Posted on: March 11, 2011 9:51 pm
Edited on: March 11, 2011 9:52 pm
After a series of dreadful games on Thursday, the SEC Tournament kicked off on Friday with what was essentially a play-in game for the NCAA tournament. Alabama defeated Georgia 65-59 in overtime after an improbable comeback that saw the two teams' fortunes take a dramatic shift based on one fortuitous decision to call a timeout. With 7 minutes to go, Georgia was up 14 and seemingly ready to not only punch its NCAA dance ticket, but potentially avoid the first four in Dayton, Ohio in the process. But in the game's final minutes, the Tide came roaring back with some timely late shooting, finishing regulation on a 19-5 run that sent the contest into extra time.
But as painful as losing the lead had to be for the Bulldogs, the finish to regulation may even have a longer impact. With the game tied at 53 and just 4 seconds remaining, Georgia inbounded the ball to Dustin Ware, who dribbled through a number of Tide defenders until he could launch a desperation heave with just over a second to go. The high-arching shot went off the backboard and through the net, sending the few Georgia fans in attendance into celebratory mode. However before any Georgia player could even pump his fist, the referee waved off the basket thanks to Mark Fox's decision to call timeout prior to the shot's release. The decision may have been a sound one strategically, but it had the effect of overruling the game-winning basket, and potentially Georgia's NCAA Tournament hopes in the process.
In overtime, Alabama's Tony Mitchell hit an important deep three with 1:35 remaining that gave Alabama a lead it would never relinquish. But the difference in the extra session, and the game as a whole, was JaMychal Green, who finished with a monster performance, 20 points, 13 rebounds, 5 blocks and 4 steals. Georgia had no answer for Green in overtime and his ability to get two key blocks down the stretch helped the Tide ride its late momentum to the victory.
For the Bulldogs, Selection Sunday now becomes a very long wait. With two straight losses to fellow bubblemate Alabama, there is no scenario one can envision in which the NCAA would pick the Bulldogs over the Tide. That means that Georgia has to hope the SEC gets six teams in and the selection committee overlooks Georgia's lack of quality out of conference victories.
As for Alabama, preparation now turns to Saturday's semifinals as most in the Tide locker room felt confident that they had done enough to ensure selection into the NCAA tournament. In that game, they will play Kentucky, which defeated Ole Miss 75-66 in the afternoon's second semifinal. It was by no means the prettiest performance of the season for the Wildcats, as two of the team's best young freshman each had one of their worst performances of the season. Terrence Jones was awful, scoring only 7 points on 3-11 shooting and spending most of the game in foul trouble. His 24 minutes played were a season low and throughout most of the game, he seemed to be source of constant expressed frustration from coach John Calipari.
Brandon Knight also struggled early, but came through in the clutch, overcoming a 3-14 shooting night to hit a key jumper with 2 minutes to go. The basket gave Kentucky a 4 point lead it would never relinquish and confirmed Knight's standing as the clutch playmaker for Kentucky down the stretch. After being ice cold for most of the game's first 35 minutes, Knight took over the game on both ends of the court. When Ole Miss's Chris Warren made a three to cut the Wildcat lead to two, Knight responded by not only hitting his crucial jumper, but then contesting the next two missed Ole Miss three-point tries, to help seal the victory.
For Kentucky, the win keeps the team's dream of a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament alive for another day. Even without production from Jones, the Wildcats had four players score in double digits and were able to win their second consecutive close game, a feat that they had struggled with throughout the conference season. They now move on to play Alabama, a team that won their only meeting in Tuscaloosa back in January.
Posted by Matt Jones
Posted on: March 11, 2011 10:15 am
Posted by Jeff Borzello
Another day of conference tournaments, another day of flux for teams on the bubble. Despite all the bubble action, it was almost like the calm before the storm. Friday is going to be jam-packed with bubble battles, pseudo play-in games, and de facto elimination games. We will have a far better idea of who’s in and who’s out come Saturday morning.
Tennessee: The Volunteers were likely a lock either way, but their win over Arkansas eliminated all doubts. The Vols simply have too many good victories.
