Posted on: March 13, 2010 1:15 pm
In August of 1836, the election for the Presidency of the newly independent Republic of Texas came down to two men: Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston. This battle of the two native Virginians turned Lone Star luminaries, both instrumental in helping Texas gain its independence, went to Houston who then appointed Austin his Secretary of State in what may or may not have been a token dick-move (sure sounds like it from where I'm standing).
Today, at 4:00 ET, 'Stone Cold' Stephen Austin and his Lumberjacks have a chance to avenge the political grievances of century's past when they face Sam Houston State for the Southland Tournament Championship.
Sam Houston St. defeated SFA in January en route to a regular season conference title, but with a mere 40 minutes separating the teams from a spot in the dance, expect this one to go down to the wire.
Southland Conference Tournament Championship
(2) Stephen F. Austin vs. (1) Sam Houston St.
Posted on: March 13, 2010 11:35 am
Edited on: March 13, 2010 1:05 pm
As you read this, the Conference-USA Final is beginning, hosting a matchup of the seventh-seeded Houston Cougars and the one-seeded faves UTEP. On paper, this should be no contest, right?
Not so fast. Don't count Houston out just yet.
UTEP Is, Quietly, One of the Hottest Teams in the Nation Right Now. Bet you didn't know that. The truth is that UTEP is on the second-longest winning streak in school history. On a sixteen-game winning trend, they haven't lost a game in two months. They're recognized as the only C-USA team guaranteed an NCAA tourney bid right now, nationally-ranked (25).
The Last Time UTEP Lost, It Was to Houston. That's right. Tom Penders' Cougars found UTEP's achilles heel just before the Miners took off on their streak. And that means, of course, that UTEP's not exactly the lock it might have been. So a bit of added intrigue steps into what looks like a cut-and-dry UTEP win.
UTEP hasn't been able to control Houston's Aubrey Coleman. The conference scoring leader averages 23.9 against the Miners over four matchups, so if he's feeling the flow and doing the bull dance today, he could be the spark the Cougars need to rob the trophy right out from under UTEP's nose. And they're going to need that if they want to be dancing tomorrow.
You never know where the UTEP threat is going to come from. It was Jeremy Williams against Central Florida. Randy Culpepper took the honors against Tulsa. And Derrick Caracter is third in that rotation, meaning today could be his day. A revolving cast of gunslingers could make things confusing for Houston.
Derrick Caracter's favorite television show is Nickelodeon's Doug. I remember that from the 2006 Louisville Media Guide. But who's his Skeeter? We'll see today.
The Conference USA Finals begin right now only on CBS -- Home of smash crime drama The Mentalist and runaway comedy hit Rules of Engagement!
Posted on: March 13, 2010 10:44 am
Edited on: March 13, 2010 11:42 am
Admit it: it's kind of like living in some sort of bizarre alternate reality to see a Pac-10 final with no trace of UCLA, USC or Arizona involved. Yet that's exactly what the field's come to at the Staples Center after a late night (EST) slate of games.
The Pac-10 has been derided much of this season as being wholly underwhelming, its trademark juggernauts all but non-existent in regular season play. When Cal's the blow-'em-away favorite by a mile, you know you're not in Kansas anymore. And the Pac-10 Tourney was never hyped to be anyone's show but the Golden Bears', a prophecy fulfilled as we head into tonight's showdown against the Washington.
Cal 85, UCLA 72
"In the second half we threw the first punch," said Cal guard Jerome Randle of a game which saw his team threatened by the Bruins at halftime. Mike Montgomery's crew looked rushed and frazzled as UCLA's Michael Roll hit a career high 27 points in an effort to poach the Bears and throw off supposed destiny, but between Cal's stellar free-throw shooting (13-14) and Jerome Randle's teaming with comrade Theo Robertson for a combined 39 points, UCLA couldn't contain the regular season champs in the second half.
Washington 79, Stanford 64
You know Stanford was worried about this game; after all, Washington had beaten them by a combined fifty points in the pairing's two regular season matchups. And so it was that a Stanford Cardinal team led by Landry Fields (which sounds like the name of a pee-wee football complex in a Dallas suburb) couldn't fend off the increasingly crushing weight of a third-seeded Washington last night, with Quincy Pondexter and Justin Holiday both nearing twenty points apiece to propel the Huskies into the finals. The basketball gods even tried to cut the Cardinal a break, with Andrew Zimmerman called for a fifth foul that was never officially reported to the scorer's table and handing him the ball back even as he waited to leave the court. By the end of the second half, the Huskies were clearly doing what all dogs do to trees.
