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March 22, 2011 And then, there were 16. The first weekend of the NCAA Tournament failed to disappoint. The first several hours of the second round were filled with down-to-the-wire drama and we are set for an outstanding Sweet 16. The Southwest Regions looks to be Kansas’ to take, but at this point, nobody is discounting Richmond’s Spiders, the Seminoles of Florida State or Virginia Commonwealth. One number one seed has already went down while the Jimmer show resumes on Thursday. This week, the Weekly Dish will revisit the week that was in the NCAA Tournament.

Best Game of the First Round - (16) UNC-Asheville 81 (16) Arkansas- Little Rock 77 The first game of the NCAA Tournament turned out to be the best game of the first round. UNC-Asheville trailed by four at halftime, but found a way to knock off the Trojans of Arkansas-Little Rock. Guards Matt Dickey and J.P. Primm combined for 44 points for Asheville. But it was Dickey’s three-pointer with 13 seconds left in regulation that knotted the game at 72 and sent it to overtime. The two combined for seven of the Bulldogs’ nine points in overtime as Asheville survived and advanced.

Best Game of the Second Round - (13) Morehead State 62 (4) Louisville 61 Morehead State got off to a great start against Rick Pitino’s Louisville team by scoring the game‘s first ten points, but the Cardinals led the majority of the second half. Louisville led by as many as eight in the second half and clung to a 61-57 lead with 32 seconds to play. After Kenneth Fareid hit a pair of free throws to cut the Louisville lead in half, Louisville’s Elisha Justice missed the front end of a one-and-one. Morehead State corralled the rebound and decided to go for the win. With less than ten seconds to play, guard Demonte Harper knocked down a pull-up three-pointer to give the Eagles a 62-61 lead. With one last chance, Louisville’s Mike Marra had hits desperation three-point-attempt blocked by Fareid at the buzzer and Morehead State advanced to the round of 32. The loss was the second for Louisville in the round of 64 in as many years.

Best Game of the Third Round - (8) Butler 71 (1) Pittsburgh 70 The same Butler team that reached the National Championship game a year ago is at it again. The Bulldogs led most of its third round game, but found themselves down to Pittsburgh in the waning moments. Trailing 69-68, Shawn Vanzant threw up a wild pass to avoid a traveling violation and the pass found forward Andrew Smith for what appeared to be the game-winning-lay-up with just over three seconds to play. Guard Shevin Mack scored 30 points for Butler, but his gaffe nearly cost the Bulldogs a second consecutive trip to the Sweet 16. With less than a second to play, Mack fouled Pittburgh’s Gilbert Brown near half court prior to Brown firing a desperation heave. Brown went to the foul-line and hit the first free throw to tie the game. His second however rimmed out and Butler’s Matt Howard came down with the rebound. Howard attempted to heave the ball the length of the court, but was fouled in the process by Nasir Robinson. Howard calmly knocked down the initial free throw and intentionally missed the second as Butler escaped 71-70. The game-winner for Howard was the second in two tournament games for the senior. Howard’s put-back at the buzzer gave Butler a 60-58 win over Old Dominion in the second round.

Most Shocking Upset - (11) Virginia Commonwealth 94 (3) Purdue 76 What was so shocking about VCU’s third round victory over Purdue was not that it happened, but the way it happened. The Rams took a 42-32 lead into the locker room and never trailed by fewer than ten in the second half. Virginia Commonwealth shot 57 percent from the field and committed just four turnovers. VCU had six players in double-figures scoring and got 11 assists from guard Joey Rodriguez. The VCU bench outscored the Boilermakers 29-5 as the Rams advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history. VCU will meet Florida State in San Antonio on Friday.

The Weekly Dish’s All-First Week Team

Kemba Walker - Guard, Connecticut Senior Kemba Walker fell just two rebounds shy of a triple-double in Connecticut’s 81-52 victory over Bucknell in the second round. Walker finished with 18 points, eight rebounds and 12 assists as the Huskies pummeled the Patriot League champions. In the third round against Big East foe Cincinnati, Walker poured in 33 points. Walker added five assists and made good on all 14 of his free throw attempts as UCONN pulled away from the Bearcats in the second half of the Huskies’ 69-58 victory.

Jimmer Fredette - Guard, BYU Player of the Year favorite Jimmer Fredette averaged 33 points in BYU’s two NCAA Tournament victories. The senior averaged 6.5 assists in the Cougars two victories as well. BYU beat a scrappy Wofford team in the second round 74-66 before thumping Gonzaga by 22 in the third round. BYU will meet Florida in the Sweet 16 on Thursday. The two schools met in the round of 64 last season with Fredette scoring 37 in BYU’s overtime victory.

Matt Howard - Forward, Butler Senior Matt Howard averaged 15.5 points in Butler victories over Old Dominion and top-seeded Pittsburgh. But what makes Howard’s week memorable was hitting game-winning-shots in both games. Howard dropped in a put-back at the buzzer to down ODU 60-58 in the second round. Howard also knocked down a free throw with less than a second to play as the Bulldogs upset Pittsburgh 71-70. Butler’s win over Pittsburgh made the Bulldogs the first team to knock off a number one seed in this year’s tournament.

Marcus and Markieff Morris - Forwards, Kansas The Morris brothers combined to average 36 points and 21 rebounds in Kansas’ venture to the Sweet 16. It was hard to pick just one of the two so the Dish decided to pick both. The Jayhawks beat Boston University 72-53 before pulling away from Illinois in a 73-59 victory. Kansas will face 12th-seeded Richmond in the Sweet 16 on Friday.

Bernard James - Center, Florida State Florida State’s Bernard James was cut from his high school team as a freshman and never played high school basketball. After six years as a sergeant in the Air Force and two years of basketball at Tallahassee Community College, Bernard James is turning heads in the NCAA Tournament. James, a 6’10”, 25 year-old junior has been a force for the Seminoles, particularly on the defensive end. In the second round against Texas A&M, James scored just ten points and grabbed only six rebounds, but blocked three shots and altered several others as FSU knocked off the Aggies 57-50. The win was the first for the Seminoles in the NCAA Tournament since 1998. In the third round against Notre Dame, James recorded a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. James also had three more blocks against the Fighting Irish leading Florida State to a 71-57 upset. The win put the Seminoles in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1993. James has made 11 of his 16 field goal attempts in the first two games of the tournament and has been arguably the best defensive player of the tournament thus far.

Shaka Smart - Virginia Commonwealth, Head Coach After Selection Sunday showed VCU in the NCAA Tournament, many felt the Rams were undeserving of their spot in the big dance. That group of naysayers includes myself, but Smart has used that criticism to motivate his team. Virginia Commonwealth is the only team to win three games in the NCAA Tournament with all coming by double-digits. After ousting USC 59-46 in the first round, the Rams have pulled off two unthinkable upsets with each coming by 18 points. VCU crushed sixth-seeded Georgetown 74-56 in the second round before running over Purdue 94-76 in the third round. The three wins have the Rams in the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history. VCU will have a very good chance of beating Florida State in the Sweet 16 on Friday. Smart has his team just two wins away from becoming only the second team from the Colonial Athletic Association to ever reach the Final Four.

Honorable Mention Brandon Knight G Kentucky, Erving Walker G Florida, Kevin Anderson G Richmond, Billy White F San Diego State, Jon Leuer F Wisconsin, Harrison Barnes F North Carolina, David Lighty G Ohio State, Jared Sullinger F Ohio State, Joey Rodriguez G VCU, Jamie Skeen F VCU, Darius Johnson-Odom G Marquette, Chris Mooney HC Richmond, Brad Stevens HC Butler

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