Washington: The door is wide open for the Huskies to reach the Pac-10 title game, after beating Washington State and locking up a bid. A semifinal win over Oregon will just improve their confidence.
Colorado: The Buffaloes don’t have a flawless profile, but three wins over Kansas State and six top-50 victories leave them in good shape. A win over Kansas would obviously officially punch their ticket.
Boston College: The Eagles dominated Wake Forest for the second time in a week, setting up a quarterfinal game against fellow bubbler Clemson. That's likely a must-win.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies snapped their two-game losing streak by handling Georgia Tech fairly easily, but now they need to beat a Florida State team that could have Chris Singleton back.
Georgia: The Bulldogs did what they had to do, destroying Auburn and advancing to the quarterfinals to face Alabama. They might get in with a loss, but a victory would give them some breathing room.
Michigan State: The Spartans were thisclose to being relegated to the NIT, escaping Iowa with a late run. That would have been the Spartans’ second loss to the Hawkeyes.
USC: The Trojans have a collection of good wins, and they will have a chance to play themselves into the tournament with a semifinal match-up against Arizona. USC defeated California in the quarterfinals.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions still have a long way to go, but beating Indiana was a start. They will face Wisconsin in the quarterfinals – that is a must-win for Penn State, which needs to reach the title game.
Memphis: The Tigers became a little bit more interesting on Thursday, holding off Southern Miss late and advancing to the semifinals. Moreover, top seed UAB was knocked out by East Carolina, opening the door for Memphis to reach the title game.
UAB: The Blazers didn’t have a great profile, but their Conference-USA regular-season title was a trump card. Getting knocked out in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament by East Carolina makes them far less attractive. A gaudy RPI only goes so far when there’s no meat to the profile.
Colorado State: The Rams needed to make a run to the title game to give themselves any chance at an at-large bid. They didn’t get out of the quarterfinals, though, losing a hard-fought battle with New Mexico
Washington State: Klay Thompson had 43 points, but that wasn’t enough for the Cougars against Washington. Thompson will have to continue his stellar play in the NIT.
Friday’s bubble games to watch:
Boston College vs. Clemson: A de facto play-in game. Right now, I have Boston College as one of the “last four in” and Clemson one of the “last four out.” Only one will get an NCAA bid.
Florida State vs. Virginia Tech: A must-win for the Hokies, who don’t have the profile depth to withstand another loss. Florida State will get a chance to impress with the return of Chris Singleton.
Illinois vs. Michigan: Big-time bubble game. Illinois is probably in the dance, but Michigan needs to win in order to get a bid. The Fighting Illini are in better position to overcome a loss, but neither team wants to toy with that.
Georgia vs. Alabama: A rematch of last weekend’s Crimson Tide victory. Georgia is in better shape than Alabama right now, but another loss to the Tide would flip the, um, tide. It’s doubtful that both teams get bids.
Michigan State vs. Purdue: Michigan State avoided a bad loss against Iowa to stay in the picture, but a win over the Boilermakers would lock up a bid. The Spartans might get in either way.
Penn State vs. Wisconsin: An absolute must-win for the Nittany Lions, who need to make a run to the conference title game. Most of Penn State’s best wins are at home; a neutral-site one would be a nice addition.
Richmond vs. Rhode Island: The Spiders have done a great job avoiding bad losses, meaning that a berth in the semifinals could be enough for a bid. A loss to URI and Richmond will be sweating.
USC vs. Arizona: The Trojans are playing their best basketball of the season right now, and a win over top-seeded Arizona could be their ticket. A loss will probably send them to the NIT.
Utah State vs. San Jose State: Given the soft bubble, the Aggies might be able to survive a loss in the semifinals. But a win over upstart No. 8 seed SJSU would likely clinch a bid.
Memphis vs. East Carolina: The door opened up for Memphis to make a run to the conference title game, although the Tigers don’t get a third opportunity to knock off UAB. Will one more win get a bid?
Colorado vs. Kansas: Although Colorado is in pretty good shape after beating Kansas State, the Buffaloes can end all doubt and questions with a win over the Jayhawks.
