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Top 25 Games
#1 Ohio State 82, Indiana 61: “After scoring just seven points in six games on 3/22 shooting before a modest bounceback six point effort Tuesday night against Illinois, Deshaun Thomas exploded against his home state school with 22 points, including 14 in a row during a decisive 26-6 first half run, keying Ohio State’s 82-61 blowout victory over Tom Crean’s Indiana Hoosiers.” (Eleven Warriors or Inside the Hall)
Virginia Tech 64, #2 Duke 60: “The Hokies got the signature win that everyone has been looking for over the last four years, and all but punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournament with a 64-60 win over #1 Duke at the Cassell. Tech used an extremely balanced effort to take down the Devils. All five Hokie starters reached double-digits in points, including double-doubles from Jeff Allen and Victor Davila. The Hokies are now 3-2 against #1 teams under Coach Seth Greenberg, and this was Tech’s fourth win all-time against a #1 (Tech is 3-1 against #1 teams in the Cassell overall).” (Tech Hoops)
#17 Louisville 62, #3 Pittsburgh 59 (OT): Breaking down Louisville’s OT victory that featured one of the strangest finishes this season. (Card Chronicle)
Colorado 91, #4 Texas 89: “For the second straight Saturday, the Texas Longhorns suffered a road loss to an unranked opponent after their defense and then their offense completely fell apart. The game was nowhere near as close as the final 91-89 margin indicates. Texas did just about everything right in the first half and led by as many as 22 points before taking a 15 point lead to halftime. However, in a sign of things to come, Colorado won the final few minutes of the first half and trimmed that lead to a more workable margin.” (Burnt Orange Nation)
Butler head coach Brad Stevensleft his team’s win against Loyola (Ill.) on Saturday a little early due to a condition that blurred his vision badly enough to where he couldn’t even see the other end of the court. He was diagnosed with corneal edema, an entity for which there are many causes, most of them benign. Assistant coach Matthew Graves guided the Bulldogs for the final 22 minutes in that win on Saturday which clinched at least a share of the Horizon League regular season title. Stevens, vision restored, was back at practice on Sunday.
Want to hear what Louisville fans are saying about the incident involving the cheerleader at the end of the Cardinals’ win over Pittsburgh on Sunday? Well, here you go[a warning: there is some explicit language used, including the header of that page]. Pitt’s Ashton Gibbs also had some thoughts on the game, one of which he shared with the world via Twitter. To his credit, soon after posting it, he took it down and apologized to Louisville and its fans.
Monmouth head coach Dave Calloway has been with that school in one capacity or another for 24 years. He was a player, then an assistant coach, then became head honcho in 1997. He took the program to three NCAA Tournaments — 2001, 2004, and a trip that included a play-in game win in 2006. After that, though, the Hawks endured five straight losing seasons and they won’t even play in the upcoming NEC Tournament. On Saturday, the school and Calloway parted ways. Brendan Prunty and Tom Luicci of New Jersey’s Star-Ledgerexplain Calloway’s disapointment in a story that includes several candid, honest statements from the dismissed coach.
The unstoppable Luke Winn has an amazing summary of Saturday’s BYU vs San Diego State game, including insights into the minds and methods of the Aztecs’ student section, appropriately named The Show, in case you haven’t heard. A show, indeed. If you watched the game, you saw the kinds of taunts and, er, visuals that The Show employed to get the attention of Jimmer Fredette. If you thought those were…original, check out Winn’s story and find out what actually wasn’t approved — or at least couldn’t be brought into the arena — and how one SDSU fan finally got the attention of the POY candidate after the game. It makes The Jimmer’s performance all the more impressive.
