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Virginia Commonwealth +6.5 over Indiana:
The 12th-seeded Rams (29-6) already pulled off the first major surprise of this NCAA tournament on Thursday when they took down No. 5 seed Wichita State in the second round, making good on the 12-5 upset that's so common this time of year. Next up is the fourth-seeded Hoosiers (26-8), and a chance to enhance what head coach Shirka Smart and the Rams have accomplished the past two seasons with remarkably different squads. VCU's run to the Final Four last season was powered by the Rams' long-range shooting prowess and unrelenting pressure defense. It was sparked by the seniors, led by Jamie Skeen, Joey Rodriguez and Brandon Rozell.
This time around, Burgess is the only senior starter and the scoring punch from the perimeter is a little shakier and less consistent. But the pressure defense is even better. In fact, Wichita St was held to its lowest point total of the season. While much of the focus is on the Rams and the potential for another memorable March, Indiana has its own comeback story. Crean's rebuilt program picked up its first tournament victory since 2007 when it knocked out 13th-seeded New Mexico State on Thursday night behind the pinpoint outside shooting of Jordan Hulls. Since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985, Indiana has lost only four times in NCAA play to teams outside the power six conferences. But that was Indiana during its prime, not the Hoosiers trying to rebound from being gutted when Crean arrived.
This is a lot of points to be receiving in a game like this one, especially since this VCU team which has proven to be a thorn in the sides of many. I'm not so sure if one of the cinderellas of this tournament is going to get through this one, but the Rams are going to at least bring this one all the way down to the wire already proving that last season was certainly no fluke. GL
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