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 the completion of several conference tournaments over the weekend, the field of 68 is slowly beginning to take shape, but there is still much to be determined. The kicking off of the Atlantic 10, MAC and MEAC conference tournaments later today will weed out even more teams as we approach Selection Sunday. The Atlantic 10 is definitely a multi-bid league—it is just a matter if two or three teams make the field—while the other two conferences will only have one representative in this Tournament.
The Favorite: There was little doubt heading into the season that Xavier would be a formidable team in the Atlantic 10 and one that could do some damage throughout the season. They advanced to the Sweet 16 last year and returned do-it-all player in Tu Holloway, but after a rollercoaster non-conference performance that saw the Musketeers go 8-5 questions were raised. All these questions were answered and more as they went 15-1 in the A10. Although Temple and Richmond are right on their heels, Xavier is the team to beat heading into the tournament.
Dark Horse: Richmond concluded their season with four straight wins—all coming by double digits—and Chris Mooney has the Spiders playing some great ball. The dynamic and versatile Justin Harper is capable of taking over a game, and Kevin Anderson is a steady point guard that has the scoring ability of a shooting guard. Currently, Richmond is on the outside looking in of the NCAA Tournament and a strong run in the A10 tournament will be needed to earn an invitation to the Dance.
Who’s Hot: Aside from a fluke four point loss to Charlotte in the middle of their A10 slate, Xavier went perfect in the conference and has only two losses in 2011.
Player to Watch: If there was a player in the A10 capable of putting a team on his back and carrying them to a few wins in the tournament, it is St. Bonaventure’s Andrew Nicholson. The senior from Ontario has scored more than 30 points on four occasions this year and hit buzzer beaters in consecutive games against Buffalo and St. John’s. Nicholson is a scorer and is clutch: watch out for him.
First-Round Upset: St. Joseph’s over George Washington. It took a while for one of the youngest teams in the nation to become acclimated to the college game, but St. Joseph’s youngsters are starting to come around. The Hawks began their A10 schedule with an 0-8 record, but went 4-4 the rest of the way.
How’d They Fare? The Atlantic 10 had a very successful regular season as they placed three teams in the Tournament, but two of them struggled and were unable to get out of the first round. Temple, the highest seed of the three at #5, lost to Cornell in the first round. #7 Richmond struggled to keep up with Omar Samhan and St. Mary’s losing 80-71. The saving grace was #6 Xavier who defeated Minnesota and then upset Pittsburgh in the second round. The Musketeers were very close to defeating Kansas State and advancing to the Elite Eight, but fell 101-96 in double overtime.
Interesting Fact: The A10 has been a multi-bid conference ever since 2005, and that looks to continue this year with Xavier and Temple being safe bets to earn a bid to the Tournament regardless of what happens in the conference tournament.
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.
Three more conferences begin things tonight. The Big Sky and Sun Belt look to be very competitive with multiple teams capable of getting hot at the right time and running away with the title, while the Summit League features the Oakland Golden Grizzlies at the head of the pack and everyone else trying to keep up. All three conferences are definite single-bid leagues meaning all games will be played with a great sense of urgency; the agony of defeat and glory of victory becomes that much more apparent as well.
The Favorite: Northern Colorado has played the best ball in the Big Sky over the course of the past month and they also have arguably the league’s best player in Devon Beitzel on their side. Montana will have their chance to prove me wrong, but right now it is the Bears who are the favorite.
Dark Horse: Any team that is proficient at shooting the three ball cannot be discounted in a game. Despite having a middle of the road 9-7 record within the conference, Northern Arizona can stroke it with anyone. Cameron Jones, Gabe Rogers, and Eric Platt all shoot well over 40% from downtown.
Who’s Hot: Northern Colorado has won eight of their last nine games and 15 of 18 to enter the Big Sky tournament as the hottest team.
Player to Watch: Cameron Jones has had his way with Big Sky teams this year as he is averaging just shy over 20 points on the year and has scored in double figures in every game save one. He’s got Northern Arizona playing well entering the tournament as the Lumberjacks have won four of five games with the lone loss coming to Northern Colorado by a point.
First-Round Upset: Eastern Washington over Weber State. Although they have struggled for most of the season, Eastern Washington is riding a modest two game winning streak entering the Big Sky tournament with their last win coming against the team they will do battle with in the tournament’s first round: Weber State.
How’d They Fare? It was one of the most heroic performances that you have never heard of in college basketball. Anthony Johnson’s performance in the second half of the Big Sky Championship game against Weber State propelled Montana to the NCAA Tournament where they narrowly lost to #3 seed New Mexico. Montana was trailing 40-20 at the intermission, but Johnson scored 34 of his 42 points in the decisive half to defeat the Wildcats. If Johnson’s unbelievable performance carried over to the New Mexico game, Montana advances to the second round. Instead, they were defeated by the Lobos 62-57.
