Tag:WCC
Posted on: March 6, 2012 12:08 am
Edited on: March 6, 2012 12:20 am
 

Tiny Dancers: Saint Mary's Gaels

For the first time in program history, Saint Mary's takes home the regular-season and postseason championships in the WCC. It was the third WCC title for the Gaels overall, as they won an epic overtime game and WCC final against blood rival Gonzaga Monday night. No matter what happens in the NCAA tournament, this is a huge year -- more than just a double-banner one -- for SMC, which for so long has fought to catch up to Gonzaga. Within the conference, it achieved that with this title. Saint Mary's has traded and landed enough blows to be side by side with Gonzaga in stature for the near-future.

Now it's on to the bracket that matters most, so where can you expect to see the Gaels seeded? A five seems likely, but the team's overall profile actually feels more like a six. While Saint Mary's looked good for most of conference play, the team didn't greatly challenge itself outside of the WCC, and when it did, it lost (72-59 to Baylor; 65-51 at Murray State). It only has four top-100 wins, all coming against Gonzaga and BYU.

It's a very fun team, though. They will be in, from start to finish. whatever game they're slotted with. Remember the 2010 Gaels with Omar Samhan? That team wasn't quite as good as this one, and even if it had more entertainment value, this batch of Gaels comes close. Point guard Matthew Dellavedova, a guy who looks like he wouldn't back down from anyone in a bar fight, is the spark. Rob Jones is pound-for-pound one of the toughest 6-6 guys in the sport. It's a group that doesn't ooze talent but shoves and elbows its way to victories. It truly earned its conference championships this season.

Matthew Dellavedova and his patented massive mouthguard look will be a five or a six seed. (Getty Images)

Player to know: Dellavedova. He's the league's best player, a very creative guy on the court and the one who will be responsible for getting this team to the second weekend -- which could be a challenge. He's a danger whenever he's got the ball because he's liable to shoot it, drop a nasty dime or fool you into a helpless defensive position that allows him to get off a quirky shot. There aren't five players in the country more fun to watch play than Delly.

The Vitals:

  • Record: 27-5 overall, 14-2 in MAAC
  • Most recent tournament appearance: 2010, No. 10 seed, reached the Sweet 16, where it lost to No. 3 Baylor, 72-49.
  • We’re thinking: 5 seed
  • KenPom ranking: 44
  • Sagarin ranking: 35
  • RPI: 31
  • Best wins: at BYU, vs. Gonzaga
  • Worst losses: vs. Loyola Marymount, at Denver
  • Notable stat: The secret weapon for Saint Mary's is Clint Steindl. The senior forward isn't a focal point of the offense, but he averages more than 1.3 points per possession -- a top five rate in the nation. 
-- Matt Norlander

Posted on: March 4, 2012 9:34 pm
Edited on: March 4, 2012 10:09 pm
 

WCC title game preview: SMC vs. Gonzaga

It is again how it's been for so many years now: Gonzaga vs. Saint Mary's to decide the WCC champ. What's on the line aside from the obvious? I'd say a definitive mark in the seed sand. Whoever wins this is likely to get a five seed, while the loser could be a six, maybe even a seven. (You can make the case Saint Mary's should be a six if it wins, yes.)

The game tips at 9 ET on ESPN.

The battle of two entertaining guards will guide the title game. Gonzaga's Kevin Pangos is on his way to becoming a household name. He had 30 points in Gonzaga's 77-58 win over BYU Saturday night. He's turning into the Bulldogs' primary scoring option, and that will only grow as the years come. Pangos has in fact had a few nights this season where he's gone bombs-away and killed off some teams. He has an offensive rating of 122.8, which is quite good.

Pangos' foil is Saint Mary's junior guard Matthew Dellavedova. Delly almost never leaves the floor for SMC. He's reliable and fun as hell to watch. He is also the Player of the Year in the WCC. If you're looking for other reasons to watch, Elias Harris vs. Rob Jones, a couple of forwards, could get interesting. 

What this boils down to is we'll likely have a very entertaining game between two teams capable of making the second weekend of the NCAAs. With all this tense, rousing basketball in so many conference tournaments, it is nice to get a few games out there that are for pride, some seeding and bragging rights. Neither of these teams will be pressing if they lose by 10, and that's OK.

One more note about the final. In a rare smart move by organizers of tournaments, the center-court sticker has been taken off for the ultimate game at the Orleans Arena. There had been multiple slips on the surface in the previous rounds, and so to avoid any serious injury, the teams will play the game on its natural appearance. What a concept.