Tonight's Final Preview
The Rightful Heir
Cal, far and away the regular-season Pac-10 champs, have never won a conference championship -- this is clearly their year for the taking, unless Washington's strong defense can keep Randle and Robertson in check. Though the entire conference has seen a weak year (imagine how Ben Howland feels watching the finals -- and the NCAA tourney -- from his couch), the numbers would suggest that Cal is the strong fave.
The Dogs Have the Scent
While the recent bracketology would have Cal making the tournament no matter what happens, Washington remains a bubble team who needs this win to find their berth. And the Huskies did beat the Bears once in regular season play. Washington's defense may be the best in the Pac-10, and it could slow -- if not shut down altogether -- Cal's big guns.
Watch This Guy: Washington's Matthew Bryan-Amaning
Dude's a monster. Against Stanford, he rejected Jeremy Green and almost took out a whole row of bystanders with the meteor he batted into the crowd. He almost killed a guy in press row rejecting Jarrett Mann. And he posterized Andrew Zimmerman in what may have been the greatest slam of NCAA play yesterday. He's a huge force for Washington.
Cal's Mike Montgomery Looks Like the Dad from Teen Wolf.
And we all know what happened when Scott Howard's pop let him in on the family secret: he embraced his power and became a basketball machine. If Montgomery can impart the same destiny to his boys tonight, they're going to van-surf all the way into the arms of a Pac-10 Championship.
California and Washington tip-off tonight from the Staples Center at 6:00 (EST).
Posted on: March 13, 2010 10:27 am
The toughest ticket in 20 years in the SEC occurs today, as the SEC Semifinals take place in Nashville, Tennessee. The three best teams in the conference, Kentucky, Tennessee and Vanderbilt, are all in the final four and all are within a four-hour drive from Nashville. Kentucky has approximately 25,000 fans who have travelled here, the vast majority of whom will not even find their way into the arena. Combine that with the Tennessee and Vandy contingents and it will be as one ticket scalper told me, "a day to make some real money."
As for games themselves, each has distinct subplots that will make the games worth watching, The Kentucky vs Tennessee matchup puts together two teams that play similar style, are equivalent athletically (a rarity amongst Kentucky opponents) and have a history of great games. Patrick Patterson said yesterday that he loves playing against the Vols because "they get me focused unlike anyone else. They talk trash before the game starts, while its going on and it doesnt even matter if they are winning or losing, no matter what." Tennessee on the other hand loves to not only compete against Kentucky, but Bruce Pearl has been known to throw a few jabs the Big Blue's way such as his comment after the first round fo this tournament that they were shooting threes so bad that "we looked lke Kentucky."
At stake is a birth in the finals, but possibly more importantly for both teams, it is the rubber match of the season series, which is tied at one. Both teams won on their homecourt and each can make a case they should win here. Tennessee is playing in its home state but will be the decided underdog from a crowd perspective, as Kentucky fans will make up the significant majority of the crowd. This game will be a wild scene and unlike anything the SEC has seen in years.
While the first game may be wilder, the Vanderbilt vs Mississippi State game may be more important. While Vandy is playing for seeding, the Bulldogs still want to get in the NCAA Tournament and it might take a win today over the Commodores to make it happen. The Bulldogs dominated Florida early and hung on late to get to this point, but this may be their true play-in game for the Tournament. Vandy won the original meeting between these two teams and will have a crowd advantage on Saturday. But desperate teams sometimes come up with desperate performances, and that may be just what it takes for the Bulldogs to get a win in their biggest game of the season.
It is going to be wild in Nashville today and elsewhere. Kansas vs Kansas State in the Big 12, San Diego State trying to make the NCAA Tournament out West and Evan Turner becoming transcendant in the Big 12. Great day of college basketball awaits:
Posted on: March 13, 2010 2:08 am
Edited on: March 13, 2010 2:11 am
Semis are set in Indy after a rather unexpected upsurge of excitement that began with a miracle and ended with a Tub.
Half-court game winning buzzer beater of the day
The heaving heroics of Evan Turner kept the Big Ten Tournament from dissolving into complete disarray, as Ohio State nipped Michigan 69-68. CBS's George Hamilton opines what we were all thinking as we watched the play unfold, what could John Beileine be thinking? Employing the prevent defense and taking your chances on a heave might work out against most foes, but Evan Turner with a clean look from 35-feet goes in 50% of the time.
Most Outstanding Performance in the Face of the NIT
The Fighting Illini likely sealed an invitation to the dance with 58-54 win over the 4th seeded Badgers. For 36 minutes, Wisconsin was Indiana. The Badgers could only muster a paltry 20 points in the first half on 18% shooting. A too-little-too-late flurry of 3's made the score respectable, but Illinois controlled throughout, locking up at least 5 Big Ten bids.
Score one for the Tub-ster and his Minnesota Golden Gophers who upset Michigan State in OT, 72-67. The loss prolongs the Spartan's confounding BT Tournament woes, now nine seasons removed from their last tournament title.