Interesting Fact: Not an interesting fact, but simple one of the greatest moments—if not the very greatest—in Big Sky history came in the 1999 NCAA Tournament. North Carolina fans, close your eyes:
RTC is still seeking a MEAC correspondent. If you are interested in covering this league, email us for further information at email@example.com.
Predicted Order of Finish
Morgan State (13-3)
South Carolina State (12-4)
Norfolk State (10-6)
Delaware State (9-7)
Maryland-Eastern Shore (8-8)
North Carolina A&T (6-10)
Coppin State (4-12)
Florida A&M (2-14)
Savannah State (*provisional member — ineligible for postseason and league awards)
North Carolina Central (*provisional member — ineligible for postseason and league awards)
CJ Reed (G) — Bethune-Cookman
Hillary Haley (G) – Maryland-Eastern Shore
DeWayne Jackson (F) — Morgan State
Kyle O’Quinn (F) — Norfolk State
Kevin Thompson (F) — Morgan State
Darnell Porter (G) — South Carolina State
Dominique Sutton (F) — North Carolina Central. NCCU isn’t yet playing a complete MEAC schedule nor is it eligible for postseason play this year, but the Eagle program is already making noise on the recruiting trail with the announcement of high-major transfer Sutton returning to Durham to suit up for his hometown team. As of this writing, the 6’5 junior forward who averaged 7.2 PPG and 5.8 RPG as a full-time starter last season for Kansas State was practicing with the team and awaiting an NCAA decision on whether he can play this season. He moved back east to be closer to his girlfriend and two daughters in Durham, and the wing player who terrorizes the glass on the offensive end (especially given his size) will automatically become one of the best players in the MEAC as soon as he is eligible.
Bozeman is Building Quite the Program in Baltimore
What You Need To Know
All Morgan, All the Time. Todd Bozeman has built a powerhouse in Baltimore to the tune of three straight regular season titles, two straight NCAA bids, and a 46-6 record against MEAC teams the last three seasons. But like all consistently great programs, Morgan doesn’t re-build anymore as much as re-load. From Jamar Smith to Marquis Kately to Reggie Holmes to the next generation (Thompson and Jackson), Bozeman continually has high-mid major talent playing for him. The Bears’ strategy is clear — play a tough non-conference schedule to build up their RPI (beating DePaul, Maryland and Arkansas in recent years), dominate the MEAC, and get back to the NCAA Tournament. Morgan State earned #15 seeds the last two seasons, but they haven’t yet been matched up against the right team in order to pull off the upset — #2 seeds Oklahoma (2009) and West Virginia (2010) were simply too powerful inside for them to handle. Could it come this season?
Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Mountain West conferences and an occasional contributor.
The NCAA got around to announcing “The Decision” regarding the layout of the now 68-team tournament and specifically the makeup of the competitors in the four “play-in games” today, and the end result? Punt.
Getting the terminology out of the way first, these games are officially no longer part of the Opening Round, nor are they “play-in games” (not that they ever were). They now make up the entirety of the First Round of the NCAA Tournament, otherwise known as the First Four. Those games that get played on Thursday and Friday? Those are now the Second Round, with the weekend games now the Third Round, with the winners there still advancing to the Sweet Sixteen.
We knew before today that there were three main options that the NCAA was considering: the final eight at-large teams matching up, the lowest eight automatic qualifiers matching up, or some combination of the two. That last one, that’s what we got. And you know what? That’s probably the best decision.
The NCAA dropped back and punted, here -- but the resulting field position isn't that bad.
If the NCAA had chosen to send only the lowest eight qualifiers to these games, there would have been numerous problems, not the least of which would be a continuation of the idea that those first four games aren’t really part of the NCAA Tournament. The teams that advance from one-bid conferences like the MEAC, SWAC, American East and Big Sky (to name just a few of the usual suspects) would battle it out in Dayton in relative anonymity for the right to advance to their chance to get killed by a one-seed, while your typical college basketball fan would ignore the whole thing. In the process, sure, the teams involved would have a better chance at winning a game in the NCAA Tournament and thereby earning themselves an extra share of the proceeds from the tournament, but once the “actual” tournament started, there would be four less automatic qualifiers sticking around for their chance to get on national television and test out their slingshot against Goliath. Then there’s also the fact that after spending $10.8 billion on the rights to the tournament, the first four games of the package would be a total wash for the television networks, stuck broadcasting games like Mississippi Valley State against Northern Arizona to a national television audience of almost four digits.