-- Matt Norlander
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 28, 2012 10:00 am
Edited on: February 28, 2012 10:00 am
 

What-to-know tourney previews: West Coast

Only once before, in 2008, has West Coast Conference earned three bids to the Big Bracket.

It could and should happen again this year.

Brigham Young, the newbie on the block in its first year as a WCC rent-paying member, is the team with the hazy postseason future (Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga are definitely seeing their names on CBS the night of Selection Sunday). BYU likely needs to get to the conference title game in order to make a good claim at entering the field. I think it will do that, because what the hey, this is a league tournament preview and we’re supposed to be optimistic about these things.

The WCC bracket actually stands a decent chance at getting hairy, too, and no that’s not an excuse for you to take off your shirt while you watch the late-night games beginning on Wednesday. It’s also got nothing to do with the conference taking its championship to Las Vegas for the fourth straight year, a continually smart move by the WCC. If things truly do go to plan, we’ll see leaked photos of Gonzaga’s Robert Sacre owning the craps tables at The Cosmopolitan.

The past three years have been a tune-up to BYU’s arrival in the sense that Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s have tussled between winning the titles — and now we’ve got a viable third option to take it all. But — and I swear this isn’t just empty prognostication — Loyola Marymount could be a spoiler in some sense. It finished 11-5 in the league and did beat BYU and SMC. The Gaels and Lions would meet in the semis if chalk won out.

Gonzaga won it all in 2011 and has taken 10 of the past 13 WCC tourney titles. (AP)

The bottom half of the league (San Francisco, San Diego, Portland, Santa Clara, Pepperdine) isn’t that intimidating. Santa Clara was winless this year, and USF has the best record of the crop with an 8-8 league record. None of the teams are top 140 in KenPom and every single one of them is brutal defensively, easily allowing more than a point per possession.

So it’s the top three and LMU as the wild card. Gonzaga’s won this league championship 10 of the past 13 years. And how about a crazy stat? Only two teams the past five years have won 25 games in every season. Duke and Saint Mary’s. Just as nutty: Gonzaga and BYU will equal that mark if Gonzaga wins two and BYU wins one in the bracket. Going to be a good one; the WCC field usually gives an enthralling game or two, and seven of the eight contests will be on television this year.

****

TOURNAMENT BRACKET

Schedule: Feb. 29-March 5
Title game:
Monday, March 5, ESPN2.

BEST PLAYERS  

  1. Matthew Dellevadova, Saint Mary’s
  2. Elias Harris, Gonzaga
  3. Robert Sacre, Gonzaga
  4. Brandon Davies, BYU
  5. Noah Hartsock, BYU

Conference RPI: 11

KenPom.com rating: 11

Sagarin rating: 11

NCAA Tournament Locks: Saint Mary’s, Gonzaga

NCAA Tournament Bubble Teams: BYU

Last NCAA Tournament Appearance:

  • Brigham Young Cougars: 2011, 3 seed, won second-round game over Wofford, 74-66. Won third-round game over Gonzaga, 89-67. Lost in Sweet 16 to Florida, 83-74.
  • Gonzaga Bulldogs: 2011, 11 seed, won second-round game over St. John’s, 86-71. Lost in third round to Brigham Young, 89-67.
  • Loyola Marymount: 1990, 11 seed, reached Elite Eight, lost to UNLV, 131-101
  • Portland Pilots: 1996, 14 seed, lost in first round to Villanova, 92-58.
  • Pepperdine Waves: 2002, 10 seed, lost in first round to Wake Forest, 83-74.
  • Saint Mary's Gaels: 2010, 10 seed, won first-round game over Richmond, 80-71. Won second-round game over Villanova, 75-68. Lost in Sweet 16 to Baylor, 72-49.
  • San Diego Toreros: 2008, 13 seed, won first-round game over UConn, 70-69 (OT), lost second-round game, 72-63, to Western Kentucky.
  • San Francisco Dons: 2008, 14 seed, lost first-round game to Utah, 85-68.
  • Santa Clara Broncos: 1996, 10 seed, won first-round game over Maryland, 91-79, lost in second round to Kansas, 76-51.

By Matt Norlander

Posted on: February 28, 2012 8:45 am
Edited on: February 28, 2012 8:57 am
 

Wakeup: Ultimate reference list to conf tourneys

Hoyas fans dressed proudly and in unison for Senior Night. (US PRESSWIRE)

By Matt Norlander


Time-traveling hipster will be all over your Tumblrs and Facebook feeds by Wednesday afternoon. // Volcano eruption imminent. // Seems like such a nice guy. // One of my former colleagues helped write a riveting story about a cannibal. Read it ...

