March 20, 2017
Sports Insider Weekly
After a wild weekend — the first of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament — many fans will have to find allegiance to a new team, especially if they are one of the several residents who attended school nearby.
VCU, Virginia, and University of Maryland all made the cut last Sunday, advancing to the NCAA tournament. But their appearances in the dance were short-lived with VCU and UMD both dropping their first game. Virginia, ranked fifth, made it to the second round but was routed by the Florida Gators 65-39.
The No. 10 seeded Rams fell behind St. Mary’s early, trailing by 15 points at intermission. They bounced back after the break, and cut the gap to two points midway through the second half. But it wasn’t enough to overcome the earlier deficit. They never regained the lead en route to the 85-77 loss.
Unlike VCU, Maryland started out strong but limped to the finish line. They led Xavier by one point going into the half, but completely shut down after the break. The Musketeers went on a 16-2 run second-half run to move past Maryland and advance to the second round of the tournament. It was a disappointing end to the No. 6 Terps’ season, which ended at 24-9.
Maryland’s biggest off-season question will now be whether or not star guard Melo Trimble will return for his senior season. Trimble announced he would declare for the NBA draft last year before ultimately deciding to return as a junior. It remains to be seen if Trimble, who missed the majority of his shots and had three turnovers in the second half, will decide to return for one last shot with UMD or finally go professional.
While the men may have had their third straight disappointing tournament appearance, it’s not all bad news for Maryland. The Lady Terps, the perennially strong Maryland women’s team — led by coach Brenda Frese — crushed West Virginia 83-56 on Sunday to advance to the Sweet 16.
No. 5 Virginia, the highest ranked of the three, was the only team to advance past the first round. After a surprisingly close game with No. 12 UNC Wilmington, which UVA won 76-71, they completely fell apart against Florida. It wasn’t even close. The fourth-seeded Gators just pulled further and further away until the game was out of reach.
“It was always such a fine line,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said after the 65-39 rout. “You saw when things aren’t going well against a team of this caliber in this setting…to get smacked like that is tough.”
The first weekend of the tournament saw some other surprising casualties. No. 2 Duke fell to No. 7 South Carolina on Sunday night. They weren’t the only No. 2 to be upset by a seventh seed. Michigan upset No. 2 Louisville after sophomore guard Tyler Dorsey hit the game-tying and game-winning three-point shots. No. 11 Xavier dominated No. 3 Florida State 91-66. But the most surprising game of the weekend was No. 8 Wisconsin sending the defending champion and No. 1 seed Villanova home early with a 65-62 second-round victory.
The first Sweet 16 games begin Thursday in New York City. Kansas, Gonzaga, and UNC are the last remaining top seeds, with Kansas, Kentucky, and Arizona — all ranked second — close behind. But with nothing higher than a seventh seed left, the next round is likely to be harder, closer, and even more exciting.