The entire West Region is there for the taking after a stunning upset of No. 5 seed Wisconsin by Ole Miss. And these Explorers have the right mindset to be the Cinderella’s of this year’s NCAA Tournament.
And it was extremely clear that not only did this VCU squad want the game more, but they aimed to send a message to the rest of the teams in their region — You don’t want to face us.
So it was no surprise that in its first year in the Atlantic 10 Conference that VCU found themselves in conference finals. After all, it was the fifth time in the past seven seasons that it has happened, making it an expectation of the coaching staff and the team.
But then havoc made its return, the shots that clanked off iron now found nylon, and the Rams forced UMass to the point of mental exhaustion in a stirring 71-62 victory at the Barclays Center, setting up a date with Saint Louis for the A-10 Championship.
Butler’s run did not end in the semifinal round of the A-10 Tournament. Their season is really just beginning as they get themselves prepared for another NCAA Tournament run.
However, in their first Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament game, VCU did not bring Saint Joseph’s University Hawks to the point of exhaustion, but instead allowed them to stay in the game to the bitter end in an 82-79 victory at the Barclays Center.
The La Salle Explorers learned this lesson the hard way in an quarterfinal match-up against the very Bulldogs that have made the NCAA Tournament 12 times in the past 14 years. While the Explorers held the higher seed, make no mistake about it, it was the Bulldogs who had something to prove…
The Hawks could have laid down with just over 11 minutes remaining in the game. Xavier’s Brad Redford had just nailed a 3-pointer, one of four he nailed on the night, to put the Musketeer’s up 44-36 — their largest lead of the night.
While Butler did not play their best, especially in an ice-cold 35 percent shooting effort in the first half, the Bulldogs never wavered in their confidence, something they no doubt learned from their head coach.
After Richmond’s Cedric Lindsey made two clutch free throws to put the Spiders up by three with just 5.9 seconds remaining, they fouled Charlotte’s Pierrria Henry. Henry made his first free throw but on the rebound, Richmond’ Derrick Williams threw an elbow and whistled for a technical, inciting an unbelievable chain of events.