New Mexico vs. BYU: The Lobos are making a late run for a bid, and a title game appearance might not even be enough. With that said, a third win over BYU would be a tremendous trump card over most at-large possibilities.
Washington vs. Oregon: A win here would give Washington an appearance in the Pac-10 title game. Even with a loss, though, I think the Huskies are safe.
Photo: US Presswire
Posted on: March 11, 2011 12:33 am
Edited on: March 11, 2011 1:25 am
Posted by Matt Jones
Today was one of the busiest days of the year in college basketball, with all six major tournaments having at least three games each and crazy action all over the nation. It was the type of day that deserves a neat summary in conclusion:
Game of the Day: UCONN vs Pitt
This was the rare instance where the best game of the day on paper, ended up being the best game of the day in practice. Both teams played with a ton of energy and the game was actually executed on a very high level at both ends. Pittsburgh showcased the exception defense that makes them a Final Four contender, but the Panthers had no answer for the one-on-one play from UCONN in the second half. Kemba Walker was once again a revelation and his shakedown of Gary Mcghee at the end of the game is one of those plays that you will see over and over in the years to come. A lasting image in a quarterfinal tournament game? That is easily the game of the day.
Biggest Win: Colorado over Kansas State
Colorado came into its Big 12 quarterfinal against Kansas State with one clear objective. A win over one of the hottest teams in the country would not only vault the Buffaloes to the conference semifinals in its final year in the league, but would also put Colorado on the right side of the NCAA bubble. The ensuing 87-75 performance was one of the best of the year we have seen in college basketball when it mattered the most. Whatever happens for the rest of the tournament, Colorado will hear its name called on Selection Sunday and when that happens, they can look back at this win as the main reason why.
Most Impressive Performance: Texas A&M over Missouri
There are many reasons to wonder what has happened to Missouri over the past few weeks. Mike Anderson's team has looked poor on a number of occasions down the stretch, but never has the team seemed to have less life than during today's 86-71 smackdown at the hands of the Aggies. For those around the Texas A&M program, there is some quiet optimism that this team may be clicking at the right time to make some surprising March noise. If the game on Thursday in Kansas City is any indication, it may not be that surprising for long.
Worst Loss: UCLA
I have given up trying to figure out the Pac 10. I can forgive the occasional poor road performance by one of the three top powers, but UCLA's 76-59 loss to Oregon on Thursday was just plain pathetic. You are playing in your home city, with a chance to get a better seed and re-establish dominance in a conference that has somewhat forgotten your existence in the last two years. Instead, you show up and go through the motions of caring, while putting one of the worst teams in the conference through to the semifinals. An embarrassing loss for a program that has clearly slipped in the past three years.
Performance of the Day: Michael Thompson
The Big 10 tournament hasn't been around as long as some of its fellow Championship Week events, but it still deserves attention when one of its records is broken. Michael Thompson of Northwestern went out and scored a smooth 35 points in a 75-65 victory by his Wildcats over Minnesota. While Northwestern is not likely to break its NCAA tournament drought this year, Thompson's performance gives the school a rare record that is not based upon futility. And for that, it is worth a mention.
Setup for Biggest Game Tomorrow: Georgia vs Alabama
Only one game tomorrow is a play-in game for the NCAA Tournament and it occurs in Atlanta, Georgia. Thanks to the Bulldogs victory over Auburn, Georgia and Alabama play at 1 pm, with the winner likely into the NCAA Tournament and the loser on the bubble on Selection Sunday. Both teams played to end the regular season and Alabama's win gave the Tide a fighting chance for the Big Dance. Now with this the only game of the weekend in which two bubble teams play each other, you can expect a large reward to the winner.
Worst Day of Basketball: SEC in Atlanta
This was a terrible day to be stationed as I was, in Atlanta for the SEC tournament. All four games were dreadful. Three were decided by double digits and the four losers represented some of the worst teams in major conference college basketball. Every game saw more Kentucky fans waiting for their team to play on Friday than fans of the teams actually on the court and the gym resembled a morgue during Friday night's finale between LSU and Vanderbilt. The schedule is a bit meatier on Friday, but for Day One at least, the SEC has been a dud.