The Lede. It was the last weekend in February, and as we come out of it, we’re less clear about who the favorites are to cut down the nets in early April than we have been at any point this season. RTCs went down in Blacksburg, Boulder, Springfield and more, befitting the stress, pressure and expectations of a season reaching its regular season terminus. As usual, after a weekend like this, there’s a lot to cover, so let’s jump right in with some of the major moments…
An RTC Kinda Weekend
Your Watercooler Moment. Parity is This Year’s Dominance. It was another weekend where many of the top teams came away with losses. #2 Duke (#1 AP/#1 ESPN) went to Cassell Coliseum in Blacksburg, Virginia, on Saturday night and left with a lighter load. #3 Pittsburgh (#4 AP/#6 ESPN) dropped a tough Big East road battle at Louisville for the second straight weekend. #4 Texas (#5 AP/#5 ESPN) suffered a ridiculously bad second half at Colorado and headed back to Austin with two Ls in its last three outings. #5 San Diego State (#6 AP/#4 ESPN) suffered the ignoble embarrassment of getting Jimmered in its own building by the only team to have proven it can beat the Aztecs this season. Shuffle the deck for another week and repeat. The only top teams to come out unscathed this weekend were #1 Ohio State (#2 AP/#3 ESPN), #6 Kansas (#3 AP/#2 ESPN) and #7 BYU (#7 AP/#7 ESPN) — and both the Buckeyes and Jayhawks were part of last week’s poll carnage. The point we’re making is a simple one: the field is completely wide open this year. It wouldn’t surprise us nor should it surprise you if none of the eventual #1 seeds make it to the Final Four — the difference between the top seven named above and the next tier of teams is not large. The four teams we would put on our top line as of tonight — Ohio State, Pitt, BYU and Kansas — are all strong candidates to lose at least one more game between now and Selection Sunday, now only fourteen days out. This kind of parity among the top teams makes for an exciting NCAA Tournament, but it shouldn’t shock anybody if the seeds that make it to Houston in April add up to a total well into the teens (e.g., 2, 3, 6, 8).
Your Watercooler Moment, Pt. II. That Stupid Louisville Cheerleader. If Rick Pitino were a little younger and brasher (say, the Knicks or early Kentucky eras), the Louisville cheerleader who grabbed the ball and tossed it up into the air after what appeared to be Kyle Kuric’s game-sealing dunk would already be encased in concrete in the Ohio River locks. Instead, the older and somewhat more forgiving head coach will likely only have a horse’s head delivered to the cheerleader’s bed for making his gaffe with 0.5 seconds remaining on the clock. The sophomoric ball-toss resulted in two technical FTs for Pitt taking a five-point lead down to three, and the Panthers put up a decent half-court heave at the buzzer that would have tied the game. We can understand a little confusion with respect to the last half-second of time running off the clock, but why touch the ball at all? That should be the province of the players and game officials, nobody else, and the cheer people should understand that better than most. Here’s the question on everyone’s mind, though: will Cheer Dufus be back in action or will Pitino have him removed (we’re not sure what “The male cheerleader is coming to an end” means exactly)?
Your Watercooler Moment, Pt. III. Tyler Trapani Shuts Down Pauley With an Assist From the Ghost of John Wooden. It was the last game in Pauley Pavilion, the House That Wooden Built, before it undergoes massive renovations over the next year-plus to bring the building seemingly mired in the 1960s into the modern era. UCLA was throttling league-leading Arizona and the Bruin partisans were rocking out with every Reeves Nelson dunk, Josh Smith twirl and each long-range brick from Arizona. With just a few seconds remaining in garbage time, UCLA’s Jack Haley, Jr., missed a corner three badly short; standing directly under the basket to catch it and lay it in as the final points scored in the “old” Pauley was walk-on Tyler Trapani, The Wizard of Westwood’s great-grandson. The bucket represented his only two points of the entire season, and it seemed a fitting tribute to finishing off the old barn in its current state. Pauley Pavilion is one of the temples of the sport, so we’re glad to hear that UCLA is finally updating it — it’s our opinion that modernizing a terrific old venue is much preferred to building an austere and lifeless new one.
This Weekend’s Quick Hits…
Virginia Tech and Colorado’s RTCs. Coverage of the court was quick, complete and rowdy, befitting how you should RTC when you take down a top five team in your building. Virginia Tech’s crowd was fantastic the entire evening, as the below video clearly illustrates (move ahead for the RTC, and here’s a bird’s eye view if you’re into that). As the second video shows, Colorado’s was also quite good (here’s another from within the maelstrom at center court). Perhaps more importantly, the huge wins keep both teams’ hopes alive for an at-large NCAA bid in two weeks. Much was expected from both of these schools prior to season tipoff, but they’ve had myriad ups and downs along the way. These two huge wins will go a long way toward finding the right side of the bubble in fourteen days.
