ATB: Power Conference Round Up – All Leagues Now in Tournament Action, Big East Works OvertimePosted by EJacoby on March 9th, 2012
Tonight’s Lede. Thursday was a transition night during Championship Week from small-conference finishes to power league beginnings. Most mid-major tournaments are now completed, as the automatic bids came flying in over the past five days. Check our Bracket Prep posts to get the scoop on all of the lesser-known teams that have qualified for the Big Dance and will fill out the lower seeds in the bracket. But Thursday night included no tournament finals and instead was a jam-packed day of mostly power league teams dueling to keep their seasons alive, work their way off the ‘bubble,’ or jockey for NCAA Tournament seeding. There were also a few other smaller league tournaments that produced notable results as well. If you missed anything (with 49 games, you probably did), we’ve got you covered…
Your Watercooler Moment. Cincinnati Spectacle – Bearcats Victorious in Double-Overtime
The Big East Tournament has been catching some flak for the fairly boring games taking place during the nightcaps on ESPN, but the NYC tourney produced fantastic results during the afternoon on Thursday. Following a hard-fought game between Connecticut and Syracuse, the Bearcats and Hoyas did battle for 40+ minutes, extending all the way into two overtimes in what looked like could have been an even longer game. Georgetown led for most of regulation in the game, but Cincy stormed back in the second half with a strong defensive effort and plenty of big plays, many by the veteran forward Yancy Gates. Although being played at a low-scoring, slow pace, this game was full of clutch shots and crisp basketball plays at the end of regulation and both overtimes. In order to extend the game both times, Georgetown needed to make shots on a final possession while down by two points. First, Otto Porter tied the game in regulation and then it was Henry Sims in the first overtime with a beautiful swooping layup as time expired. But in double-OT, the Hoyas were down two once again with the ball and this time went for the win. Sims’ three-pointer wouldn’t go down and the Bearcats were victorious behind Gates’ 23 points and eight boards. They move on to play Syracuse tomorrow in the Big East semifinals.
Tonight’s Quick Hits…
- Marshall and Tulsa Play Three! If you thought the Cincinnati-Georgetown game was crazy, you’ll want to hear about this one in Conference USA. Marshall was the lower-seeded team and had played yesterday but is probably the more talented squad than Tulsa, who was higher-seeded thanks to a better record in the C-USA season by one game. These two teams did not want to go home empty handed, as they combined to score 205 points in 55 total minutes of play. In three overtimes, Marshall star DeAndre Kane went for a career-high 40 points including nearly all of the big plays down the stretch of the extra sessions. Kane also piled up seven rebounds, three assists, and three steals and played all but one minute of the entire game. Four Tulsa players scored at least 14 points and the Golden Hurricane led by at least three points in all three overtimes, but they could not contain the Thundering Herd’s desperate comeback efforts that resulted in the win from sheer passion and effort. Marshall lives to play another day, but who knows how much it has left in the tank for Friday.
- Jamaal Franklin For the Win. San Diego State struggled to put away pesky Boise State in the first round of the Mountain West Tournament, but the Aztecs happen to have the conference Player of the Year who’s made great plays all season long. Franklin had 19 points in the game but it was his incredible long-range heave at the buzzer that stole the show and won the game for SDSU. Head coach Steve Fisher described this final play call as, “Give him [Franklin] the ball and let him make a play.” Check out the footage below.
- Texas Two-Steps Off the Bubble. The Texas Longhorns have been firmly on the bubble for seemingly the entire season, as a power conference team with talented players capable of knocking off top opponents but also inconsistent efforts throughout the year that have failed to produce an impressive body of work. Texas decided to make things a whole lot easier on the NCAA Tournament selection committee by defeating its first opponent in the Big 12 Tournament, Iowa State. The Cyclones are a very solid, Big Dance-bound team that wanted to make a run in this tournament but ran into the Longhorns and their sense of urgency knowing their season was on the line. J’Covan Brown stepped up big, as he has all season, and proved that this Texas team deserves a bid into the NCAA’s. Adding a top-50 RPI win at this point of the season is crucial, and expect to see Texas on your bracket next week.
