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.
Welcome to the Real Dance, Bluffers. Arkansas-Pine Bluff 61, Winthrop 44. Well, we’re off to a great start so far this year. With tonight’s convincing win over Winthrop, UAPB becomes the 64th entrant into the bracket, and those who fret about completeness (“I can’t make my picks yet!!”) are able to finally concentrate. For a team that started the season 0-11 as it traveled all over the country taking regular beatings, a win tonight and another roadie to Jacksonville to face Duke on Friday feels like just desserts. Allen Smith had 14/5 and Tavaris Washington contributed 8/13/5 assts as the Golden Lions broke open a close game at the half to slowly pull away in the second. Even though it is only the PiG, this is the first win by a SWAC team in the NCAA Tournament since Southern University pulled the trick as a #15 in 1993.
Allen Smith Moves On to Play Duke (DDN/L. Powell)
Argument for the Play-In-Game. In watching some of this game tonight in front of 8,000+ fans at the UD Arena in Dayton, while switching over to some of the more interesting NIT games tonight, we once again come back to the idea of expansion and how the NCAA might look into integrating ideas into the existing system using something that approximates logic and reason. Obviously, the preferred scenario is no additional expansion, but it’s also the least likely. We’re never going back to a perfectly symmetrical sixty-four team bracket now that we’re at 65, so let’s consider the next best alternative. The Tuesday night PiG is widely mocked among bracketeers around the country, but as you can see by clicking through the link above, people in Dayton attend and enjoy the game. We’ve said for the better part of a decade, though, that having a single game hanging out on a thread like that is weird and feels a little funny — it’s like finding a box of raisins in the paper towels section at the grocery store. We think that the fix for this is to have four play-in games, which means 68 teams would be invited to the NCAA Tournament. Each region would have one PiG, and all four of them would be played in the 7pm and 9pm time slots on Tuesday night, with winners moving on to the Friday games around the country. Dayton could host two games and another great basketball city such as Salt Lake or Memphis could host the other two. Here’s the rub, though. Rather than making the four PiGs a situation where the worst eight teams (#16 seeds) are slotted into them, make it so that the games utilize the unyielding buzz and conversation about the bubble that dominates the entire previous weekend. You achieve this by slotting the last eight at-large teams into these four play-in games. This year, that would have meant the following scenario:
Utah State vs. Mississippi State
UTEP vs. Illinois
Minnesota vs. Arizona State
Florida vs. Virginia Tech
How ridiculously fun would that be to watch on Tuesday night?– no offense to tonight’s competitors, but it’s no contest! Bubble teams, this is the chance for you to make your case against a similarly situated team — it’s win or go home. The UAPBs and Winthrops of the world would already be in the round of 64 (aka the first round) as #16 seed auto-bids. The winner of these four PiGs comprised solely of the eight lowest at-larges could be slotted as #12 or #13 seeds regardless of who wins. Can someone tell us what’s wrong with this idea?
Justin Glover is the RTC correspondent for the Southern Conference.Click here for all of our 2009-10 Season Preview materials.
Predicted Order of Finish:
North Division- Two Divisions in the SoCon
1. Western Carolina (14-6 SoCon) 22-11 Overall
2. Samford (12-8 SoCon) 16-15 Overall
3. Applachian State (10-10 SoCon) 17-14 Overall
4. Chattanooga (9-11 SoCon) 15-17 Overall
5. Elon (8-12 SoCon) 16-16 Overall
6. UNC Greensboro (3-17 SoCon) 4-26 Overall
South Division- Two Divisions in the SoCon
1. College of Charleston (16-4 SoCon) 24-9 Overall
2. Davidson (12-8 SoCon) 19-14 Overall
3. Citadel (11-9 SoCon) 17-15 Overall
4. Wofford (9-11 SoCon) 16-17 Overall
5. Georgia Southern (7-13 SoCon) 11-20 Overall
6. Furman (6-14 SoCon) 10-21 Overall
Western Carolina (13-5 SoCon) 22-11 overall
Samford (11-7 SoCon) 16-15 overall
Applachian State (9-9 SoCon) 17-14 overall
Chattanooga (8-10 SoCon) 15-17 overall
Elon (7-11 SoCon) 16-16 overall
UNC-Greensboro (2-16 SoCon) 4-26 overall
College of Charleston (15-3 SoCon) 24-9 overall
Davidson (11-7 SoCon) 19-14 overall
Citadel (10-8 SoCon) 17-15 overall
Wofford (8-10 SoCon) 16-17 overall
Georgia Southern (6-12 SoCon) 11-20 overall
Furman (5-13 SoCon) 10-21 overall
Andrew Goudelock (G) – College of Charleston (Jr.) – 16.7 ppg
Cameron Wells (G) – The Citadel (Jr.) – 15.6 ppg
Harouna Mutombo(F) – Western Carolina (So.) – 14.4 ppg
Bryan Friday (F) – Samford (Sr.) – 12.5 ppg
Noah Dahlman (C) – Wofford (Jr.) – 17.8 ppg
6th Man.Jake Robinson – Western Carolina (Sr) – Led the team in three pointers made (60) and attempted (167), coming off the bench in 19 games.