Pardon the baseball reference, but we know that if a guy’s throwing a no-hitter you’re not supposed to talk to him about it. In fact, you’re supposed to just stay away from him, let him sit in the dugout alone, and act like nothing special is happening. We don’t go for such superstitions around here, so let’s check out the teams that are currently undefeated in their conferences, and who has the best chance to actually pull off a perfect conference campaign.
Last season, there were only two teams that streaked through their conference schedules without a blemish — Memphis went 16-0 in the CUSA, and Gonzaga tallied a perfect 14-0 in the WCC. Memphis kept it going three games into this conference season, but back on January 20th UTEP showed the Tigers that they were having none of that, and snapped Memphis’ conference winning streak at 64 games. The Zags stumbled ten days later at San Francisco after winning their first six WCC games this season.
Can Aldrich, Collins, and the rest of the Jayhawks run the conference table?
Right now (before Thursday night’s games), there are no less than eight teams with perfect conference records. We list them here along with the next time they’ll put it on the line, and our prediction as to when they’ll drop their first conference game — if at all:
JC of HBCUSportsBlog is the RTC correspondent for the MEAC and SWAC conferences. Click here for all of our 2009-10 Season Preview materials..
Predicted Order of Finish:
Morgan State (22-9)
North Carolina A&T (17-14)
South Carolina State (16-12)
Coppin State (14-13)
Delaware State (10-17)
Norfolk State (9-19)
Florida A&M (9-16)
Winston-Salem State (4-26)
Tavarus Alston (G) – North Carolina A&T – Should lead the MEAC in assists this season, and could be a scoring threat as well.
Reggie Holmes(G) – Morgan State – 3rd leading scorer and leading 3pt shooter in the MEAC in 08 will expand his role in 09.
Jason Flagler (F) – South Carolina State – Dynamic scorer is SC State’s best chance at post-season success.
Neal Pitt(F) – UMES– Tenacious rebounder and defensive force under the basket will lead conference in glass cleaning for second straight season.
Kevin Thompson(C) – Morgan State – Could emerge as a secondary scoring option in the low post, and will fill role as interior stopper.
Alexander Starling(6th Man, F) – Bethune-Cookman –Versatile forward is Bethune-Cookman’s primary scoring option.
What You Need to Know. The MEAC is a mid-major conference that, while among the lowest rated in RPI, is among the more recognized brands in college basketball outside of power conference competition. The MEAC champion has won three first-round tournament games in the last 20 years, and has produced tough out of conference wins over quality competition in the last three years. (Morgan State defeating Maryland, Hampton defeating George Mason in 2008)
Welcome back to the weekend edition of Boom Goes the Dynamite. First off I’d like to commend rtmsf for his strong work on yesterday’s BGtD. You guys really have no idea how exhausting it is doing a full day’s worth of this is and he managed to do it with only a short break although it almost caused me to give up working on the site after being forced to endure the American-Holy Cross game yesterday. As he outlined in his After the Buzzer post last night/this morning, there are 12 conference championship games today. For the sake of maintaining our sanity and having enough energy in the tank for our huge March Madness preview, we’ll be taking multiple shifts but we promise to coordinate it so you won’t miss anything during our handoffs.
6:00 AM: Yes. That’s actually the time I’m starting this thanks to a “short nap” that ended up going from 9 PM to 5 AM. Obviously my posts will be infrequent in the early morning hours, but I’ll be passing along some news and links to you before the games start at 11 AM. The New York Times has been stepping it up with their college sports blog “The Quad” recently and has an interesting post on Louisville‘s Terrence Williams and his pre-game ritual of the giving himself a pep talk during the national anthem. Before anybody thinks this might be a Chris Jackson Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf situation, it should be noted that Williams actually stands during the anthem and is supposedly talking about family members that he has lost and asking that everyone on the court avoids injuries. Of course, we can’t verify this, but if we have any lip-readers in our vast legion of RTC readers, we would love hear your take on this particularly if you have seen this is in person.
7:00 AM: Before I head out for a few minutes to take care of some errands like stocking up on groceries for the coming storm where I probably won’t leave my apartment for 3 weeks. I thought I would pass along one of my favorite things we are doing at RTC right now. We enlisted the help of our correspondents and got them to send us their favorite March memories. We narrowed down the submissions to the 16 best entries and are counting down to #1, which will be revealed on Wednesday (the day before the tournament starts). I’d encourage you to check out the entries we have so far and keep on coming back throughout the day to see what they selected as their favorite March memories and then chime in with your memories on those moments.