MVP of the Day: Kemba Walker
One of the most impressive crossovers you will ever to see to get an open final look. Kemba's shot fit in well with all of his heroics this year and reminded everyone that the Huskies are still a force to be reckoned with this March. We will see if they can get four games in four days against Syracuse tomorrow, but that shot and the move that made him open, will be remembered for a long time to come.
Posted on: March 10, 2011 4:25 pm
Edited on: March 10, 2011 4:26 pm
Posted by MATT JONES
This is one of my favorite four-day periods of the year. Sure any old sports fan can like next weekend, when wall-to-wall basketball allows even the most casual college hoop aficionado to claim to be his city's Dick Vitale. But for those of us that are real hoop heads, those of us who would know Ian Eagle or Jim Spanarkel if we saw them in public, then Championship Week is the first great weekend of the year. I appreciate the beginning of the week and the chance to seem teams from oddly spelled conferences like the MAAC do their thing, but as with any sporting event, it is at its best when played at its highest level. And Thursday-Sunday, when the major conferences like the Big East and the once major conferences like the ACC take the court, it is time for wall to wall great basketball.
For the 19th consecutive year, I am attending the SEC men's basketball tournament. Among the great college basketball traditions, the SEC basketball tournament is not usually considered one of the best. SEC basketball is often assumed to be a little brother to its more popular football head of the family and usually its tournament is given little notice nationally. Kentucky has dominated the festivities in the past two decades, winning 10 of the 18 gatherings I have attended. The Big Blue Nation descends on the host city and makes it their own, turning even games in which Kentucky does not play into a sea of blue.
This is my first time covering the events for CBSSports.com and I must admit that it may cause me to approach the festivities a bit differently. Take today. The first game of the tournament was a total snoozer, with Georgia beating Auburn, quite possibly the worst SEC team that I can remember seeing play over my 19 years in the event. If this were the old days and I was simply here for my own gratification, I would have made jokes about the fact that Georgia coach Mark Fox looks like David Wallace from "The Office" or pointed out that in the entire building I saw only eight Auburn fans, one of whom was dressed like Elvis. But this is a new age, one in which I must take my journalism much more seriously.
With that in mind, I will point out the details that matter from an investigative journalism standpoint. I am sitting directly behind Jimmy Dykes of ESPN, who is calling the games for the SEC Network. If you have ever heard a Jimmy Dykes-called game, then you know that his modus operandi is to use a number of catchphrases or allegedly clever plays on words. Whether he is reminding someone to "guard their yard", "drive to the nail", have a "violent cut" or simply utilize a "cautious cutback", Jimmy generally calls a game as some bizarre mix of James Naismath and Dr. Seuss. I used to think the entire gimmick was simply an act, intended to display a deep knowledge of the game that could potentially make him an heir apparent to the "funny announcer" role that will be left behind when Dick Vitale hangs it up. But after sitting behind Dykes today for two games, I am confident enough to say that his announcing is no gimmick. Even when the network goes to commercial, Dykes is still doing the same gesturing and rhyming, shouting so loudly that he gains the attention of all near him. It is as if he fancies himself the SEC's Glenn Beck, minus the chalkboard and the comparisons of Darrin Horn to some European neo-socialist group. It is all a bit exhausting, but I have determined that it is authentic.
So far today, the games have been dreadful. I am assigned the SEC, Big Ten and Conference USA. Here in Atlanta, Georgia beat Auburn in a game that even the players' families stopped following about five minutes in. The celebrity watch has been dreadfully unimpressive, with a passing glance by Kevin Stallings the closest thing I have been to starstruck. The games from around the nation have been exciting however. We saw Kemba Walker do his thing, UAB fall in the first round and potentially watch its NCAA Tournament hopes crash and Tubby Smith finalize one of the worst collapses I can remember in recent years.