Impact Newcomer.Rashad Wright – College of Charleston – Intimidating presence inside with his 6’9″ frame, averaged 10.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and four blocks a game at South Kent High School last season will look to contribute to a team that is lacking in size.
What You Need to Know. Although this conference lacks the star power of a certain recently departed, diminutive guard from Davidson, the conference is not devoid of talent as witnessed by the fact that the aforementioned guard didn’t even make the NCAA tournament last year. While the Wildcats will certainly fall off this year, don’t be surprised to see the second most famous basketball personality in the league last year (Bobby Cremins) getting plenty of airtime in March.
Predicted Champion: College of Charleston (NCAA Seed: #15) – Made it to the SoCon Championship game last season after a Cinderella type run knocking off the favorite in Davidson on their way to the finals. They have always been an athletic team that uses stellar guard play to offset lack of size inside. With the starting back court of Tony White Jr., who scored 31 points in the SoCon finals game against Chattanooga, and junior all-conference candidate Andrew Goudelock who led the team in points per game and three pointers. CofC should be the team to beat in the Southern Conference this season with close to 75% of its scoring coming back from a team that made the finals in the conference tournament.
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:
Alabama State (20-9)
Jackson State (16-13)
Alabama A&M (15-11)
Prairie View (13-16)
Mississippi Valley State (13-18)
Alcorn State (10-19)
Arkansas-Pine Bluff (10-19)
Texas Southern (9-20)
Grambling State (5-21)
Christopher Jones (G) – Prairie View – Purest point guard in the SWAC, but will have to reduce his turnovers for the Panthers to be successful this season.
Troy Jackson (G) – Alcorn State – Ruthless scorer who also shot better than 40 percent from the field in 08-09.
Grant Maxey (F) – Jackson State – Versatile forward will likely emerge as the 09-10 SWAC Player of the Year
Douglas Scott (F) – Southern – Tenacious rebounder, came on late last season with three double-doubles in his last five games.
Darnell Hugee (C) – Prairie View – If he stays out of foul trouble, could be one of the best post players in Division I basketball.
6th Man. Deandre Hall (G) – Texas Southern – Turnover prone, but can do damage from interior and perimeter.
What You Need to Know. The SWAC is among the worst conferences in all of Division I basketball. There’s no sugarcoating the lack of talent and the brutal out-of-conference schedules that the SWAC member schools play just to keep their athletic budgets afloat. But what they are lacking in appeal and talent, their upper-echelon teams make up for in competitive drive and great coaching. Alabama State took SEC opponents Auburn and Mississippi to the wire on the road last season before dropping both games by fewer than five points.
Predicted Champion. Jackson State (NCAA Seed: #16). Jackson State has played second fiddle to Alabama State in the regular season for two years in a row. But while the Tigers return key seniors Grant Maxey and Garrison Johnson, the Hornets of ASU lost a lot in the departure of PG Brandon Brooks and forward Andrew Hayles. The JSU Tigers will prevail in the conference championship, but not without serious tests from the likes of Prairie View and Alabama State.
This story got lost in the Friday afternoon rush of people heading to happy hour, but Grambling St. University basketball made national news for the third time in a year that day, and unfortunately, not for anything good. Rick Duckett, the head coach who (likely) orchestrated this particular crime against hoop-anity back in January, reportedly resigned after one of his transfer players, Henry White, fell ill during workouts and later died.
