When Rush the Court rushed the court. Providence 81, Pittsburgh 73. We’ll have a more thorough review of Providence’s huge upset of Pittsburgh in our recap of RTC IV early tomorrow morning, but we’ll talk about it here as well because it was the story of the night. Obviously we covered the action quite extensively in our RTC Live post of the game, but we have to say it’s a pretty amazing thing to be standing between a group of rabid fans and the court that they are about rush. We’d also like to point out that we were the only media members to stay there for the buzzer and the fans’ RTC. In fact, we ended up out there on the court to celebrate the moment with them (pictures to follow tomorrow). Whether it was the “Curse of #1” (teams are now just 8-5 as the #1 team since UNC lost to Boston College) or the fact that the Friars and their fans were pumped up for Senior Night, but Providence dominated this game from the opening tip. (Ok, maybe not the tip, which DeJuan Blair won, but everything afterwards) The Friars jumped out to a 15-4 lead just 5 minutes into the game thanks to some hot shooting and some poor ball-handling by the Panthers. Providence led by double digits for most of the game as they were able to force the issue getting to the FT line 29 times compared to 15 for the Panthers, but Pitt showed some of their mettle by cutting the lead to 5 with 50 seconds left on a layup (and push-off) by Blair. The Friars hung tough though shrugging off their tendency to give away big leads this year and held on by hitting their free throws down the stretch. I’m not sure what the loss means for Pitt at this point except that the #1 overall seed is officially up for grabs, but it probably would have been anyway when UConn travels to . Jamie Dixon’s squad was killed by turnovers and the free throw disparity. The Panthers had 18 turnovers overall with 5 coming from Blair, who had a better stat line (17 points and 8 rebounds in 30 minutes) than we thought from just watching the game. He even managed to play 30 minutes despite fouling out as he picked up his 3rd and 4th fouls in a 13-second stretch midway through the 2nd half. Pitt got a strong performance from Ashton Gibbs (15 points) off the bench and a solid one from Sam Young (16 points and 8 rebounds), but it wasn’t enough to overcome the turnovers and free throw disparity. For Providence, this game was huge. The win, which was their first over a #1 since they beat Michigan in 1976, puts them at 9-7 in the Big East with a strong chance at a 10-8 conference record (PC is at Rutgers and Villanova to finish the season). None of the Friars had an exceptional game but everyone on the team played well (Weyinmi Efejuku with 16, with 15, Jonathan Kale with 13, Geoff McDermott with 11, and Randall Hanke with 10). They also did a great job handling the ball (18 assists with just 9 turnovers) as well as pressuring Pittsburgh (forcing 18 turnovers while allowing just 12 assists) and holding their own on the glass against the #1 rebounding team in the country (-6 rebounding margin). For more on this game and the aftermath, check back in the morning for a complete post.
We Have a BCS Conference Regular Season Champ. LSU 81, Florida 75. Possibly the biggest question-mark team going into the NCAA Tournament is going to be this LSU Tiger team of Trent Johnson’s. Last season with largely the same group of players but a vastly inferior coach, LSU went 13-18. Currently LSU is 24-4 and 12-1 in the SEC, which makes them the regular season champions. The problem is that the SEC is so incredibly weak this season that it’s difficult to discern how good LSU actually might be. Their OOC schedule was pitiful, and they lost to every good team they played, but in watching this team this evening, they “looked” like a typically talented and athletic SEC team of any other year. But can they get past their weak conference to make a run in the NCAAs – that’s the difficult question to answer. Marcus Thornton had 32/5/5 assts in the winning effort. What about the Gators, now 8-5 in the SEC with an RPI still in the 40s? Nothing really impresses us about this team.
A Bubble Team You Probably Haven’t Considered. Texas A&M 57, Nebraska 55. At first glance, a game between two middling Big 12 teams wouldn’t arouse much interest, but a little closer analysis shows that this buzzer-beating shot by A&M’s Josh Carter to cap a huge comeback from down 18 pts may have put the Aggies back onto the bubble. Consider that A&M is now 6-7 in the Big 12, has two games against bottom-feeders Colorado and Iowa St. (+ Missouri) and has an RPI at #40. Their SOS is 33d, and they boast wins over LSU (looking better and better) as well as Arizona (also looking better and better). It says here that an 8-8 TAMU team gets in, which is why this shot was enormous. Nebraska, incidentally, is also 6-7, but their RPI and overall profile are significantly worse than A&M’s.
Some Other Games For Your Fat Tuesday.
- Iowa St. 71, Baylor 62. How does a top-25 caliber team lose eight of its last nine games without any significant injury? The Bears really had almost no chance of an NCAA bid prior to tonight, but this loss to a bad ISU team was the coffin nailer.
- Boston College 72, Florida St. 67. RTC considered going live at this bubbly game instead of Providence-Pitt. Glad we went with the game in Rhody, but BC probably guaranteed itself a bid with a minimum .500 record in the ACC after tonight. Tyrese Rice hit the dagger three with 20 seconds remaining to lock up the game for the Eagles.
- Ohio St. 73, Penn St. 59. Jeremie Simmons came off the bench to hit four threes as OSU moved into a four-way tie for fourth in the Big Ten at 8-7.
- Syracuse 87, St. John’s 58. Cuse dominated from start to finish, shooting 65% behind Jonny Flynn’s 21/8 assts.
- Northern Iowa 69, Illinois St. 67 (2OT). UNI got an unlikely tip-in to keep the pace in the MVC with Creighton, who…
- Creighton 65, Missouri St. 59. …rallied from a double-figure second-half deficit behind Casey Harriman’s three triples in that half.
- BYU 69, San Diego St. 59. BYU’s Jimmer Fredette dropped twenty of his 28 pts in the second half as the Cougars made a huge comeback (theme of the night) to get a key road win to stay one game off the Mountain West pace behind Utah.