WASHINGTON — Thursday, bloody Thursday.
The greater Washington, D.C. area boasted six collegiate teams in the NCAA Tournament on Selection Sunday. But by the end of Day 1, all but Virginia and West Virginia were eliminated.
Some of the defeats were no surprise. Mt. St. Mary’s had to play their way into the tournament in the First Four, and then ran into a buzzsaw against Villanova, the defending National Champion and odds-on favorite to repeat this year.
Credit Mt. St. Mary’s for holding an early lead in this one, and even keeping the score within one point at halftime. But like so many would-be Cinderellas to come before them, they found that the clock struck midnight at halftime and they turned into a pumpkin in the second half.
Final Score: Mt. St. Mary’s 56, Villanova 76
Virginia Commonwealth University (No. 10) was also an underdog on Thursday, battling St. Mary’s (No. 7). VCU actually outscored St. Mary’s in the second half, 46-39, but that could be a product of the game being over at halftime.
The Rams let the Gaels run up a 15-point lead at the half, ensuring a shift in strategy from St. Mary’s. Even a seven-point advantage in the second half was not enough to make this a contest.
Final Score: VCU 77, St. Mary’s 85
Maryland (No. 6) was the real surprise, expected to cruise past Xavier (No. 11) in the first round. Instead, the Terps struggled to get a lead in the first half, finally edging ahead just before the half. After that, they opened up a six-point lead but squandered it fast, opening up a double-digit deficit.
For the first time since 1997, the Terps will return home from the tournament without a win.
Final Score: Maryland 65, Xavier 76
Virginia Tech (No. 9) looked like the closest thing to a tossup on paper, battling Wisconsin (No. 8) in the first round. In reality, though, the Hokies were outplayed and outscored in both halves, as a four-point halftime lead grew to 10 points by the final buzzer.
It would have been a modest upset if Virginia Tech had pulled it off, but the outcome was never really in question.
Final Score: Virginia Tech 74, Wisconsin 84
For the non-mathletes in the group, that’s a combined 49-point differential, for an average margin of defeat of more than 12 points for D.C. area teams.
Fortunately, D.C. can still hang its hat on Virginia and West Virginia, who won by a combined 11 points. Actually, considering both teams were heavy favorites (fifth and fourth seeds, respectively), maybe there is no silver lining.