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Tag:Wrap-up
Posted on: March 12, 2011 6:38 pm
Edited on: March 12, 2011 11:58 pm
 

Saturday Wrap-up

NEW YORK -- The Princeton Tigers and Memphis Tigers both won in the final seconds.

So they'll both be in the NCAA tournament.

Nolan Smith?

His hurt toe seems OK.

Here's Saturday's Wrap-up to recap a busy day of college basketball.

Best game: The Princeton-Harvard playoff received considerable hype relative to Ivy League standards, then lived up to that hype with a classic ending that featured Douglas Davis hitting a leaner at the buzzer to give Princeton a 63-62 win that'll send the Tigers to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2004. Harvard hasn't made the NCAA tournament since 1946, still. But the school can claim Natalie Portman, and that's worth something.
 
Other best game: Memphis was down 12 with less than 10 to play to a team it had lost to by 27 points three Saturdays earlier. Game over, right? That's how it looked, and I found myself breaking from the action to look at the Tigers' resume in an attempt to make an educated guess about whether they could earn an at-large bid as second-place finishers to UTEP in the C-USA tournament. Then Tarik Black scored four straight points and suddenly the Tigers were on a run that would culminate with Joe Jackson at the free throw line, his team behind by a point. Jackson made the first, then made the second. And when UTEP's Christian Polk missed at the buzzer, Josh Pastner was able to celebrate his first trip to the NCAA tournament and calm his passionate fan base, all at the same time.

Yet another best game: Isaiah Thomas rushed the ball up the court, ignored his coach's desire to get a timeout and sank a fadeaway jumper at the buzzer to lift Washington to a 77-75 win over Arizona in the Pac-10 title game. Consequently, the Huskies are the automatic bid from the Pac-10 for the second straight season. Now let's see if they can make the Sweet 16 for the second straight season, too.

Yet another best game: Connecticut completed a historic run to the Big East tournament title with a 69-66 win over Louisvile in which Kemba Walker had 19 points. You want to read more about it, check my column from Madison Square Garden.

Team whose dream remained alive: Dayton finished ninth in the Atlantic 10 after being picked fourth in the preseason poll, which is a fact-based way of saying this hasn't been the best of seasons for Brian Gregory. But now he's just a win over Richmond away from erasing all that from his fans' memories and making the NCAA tournament thanks to a 64-61 victory over Saint Joseph's in the A-10 semifinals. The Flyers will be underdogs in the A-10 title game, for sure. But they'll have a chance, and that's not something that seemed likely a week ago.

Team whose dream was crushed: BYU's dream wasn't crushed, exactly. But the door to a possible No. 1 seed officially closed with a 72-54 loss to San Diego State in the Mountain West title game. That the Cougars could easily handle SDSU twice with Brandon Davies but could not handle SDSU without Brandon Davies is yet another sign that this isn't the same team that moved into the top five of the AP poll two weeks ago. And that's too bad. Because I'm no longer certain Jimmer's gonna be around for the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.

Performance I hope you witnessed: Harrison Barnes has elevated his game in recent weeks as much as Joe Jackson elevated his game in recent days. The North Carolina freshman now looks worthy of the CBSSports.com Preseason National Player of the Year award bestowed upon him in October -- proof being the 40 points he dropped in UNC's 92-87 win over Clemson in the ACC semifinals. Barnes was 12-of-17 from the field, 6-of-8 from 3-point range and 10-of-11 from the free throw line. It took him longer than I expected to become a star, I admit. But can anybody deny he's reached that status heading into Sunday's ACC tournament final against Duke?

Performance I hope you missed: Texas dropped to 0-6 in Big 12 title games by falling 85-73 to Kansas in a contest the Longhorns never really threatened to win. They were down 48-33 at the half and let KU shoot 56.9 percent for the game. Their cooperation allowed the Jayhawks to secure a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

Three things worth noting

1. Kentucky's 72-58 win over Alabama kept the Crimson Tide on the bubble and advanced the Wildcats to the SEC title game for the second straight season. Last year they played Mississippi State. This year they'll play Florida, the reigning SEC East champions.

2. Nolan Smith suffered a toe injury late Friday but returned early Saturday and scored 27 points in Duke's 77-63 win over Virginia Tech in the ACC semifinals. I think that means he's OK. Virginia Tech's at-large hopes? They're probably OK, too. But it's impossible to say for sure.

3. Not sure I had Ohio State needing to beat Northwestern, Michigan and Penn State to win the Big Ten tournament, but that's the way this event has unfolded. So unless you think the Nittany Lions are beating the Buckeyes on Sunday, go ahead and pencil in Thad Matta's team as the bracket's No. 1 overall seed. Better yet, just wait. Considering the way things are going, Talor Battle will be holding a Big Ten trophy Sunday afternoon.

Final thought: Paul Hewitt was tied to Georgia Tech a little longer than he probably should've been because of a $7 million buyout that the school previously didn't want to pay and Hewitt was never going to walk away from, wisely. But Georgia Tech officials finally secured the funds to move their program in another direction after Hewitt finished with a losing ACC record for the fourth straight season, and the school confirmed his termination early Saturday.