It’s been a great late February Saturday of college basketball, with some high-quality action that you’d hope and expect to see this time of year. Let’s take a look at a few of the key storylines from the second half of today’s coverage.
Colorado Second Half Bombards Texas Defense. It was one of those games where we were barely keeping an eye on the gametracker because it appeared quite early on that this would become another UT blowout led by their defensive mastery. As it turned out, a 48-33 halftime lead in Boulder didn’t mean much, because the Buffs shredded the vaunted Longhorn D in a way that nobody else in the Big 12 (or America) has been able to this season. Consider this: in fourteen conference games, the Longhorns had not given up more than 58 points in eight of them — today, Colorado put up that number in the second half in coming from as many as 22 down to win, 91-89. CU’s Alec Burks had a monstrous 33/10 game, and it appears that the Colorado team that many suspected was in Boulder before the season began is finally hitting its stride. Having now won three of four, with two more winnable games (@ Iowa State; vs. Nebraska), the Buffs could be in position to finish at 9-7 in the conference and even make a run at a first round bye in the Big 12 Championship.
So, About Texas? It’s cliched to point out that Rick Barnes’ teams at Texas have by and large not finished up strong, but with road wins in consecutive weekends at places not named Lawrence, Columbia or even College Station, there need to be some alarm bells going off in Austin. With the loss today, the Longhorns’ fifth of the season, it’s difficult to imagine a scenario where UT has a reasonable shot at a #1 seed — and they certainly would need some help regardless. The question is whether this is just a blip or if teams have started to figure them out — two of the Horns worst four defensive showings this season (as measured by points per possession) occurred today and against NU. In order to prove to us (and the nation) that this UT team is in fact different than some of the others in recent vintage, they really need to clobber surging K-State and Baylor in their last two regular season games.
Kentucky’s Home vs. Away Quandary. After today’s 76-68 win over Florida, one of the nation’s most schizophrenic teams has moved to 7-0 in the SEC at home and 1-6 on the road. How and why is this happenening? It’s pretty simple, actually. The two legitimate NBA talents that John Calipari has at his disposal — guard Brandon Knight and forward Terrence Jones — are almost equally effective no matter where they play. The problem is that their less-talented teammates such as DeAndre Liggins, Darius Miller and Doron Lamb, drop off considerably away from Rupp Arena. Lamb, for example, averages 15.8 PPG on 57% shooting in Lexington (today: 14 pts on 6-9 FG); away from home he’s at 12.4 PPG and 47%. DeAndre Liggins is even more volatile: 11.0 PPG on 47% shooting at home, and 6.0 PPG on 32% away. A general tenet of March basketball is to never trust teams who can’t win away from home — something to remember when filling out brackets in just two short weeks.
Miserable SoCal Trip For Arizona. After last weekend’s big win over Washington in Tucson, the last thing Sean Miller wanted to see was a two-loss trip to Southern California. That’s what he got, though, as his team dropped a close one to USC on Thursday night before getting run out of the closing-for-renovations Pauley Pavilion today. A 22-2 run blew the thing open, rendering the second half a showcase for the ever-improving Reeves Nelson (27/16) and ending in a fitting way, with John Wooden’s great-grandson, Tyler Trapani, scoring the final points in the old barn before it becomes closes to become modernized. We’re still not sure if Ben Howland’s team is any kind of postseason threat, but we thought Arizona was; it’ll be interesting to watch how the Wildcats recover from a lost opportunity this weekend next week at home in addition to seeing if UCLA can steal one or two on the road at the Washingtons.
Did Virginia Tech Finally Get Over the NCAA Hump? Of course, it’s hard to say for certain with these guys. After vanquishing #1 Duke for its most important win in years, the Hokies will probably turn around and lose to Boston College at home on Tuesday. Let’s hope not. When he’s not whining about being left out of the Tournament in March, Seth Greenberg strikes us as a nice fellow, and for a school that has had a number of ups and downs in its basketball program this year, we’re hoping that the Hokies don’t blow the good will and RPI boost that this win engenders. As for Duke, this loss may have cost the Devils a #1 seed. They still have to travel to Chapel Hill (a team that gave them all kinds of hell in Durham) and win the ACC Tournament. One more slip-up and we’re not sure they’ll have the overall profile needed to earn it outright. Their profile honestly doesn’t look significantly different than BYU’s, for example.