Connecting the dots, it might make sense to presume that Duckett somehow felt responsible for White’s death, as the White family attorney asserts that it was common practice for Grambling coaches to run their players outside during intense summer heat and humidity, and had in fact done so that day (where two other players also fell ill). The problem with that theory is twofold: first, Andy Katz reported on Saturday that Duckett claims he didn’t resign at all; rather, he was fired (technically he’s on leave until Oct. 31, then he’ll be released). And not just him, but his entire staff of assistants save one (new interim coach Robert Washington, Jr.).Second, on the day that White collapsed during workouts, Duckett wasn’t even at practice. In fact, he wasn’t even on campus. Instead, he was instead having an undisclosed medical procedure of his own at the time.
We understand the legal concept of vicarious liability, and if Duckett directed his assistants to run players through the sweatbox known as Louisiana humidity against all better judgment, we could believe that university officials are looking to CYA here. But one question. Don’t Grambling football players also run drills in the sweatbox throughout August? In pads? If true, it would appear difficult for us to believe an argument that it’s ok for the football team to run outdoors, but not the basketball team.
It’s also clearly not performance-related. Grambling takes its football team very seriously; basketball is pretty much an afterthought. Duckett’s 6-23 record in his first and only year didn’t turn any heads, but the school’s had only two .500+ seasons since 1994, so there’s really nothing unusual about that. The last head coach, Larry Wright, wasn’t much better: over nine seasons, he turned in a record of 88-160 (.355). Furthermore, Duckett was successful at the D2 level, so there was reason to believe he could turn around the Grambling program.
Alabama State University (#16, South, Dayton sub-pod)
vs. #16 Morehead State
Thurs., 3/17 at 7:30 PM
Vegas Line: Alabama State, +2.5
Location: Montgomery, AL Conference: Southwestern Athletic Conference, Automatic big Coach: Lewis Jackson, Overall Record: 64-58 08-09 Record: 22-9, 16-2 Last 12 Games: 11-1, 4 wins Best Win: 66-60, Jackson State University, 1-3-09 Worst Loss: 79-74, Alcorn State University, 1-26-09 Off. Efficiency Rating: 100.2, 193th Def. Efficiency Rating: 103; 202nd
Nuts ‘n Bolts Star Player(s): Brandon Brooks, 13.8 ppg, 39.3 3pt%, 2009 SWAC Player of the Year Unsung Hero: Chief Kickingstallionsims, 9.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1 bpg, SWAC Defensive Player of the Year Potential NBA Draft Pick(s): Brandon Brooks has the opportunity to sneak in as a low second-round pick in the 2009 NBA Draft. He is deceptively quick off the dribble, and shoots a high percentage for a point guard. Key Injuries: N/A Depth: 32.1% (126th nationally); percentage of minutes played by reserves Achilles Heel: Despite having a seven footer, the Hornets only average about three blocks per game. Will Make a Deep Run if…: If they can create an inside-outside threat with Brooks and Kickingstallionsims early and often. Will Make an Early Exit if…: Brooks and Andrew Hayles are shooting poorly from the perimeter.
NCAA History Last Year Invited: 2004 Streak: N/A Best NCAA Finish: 1st round exit Historical Performance vs. Seed (1985-present): Not enough data (Minimum 8 bids)
Other Six Degrees to Detroit: Freshman guard Tramaine Butler is the Hornets’ sole roster member from the Motor City. Distance to First Round Site: 523 Miles School’s Claim to Fame: They are the first SWAC regular season champion to win the conference tournament in four years. School Wishes It Could Forget: It plays in the worst RPI conference in college basketball Prediction: ASU will get past Morehead St. in the play-in game, and will shrink against the inside game of the Louisville Cardinals. Major RTC stories: N/A
There are twelve automatic bids today, so we’ll be updating these as the day moves forward…
#16 – Binghamton (23-8, 16-3 Am East). Binghamton took care of business today against upstart UMBC to win their eleventh in a row and earn the school’s first ever NCAA bid. Reggie Fuller had 19/10 and alleged non-POY DJ Rivera added 16/5 in the RTC home win. We had more coverage on today’s BGTD.
