College Basketball Nation: Danero Thomas

A dozen things I'll remember

March, 22, 2010
Before we get really caught up in the next round -- and here's a Sweet 16 primer that will help you do just that -- let's at least digest what we witnessed those first four days. It was a memorable start to the tournament and here are just a dozen things (in no particular order) that will stick in my memory:

[+] EnlargeAli Farokhmanesh
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesAli Farokhmanesh's 3-pointer sent Northern Iowa to the Sweet 16.
1. Northern Iowa's Ali Farokhmanesh making the wide-open dagger of a 3-pointer to ice top-ranked Kansas.

2. The expression on the faces of the KU players after the stunning defeat at the hands of UNI.

3. Michigan State's Korie Lucious burying a 3-pointer at the buzzer to beat Maryland in the second round.

4. Ohio, the ninth seed in the MAC tournament, hammering Georgetown by 14 in the tourney's first 3-14 upset in four years.

5. Murray State's Danero Thomas making the buzzer beater to beat fourth-seeded Vanderbilt.

6. BYU's Jimmer Fredette scoring 37 in a double-overtime win over Florida in the first round.

7. Wake Forest's Ish Smith burying a buzzer-beater to finally put Texas out of its misery.

8. Purdue's Chris Kramer converting a layup to knock out Texas A&M in overtime to advance to the Sweet 16.

9. Mickey McConnell of Saint Mary's burying a 3-pointer off glass to ice the win over Villanova in the second round.

10. The post moves, the presence, the chatter that Saint Mary's Omar Samhan provided everyone in Providence.

11. Robert Morris nearly beating Villanova and the uproar over the end-of-game officiating as Nova won the game in overtime.

12. Farokhmanesh burying a shot to beat UNLV in the first round. How he outdid that one two days later was even more impressive.

Previewing Saturday in San Jose

March, 20, 2010
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Today's second-round action at HP Pavilion features two games that could result in Sweet 16 spots for some surprising teams.

(5) Butler vs. (13) Murray State

Butler coach Brad Stevens said the difficulty that comes with preparing for Murray State certainly isn't the result of unfamiliarity with the Racers. "The irony is they’re better than a lot of teams that are on TV sometimes," Stevens said. "A very very scary team to prepare for." Murray State has five players who average at least 10 points per game and is riding high after Danero Thomas hit a game-winning jumper at the buzzer against Vanderbilt. But while the Racers are looking for their third NCAA tournament win, Butler is searching for it's third Sweet Sixteen in eight years. Shelvin Mack hit seven 3-pointers, scoring 25 points in an 18-point win in the first round against UTEP. The Bulldogs will now be looking to extend the nation's longest winning streak to 22 games. Another streak they've built up? Butler is 3-0 playing as the higher seed in NCAA tournament games.

(3) New Mexico vs. (11) Washington

Darington Hobson underwent an X-ray exam that revealed no breaks in his left wrist and despite appearing gimpy after hitting his tailbone on the fall as well, he's planning on playing against Washington. "It's tournament time," Hobson said. "It's not going to affect me." That's great news for the Lobos, who are trying to advance to their first Sweet 16 since the NCAA tournament went to at least 64 teams. Washington's Quincy Pondexter compared Hobson to Evan Turner, and coach Lorenzo Romar used him in the same sentence as Penny Hardaway. The Huskies hope to make their third Sweet 16 under Romar and count on Pondexter to carry them once again after the senior hit the game-winner against Marquette. Look for New Mexico's Dairese Gary and Washington's Isaiah Thomas to square off, and also watch for the Huskies' Elston Turner, who hit four huge 3-pointers to spark the first-round comeback.

'Miracle' shot lifts Murray State

March, 18, 2010
Murray State RacersKyle Terada/US PresswireNo. 13-seeded Murray State celebrates a 66-65 victory over No. 4-seeded Vanderbilt.

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Danero Thomas smiled widely and said he was simply "Option No. 3" on the play.

Murray State coach Billy Kennedy, who had scribbled something out with 4.2 seconds left in a tight first-round game with Vanderbilt, had a more colorful way to describe what transpired at the buzzer.

"That was a blessing," Murray State coach Billy Kennedy said. "It's not a shot we've run or one we've worked on.

"It's a miracle."

The 6-foot-4 senior from New Orleans caught a pass from Isacc Miles, took one dribble, and fired at the horn to sink No. 4-seeded Vanderbilt 66-65.

Vanderbilt center A.J. Ogilvy buried his head in his jersey and collapsed on the floor.

Murray State guard B.J. Jenkins did a flying fist pump.

And Thomas leaped in the air before striding down the other end of the court relatively calmly as if to get back on defense. Teammates tackled him onto the floor and then piled on top.

"I thought I was going to get smothered," Thomas mused. "I was trying to find a hole to breathe."

After hitting the big shot, he passed on the credit. Miles was the guy who gave up the ball. Kennedy was the one who drew up a play the team hadn't run before that ended up working.

"If I wouldn't have made it, one of them would have made it," Thomas said of his teammates.

The Racers have banded together to win 31 games and their first NCAA tournament game since 1988 -- when Thomas was two years old.

They had won the Ohio Valley Conference by two games, dealt with the death of the mother of guard Picasso Simmons the day before leaving for California, and then took down an SEC team in Vanderbilt that had finished second to Kentucky.

The rest of the nation found out they also play good basketball in that state in Murray. Vanderbilt, only about a two-hour drive from there, knew all about the Racers, and the Commodores still got their hearts broken.

"It goes down the drain with one kid making the shot," Ogilvy said in an otherwise silent locker room.

It's the No. 13-seeded Racers who will continue dancing after the shot heard from Murray to Northern California dropped through.

"It was big-time," Thomas said. "It's tournament time."

Photoblog: Shot heard 'round San Jose

March, 18, 2010
Danero ThomasKyle Terada/US PresswireMurray State Racers forward Danero Thomas (12) takes the game-winning shot during the second half in the first round of the 2010 NCAA tournament against Vanderbilt.

Murray State wins it at the buzzer

March, 18, 2010
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Danero Thomas hit a jumper at the buzzer to lift No. 13-seeded Murray State to a 66-65 victory over No. 4-seeded Vanderbilt.

The Racers ran off to the other end of the court, where they piled onto the senior forward after he had took a dribble, stepped back and knocked down the shot.

Murray State earned its 31st victory of the season in a win that was only an upset on paper for the Ohio Valley champions who are now winners of 22 of their last 23 games.

Isacc Miles scored 17 points to lead Murray State, who were nearly finished when B.J. Jenkins saw his 3-pointer come up short off the rim with 4.2 seconds, but the Racers got the ball back.

Vanderbilt has now lost consecutive NCAA tournament games to No. 13 seeds. The Commodores were led by Brad Tinsley's 13 points, but were hampered by finishing only 17-of-29 from the free throw line.