Make it a round of Boilermakers...
Purdue dismissed Northwestern thanks to 28 points from guard E'Twaun Moore, and 22 from center JaJuan Johnson. Finding points is going to be an ongoing concern for the Boilers and it's good to see their studs step up in the clutch. I guess.
Lunch pails and hard hats
-E'Twaun Moore, Purdue: 28 pts, 5 rebs
-Mike Tisdale, Illinois: 21 pts
-JaJuan Johnson, Purdue: 22 pts, 8 rebs
-Manny Harris, Michigan: 26 pts, 6 rebs
-Evan Turner, Ohio St: 18 pts, 8 assits
Big Ten Semifinals
(5) Illinois vs. (1) Ohio State
The Buckeyes soundly swept the Illini in the regular season and it's hard to imagine they'd play as poorly as they did today. Illinois punched their ticket and fight for position but can they rebound their emotions? Turner will do what he do, and Illini guard Demtri McCamey needs to fight his stroke to help big man Mike Tisdale, who has really become a force of late. Expect a better effort from the Bucks but I expect McCamey to push this one down to the wire. 1:40
(6) Minnesota vs. (2) Purdue
Minnesota could steal another bid for the league with a trip to the finals, so expect piqued intensity in the Gopher's ball-line defense. First team to 60, ehh, 55, likely wins, and with E'Twaun Moore's ability to create, I think it'll be the Boilermakers. 4:00
And in case you've just awoke from a coma, congrats, and here's what you missed in the Big Ten today, you drama queen, you:
Posted on: March 13, 2010 12:54 am
Edited on: March 13, 2010 1:00 am
Friday's afternoon and early evening sessions had their fair share of excitement with Evan Turner's buzzer-beater, John Wall's heroics, Lehigh's berth-clinching win and San Diego's upset of New Mexico. The madness didn't end at sundown, though, and three of the major conferences packed in the drama in their late games. Here's what you missed:
Minnesota upsets Michigan State - It took an extra period, but Tubby Smith's team was finally able to put away Michigan State in the Big 10 tournament semifinals on Friday, keeping their NCAA tourney hopes alive.
For the Golden Gophers, taking the lead wasn't the problem. It was holding on to it and closing out the Spartans that seemed to be difficult. Minnesota took a 13-12 lead with just under 10 minutes to go in the first half and wouldn't trail again until Michigan State scored the first points of the overtime period. When Raymar Morgan's bucket fell through the net with a whistle on the play, it seemed as if the Gophers' opportunity was gone. After all, they were up seven with 3:30 to go and wouldn't score again, missing five shots and committing one turnover in their six possessions down the stretch. They had their shot and now Michigan State was finally ready to take this game.
But, to their credit, Tubby's troops did not fold and countered Morgan's "And One" and Michigan State's three-point lead with a 10-0 run. By the time the dust settled, all the Spartans could do was foul and, all of a sudden, Tubby Smith's team looked to have new post-season life.
The Gophers will now take their shot at a Robbie Hummel-less Purdue squad Saturday - the same one they lost to by just one point a couple of weeks ago. As of now, the Gophers could be in or they could be out. A win over Purdue would likely lock up an at-large berth for them.
West Virginia holds off Notre Dame - Just 24 hours removed from Da'Sean Butler's buzzer beater saving them from the early tourney exit of their fellow Big East top seeds, West Virginia was almost victimized by a similar shot.
But, when Tory Jackson's three caught rim and bounced around, running out the final four seconds of clock, what is shaping up to be a fairly magical run for Bob Huggins' team stood intact. The Mountaineers, the only one of the top four seeds to win their first game Thursday, now have only Georgetown, a team they blew out two weeks ago, standing between them and a Big East tournament title.
Saturday's matchup at the Garden will have more at stake than a conference title for the Mountaineers, though. If WVU beats the Hoyas again and Duke falters in an ACC tournament that's even more pathetic than we thought, they will likely be staring a #1 seed in the face. Even if the Blue Devils win the ACC, the Mountaineers still have the opportunity to jump them for that top seed. They just need to make sure they bring their "A" game to the Garden Saturday. Winning because a buzzer beater catches rim isn't a good way to show it.
Kansas State puts away Baylor - The Big 12 semifinal between Kansas and Baylor didn't have any last possession or overtime drama, but it had the feel for 38 minutes that it would be decided by whoever had the ball last. But, with two minutes left, Jacobham Pullen eliminated all doubt with a clutch three-pointer.
Baylor looked like they were going to snatch one from the Wildcats after Ekpe Udoh's dunk cut the lead to two with just under four minutes to go. On Kansas State's next possession, a blocked shot by Quincy Acy got the ball back to Baylor who drew a foul. Senior leader Tweety Carter, who had an awful game, stepped to the line, down two, and clanked both free throws. Kansas State came down and Pullen hit the three that sucked the life from the Bears and put them away for good.
