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Close games highlight First Four in RJ’s What If Tournament

Updated March 18, 2020 - 7:18 pm

Editor’s note: Review-Journal sports reporter — and college basketball guru — Adam Hill chronicles the #WhatIf Tournament that he began in Monday’s print edition with his Selection Sunday unveiling of the 68 teams. Thursday: the First Four play-in games.

March is off to a wild start.

It’s obviously true in the real world, but it’s also fair to say about the start of our What If Tournament.

Two games came down to the final possession, and none of the four first-round matchups was decided before the final minutes.

Those are the things that can happen when we’re making up the results of the games.

The best game of the so-called play-in round was a thriller between Xavier and Wichita State, which the Musketeers won 68-67 on a deep 3-pointer by Naji Marshall with 1.1 seconds remaining.

It’s a play Xavier has run several times late in games this season with the outcome on the line.

Marshall inbounded from under his basket with 7.4 seconds remaining and trailed behind the play. Quentin Goodin crossed the arc and drew the defense before dropping the ball to Marshall, who pulled up from about 27 feet and hit the jumper for the win.

The victory gives the 11th-seeded Musketeers momentum after losing their final two regular-season games and a Big East first-round game against DePaul. They will need the confidence going into an East Region matchup with sixth-seeded West Virginia.

The Shockers make an early exit after they started 15-1 and appeared headed for another magical season.

It wasn’t the only thriller among the First Four games:

(16) Robert Morris 72, (16) Southern 71 — A.J. Bramah grabbed an offensive rebound and put it in at the buzzer as the Colonials erased a 14-point second-half deficit.

Their reward is a matchup with No. 1 overall seed and tournament favorite Kansas.

(11) Richmond 62, (11) Cincinnati 58 — The surprising Spiders keep their season alive with their 10th win in 11 games.

Junior guard Nick Sherod made six 3-pointers for Richmond to set up a matchup with Iowa.

Jarron Cumberland’s illustrious career for the Bearcats ended with a 2-for-11 effort on 3-pointers.

(16) Boston University 79, (16) Norfolk State 73 — Senior forward Max Mahoney proved too much for the Spartans in the paint with 25 points and 14 rebounds for the Terriers.

Boston went 10 of 10 from the line in the final minute.

Mahoney shot 57 percent on 359 shot attempts during the season without attempting a 3-pointer. He tried his first late in the second half and, of course, made it.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.

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#WhatIf tournament: Duke eliminated

Freshman star Vernon Carey missed two free throws in the final second as Duke was ousted by Richmond in the Review-Journal’s NCAA Tournament simulation.