Folks, it’s March and we’re now approximately eight days until Selection Sunday sets the sports world on fire. By our count, there are about twenty teams fighting for half as many at-large spots, and this weekend’s games will have increased importance in the all-too-important ‘sniff test.’ The NCAA Selection Committee is made of humans just like the rest of us, and if they see a couple of teams look great on tv this weekend, it could be the little extra push needed to earn a Dance card next Sunday. But it’s not just about those so-called bubble teams; it’s also about positioning. Which team will step up in the last week to grab the likely one remaining #1 seed, along with Syracuse, Kansas and Kentucky? Who will be able to secure a top four regional seed in order to play closer to home? There are so many questions unanswered still remaining. Today is the last Saturday of the regular season, and as always, we’ll be with you on Boom Goes the Dynamite throughout the day. Below are the key games we plan on keeping an eye on — of special note is that three more automatic bids will be delivered today, in the Big South, Atlantic Sun and Ohio Valley Conferences.
We will be back at 11 AM for our continuing coverage so check back then and feel free to comment or ask questions in the comment section.
11:00: Nice showing by the Duke student for GameDay. Not going to be Kentucky because of the smaller student body and smaller arena.
11:10: Ugh. Speedo guy segment coming on GameDay. I will be switching the channel for a few minutes when that segment is going to start. Way to show segments that your audience will be interested in. Would they do a “Bikini girl” segment or would that not be PC?
11:20: Coach K does not approve of “Speedo guy”. I think we have finally found something that UNC fans will agree with him on. Seriously ESPN. Why are you featuring this idiot?
11:25: Be back in 5 minutes. Tell me when it is over.
11:30: Back again. Knight does not look amused, which amuses me.
11:45: So Sherron Collins was a great athlete in high school, plays video games, and like macaroni. I’m glad we found that out. Why can’t GameDay do legit segments like the one on the Syracuse zone they did earlier this year?
Noon: Hubert picks UNC. Big surprise. Knight and Bilas are calling for a Duke beat down. I’d go with something in between the two.
12:05: Three interesting games on right now none of which is the FSU-Miami game that ESPN2 decided to show over Cincinnati-Georgetown. The best of the three games is clearly the West Virginia-Villanova game, which we are doing a RTC Live for so be sure to check that out.
12:15: Interesting news: Both Luke Harangody and Austin Freeman will play today according to Seth Davis and Jeff Goodman respectively.
Big Red Freshness Lasts Right Through It. Cornell 95, Brown 76. It probably took a little longer than the nervous Big Red faithful hoped to put away the pesky Brown Bears tonight, but in the end, it was simply a formality because Cornell players were so narrowly focused on winning their third straight Ivy League title and NCAA bid that there was no way they were going to lose this game tonight. How focused were they? Try a season-best 57% shooting and an utterly ridonkulous 20-30 from deep tonight. At one point during the conflagration of shot-making by the Big Red, they hit eight treys in a row en route to an 11-13 first half. But it was the second half where Cornell exhibited its dominance, using a 14-4 run early to take control of the game and ensure another title coming to Ithaca this season. All five starters reached double figures, but it was lesser-known forward Jon Jaques who took the scoring honors with 20/7 tonight (including six threes). In all, four players had four or more threes, which we figure has to be some kind of a record for versatile and voluminous shooting! Cornell will now wait to see where their NCAA seed lies, but the smart money is on a #12 seed when the brackets are released. Anyone up for a #12/#5 upset this year?
Conference Tourneys. Eight conference tourneys tonight, and a ridiculous thirteen tomorrow. Let’s see what was interesting…
Feeling Title-y. There were three conference championships won tonight around the nation, and you can count the number of people on one hand who had these three picks back in November.
Teams That Helped Themselves. There were a lot more teams that seemed more interested in hurting themselves than helping themselves this evening.
Teams That Hurt Themselves.