… and Misses.
- Pathetic Pac-12. The only thing to say about this conference is that we’re happy its season is about to finally finish. Washington won the league as the #1 seed while Oregon was the league’s only hot team and surging for bid consideration. But both teams lost on Thursday in their first-round games, fueling the notion that the Pac-12 will be a one-bid conference this season. Consider this: No power conference league has had its regular-season champion miss the NCAA Tournament since 1986. Washington won the league this year but got bounced on Thursday, and the Huskies have a really poor resume to show off. RPI of #67, 0-6 against the RPI top-50 (!), losses to Nevada, South Dakota State, and Saint Louis, and a mediocre 21-10 overall record against the #87 strength of schedule. There are far more teams deserving of tournament consideration. At least we’ll get to see the remaining four teams duel it out knowing that only one of them is getting into the Big Dance.
- Another Big Injury in B1G Tourney. A few days ago, it was announced that Michigan State freshman forward Branden Dawson had torn his ACL, a horrible injury to a talented young player who was coming into his own for the Spartans. It’s a bad spot for MSU, who was joined today by conference peer Indiana with bad knee news. Hoosiers guard and senior leader Verdell Jones III went down with a scary-looking knee injury in the game against Penn State. All indications are not good, which could mean a torn ACL and even if not, then a likely ailment that will sideline the guard for the remainder of the year. Let’s hope for the best for Jones, who will find out his prognosis soon, but it’s likely that IU will be without its sixth man, glue guy, and only true point guard for the postseason.
- No-No Northwestern. Even in a year with perhaps the weakest bubble in history, the second year of the 68-team expanded version of the NCAA Tournament, it still doesn’t look like Northwestern is going to get its name called on Selection Sunday. The Wildcats, the only power conference school to never play in the Big Dance, blew another close game on Thursday in the Big Ten Tournament to Minnesota. Northwestern squandered a late lead in regulation and dropped in overtime. Bill Carmody’s team finishes at 18-13, 8-11 against Big Ten foes, and 1-10 against the RPI top-50 (yikes). This resume is not going to hold up on Sunday, and the drought continues in Evanston.
Survive and Advance. The big stories are detailed above, but there was so much action in several conferences on Thursday that we need to give a quick rundown of who came through with wins to continue playing on Friday:
- ACC – The powerhouses had byes, but the ACC’s sleeper teams were in action on Thursday. Virginia Tech beat Clemson and Maryland beat Wake Forest. More importantly, bubble teams Miami and NC State recorded victories over Georgia Tech and Boston College, respectively. Each of those two teams probably needs to upset a top seed on Friday to get back into at-large consideration.
- Big 12 – Besides Texas’ huge win over Iowa State, everything went as planned in this league. Kansas dominated Texas A&M, Missouri blew out Oklahoma State, and Baylor took care of Kansas State. The Bears finally got a breakout game from Perry Jones III, who can hopefully channel his big night to propel him throughout the postseason.
- Big East – Syracuse outlasted UConn in a good one in the matinee matchup, followed by the Cincinnati-Georgetown classic that ended in a Bearcat win as described above. At night, Louisville upset Marquette thanks to 26 offensive rebounds and 26 forced turnovers, an incredibly rare combo of ineptitude from the Golden Eagles. The nightcap was a slugfest between South Florida and Notre Dame that went into overtime, much to the dismay of many fans displeased with the boring style of play and overall poor execution from both teams. Notre Dame won an ugly one.
- Big Ten – Indiana lost Verdell Jones but it did easily take care of Penn State, while Illinois’ train wreck of a conference season ended in shame with a three-point loss to Iowa in round one. Northwestern also went down in flames with the bad loss to Minnesota as described above. Purdue also outlasted Nebraska, and these four winners advance to play the B1G boys on Friday.
- Big West – Long Beach State is the heavy favorite and the 49ers ran wild in a blowout win over UC-Davis. UC-Santa Barbara took care of Pacific, Cal Poly defeated UC-Riverside, and UC-Irvine knocked off Cal State-Fullerton.