While I wait for some of that excitement to arrive here in Atlanta, I will grace the one part of this game that has garnered the most attention from me. I have met three sportswriters here, all of whom are well known to those who follow sports on a national level. Of those three, two have unbelievable amounts of nose hair. That may not mean a great deal to you, but when you are left watching Ole Miss and South Carolina throw up brick after brick, it can become the highlight of your day.
Posted on: February 28, 2011 3:37 pm
Posted by Jeff Borzello
The last week of the regular season means bubble teams are running out of changes to impress the committee. Some teams took advantage of that desperation this past weekend, with Virginia Tech defeating Duke and Colorado beating Texas. Others, like Washington, Colorado State or Alabama, decided it would be the perfect time to add a bad loss to the resume. This season, there are still plenty of bids up for grabs – and no one seems to be dead in the at-large hunt. Coincidentally, several of the top bubble contenders play each other this week - it's like a bubble version of BracketBusters weekend. Which are the biggest bubble battles this week?
Boston College at Virginia Tech (Tuesday): After Virginia Tech’s win over Duke on Saturday, the Hokies took the lead in the race for a fourth bid from the ACC. Boston College overcame a first-half deficit to pick up a must-win game at Virginia. The Eagles have better computer numbers than the Hokies, as well as a head-to-head victory over Tech. But Tech has a two-game lead in the ACC standings, and is playing far better lately. A win here could lock things up for the Hokies.
Cincinnati at Marquette (Wednesday): Both of these teams are still in good shape heading into the week, after each picked up a monster road win last week. Cincinnati went on the road and defeated Georgetown, although it lost to Connecticut at home on Sunday. Marquette knocked off UConn, and then blew out Providence to keep the momentum rolling. Both teams have four top-50 wins, although the Golden Eagles have better computer numbers.
Michigan State at Michigan (Saturday): Back in November, would anyone have thought this intrastate battle could decide the Selection Sunday fates of both teams? After getting big wins over Illinois and at Minnesota, Michigan State lost by 20 at home to Purdue. The Spartans have a home contest with Iowa on Wednesday before heading to Ann Arbor. The Wolverines, on the other hand, have a week to prepare. They bounced back from a heart-breaking loss to Wisconsin by winning at Minnesota over the weekend. If Michigan wins, it would have a sweep of Michigan State.
Georgia at Alabama (Saturday): Alabama would have been in good shape had it defeated Ole Miss over the weekend – would the committee really turn down a 13-3 SEC co-champion? With the loss, though, the Crimson Tide are in trouble. They now have to head to Florida before hosting Georgia in a bubblicious match-up. The poor computer numbers and lack of good wins mean a split might not even be enough. Georgia, on the other hand, is buoyed by its solid computer profile. The Bulldogs need to beat LSU at home and then at least one in the SEC Tournament if they can’t beat Alabama.
USC at Washington (Saturday): Before last week, this game would not have been included. Since then, USC has entered the discussion with four straight wins. The Trojans have four top-40 wins and are 9-7 in the Pac-10. Washington dropped back into the pack with a blowout home loss to Washington State, killing any shot it had at a Pac-10 title. Moreover, with a fairly barren overall profile, the Huskies should start sweating.
Virginia Tech at Clemson (Saturday): This is only a must-see if Clemson wins at Duke during the week. If the Tigers fall short, they simply won’t have the profile to garner consideration for a bid. Wins over Florida State and Boston College merely balance out two sub-100 losses. They need a sweep of the Blue Devils and the Hokies.
Penn State at Minnesota (Sunday): Both teams are on the outside looking in at this point, with Penn State trending upwards and Minnesota going in the wrong direction. The Nittany Lions have won three of four, including one over Minnesota, to put themselves in the mix. They face Ohio State on Tuesday, which is likely a must-win if it wants serious consideration. Minnesota, losers of six of seven, need to beat Northwestern and Penn State and then do serious work in the conference tournament.
Photo: US Presswire
Posted on: February 25, 2011 5:18 pm
Edited on: February 25, 2011 5:26 pm
Posted by Eric Angevine
Us basketball pundits try to justify our salaries by coming up with all kinds of jargon to explain why one team wins and another team loses.
