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Round Two Odds and Ends

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

UNC-Asheville almost made history, VCU and Wichita State played the best game, and more from Round 2.

Round Two Odds and Ends

The NCAA Tournament officially started on Tuesday with the play-in games, but it really started yesterday with the First Second Round of games.  32 teams played, and only 16 survived and advanced.  Yesterday's action wasn't filled with too much excitement.  The average margin of victory was 12.1 points, and only three games were decided by fewer than six points.  But there were certainly great performances and interesting developments throughout the day.

Best Game: 12 VCU 62 - 5 Wichita State 59

It's such a shame that one of these teams had to go home in the round of 64.  Like Old Dominion/Butler in the 8/9 game last year, both of these teams were capable of Sweet 16 runs, but only one of them would have the opportunity to realize it.  Certainly a cruel pairing by the committee.  

But the match-up gave us the most exciting game of the day.  VCU and their "HAVOC" defense really gave Wichita State problems early on, especially their seven-footer Garrett Stutz.  Because of foul trouble and an overall inability to handle the pressure, Stutz played just 17 minutes and scored only four points (averaged 13.5).  VCU raced out to a nine-point lead at the half, but most expected the effectiveness of their high-octane defense to slip in the second half.

It did.  It took a little while for Wichita State to make their run, but they ended the game with a flurry.  Joe Ragland paced the Shockers with 15 points, 12 of them coming in the second half.  Back-to-back threes by Ragland and Toure' Murray gave Wichita State a two-point lead with just over two minutes to play.  VCU's senior leader Bradford Burgess responded with a three of his own to reclaim the lead, then junior guard Darius Theus iced the game by securing a defensive rebound and dropping in a floater at the other end.  A three by Stutz missed the mark on the other end, and VCU escaped with the win.  This Rams team was overlooked by this blogger again, and Smart's team will definitely give Indiana all they can handle on Saturday.

Biggest Surprise: 11 Colorado 68 - 6 UNLV 64

Colorado snuck into the tournament by winning the Pac-12 Conference Tournament, and I certainly didn't expect much from them coming into the NCAA Tournament.  When they were matched up with Mike Moser and UNLV, I thought this was one of the easier selections in my bracket.  

I couldnt' have been more wrong.  Colorado absolutely stunned the Runnin' Rebels out of the gate behind balanced scoring from Carlon Brown, Askia Booker, Andre Robertson, and Austin Dufault.  UNLV also relied too heavily on the three, shooting just 4-16 from long range in the first half.  Colorado took advantage and held an 11-point lead entering the half.  

Colorado built that lead up to 20 in the second half, but then started to fall victim to UNLV's intense press.  The Buffaloes turned the ball over 14 times in the second half, many of those leading to easy UNLV scores.  UNLV cut the lead to just two points with 4:24 seconds left, but then abandoned any semblance of an offense after that.  They resorted to standing around and shooting threes (2-7 from that point on, and many of them incredibly deep looks) instead of trying to score inside or get to the free throw line.  Colorado was able to hang on because of it, scoring the biggest upset of the tournament thus far.

Biggest What-If: 1 Syracuse 72 - UNC-Asheville 65

The Bulldogs had Syracuse on the ropes for almost the entire game, leading by four at the half and holding the lead for much of the second frame.  Syracuse was the beneficiary of two crucial officiating blunders.  The first came early in the second half with Asheville still up two.  Jeremy Atkinson was fouled by James Southerland (who is quietly becoming Syracuse's most clutch player) and his shot, which hit off the back board and was on its way towards the rim, was swatted away.  The referees missed the obvious goaltending violation, and instead of going to the line for an and-one, Atkinson made just one of two free throws.

Then with Syracuse leading by three late, Asheville applied their full-court press.  Syracuse inbounded the ball, but the pass went off guard Brandon Triche's hands and out of bounds.  The referees called it Syracuse basketball.  There was contact on the play, but no foul was called, and the ball clearly went off of Syracuse.  In that case, the ball has to be given to UNC-Asheville.  Instead, Syracuse added two more points and basically iced the game.

The refs definitely cost Asheville a few opportunities, but they also did themselves no favors with their play down the stretch.  Their best player, Matt Dickey, shot 1-13 (1-9 from three).  They settled for long shots instead of attacking the zone late.  There were plenty of chances available for Asheville, but they didn't capitalize.  As a result, Syracuse moved on, with just a tiny nudge from the officials.

Top Performances

Jae Crowder, Marquette: 25 points, 16 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 steals in the 88-68 win over BYU.
Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State: 31 points, 12 rebounds, 2 blocks in the 78-59 win over Loyola (MD).
Rodney McGruder, Kansas State: 30 points, 4 rebounds, 4 steals in the 60-54 win over Southern Miss.
Jordan Taylor, Wisconsin: 17 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals in the 73-49 win over Montana.

Let CHARGED.fm get you tickets to see the NCAA Tournament Final Four in New Orleans.

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