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.This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
“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.”