Set Your Tivo: 03.12.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 12th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

When we’re this late into Championship Week, every game is dynamite and a must-see event. There are too many games to preview in their entirety so here are a handful you absolutely have to watch today. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

ACC Semifinals (at Greensboro, NC): #5 Duke vs. Virginia Tech – 3:30 pm on ESPN (****)

With the status of Nolan Smith uncertain after suffering a toe injury yesterday (bad toes have killed the Blue Devils this year, right?), Virginia Tech can lock up a bid for certain with another win over Duke this afternoon. After a scintillating conclusion to their game against Florida State, one tenth of a second may be enough to vault this Hokies team into the Big Dance regardless of what happens today. If Smith can’t go, Kyle Singler and Seth Curry become Duke’s go-to players. Singler played like the guy we saw last year against Maryland yesterday, posting 29/9 on 10-15 FG, while Curry did a nice job filling in at the point after Smith left. Virginia Tech slowed the pace down in their win over Duke last month but more importantly committed only five turnovers in that game. The Hokies also held the Blue Devils to 20% shooting from three and owned the paint with Jeff Allen and Victor Davila combining for 29/25 in the win. To beat Duke for the second time, Seth Greenberg needs a similar game plan. If Duke can get out in transition, Virginia Tech’s limited depth will become a major concern, as will their propensity to turn the ball over. The Hokies are at their best playing in the half court where they work the ball inside to Allen and crash the glass, not when Malcolm Delaney is jacking up ill-advised deep shots leading to long rebounds and fast break points for the opponent. If Smith can’t go and Curry doesn’t make his teammates better, look for Virginia Tech to use a lot of zone (they might anyway) to force Duke into deep jumpers, especially Singler. He shot the ball poorly in the first meeting and was a big part of why Duke lost that game. A game like he had against Maryland will lead Duke to a win but Virginia Tech knows what is at stake and can definitely win this game if they stick to the blueprint we just outlined.

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BGTD: Friday Night Tourney Sessions

Posted by nvr1983 on March 12th, 2011

Throughout conference tournament weekend, we’re going to pop in with some BGTD-style analysis at least twice a day. For a recap of the action earlier today, check out our afternoon BGTD post.

  • Jimmer goes off. For most of the past week we have focused on who BYU doesn’t have (Brandon Davies) while seemingly ignoring the who they do have (Jimmer Fredette) and Jimmer reminded us how good he can be thanks to a ridiculous 52-point performance to knock off New Mexico, a team that had beaten the Cougars the two previous times they played this season. We aren’t saying that the Cougars are still a contender without Davies because we think they lack the depth to make it past the second weekend without him, but with Fredette and a decent supporting cast we wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see the Cougars in the Sweet 16. As for Fredette, this should basically be the stamp on his national player of the year campaign. There are plenty of excellent players this year (more on a few in a bit), but nobody has been as dominant throughout the entire seen as Fredette.
  • OT at MSG. The Big East seminfinals provided us with a pair of excellent games that required an extra session. In the first semifinal Kemba Walker finally played like the phenomenal player we saw in Maui, but UConn still required an extra 5 minutes to knock off Syracuse after a pair of huge threes by Scoop Jardine late in regulation. In the end, Walker (33 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists, and 6 steals) and Alex Oriakhi (15 points and 11 rebounds) were too much for the Orange. In the nightcap, Louisville overcame a 14-point halftime deficit against Notre Dame to force overtime and join the Huskies in the Big East finals. The key for the Cardinals was forcing Ben Hansborough into numerous poor shots as he ended the day 3 for 16 from the field. The Cardinals comeback victory sets up an intriguing Big East final match-up involving two of the league’s most controversial coaches who each have dealt with major issues in the past year (Rick Pitino‘s being personal and Jim Calhoun‘s being professional). One thing to watch for is the Huskies legs as they are attempting to become the first team in Big East Tournament history to win 5 games in 5 days. You might also want to watch for how the Huskies respond when they get to the NCAA Tournament as all these miles might begin to take a toll on them.
  • Toe Problems at Duke. Normally we would brush off Nolan Smith‘s toe injury against Maryland in a game that the Blue Devils won handily, but given how innoucous another toe injury to another Duke guard (Kyrie Irving) seemed at the time we think the Blue Devils will be a little more cautious heading into their game against Virginia Tech.