8:45 AM: Ok. False alarm on that grocery run. Apparently Costco doesn’t open until 9:30 so after this post I’ll be on a short break. So today’s RTC East breakfast is brought to you by Flour Bakery and consists of their Bobby Flay-slaying “Sticky Buns” and a twice-baked brioche. Here’s a quick run-down of the games (title game in red–there’s a lot of red) that I will be focusing on today:
UMBC vs. Binghamton at 11 AM on ESPN2 for the America East title
Memphis vs. #3 Tulsa at 11:35 AM on CBS for the Conference USA title
Mississippi State vs. #16 LSU at 1 PM on ESPN2 and Raycom in the SEC semifinals
#6 Michigan State vs. Ohio State at 1:30 PM on CBS in the Big 10 semifinals
#1 UNC vs. #22 FSU at 1:30 PM on ESPN and Raycom in the ACC semifinals
Tennessee vs. Auburn at 3 PM on ESPN2 and Raycom in the SEC semifinals
Maryland vs. #8 Duke at 3:30 PM on ESPN and Raycom in the ACC semifinals
#25 Illinois vs. #24 Purdue at 4 PM on CBS in the Big 10 semifinals
#23 Arizona State vs. USC at 6 PM on CBS for the Pac-10 title
Baylor vs. #15 Missouri at 6 PM on ESPN for the Big 12 title
Temple vs. Duquesne at 6 PM on ESPN2 for the Atlantic 10 title
Late Night Games
San Diego State vs. Utah at 7 PM on Versus for the Moutain West title
Morgan State vs. Norfolk State at 7 PM on ESPNU for the MEAC title (Periodic score updates for this one)
Buffalo vs. Akron at 8 PM on ESPN2 for the MAC title
#5 Louisville vs. #20 Syracuse at 9 PM on ESPN for the Big East title
Jackson State vs. Alabama State at 9 PM on ESPNU for the SWAC title (Periodic score updates for this one)
Utah State vs. Nevada at 10 PM on ESPN2 for the WAC title
Cal State-Northridge vs. Pacific at 11:59 PM on ESPN2 for the Big West title (This one is questionable)
10:55 AM: Ok. I’m back from my extended Costco run and have enough food to last me through the week. A quick summary on the early games. In the America East, Binghamton is a 5-6 point favorite (depending on your gambling establishment of choice). Honestly, I’m surprised that they aren’t bigger favorites since they come in at 22-8 while UMBC comes in 15-16 and the game is at Binghamton. It could be interesting though as they split the season series in the regular season with Binghamton winning the last game of the regular season at home against UMBC 71-51. I’m guessing the America East commissioner is rooting for UMBC to avoid the embarrassment of the CBS announcers having to explain why the conference’s regular season leading scorer (D.J Rivera) was left off the all-conference team. In Conference USA, Memphis is a 14-point favorite against Tulsa. Memphis might be playing for a #1 seed even with their ridiculously easy schedule. We’re hoping this game is more like the first time they met (a 55-54 Memphis win) rather the last time they met (a 63-37 Memphis win). I have a sneaking suspicion that it is going to be more like the latter, but we’ll be following it anyways to get a last look at Memphis before CBS’s new Billy Packer rips the NCAA selection committee for putting them over a Big East team.
Overview. What a day. By our count, there were eleven conference tournament games today that went down to the final minute where either team had a realistic shot to win. We’re proud to say that we saw most of those games and recorded it for all posterity over at our daily journal of hoopsography, Boom Goes the Dynamite. So without rehashing everything that we transcribed over there, let’s take a look at some of the key storylines that we’re keeping an eye on going into Championship Saturday.
Get Your Voodoo Dolls Out. These are the teams that Bubble Nation despises right now because these are the guys still standing in their conference tourneys that are in position to take away ‘their’ much-more-deserving spot in the field of 65. So if you’re a fan of one of the below teams and you feel a prickly feeling tomorrow in your thigh emanating from Omaha, Las Cruces, Gainesville, Providence, et al, you’ll know why.
USC. The Trojans entered the Pac-10 Tourney in nobody’s field of 65. With good reason, they faltered down the stretch, losing six of their last nine and looking listless throughout much of the season. And now, after defeating crosstown rival UCLA tonight, they’re 40 minutes away from an automatic bid playing a team in their hometown whom they split with on the season.
Temple/Duquesne. The A10 has already guaranteed that somebody will be disappointed on Sunday because neither of these two teams were on anybody’s board either. Temple was at least in the conversation, but Duquesne has come out of nowhere, upsetting Dayton today to sit one game away from an auto-bid.
Baylor. We discussed Baylor a little today in the BGTD, but obviously with a 5-11 Big 12 record, they’re not anywhere near the bubble. Yet, they’ll play Missouri tomorrow for an automatic bid, and given how they seem to have their mojo back after a major half-season swoon, we wouldn’t be surprised to crown Baylor as this year’s Georgia tomorrow in Oklahoma City.