You know why we don’t need NCAA Tournament expansion to 96 teams? The are a lot of other good reasons, but the simplest reason is that we already have it. In fact, about 300 of the 347 Division I teams have an opportunity starting tonight to ‘play their way into’ the NCAA Tournament. It’s easy — survive and advance. As long as you win, you’re still alive. And if you win three or four games in (mostly) consecutive days, you’ll see Greg Gumbel reading your name off the Big Board on Selection Sunday. Keep winning beyond that and suddenly you’re channeling NC State circa 1983.
There will be thirty conference tournaments played from coast to coast (and all points in-between) in the coming days, with the Big South, Ohio Valley and Horizon all starting postseason action tonight. The Atlantic Sun and Patriot will get going tomorrow, and by Saturday night, we’ll have already crowned the first three automatic bids. Twenty-seven more (plus the Ivy) will be decided over the course of the following week of play. It seems like a lot to keep up with (and it is), which is why we’ve come up with an internal tracking matrix (below) that we’re happy to share with everyone.
During our nightly ATBs, we’ll be keeping you updated as well, but here’s the high-level view of the world. Strap in folks, because March is here!
Greg Waddell of Murray State News is the RTC correspondent for the Ohio Valley Conference.
Standings (as of 2/18)
Team of the Week – Murray State captures the honor this week at the Racers continue a run of dominance through the OVC. Sitting at 16-0, Billy Kennedy’s team secured the regular season crown on Tuesday in a 80-68 win over Southeast Missouri State. Joe Lunardi of ESPN currently has Murray as a No. 13 seed in the NCAA tournament, playing Temple in Spokane. It will be interesting to see how the brackets unfold if Murray falls in the conference tournament as the OVC has typically been a one-bid conference. As Doug Gottlieb noted, it may be hard to turn down a Racer team with only four losses.
Player of the Week- In an unorthodox move, this week’s edition will nominate two players for the top honor. Seeing as how coverage is divided into a bi-weekly segment it would only seem fair to have two winners. Week one winner, Nick Murphy of Jacksonville State averaged 21 points, 10 rebounds and three assists per game as the Gamecocks split a pair of games from Feb. 8 through Feb 15 while week two winner Mark Yelovich from SIU – Edwardsville earned the award after dropping 34 points on the University of North Dakota.
Play of the Week – Instead of the typical game of the week, this edition will instead focus on a single play. This week’s honor goes to Isaiah Canaan, a freshman on the Murray State basketball team, after a half court shot from his knees earned the guard the top spot on the Sportscenter Top 10 and an interview with Jay Crawford on ESPN2 First Take. The heave has been mentioned as a possible nominee for an ESPY as Play of the Year.
Kentucky Survives in Raucous Starkville. #2 Kentucky 81, Mississippi State 75 (OT). After several days of fielding phone calls from Mississippi State fans who ranged in temperament from delusional to deranged, DeMarcus Cousins and his team had the last laugh tonight in Starkville as water bottles and sodas rained down on the court in the closing minutes of this one. Coach John Calipari was so giddy afterward that he even played up the hostility of the situation in his interview with Jeannine Edwards, ducking for cover at one point and running over to corral his players at another (wow, consider just how different things were last year at this time with respect to UK’s head coach and Miss Edwards). The story of this game, however, was in the way that Kentucky was able to overcome a seven-point deficit in the last three minutes after having looked shaken and stirred in the previous few as MSU built its lead with inside star Jarvis Varnado on the bench fouled out. Cousins held up his end of the bargain with MSU fans by dropping 19/14/3 assts, including seven huge offensive rebounds, several of which he converted at key points in the second half to keep the Cats afloat. Patrick Patterson added a dub-dub himself (19/10), while John Wall ended up just shy of a triple-double with 18/10/8 assts/3 stls. Come March, when the rest of the country decides to tune back into college basketball, all anyone is going to hear about is the mercurial Wall; but to those of us who know better, it will be Cousins that makes the difference if Kentucky is to make a serious run at the national title. He has a knack for corralling the ball on the offensive end of the court (the #1 offensive rebounder in America), but he’s probably just as effective at converting those extra possessions into points with his soft touch around the bucket (note: if anyone has hard stats on this, we’d love to see them). MSU had numerous chances to put a signature win on their NCAA resume, but like much of their season this year, they were close but not close enough. The Bulldogs played the game without leading scorer Ravern Johnson, who was suspended for conduct detrimental prior to his team’s biggest game of the season, and Varnado had at least two silly fouls that would have allowed his presence to stay on the court longer than 23 semi-effective minutes (10/5/2 blks). If any one of those decisions were different, perhaps MSU wins the game and we’d have a photo of their fans RTCing underneath this writeup. But as it happened, Bulldog fans will instead by remembered for their unsportsmanlike behavior, and they’ll have to settle for screaming into DeMarcus Cousins’ voicemail as he moves on to the more important things like winning SEC titles and gunning for the Final Four.
Regular Season Champs. Two clinchers tonight…
Other Games of National Interest.
Greg Waddell of Murray State News is the RTC correspondent for the Ohio Valley Conference.
Standings: (as of 2/7)
Team of the Week – Rivals Murray State and Morehead State share the honor this week as both teams played admirably in their games. Murray continued its reign of dominance over the OVC, squeaking past hated rival Austin Peay 65-63 in the Regional Special Events Center while Morehead roared to a 84-75 win over Tennessee Tech to sweep the season series and capture 13 of their last 14 games. The two teams will square off on Feb. 25 in Morehead, Ky., in a game that could determine conference supremecy.
Player of the Week – In a closely contested battle, Morehead State forward Kenneth Faried edges Tennessee-Martin guard Marquis Weddle for the title of Player of the Week in this edition. Although Weddles’ play (24 ppg and 6 rpg) over the week was superb, Faried claimed the award by showcasing an all-around game more suited for the NBA than the OVC, notching a dominant performance over the weekend against Tennessee Tech to raise his averages for the week to 19 points and 14 boards. During the stretch Faried recorded his 17th and 18th double-doubles of the season including his ninth straight.
Game of the Week – Murray State 65, Austin Peay 63. When rivals collide, crazy things tend to happen. This edition’s game of the week was just another example as it took every ounce of magic the Racers had to keep the team’s conference mark unblemished for one more game, edging the Govs on a last second shot by junior guard Isacc Miles. Although Miles provided the heroics, Danero Thomas provided the steady hand as the senior forward from Louisiana paced the Racers with 23 points and 11 rebounds. On the other side, Anthony Campbell played well for Austin Peay, nearly recording a double-double with 20 points and eight boards.
ESPN released its schedule of games for its Bracketbuster series on Feb 1. All 11 OVC schools will participate in for the fifth straight season with games taking place on Feb. 19 and 20. OVC schools are 16-29 all-time in the event, including a 3-7 record last season.
James Horne of the Clarksville (TN) Leaf-Chronicle is the RTC correspondent for the Ohio Valley Conference.
Current OVC Standings (as of Jan. 2, 2010)
% – SIU Edwardsville joined the OVC in July 2008. The program is reclassifying to Division I and not playing a full OVC schedule until 2011-12. They are not eligible for the OVC Championship or postseason play until 2012-13.
THIS WEEK IN THE OVC
PRIME-TIME BATTLE. The New Year begins with a top-notched showdown in the OVC and it will all be televised on ESPNU when defending tournament champion Morehead State (6-6, 1-1 OVC) welcomes in Austin Peay (8-6, 2-0 OVC) for a game at 8 p.m. (CST) Saturday night. It’s not lost on anyone involved that the Eagles upset the Govs 67-65 in two overtimes to win the 2009 OVC crown last March. And it helps that Morehead State and Austin Peay were picked to finish first and third (by the conference and RTC) in the preseason. Morehead State junior center Kenneth Faried, the Preseason Player of the Year, continues to dominate the league by averaging 16.5 points (third in the OVC) and 12.2 rebounds a game (tops in the OVC). He will be challenged by the Govs senior guard Wes Channels, whose 15 points a game is sixth in the league.