Putting the biscuit in the basket more times than the other guy.
Sometimes, it's something intangible that makes the difference, as the University of Georgia men's basketball program discovered in last week's 64-56 home loss to the Vanderbilt Commodores. What the Dawgs lacked on that occasion was pure, blood-and-guts American inspiration. Corporate greed had taken its place.
We'll let the Atlanta Journal-Constitution pick up the story from there:
Tom Fell is a UGA student who for four seasons has dressed like the movie boxer Rocky and excited the crowds in the second half of home basketball games by running to the top of Stegeman Coliseum. He was benched at last week’s game against Vanderbilt because the athletics department sold his time slot to insurance company Geico for an in-event advertisement.Backlash on this one went all the way to the top. Student government leaders expressed their displeasure at the decision to replace home-grown youthful idealism with a salamander with an underwriter's license. Georgia AD Greg McGarity assured students that Rocky would run again, but it was too late. Fell had already accepted another gig that will force him to miss Saturday's home game against South Carolina. We can but hope he is filling a role that would have otherwise gone to a newt with dubious green card status.
The good news is that Rocky will be back for Georgia's final home game of the season, vs. LSU on March 2. Sometimes, you just can't put a price on hope.
(H/T Adam Jacobi of Eye on College Football)
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: February 16, 2011 10:11 pm
Edited on: February 16, 2011 10:32 pm
Posted by MATT JONES
We will not look back at Wednesday night’s 64-56 Vanderbilt win over Georgia as a game worth remembering for its aesthetic value. Both teams spent large portions of the game playing a hideous form of basketball usually only seen at the nether regions of the Big Ten, where Iowa plays Penn State in games so mundane that can’t even get a rise out of Gus Johnson. But even if not pretty, that doesn’t mean the Commodores win over the Bulldogs was not important.
We can point to Wednesday night’s game in Athens as the moment when the fate of two teams’ seasons went in completely opposite directions. For Vanderbilt, victory keeps the Commodores alive in the SEC championship race and sets the team up well to begin playing for a high seed in the NCAA Tournament. While for Georgia, the loss opens up a more painful reality, the distinct possibility that the Bulldogs’ could be outside looking in on Selection Sunday.
Midway through the second half, it looked as if neither result was likely. Georgia led 40-26 with 13 minutes to go, as Vanderbilt played like a shadow of the team that had just won back to back games over Alabama and Kentucky. But then the Bulldogs began a collapse as dramatic as you will ever see from a NCAA Tournament quality team. Georgia didn’t score a field goal for the final ten minutes of the game, and finished on the short side of a 24-3 Vanderbilt run to end the contest.
Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins scored all of his 21 points in the game’s final 13 minutes, as Georgia’s defensive intensity disappeared. While the Bulldog duo of Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie couldn’t buy a bucket, Jenkins made his case for SEC Player of the Year, hitting a dazzling array of shots for the third straight game. Jenkins is one of the best, and most unknown, pure shooters in America and back to back clutch shots to turn a 55-52 deficit into a 57-55 lead, effectively ended the contest. Over the final ten minutes. Vanderbilt controlled tempo, got to every loose ball and found a way to totally deflate an amped up Georgia crowd..
With the win, Vanderbilt now has a sunny outlook for the rest of its season. The Commodores sit at 7-4 in the league and remain in contention for the SEC title. The remaining schedule includes tests against Kentucky, Tennessee and Florida, but two of those games are in Nashville and if Kevin Stallings’s group takes care of business a bye in the SEC Tournament and a high seed in the NCAA field is likely.
As for Mark Fox, the loss brings about the possibility of a collapse that could leave Georgia on the wrong side of the NCAA bubble. The Bulldogs have road games against Tennessee, Florida and Alabama remaining on the schedule, setting up the real possibility that they could finish only .500 in the conference. For a team with no nonconference wins over teams likely to make the NCAA field, that record could make them especially vulnerable to being left out of the final NCAA field. Georgia could be left needing to make noise in the SEC Tournament to even get a bid, a result that seemed unfathomable just a few weeks ago after the team’s quick start.
