Story of the Night. Tonight was an absolute bloodbath for bubble teams hoping to finish strong to entice the fickle eye of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee next week. No fewer than four teams that couldn’t afford another L took it on the chin tonight, and after Notre Dame last night, we don’t want to hear the word “Georgetown” again this year.
JT3 Has No More Excuses. St. John’s 59, Georgetown 56 (OT). #1 SOS? Don’t care. Toughest conference in America? Doesn’t matter. Georgetown had every chance in the world to finish strong with games against St. John’s and Depaul this week, and they couldn’t even get that done, which is a microcosm of their season. The Hoyas went down in particularly frosty fashion, blowing a 15-pt lead with just over ten minutes to go in the game and putting the ball through the net just one more time from the field during that stretch. At 15-13 and now 6-11 in the Big East, we don’t want to hear about this team again unless they win five games in a row next week in New York. Biggest disappointment of the year.
Take OSU Off the Bubble. Oklahoma St. 77, Kansas St. 71. Oklahoma St. heads into its battle against Blake Griffin and rival Oklahoma this weekend riding a six-game winning streak and a progressively stronger NCAA Tournament resume. With a current RPI of #31 and a shot at a first-round bye in the Big 12 Tourney, OSU is looking more and more like a lock for the Big Dance. Byron Eaton led the Pokes with 25 pts, including 15-15 from the line. K-State, on the other hand, needed this one; the Cats have a much worse RPI (#72) but their bigger problem is that they managed to lose in the out-of-conference slate to teams like Kentucky, Iowa and Oregon of all teams. They picked it up in the Big 12 season, but we’re not sure that 9-7 (if they beat Colorado on Saturday) will be good enough. K-State will need a run in the Big 12 Tourney to get back into the serious bubble conversation.
Did USF Burst Cincy’s Bubble? S. Florida 70, Cincinnati 59. Cincy was primed to finish with a surprising 10-8 Big East record if they could have only won their last two games of the year against USF (tonight) and Seton Hall (this weekend). With a #53 RPI and now facing at best a 9-9 record, it appears that the Bearcats will have some work to do next week in NYC. USF’s Dominique Jones dropped thirty on Mick Cronin’s team, who couldn’t throw it in the Gulf of Mexico for most of the night (37%). The Bearcats have now lost four of five.
The Terps are Staggering. Wake Forest 65, Maryland 63. Maryland continued their frustrating run of playing extremely well against top opponents but faltering late. The Terps led by seven points at the half, and even had a six point lead with about 8 minutes left in the second half thanks to a trio of threes from Dave Neal on senior night. But in the end, Wake’s athleticism, length, and size advantage were just too much. The stats really speak for themselves. The Demon Deacons out-rebounded Maryland 46-27 including 18 offensive rebounds that resulted in a ton of second-chance points. Wake Forest’s length on defense gave Maryland fits, especially Landon Milbourne who had just two points while being guarded by either Al-Farouq Aminu or James Johnson all night. The lack of production of Milbourne made Maryland almost entirely reliant on Greivis Vasquez offensively with the exception of Neal who had 19 points and was 5-6 from downtown. Vasquez looked like he was pressing, especially in the second half where he forced too many bad shots and finished 7-24 from the field. Not all is lost for the Terps however. A win probably would have put them on the inside looking out, but now they have to win Saturday at Virginia if they want to finish .500 in the ACC and remain in the bubble conversation, and a win the ACC tournament wouldn’t hurt either. Wake was led by Jeff Teague’s 17 pts, but he should have been awarded ten for this particular Teague-bag.
A Closer Look at Two Contenders.
Duke 84, Florida St. 81. We’ll hand it to Duke – without Gerald Henderson, they would have lost tonight’s game against Florida St. “G” has averaged 23/6/4 assts in the last five Duke games, all wins, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that if Duke is going to do anything in March this year, it will largely be because of the skills and athleticism of their newfound star. Normally this time of year we’d be talking about how FSU really needed this win to bolster its bubble argument, but not this year – we think the Seminoles are in. Their RPI is #16 and the worst they can finish in the ACC is 9-7, so Nole fans should rest easy. This is a good team that could make the Sweet Sixteen with the right matchups.
Michigan St. 64, Indiana 59. This game is an exhibition as to why we cannot get on board with Michigan St. as a F4 team this year. They simply don’t click well enough for our liking, especially against teams they should be dominating. All due respect to Tom Crean’s Hoosiers, but Northwestern decimated IU in Bloomington, and MSU has three times the talent that NW does (we’ll ignore that one of MSU’s three B10 losses was to NW). But that goes to our point, MSU shouldn’t be losing to Northwestern; they shouldn’t be getting beaten by Penn St.; and they shouldn’t be barely defeating IU. Maybe it’s a problem with focus or motivation, but there’s something not exactly “right” with this team, and we’re tired of hearing about the injuries/illnesses/etc. We’ll be happy to retract our opinion of Izzo’s boys prove us wrong in a few weeks.
Other Games of Interest Tonight.
- New Mexico 77, Utah 71. The Mountain West has been crazy this year. New Mexico rode its homecourt advantage and Tony Danridge’s 29/5 assts to a victory over Utah, forcing the Utes into a two-way tie for first place in the conference for at least one night (until BYU plays tomorrow night). There’s some really good ball in this conference this year – let’s hope the MWC gets at least three teams into the NCAAs.
- Syracuse 70, Rutgers 40. At least one Big East team took care of business tonight. Syracuse shook off a no-doz first half where the Orange actually trailed at the half 20-19 to blow up on Rutgers in the second half, winning going away behind Jonny Flynn’s 18/9.
- Gonzaga 90, USC Upstate 40. Why does this game even exist?
- Ohio St. 60, Iowa 58. The Buckeyes really needed this win, and they got it in Iowa City tonight. Evan Turner’s 22/9 assts led OSU, but his missed FT left the door open for Iowa to take and miss a three that would have won the game (and possibly knocked OSU off the bubble).
- Clemson 75, Virginia 57. Clemson pulled away in the second half behind its own personal dunk contest (six in that half) to keep the pace with Wake Forest for the #3 seed in the ACC standings, who the Tigers will play this weekend in the final regular season game for both teams.
QnD Conf Tourney Update.
Big South. No upsets. The four higher seeds all advanced, including Seth Curry’s (30/6 assts) Liberty squad. Liberty will play VMI and UNC-A will play top seed Radford on Thursday.
Horizon. Cleveland St., UIC, Wright St. and Milwaukee all advanced, and will play each other Friday (respectively) for the right to play Butler and Green Bay in the semis.
OVC. The top four seeds all advanced to the semis, where Austin Peay will play Murray St. and UT-Marting will play Morehead St. Friday night in Nashville.