ATB: A Little Evergreen State FlavorPosted by jstevrtc on February 18th, 2011
The Lede. There were only two ranked teams in action this evening but a number of bubble dwellers took the floor tonight, and if you were looking for a few teams to rise out of the big percolating bog of mediocrity that’s trying to gain admission to The Dance, such teams were in short supply tonight. If you’re a college hoops fan in the great state of Washington, you can be happy knowing that two of your three teams fared well (though we doubt you’re a fan of all three, right?).
Your Watercooler Moment. #14 Arizona and #23 Temple have no worries when it comes to Selection Sunday this year – just over three weeks away, mind you — and they took care of business against foes who had the added motivation of needing wins over the very types of squads they were facing. The Wildcats let Washington State get to within five points with six minutes remaining but were only moderately challenged by the Cougars, now 17-9 (7-7) with the time to better that resume’ running short. The advertised matchup between WSU’s Klay Thompson and UA’s Derrick Williams did not disappoint; the two stars obviously didn’t guard each other, but Williams used his power in the paint (7-10 FG) and his finesse at the line (12-12 FT) to tally 26 points in addition to pulling eight rebounds. Thompson countered with a valiant 30 points which included five threes, but his supporting cast simply couldn’t hang with that of Williams. If things continue to go badly for the Cougars over the last couple of weeks of the regular season, Thompson will have missed out on his first three chances to showcase his skills on our game’s biggest stage. He’s projected as the 28th pick in 2012′s mock draft at NBADraft.net (he’s not mentioned in the 2011 version), so if he decides that this is his year to move on, there’s a good chance he’ll never play in the NCAA Tournament.
Temple had an easier time with Richmond, a team we have as one of our last four into the proceedings in our latest bracketology projections, even with their 20 wins and 9-3 record in the A-10. The Spiders did well for about 21 minutes in this one before Temple took off on a 16-0 run early in the second half. Ballgame. Juan Fernandez was in the ether from the start, hitting on all but one of his ten attempts from the field. He had company there, as backcourt mate Ramone Moore drained four of five three-point attempts and hit 10-15 overall en route to a 24-point performance. We had the Owls as a 7-seed in our most recent bracket, but if this marks a return to Fernandez’s prior form and Moore can continue that kind of production, Temple will certainly earn something better than that.
Tonight’s Quick Hits…
Welcome Back, Washington. We wagged our fingers when they disappointed us, so we’ll credit them when they do well, even if “doing well” means a victory over Arizona State (now 1-12 in the Pac-10); come on, though…it was on the road. After taking care of the Sun Devils tonight, 79-62, the Huskies have now won three straight and need just a single victory to get to the 11-win mark in the conference. That’s no arbitrary number; in the past 17 years, only one team with 11 Pac-10 wins has been left out of the NCAA Tournament, and that was the 2005-06 Stanford team that went 16-14 overall. Three of UW’s four remaining conference games are at home. Don’t listen to these blatherskites spouting about how Washington won’t get in. They’ll be fine.
The Zags Hold Serve. We wouldn’t have been at all surprised to hear that Gonzaga felt a little pressure ahead of their game against Santa Clara, since a Broncos’ win would have put the two in a tie for third place in the WCC. It also would have meant that the Zags would have failed to take advantage of the assist bestowed upon them by San Diego on Wednesday night when the Toreros took down St. Mary’s. Having gotten by Santa Clara, 85-76, Gonzaga is now tied with San Francisco for second behind the Gaels and can concentrate fully this Saturday on avenging the loss they were dealt by the Dons back on January 22nd. Assuming the ‘Dawgs win that one, that trip to SMC the following Thursday will be colossal.
Every W Helps. Alabama handled itself well on the road tonight, cruising over to Baton Rouge and beating LSU, 67-56. JaMychal Green’s 18/7 paced a disciplined Tide attack that only shot six threes on the night (and hit two). It wasn’t pretty, but it’s a road win and you take those whenever you can get them. It also moved ‘Bama to 9-2 in the SEC. That West division might be hideous, but 9-2 in conference play and wins over Kentucky and Tennessee are at least something that Alabama can say distinguishes itself from the middling crowd.
Really, Minnesota? Yeah, we know it’s life on the road in the Big Ten, and we know Penn State is a little better than their 14-11 record implies, but you’ve still got a fading chance for the Tournament. A win in the Nittany Lions’ house would have put you at 7-7 in the league and alone in fifth place, nothing to scoff at. You won almost every statistical category in this game, but ruined yourselves with two straight turnovers late, thereby handing a 66-63 win to PSU. Talor Battle’s 28 points (21 of which came from threes) had a lot to do with your misfortune, but this is a game that a prospective Tournament team would have somehow won if they really wanted to distinguish themselves. That the Gophers still have a realistic chance of getting in speaks to the hugeness of what will eventually be called the Magnificent Morass of Mediocrity of 2011, meaning the gigantic pool of humdrum teams this season that would have been long since been eradicated from NCAA Tournament consideration in previous years. We’re not complaining, though. We’ll miss every one of them around early August as we’re complaining about how the off-season seems like forever.
You Too, Clemson. The Tigers are also flailing in those soapy waters, and had the chance to help themselves with a winnable road game against North Carolina State. Instead, they played for 33 minutes instead of 40, letting the Wolfpack grab a 54-53 lead with about seven minutes left, at which time Clemson went on a five minute scoring drought. C.J. Leslie’s 18/10 did most of the damage for NC State in his team’s 69-61 win, but Clemson — who were 3-20 (15%) from three-point range, by the way — has nobody to blame but themselves if they don’t get in. You want to dance? Finish games like this at a time of year when you really need them.
Tweet of the Night. No explanation necessary. In 28 words, the Oracle of Pomeroy tells the story.