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Set Your Tivo: 03.11.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 11th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

One auto bid and a host of major conference games are on tap today, two days out from Selection Sunday. The afternoon session features plenty of bubble teams making their closing arguments to the Selection Committee. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

SEC Quarterfinals (at Atlanta, GA): Georgia vs. Alabama – 1 pm on ESPN FullCourt (***)

We’ve heard all kinds of things about this game from an elimination game to a play-in game. Whatever it may be, one team will be looking better than the other by the time it’s over. Alabama beat Georgia in the regular season finale six days ago and now they meet again in another game with major NCAA implications. RTC’s resident bracketologist had Georgia in and Alabama the first team on the “out” list as of last night while Joe Lunardi over at ESPN has the Bulldogs as the last team in the field and the Crimson Tide in the same position as RTC. This game will be played almost exclusively in the paint as neither team shoots it well from deep. Both teams rank in the top 20 in interior defense but Georgia has to avoid turnovers to win. Alabama thrives on giveaways despite their slower tempo, ranked #28 in defensive turnover percentage. Georgia committed 16 turnovers in the loss to the Tide last week and lost the game despite out-shooting Alabama from the floor. Senario Hillman leads Alabama in steals and will look to harass the Georgia guards all game long. The battle in the paint between Trey Thompkins and JaMychal Green could determine the outcome of the game if the Bulldogs don’t turn it over often.

Big Ten Quarterfinals (at Indianapolis, IN): Michigan vs. Illinois – 2:30 pm on ESPN (***)

Illinois is generally considered to be in the field of 68 but Michigan could really use a win. The Wolverines are likely in as of now but a loss here and other results around the country could make it a very close call on Sunday. The Illini won the only meeting of the regular season, a two point win in Champaign on February 16. Michigan protects the ball very well but rebounding and defense did them in against Illinois in that game. John Beilein would love to play this game in the half court where his team can probe and dissect the Illinois defense, although the Illini rank tenth in three point defense and Michigan fires up almost 23 triples per game. With two dynamic playmakers in Darius Morris and Tim Hardaway Jr, Michigan can break a team down off the dribble of spot up for a three. This is a game they definitely can win but a better effort on the glass is needed. Michigan ranks near the bottom of D1 in offensive rebounding percentage (that will happen when you shoot so many threes) and was out-rebounded in the loss to Illinois last month.

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O26 Primers: Conference USA, Mountain West, Southland, SWAC and WAC Tourneys

Posted by KDoyle on March 9th, 2011

RTC’s Kevin Doyle, author of the weekly column, The Other 26, and the Patriot League Correspondent, will be providing conference tournament previews for all non-BCS conferences.

With three conference tournaments concluding last night, it is only appropriate that five more get underway today. Conference USA and the Southland Conference are two of the most balanced leagues in the nation, while the WAC and Mountain West were just the opposite as they were dominated at the top. The SWAC is always a bit of a mystery come Championship Week and tournament time, but Texas Southern is the class of the league this year and will no doubt do their best to bring respect to the league if they are fortunate enough to advance to the Dance.

Conference USA

The Favorite: UAB won the regular season title with a 12-4 record, but that means very little in the ultra competitive CUSA this season as five teams are just behind the Blazers. There is something to be said though about UAB’s strong play down the stretch and the steady play of Jamarr Sanders and Cameron Moore. These reasons alone amidst several injuries that Mike Davis‘ club has overcome makes UAB the slight favorite over the rest of the bunch.

Dark Horse: Southern Mississippi is one the teams that are nipping at UAB’s heels. Although they fell in their last three games of the regular season, Larry Eustachy’s squad proved throughout the year they can beat anyone in the conference. Having Gary Flowers roam around the pain never hurts either.

Who’s Hot: UAB has won their last four games and seven of eight heading into the tournament. As well as UAB is playing, it would be very easy for that to stop on a dime. Throughout each week during the conference schedule, it appeared that one team in CUSA was emerging as the top dog, but they would quickly fade. Can UAB keep their streak going all the way into the NCAA Tournament?

Player to Watch: Papa Dia, Southern Methodist’s senior forward all the way from Senegal, is enjoying the best season of his career as he is averaging 18.5 points and 9 rebounds a game. In each of the previous three seasons, SMU has been below .500; Dia and his teammates clearly have something to prove in this tournament.

First-Round UpsetCentral Florida over East Carolina. UCF was the nation’s favorite story in the early going as they jumped out to a 14-0 record with wins over Florida, Miami (FL), and Princeton. The Knights then went onto lose eight straight games, thus proving that their early success was a fluke. Now, UCF has won five of seven games and if they can regain that success they had in those 14 games, a victory over East Carolina is absolutely within reach.