★ Marcus Morris allegedly got punch-happy at a bar after Kansas knocked out Missouri.

★ Wow. This is an incredible piece of reference. It has every single school playing in conference tournament with links to online streams, radio stations. Very valuable.

Derek Needham done for the year for Fairfield, which means the fourth-seeded Stags' hopes to win the MAAC just became realllly slim.

★ I DO NOT BELIEVE THIS PHOTO OF MICHAEL SWEETNEY.

Depressing but not at all surprising.

★ Heady analysis here by Jason Lisk; his definition of the bubble completely matches mine.

★ This Dan Hanner chunky soup of a column reinforces my undying love for college basketball. Sorry to get crude, but it's a terrific poop-and-read.

★ Yes is this a superb column from Pat Forde on Sean Woods.

★ The best big man you've never seen play.

★ This column on Calipari from Doyel makes you think.

★ Keiton Page is now the 3-point leader for Oklahoma State, all-time.

Duke as a No. 1 seed is an impossibility to get a handle on until the Blue Devils' home game against the Tar Heels completes this Saturday.

★ Montana and Weber State play tonight. That game has big implications.

★ Thinking this Kindle/eBook on college basketball tournament trivia is the perfect thing for you.

★ Really like the assortment of good reads in today's Wakeup Call. Scott Powers put together this piece for ESPNChicago.com.

★ New Orleans begins its prep for the Final Four.

♬ The best radio hit OK Go's had is "Do What You Want." Good power pop band. Feel better about yourself; it's Tuesday.

Posted on: February 27, 2012 9:41 am
Edited on: February 27, 2012 12:52 pm
 

Non-BCS Power Pyramid, Final Edition


By Matt Norlander

This is the final edition of the 2011-12 Non-BCS Power Pyramid. That sentence will come with not one reaction of anguish or woe on your end, I know, but in the interest of our Monday routine at the blog, I figured I'd bring it up. Instead of giving the usual rankings from my subjective viewpoint, I’ve decided to slot the teams today in order of how I think they’ll ultimately be seeded. Every team in the Pyramid I do believe will play its way into the field, so that means two CAA teams should expect bids. (Don’t you go dying on my, VCU and Drexel.)

It's been a fun and time-consuming process to put together this rankings system every Sunday night for the past 16 weeks, but the responses back and email have made it worth it. It will most definitely be returning next season, only you can expect vast improvements. At least in my own mind they will be.

So here's the final tally, the 15 best teams from outside the Big Six -- and how I expect them to get slotted into the greatest sporting event in the world.

Geographically protected

1. Wichita State, 26-4, four seed. A Sentence: I’m curious to see how the public reaction will be to this team once it gets a good seed, because so often when non-Big Six teams get high billing a backlash effect follows. A Statistic: The Shockers went undefeated in February, only lost once in January and once in December. The Schedule: No. 1 seed in the Missouri Valley tournament! Runs from March 1 to 4.

Wichita won its first MVC regular-season title since '06. The league has had a different champ six straight seasons. (AP)

2. Murray State, 28-1, five seed. A Sentence: The Racers’ seed has become a big curiosity of mine. A Statistic: The impressive afterthought of this team’s accomplishments this season: it was undefeated on the road and in neutral-court play. No other team can say the same. The Schedule: No. 1 seed in the Ohio Valley tournament! Runs from Feb. 29 to March 3.

3. Gonzaga, 23-5, five seed. A Sentence: No one’s truly bought into this team, so can this be a second-weekend year for Gonzaga, being that there’s a lack of pressure? A Statistic: Every Gonzaga starter is scoring more than 1.1 points per possession. It’s a very good sign for things to come. The Schedule: vs. Longwood, Monday; No. 2 seed in WCC tournament! Runs from Feb. 29 to March 5.

The rest of the single-digit seeds

4. UNLV, 24-6, six seed. A Sentence: UNLV hasn’t won on the road in a month, and though that will hurt its seeding I don’ think that’s a factor at all in how this team will play in March. A Statistic: An efficient 65.7 percent of UNLV’s baskets come via an assist. That’s the second-highest in the nation. The Schedule: at Colorado State, Wednesday; vs. Wyoming, Saturday.

