ATB: Conference Tourneys Heat Up, Oregon Impresses, and Another FSU Buzzer-Beater…Posted by EJacoby on March 2nd, 2012
Tonight’s Lede. On the first night of March, the college basketball slate did not disappoint. It was another packed night around the country, featuring some important Pac-12 action and bubble teams blowing opportunities in home games. We also have our first conference tournament final matchup set, as VMI and UNC-Asheville both completed 20-point victories to advance to the championship of the Big South Tournament. There was much quarterfinal action in other tournaments as well. But first, we highlight a crazy finish in the ACC that left the home team stunned and the visitors in a familiar place — victorious after a game-winning shot…
Your Watercooler Moment. Another Seminole Game-Winner.
The previous two times, it was Michael Snaer. On Thursday night, it was Ian Miller. For the third time this season, Florida State converted a game-winning three-point bucket to give the Seminoles a dramatic win. Virginia led 58-47 with under five minutes to play before the ‘Noles made a late surge that culminated in Miller’s buzzer-beater. This result also has major implications in the ACC, as FSU avoided a three-game losing streak to clinch the #3 seed in the upcoming ACC Tournament. Virginia, meanwhile, is in a bit of trouble after this loss. The Cavaliers now drop to 8-7 in the ACC, tied with NC State, Miami, and Clemson. Despite still being ranked in the Top 25, UVA has to start getting a bit worried about its NCAA Tournament status. The Cavaliers are 21-8 overall but don’t have a particularly strong overall profile, with just one top-40 win that came over Michigan in November. They have the #226 non-conference strength of schedule that includes a bad loss to TCU early in the year. They have an RPI of #39 that will be falling as well — not exactly lock status anymore. Virginia should be alright going forward if it can get a win at Maryland in its season finale, but a loss in that one on Terrapin Senior Night will definitely spell some worries for Tony Bennett’s team.
Tonight’s Quick Hits…
- Kentucky Won’t Let Up. Throughout the grueling conference season, nearly all teams end up slipping up at least once along the way. Trap games, long flights, three games in a week — there are plenty of excuses that teams use for poor performances. But John Calipari’s team has played at an elite level the entire season. UK, which leads the country in scoring margin, hammered Georgia from the start on Thursday night to remain undefeated in the SEC heading into its season finale in Gainesville this weekend. Don’t expect a letdown from this team in that one.
- No Howland Hangover. Just one day removed from the Sports Illustrated article that shed light on Ben Howland’s loss of control over the UCLA program, the Bruins did not seem at all distracted on the court. UCLA dominated Washington State for a 32-point victory, led by Lazeric Jones’ and Tyler Lamb’s combined 34 points and 10 assists. How crazy would it be if this team shut everyone up and made a run in the Pac-12 Tournament to win the conference and advance to the NCAA Tournament? It’s certainly possible, given the Bruins’ talent and the overall weak state of the Pac-12.
- Oregon Surging. Since getting transfer guard Devon Joseph eligible at the semester break, the Oregon Ducks are a completely different team. Joseph leads the team in scoring and steals ever since, and he had perhaps his best game of the year in UO’s 90-81 victory over Colorado on Thursday. The Ducks have won five of six with their only loss coming by three points at Cal. This team just might be the one Pac-12 squad that wants to impress the NCAA Tourney selection committee, and it certainly continues to improve. At 21-8, it’s possible that the Ducks can get an at-large bid if they finish strong in the conference tournament.
- Binghamton Wins! The Binghamton Bearcats won just one game during the regular season, finishing 1-28 for the second-worst overall record in Division I. Yet Binghamton toughed out an overtime victory in its first round game of the America East Tournament on Thursday. It helped that they were matched up with 4-23 Maryland-Baltimore County, but nonetheless the Bearcats will live to play another game. Their only other win this season came against the America East #2 seed, Vermont, so who knows… maybe this team could play spoiler in its next game against #1 seed Stony Brook? Stay tuned!
… and Misses
- Illini Can’t Capitalize – By now you’re aware of Illinois’ total collapse in Big Ten play that has put head coach Bruce Weber on a boiling hot seat. The Illini had one more shot to turn around this season with a ranked team coming into Assembly Hall, but they lacked the energy and execution necessary to beat Michigan, losing 72-61. Now the team must absolutely win the Big Ten Tournament in order to reach the Big Dance, which is highly unlikely. Expect much change in Champaign after this season, which could include Meyers Leonard’s departure to the NBA, perhaps Brandon Paul as well, and probably a new head coach for this struggling program.
