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Tag:Penn State
Posted on: March 13, 2011 10:36 am

Poppin' Bubbles: The day has finally arrived

Posted by Jeff Borzello

We’re now just hours away from the announcement of the NCAA tournament field. There will be no more talk of bubbles, RPIs, quality wins, locks and all of the other catch phrases that have populated our vernacular over the past couple of months. With that said, we’re not done with the bubble just yet. There are still a handful of bids up for grabs that were affected by yesterday’s results and could change with today’s games.

Moving Up:

Richmond: The Spiders likely clinched an at-large bid by beating Temple in the semifinals; they have won eight in a row and don’t have many bad losses.

Memphis: The Tigers don’t need to worry about the bubble anymore, as they won the Conference-USA championship with a furious comeback late in the game.

Utah State: Another team who doesn’t need to sweat on Selection Sunday, the Aggies could be headed for the 8/9 game in the NCAA tournament.

Helping themselves:

Penn State: The Nittany Lions have enhanced their profile more than any other bubble team this week, beating Wisconsin and now Michigan State.

Hurting themselves:

Clemson: The Tigers had a chance to potentially lock up a bid, but they blew a late lead against North Carolina and then lost in overtime. Zero top-50 wins.

Virginia Tech: The Hokies couldn’t get a second win over Duke, so they will once again be on the cutline later today. Seth Greenberg should have his gripes ready.

Alabama: The Crimson Tide were blown out by Kentucky, so they will have to hope back-to-back wins over Georgia are enough for the committee.


Harvard: The Crimson were seconds away from winning the Ivy League playoff, but Princeton’s buzzer-beater likely relegated them to the NIT. Not enough meat on the profile.

Sunday’s bubble games to watch:

Richmond vs. Dayton: Richmond has likely wrapped up a bid, so the bubblers will be rooting heavily for the Spiders to win the Atlantic 10 title. If Dayton wins, some of those final teams will be sweating even more.

Penn State vs. Ohio State: Penn State could complete an improbably Big Ten tournament run by beating the top-seeded Buckeyes. The Nittany Lions might have done enough already, but a loss leaves them on the fence.

Photo: US Presswire

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Posted on: March 12, 2011 8:03 pm

Ohio St. and Penn St. to go for Big Ten title

It is not the final anyone expected, but after Saturday’s action in the Big Ten tournament, Ohio State will play Penn State on Sunday for the Big Ten championship. The two teams both won their semifinal games with convincing performances in which their stars came out and helped carry their team to impressive victories.

Ohio State defeated Michigan 68-61 on Saturday afternoon in the league's first semifinal. Jared Sullinger was not quite his usual dominant self, but still had beastly moments, scoring 14 points and finishing with 13 rebounds in the victory. Jon Deibler added 16, including two big shots during a 16-0 run in the second half that helped push the Buckeyes lead to 63-45, from which the Wolverines could not come back. With the victory, Ohio State has set itself up to potentially be selected the No. 1 overall seed on Sunday when the brackets are announced, regardless of the final outcome of the Big Ten tournament. A conference win however would make the Buckeyes the first repeat Big Ten tournament champions since 2000.

Thad Matta’s team’s opponent will be Penn State, thanks to an impressive 61-48 victory over Michigan State. The Nittany Lions have been one of the surprises of college basketball this season, but came into the Big Ten tournament likely needing a couple of wins to ensure a berth in the NCAA tournament. On Saturday however they looked clearly the part of a NCAA team, shutting down Michigan State offensively and getting terrific performances from Talor Battle and Tim Frazier. Battle scored 25 points in the victory and Frazier had a spectacular 22 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists to help Penn State produce one of their most complete performances thus far this season.

The final will be a repeat of a game from just two weeks ago, when Ohio State took out the Nittany Lions 81-62 in University Park, Pennsylvania. Penn State had no answer then for Jon Diebler, who set a conference record by draining 10 three-pointers in the game and making a mockery of the Nittany Lions’ perimeter defense. Stopping the three point shot, while still finding a way to double team Jared Sullinger in the post is a hard row to hoe for any team, but is especially crucial for a Penn State team that likes to play with so few offensive possessions. 

