Best performance: Eric Maynor, VCU
Eric Maynor had reason to be nervous. After all, here he was playing in his first ever NCAA Tournament. He had just come off a brilliant performance against George Mason in the Colonial Athletic Conference title game, to earn his team only their second NCAA berth in 20 years. And who did they find themselves matched up with come Selection Sunday? The Duke Blue Devils.
You remember Duke. The team that hadn’t missed a Sweet Sixteen in 10 years. The team that has been to ten – 10! – Final Fours since 1986, making the final game seven of those times, and winning three national titles. In those two NCAA appearances in same time period, VCU never made it out of the first round.
It’s a known fact that this has been a down year for Duke, that they are not the Blue Devils of old, and that they were coming into the Tournament on a three game losing streak. But it still says Duke on the uniform, and it’s not hard to imagine that Maynor, a sophomore playing on the game’s biggest stage on national television, would be a little intimidated.
Not exactly. Just as he did against George Mason, Maynor lifted the Rams on his back down the homestretch and carried them to victory, hitting clutch shot after clutch shot. He hit the last three consecutive Rams field goals, the final one a surprisingly open look from the foul line with less than 2 seconds remaining that ended up sending the Blue Devils home after the first round for the first time since 1996.
He would finish with 22 points, eight assists and three steals in all. It wasn’t the single best stat line of the first round of the NCAA, but his gutty, ice-in-the-veins performance in crunch time over an indisputable college basketball powerhouse is what makes him the top performer.
Maynor was not around for VCU’s last Tournament appearance, a heart-breaking loss to #4 seed Wake Forest three years ago. So maybe he just didn’t know what it was like to lose a close game down the stretch. Whatever the case, he showed absolutely no fear in scoring 6 of his 22 points in the last minute and a half.
Pittsburgh is waiting in the second round. Anyone think Maynor is worried?
First runner-up: J.R. Reynolds, Virginia
If you missed the best shot of the first round, don’t worry, it didn’t count anyway. Lying flat on his back after being fouled, J.R. Reynolds playfully threw the ball towards the rim from about 10 feet away, and banked it in clean. It was just that kind of game for him.
The senior would finish with 28 points on 9-13 shooting, not counting the HORSE shot of course. He would make five of his seven three point attempts, grab seven boards and throw in a couple of steals to boot against the badly overmatched Great Danes. Fellow all-ACC player Sean Singletary wasn’t too shabby either, ending up with 23 points and 9 assists, solidifying themselves as the best backcourt left in the Tournament.
Second runner-up: Marcelus Kemp, Nevada
Who says the Wolf Pack are a one-man show? Kemp, who remembered all too well losing to 12-seed Montana last year, willed Nevada to victory with nine points in overtime after star Nick Fazekas got into foul trouble and had a sluggish performance most of the game.
Kemp ended up with 27 points, and was perfect from the free throw line. The 6-5 guard was also the team’s top rebounder with 12 and led the team with 4 assists.
Collegehoops.net First Round MVP
Eric Maynor, VCU
Collegehoops.net All-First Round Team
Eric Maynor, VCU
Stephen Curry, Davidson
JR Reynolds, Virginia
Marcelus Kemp, Nevada
Craig Bradshaw, Winthrop