Are we having fun yet?

Day 1 gave us many things. It gave us historic upsets (shoutout Arizona). It gave us wild late-game sequences (shoutout Furman). It also gave us incredibly significant injuries that could alter the rest of the NCAA Tournament (shoutout Marcus Sasser and Brandon Miller).

It was, by any stretch, a day full of significant developments, many of which could’ve impacted the SEC.

Let’s dig into the 5 ways in which the bracket broke for the conference after 5 teams (Arkansas, Auburn, Alabama, Mizzou and Tennessee) already punched their ticket to the Round of 32:

1. Who benefited the most from the biggest upset of the day? Mizzou

Mizzou … caught a break? Yes. Arizona’s stunning loss to Princeton was the biggest story of Day 1. A team with national title aspirations looked like a potential roadblock for an extremely inexperienced Mizzou squad. Now, though, Dennis Gates’ team is suddenly the favorite to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2009.

Instead of having to deal with the size and athleticism of Arizona, Mizzou will face a Princeton team who lacks size but showed against Arizona that it can play stifling half-court defense. The Wildcats were held to 24 points in the second half, and they were held scoreless in the final 4:45. Compare that to a free-shooting team like Mizzou, who played at 10:40 a.m. local time and still managed to hit 76 points on 10-of-25 shooting from 3-point range.

We know that D’Moi Hodge and the Tigers won’t be shy about letting it rip from deep. Whether they can avoid Arizona’s late-game miscues in the half-court remains to be seen. While it’s by no means a given that Mizzou gets past Princeton — don’t forget about Florida Gulf Coast and Oral Roberts reaching the Sweet 16 as 15-seeds — there’s no doubt that avoiding Arizona was a massive win for Gates and Co.

2. Alabama is dealing with a Brandon Miller injury, but it won’t be dealing with Virginia

There was part of me that wondered if Virginia was going to totally get Alabama off its game in a potential Sweet 16 matchup. The closest thing to Tony Bennett’s squad was Tennessee, which handed the Tide 1 of its 2 SEC losses. Slow tempo, high defensive efficiency, unique matchup, etc. But Virginia’s stunning collapse — that Kihei Clark pass to no one will go down in infamy — made the Cavaliers one-and-done in March.

That was a crucial development, especially for an Alabama team that clearly doesn’t have its best player at 100%. As great as Miller was in the SEC Tournament, that groin injury was something that Nate Oats referenced coming off the 3-day run in Nashville. It’s possible that Miller will be working through that for the rest of the NCAA Tournament. It does feel like if there’s a way to humanize Alabama, it’s by giving it limited looks at a slower pace so that its bevy of offensive weapons can’t get rolling.

Furman, if it can get to the Sweet 16 by beating San Diego State, might actually play into Alabama’s hand. The Paladins shoot a ton of 3-pointers — they’re top 20 in 3-pointers attempted and made — and they had to make pretty significant adjustments to deal with what coach Bob Richey called the “sludge” of a typical Virginia game.

The difference between Virginia and Alabama from a game-flow standpoint is that the Tide can keep the foot on full throttle and turn a slow start into a laugher. And with how well Alabama defends all facets with its length, it might not even be an option to simply try to shoot over Alabama. The Tide should be able to control the pace in a potential Sweet 16 matchup if Furman gets past San Diego State.

3. Avoiding West Virginia might’ve been a sneaky win for Alabama, too

I thought it was bizarre that it was such a foregone conclusion that a West Virginia team that lost 14 games was in the field. Wins against Kansas State and Iowa State weren’t exactly game-changers, in my opinion, but West Virginia would’ve been dangerous in a Round of 32 matchup for a couple of reasons.

Coming out of the Big 12, which is absolutely loaded this year, Bob Huggins’ squad wasn’t going to be intimidated by Alabama. The Mountaineers could match their size and length. They rank No. 15 in America in offensive efficiency, and they didn’t necessarily play an up-tempo game that would’ve fed into Alabama’s ideal pace. Huggins ranks No. 5 among active coaches with 34 NCAA Tournament victories. That would’ve been daunting on a quick turnaround.

Even just the thought of “Press Virginia” can take a prolific offensive team like Alabama out of its rhythm. Maryland will be a better draw for the Tide.

4. The Marcus Sasser injury for Houston makes Auburn’s task much more doable

Golly. As brutal as it would be to see Sasser dealing with the nagging groin injury that he suffered in the AAC Championship and re-injured in the Round of 64, it would confirm the notion that someone is looking out for Auburn. The draw itself was already as good as Auburn could’ve asked for by virtue of getting to play in Birmingham. The Tigers could now be facing the No. 1 seed without its best player or with its best player at less than 100%.

Opportunities like this are rare. It’s never been a question about whether Auburn can play with elite competition. The blown leads against Alabama showed us that the Tigers have a higher ceiling than what that seeding would indicate. The question is if they can generate quality looks in the half-court against a Houston team that defends and rebounds as well as anyone in the country. Can they perhaps force the Cougars into an early deficit without their go-to scorer?

That spread is only Houston -5.5. This could feel like an Auburn home game, especially if the Cougars struggle out of the gate.

5. Bill Self’s health scare is serious business, which is why Eric Musselman could benefit

We got the unfortunate news ahead of Kansas’ opening-round game that Self was unable to coach the Jayhawks on Thursday after missing the Big 12 Tournament with chest tightness and balance issues. It’s unclear if Self will be on the sidelines for the Round of 32 game against Arkansas.

While that’s extremely unfortunate for the defending national champs, Self’s absence or even his return on a quick game-to-game turnaround, could benefit the Hogs. Musselman’s team is every bit as talented as Kansas’. That’s never been a question. But even at full strength after getting Nick Smith Jr. back, consistency has been the bigger issue. It’s been 2 steps forward, 1 step back.

We know that Musselman is never afraid of a 1-seed. He gave eventual-national champ Baylor everything it could handle in the Elite Eight in 2021, and last year, his team obviously took down top-seed Gonzaga.

The Hogs have been the team that everyone has been waiting on to put it together. Maybe now, against a Kansas squad with plenty of moving pieces, is ripe for an upset against the peak version of this Arkansas squad.

There’s some history on the line with the SEC taking down 1-seeds …

Per our own Chris Wright, since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, the SEC has eliminated a 1-seed a total of 16 times. However, none of those instances have ever occurred in the same round, much less on the same day.

That’s on the table for Auburn vs. No. 1 Houston and Arkansas vs. No. 1 Kansas.

In fact, there are only 3 NCAA Tournaments that saw the SEC take out multiple 1-seeds (1986, 1996 and 2006). There are 4 instances of that happening in the Round of 32:

  • 2014 — No. 8 Kentucky beats No. 1 Wichita State
  • 2004 — No. 8 Alabama beats No. 1 Stanford
  • 1996 — No. 8 Georgia beats No. 1 Purdue
  • 1986 — No. 8 Auburn beats No. 1 St. John’s

So essentially, the SEC could match its 21st century total (2) of Round of 32 victories against 1-seeds. If that happens, well, get ready for it.

The “It Just Means More” flexes will be heard even louder after Day 3 than they were after Day 1.