ATB: Panic in Provo?Posted by nvr1983 on March 3rd, 2011
The Lede. The obvious story here is BYU falling apart at home against New Mexico in the aftermath of the suspension of Brandon Davies for the season. While most of the Twitter-verse if flipping out over the game and many are questioning the wisdom of BYU in suspending Davies for violating the Honor Code for what appears to be consensual premarital sex with his girlfriend, there are two things worth pointing out from this game: (1) It wasn’t just that the Cougars got dominated on the inside. They got dominated everywhere on the court. (2) The Lobos appear to be the perfect foil for the Cougars as BYU is 0-4 against them in the past two seasons and 26-1 against the rest of the Mountain West Conference. While the loss of Davies obviously hurts the Cougars — who were paper thin on the inside before his suspension — their play tonight revealed a team that was sloppy and distracted rather than one that was just short-handed. The loss may drop the Cougars out of contention for a #1 seed, but if they can regain their focus, which will be difficult with the coming media circus, they should be in good shape for the NCAA Tournament.
UNC and Duke win to set up the biggest game ever! Ok. Not really, but we all know that ESPN and CBS will be hyping up Saturday’s prime time match-up as if it was. To be fair, it is for the ACC regular season title, which nobody thought would be up for grabs at the start of December. Since that time, a lot has changed. Duke lost Kyrie Irving, the heart and soul of its team, no matter what Coach K tries to tell you. UNC has seen the emergence of Harrison Barnes, who might not be quite the player that he was expected to be when he was named the first AP Preseason freshman All-American ever, but in the past month he has played solid basketball and you would be hard-pressed to another player who has hit as many clutch shots this season, freshman or otherwise. His latest addition to the resume was a cold-blooded three in the closing moments against FSU in Tallahassee that proved to be the game-winner when the Seminoles were unable to get off a shot at the end. While neither team was particularly impressive today –particularly the Blue Devils, who struggled to wake up against Clemson after the traditional Senior Night festivities honoring Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler — it’s an intriguing match-up, as UNC will hold an edge on the inside, particularly with the recent solid play of John Henson (double-doubles in seven of the last 10 games) and the continued development of Kendall Marshall (eight assists tonight), while the Blue Devils have the stars (Smith and Singler) and the experience.
Kansas makes a statement. It may not have been the most dominant performance of the season for the Jayhawks, but their win over Texas A&M on Senior Night in Lawrence was still impressive, and good enough to guarantee them at least a share of the Big 12 title for the 7th year in a row. A win at Missouri, which is far from a sure thing, is all that stands in their way of winning the conference regular season crown outright, given Texas’ embarking upon another late-season swoon. More importantly, BYU’s loss is a big boost for KU’s chances of securing a #1 seed, even if the Jayhawks falter in the Big 12 Tournament.
Making Their Case.
- West Virginia. The Mountaineers notched a solid home win tonight against a Connecticut team that appears to be struggling to find its rhythm at the worst possible time. The Mountaineers relied on excellent performances from Joe Mazzulla (18 points) and Kevin Jones (15 points, including 13 in the second half, and eight rebounds) to get their 10th win in the Big East, which should assure them of a 7-seed or higher in the NCAA Tournament. Meanwhile, the Huskies are going to make it difficult for the Selection Committee when it comes time to seed them. They are still ranked in the top 20 in the country, but might not be the #10 team in the conference by regular season’s end. If Jim Calhoun wants to turn things around and avoid another early Tournament exit, he’ll need more efficiency out of Kemba Walker (22 points on 8/23 from the field) and anything at all out of the rest of the team, as nobody other than Shabazz Napier (18 points) showed up tonight. I imagine that Calhoun will be sure to point out that the team only managed a measly seven assists tonight as they endure what will surely be a brutal practice tomorrow.
- Cincinnati. The Bearcats picked up a huge victory tonight at Marquette, where the Golden Eagles had previously lost only twice this season. Ten wins in the Big East is probably the magic number to guarantee a spot in the NCAA Tournament and the Bearcats did that tonight for the first time since they joined the Big East in the 2005-06 season. On the other sideline, Buzz Williams and the Golden Eagles have a little work to do, as they are returning to the edge of the bubble, a place that grows more and more perilous as upset winners in conference tournaments steal extra NCAA spots via automatic bids over the next two weeks.
Weak Closing Arguments.
- Colorado. Just four days removed from their huge comeback win over Texas, the Buffaloes traveled to Iowa State in what appeared on the surface to be a very winnable game. Instead, they were shredded by freshman Calvin Godfrey‘s season-high 23 points and found themselves unable to tie the game late despite 23 points from Alec Burks’ game-high 24 points. The loss was the Buffaloes 19th in 20 games at Hilton Coliseum, but it will nearly negate the positive momentum they had following the win over the Longhorns. Now they’ll have to overachieve in the Big 12 Tournament and hope a few things break their way while they sweat it out on Selection Sunday.
- Maryland. The Terrapins’ at-large chances were already razor thin coming into this game and their loss at Miami essentially ends the conversation. In the end, they were done in by a phenomenal performance by Rion Brown (6/7 from beyond the arc) that was more than enough to overcome a strong showing by Terrell Stoglin (20 points on 8/14 FG and 4/6 from three point range before fouling out in only 27 minutes of playing time), while Jordan Williams laid an egg (3/17 from field). Gary Williams will have to hope his team magically finds another gear as well as some luck with upsets and matchups in order to make a run at the automatic bid.
- No real surprises here out of the Atlantic Sun, Ohio Valley Conference, or the Patriot League. The important news was that both Bucknell (13-1 in the Patriot League) and Belmont (19-1 in the Atlantic Sun) won convincingly to reach their respective conference semifinals. Neither team has a resume’ impressive enough to make the NCAA Tournament as an at-large, but either could give a highly seeded team a scare if they were able to make it into the field.