VCU Wichita State

VCU is up to their old antics as they upset #5 Wichita State out in Portland. Photo courtesy Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

The first day of what really is the FIRST round of the NCAA tournament is in the books. 16 teams are done and 16 others are through to the next round. But with over 12 hours of constant basketball, it’s easy to miss some things here and there. Here is a recap of the day’s action.

The day tipped off with Murray State and Colorado State. Murray State suffered only one loss during the regular season and entered March Madness a rare 30-plus-win team. Colorado State sort of got lost in the shadows of the other Mountain West schools but slid into an 11 seed, arguably just above the “bubble line” and was one of my potential dark horses.

And, for a while, the CSU Rams gave the Racers a scare. Big man Pierce Hornung was a monster in the first half grabbing several boards and coming through with some clutch paint points as the Rams began to struggle from outside. In the second half, though, Colorado State committed seven turnovers in less than eight minutes culminating in a 16-2 run by Murray State who ended up winning comfortably.

Kansas State

Kansas State and Southern Miss did battle. Southern Miss fans, on the other hand, took some low blows. Photo courtesy US Presswire

Also tipping off early was #8 Kansas State vs. #9 Southern Mississippi over in the East region. K-State opened up a sizable lead early but Southern Miss pulled even as the first half wound down. Rodney McGruder managed to keep the Wildcats out front with 18 first half points, however, and they led by three at the half.

But the real story in this one was formed off the court. As Kansas State point guard Angel Rodriguez lined up for a free throw, the Southern Miss faithful, led by the school’s pep band, began chanting “Where’s your green card?” College basketball has a habit of pushing the edge when it comes to fan vulgarity, but this, at least in my opinion, crossed a line. It’s also worth noting that Rodrguez was born in Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, making him a natural-born citizen. If Southern Miss is going to throw classiness out the window, they should at least check their facts before they start their chants.

Kansas State held off Southern Miss in the second half and advanced to the next round. They left the court easily expecting to play Syracuse on Saturday. As it turns out though, the Orangemen are pretty much lucky to be alive.

A 16-seed has never beat a 1-seed in the NCAA tournament but UNC-Asheville was determined to make history. They came out of the tip off firing on almost all cylinders and had Syracuse on the ropes early and often. The Bulldogs actually LED at half time, becoming only the seventh 16-seed in history to do so. However, the second half is where things really started to get going.

The game was tied 54-54 when the top seed in the East when on an 8-0 run. James Southerland quickly became the Orangemen’s savior on both sides of the ball. UNC-Asheville’s star player, on the other hand, Matt Dickey, struggled mightily all game and never found his shot.

But his teammates kept the Bulldogs in the game and UNC-Asheville was in a position to win as the game headed towards the final buzzer. Then, on an out-of-bounds play — there’s no other way to say this — they got robbed by the referees.

Syracuse inbounded the ball. The ball very clearly touched Syracuse before it went back out of bounds but there was contact on the play. So was it UNC-Asheville’s ball? Was it a foul? No, according to the refs, it was Syracuse ball out of bounds all over again. Objectivity aside, the referees hands-down blew the call. If you don’t believe me, just look at the beating the zebras took on twitter. As it stood, though, Syracuse won and faces Kansas State this weekend who must be chomping at the bit to take down the struggling Orangemen.

So Syracuse survived and Kansas State and Murray State prevailed. Elsewhere, the upset bandwagon that was Long Beach State lost as did Harvard. In fact, the first half of the day’s game ended with ALL the higher seeds winnings. But leave it to a former Final Four Cinderella to change all that.


The potent VCU "havoc" defense disrupted the Shockers all game. Photo courtesy Ross William Hamilton/The Oregonian

VCU tipped off against Wichita State in one of the evening’s first games. The Rams, tournament darlings just one year ago, were quick to unleash their name-brand “havoc”, cutting and slashing their way to a nine-point half time lead. In the second half, they led by as much as 15 before the Shockers pulled even and eventually led at times late during the game.

As the game entered the final minute, VCU had the ball leading by one. Point guard Darius Theus drained the shot clock then drove down the middle of the paint. Half way home, he pulled short and tossed up a floater that nicked the front of the rim before sliding in. The move altogether seemed to be very Eric Maynor-esque.

Wichita State only had seconds left to answer and needed three to send it into overtime. As they crossed half court and approached the three point line, the stringent Rams defense immediately got in their faces and whatever play had been drawn up quickly broke down. As time expired, the 7-foot behemoth Garrett Stutz stepped behind the arc with the ball and threw up a desperation three. But the shot missed its mark and the Rams prevailed.

The only other upset yesterday came in one of the last games to tip off last night. UNLV, a powerful at-large bid that some liked as an Elite Eight contender, faced the Pac-12 champion Colorado Buffaloes. The Big 12 defector stole the automatic berth away from the likes of California and Washington and made the most of their tournament entry.

Through much of the first half, defense prevailed in a low-scoring affair. In fact, it was almost to halftime before the game’s pace really picked up. Colorado’s lead over UNLV remained near double digits for most of the game before the Rebels closed the gap late. Still, Colorado prevailed.

Elsewhere, Kentucky breezed by WKU, Baylor held off South Dakota State, and Indiana cruised past New Mexico State. In the West, Big East schools Louisville and Marquette also won and Wisconsin, Gonzaga, and Ohio State advanced to the next round in the East.

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When Bryan isn’t studying bracketology, he is on twitter! Follow him @bclienesch!