5. Temple, 22-6, six seed. A Sentence: I’ve got Temple this high because I think it’s going to with the A10 tournament (it already nearly has the A10 regular-season title). A Statistic: Saturday’s loss to St. Joseph’s marked the first time since 2008 Temple didn’t sweep the Hawks. The Schedule: vs. UMass, Wednesday; at Fordham, Saturday.

Matthew Dellavedova and the Gaels could leapfrog Gonzaga in seeding, but they'll have to win the WCC tourney in order to do so. (US PRESSWIRE)

6. Saint Mary’s, 25-5, six seed. A Sentence: . A Statistic: The Gaels shoot 54.6 percent from the field from 2-point range. It’s eight-best in the country, but it’s also as good as SMC’s ever been under Randy Bennett in the tempo-free era. They are big and can score — and can also grab the O boards 36 percent of the time. The Schedule: No. 1 seed in the WCC tournament! Runs from Feb. 29 to March 5.

7. San Diego State, 22-6, eight seed. A Sentence: SDSU closes up its season with a TCU road game, which New Mexico and UNLV already fell prey to, so beware. A Statistic: The Aztecs have never cracked the 30s of KenPom.com this year, and only been in the 40s twice. That indicates this team isn’t likely to win when it gets to The Tournament. The Schedule: at Boise State, Wednesday; at TCU, Saturday.

8. Creighton, 25-5, nine seed. A Sentence: I only hope Creighton doesn’t have a similar ending to Drake in 2008. A Statistic: You want to know why Creighton’s fallen off the radar? Yeah, it had that three-game losing streak, but forget that. The past three Bluejays wins have come by a total of four points, one of them needing overtime. The Schedule: No. 2 seed in the Missouri Valley tournament! Runs from March 1 to 4.

9. Virginia Commonwealth, 25-6, nine seed. A Sentence: I feel real good about writing this on the Rams last week. A Statistic: What I’d love for the committee to pay attention to: details beyond the schedule and teams. VCU finishes the season with a 16.1 percent steal rate, the highest in the nation. A team that good indicates it plays very well defensively and certainly is one of the 37 best at-larges. The Schedule: No. 2 seed in the CAA tournament! Runs from March 2 to 5.

Double-digit territory

10. New Mexico, 22-6, 10 seed. A Sentence: The great dichotomy with New Mexico is that it’s a really talented team with an overall underwhelming resume, considering that talent. A Statistic: Lobos allow .87 points per possession, far and away the best of any Pyramid team, and it’s been that way most of the season. The Schedule: vs. Air Force, Wednesday; vs. Boise State, Saturday.

11. Harvard, 24-4, 12 seed. A Sentence: Another Ivy playoff is now a possibility, but I still think the Crimson will make the field and avoid a repeat of 2011’s heartbreak. A Statistic: With 61.4 possessions per game, Harvard is the slowest Pyramid team and one of the slowest in the nation, ranking 328 out of 345. The Schedule: at Columbia, Friday; at Cornell, Saturday.

12. Oral Roberts, 26-5, 12 seed. A Sentence: It’s going to take a heck of a five seed for me not to pick Oral Bobs to win its first game (the same goes for if ORU is sent to the First Four). A Statistic: How many teams have only lost once since Dec. 15? You’ve got Syracuse, ORU and the team listed directly below. The Schedule: No. 1 in the Summit League tournament! Runs from March 3 to 6.

13. Drexel, 25-5, 13 seed. A Sentence:  I only have ’em as a 13 because I think the Dragons get in as an at-large after losing the CAA title game. A Statistic: No Pyramid team has less of a bench than the Dragons, who only get their pine guys into the game 24.4 percent of the time. With mid-majors I often don’t think this is a problem, though. The best guys get adrenaline rushes and need to play as much as possible, and at their best, to stand a chance at winning. The Schedule: No. 1 seed in the CAA tournament! Runs from March 2 to 5.

14. Southern Miss, 22-5, 13 seed. A Sentence: While I’ve always appreciated the Southern Miss story, this is a team I don’t have much belief in. A Statistic: How can you turn your head from the awful 2-point shooting stat? At 43 percent, the Golden Eagles are pulling off one of the greatest capers ever by fighting for bubble position while being one of the worst teams from inside the 3 I can remember. The Schedule: vs. SMU, Wednesday; at Marshall, Saturday.