How’d They Fare? After going 7-9 in the conference, Houston caught fire in the tournament to surprise everyone by winning the title. In doing so, the Cougars stole a bid from a team on the bubble and earned a #13 seed in the Tournament where they lost to Maryland 89-77. UTEP—the team Houston beat to advance onward—was trounced by Butler as a #12 seed.

Interesting Fact: The last team to win an NCAA Tournament game hailing from Conference USA not named Memphis was Louisville in the 2005 Tournament. The ‘Ville advanced all the way to the Final Four that year where they lost to Illinois 57-52 in the semifinals. Both UAB and Cincinnati also won Tournament games that year.

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Mountain West Wrap & Tourney Preview

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 9th, 2011

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West conference. With the MWC tourney tipping off Wednesday, get set with RTC’s regular season wrap-up and tournament preview.

MWC Wrap-Up

For the top four seeds, the MWC Tournament is of great importance, with Colorado State the team with the most on the line. The Rams sit firmly on the bubble for an NCAA at-large invitation, and while winning the whole thing and the automatic bid that goes along with it would be their best bet, prevailing wisdom indicates that if they can take care of New Mexico in the quarterfinals and then upset BYU in the semifinals, Tim Miles’ club will have gone a long way towards punching its ticket. Meanwhile, for the top-seeded Cougars, they’ve still got some things to prove. In the wake of last week’s dismissal of its best interior player, Brandon Davies, for a BYU honor code violation, the Cougars hopes of possibly earning a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament have disappeared. However, where they will wind up seeded remains a real question – a good showing in the MWC Tournament and a run to the championship could still earn them a #2 seed, while an early exit could confirm the doubts of the NCAA Selection Committee and relegate them to a #3 or even a #4 seed. For San Diego State, they’ve still got plenty to prove as well. Their best wins on the season are over Gonzaga, St. Mary’s and a season-sweep of UNLV – good wins, but certainly not great. However, if SDSU can add another win over UNLV and get the BYU monkey off of its back, it could prove its credentials as a possible #2 seed. And then there’s UNLV, a team that has had a roller coaster ride of an offseason. If they can defend their homecourt in the conference tournament and come away with an MWC title, they could wind up as high as a #6 seed (assuming they knock off SDSU and BYU along the way), while an earlier exit could relegate them to a #9 or so. For seeds five through nine in the MWC Tournament, the stakes are clear: win the title or consider your options for the “other” postseason tournaments. New Mexico has a good shot at an NIT bid, should they fail to win three games in Las Vegas, while the rest of the bottom five seeds will determine whether to call it quits or consider possible invitations from the CBI or CIT.

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The Week That Was: Mar. 1-7

Posted by jstevrtc on March 8th, 2011

David Ely is an RTC Contributor.

Introduction

Congrats are in order for the following teams that locked up automatic NCAA berths this week: St. Peter’s (MAAC), Old Dominion (CAA), Wofford (SoCon), Gonzaga (WCC), Indiana State (MVC), Belmont (Atlantic Sun) and UNC-Asheville (Big South). It’s always fun watching these teams celebrate their conference championships because the excitement just feels more honest than, say, when an Ohio State or a Pittsburgh wins its conference tournament. Championship Week is great for television purposes because there are so many great games to watch, but there usually is less urgency among the teams from the major conferences. For them, conference tournaments are about posturing for seeds and surviving the weekend injury-free. Roy Williams once called the ACC Tournament a big cocktail party, and it’s not surprising that his two title teams both bowed out in the semifinals.  

What We Learned 

 

Davies Will Obviously Be Missed, But Charles Abouo's Emergence Has Mitigated the Sting

 

If you’re a big time recruit and have BYU in your top five, you might want to reconsider your stance on the Cougars. Seriously, why would a player with options want to go to BYU now that its draconian honor code system is in the national spotlight. By now, everyone knows Brandon Davies (BYU’s third leading scorer and leading rebounder) was suspended from the BYU basketball team for allegedly having premarital sex with his girlfriend. Davies’ suspension is a crushing blow for the Cougars, who have gone from a sexy popular national title pick to a team some think won’t make it out of the first weekend.

