ATB: Maryland Becomes Everyone’s NCAA Sleeper TeamPosted by rtmsf on March 4th, 2010
Large Wednesday. It was a big-time night of games, the kind of evening that has you checking the clock all day long in nervous anticipation. Most of the games ended in predictable fashion, but that didn’t make them any less interesting. To get this out of the way, ranked teams #3 Kentucky, #6 Purdue, #10 New Mexico, #13 Tennessee, #15 BYU, #16 Temple, #17 Wisconsin and #24 Texas A&M all won, most easily. UNM won the Mountain West title outright, and Kentucky grabbed at least a share of the SEC title tonight. We’ll focus on the biggest games, the key games of bubbular interest, and the conference tourneys in this space tonight, though.
- #2 Kansas 82, #5 Kansas State 65. ESPN got lucky that this game was only interesting for about thirty minutes tonight. At the 15:39 mark of the second half, K-State’s Luis Colon hit a layup to pull the Wildcats back within one point, and we thought this battle between Big 12 stalwarts was destined to go down to the wire in Lawrence. We were wrong. Kansas seemingly awakened from its halftime slumber and went on a quick 9-0 run to open its lead back up to double digits. KSU made one more push to get it back to six, but the Jayhawks used a 13-1 run to put the game away for the 59th consecutive time in Allen Fieldhouse. The Kansas defense, virtually nonexistent in their loss at Oklahoma State on Saturday, was back in action here, holding their in-state rival to 40% shooting and limiting the opponents not named Denis Clemente or Jacob Pullen to a mere 24 points. The old barn was rocking as Kansas won the Big 12 regular season outright and likely wrapped up a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament as well, but we’re not completely certain because we could hardly see the action on our ESPN360 feed. KU walks into a trap game at Missouri on Saturday, while K-State should still finish second in the league with a win over Iowa State this weekend.
- #23 Maryland 79, #4 Duke 72. The better big game of the night took place in College Park, as Maryland outlasted Duke in a back-and-forth contest that resulted in the Terps tying the rival Blue Devils at the top of the ACC standings with one game remaining. Ultimately, it was Gary Williams’ team, led by the animated and spectacular Greivis Vasquez (20/4/5 assts), who broke a 69-all tie with two minutes to go and ended the game on a 10-3 closing run. In particular, it was Vasquez’s running, fading, only-the-kind-of-shot-he-would-take-and-make jumper that gave Maryland a four-point lead with 39 seconds left and forced Duke to start fouling soon thereafter. We really shouldn’t read too much into one result in a rivalry game, so we won’t, but one thing is very clear in that Maryland has been playing the better part of two months much, much better than their ranking might 0therwise indicate. Since the new year turned, the Terps have only lost at Wake (when WFU was playing well), Clemson and Duke. That’s it. Pollsters have been holding four nonconference losses against them, but if Maryland isn’t a top four seed in the NCAA Tournament, then we haven’t seen one. As for the regular season title, the Terps will play in a trap game at Virginia this weekend, while Duke will actually have the easier home game against rival UNC. If both win (or lose), then Duke will win the top seed in the ACC Tournament, but suffice it just to say that these two are clearly the best two teams in the ACC. Now, about that RTC, Terp fans… we love the quick, full coverage of the court, and we know it’s been a few years since you last beat Duke, but, what if you’re the better team?
Huge Bubble Games.
- Notre Dame 58, Connecticut 50. There’s absolutely no question that the Irish are playing better without all-american Luke Harangody than they were with him. Notre Dame won its third straight game over a solid team to put themselves squarely back into the NCAA picture, but with an RPI in the 60s, a win over Marquette this weekend and another in the Big East Tourney are needed. The Ls keep piling up for UConn (13 now), but how long can you hide behind the excuse of a tough schedule and some big wins before you cut them out of the picture?
