The first full day of the NCAA men's basketball tournament delivered in a big way -- and so did the Minnesotans who played starring roles in some of the day's most exciting games. Here's a look at three of them, all from 5/12 matchups:
Siyani Chambers, Harvard: The former Hopkins standout scored 11 points -- five of them in a row in the final two minutes -- for the 12th-seeded Crimson in an upset of No. 5 Cincinnati.
Chambers, just a sophomore, has the complete trust and confidence of head coach Tommy Amaker. From the Boston Globe:
“He’s our most important player,’’ said Harvard coach Tommy Amaker. “He makes it all go for us. We needed the ball in his hands to make the decisions and plays.
“Sometimes I heap a lot on his shoulders, and I’ve got to remember he’s just a sophomore. And I just . . . I’m thrilled for his growth and his development, and he has a great deal of confidence in himself, and his teammates believe in him so much.
“We only played him for 37 minutes, we needed him for 40.’’
Chambers is one of the more emotional Harvard players, and he almost picked up a technical foul when he slammed the ball hard onto the court (he gathered it on the short hop) after the Crimson were denied possession on a loose ball that went out of bounds.
“My teammates, they were just like, ‘Keep your head in it, keep going, we need you out there,’ ’’ said Chambers. “You’ve got to keep your emotions. That helped me get my composure back.’’
It doesn't get any easier for the Crimson; Michigan State is up next in the round of 32.
Jordair Jett, St. Louis: Jett played at St. Agnes and St. Bernard's in high school. His reputation for big shots and quickness followed him to St. Louis, where he helped the fifth-seeded Billikens rally from a 14-point deficit to stun No. 12 North Carolina State in overtime. His layup in the final 20 seconds helped send the game to OT, and he finished with 19 points.
From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
Senior point guard Jordair Jett, so brilliant with the game and season on the line, stood in the middle of the post-game locker room with his sore knee wrapped in ice. He was asked if he’d be able to find sleep easily and peacefully on Thursday night.
“No,” Jett said. “There’s a lot of thoughts. A lot of thoughts.”
Marshall Bjorklund, North Dakota State: The leader of a pack of five Minnesotans on the NDSU roster, Bjorklund, a senior from Sibley East, had 13 points and played 40 minutes in the No. 12-seeded Bison's upset overtime victory over No. 5 Oklahoma.
From the Fargo Forum:
“This is the biggest win for all our sports,” said NDSU athletic director Gene Taylor, who watched the final three minutes of regulation and overtime in the catacombs of Spokane Arena. “I couldn’t watch it anymore. This is just unbelievable."
Said Bjorklund: “It’s pretty nuts. I can’t imagine what Saturday is going to be like."