ATB: Who Wants to Play in This Tournament?Posted by rtmsf on March 2nd, 2011
The Lede. The story of this week so far appears to be just how difficult it is for us to find 37 at-large teams to fill out this year’s bracket. Can you imagine how this would look if they NCAA had expanded to 96 teams? We’d be discussing teams like New Mexico, Cal and Ole Miss as serious candidates for inclusion, a specter that nobody would want to face. Memo to all the bubble teams — give us a reason to support your selection, will you?
Your Watercooler Moment. Bubble, Bubble, Toil & Trouble. On Saturday night, after Virginia Tech successfully vanquished the Dookies and RTC’d with reckless abandon, we wrote: “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.” Sigh……… And Seth Greenberg dares to argue year after year why his team is left on the outside of the NCAA Tournament looking in? His team didn’t show up tonight, falling behind by as much as 30-12 in the opening minutes and only making half-hearted runs the rest of the way — put simply, BC appeared to be a team that wanted to play in the NCAAs, while Tech seemed to play like they were already guaranteed a bid. The Hokies now sit at 19-10 (9-6 ACC) with a tough trip to fellow bubbler Clemson over the weekend on the horizon. It’s going to be another one of those Marches for the Virginia Tech fanbase, as even with a bubble softer than Greenberg’s midsection, the Hokies are no lock for the NCAAs and are generally unlikely to make things easy on the Selection Committee.
In other Bubble trouble, several teams hurt their case in what is rapidly becoming a race to the dirty bottom in terms of finding enough legitimate teams to fill out this year’s 68-team bracket.
- Baylor – The Bears were already on a bit of life support with only a handful of bracketologists having Baylor as a part of the 68-team field based on their current resume. Getting a road win against a middle-pack Big 12 team would have helped, but a terrible shooting night from their backcourt of LaceDarius Dunn and AJ Walton (combined 5-26 FGs) did them in. The Bears host reeling Texas over the upcoming weekend, but it’s looking more and more that, with a weak RPI and few quality wins of substance, that the only way Baylor finds its way back into the Dance is by making a run in the Big 12 Tournament.
- Alabama – For a half, it appeared that maybe, finally, inexorably, Anthony Grant’s team might get the kind of marquee win that would make all the bracketologists stand up and take notice that they’re playing some pretty good ball down in Tuscaloosa this winter. It wasn’t to be. Florida blistered the Tide with a 48-21 second half, breaking open a tied game at the half and clinching the Gators’ first SEC regular season title since the Oh-Fours left campus in 2007. For Bama, its rough non-conference schedule is likely to act as an NCAA albatross two Sundays from now — the Tide needs to win the SEC Tournament, more than likely, to Dance this year.
- Illinois – The Illini competed with Purdue tonight, but they simply weren’t going to beat the Boilermakers in their building where they were 16-0 this season. This loss won’t hurt them much, but they do not want to enter the Big Ten Tournament next week with an 8-10 conference record and absolutely needing a win, do they? Beating Indiana at home is a security blanket that they cannot afford to drop (Illinois lost to Indiana in Bloomington, remember).
Tonight’s Quick Hits…
- Louis Farrakhan as College Hoops Patron. Yes, you read that correctly. We don’t usually think of the elderly Nation of Islam leader and college basketball at the same time, ever, but Farrakhan attended tonight’s NC State-Virginia game to represent for his grandson, Cavalier guard Mustapha, during his Senior Night. Farrakhan the Younger dropped 15/4/3 assts in an 11-point win for Virginia, a key victory as the Wahoos attempt to keep an overall winning record to become NIT-eligible this season. The Cavs are currently 15-14 with a road game at Maryland and the ACC Tournament upcoming, so they still have some work to do. We suppose this might be the first and only time that Farrakhan will ever attend a college hoops game.
- Purdue Remains On Fire. With its seventh straight win in Big Ten play, seniors E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson celebrated their last game in Mackey Arena with another notch on their way to a high NCAA Tournament seeding in less than two weeks. The duo who combined for 41/11/7 assts tonight are playing as well as any other 1-2 punch in America, and Matt Painter deserves a healthy heaping of credit for re-molding this team into a legitimate Final Four contender even without the services of the versatile Robbie Hummel. Although unlikely, if Ohio State loses at home over the weekend to Wisconsin and Purdue defeats Iowa on the road, the two will tie at the top for the regular season title.
- As Does Jon Diebler. What’s gotten into these midwestern shooters lately? Last night Notre Dame’s duo of Ben Hansbrough and Tim Abromaitis combined for roughly 952 threes in a resounding win over Villanova; tonight it was Ohio State’s Jon Diebler who went for double-figure treys made, this time with ten. In fact, his ten made threes were the only buckets of any kind he had tonight — no twos, and no free throws. Diebler is something to watch when he catches a groove as he did tonight, ultimately hitting ten straight bombs after missing his first and last attempts of the evening. We’re not sure we could stand still outside the arc for an entire day and hit ten in a row, but then again, we’re not pure sugary sweetness like Diebler either (49.4% from deep on the season).
- Mizzou’s Continued Road Woes. Like Kentucky in the SEC, Missouri cannot win away from Columbia in the Big 12 this season. With an 11-point loss at Nebraska tonight (in its last home game as a member of the conference), the Tigers are now 1-7 in league play on the road. Considering how good Mike Anderson’s team has been at home (17-0), that’s beyond terrible. Their inability to win in hostile environments not only portends poorly for any degree of March success for the Tigers, it also ensures that they will not receive a first round bye in next week’s Big 12 Championship. Anderson says that they’re playing well, but the issue is their defense: seven of the Tigers’ ten worst defensive PPPs this season occurred in Big 12 road games. The havoc that the Missouri press causes isn’t getting enough stops over the course of those games.
Conf Tourneys. Two conference tournaments kicked off Championship Fortnight tonight with 1st Round action. Here’s what you need to know.
- Big South. The surprise tonight in the quarterfinals of this league was #2 seed Liberty getting upset by #7 High Point, 66-60. Each of the other higher seeds — #1 Coastal Carolina, #3 UNC-Asheville, and #4 VMI — all advanced into Thursday’s semifinal round, which will be held at CCU. Coastal defeated VMI in their two previous meetings this year, while Asheville split its season series with High Point in the regular season.
- Horizon League. The opening round of the HL Tournament bore no surprises, as the four home teams — #3 Cleveland State, #4Valparaiso, #5 Detroit, and #6 Wright State — all won handily. The quarterfinals matching CSU and WSU in one game and Valpo and Detroit in the other will take place Friday night at Milwaukee, with the winners advancing to play #1 UWM and #2 Butler on Saturday. This is a league where any number of things could happen; it’ll be interesting to keep an eye on it.
Tweet of the Night. A classic example of the unparalleled power of the Weauxfgods…