15. Iona, 24-6, 13 seed. A Sentence: I'll be furious with the Gaels if they squander this talent and miss the NCAA for the second straight year after winning the league. A Statistic: Cannot get over the fact this team went on a 31-0 run against St. Peter's Sunday. The Peacocks are a bad team this year but they're still stubborn defensively. A 31-0 run? How many times has that ever happened in college basketball? The Schedule: No. 1 seed in the MAAC tournament! Runs from March 2 to 5.

Posted on: February 20, 2012 9:51 am
Edited on: February 20, 2012 11:06 am
 

Non-BCS Power Pyramid, Week 14

 

By Matt Norlander

Color me confused. I didn’t expect this much rotation and shift in the Power Pyramid during its penultimate posting. (The last edition is next Monday, and then it goes in the freezer throughout the conference tournaments, sure to return around Thanksgiving.) But here we are, with multiple top-level teams in the rankings suffering back-to-back losses and generally regressing since the calendar turned to February.

For most of this season we had a lot of talented teams winning a high rates and creating separation between themselves and most teams in their conferences. Now we’re seeing the mean creep in, and few teams are going to get to March with four losses or less. At the mock selection process last week in Indianapolis, a number of these squads weren't viewed in high favor by the committee. That doesn't necessarily have to be the case, so long as Middle Tennessee State, Drexel and Oral Roberts all reach their conference title games.

Top Tier

1. Wichita State (24-4). A Sentence: Go back and check the first Power Pyramid, you’ll see I’ve championed the Shockers from the get-go. A Statistic: At one point this season, Wichita State had 2.56 years of experience on this team, per KenPom. Now it’s at 2.51. The Shockers have actually figured out how to get younger, and I think we all know the answer lies somewhere in Gregg Marshall’s hair. The Schedule: at Illinois State, Wednesday; vs. Drake, Saturday.

2. Murray State (26-1). A Sentence: I’ll contradict my SDSU sentiment and say, despite the 59 KenPom ranking, I think Murray State has Sweet 16 potential in those bones. A Statistic:  All five Racers starters score more than 1.1 points per possession — that’s just sexy.  The Schedule: at Tennessee  State, Thursday; at Tennessee Tech, Saturday.

3. Temple (21-5). A Sentence: It’s actually reached a point where Temple’s being criminally underappreciated, so I’m doing what I can by putting them this high in the Pyramid. A Statistic: When he was snaring 34.6 of defensive-rebound opportunities in early December, Michael Eric was the best on that end of the floor in the country. Now it’s 28 percent and he’s no longer elite, despite the fact he’s still critical to this team’s big-picture legitimacy. The Schedule: at La Salle, Wednesday; at St. Joseph’s, Saturday.

Ron Swanson Approves

4. New Mexico (22-4). A Sentence: At this point, if you’re detracting from New Mexico then I’m going to go ahead and assume chocolately desserts aren't your bag either. A Statistic: Rankings-wise, UNM is a much better team from 3 (39.5 percent is 16th-best) than 2 (49.7 percent is No. 100 in D-I). The Schedule: at Colorado State, Tuesday; at TCU, Saturday.

5. UNLV (22-6). A Sentence: I’m actually loving the fact UNLV’s tripping a bit here, because now fewer people think this team is capable of reaching the second weekend (suckers!). A Statistic:  UNLV’s first three losses came in a span of 64 days. The next three losses took two weeks. The Schedule: vs. Boise State, Wednesday; vs. Air Force, Saturday.

6. Gonzaga (21-5). A Sentence: Just when you want to believe in Gonzaga, it goes out and reminds you that it’s still plenty fallible (loss at San Francisco, but still, this team's talented). A Statistic: At least the Bulldogs have remained aggressive. They’re 48-percent free-throw rate is top-five in the nation, where Gonzaga’s been sitting all season. The Schedule: vs. BYU, Thursday; at San Diego, Saturday.

7. Harvard (23-3). A Sentence: Don’t let the three losses trick you into thinking this team is better than five-loss 2010 Cornell. A Statistic: Harvard’s deep, and that’s great, but it’s also been healthy. Seven vital players on the team have played in every game so far. The Schedule: vs. Princeton, Friday; vs. Penn, Saturday.

Bruiser Flint's Dragons are closing in on 20 straght Ws. (AP)

8. Saint Mary’s (23-5). A Sentence: Like UNLV, SMC lost back-to-back games this week and has dropped three of four.  A Statistic: I’m looking at where a lot of teams have gotten better or worse in a stat as opposed to two or three months ago. Saint Mary’s used to be the third-best defensive rebounding team in the country. Now it’s 18th (73 percent). The Schedule: at Portland, Thursday; at San Francisco, Saturday.