- Conference USA – Marshall and Tulsa’s three-overtime game was the highlight of the conference on Thursday, but Southern Miss and East Carolina also played an extra session as USM survived in overtime, a must-win game for that team nearing the wrong side of the bubble. UCF outlasted UAB, and top-seeded Memphis also defeated UTEP as the heavy favorite to win this tourney.
- MAC – The favorites advanced in this conference as Kent State defeated Western Michigan and Ohio beat Toledo to reach the semis on Friday.
- MEAC – In this wide open field, Florida A&M beat Delaware State and Bethune-Cookman beat North Carolina Central in the quarterfinals.
- Mountain West – This strong eight-team league has a traditional bracket with no byes, as all teams simply match up 1-8 and duel it out like a classic tournament should determine a winner. San Diego State survived Boise State with the aforementioned Jamaal Franklin ‘hail mary’ shot, Colorado State advanced in its must-win game over TCU, host-team UNLV survived a late charge from Wyoming, and New Mexico disposed of Air Force. These four squads, all likely NCAA Tournament-bound, will match up on Friday.
- Pac-12 – This conference showed off its full range of mediocrity on Thursday. Surging Oregon lost to Colorado and top-seed Washington lost to Oregon State, as described above. Arizona halted UCLA’s late-season ‘charge’ and Cal defeated Stanford.
- SEC – The teams we all want to see don’t jump off until Friday, but Thursday’s results were notable in this conference mainly because bubble team Mississippi State dropped in round one to Georgia. MSU is in big trouble heading into Selection Sunday. Alabama also beat South Carolina, as expected, Ole Miss defeated the team in midst of a point-shaving allegation (Auburn), and LSU beat Arkansas.
- Southland – Lamar over Stephen F. Austin. McNeese State tops Texas-Arlington. Those were the semis, and that’s your finals matchup for Saturday night.
- SWAC – Alcorn State put up 103 points in its win over Prairie View A&M while Arkansas-Pine Bluff advanced over Alabama State. Semifinals kick off on Friday.
- WAC – The Western Athletic got underway as Hawaii defeated Idaho, New Mexico State beat Fresno State, top-seeded Nevada disposed of San Jose State, and Louisiana Tech topped Utah State.
- DeAndre Kane, Marshall (NPOY) – Wow, what a game for this guy. The Thundering Herd star went for 40 points, seven rebounds, three assists, and three steals while making huge plays down the stretch during a triple-overtime win for Marshall.
- J’Covan Brown, Texas – The team that recorded the biggest bubble win of the night was led by its reliable scoring machine. Brown had 23 points and five rebounds, willing his team to victory despite an off shooting night.
- Perry Jones III, Baylor– Who knows what made this all-world talent finally have a breakout game in a conference game. Maybe it was the new-look uniforms? Whatever it was, Baylor needs to repeat whatever it did/said to motivate Jones, who went for 31 and 11 with two blocks in a dominant performance against Kansas State’s formidable front line.
- Kim English, Missouri – It was a rout, but we can still reward one of our favorite players, Kim English, for his ridiculously efficient game in the win over Oklahoma State. The social media expert (@englishscope24) scored 27 points on 13 shots with six boards, two assists, one steal, and no turnovers.
- Henry Sims, Georgetown – He was here on Wednesday. He’s here again for Thursday. His team lost, so he won’t be on this list on Friday, but Sims was massive for Georgetown in its classic battle with Cincinnati. He had 22 points, a career-high 15 rebounds, three assists, and two blocks in a double-overtime thriller that included a game-tying drive and layup by the big man in the first overtime to extend the game.
Tweet of the Night. We might have to rename this section the “Andy Glockner Award,” since the SI writer is constantly filling this space with interesting tweets. You’re bound to produce something good every night when you tweet 600 times per day, as is the norm for Glockner. At least that’s what it seems like. We’re not complaining; enjoy this one about the joyous Bracketology breakdowns: