March madness ensues with thrilling action on the first day of the NCAA Tournament

The opening day of the 2019 NCAA Tournament gave us everything.

From injury reports and big time matchups, to close games and a handful of upsets, the first 16 games of the tournament were fun, to say the least.

The day started when Kentucky head coach John Calipari announced PJ Washington would not be playing in their game against Abilene Christian.

“The specialists confirmed our original diagnosis that @PJWashington has a sprained foot and there is no fracture. Once we determined that PJ was not going to play today, they put him in a hard cast for precautionary reasons. He is out for today’s game,” tweeted Kentucky head coach John Calipari on Thursday morning.

Foot sprains can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a few months to heal, according to Harvard Medical School.

Washington wasn’t with the Wildcats on Wednesday during their media session and shootaround. Calipari also said on Wednesday that he expected his best player to play today, which is why Thursday morning’s news was so surprising.

The sophomore injured his foot during Kentucky’s SEC Tournament loss to Tennessee, and has been in a boot since Sunday. Washington led the Wildcats in scoring and rebounding this season, averaging 14.8 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.

After Kentucky defeated Abilene Christian 79-44, Calipari announced that Washington would not play in the Wildcats’ game on Saturday against Wofford.

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March Madness 2019: Photos from the first round
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March Madness 2019: Photos from the first round
Maryland 's Bruno Fernando (23) celebrates during the final moments of the second half of a first round men's college basketball game against Belmont in the NCAA Tournament in Jacksonville, Fla., Thursday, March 21, 2019. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Michigan State forward Xavier Tillman (23) grabs a rebound over Bradley guard Ja'Shon Henry (22) during a first round men's college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament, Thursday, March 21, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Louisville forward Jordan Nwora is fouled by Minnesota guard Amir Coffey, right, during a first round men's college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament, Thursday, March 21, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Auburn's forward Horace Spencer (0) and New Mexico State guard JoJo Zamora (4) battle for a rebound in the first half during a first round men's college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament, Thursday, March 21, 2019, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Yale 's Paul Atkinson (20) and LSU's Kavell Bigby-Williams battle for a rebound during the first half of a first round men's college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament in Jacksonville, Fla. Thursday, March 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
Belmont 's Dylan Windler, center, goes to the basket between Maryland 's Bruno Fernando, left, and Darryl Morsell (11) during the second half of the first round men's college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament in Jacksonville, Fla. Thursday, March 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH - MARCH 21: Trevelin Queen #20 of the New Mexico State Aggies reacts after being defeated by the Auburn Tigers 78-77 in the first round of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Vivint Smart Home Arena on March 21, 2019 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH - MARCH 21: Terrell Brown #3 of the New Mexico State Aggies attempts to shoot the ball against Anfernee McLemore #24 of the Auburn Tigers during the second half in the first round of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Vivint Smart Home Arena on March 21, 2019 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IOWA - MARCH 21: Elijah Childs #10 of the Bradley Braves celebrates after a three point basket against the Michigan State Spartans during their game in the First Round of the NCAA Basketball Tournament at Wells Fargo Arena on March 21, 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH - MARCH 21: Clayton Henry #5 of the New Mexico State Aggies dives for the ball during the first half against the Auburn Tigers in the first round of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Vivint Smart Home Arena on March 21, 2019 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT - MARCH 21: Tevin Brown #10 of the Murray State Racers celebrates after hitting a three pointer during the second half of the first round game of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament against the Marquette Golden Eagles at XL Center on March 21, 2019 in Hartford, Connecticut. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Purdue's Matt Haarms celebrates a basket as Old Dominion's Justice Kithcart (2) follows during the second half of a first-round game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament Thursday, March 21, 2019, in Hartford, Conn. Purdue won 61-48. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Villanova's Jermaine Samuels (23) dunks against St. Mary's Malik Fitts (24) during the second half of a first round men's college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament, Thursday, March 21, 2019, in Hartford, Conn. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH - MARCH 21: Johnny MCCants #35 of the New Mexico State Aggies dunks the ball against Chuma Okeke #5 of the Auburn Tigers during the second half in the first round of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Vivint Smart Home Arena on March 21, 2019 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IOWA - MARCH 21: Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans glares at Aaron Henry #11 after a play during their game in the First Round of the NCAA Basketball Tournament against the Bradley Braves at Wells Fargo Arena on March 21, 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA - MARCH 21: Adam Kunkel #5 of the Belmont Bruins reacts on the bench in the second half of play against the Maryland Terrapins during the first round of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at VyStar Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena on March 21, 2019 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mississippi State guard Lamar Peters watches during the second half of the team's game against Liberty in the first round of the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Friday, March 22, 2019, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Liberty's Zach Farquhar, left, and Keegan McDowell celebrate during the second half of a first round men's college basketball game against Mississippi State in the NCAA tournament Friday, March 22, 2019, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Houston's DeJon Jarreau dunks the ball during the first half of a first round men's college basketball game against Georgia State in the NCAA Tournament Friday, March 22, 2019, in Tulsa, Okla. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Buffalo's Jeremy Harris chases after a loose ball during the second half of a first round men's college basketball game against Arizona State in the NCAA Tournament Friday, March 22, 2019, in Tulsa, Okla. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Buffalo's Montell McRae (1) and Arizona State's Zylan Cheatham (45) chase a loose ball during the first half of a first-round game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament, Friday, March 22, 2019, in Tulsa, Okla. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Wisconsin guard D'Mitrik Trice, bottom, holds onto the ball under Oregon guard Ehab Amin during the first half of a first-round game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament, Friday, March 22, 2019, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Gardner Webb forward Eric Jamison Jr. (2) has the stripped by Virginia guard Kihei Clark, right, during a first-round game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament Friday, March 22, 2019, in Columbia, S.C. Virginia defeated Gardner-Webb 71-56. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford)
Buffalo's Dontay Caruthers celebrates a teammates basket during the first half of a first round men's college basketball game against Arizona State in the NCAA Tournament Friday, March 22, 2019, in Tulsa, Okla. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA - MARCH 22: RJ Barrett #5 of the Duke Blue Devils dunks the ball as teammate Zion Williamson #1 celebrates against the North Dakota State Bison in the second half during the first round of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Colonial Life Arena on March 22, 2019 in Columbia, South Carolina. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Minnesota stuns Louisville in opening game of NCAA tournament