San Diego St. Well, at least SDSU is already on the bubble. Their hard-fought win over BYU tonight ensured that they too will have a chance tomorrow to take the decision out of the NCAA Selection Cmte’s hands. The Aztecs split their two games with Utah, who was already ensured a bid either way. SDSU will feel the wrath of Bubble Nation on them tomorrow.
Mississippi St./Auburn – MSU defeated South Carolina and Auburn beat Florida today to move into the semifinals of the SEC Tournament, which means that half of the SEC semifinalists are teams that probably aren’t going to get in without an auto-bid. The SEC is so muddled that either of these teams can beat LSU or Tennessee (respectively) and get a shot on Sunday for the guaranteed invite.
Maryland – This one is less likely considering that Maryland will probably have to beat Duke and Carolina to win the auto-bid, but merely beating Duke would move the Terps from bubble to lock status. The voodoo dolls have a lot of work to do tomorrow.
Championship Saturday. Twelve automatic bids will be earned tomorrow. Her’e’s a brief primer on each.
America East – (6) UMBC @ (1) Binghamton. UMBC got pounded at Binghamton a couple of weeks ago, and the Bearcats have 12 of 13 coming into tomorrow. We’d expect Tony Kornheiser to be a happy man tomorrow, celebrating Binghamton’s first ever trip to the NCAAs.
Atlantic 10 – (7) Duquesne vs. (4) Temple. Just like last season, Temple is coming on strong at the end of the year, having won 9 of 11 coming into this game. Temple defeated Duquesne in their only meeting in Pittsburgh earlier this year, and we expect to see the same in AC tomorrow.
Big 12 – (3) Missouri vs. (9) Baylor. Baylor has won three in a row for the first time since December, and we’ve noticed that they have some of their swagger back this weekend. As well as Mizzou has played this year, Baylor has more “big game” postseason experience, so we’re going with the Bears in the upset here.
Big East – (6) Syracuse vs. (1) Louisville. For the Cuse’s sake, they’d better hope they lose tomorrow night. The last time they had a great BE Tourney run like this in 2006, Texas A&M ran them off the court in their first round NCAA game because they had nothing left in the tank. We think that SU’s tired legs catch up to them and Louisville gets a #1 seed with tomorrow’s Big East title.
Big West – (3) Pacific vs. (1) CS-Northridge. These two teams are essentially even, but Pacific beat CSN twice already this year, and it’s difficult to beat a team three times, so we’ll go with Northridge.
Conference USA – (2) Tulsa vs. (1) Memphis. Yeah, we’re going to go against the team that’s won sixty league games in a row. Playing at home. Sure.
MAC – (5) Akron vs. (3) Buffalo. These two teams knocked off the top two seeds today in the semifinal round, and they split during the regular season. We like Buffalo because they darn near beat UConn back in December. That’s as good a reason as any.
MEAC – (3) Norfolk St. vs. (1) Morgan St. Todd Bozeman’s Morgan crew is the class of this conference and will earn its first NCAA bid tomorrow.
Mountain West – (4) San Diego St. vs. (2) Utah. The Utes comfortable beat SDSU at home, but the Aztecs are playing with a purpose right now. Tossup game, but we like Utah to eke one out in Vegas.
Pac-10 – (6) USC vs. (4) Arizona St. USC has looked like a different team in this conference tournament so far, with Demar DeRozan suddenly playing the superstar he was projected to be. We like the hometown team here stealing an NCAA spot from someone else.
SWAC – (2) Jackson St. vs. (1) Alabama St. Jackson St. is the hotter team, having won 13 of their last 14, including a win a few weeks ago against ASU.
WAC – (1) Utah St. @ (2) Nevada. This should be an excellent game – the prohibitive favorite playing essentially a road game for the automatic bid. They split their games with each team winning at home, and we think Nevada will ride its home crowd to another win here. The question is whether Utah St. at 29-5 (16-3) would be an at-large? Answer: probably.
A Few Other Thoughts.
ACC – The call that gave the victory to Carolina was yet another late-game example of the ACC powers-that-be protecting their own, and we don’t know what BC was thinking when they decided to shoot a 28-footer to beat Duke instead of driving to the rim. Maryland has had a nice run, but it will end tomorrow. Duke-Carolina Part 3 is imminent on Sunday.
Big Ten – Ohio St. will probably hang with Michigan St. for a while, but ultimately will fold. The Purdue-Illinois game should be really good, though. Illinois took both prior games but Robbie Hummell missed the last one. We like Purdue to pull off a close one here.
