Friday in the Midwest Region brought us action from two locations. Omaha Nebraska, and Columbus Ohio. The 2nd-seeded Kansas Jayhawks were the featured team in the Midwest Region today, as they tipped off in Omaha. Another team from the state of Kansas just happened to play in the second game. Could both of those teams be on a collision course? Absolutely!
(2) Kansas 75 (15) New Mexico St. 56
The Jayhawks used balanced scoring in which seven players scored 6 points or more. Frank Mason III, led the way with 17 points. Kansas was never threatened by New Mexico State, who were in the tourney via the automatic bid for winning the WAC Tournament. The Aggies were led by guard, DK Eldridge with 11 points. So, the Jayhawks move on to the Round of 32 to face the Wichita State Shockers.
(7) Wichita State 81 (10) Indiana 76
The Shockers have been waiting since 1993 for a shot at KU. Well, they have it, but they started out the game like they were focused on the possible matchup with their cross-state-rival instead of the matter at hand. The Hoosiers came out ready to play. Especially, guard Yogi Ferrell, who sank 3 triples on his way to 15 points at the half. However, Wichita State guard Fred VanVleet would not be outdone. VanVleet, not only matched Ferrell but outscored him 19-15. But, the Shockers trailed 39-36 at the break. It was obvious someone else was going to have to help VanVleet. He couldn’t beat the Hoosiers by himself. Ron Baker, would usually be the man to the rescue, but he had a rough day shooting from the field. He did make 7 of 8 crucial free throws late in the game to help put Indiana away for good. Baker, ended up with 15 points.
The win sets up the much anticipated Sunflower State showdown everyone’s been waiting on. Well, at least Shockers fans have been waiting on. After the game Baker had these words; “It’s a big thing for the state of Kansas. A lot of houses are going to be divided. Being a player from Kansas, I’m really fortunate to be in this game. These types of games don’t happen a whole lot”. Should be an incredible atmosphere on Sunday at Omaha’s CenturyLink Center. Let’s hope the Shockers and Jayhawks get together on a regular basis. One school wants it, the other doesn’t. So, we’ll see how that works out.
(5) West Virginia 68 (12) Buffalo 62
WVU fans didn’t have to travel far to see their favorite team. Columbus Ohio, is only 3 hour drive from Morgantown. So, there was a pretty big representation to make the trip. Head coach, Bob Huggins and his Mountaineers were thought to be on upset alert from many experts from around the country. But, guard Juwan Staten and forward Devin Williams were too much for Bulls who are coached by former Duke point guard, Bobby Hurley. Williams, and Staten score 17 and 15 points respectively, however it was the Moutaineers defense that stifled the MAC Tournament champions the most. The Bulls are usually really very good not turning the ball over. Not today. Buffalo turned the ball over 17 times, and they seemed to come at the most inopportune times. Turnovers, missed layups, and missed free throws were the name of the day. Still, with all the turnover and missed opportunities, the Bulls found themselves in the game with a chance to win late. But, the Mountaineers got defensive stops and made their free throws to seal the victory.
(4) Maryland 65 (13) Valparaiso 62
WVU, wasn’t the only team that had to grind out a victory in Columbus. Maryland, who were a member of the ACC the last time (2010) they were in the big dance, could never shake the Crusaders, and led only by 3 with seconds remaining. Valpo, had a chance to tie, but could not get a clean shot off from the corner. Tough loss for the Crusaders who are no stranger to fantastic finishes in the NCAA Tournament. Their head coach, Bryce Drew beat Ole Miss with a last second 3-pointer in the first round of the 1998 tourney. He played for his Dad, Homer back then, who was in attendance today.
For Mark Turgeon and his squad, it’s on to their meeting with West Virginia. This should prove to be one of the better games of the weekend. Today, the Terps were led by Dez Wells, Melo Trimble, and Jared Nickens who each scored 14 points.
Player of the Day: Fred VanVleet
The Wichita State point guard scored 27 points and dished out 4 assists. He single handedly kept the Shockers close, as Yogi Ferrell went off in the first half. He’ll need to have a strong game against Kansas, if they’re to have a shot to win.