It's somewhat ironic that on the same day the latest Cinderella story out of the CAA reached a fever pitch with VCU blowing out Purdue, the conference's original feel good story was rudely sent packing.
Top-seeded Ohio State made quick work of the George Mason Patriots, ending an impressive season for the CAA regular season champions, but fully opening the door for the Rams to take center stage after advancing to the programs first ever Sweet 16. Yet in one of the most impressive storylines of the NCAA Tournament to date, VCU isn't even the only team from the city of Richmond to reach this point, as the Spiders have advanced to the second week of March Madness as well.
It's been a wild four days of games, leaving brackets in ruins nationwide, but with mid-major programs still very much alive. In all, four double-digit seeds are still standing and five teams from non-power conferences, including highly ranked seeds San Diego State and BYU.
Mid-majors continue to hold their own in the NIT as well, with Wichita State eliminating Virginia Tech in overtime to advance to the quarterfinals, where they'll be joined by a talented Kent State team that defeated Fairfield. Three programs outside the Big Six conferences have already reached the quarters, with Missouri State and New Mexico in action tonight with opportunities to advance as well. The games continue and the stakes get higher.
Continue after the jump for plenty of reaction from the last 24 hours.
Stewart Mandel of SI.com: "This was not the Big Ten team's locker room. This was the Colonial Athletic Association team's locker room. And yet here was VCU forward Jamie Skeen, turning to two of his teammates and declaring nonchalantly of their fallen opponent: "They were scared." They seemed bewildered in fact by Purdue's defensive strategy. "They tried to press us," said Skeen. "They don't usually press. It didn't look like they even practice it." So -- it really was as easy as it looked. Virginia Commonwealth University is headed to the first Sweet 16 in school history after the 11th-seeded Rams -- a team that had to play an extra game just to make it to the main bracket -- pummeled third-seeded Purdue 94-76 on Sunday, their second rout of a BCS-conference opponent in three days here and their third tourney win (USC, Georgetown, Purdue) since Wednesday."
Tim Pearrell of the Richmond Times-Dispatch: "It may be a little too early to start talking about the next George Mason, but fellow Colonial Athletic Association member Virginia Commonwealth may be auditioning for the part. The Rams blew out their second high-profile opponent in the NCAA tournament's Southwest Region, whipping No. 13 Purdue 94-76 on Sunday to advance to next week's Sweet 16 in San Antonio, Texas, for the first time in school history. After beating No. 22 Georgetown by 18, VCU (26-11) shredded third-seeded Purdue's defense while piling up its second-highest output of the season."
Gerry Ahern of Yahoo Sports: "If you're into buzzer-beaters, Virginia Commonwealth isn't for you. Controversial finishes? The Rams have none of them. No. 11 seed VCU was content to kick tail all the way to the Sweet 16 in San Antonio, the latest victim third-seeded Purdue 94-76 Sunday in a third-round Southwest Regional game at the United Center. If you haven't been paying attention, the Rams (26-11) are this season's George Mason. They even hail from the same conference, the Colonial Athletic Association. And if they keep this up, they might prove to be even better than the famed 2006 Patriots. "We're not satisfied," senior point guard Joey Rodriguez said. "We want to keep going. This is a great moment for tonight and a great moment for the university. But, you know, we have a lot more to do." With dead-eye shooters and an improving defense they have whipped their first three NCAA opponents - USC, Georgetown and Purdue - by an average of 16.3 points. They have knocked down 29 3-pointers in their three tournament victories and limited their opponents to 40.9 percent shooting. And they show no signs of slowing down."
Gregg Doyel of CBSSports.com: "Forget everything you know, because what you know is garbage. You knew, for example, that VCU didn't deserve an at-large bid into the 2011 NCAA tournament. Lots of you did. Lots of experts knew that, too. So forget being an expert. Forget that, and forget everything else you know about the current college basketball season, and ask yourself this: Have you seen a better team in this tournament than 11th-seeded VCU? Answer: No. You haven't. No. 1 overall seed Ohio State has demolished two teams, but that was one bad team (Texas-San Antonio) and one decent team (George Mason). And Ohio State is the only team in the bracket, after the tournament's first weekend, that deserves to be in the same sentence as VCU."