ONLY ONE? By the time Tuesday rolls around Murray State (10-3, 2-0 OVC) could be the last unbeaten left. The Racers don’t play Saturday and, while not an easy task, face OVC-winless UT Martin at 7 p.m. (CST) Monday.
THIS WEEK’S RESULTS
Monday, December 28
Tuesday, December 29
Wednesday, December 30
THIS WEEKEND’S GAMES
Saturday, January 2
Monday, January 4
Tuesday, January 5
OVC. APSU’s Wes Channels and UT Martin’s Marquis Weddle were named Co-OVC Players of the Week.
James Horne of the Clarksville (TN) Leaf Chronicle is the RTC correspondent for the Ohio Valley Conference.
Current OVC Standings (as of Dec. 4, 2009)
THIS WEEK IN THE OVC
LOOS ASCENDS: Undoubtedly the biggest story in the OVC this week is about a coach. Austin Peay’s Dave Loos just won the 400th game of his 24-year career in the Govs’ 76-71 overtime win over Southeast Missouri on Dec. 3. That made him 400-318 all-time. With a victory over EIU on Dec. 5, Loos would tie would tie Cal Luther – former coach at Murray State and UT Martin – for the most victories in OVC history with 319. Loos has been with Austin Peay for 20 seasons and owns a 318-265 record. Loos is already Austin Peay’s all-time winningest coach.
EAGLES VS. RACERS: The two teams picked to win the OVC this year meet for the first time in Murray, Ky., on Dec. 5. Both defending champion Morehead State and Murray State were the preseason choice to win the league as both gained 10 first-place votes and 154 points. The Racers have actually won six in a row since a season-opening loss five-point loss to No. 12 California. Murray State has won those five games by an average of 32.2 points. Morehead State junior Kenneth Faried had his third double-double in four games this season, scoring 12 points and pulling down 15 rebounds in 34 minutes of play in a loss to Kent State on Nov 29. Faried has had a double-double in every game except the team’s season-opening loss at No. 4 Kentucky.
James D. Horne is the RTC correspondent for the Ohio Valley Conference. He covers Austin Peay for The Leaf-Chronicle and co-hosts The Afternoon Blitz from 4-6 p.m. on AM 540 in Clarksville, TN. Click here for all of our 2009-10 Season Preview materials.
Predicted Order of Finish:
6th Man. Anthony Campbell (F), Austin Peay, 6’6, 185, So, 7.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 50.0 FG%
Breakout Player. Ivan Aska (F), Murray State, 6’7, 230, So, 10.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 51.6 FG%
Coach of the Year. Donnie Tyndall, Morehead State
Player of the Year. Kenneth Faried, Morehead State
What You Need to Know:
Predicted Champion. Murray State (NCAA Seed: #16). The Racers have been on the verge of returning to their perch in the OVC and this should be the year they get back. But if they don’t in Billy Kennedy’s fourth season a change could be made.
Greg Miller of WPSD Local 6 is the RTC correspondent for the OVC. The OVC Tournament begins at on-campus venues on Tuesday before moving to Nashville, TN, for the final two rounds.
Regular Season Wrap-Up
How can you not be happy for UT Martin’s Bret Campbell? After years and years of finishing at the bottom of the OVC, Campbell has led the Skyhawks to the top of the OVC. Martin’s 79-65 win over Morehead State on Saturday night clinched the school’s first-ever OVC title and just the second 21-win season in school history (first-ever in Division One.)
Campbell is really one of the good guys in college coaching. He’s paid his dues and at times really struggled to get the UTM program growing. He caught a real break when he was able to land a talent like Lester Hudson and caught another break when Hudson decided to return for his senior season. Campbell was able to go out and find a great supporting cast and now UTM is on the verge of making their first-ever NCAA Tournament if they can capture the OVC Tournament title this week.
That will be much easier said than done.