Projected Seed: #16
Something to Remember: Binghamton is um, size-challenged. Their tallest starter is the 6’6 Fuller. And have you heard that Tony Kornheiser has an affinity for this school for some reason? Yeah, we hadn’t either.
#17 – Memphis (31-3, 19-0 CUSA). 25 straight wins in a row. 61 CUSA wins in row. Memphis just keeps on truckin’, with another stellar defensive performance in holding Tulsa to 26% from the field and 2-14 from three. This was also the 135th win for the Tiger senior class, who is focused on getting to #141, according to Coach Calipari. Robert Dozier had 18/14 and Tyreke Evans had 18/5/6 in the same-old, same-old for Memphis.
Projected Seed: #2
STR: We’re going to be a little contrarian here, but we’re not buying that Memphis is a national title contender this year. Are they better than anticipated? Absolutely. Are they on the same level as UConn, Pitt, Louisville, UNC, etc.? No freakin’ way. Their defense is outstanding, statistically the very best in the land. And CUSA is a better league than people tend to think it is. But the fact of the matter here is that Memphis is playing with house money right now. They were beaten by Georgetown, Xavier and Syracuse in the pre-conference slate. Tennessee took them down to the last possession. They rolled up Gonzaga in their building, but the Zags wilted in the face of their athletic defenders. Memphis is a very good team – but they’re not going back to the F4. Remember that you heard it here first.
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.
Hello hoops fans, and welcome to our first weekday version of your favorite semi-live journal, Boom Goes the Dynamite. We’re still feeling the effects of that six-overtime Goliath of a game last night, but we’re caffeinated and ready to rock with you all day while we move through what is traditionally the best day of the conference tournament weekend. It’ll be hard to top what we saw yesterday, though. Here are a few of the games you should be tracking; as you can see, today is an absolute blockbuster:
ACC – UNC vs. Virginia Tech – Noon, Maryland vs. Wake Forest – 7pm, Duke vs. BC, 9:30pm
Patriot – American vs. Holy Cross – 4:45pm
Big 10 – Michigan St. vs. Minnesota – Noon, Illinois vs. Michigan – 6:30pm, Purdue vs. Penn St. – 9pm
Big East - Louisville vs. Villanova – 7pm, Syracuse vs. West Virginia – 9pm
Big 12 – Baylor vs. Texas – 7pm, Oklahoma St. vs. Missouri – 9:30pm
Mountain West – San Diego St. vs. BYU – 9pm
Pac-10 – Arizona St. vs. Washington – 9pm, USC vs. UCLA – 11:30pm
SEC – Florida vs. Auburn – 9:45pm
Another couple of PSAs before we get started. Be sure to check the site throughout the weekend, as we’ll be doing these BGTDs each day, in addition to a revised bracketology on both Saturday and Sunday, all leading to a liveblogging of the Selection Show on Sunday. We’ll also be putting up the information for RTC’s Second Annual Bracket Challenge later this afternoon.
12:20 pm. Let’s get started here. UNC looks flat so far against Virginia Tech, and they should, given that Ty Lawson is over on the bench sitting next to Roy Williams. He is dressed, though, so it wouldn’t surprise us if his Big Toe makes an appearance. That crafty Roy – always using the element of surprise. Or something like that.
12:27 pm. Over at the Big Ten, Minnesota is leading Michigan State 22-20 in a high-scoring game. Yes, we said high-scoring and Big Ten in the same sentence. Wow, ESPN is already re-showing the Syracuse-UConn game on ESPN Classic. Tivo time. If these two games get worthless, we’re definitely moving back over there.
12:33 pm. They’re really hyping that game from last night – looks like they’re going to show the whole thing on ESPNU at 3pm. Getting back to business here, Virginia Tech looks poised right now, playing like a team that wants to keep playing in March should be playing. Carolina looks a little flat, but the question will be whether they can still make a patented run with Lawson sitting.
12:42 pm. Most of the ACC people are annoyed with the conference tournament being in Atlanta this year, but we think it’s refreshing that it’s not in the same old tired venue of Greensboro or Charlotte again. The home-state advantage that Carolina gets in those two building is ridiculous. Speaking of advantage, it looked like UNC was about to make a run until Va Tech came down and hit two consecutive threes. Ed Davis is going to be a player someday. He has really nice touch around the rim, and his per-40 rebounding average is in the 15 rpg territory!
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.