A year after Louisville fired Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino amid the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball, the NCAA tournament committee decided it pit Pitino’s old school against Minnesota, the team his son (Richard Pitino) coaches in the very first game of this year’s tournament.

Louisville never had a chance.

The No. 10 seed Golden Gophers upset the No. 7 seed Cardinals 86-76 on Thursday afternoon in the East Regional Round of 64 game in Des Moines, Iowa.

“There is nothing entertaining about this Minnesota-Louisville thing,” ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas said. “It’s just wrong.”

Rick Pitino was not in attendance as he’s currently coaching overseas in Greece, but he does have an ongoing lawsuit against Louisville.

“It’s just hanging over there,” Bilas added. “And it’s not like we don’t have enough problems in college sports that the tournament gets us away from for a little while. … We’ve got all these issues and all everybody wants to talk about is integrity when nobody is showing any.”

Gabe Kalscheur led the way for Minnesota with 24 points and 8 rebounds, as five Gophers scored in double figures. Louisville was led by Christen Cunningham who scored 13 of the Cardinals’ 22 points from the free throw line.

It was the first season for head coach Chris Mack after the Cardinals missed the 2018 NCAA Tournament. Louisville finished the season 20-14.

Minnesota will face Michigan State on Saturday.

Ja Morant leads Murray State to upset victory over Marquette

Murray State kept the obligatory No. 12 versus No. 5 seed upset alive in the NCAA Tournament on Thursday as Ja Morant led the Racers with 17 points, 16 assists, and 11 rebounds in an 83-64 victory over Marquette.

All season long the sophomore point guard had been listed as a probable top-3 pick in this summer’s upcoming NBA Draft, but Thursday was the first time that the nation got a chance to see him on the big stage.

Morant exceeded the hype, as he notched his third triple-double of the season and the 17th in NCAA Tournament history. It was the first time a player had accomplished the feat since Michigan State’s Draymond Green did it in 2012.

Whether it was a step-back 3-pointer to the end the first half, or a nasty two-handed dunk over a Marquette defender twice his size, Morant gave fans and scouts everything they needed to see as he scored or assisted through 53 of the Racers 83 points.

After leading 42-35 at halftime, Murray State cruised in the second half as they started bleeding the clock with a 20-point lead with five minutes left.

It was the second consecutive season that the Racers found themselves in a 5-12 game in the NCAA Tournament. Last year, Murray State lost 85-68 to West Virginia in the first round, as Morant was held to just 14 points.

“I would say last year was our first time so guys are happy to be there,” said Murray State’s Shaq Buchanan before the game. “But this year with me and Ja and Brion (Sanchious), we have the focus that we can go far in this tournament. We have the team to do it.”

This year marked the 17th NCAA Tournament appearance for Murray State, as the Racers have now won four first-round games, beating North Carolina State in 1988, Vanderbilt in 2010, Colorado State in 2012, and now Marquette.

Tevin Brown led Murray State in scoring with 19 points, while KJ Williams had 16, with Buchanan adding 14.

Marquette was led by their star guard Markus Howard who put up 26 points in the loss. Sam Hauser added 16 points of his own, as the tandem were the only ones to score in double figures for the Golden Eagles.

Florida upsets Nevada in the Round of 64

As the saying goes, “you’re either a Gator or Gator bait.”

That was the case on Thursday night for the No. 7 seed Nevada Wolf Pack, when they were upset by the No. 10 seed Florida Gators.

In the third upset of the day, the Gators used an 11-point halftime lead as a cushion to hold off the Wolf Pack down the stretch in their 70-61 first-round victory in Des Moines, Iowa.

Kevarrius Hayes led the Gators with 16 points, as Jalen Hudson chipped 15 of his own. The Martin twins combined for 42 points, 13 rebounds, and seven steals for Nevada.

The Wolf Pack were 2.5-point favorites before the game. Last year, Nevada made it all the way to the Sweet 16 as the No. 7 seed in the South before being upset by Loyola and Sister Jean. The Wolf Pack had been ranked in the Top 25 all season. Nevada arrived at the NCAA tourney this year after being upset by San Diego State in the semifinals of the Mountain West Conference Tournament.

Meanwhile the Gators entered the tourney after an SEC Tournament semifinal run that included wins over Arkansas and LSU. Florida was No. 8 in the SEC during the regular season and finished with a 9-9 record in conference play. Thursday marked the Gators’ 20th NCAA Tournament appearance, as Florida’s record improved to 5-2 under Mike White in the tournament.

Thursday, however, was the first time the two teams have ever met.

Florida will play the winner of the No. 2 Michigan and No. 15 Montana game on Saturday.

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