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NCAA tournament: Shaka shocks the Shockers and a Friday night preview

Shaka Smart coached his VCU Rams to an impressive victory over Wichita State Thursday night in Portland, Oregon. Second round NCAA men's basketball tournament action continues tonight on CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV.

By Christopher HartmanContributor / March 16, 2012

Virginia Commonwealth University guard/forward Bradford Burgess celebrates his team's win over Wichita State University after their men's NCAA basketball game in Portland, Oregon March 15.

Steve Dipaola/REUTERS



Last night, Shaka Smart proved why he is among the best, yet inexplicably unheralded coaches in Division 1 men’s basketball. His team, the Virginia Commonwealth University Rams, shrugged off a twelve-seed in the South region of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament to defeat the heavily favored fifth-seeded Wichita State Shockers, 62-59.

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It was arguably the most exciting ending of any of Thursday’s sixteen opening round games. With Virginia Commonwealth up by one point, 60-59 with both the ball and 18 seconds on the clock, VCU point guard Darius Theus bolted down from the top of the key and tossed up a rainbow – which hit the back of the iron, banked lightly off the backboard, and landed softly in the bucket. After a timeout, and with under ten seconds remaining, Wichita State’s outstanding 7-foot center Garrett Stutz bobbled the ball, jumped back behind the 3-point line, and tossed up a prayer, which harmlessly clanked off the right side of the rim.

Virginia Commonwealth and their coach are used to bracket busting. In the 2007 tournament, they had an emotional opening round win over ACC Goliath Duke, and last year, they rather comfortably beat a powerful Kansas team in the Midwest regional final to advance to the Final Four. But VCU’s getting to Portland, Oregon for this first round matchup was no less remarkable a feat. They previously battled through the Colonial Athletic Association tournament to defeat top-seeded Drexel University and effectively knock them out of the tournament. On Saturday, VCU will face Indiana University, which defeated New Mexico State University in their first round contest.

In other action yesterday, ninth-seeded Connecticut and ten-seed West Virginia were quickly and resoundingly eliminated – UConn by double-digits to a very fast and athletic Iowa State squad, and West Virginia lost by 23 points, 77-54, to a Gonzaga team that crossed the country to play in what is basically WVU’s backyard in Pittsburgh. Both of these lackluster games should give the NCAA pause over the questionable selection of these two mediocre Big East squads. But there was nothing lackluster about overall top-seed Kentucky, who romped over sixteen-seeded Western Kentucky in the opening round of the South region, 81-66. The Hilltoppers kept it close for much of the first half, but the Wildcats’ size and speed were simply too much to keep up with for 40 minutes.


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