SEC – Auburn is one of the hottest teams around now, having won nine of its last ten games. We like the Tigers to outlast Tennessee tomorrow to face LSU in the finals on Sunday.
Finally, Welcome American to the Dance… (15 down, 50 to go…).
#15 – American (24-7, 13-1). American earned its second consecutive trip to the NCAAs with its easy win today over Holy Cross, 73-57. Jeff Jones’ squad got 24 from star guard and Tourney MVP Garrison Carr, but it was their defense that once again shut down a conference foe (holding HC to 32% shooting).
Projected Seed: #15
Something to Remember: American got bombed by Oklahoma, Georgetown and Maryland this year, but it’s their defense that should have high seeds concerned. They have the 24th best defensive efficiency, but they likely don’t have enough offense to run with the big dogs unless they catch a really poor offensive team on an off night.
On Tap Tomorrow. Be sure to check in with us tomorrow, as we’ll be back with BGTD all day, covering the dozen auto-bids plus the four other conferences that don’t finish up until Sunday. The three games that have us most excited on Championship Saturday? Louisville-Syracuse, Illinois-Purdue and Utah St.-Nevada. See you then.
Redefining The Zone. Texas Tech 88, Texas A&M 83. Mike Singletary set a new career-high tonight in Texas Tech’s first round Big 12 Tournament game against Texas A&M… in the last ten minutes of the game. That’s right, Singletary caught lightning in his shooting hand, as he exploded for 29 straight points (9-10 FG; 8-10 FT) in the last quarter of the game (previous career high: 25) as he brought his team back from a 21-pt second half deficit. His performance was the second-longest such conflagration of consecutive points, ranking only behind (you know this one, right?) Bill Mlkvy from Temple fifty-eight years ago, who threw up an ungodly 54 in a row in a game against Wilkes. Courtesy of ESPN FC, we got to see the second half of this one, and we’re glad we did. Singletary didn’t look particularly quick or athletic or smooth – he just hit nearly everything he threw up at the rim. Oh, and did we mention that he didn’t even start the game tonight – maybe Pat Knight should just play him in the final ten minutes of the game from now on. Texas A&M, on the other hand, may have just watched its NCAA dreams die with their second-half gag (Mark Turgeon, double-team the guy torching your defense!!!) tonight. Probably not, though – the Aggies’ RPI is still strong, and they did finish hot down the stretch.
Other Important Bubble Games.
Providence 83, Depaul 74. PC allowed the Blue Demons to hang around in this one, and by virtue of playing the 0-18 team, they probably didn’t help their RPI or SOS any… but a win is a win, and with the win comes the opportunity to play #1 seed Louisville in the Big East quarters tomorrow. The good news for the Friars is that Louisville is lifetime 1-3 in this tournament, but the bad news is that the only team that has beaten them all three times has been Pittsburgh.
Baylor 65, Nebraska 49. NU probably didn’t have much of a case for an NCAA bid, but this loss solidifies their exclusion. The more important question is whether Baylor can salvage their extremely disappointing season by going on a run to win the Big 12 title. They will play #1 seed Kansas tomorrow, and although highly unlikely, KU is still a rather young team and could be vulnerable.
Oklahoma St. 81, Iowa St. 67. OSU will get a chance to renew bedlam with Oklahoma tomorrow based on their handling of ISU tonight. The Pokes were already in solid RPI position, but this win ensures their bid. Now it’s a question of seeding, and with two hard-fought Ls to Oklahoma already, will the third time be the charm?
West Virginia 74, Notre Dame 62. ND meekly slithered into the night (NIT) with their loss to WVU today. The Irish really needed a strong run into the late rounds of the Big East Tournament, and instead they couldn’t out-physical a team that thrives on that style of play today. Alex Ruoff had 25 pts and Devin Ebanks had 7/18 in the winning effort; the Mountaineers will get Pittsburgh tomorrow in what is sure to be a slugfest.
14 Down, 51 To Go...
#13 – Robert Morris (24-10, 15-3 NEC). Dallas Green instantly became a NEC legend tonight as his shot from the baseline after scooping a loose ball off the floor was the game-winner that sent RMU to it’s sixth NCAA Tournament, but its first since 1992. It was his only basket of the game, and even his coach said “oh no” when the ball scooted to his direction. Much-maligned Mezie Nwigwe scored three points in eighteen minutes of play.
RMU Begins Celebrating (Gene Puskar/AP)
Projected Seed: #14
Something to Remember: Although it didn’t show tonight (4-14), the Colonials are a strong three-point shooting team, averaging 39.1% throughout the season. They hit nine against Miami (FL) in an 8-pt road loss.