9. Oral Roberts (25-5). A Sentence: If ORU’s anything worse than a 12, and if it wins the Summit title, then it’s a screw job by the committee. A Statistic: What remains most impressive about ORU is the fact it doesn’t have a player taller than 6-9, yet it’s most efficient at blocking. The Schedule: at Southern Utah, Saturday.

10. San Diego State (20-6). A Sentence: I should’ve sold on SDSU last week, because now it’s lost three straight and the frontcourt issues become more glaring as the games go by. A Statistic: The average KenPom rating for SDSU on the year. What do you think it is? I’ll give you a second here. … OK, it’s actually 57. Right now, the Aztecs are 61. Always been too low for my taste, but I wonder if this is a sign that SDSU will be hard-pressed to reach the second weekend. The Schedule: vs. Wyoming, Wednesday; vs. Colorado State, Saturday.

Base Blocks

11. Creighton (23-5). A Sentence: That win over Long Beach State, I think, was about as great of a way to stop the bleeding as the ’Jays could have asked for.  A Statistic: One of my favorite stats to track this season was Creighton’s shooting. They’ve remained, all year, long, the best eFG team in the country. At 58.7, they cling to the lead by .4 over Denver. The Schedule: vs. Evansville, Tuesday; at Indiana State, Saturday.

12. Virginia Commonwealth (23-6). A Sentence: It might be tough to believe, but I don’t see VCU with a chance at an at-large (I know, where have you heard this before?) unless it reaches the CAA title game. A Statistic: This is fodder for a post I’m doing later this week (so none of you bloggers reading this can take it), but VCU of 2011 is the opposite of VCU of 2012. Last year’s offense and defensive adjusted rankings: 32 and 86, respectively. This year: 91 and 28. The Schedule: at UNC Wilmington, Wednesday; vs. George Mason, Saturday.

13. Middle Tennessee State (24-4): A Sentence: All one-loss conference teams that are above .500 in non-con play deserve the courtesy of a look; MTSU will be 17-1 if it wins two more. A Statistic: The Blue Raiders are so good because they’re weak league allows eight player to shoot better than 50 percent in eFG%. The Schedule: at Louisiana Monroe, Thursday; at Western Kentucky, Saturday.

14. Drexel (23-5). A Sentence: New to the Pyramid, can the Dragons get in without a CAA title? A Statistic: The Dragons get in during the second-to-last go-around of the Pyramid because they’re the best Pyramid team at defending shots, allowing 42.9 percent effective field goal percentage from opponents. The Schedule: vs. James Madison, Wednesday; at Old Dominion, Saturday.

15. Southern Miss (22-5). A Sentence: I’m doing my best not to overreact to a two-point loss at Houston. A Statistic: And yet, I know if Southern Miss makes the tournament there’s now no chance I’m taking them to win a game. They’re 43.6 percent from the field from 2-point range. That’s putrid — and USM isn’t a top-100 defense as is. Smoke and mirrors, I’m afraid. The Schedule: at UTEP, Wednesday; vs. Rice, Saturday.

Roaming outside the Pyramid:

♦ Out: Long Beach State. In: Drexel.
♦ With one more week to go, chance for tossing teams in and out is slim-to-none. Would take some bad losses on Drexel, MTSU, VCU and Southern Miss’ behalf to get expelled.

Posted on: February 18, 2012 5:41 pm
Edited on: February 19, 2012 12:39 am
 

Night Court: Bubbles, upsets & BracketBusters



By Jeff Borzello and Matt Norlander

We broke down every bubble game as the day went on, over at the Poppin' Bubbles page. For all the analysis and ramifications of the bubble's winners and losers, check it there. We'll recap all the non-bubble things here. 

Game of the Night: Everyone knew that Long Beach State vs. Creighton would be filled with plenty of offense and two teams that really wanted to prove themselves on national television. It certainly didn't disappoint -- what a game. LBSU was in control for most of the game, leading by as many as 10 points in the second half. However, Doug McDermott and Creighton kept coming and kept coming. A missed layup by Casper Ware and a turnover allowed Creighton to get the last shot. Antoine Young took advantage, and -- well, I'll let the video above tell the rest of the story. 

Game of the Night, Vol. 2:
Dayton. Xavier. City rivals. Both desperate for a bubble win. The game lived up to the drama, with the two teams going back and forth for 40 minutes -- and then an extra five after Dayton's Kevin Dillard made a layup with 1.2 seconds left to tie the game. Tu Holloway controlled the overtime, reverting to the clutch form he showed during Xavier's 8-0 start to the season. If he continues to play like that, might the Musketeers regain their magic? 

