8. Cincinnati loses on buzzer-beating dunk waived off vs. Saint Joe’s

If there was a more heart-breaking finish than the one in Cincinnati and St. Joe’s first round game, I’m not sure what it was. St. Joe’s Isaiah Miles made a late 3-pointer to give the Hawks a two-point lead. But just as time was running down, Troy Caupain found an open Octavius Ellis at the basket. But instead of laying it in, the senior Ellis went for a dunk and the ball just didn’t quite get out of his hands in time. Instead of sending the game into overtime, he sent the Hawks into the second round for a matchup with No. 1 seed Oregon.

A really rough way to finish your college career, indeed.

7. Notre Dame uses last-second tip-in to steal Cinderella’s glass slipper

Just when it looked like we would have a true Cinderella in the Sweet 16, Notre Dame stole it from us with a fingertip. With Stephen F. Austin — more on the Lumberjacks in a second — leading in the final possession of the game, Notre Dame came down and threw a couple of wild shots toward the rim in order to attempt to pick up a late win. Just when it looked like the ball would fall harmlessly to the ground, Notre Dame’s Rex Pflueger tipped the ball up and in with just under two seconds remaining and gave the ACC the fifth out of its eventual six Sweet 16 teams.

The nation noticed Stephen F. Austin's Thomas Walkup, and his resemblance to a real Lumberjack. (USATSI)
The nation noticed Stephen F. Austin’s Thomas Walkup, and his resemblance to a real Lumberjack. (USATSI)

6. Thomas Walkup leads No. 14 Stephen F. Austin to victory over No. 3 West Virginia

Walkup is yet another mid-major great that doesn’t get the credit he deserves. With his long beard and muscular physique, he embodies the Lumberjack mascot to a ‘T’ in addition to doubling as Brad Underwood’s best player. Walkup scored 33 points, grabbed nine rebounds, dished out four assists and grabbed four steals in Stephen F. Austin’s first-round victory over No. 3 seed West Virginia. The 6-4 senior became an instant March star, and spawned plenty of fans in the process.

5. Josh Hagins’ step-back jumper for Little Rock to force OT, Trojans then beat Purdue in double-OT

Josh Hagins was another one of those terrific unknown mid-major players prior to the first round of the NCAA Tournament. A four-year point guard at Little Rock, Hagins took over the in second half to lead a tremendous 12-point comeback with three minutes left that sent the Trojans into the second round over Purdue. The key play in that comeback? A gutsy step-back 30-foot jumper to tie the game and force overtime against the No. 5 team in the Midwest region.

4. Wisconsin’s Bronson Koenig hits fadeaway buzzer-beating 3 to beat Xavier

What a remarkable turnaround for Wisconsin this year. On January 12, the Badgers were sitting at 9-9 and very much on the outside looking in regarding the NCAA Tournament. But what a difference two months makes.

First-year coach Greg Gard and Wisconsin are headed to the Sweet 16 after upsetting Xavier 66-63 on a last-second shot by Koenig that sent Wisconsin fans wild and sent Frank Kaminsky into an excited baseball slide into his kitchen.

3. No. 15 seed Middle Tennessee pulls one of the biggest upsets in NCAA Tournament history over No. 2 Michigan State

A coach named Kermit (Davis) and a player named Giddy (Potts) keyed what might be the biggest upset in NCAA Tournament history. No. 15 seed Middle Tennessee State — a 16.5-point underdog — defeated No. 2 seed Michigan State 90-81 to push the Blue Raiders to the second round of the NCAA Tournament and to send potential national player of the year Denzel Valentine and future Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo home.

2. Texas A&M comes back from 12 down in the final 35 seconds of regulation to defeat Northern Iowa

The Panthers looked like they had punched their ticket to the Sweet 16 with an upset win over Texas A&M. Heck, even CBS’ own Seth Davis had sharpied them into the regional semifinal on his own bracket. With a 12-point lead and just over 30 seconds to go, it seemed clear that Northern Iowa was headed to its second-ever Sweet 16. But then, things fell apart, and Texas A&M sprung the most unlikely comeback in NCAA Tournament history. The Aggies tied the game on a layup by Admon Gilder with just just under 2 seconds left, and then went on to defeat the crushed Panthers in double-overtime.

1. Paul Jesperson’s half-court buzzer-beater bank shot for Northern Iowa to beat Texas

Undeniably, one of the most miraculous shots in the history of the NCAA Tournament. Following an Isaiah Taylor floater to tie the game with three seconds left, Northern Iowa inbounded the ball to Jesperson. Jesperson got as far as halfcourt before he had to heave up a prayer that thudded off the backboard and went slinking through the basket, sending those in St. Louis — including Kurt Warner — into mass hysteria.

Northern Iowa player celebrate Paul Jesperson's epic game-winner vs. Texas. (USATSI)
Northern Iowa player celebrate Paul Jesperson’s epic game-winner vs. Texas. (USATSI)

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