#14 – Portland St. (23-9, 11-5 Big Sky). PSU nearly let their second consecutive Big Sky title get away from them tonight, as they allowed upstart Montana St. to come back from ten pts down late to tie the game. But it was Julius Thomas’ dunk with 3.5 seconds remaining that gave the Vikings the lead back and a strong defensive effort on the ensuing MSU possession ensured that Jeremiah Dominguez and company will make a return appearance in the Big Dance.
Projected Seed: #14
STR: Beware. This team is an experienced squad that lost by one point at Pac-10 champion Washington and beat Gonzaga by seven. #1 Kansas ripped them last season, but they should have a higher seed this time around, and if they can catch a somewhat limited offensive opponent, they have a chance to pull the upset.
Other QnD Tourney Updates.
A10. St. Louis, St. Joseph’s, Duquesne and Richmond all advanced to the quarterfinals tomorrow. RTC Live is there with College Chalktalk live-blogging all of the action. The best game of the day Thursday will likely be the streaking Richmond Spiders (6 of 7) taking on Dayton.
Big 12. The only other game not covered so far was Texas’ win against Colorado. There are some juicy matchups in Oklahoma City tomorrow, but we’re most looking forward to the third incarnation of Bedlam – OU vs. OSU in a true neutral venue. OSU just might do this one.
Big East. Marquette had an easy time with St. John’s and Syracuse got into a bunchastuff with Seton Hall before finally pulling away late. We’re going to say it right here, right now. Tomorrow’s quarterfinal round is the greatest collection of teams in a conference tournament’s quarterfinals round EVER. There are four teams with realistic F4 chances and seven teams with legitimate S16 possibilities. Providence is the only weak link, and they managed to beat a #1 team this season. All of the games are worth watching (damn you, Dauster), but we’re most excited about the Marquette-Villanova game at 2:30 EDT so we can see how to parse these two teams.
Big West. Two minor upsets with UC Davis and UC Riverside today, but this league is completely wide open. Don’t be surprised if an eight-seed wins this thing.
CUSA. Over in the Retread Conference, Rice (Ben Braun), S. Miss (Larry Eustachy), Tulane and Houston (Tom Penders) all advanced today. The best game tomorrow is the Houston-UTEP matchup.
MEAC. No upsets in this league tonight, as all the higher seeds but one (who will play tomorrow) advanced to the semifinals.
Mountain West. In the opening round game, Air Force knocked off Colorado St. Tomorrow keep an eye on UNLV-San Diego St., a game with potential bubble implications depending on how deep the winner of this one goes.
Pac-10. Stanford and Wazzu advanced to the quarterfinals tonight. Several good games in the quarters tomorrow, but we’re most interested to see how UCLA responds after its loss a couple of weeks ago to Wazzu, who they’ll play again tomorrow night.
SWAC. The top two seeds in the SWAC advanced tonight. Two other quarterfinal games continue tomorrow.
ACC. The first round matchup of Miami (FL) and Virginia Tech holds the most interest, as both teams have been slumping down the stretch, but have enough talent to turn things around in short order.
Big 10. The first round begins tomorrow, and clearly the best game here is the Northwestern-Minnesota game. Neither team will get in from winning this one, but they will assuredly be out if they lose it.
MAC. The MAC continues with its quarters after a day off as well. No idea which game to keep an eye on here. None whatsoever.
SEC. None of the first round games are very good, but if you must pick one, go with Kentucky’s attempt to win 4-in-4 to keep the NCAA streak alive, starting with Ole Miss.
Southland. The quarterfinals begin, and Stephen F. Austin is the favorite.
WAC. The WAC is picking back up after a day off in its quarterfinal round. Remember that RTC Live will be there for the Utah St. vs. Fresno St. game, which should be the most interesting game of this round.
From 850 the Buzz, apparently the usage of the word “unanimous” is a little ambiguous at the ACC offices in Greensboro these days, depending on who the player is they’re trying to promote (FSU’s Toney Douglas vs. UNC’s Tyler Hansbrough).
Now… on to the three dance tickets punched tonight.
# 10 – North Dakota St. (26-6, 16-2). NDSU is going to get a lot of national attention in the next week by virtue of the fact that this was their first eligible year in D1, and several players including star guard Ben Woodside redshirted their freshmen seasons to have the shot at the NCAAs they’re enjoying tonight, but remember that our very own John Stevens was all over this story before anybody – way back in mid-December when Woodside ripped the nets apart for 60 big ones. Tonight it looked as if their long-sought-after dream was dead, as the Summit League regular season champs found themselves down ten points with nine minutes remaining in the title game. Slow and steady, the Bison worked itself back into the game, and after Oakland’s Keith Benson tied the game with a dunk with 0:12 remaining, the ball was put into Woodside’s hands and the rest is history, 66-64.