The game in Athens on Wednesday night was ugly and ended in an embarrassing fashion, with Mark Fox getting a technical foul in the remaining seconds and fans throwing objects onto the court to express their displeasure with the officiating. But regardless of the extracurricular activities that concluded the game, the fourteen minutes prior will have the most dramatic effect on the future of the two teams. Vanderbilt can now think about its seeding, while Georgia must now focus on survival…all because of a 13 minute stretch that may be the most important each team has all season long.
Posted on: February 14, 2011 1:35 pm
Edited on: February 14, 2011 1:37 pm
Posted by MATT JONES
It is now crunch time for teams hoping to solidify their NCAA Tournament resumes for the selection committee. As much as in any year I can remember, March Madness is set to have a decidedly mediocre makeup, as teams with weak resumes have to be included in all the projected fields. Part of the reasons more weak teams will be dancing is due to the NCAA Tournament's expansion by three teams, but part is also due to the college basketball landscape as a whole. With few great teams, there continues to be a muddled mass of interchangeable squads all beating each other, while fighting for the same piece of postseason real estate.
For most of the conference season, Georgia has been the feel-good story of the SEC. Mark Fox’s team has beaten Kentucky once, while holding serve against all of the second-tier conference squads to currently project into the Tournament field. But even though the Bulldogs sit 6-4 in the SEC East and 17-7 overall, their overall resume is still shaky. Georgia has no quality non-conference wins to speak of and their best chance to attain one last week against Xavier ended in an embarrassing home defeat. This week, Georgia has Vanderbilt at home and a road game at Tennessee, two rematches of games the Bulldogs lost earlier this year. If Georgia is unable to win at least one of the two games, their NCAA resume will essentially consist of one win over Kentucky and losses to every other quality opponent on the schedule. That would put the Bulldogs in a precarious position, likely requiring a run in the SEC Tournament to make the NCAA field.
This is the biggest week of the year for Cincinnati basketball. The Bearcats sit 19-6 overall and 6-6 in the Big East, which right now would be good enough to make the Tournament. However the final two weeks of the season are brutal, with two games versus Georgetown, a home contest against UCONN and a trip on the road to Marquette. Mick Cronin’s group simply must give itself some room to breathe during that difficult final stretch, which probably requires two wins this week. The Bearcats host Louisville at home and then go on the road to Providence, both very winnable games and victories that a team headed for the NCAA Tournament should be able to get. With only two victories on its resume over teams that are likely headed to the Big Dance (Xavier and St. Johns), Cincinnati must go 2-0 this week or face the prospect of being left behind once again.
It is a sign of the overall weakness of the bubble that Memphis is even in this conversation. After losing in conference to SMU, Marshall and at home to Tulsa, any field with the Tigers in it would seem to look especially weak. But Conference USA does provide the opportunity for Memphis to finish with a strong overall record. A road game at UTEP looms, but Memphis must first sweep the two games this week to truly be in contention for an at-large bid. They begin at home against UAB in what may be a bubble bursting game for both teams. The Tigers follow that up by going on the road to Rice, a place that has never given the Tigers difficulty, but neither in the past had Marshall or SMU. Josh Pastner’s group has the talent to be in the NCAA Tournament and the win on the road at Gonzaga has put them back in the Tournament conversation. But anything less than a 2-0 week and Memphis will likely need to win the Conference USA Tournament to get a bid.
Three weeks ago, most of us left UCLA for dead and for good reason. The Bruins were 12-7 and seemed to be going nowhere fast in an unremarkable Pac 10. But five straight victories have put UCLA back in the NCAA Tournament conversation heading into their biggest week of the year. Ben Howland’s team goes on the road against Stanford and California, two mid-level Pac 10 teams that UCLA must beat if it is Tournament worthy. Both are rivals heading nowhere and both would like nothing better than to crush the hopes and dreams of the Bruin nation. With two difficult battles with Arizona and Washington looming, UCLA certainly needs to win one, and likely both, to ensure an NCAA berth.