There were plenty of big-time performances, and big-time disappointments, to kick off the NCAA Tournament on Thursday. But these guys stood above the rest.
Roburt Sallie, Memphis: Holy cow! The 2nd-seeded Tigers were in big trouble for most of Thursday's game against Cal State-Northridge. They wouldn't have survived if not for Sallie. Going into the day, the reserve sophomore was averaging 4.5 points on the season, with a career-high of 13. Against CS-Northridge, he exploded for 35! Sallie made 12 of 17 shots, including 10 of 15 threes. Simply an amazing performance from an unexpected star.
Marcus Thornton, LSU: Quite simply, the dude couldn't miss. Thornton scored 30 points on 10 for 15 shooting and added four steals in the Tigers' win over Butler. To me, this was the one true upset on Thursday (yes, 12th-seeded Western Kentucky won, but Illinois was short-handed without starting guard Chester Frazier). Butler is simply better than LSU, but Thornton made sure the Tigers moved on.
Greivis Vasquez, Maryland: Maryland had their way with California thanks to their leader. Vasquez went off for 27 points in torching the Golden Bears. He was quite simply the best player on the court by a large margin.
Terrence Oglesby, Clemson: Rarely does a player come up smaller than Oglesby did on Thursday night against Michigan. Not only did he build a brick house by going 1 for 8 from the field, but Oglesby was ejected in the first half for throwing an elbow. At least he was willing to take responsibility after the game: "It was selfish of me to lose my cool, and I left the guys out to dry. I apologize to that kid for catching him with the elbow," he said. Oglesby or not, Clemson was once again their own worst enemy in this game. All the Tigers need to do to win is get the ball to dominating big man Trevor Booker. They didn't do it. Booker scored 18 points on 7 for 10 shooting. The rest of the team scored just 41 points on .255 percent shooting.
Butler Bulldogs: I'm sorry Butler fans, but I'm just not used to seeing this from your Bulldogs. Thursday was possibly the worst performance of the past five seasons from a Butler team. They were sloppy on offense and lazy on defense. Butler should have walked over LSU for an easy win. Instead, they're heading home after turning it over 15 times against the Tigers. Freshman star Gordon Hayward looked particularly lost out there. Of course, Butler fans shouldn't feel too bad. With the talent they'll return next season, the Bulldogs will be kings of the mid-majors and a darkhorse favorite for the Final Four.
Referees: Unfortunately, March has now become a yearly reminder that college basketball is the most poorly officiated sport in the U.S. Thursday's lowlights included a phantom offensive foul on VCU's T.J. Gwynn, helping decide a very close game. But one of the all-time worst officiating jobs came late in Western Kentucky's win over Illinois. Illini forward Mike Davis batted a pass out of bounds. After it was already out, Illinois guard Jeff Jordan caught the ball with his right foot out of bounds. While holding the ball, Jordan then took a second step out of bounds. Somehow, the refs gave it to the Illini. Worst of all, they actually went to the video replay to review it and still managed to get it wrong in every way possible. The Hilltoppers held on for the win. But if Illinois came back, this would have been yet another tragic officiating mistake.