Game of the Day: 
Kansas State, perhaps you’ll no longer be underrated. That was the case at the mock selection meetings this week in Indianapolis. The Wildcats were placed into the 8/9 game, and now they’re certainly on the seven line at worst after beating Baylor 57-56 in Waco.

New Mexico, best of the West?: New Mexico, I’ve praised you in recent Power Pyramids, and now I’m fully in love with what the Lobos are capable of. They didn't mess around against UNLV, winning at home 65-45 and taking full control of the Mountain West chase. I've seen a lot of people mention the fact they liked New Mexico at the start of the season. I actually didn't. I came around on them soon, but didn't think they'd be this good. UNLV's a really nice team; the Lobos made them look like Air Force this afternoon at The Pit. 

Michigan, darkhorse Big Ten contender?: With Michigan beating Ohio State at home on Saturday night, the Wolverines could be a potential sleeper in the Big Ten title race. They are only a half-game back of Michigan State in the standings, and are now tied with Ohio State for second place. They also don't play any of the contenders the rest of the way. 

Murray State shows out: Saint Mary's has now lost three of its last four, but Murray State dominated the Gaels from the opening tip and showed that it's still a threat to win at least a game or two in the NCAA tournament. The Racers played tremendous defense all night, and got timely baskets from Isaiah Canaan and Donte Poole. 

Rough day for Conference-USAUTEP gets its first road win of the season. Where does it come? FedEx Forum. Memphis sticks a hot dagger right into its foot with a 60-58 loss to the .500 Miners. Conference USA can be a two-bid league, but only if Memphis takes the auto bid and Southern Miss keeps winning until the semis or finals of the conference championship game. No time for duds for Josh Pastner’s team, especially at home against middling foes. That wasn't the only problem for the league. Southern Miss went into Houston and dropped one to the Cougars. Now there's very little separation at the top of the standings -- and that could limit the number of bids from the league.

No soup for you, personally: Perry Jones III. Had four points, four rebounds and fouled out. I’ve recently talked to a few former players who think PJ3 is the real deal. He isn’t showing it, and I’ve never actually seen it. This isn’t just Scott Drew, either (plenty want to criticize his coaching of this talented team). Jones lacks semblance of urgency, anger and pride on the floor. He seems likely to be a big factor in costing Baylor a game in March.

Saturday all-stars

  1. Wichita State is the truth and Joe Ragland is among the best “mid-major” players in the country. The guard who’s shorter than half the guys in your social circle is one of the most efficient shooters in the nation. He put up 30 and seven rebounds in a 91-74 road win against a more-than-decent Davidson team. Shockers were a four seed in the mock selection process. They can easily get that if they win the Valley tournament.
  2. Drew Gordon had 27 points and 20 rebounds, officially. (One UNLV beat writer is shooting down that 20-boards stat). For as much as I’ve been pushing UNM this season, I’ve said they won’t go next level until Gordon plays to his talent. He did that today. UNLV was playing in mud and Gordon did what he wanted. Can be a difference-maker in the tournament, certainly.
  3. Nate Wolters led South Dakota State to a BracketBusters beatdown on Buffalo, taking out the Bulls 86-65. Wolters had 22 points, eight assists and six rebounds. #NatersGonnaNate
  4. Jae Crowder with 29 points and 12 rebounds for Marquette in its 79-64 road win at UConn. It’s always been Crowder, not Darius Johnson-Odom, who’s been the most critical piece for the Golden Eagles the past two years.
  5. Keiton Page dropped 40 points in Oklahoma State's win over Texas.
  6. St. Bonaventure's Andrew Nicholson went for 32 points and 13 boards, continuing his dominance outside the nation's watchful eye.
  7. South Dakota's Louie Krogman lost, but 37 points and six assists? Not too bad.