Projected Seed: #13
Something to Remember: NDSU has the fifth most efficient offense in the country, and it’s predicated on great shooting and ballhandling. The Bison are #5 in three-point shooting at 41% and they are #11 in fewest turnovers per game. Whichever #4 or #5 seed gets this team had best bring their defense.
#11 – Cleveland St. (25-10, 12-6). Bubble teams all over America were cursing Gary Waters’ Cleveland St. Vikings tonight, as their Horizon League automatic bid earned over at-large lock Butler took one of the 34 available spots away from some hopeful team. Was it Creighton? Florida? St. Mary’s? We’ll never know for sure, but CSU held Butler stars Matt Howard and Gordon Hayward to a combined 21/12, and in so doing was able to make just enough plays on the defensive end down the stretch to get the upset win over Butler, 57-54 in their house. RTC Live had the liveblog coverage here, but if you were lucky enough to see the television coverage, you saw a team in Cleveland St. that wanted this game just a smidge more than their HL counterparts. The Vikings’ NCAA bid is their first since 1986.
Projected Seed: #14
STR: Cleveland St. played Kansas St. and West Virginia tough in losses earlier this year, and of course they beat Syracuse on the ridiculous 75-footer, so this is a team that won’t be intimidated as an underdog in the first round of the NCAAs.
#12 – Western Kentucky (24-8, 15-3). WKU started this Sun Belt title game on an 11-0 run, but South Alabama wasn’t going to just give the Hilltoppers the game so easily, as the Jags fought back to tie and even briefly take the lead in this one for a period in the mid-second half. But WKU, led by AJ Slaughter’s 18 pts and Stephffon Pettigrew’s 15/7, was not going to be denied, and Ken McDonald should be commended for the excellent job he’s done with a team that lost its star backcourt of Courtney Lee and Tyrone Brazelton (not to mention head coach Darrin Horn). Western Kentucky earned its 21st trip to the NCAA Tournament and its second in a row tonight.
Projected Seed: #11
STR: This is an unpredictable team. Although they finished the season winning eleven of their last twelve games, earlier in the season the Toppers lost by 28 to Murray St., 32 to Evansville and 28 to Mississippi St. They also defeated Louisville by 12. This is probably why WKU ranks #265 in Pomeroy’s consistency statistic.
QnD Conf Tourney Updates.
Big East. Did you hear that the sixteen-team Big East Tourney started today? Georgetown and Cincinnati must not have gotten that memo, because neither team showed up for its own funeral, losing first-round games to the dregs – St. John’s and Depaul, respectively. Yes, Depaul, the same team that was 0-18 in the regular season. At least Seton Hall managed to beat S. Florida and Notre Dame kept its disappointing season alive for another day.
MAC. The MAC first round was today, and there were no major upsets. CMU, Kent, Ohio and Akron all advanced.
MEAC. The MEAC also began today, and the two higher seeds Hampton and FAMU advanced.
WAC. Another opening round, where Fresno St. “upset” the higher seeded Hawaii.
For Tomorrow’s Viewing Pleasure. We’re starting to get serious now. The Big Sky and NEC hold its title games Wednesday, and the A10, Big 12, Big West, CUSA, Mountain West, Pac-10 and SWAC get it started. We’re rapidly approaching bracket nirvana.
JC of HBCUSportsBlog is the RTC correspondent for the SWAC and MEAC Conferences.With the end of the regular season imminent, both conference wrap-ups are below this week.
And so it is nearly finished. A final act for the SWAC conference that is low on team talent, but with a few programs that have a legitimate shot of scoring more than 29 points against the number one seed in the national tournament.
Alabama State paces the conference, and is poised to eclipse 19 wins for the second-consecutive season. On their heels is Jackson State, with just two conference losses on the year and one courtesy of Alabama State.
JC at HBCUSportsBlog is the RTC correspondent for the MEAC and SWAC Conferences.
A rebirth in hoops nation is taking place. You can see it in the hearts of mid-major loyalists everywhere, championing the chance for little schools to draw and keep the attention of the college basketball conscience.
There is no better example of this than in the MEAC, whose champion will likely present the best chance for a historically black college to advance in the national tournament. So let’s call this a born day for the underdog, and check out the week that was in the MEAC.
With little less than a month to go before the MEAC basketball tournament begins, two teams are picking up where the left off in 2008. Morgan State and Coppin State have emerged as two of the favorites in the latter part of the season, with Morgan having paced the conference for much of the season, while Coppin has mounted its annual late season flurry of conference wins.