Both sides will be better for it.

Georgia Tech is a good school and Hewitt is a good man, but this relationship needed to end. The two sides had become like a numb married couple that's only together because it's more convenient than separating, and that's not fun for anybody. So good for Georgia Tech, and good for Paul Hewitt. Saturday was an expensive day for the former and a tough day for the latter, but it's a day both clearly needed to arrive.
Category: NCAAB
Tags: Wrap-up
 
Posted on: March 11, 2011 3:37 pm
Edited on: March 12, 2011 12:16 am
 

Friday Wrap-up

NEW YORK -- Kemba Walker dominated at Madison Square Garden again.

Tom Izzo suddenly has a dangerous basketball team again.

And Jimmer went Jimmer in a bigtime way.

Here's Friday's Wrap-up to recap a busy day of college basketball.

Best game: Big East semifinals. Connecticut vs. Syracuse. Did you really think it would end in regulation? "I didn't want it to go six overtimes again," said UConn's Kemba Walker, whose brilliance ensured it would not. The Huskies instead closed this one out in the first OT and advanced to Saturday's title game with a 76-71 victory over the Orange two years after the two schools played that six-overtime classic in this same building. Walker finished with 33 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and six steals, then spent some time chatting outside the media room with President Bill Clinton. Meantime, UConn coach Jim Calhoun used part of his postgame press conference to praise his star and highlight, for the 87th time this week, that one Big East coach didn't vote Walker First Team All-Conference. "He's the Most Valuable Player on any team in the country," Calhoun said. "I'm going to keep saying it."
 
Other best game: North Carolina was down double-digits to Miami at the half, at which point I openly wondered whether Larry Drew was back to playing point guard for the Tar Heels. Turns out, he was not. And that was never more obvious than when Kendall Marshall, Drew's more-talented mid-season replacement, drove into the lane in the final seconds of a tie game and found Tyler Zeller all alone under the basket for an easy layup at the buzzer that gave North Carolina a 61-59 win in the ACC quarterfinals. It was a play that capped an incredible run that allowed the Tar Heels to overcome a 19-point deficit in the final 10 minutes. It also reminded me of what Zeller told me about Marshall last week. "He does a lot of things that make our jobs easy," Zeller said. "He can pass you the ball and you just have to lay it up." As Miami now knows, that's exactly right.

Yet another best game: Virginia Tech probably secured an NCAA tournament bid with a 52-51 win over Florida State in the ACC quarterfinals, but the Hokies couldn't celebrate until Derwin Kitchen's shot at the buzzer that initially seemed to give FSU the win was waved off. The officials huddled around a monitor and correctly concluded that the ball was still in Kitchen's hands when time expired, but just barely. It was a wild scene in Greensboro. Seth Greenberg cried and everything.

Team whose dream remained alive: Whether Alabama can get an at-large bid remains debatable because the Crimson Tide have seven losses outside of the top 50, but their 65-59 overtime win against Georgia in the SEC quarters definitely enhanced their case. The Crimson Tide now have four top-50 wins to help offset those troubling losses, and they're at no risk of taking another "bad" loss before Selection Sunday (provided they meet Kentucky in the semifinals). As for Georgia, man, who knows? The Bulldogs have a better body of work than Alabama despite two losses to Alabama. But a bubble team blowing a double-digit second-half lead to a fellow bubble team is never a good final impression to leave with the Selection Committee.

Team whose dream was crushed: Jerry Palm projected Tulsa as the winner of C-USA's automatic bid after UAB lost Thursday, which means Tulsa entered Friday in the Field of 68 here at CBSSports.com. I'll be honest, it just looked weird. But that projection will change as soon as my colleague updates his projections because UTEP beat Tulsa 66-54 in the C-USA quarterfinals and eliminated the Golden Hurricane from NCAA tournament contention. Hey, it was fun while it lasted.

Performance I hope you witnessed: Walker's 33 at MSG was the biggest story of the night ... right up until Jimmer Fredette dropped 33 on New Mexico in the first half and finished with a career-high 52 in BYU's 87-76 win in the Mountain West semifinals. The CBSSports.com National Player of the Year was -- ready for this? -- 22-of-37 from the field, and only one of his points came on a free throw. If the members of the Selection Committee want to do the nation a favor, they'll put BYU and UConn in the same region and give us a possible Jimmer vs. Kemba matchup two weekends from now.

Performance I hope you missed: Wisconsin and Penn State did nothing to help the Big Ten's reputation as a slow and boring basketball league. In fact, they might've cemented the reputation by playing a game in which the winning team scored 36 points and the losing team scored 33. Penn State was the winning team, if you care.

 Five things worth noting

1. Nolan Smith suffered a toe injury in the second half of Duke's 87-71 win over Maryland in the ACC quarterfinals and did not return. Mike Krzyzewski said afterward that he wasn't sure if Smith would be back before the end of the ACC tournament but stressed the most important thing is making sure the ACC Player of the Year is available for the NCAA tournament, which will begin for Duke, presumably, next Friday in Charlotte.