The Wildcats will now advance to their first Big XII title game and face off against rival Kansas, who they've both pushed to overtime and been blown out by this year. Their seedings might already be set for the most part, but you can expect emotions to be very, very high in Kansas City tomorrow.
Posted on: March 12, 2010 10:22 pm
I hate to criticize a college kid, I really do. But the fact of the matter is, whatever Florida's Dan Werner touches, turns to stone. It certainly wasn't Werner's fault that Florida fell down by 19 points to Mississippi State in an important bubble battle in the SEC Tournament. The Gators did that themselves. And it isn't Werner's fault that Florida's collection of talent seems to drop every season, somehow negating the effect of back-to-back titles that seemed to have established the Gators as one of the nation's elite. But it was his fault that after the Gators had cut the game to three, he had a pass hit his hands as he stood wide open, ready to cut the game to one. For Werner it was another mistake on a career that has been haunted by such plays. He has become the Saul Smith of Florida basketball and one has to feel bad for him.
As for the Gators, they are probably still in the Tournament after the 75-69 loss, but it isn't assured. Their resume is ok, but ok sometimes leaves good teams out of the Tournament, as Florida itself can attest after back-to-back NIT bids. As for Mississippi State, one more win is likely needed and a trip to the SEC Finals should have them dancing. The most disappointing team in the conference has found ways to underachieve all year, but they can make up for a lot with one more win. The fifteen people in Starkville who care about basketball are holding their collective breath.
Posted on: March 12, 2010 10:17 pm
Edited on: March 12, 2010 10:19 pm
See, it's clever because there was this book...
Georgia Tech all but solidified its spot in the field of 65 by topping second-seeded Maryland, 69-64 in an ACC quarterfinal Friday night.
The Yellow Jackets led by 19 in the first half and 16 at the break, but a furious rally by the Terrapins in the opening minutes of the second-half left things nip-and-tuck from the ten-minute mark on.
With Tech up 67-64 and under 15 seconds to play, ACC Player of the Year Grievis Vasquez pulled up for a potential game-tying three-pointer but had the ball stripped by Iman Shumpert. Vasquez then committed an intentional foul and Shumpert buried a pair of free-throws to seal the deal.
Georgia Tech negated 26 turnovers by shooting a season-best 56% from the field. Shumpert led the Jackets with 14 points while freshman star Derrick Favors added 11 points and 11 rebounds.
E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson combined for 50 of Purdue's 69 points as the Boilermakers overcame an early 11-point deficit and then held off a furious late Northwestern run to advance to Saturday's Big Ten semifinal against either Michigan State or Minnesota.
Following the game, Purdue fans said they didn't care which team they faced tomorrow night, just as long as the entire nation is still aware that Robbie Hummel is out for the season.
Georgetown and Marquette built upon a dazzling three days of Big East Tournament basketball by wowing the Garden crowd and a primetime ESPN audience with an 80-57 dud.
Not for your fault, Hoyas.
Georgetown, the No. 8 seed, advanced to the title game for the third time in four years. The storied program has brought the tournament title back to D.C. seven times.
Greg Monroe continued his campaign for tournament MVP by scoring 23 points, grabbing 13 rebounds and handing out seven assists. Not that the Hoyas needed it all. Jason Clark and Chris Wright both scored 15 points and Austin Freeman added 12.
Coming into the night, Marquette hadn't lost a game by more than nine all season. They fought to get it within five midway through the second half, but were outscored 24-6 from that point on. Jimmy "Jimmah" Butler led the Golden Eagles with 17 points.
Georgetown awaits the winner of tonight's West Virginia/Notre Dame clash.
SPOILER ALERT: They're going to lose to either one.
Down two with the ball and under 40 seconds to play, Dayton point guard Rob Lowery signaled for, and was granted, a timeout. Should've been the end of the story, but if it was it probably wouldn't have been the lead sentence. Xavier's Terrell Holloway slapped the ball out of Lowery's hands, an action the Flyer floor general apparently deemed worthy of punishment by half-hearted right cross.
Lowery received a technical, Holloway knocked down four straight free-throws and the Musketeers moved onto the A-10 semis.
Not that it should have ever come down to that.
UD led 61-46 with ten and-a-half minutes to play before they went ice cold from the field and turned to an ultra-conservative style of play. Xavier promptly went on a 19-3 run to claim a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
Dayton will not dance (figuratively...and literally, I guess) in large part because of nine losses that were decided by five points or fewer.
Jarvis Varnado blocked 52 shots and Florida may or may not have seen its bubble burst.
Only facts you need.