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Maui Invitational finalists meet again in Houston

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   March 28th, 2011 · No Disqus Comments · Featured, Maui Sports

By Fred Guzman

And then, there were none. As in no No 1 seeds or, even, No. 2s still dancing in this year’s wild edition of the NCAA basketball tournament.

Instead, we are left with one of the most improbable Final Fours ever.

That is the unlikely scenario after Kansas became the latest No. 1 seed to bite the dust when the Jayhawks were done in, 71-61, by surprising Virginia Commonwealth.

This is the same VCU team that many TV commentators didn’t regard tournament-worthy and belittled the tournament selection committee for including the Rams in the expanded event.

The 11th-seeed Rams, who had to compete in the First Four, have amazingly earned a berth in the Final Four. Not bad for school with an enrollment of 4,500 located in a small downtown campus in Richmond, Va.

VCU’s semifinal opponent also that caught a lot of fans by surprise, although perhaps they shouldn’t have. No. 8 Butler reached last year’s title game only to suffer a close loss to Duke.

Butler, in many ways, has become an updated version of Gonzaga, a small school in Spokane that has developed a reputation for suprising teams in the Big Dance. Led by Shelvin Mark’s 27 points, including five in overtime, the Indianapolis-based Bulldogs stunned Florida 74-71.

Saturday’s other semifinal will be feature the finalists of the early-season Maui Invitational Tournament, with Kentucky seeking to avenge that earlier loss to the Connecticut at the Lahaina Civic Center in November.

U-Conn’s Kemba Walker was named the most valuable player on Maui, led the Huskies through a sensational run of five wins in five days to win the Big East tourney, and he’s been superb during the NCAA tournament run, as well

BYU LOSSES: BYU-Hawaii came up short on its Cinderella bid in the NCAA Division-II men’s basketball tournament in Springfield, Mass.

The Seasiders pulled to within a point in the waning seconds, second-ranked Bellarmine converted a pair of free throws and Jet Chang’s desperation heave was off the mark, giving the Knights a 71-68 victory on Saturday.

Bellarmine improved to 33-2. BYU finished with a modest 22-9 record but made its mark in the tournament by opening with an Elite Eight win over Bloomfield and following that up by out-gunning top-ranked and previously unbeaten West Liberty in the semifinals.

Despite its underdog status, you can make a strong case that BYU blew a golden opportunity to win a national title.

The Seasiders turned the ball over five times in the final two minutes. And their star player, Jet Chang, was as cold in the second half as he had been hot in the first 20 minutes.

Chang was named the tournament’s most outstanding player, the first time someone from the losing team had earned the honor since 1998.

Chang scored 21 of his 35 points in the first half, giving BYU a 47-43 lead at intermission. Chang, a 6-foot-4 junior from Taiwan, scored 100 ponts in three games. Junior Ale, a hometown kid from Kahuku High, scored 17 in the final.

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