- Florida State 51, Wake Forest 47. Wake is busily playing itself from a projected #4 seed to outside the field in a short span of two weeks with the Deacs’ fourth straight loss tonight. Al-Farouq Aminu had a ridiculous zero-point, five-foul performance in the loss, and with a game versus surging Clemson on Sunday, Wake could be staring at five Ls in a row to end the regular season.
- Memphis 70, UAB 65. In a battle of CUSA bubble teams, Memphis was able to get a big win while also wrapping up the #2 seed in next week’s Conference USA Tournament in Tulsa. In most mock brackets, UAB is the second team out of this conference, but now Memphis has swept the season series between the two. It will be interesting if they meet again in Tulsa with Memphis taking a third game as well.
- Virginia Tech – HELPED. VT’s win at home over NC State is one of those ‘but for’ games, as in you would have gotten a bid ‘but for’ that terrible loss at the end of the year. Really, it does nothing to help the Hokie profile, but it avoids the pain of explaining away a terrible loss at this point of the season. Tech will visit the other ACC Tech on Saturday in a classic bubble duel.
- Mississippi State – HURT. If you’re planning on playing in the Big Dance, you have to win road games at Auburn. The Bulldogs are about as bubbly as it gets this year, seemingly right on the cusp all season long. They’ll get another chance for a quality win Saturday on Senior Day vs. Tennessee, which, incidentally, would be their best win all season.
- Rhode Island – HELPED. URI dominated Charlotte in a virtual knockout game between two teams that still have work to do to get a bid in ten days. The Rams came into the game having lost four of five, but they’ll have a chance to end the season winning two of three with a winnable road game at UMass on Saturday.
- Oklahoma State – HURT. OSU is still in decent shape, but their loss tonight against A&M (although predictable) won’t help with their final seed line. It also removes the Pokes from contention for a first round bye in the Big 12 Tournament next week. Oklahoma State is 3-7 in true away games this year, although their win in Manhattan, KS, is probably worth two.
- St. Louis – HURT. Tonight was a must-get for the Billikens against league leader Temple. The #87 RPI team was already in bad shape, but a win over a ranked team could have given Rick Majerus’ team a building block to argue for inclusion given their strong finish in the A10 (having won seven of eight coming into tonight). It’s AC of Bust for the Billikens at this point.
Conference Tourneys. The Atlantic Sun and Patriot League kicked things off tonight and didn’t fail to disappoint, with a tough night for a couple of Bisons.
- Atlantic Sun. Top seed Lipscomb came into tonight’s quarterfinal game with an A-Sun regular season title under its belt, but the 14-6 Bisons were shocked by #8 seed Kennesaw State, 72-69, who came into this game riding a seven-game losing streak. Star Adnan Hodzic dropped 29/16 in a losing effort, but it should be noted that KSU actually split with Lipscomb in the regular season. #2 seed Jacksonville defeated #7 North Florida in the other quarterfinal. The two other quarterfinals will be played Thursday night.
- Patriot League. There were four quarterfinals played at campus sites throughout the Patriot tonight, and the shocker was #2 Bucknell losing at home to #7 Holy Cross, 67-64. The Bison had also split with HC in the regular season, winning the home game and losing on the road. Favorites Lehigh, Lafayette and American all moved into the semifinal round, which will be played at Lehigh (vs. American) and Lafayette (vs. Holy Cross) on Sunday.
On Tap Tomorrow.
- Big South semifinals – #3 Winthrop @ #2 Radford (ESPNU); #4 UNC-Asheville @ #1 Coastal Carolina (ESPNU)
- Atlantic Sun quarterfinals – #5 ETSU vs. #4 Campbell; #3 Belmont @ #6 Mercer
- NEC quarterfinals – #6 St. Francis (Pa) @ #3 Mt. St. Mary’s; #8 Monmouth @ #1 Quinnipiac; #7 CCSU @ #2 Robert Morris; #5 FDU @ #4 Long Island
- Missouri Valley first round – #9 S. Illinois vs. #8 Drake; #7 Missouri State vs. #10 Evansville