From the outset, Ohio State will seek to control tempo and keep the game at much faster pace than Penn State has been accustomed to seeing so far this tournament. Penn State’s defense has been the story early on in the Big Ten tournament and they are only allowing teams to average 45.3 points a game against them in Indianapolis. Expect Ohio State to quickly force transition opportunities, while making Penn State run much more than their opponents have so far in Big Ten play. When the two teams played a close game in Columbus earlier this year, it was because Ohio State allowed Penn State to dictate pace, a mistake I don’t expect them to make in the final.

Sunday will be a big day for Ohio State regardless of the game’s outcome. The Buckeyes are certain to be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and may very well end up its overall No. 1 seed. Penn State has had an impressive run thus far this week and has likely played its way into the final 68 Sunday evening with its impressive (if visually unappealing) performances. But the ride is likely to end on Sunday, as Ohio State crushes its dream of winning the first conference tournament title in school history, on the Buckeyes' path to a potential Final Four destiny.

Posted by Matt Jones

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Posted on: March 12, 2011 8:33 am
Edited on: March 12, 2011 8:35 am

Saturday's Big Ten matchups unexpected

Very few people likely had Ohio State vs. Michigan and Michigan State vs. Penn State as their two Big Ten semifinal matchups before the tournament started. However, those are exactly the games we are going to get on Saturday in the Big Ten conference tournament semifinals.

The first game between the Buckeyes and Wolverines does follow seeding, but still comes as somewhat of a surprise. The Buckeyes looked exceedingly vulnerable in their first round win over Northwestern. Unlike in the past couple of weeks, when ball movement and top-notch passing had been the signature strengths of their team, Ohio State only had three assists for the entire game against Northwestern and too often looked stagnant on the offensive end. Thad Matta had expressed just how happy he was with his team's development coming into the Big Ten tournament, but Saturday's game will tell us whether the Friday performance was simply an aberration or a sign of potential problems that could be creeping in.

Ohio State's opponent Michigan, comes in having likely assured itself of a NCAA tournament berth and can now focus on trying to play a good game against its rival. The Wolverines have been terrible against Ohio State over the past few years, but this season both games have been competitive. John Beilein has gotten a good one-two scoring punch from Tim Hardaway Jr. and Darius Morris, the latter of which was great in the victory over Illinois on Friday. If Michigan is to have any chance of pulling the upset, both players must be able to score effectively and find a way to limit the possessions of the big guys down low for Ohio State. In both prior losses, interior points have been the difference and that will once again have to be the focus for Michigan.

In the second semifinal, the story is all about Michigan State and the resurgence once again under Tom Izzo in March. Coming into the Big Ten tournament, it wasn't even clear that the Spartans were assured a berth in the NCAA tournament. But as always, Izzo has his team playing the best when it matters the most. Kalin Lucas was brilliant against Purdue on Friday, scoring 30 points in an absolute embarrassment of a team that still considered itself to be an outside contender for a No. 1 seed. As with all Izzo teams, this Spartan group has turned up the March heat by ramping up defensive intensity and making fewer mistakes. It has been a recipe for success in the first two games of this tournament and with a win on Saturday, could get Michigan State back to an unlikely conference title game.

As for Penn State, the upset win against Wisconsin was probably (a) the ugliest game in the history of organized basketball and (b) enough to get the Nittany Lions in the NCAA tournament. The game on Friday night featured the fewest possessions of any college basketball game since amazing statistic that showcases just bizarre a game it actually was to watch. But all that matters to Penn State's players and coaches is the result, and with the win the entire postseason has opened up. A win over Michigan State would remove all doubt as to the team's future, and because the Lions only scored 36 points on Friday night, they should have plenty of energy left to score the necessary points on Saturday.