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RTC Top 25: Week 17

Posted by KDoyle on March 7th, 2011

It is quite clear that Ohio State, Kansas, and Pittsburgh should be ranked one through three in that order as all of the pollsters were in complete agreement on that, but after that things get a little murky. Notre Dame is on the verge of crashing the party and a successful Big East Tournament may award them a #1 seed come Selection Sunday. QnD analysis after the jump…

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Morning Five: 03.07.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on March 7th, 2011

  1. One of the great stories of this season has been the return of St. John’s to the center of the national hoops stage, there’s no doubt about it. They said goodbye to ten players during their Senior Night festivities on Saturday, and this article from the New York Post uses exclusive testimonials from each of those ten departing fellows to illustrate why, as writer Lenn Robbins puts it, “there might never have been a more emotional, more meaningful Senior Night in St. John’s basketball history.”
  2. The day that Washington State’s Klay Thompson was charged with possession of marijuana, his father (and former Laker) Mychal Thompson was scheduled to substitute for Max Kellerman on a Los Angeles sports radio show. Not only did Thompson keep his hosting commitment, he openly addressed and answered questions about the topic of his son’s mistake with straightforward, honest talk. An interesting summary, this, from T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times.
  3. Jim Les played for Bradley in college, and was hired as the Braves’ head coach in 2002. He had BU in the Sweet 16 as recently as 2006. He’s posted a 154-140 mark at the school. During one three year stretch, his teams won at least 21 games a season. It wasn’t enough. The school relieved Les of his coaching duties on Sunday, two days after the Braves lost in their second game of the MVC Tournament to Wichita State.
  4. Hey, Notre Dame backers — how proud of your team are you? Few pre-season prognosticators predicted a year like this for you, and zero predicted that you’d be in the running for a 1-seed in the Tournament. The Chicago Tribune gives the Irish their props and discusses what they have to do to lock up a #1.
  5. Where do you stand on the Brandon Davies/BYU drama? Well, we now know where Tim Tebow (a name we never thought would appear on this site) and Amare Stoudemire stand: they’re behind Davies and want him to play. Stoudemire leaves NO doubt where he stands (wow, Amare!) but we especially loved the end of Tebow’s comments: “I don’t know. I don’t even know the situation, but I just always think about giving people a second chance. Maybe he deserves one, but I don’t know the situation.” Gotcha. Thanks, man.
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Around The Blogosphere: March 3, 2011

Posted by nvr1983 on March 3rd, 2011

If you are interested in participating in our ATB2 feature, send in your submissions to rushthecourt@gmail.com. We will add to this post throughout the day as the submissions come in so keep on sending them.

Top 25 Games

  • #2 Kansas 64, Texas A&M 51: “It wasn’t pretty, but it doesn’t always have to be.  Kansas secured a seventh consecutive league title tonight with a 64-51 win over Texas A&M tonight.” (Rock Chalk Talk)
  • #11 UNC 72, FSU 70: “A clutch game-winning three will forgive a lot. Tonight it allows you to overlook fifteen turnovers, some bad fouls, defensive lapses and FSU’s 10-2 run to take the lead with eighteen seconds remaining. None of that matters, because Roy Williams was smart enough to leave the last shot to Harrison Barnes. And Barnes drained a three like it was a casual shoot-around.” (Carolina March)

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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.

Jimmer needs to rally the troops

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.

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Morning Five: 03.02.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 2nd, 2011

