Sweet 16 Offers Several Surprises

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Get used to it: Virginia Commonwealth is for real. After falling to Old Dominion in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament championship game, it appeared that the Rams would be overlooked by the NCAA selection committee. Instead, the Rams were one of three CAA teams chosen, George Mason was the other, and were assigned a first round at-large spot.

VCU Dance

After handling the USC Trojans 59 to 46 last Wednesday in Dayton, Ohio, the #11 seed Rams drew the #6 seed Georgetown Hoyas, winning 74 to 56. On Sunday, the Rams’ magical run continued when they took on the Purdue Boilermakers, winning in stunning fashion, 94 to 76.

Critics scorned the NCAA for picking three CAA teams, but one team finds itself headed to the Sweet 16, compared to just two still remaining from the Big East Conference which fielded a record 11 teams this year. Old Dominion was edged by Butler on Friday and George Mason stunned Villanova in its first game before being flattened by Ohio State on Sunday. Going into the Sweet 16, the CAA is 4-2 in tournament action. The Big East has nine losses and may very well fail to have a team make it to the Elite Eight as #11 Marquette battles North Carolina and #3 UConn takes on #2 San Diego State.

Additional Surprises

VCU’s next match up is against another surprise team, Florida State. The #10 Seminoles vanquished #7 Texas A&M on Friday before eliminating #2 Notre Dame on Sunday. Only Richmond, seeded twelfth, is a lower seed, but the Spiders will have to knock off the overall top seed Kansas Jayhawks to advance.

Marquette’s run has included victories over Xavier and Syracuse and like UConn finished 9-9 in the Big East this year. The Golden Eagles were a handful of 14-loss teams to make it to the tournament this year, benefiting from the expanded field which now includes 68 teams.

Butler is Back

Butler has surprised some analysts who thought last year’s run was a one and done event. By beating a #1 seed, Pitt, on Saturday, the Bulldogs have set up a meeting against Wisconsin. Unfortunately for the Badgers, Butler appears to be hitting its stride as the Dogs bring a 10-game winning streak into Thursday’s match up. The winner of that game takes on the BYU-Florida winner, just one game removed from the Final Four.

Perhaps the most intriguing thing about the Sweet 16 is that the city of Richmond, Va., has two schools still in the mix. The Richmond Spiders and VCU Rams both call the River City their home, not the typical “title town” you’d expect in men’s college basketball, but then this year’s tournament is anything but typical.

Resources

Richmond Times-Dispatch; Hoopstown USA: VCU Joins UR in Sweet 16; Tim Pearrell; March 20, 2011

SB Nation; NCAA Bracket 2011: Sweet 16 Bracket Features Unexpected Matchups; Brian Floyd; March 21, 2011

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