Posted by Matt Jones

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Posted on: March 12, 2011 3:12 am
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Posted on: March 12, 2011 3:06 am
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Posted on: March 12, 2011 2:43 am
Edited on: March 12, 2011 4:11 am

Odd day in Indy sets up unpredictable Saturday

Conference tournament quarterfinal days are by their very nature, unpredictable. The combination of high stakes, postseason jitters and differing motivation levels inevitably creates surprising games and often curious results. But even in the span of strange days in major conference tournament land, Friday's foursome of contests in Indianapolis will be hard to beat. 
It began with Ohio State needing overtime and a questionable technical foul call late in order to dispense with Northwestern, 67-61 in overtime. The Buckeyes, who had looked like potentially the most complete team in America over the last month of the season, looked decidedly ordinary throughout Friday's game, missing shots, executing poorly and having the look of a team not hitting on all cylinders. If not for a professional performance from freshman Jared Sullinger, whose 16-18 shooting from the free throw line was the difference in the game, Ohio State would have taken an embarrassing loss right at a time that it was supposed to be getting in gear for a national championship run. It may or may not be indicative of the play to come for the Buckeyes, but going into Saturday's semifinals, the taste of the performance against Northwestern has to be at least a little unsettling.

While Ohio State avoided the disappointing upset, Purdue not only fell victim, but was destroyed in the process. The Boilermakers dropped a shocking loss to Michigan State 74-56 in a game that they were very rarely in. From the outset, the Spartans jumped on top, building up a 14 point lead at halftime. Kalin Lucas was a star, scoring 30 points and dominating a Purdue team that looked nothing like its top ten ranking. The Boilermakers had hoped to lock up a potential No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament, but with the force of the loss, now may be looking at a 3 and a potentially much more difficult first round game. Whereas for Michigan State and Tom Izzo, it is March, which means that once again, they are playing their best basketball.

Wisconsin and Penn State played one of the strangest (or should I say, most unwatchable) basketball games of the past decade on Friday, as the Nittany Lions won 36-33. The game featured only 42 total possessions, the fewest for any game in college basketball since 1998. Both teams played at a snail's pace, provided virtually no tempo and set the entire sport back at least 20 years by emptying the arena from all but the most diehard fans. But the win did give Penn State a fighting chance to get an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, an accomplishment that seemed very unlikely just a few days ago.

Finally, in the most normal of the quarterfinals, Michigan topped Illinois to get a step closer to an NCAA tournament berth. John Beilein's team won 60-55, extending the inconsistent and perplexing play of the Illini. Michigan's Darius Morris led all scorers with 17 points and added 7 assists, in a dominating performance for the Wolverines.

With the action on Friday, the entire bracket for the tournament has now opened up, allowing a number of interesting opportunities. Ohio State is clearly the definitive favorite and will take on its rival Michigan on Saturday. But it will be interesting to see if Thad Matta's team can bounce back from its uncharacteristic performance on Friday and put together a complete game against the Wolverines. No team played better in the last couple of weeks of the regular season and the Buckeyes have owned Michigan over the last few years. But I saw troubling signs against Northwestern that I didn't expect this Buckeye team to project, making me wonder if I should just write it off as a one game aberration or something to remember when the brackets are announced. Saturday's game will give us a good indication as to which is correct.

As for the second semifinal, Penn State will have an opportunity to bore another team into submission and pull of a second upset against Michigan State. Tom Izzo seems to have his team once again playing better in the postseason that at any time during the regular season and his group could be peaking on exactly the right timeframe. The Spartans have likely locked up a berth in the NCAA tournament, but Penn State may need one more victory to feel confident when the brackets are announced. Expect a lot of passion from both teams as Michigan State seeks to fulfill its lofty early expectations and the Nittany Lions play for a rare trip to the NCAA promise land.

One thing is certain. No matter what happens on Saturday, it won't be any more surprising than the bizarre stretch of games we saw on Friday.
Posted on: March 11, 2011 10:15 am

Poppin' Bubbles: Calm before the storm

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.

Moving up:

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.

Helping themselves:

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

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