Other action worth your attention

  1. San Diego State lost its second in a row, stumbling on the road at Air Force. Xavier Thames' 3-pointer hit the front rim at the buzzer, and now the Aztecs are out of the Mountain West title hunt.
  2. It was almost pretty bad, and certainly a seed line sacrifice for Louisville in Chicago this afternoon. The Cardinals needed overtime — and were sort of luck to get there — to take out DePaul, 90-82. my attention, which isn’t the case with 90 percent of tilts involving ACC teams this year.  
  3. I think one of the two most important wins of the day came in Seattle. Washington earned a season sweep of Arizona, definitively putting UW over U of A when it comes to whether or not either deserves an at-large. (And as of now, I’d say neither.) However, the 79-70 win for the Puppies was one of the best for Lorenzo Romar, as he had 25 come from Terrence Ross and 22 come from Tony Wroten, Jr. Washington can be fun to watch—but they’ve been like this for years, now. Fun, inconsistent. Loves to run, stumbles over itself.
  4. Tennessee’s not that good, but boy was that a big win for Alabama to just stop the bleeding and beat the Vols in Tuscaloosa.
  5. Mercer lost its share of the Atlantic Sun title, Bucknell lost its second straight game in the Patriot, and Harvard grabbed control of the Ivy League. Mississippi Valley State also improved to 14-0 in the SWAC, while Middle Tennessee continued to cruise.
  6. Texas-Arlington ended its 16-game winning streak with a loss at Damian Lillard and Weber State.
  7. What a comeback by Notre Dame. Down by 20 points, the Fighting Irish stormed back against Villanova and won in overtime. Pat Connaughton had 21 points, and Jack Cooley continued his surprising dominance with 18 points and 13 boards.
  8. Iona simply outran Nevada in the second half. The Gaels forced the Wolf Pack to play too fast and made them turn the ball over left and right.
  9. Gonzaga lost to San Francisco for the third consecutive season, as Rashad Green hit a runner with less than three seconds left. Saint Mary's still has control of the WCC standings.
  10. Georgetown beat Providence. Goodman has his reaction to the game.
Delightful (and not-so delightful) thoughts
  • If you think we missed any of the bubble talk, just go to Poppin' Bubbles. Everything is over there.
  • If you want UConn thoughts, we touched on that earlier today.
  • Iowa State is going to coast through the backdoor into the tournament, FYI. The Cylcones won 80-69 over Oklahoma today. The resume keeps getting more cushion. Mildly concerning was Royce White only scoring four points. A lot of variance in his game.
  • Drexel starting to feel like a CAA team on a huge come, but the 69-49 win at Cleveland State was also about the Vikings having the floor fall through their season yet again.
  • Tiny thought. One seeds don’t lose in conference on the road against bad teams. Missouri 71, Texas A&M 62. Kansas kept pace, by steamrolling Texas Tech on the road.
Oh, and the video below is maybe the best buzzer-beater of the day: Pacific's Trevin Harris knocking down a 3 to beat Idaho State. (h/t @bigskybball

Posted on: February 17, 2012 12:00 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2012 12:07 pm
 

Saint Mary's could be without Delly at Murray St.

Saint Mary's guard Matthew Dellavedova (ankle) will be a game-time decision against Murray State. (US Presswire)

By Jeff Goodman

You know that huge matchup we were all excited about between Saint Mary's and Murray State. It's turned out to potentially be a yawner like most of the other BracketBusters. 

Murray State is no longer undefeated, but this was still supposed be a measuring stick for a Racers team that remains somewhat of a mystery. But now the Gaels limp into the CFSB Center in Murray without starting guard Stephen Holt and potentially without star guard Matthew Dellavedova. 

Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett told CBSSports.com that Dellavedova, the team's top player, will be a game-time decision with an ankle injury, and as of now it looks "doubtful." Holt, one of the team's most complete players, is out for the next couple weeks after suffering a partially torn MCL. 

Saint Mary's comes to Murray on a two-game losing streak following a 11-0 start in WCC play. There was the setback at Gonzaga, which wasn't much of a surprise, but then came a home loss to Loyola Marymount. The Racers are 25-1 with the lone loss coming earlier this month at home against Tennessee State. 

When this matchup was announced, it was the heavyweight bout for the BracketBusters. The WCC's elite team and one on the verge of cracking the Top 10 against the nation's last remaining team without a loss. 

The Gaels are struggling, No. 16 Murray State is no longer unbeaten and we may not even have the stellar point guard matchup between Racers guard Isaiah Canaan and Delly. 

However, it's still an important game for both teams -- maybe more so for host Murray. The Racers will need to win this one, especially if Dellavedova doesn't play. Despite its lofty ranking, Canaan & Co. can ill-afford a slip-up here with road contests against Tennessee State and Tennessee Tech to close out the regular-season. 

A couple more losses, in addition to coming up short in the Ohio Valley tournament, could mean sweating it out on Selection Sunday. 

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com