West Region Wrap, Day 2: Ohio State Flexes Their Muscles

Normally, when a double-digit seed allows a 4-seed to go on a 20-5 run to erase what was a 20-point deficit in a devastatingly short amount of time, the end result is painful for the underdog.

Not so with La Salle, though.

Despite playing a game just 48 hours earlier in the first (cough, play-in) round, the Explorers withstood a furious second-half comeback by Kansas State Friday afternoon. La Salle recovered just in time, re-taking the lead with 30 seconds remaining and winning the game on three clutch free throws by forward Jerrell Wright—breaking open a region already resembling a free-for-all.

Now, with a weak No. 1 (Gonzaga) and the Nos. 3-5 seeds bounced from the tournament, Madness reigns in the West.

La Salle made sure to keep it intriguing, though. The Atlantic 10 squad—coming from a conference that is now 6-0 in tourney play—carried a shocking 44-26 lead into halftime before allowing coach Bruce Weber's Wildcats to bull their way back into the game. The Explorers withstood the storm, though, following Wright (21 points) and Ramon Galloway (19) into the next round, where Marshall "Mathers" Henderson and Ole Miss await after knocking off fifth-seeded Wisconsin. That's a winnable game for this athletic La Salle team that is riding a wave of momentum.

Could it be the next VCU? Probably not, but this bracket won't make it impossible.

Ohio State playing favorites

The Buckeyes are the best team in the West—at least through one round of play.

Ohio State, led by the high-flying exploits of sophomore Sam Thompson, left little doubt against Iona Friday night—throwing up 95 points on the Gaels, the most any team has put up so far in the NCAAs. With Deshaun Thomas providing constant offense, Thad Matta's team can always fall back on its defense. Iona found that out quick.

However, as mentioned above, with three of the region's top five seeds already watching from home—and a Gonzaga team still trying to prove its worth—it is going to take a significant upset for the Buckeyes not to advance to their second straight Final Four.

Thompson could be the key, too. The 6-foot-7 forward from Chicago submitted a career best performance against the Gaels, pouring in 20 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Of course, it's easy to rack up numbers in a blowout, but Thompson stood out early and often and looked like he can handle the important, fundamental moments (8-of-8 free throws). If he's providing a consistent second scoring option for floor leader Aaron Craft to find, good luck Zags—or whoever else makes it to the regional finals.

We're a long way away from Atlanta, but the odds are stacking up.

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