- James’ Cheap Shot. We’ve detailed Florida State’s big comeback win, and oddly enough it came down the stretch without key cog Bernard James. That’s because James was ejected from the game with five minutes left after he kicked Virginia’s Joe Harris in the stomach after a loose ball collision. It wasn’t a vicious blow, but it was an obvious cheap shot with bad intent, so the referees got it right by removing James from the game.
- Seventeen-And-NO. Mississippi Valley State was 17-0 in the SWAC, just one of five teams undefeated in conference play, but the Delta Devils dropped their season finale on Thursday at Arkansas-Pine Bluff, a team which was just 9-21 overall coming into the game. Luckily, MVSU’s loss did not come in the conference tournament, where it must win out to advance to the NCAA Tournament. Sean Woods’ team finally knows what it feels like to lose, and it will try not to repeat that feeling as the SWAC Tournament gets underway soon.
Survive and Advance. Another 14 teams were eliminated tonight in seven different conference tournaments, and we’ve got three more starting up on Friday. Let’s take a quick look at what happened around the nation tonight.
- America East. The Am East play-in game featured a three-win team, #8 UMBC, versus a one-win team, #9 Binghamton, but as menetioned above, it was the BU Kornheisers who advanced to see another day. They will play top seed Stony Brook on Saturday in the quarterfinals.
- Atlantic Sun. The second night of the A-Sun quarters saw #4 ETSU outlast #5 North Florida, but it was #6 Florida Gulf Coast’s 10-point win over #3 South Carolina Upstate that raised eyebrows. The semis tip off Friday with #1 Belmont vs. #4 ETSU, and #2 Mercer (playing at home) vs. #6 Florida Gulf Coast.
- Big South. In the Big South semifinals, #7 VMI continued its Cinderella story, knocking off #6 Winthrop to make it to the championship game on Saturday against top seed UNC-Asheville (also playing at home), who crushed #4 Charleston Southern.
- Missouri Valley. Arch Madness began in St. Louis tonight with #7 Drake knocking off #10 Bradley, and #8 Indiana State crushing #9 Southern Illinois to move on to the quarterfinal round on Friday. Remember when SIU was a big-time mid-major? That ship has certainly sailed, hasn’t it?
- NEC. The NEC quarterfinals were largely unexciting, with #1 LIU, #2 Wagner, #3 Robert Morris, and #5 Quinnipiac all easily advancing to Sunday’s semifinal round. Of course, the game everybody wants to see is LIU-Wagner, Part Three.
- OVC. The OVC Tournament format worked out as it was supposed to tonight, with #3 Morehead State and #4 Tennessee Tech advancing to the semifinal round to take on the top two seeds on Friday.
- WCC. The WCC second round saw #5 San Francisco and #6 San Diego advance against #8 Portland and #7 Pepperdine, respectively, putting the Dons and Toreros into the next round where #4 Loyola Marymount and #3 BYU await on Friday night.
- Devoe Joseph, Oregon (NPOY) – The Oregon guard continues to lead this team since becoming eligible after transferring from Minnesota. Joseph had a game-high 24 points with five rebounds, five assists, and two steals for the Ducks in their big home win over Colorado that improves the squad to 12-5 in the Pac-12.
- Tim Hardaway, Jr., Michigan – The Wolverines’ star guard is starting to get his swagger back, and it showed in his 25-point, 11-rebound performance at Illinois. He scored his 25 points on just seven shots, going 6-7 from the field with four three-pointers and 9-10 from the foul line.
- Ian Miller, Florida State – He hit the game-winning shot shown above, and the sophomore guard also had a team-high 18 points off the bench with five total three-pointers made.
- Jamal Olasewere, Long Island – Don’t know him? You should get to know LIU’s big man, who is a dominant player in the NEC for the Blackbirds. Olasewere led his team in points (20), rebounds (eight), steals (three), and blocks (two) as LIU won its 25th consecutive home game, second-longest in the nation to only Kentucky. LIU is headed to the NEC Tournament semifinals tomorrow.
- Mike Scott, Virginia – His team lost, but the fifth-year forward Scott had another huge double-double with 28 points and 10 rebounds. On Senior Night, Scott helped state his case for ACC Player of the Year.
Tweet of the Night. Does it seem like Virginia Tech games are always decided on the final possession? That’s because they pretty much all are. ESPN’s great anchor and radio host Scott Van Pelt, who’s a huge NCAAB guy, just listed off the summary of Virginia Tech’s results in ACC play, and it is indeed remarkable. Only two of their 15 conference games thus far have been decided by more than four points! This season must feel like it’s two or three years long for Seth Greenberg.