Mike Wise of the Washington Post: "Goliath wore scarlet and gray Sunday. His triple-XL jersey clung to his bulging torso like Spandex. His voluminous trunks could comfortably sleep four. And he smiled, too - a menacing smile. At 6 feet 9 and perhaps a postgame meal shy of 300 pounds, Jared Sullinger wore a grin that spanned from Quicken Loans Arena to Columbus. Goliath was happy, because he had friends - lots of friends. The Ohio State University 98, George Mason 66. This was for all the big schools, for every top seed knocked out by the little guy. This was for everyone who got caught up in the sentimentality of Mason Nation again, who actually believed a very balanced, good team from the Colonial Athletic Association - a team that tied the 2005-06 squad for most wins in program history - could actually scale Mount Buckeye. Nuh-uh. Big Ten school by a knockout."
Pat Borzi of the New York Times: "Coming out of a timeout with 2 minutes 35 seconds left in the first half, the players remaining on the George Mason bench slumped in their chairs with blank looks, as if they were watching a fistfight too gruesome to be believed. They were. Top-seeded Ohio State, after a shaky first three minutes Sunday, proceeded to dismantle the No. 8 Patriots inside, outside and on both ends of the floor. Ohio State's 98-66 rout in the N.C.A.A. tournament's Round of 32, before a heavily pro-Buckeyes crowd at Quicken Loans Arena, reaffirmed the notion that it was the team to beat. The Buckeyes (34-2) will meet Kentucky in the East Region semifinals Friday in Newark. George Mason, which jumped to an 11-2 lead before Ohio State started rolling, finished 27-7. "If they play like they did today, it makes them a tough out," George Mason Coach Jim Larranaga said. "But you don't play the same way every day. And the way people defend and attack are different, too."
Paul Suellentrop of the Wichita Eagle: "Wichita State's much-debated depth is back on the bright side. With two superb efforts from most of the of 10-man rotation, the Shockers are in the quarterfinals of the NIT. Against Nebraska, David Kyles came off the bench to lead WSU's three-point barrage, scoring a team-high 13 points. Ben Smith added nine points and five rebounds. Against Virginia Tech on Sunday, center J.T. Durley fouled out and Garrett Stutz replaced him with seven straight points in overtime. Coach Gregg Marshall shortened his bench, in part due to Demetric Williams' knee injury, against the Hokies. He still played four reserves 11 or more minutes and the Shockers looked plenty fresh in OT."
Darryl Slater of the Richmond Times-Dispatch: "Years from now, people will remember the past four seasons of Virginia Tech basketball for all the dramatic games and furious finishes, and this season in particular for how the Hokies overcame attrition that left their bench depleted. People also will recall these four seasons as a time when the Hokies often fell agonizingly short. The final act of this era included all of those things - the drama, the resilience and, in the end, the not-quite-enough result, as the Hokies lost 79-76 in overtime to Wichita State in Sunday's National Invitation Tournament second-round game at Cassell Coliseum. They played the song "Closing Time" as seniors Malcolm Delaney, Jeff Allen and Terrell Bell walked off the court for the last time. They never reached the NCAA tournament, yet still managed to participate in some unforgettable games right up to the end of their last one."
William Paxton of the Stamford Advocate: "The season came to an end for the Fairfield Stags on Sunday afternoon, but a bigger loss might be looming in a couple of days. Randal Holt scored 22 points and Carlton Guyton added 16 to lead seventh seed Kent State over No. 6 Fairfield 72-68 Sunday afternoon to advance to the NIT quarterfinals. The loss in front of 3,954 fans at the Webster Bank Arena at Harbor Yard put an end to a record-breaking season for the Stags and might turn out to be the final one in coach Ed Cooley's career at Fairfield. After leading the Stags (25-8) to a school high in wins and their first Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference title since 1995-96, Cooley is being pursued by Providence College and also, according to a source, North Carolina State. PC is the only school that has been granted permission to speak with Cooley so far, according to Fairfield athletic director Gene Doris."