Gary Payton II entered with the hype, but on Friday afternoon in Oklahoma City, it was JeQuan Lewis that was the best point guard on the floor.
The 6-foot Lewis finished the afternoon with 21 points, eight assists and seven boards as No. 10 VCU knocked off No. 7 Oregon State, 75-67.
Mo Alie-Cox added 20 points and eight boards for the Rams, who won their first NCAA tournament game since 2013, coincidentally the last time that head coach Will Wade was a member of the VCU basketball program. The Rams will take on the winner of No. 2 Oklahoma and No. 15 Cal State Bakersfield in the second round.
The job that Wade has done with this VCU team cannot be overstated. Remember, not only did the Rams lose head coach Shaka Smart to Texas over the summer, but their two best players graduated, their best freshman transferred out of the program and their two best recruits decommitted. That’s a lot of talent that matriculated out of Richmond, so don’t be surprised to hear the 33-year old Wade in the mix for a number of higher profile jobs in the coming years.
Oregon State ended a streak of their own with this trip to the tournament, as it was the first time since Gary Payton Sr. was in school that the Beavers went dancing. But playing without Tres Tinkle, Oregon State just didn’t have the horses to compete with the Rams. GPII had 19 points, four boards and four assists, but it wasn’t enough to advance.
It begs the question: just how good was the Pac-12 this season, or were they this season’s biggest beneficiaries of the RPI’s flawed formula?
As of Oregon State’s loss, the Pac-12 was 1-4 in the NCAA tournament, No. 3 Utah the only conference member to win their first round game, and as of this writing, No. 4 Cal is on the ropes against No. 13 Hawai’i. It’s tough to make too much of a league’s performance in the tournament — especially when the only real upset was No. 6 Arizona losing to a Wichita State team that was far better than their No. 11 seed and the league’s No. 1 seed, Oregon, has yet to take the court — but there is no questioning that the early returns are disheartening.