Bubbling Up: Colorado, Baylor and Kansas State in the Big 12; Butler in the Horizon; Clemson and Virginia Tech in the ACC; Michigan in the Big Ten; UAB in CUSA.
Bubbling Down: Wichita State in the Valley; Alabama in the SEC; Memphis and Southern Miss in CUSA; Minnesota in the Big Ten; Colorado State in the Mountain West.
Game #154. Notre Dame has put together a fantastic regular season, and they seek to finish up strong with a home game today against Seton Hall.
After a close call victory over Providence on Wednesday evening, Notre Dame returns home after a three game road trip that featured stops at South Florida, West Virginia, and Providence. The Irish are undefeated at home this season, as the Seton Hall Pirates enter the Purcell Pavilion on Saturday evening. Kevin Willard’s squad has struggled mightily in his first year, as the Pirates are just 11-16 and have faced a myriad of personnel problems. The Irish led by seniors Ben Hansbrough, Tim Abromaitis, and Carleton Scott will look to defeat Seton Hall to continue their quest of ensuring the possession of the number two seed in what will be an ultra-competitive Big East tournament. Seton Hall will attempt to play spoiler, as well as getting a win to highlight the illustrious career of their senior guard Jeremy Hazell. Irish coach Mike Brey will look to lead his team to a victory on a night where Notre Dame will honor one of its legends- Austin Carr- by inducting him into the Irish Ring of Honor- currently only occupied by former ND great Luke Harangody and Irish women’s legend Ruth Riley. If the Irish march out to an early lead then it is reasonable to conclude that the Irish will provide its fans with a stirring home victory.
The only question on a day like today after the early flight of games is…how’s the bubble? The biggest worry for bubble teams is not necessarily racking up good wins late in the year, because the schedule is, of course, already set. What you don’t want to do is give the selection committee something negative on which to hang their hat so they can leave you out. In other words, don’t play yourself out of the Tournament. So far today…
Let there be no doubt about Kansas State. They’ve already done enough to get in, but if you’re a bubble team you still don’t want to trip up late and drop games at home. The Wildcats, knowing that they’re in, could have come out complacent in an early game today against Missouri and just gone through the motions. No, sir. The raves will pile up for Jacob Pullen (24 points on 6-10 and 4-4 from three) and Curtis Kelly (15/6 on 7-9), and with good reason. Pullen’s vocal leadership late in the season has been a revelation for KSU, but let’s give some juice to the Kansas State bench today, chipping in 29 points, 16 rebounds, and eight assists. And look at the unselfishness on display. The Wildcats hit 28 shots…off of 23 assists!
For a team playing themselves out of The Dance, look no further than VCU. A few weeks ago all the talk was about how the CAA might get two or three teams in, with VCU an obvious choice. Over the past two weeks, all the Rams have done is drop four of five, including today’s senior day game against Colonial sixth-placers James Madison (72-69). No disrespect to the Dukes, because you don’t win 21 games (so far) without being a solid squad, especially in a rapidly improving conference. But despite NCAA selectors confirming that the “last 10 games” criteria isn’t considered, bubble teams that run into late losing streaks tend to wind up on the outside looking in on post-selection Monday. Barring a CAA Tournament title, you’ve got to figure that VCU is done.
Game #155. Texas travels to Boulder to take on a team fighting for its NCAA Tournament life — will it be another road nightmare for the Horns like last week?
Colorado enters Saturday’s contest against No. 5 Texas with a lot to prove, considering they 1-4 against the conference’s top four teams this season. With the win, the Buffs can improve to 7-7 in conference play and earn its second big victory in Big 12 play. As for the Longhorns, they can improve to 25-4 with a win, but must contain the Buffs star, guard Alec Burks. The sophomore has been was dominant as any player in the conference from Jan. 8 to Feb. 9. Although he has cooled off, UT cannot afford to let him get comfortable at home. Playing at a higher elevation could hurt the Longhorns, who should be looking to use their bench more than usual. The team’s best players are apparent, but they will need to win with a solid team effort today as the Buffs want to play the upset card against the top team in conference. The match-up today boils down to the Longhorns defense, No. 14 in the nation, versus the fast-paced Buffalo offense, No. 15 in the nation with 79 points per game.
