(4W) UTSA 72 (5E) Charlotte 62
Coming into the first round games the team with the least momentum outside of Middle Tennessee was Charlotte. Contrast that with the UTSA Roadrunners who had won 9 of their last 11. That trend continued as the Runners won 72-62 without too much effort.
Charlotte shot a terrible 31% from the field even though Jahmir Young and Jordan Sheppard scored 19 and 20, respectively. UTSA shot 45% and the duo of Jhivvan Jackson and Katon Wallace put up a combined 38 points but were supplemented by a tour-de-force from big man Jacob Germany, who managed a series of spinning floaters on the way to 7 of 13 shooting and 16 points to go with his 10 rebounds.
UTSA moves on to face the leagues overall number-one seed in WKU tomorrow.
(6W) Rice 72 (3E) Marshall 68
UPSET! Our first upset of the tournament came from plucky Rice, a team that has impressed all season despite their otherwise unimpressive conference record. This team had one of the strongest strength of schedules in the conference and if that were different, I bet they have a higher seed.
We note that here not to excuse the poor performance by Marshall, but to partly explain it. Whatever talent Rice has seemed to shine through tired legs. Maybe all the back-to-back prep this season helped this team thrive on the second night of a back-to-back. Quincy Olivari put up 23 points on 8 of 19 shooting, including 15 points in the second half as Rice went on a 14-3 run to turn a 2-point deficit into a 10-point lead. They kept Marshall’s comeback at bay by hitting free throws even though Marshall hit four therein the final minute to get as close as 3 points at 71-68 late.
Marshall star Taevion Kinsey had 11 first half points but only managed 3 in the final frame on 1 of 6 shooting. It came down to Olivari delivering and Kinsey missing jumpers.
Rice is clearly the Cinderella (depending on what Middle does) and takes on UAB tomorrow. A concern (maybe?) is that Evee played 33, Olivari and Max Fiedler played 36. Those guys are the engines of this squad and UAB will capitalize on turnovers and missed shots with rested legs.