Of course VCU is the first lower seed to win

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With higher-seeded teams winning all eight of the afternoon games the first big day of NCAA tournament action was off to a slow start from an upset standpoint.

Leave it to VCU to be the team that spiced things up.

Shaka Smart’s Rams defended Wichita State’s final play well, forcing Garrett Stutz to take a three in the final seconds that went long to give VCU the 62-59 win. Bradford Burgess scored a team-high 16 points, and his three with 1:33 remaining gave the Rams a 60-59 lead. Darius Theus’ floater with 18.2 seconds to go provided the final points of the night.

It was all about “havoc” in the first half for the Rams, who put on a defensive clinic in the first 20 minutes. Wichita State may have taken care of the basketball by comparison to CAA tournament victims George Mason and Drexel by turning the ball over just seven times, but they couldn’t find quality looks.

Gregg Marshall’s team shot just 37.5% from the field and 5-of-17 from beyond the arc. Joe Ragland led the way with 15 points while Carl Hall and Toure’ Murry added 10 apiece, but the pace within the possessions forced the Shockers out of their comfort zone.

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“We’ve done a great job for the majority of the season holding teams under their average and holding their scores under their average,” said Burgess. “And that was the emphasis on today’s game, holding Stutz and Ragland under their average.”

That was most evident in the play of Stutz, who could never get comfortable and made just two of his eleven shots on the night. Neither team shot well from three with VCU making six of their twenty-two attempts, but they got a big one late from Burgess and shot over 50% inside of the arc.

Next up for the Rams will either be Indiana or New Mexico State on Saturday, and it’s going to be interesting to see how the winner of that game will deal with the pressure that VCU applies on each possession.

Before tonight the Rams forced 17 or more turnovers in eight of their last nine games, so it’s a credit to Wichita State that they finished with 13. VCU’s a familiar name but a different team from the one that reached the Final Four last season, but they’re every bit as dangerous.

“We won 29 games already this year.  And last year’s team only won 28,” said Smart. “We won our conference tournament.  Last year’s team lost in the conference championship game.  So in a lot of ways we’ve done better than what last year’s team did.  Only difference is obviously last year’s team went to the Final Four.”

2018 NCAA Tournament: Saturday’s tip times, TV channels, announcer pairings

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Half the spots in the Final Four are up for grabs Saturday. Be sure you know where your TV needs to be before the nets are cut down.

Atlanta: Brian Anderson, Chris Webber and Lisa Byington

  • 6:09 p.m. – No. 9 Kansas State vs. No. 11 Loyola, TBS

Los Angeles: Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller, Dan Bonner and Dana Jacobson

  • 8:49 – No. 3 Michigan vs. No. 9 Florida State, TBS

VIDEO: This is the shot that ended Kentucky’s season

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Barry Brown has spent all season being underrated.

And Kentucky found that out the hard way on Thursday night.

This bucket with 18 seconds left gave Kansas State a lead they would never relinquish in a win over Kentucky in the Sweet 16.

Florida State advances past Gonzaga to Elite Eight

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Terance Mann scored 18 points and No. 9-seed Florida State held fourth-seeded Gonzaga to 35 percent shooting as the Seminoles advanced to their first Elite 8 since 1993 with a 75-60 win on Thursday night.

The Seminoles will advance to take on No. 3-seed Michigan with a trip to the Final Four on the line. They have not been to a Final Four since 1972.

The Zags entered this game short-handed, as their starting five-man Killian Tillie was unable to go due to a hip injury that he aggravated during warmups, but that would not have made all that much of a difference in the Staples Center.

The issue was guard play.

Florida State’s pressure simply overwhelmed Gonzaga’s guards. Josh Perkins, Silas Melson and Zach Norvell were a combined 10-for-36 from the floor and had a nightmare-of-a-time trying to get the ball into the lane. The Zags committed 13 turnovers, trailed by 12 within the first ten minutes of the game and never really made a run keeping this thing within striking distance.

Kansas State on to Elite Eight after beating Kentucky

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Out are Cincinnati and Tennessee. Virginia and Arizona are long gone.

And after Kansas State defeated Kentucky, 61-58, on Thursday, all that remains of the South Region is Bruce Weber’s 9th-seeded Wildcats and No. 11 Loyola.

The South is in shambles. The brackets have gone wild. March has gone mad.

Kansas State – which lost to Tulsa, got beat by West Virginia by 38 points and took a 19-point home L to Texas Tech – is not only just one win away from the Final Four. The only thing that stands between them and San Antonio is a double-digit seed. A double-digit seed with a glass slipper and a 98-year-old nun in its corner, but a double-digit seed nonetheless.

Even for an event known for its unpredictability, hailed for its chaos and beloved for its ridiculousness, this year’s South Region is a little nutty.

It’s see the first-ever one-seed – what’s up, Virginia? – go down to a 16, Arizona’s wild and weird season upended, and both Cincy and Tennessee got got by mid-majors. One region packed a ton of entertainment into just 13 games.

Kansas State’s journey to the Elite Eight hasn’t been a glorious march to the Promised Land. It’s been a testament to survive and advance. They toppled No. 8 Creighton in the opener, ruined UMBC’s story in a nasty 50-43 affair and then proved to have just a little bit more than a critically flawed Kentucky team. And they did most of it without one of their best players, junior forward Dean Wade, who continues to battle a foot injury.

Against Kentucky, Kansas State shot just 35.2 percent from the floor, committed 30 fouls and putted UK on the line 37 times. Three of their players fouled out. Wade didn’t play in the second half. Kentucky shot 52.6 percent in the second half.

Still, Kansas State is in the Elite Eight, and Kentucky isn’t.

It’s a stunning result, powered by 22 points from Xavier Sneed, 15 Kentucky turnovers and a non-existent transition offense from John Calipari’s team. Barry Brown’s 13 points – including two critical ones in the final seconds – did plenty to help, too.

For Kentucky, it’s a disappointing end to a frustrating season. The South Region had unfurled a red carpet to San Antonio for them. A 12, 13, 9 and 11 were all that stood in their way. And the nine got ‘em.

Kentucky teased at being able to come together into a team commensurate with its individual talent in the three weeks as it won the SEC tournament and blasted Buffalo in the second round, but the flaws that forced them into four-straight losses in February never went away. They remained, and they were enough to keep Kentucky from a rock fight against a so-so Kansas State squad.

So now Bruce Weber is back in the Elite Eight for the first time since taking Illinois to the title game in 2005. It’s been a bumpy ride for him in Manhattan since splitting a Big 12 title in his first season in west Kansas in 2013. There were plenty of forceful voices who wanted him out not only after back-to-back NCAA tournament misses, but after last year’s First Four team.

Now, if he can beat Loyola, it’s a second Final Four appearance.

That may seem bananas, but it’s the South Region. Bonkers is business as usual.

Sister Jean: “I don’t care that you broke my bracket.”


As Missouri Valley Conference player of the year Clayton Custer came off the floor after Loyola earned its spot in the Elite Eight after beating Nevada, he had to make a quick apology.

He had to tell the Ramblers’ star fan Sister Jean he was sorry. She, of course, had picked Loyola’s Cinderella run to end in the Sweet 16 in her bracket before the start of the tournament.

The apology was quickly accepted.

“I said I don’t care that you broke my bracket,” Sister Jean said. “I’m ready for the next one.

“For a nice little school like ours, we are just so proud of them.”