Game #153. It’s all come down to this single game for the MVC regular season championship for 2010-11.
Since joining the Missouri Valley Conference in 1990, there’s one thing Missouri State has never done: win a regular season title. That’s why Saturday’s contest with Wichita State, a six-time MVC champion, at the sparkling JQH Arena is one of the most important games in program history. The two teams are tied at the top of the standings at 14-3, so the city of Springfield is effectively hosting the Missouri Valley regular season championship game this weekend. MSU won at Koch Arena in January, a stunning result at the time because the Shockers are traditionally so dominant in that building. Wichita State has since lost three more home games, but it’s looked more comfortable on the road– the Shockers’ only road loss this season came at San Diego State. Saturday’s game is all about toughness. Wichita State thinks it’s tougher than you, and it wins by crashing the offensive glass and feeding the paint. That doesn’t intimidate Missouri State, because former Purdue assistant Cuonzo Martin takes a tough-nosed approach with his program, too. As far as individual match-ups go, WSU’s J.T. Durley may be the Valley’s best back-to-the-basket scorer. He’ll have his hands full with the Bears’ frontcourt tandem, which consists of POY candidate Kyle Weems and the fiery Will Creekmore. Gregg Marshall has a deeper roster with more athleticism, and he has the ability to pressure teams full court whenever he likes. Without consistent point guard play, though, his team’s been prone to offensive droughts in the half-court, and he’ll need more out of guard Toure’ Murry, who made just one shot in that January meeting. The two teams are long shots for at-large bids, so Arch Madness next week is the more important event, but a conference championship is on the line Saturday. How’s that for some drama?
And down the stretch they come! Just like a commentator of a competitive horse race fervently belches when the horses make the final turn, college basketball commentators, analysts, and enthusiasts alike all speak of the game with greater eagerness and zeal at this time of the year. Judgment Week—still am not sure what ESPN is trying to do with this—has passed us, Championship Week is nearly upon us, and we all know what comes after that: the Madness!
While the majority of Other 26 teams around the country still have one or two remaining games left in the regular season, there are a handful of teams out there who have completed the second part of their season. Many coaches, especially those coaching in perennial single bid leagues, break down their year into three seasons: 1) the non-conference, 2) conference play, 3) the postseason. The opportunity is presented for many teams that have struggled during much of the season to get hot at the right time and advance onto the greatest postseason tournament in all of sports.
At the beginning of conference play, I wrote in a previous article the concept of “three games in March” which is often the mentality of teams from smaller conferences who have to win three games, or four in some cases, to advance to the Dance—it is their only way in. Well, here is that opportunity.
The conference tournaments will officially begin in the middle of next week with a few of the smaller conferences going at it. If one really wants to get technical though, the argument can be made that the Ivy League has a season-long conference tournament that commences at the beginning of league play.
Game #152. A timeless classic reconvenes in the District on a Saturday afternoon. We’re pleased to be there.
This game changed quite a bit on Wednesday when Chris Wright, Georgetown’s starting point guard, second leading scorer and best creator, broke his hand against Cincinnati. Simply put, Georgetown is a much different team without Wright. We can argue about his talent and his consistency, but the bottom line is that he is a competitor, he’s capable of going for 30 on any given night, and, frankly, he is just that much better than Georgetown’s next best option at the point, Markel Starks. There are two scenarios that can play out tomorrow. Starks can start, or JT III can slide Jason Clark to the point and start Hollis Thompson. Neither option is ideal, as Starks is a freshman and Clark is not a point guard. The good news for Georgetown is that their base offense, the Princeton hybrid that JT III loves, is essentially position-less. You don’t need a point guard or a playmaker like you would in a ball-screen offense. It will be interesting to see what the Hoyas can do against the Syracuse zone in their first game without Wright. As for Syracuse, they are coming off of a nice win at Villanova and generally seem to be a better team on the road this season. Their biggest issue is that Scoop Jardine and Kris Joseph, the Orange’s two best playmakers, are not the best decision-makers. Both teams still have a chance at earning one of the Big East’s top four seeds and a spot in the double bye in the Big East tournament.