  1. The biggest news of Tuesday was undoubtedly the loss of BYU’s Brandon Davies, a sophomore forward who was banging his way to 11/6 nightly, picking up scraps left over from Jimmer Fredette and Jackson Emery, the two leading scorers.  Davies allegedly broke the school’s honor code, and he was suspended for the rest of the season.  The Cougars are tracking toward a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but they’ll need to prove that they can play just as well without Davies in the lineup as they have with him to satisfy the NCAA Selection Committee.  Forward Noah Hartsock is expected to move into Davies’ vacated center position, but Hartsock’s power forward spot will need to be filled by a less experienced player such as Kyle Collinsworth or Charles Abouo.  Very tough break for Dave Rose and the BYU program in its best season in a generation.
  2. In other news involving personnel losses (or non-losses), UNC backup guard Reggie Bullock will miss the remainder of the season with a torn lateral meniscus that he suffered during the weekend’s Maryland game.  This is not a huge loss for the Heels, as Bullock was only contributing 6/3 in about fifteen minutes per game this season, but he was third on the team in three-pointers made (29) and this will make Roy Williams’ team a little more suspect against zone defenses the rest of the year.  In much better news, Kansas State’s Jacob Pullen had his right wrist x-rayed after banging it in Monday night’s game against Texas, and although it was sore and swollen, there is no broken bone.  He is expected to play this coming weekend in Senior Day festivities at Bramlage Coliseum against Iowa State.
  3. Luke Winn gives us his top eight potential bid stealers for the next two weeks — teams who could make strong runs through their conference tournaments to knock someone like Virginia Tech or Michigan off the ‘last four in’ line.  Winn’s list is a good one, but we’d perhaps add a few more names to the discussion: Washington State (Pac-10), Alabama (SEC), San Francisco (WCC) and any number of teams from Conference USA.
  4. Remember former Binghamton guard DJ Rivera, the former America East star whom coaches refused to vote for POY in 2009 even though he was clearly the best player in that league?  Oh, he also was partially responsible for the implosion of the Binghamton program when he was arrested in the fall of 2009 for swiping a debit card and subsequently using it to purchase snacks, cigars and a large-screen television before getting caught.  His arrest along with Tiki Mayben’s commensurate arrest for selling crack cocaine resulted in several players getting kicked off the team and a national scandal that the school is still recovering from.  Why is this relevant now?  On Monday, Rivera pleaded guilty to the crime — fourth degree criminal possession of stolen property — and he will face nine months’ probation, which, if he keeps his nose clean, will allow him to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor and pursue a basketball career overseas.  This plea marks the final chapter in the scandal — BU has gone 20-40 since the program was destroyed that summer.
  5. Maybe these guys should talk to our friends at HSAC so as to learn how to properly perform an interesting study.  Virginia Tech, fresh off three straight years on the wrong side of the bubble, commissioned statisticians at the College of Science to determine what the biases are that go into making bubble selections into the NCAA Tournament.  Their conclusion: a team’s RPI, its strength of schedule, and its historical pedigree factor prominently into successful bids.  In other words, everything you already knew.  Across campus, no doubt, Hokie researchers have recently proven that water is indeed wet and sunshine comprises the majority of daylight.  Here’s a memo to Seth Greenberg: how about instead of hanging your hat on a few big-time wins every season, you beat the teams you’re supposed to beat, especially at home.
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BYU’s Brandon Davies Suspended For The Rest Of The Season

Posted by nvr1983 on March 1st, 2011

In a shocking development less than two weeks before Selection Sunday, BYU announced that it has suspended Brandon Davies, its starting center, for the rest of the season for a violation of its Honor Code (official statement available here). Davies had sat out Monday’s practice with what was reported to be a quadriceps injury, but may in fact have been a waiting period while the school made the final decision on his status for this season, as he did play in the Cougars’ 80-67 road win at San Diego State. The school would not elaborate on what Davies had done to violate the school’s Honor Code, but as anybody who is familiar with the school is aware it is something that they take very seriously, since they even have a home page for it. The honor code is quite extensive, and if you want to read through it and some of its nuances we encourage you to check out the official page, but we think the pertinent parts are where a student must pledge to:

Be honest
Live a chaste and virtuous life
Obey the law and all campus policies
Use clean language
Respect others
Abstain from alcoholic beverages, tobacco, tea, coffee, and substance abuse
Participate regularly in church services
Observe the Dress and Grooming Standards
Encourage others in their commitment to comply with the Honor Code

We will eschew speculation on what Davies did to merit this suspension in favor of waiting for the school (or more likely Davies) to reveal what the root cause was, but it is a devastating blow to a team that appeared to be in line for a #1 seed on Selection Sunday. Although most of the nation knows the Cougars as Jimmer Fredette and a bunch of guys who inbound the ball to Jimmer, they actually have three players who are averaging double-digits (that’s one more than Duke if you don’t include Kyrie Irving).

Davies' suspension leaves BYU with a hole in the middle (Credit: Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman)

While Jimmer gets a majority of the accolades and rightfully so, the Cougars have/had a pair of other solid scorers in Jackson Emery (12.6 PPG) and Davies (11.1 PPG and 6.2 RPG). The suspension of Davies means that not only do the Cougars lose their leading rebounder and primary source of inside offense, but it also places added pressure on many of the little-used Cougar big men, as Davies and Noah Hartsock were the only two interior players to average over 10 minutes per game. It is unclear how the NCAA Selection Committee will view the suspension with regard to BYU’s seeding, but it will significantly hinder BYU’s chances of making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament and could put a damper on Jimmer-mania.

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