2. Memphis finally looked like a team with a roster built to overwhelm C-USA opponents during a 76-56 win over East Carolina in part because Joe Jackson finally looked like somebody worthy of the nickname "King of Memphis." The McDonald's All-American has gone from a local high school legend to a freshman starter for the Tigers to a part-time reserve in less than a year, and it's been tough on him. But Jackson was tremendous against ECU while scoring a career-high 24 points. He made 8-of-12 field goal attempts, 3-of-3 3-point attempts and 5-of-5 free throw attempts, and now the Tigers are just a win over UTEP away from earning an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

3.
Southern California played its Pac-10 semifinal against Arizona without head coach Kevin O'Neill, who was suspended by his athletic director after a Thursday night incident with an Arizona booster. Assistant Bob Cantu coached the Trojans in O'Neill's absence. They lost 67-62 and are almost certainly headed to the NIT.

4. Ohio State entered this week in position to get a No. 1 seed regardless, but that doesn't mean the Buckeyes wanted or needed to lose their Big Ten tournament opener to Northwestern (if only because there's nothing cool about losing a Big Ten tournament opener to Northwestern). Thanks to Jared Sullinger they avoided the upset. The CBSSports.com National Freshman of the Year finished with 20 points and 18 rebounds in OSU's 67-61 overtime win. Worth noting is that Sullinger shot 18 free throws, i.e., just as many as Northwestern's entire team.

5. If you're surprised Tom Izzo has Michigan State operating at a high level then you haven't been paying attention for the past decade. Somehow, someway, this is what Izzo does. Regardless of whether the Spartans are great, good, average or terrible from November to March, by St. Patrick's Day each year Izzo gets them straight. So of course Michigan State will play in the Big Ten semifinals thanks to a 74-56 win over Purdue that took the Spartans off the bubble. They're now guaranteed to make the NCAA tournament. They'll probably make the Sweet 16, just because.

Final thought: Providence fired Keno Davis Friday and folks immediately started trying to explain why this didn't work. Among the common theories was because the Big East school hired him "with just one year of head coaching experience," which is both wrong and silly. Understand this: Davis didn't fail at Providence because he lacked significant prior experience. He failed at Providence because the school decided to hire the country's hottest young coach in April 2008 with little regard to how he fit with the Friars program. Davis was a bad fit -- and I hope Providence realizes that before it lures its next coach. Hire somebody with experience if you want; I'm not saying that's the wrong route. All I'm saying is that projected greatness and fit are way more important than past experience, and you can look elsewhere in the Big East to see it. Pittsburgh hired Jamie Dixon with zero years of head coaching experience while Marquette hired Buzz Williams with one. Things seems to be going well for those two programs, don't they?

Bottom line, what somebody has done at another school is important, sure.

But it's not nearly as important as what you think somebody can do at your school going forward.
Posted on: March 11, 2011 2:25 am
 

Thursday Wrap-up

NEW YORK -- Kemba Walker was terrific.

UAB was not.

Here's Thursday's Wrap-up to recap a busy day of college basketball.

Best game: Kemba Walker began things by delivering the shot of the postseason -- and possibly the entire season -- to give Connecticut a 76-74 victory over Pittsburgh and propel himself into Madison Square Garden lore. The New York kid wowed the New York crowd with a stepback jumper at the buzzer that got Pitt's Gary McGhee so crossed he'll likely refuse to ever again switch on a ball screen. Yes, it was that bad. And that great. Suddenly, Kemba at MSG is the best show going. A date with Syracuse in Friday's Big East semifinals is on deck.
 
Other best game: Kansas missed 20 of 25 3-point attempts against Oklahoma State and needed the Cowboys to miss a heave at the buzzer to escape with a 63-62 win in the Big 12 quarterfinals. Tyrel Reed and Brady Morningstar combined to go 2 of 14 from 3-point range for the Jayhawks. So on second thought, this wasn't really one of the best games in terms of beautiful basketball. But it was close. And close is usually fun.

Team whose dream remained alive: Colorado proved "it's hard to beat a team three times in a season" is among the dumbest things dumb people say by beating Kansas State for the third time this season. The Buffaloes have now beaten the Wildcats by scores of 74-66, 58-56 and, most recently, 87-75. So the third time was actually the easiest of all three times … and probably enough to ensure Colorado receives an at-large bid regardless of what happens against Kansas in Friday's Big 12 semifinals.

Team whose dream was crushed: UAB had a questionable resume despite winning Conference USA and entered the league tournament with work to do. Unfortunately for Mike Davis, the Blazers did not do the required work. They instead lost 75-70 to East Carolina in the C-USA quarterfinals. Where I'm from, that's called locking down an NIT bid.

Performance I hope you witnessed: Ben Hansbrough's 23-point, seven-assist effort in Notre Dame's 89-51 blowout of Cincinnati wasn't as highlight-worthy as Walker's memorable outing, but it was still an impressive performance for the Big East Player of the Year. Hansbrough was 8-of-11 from the field and 5-of-5 from the free throw line. He's the main reason why the Irish have gone from unranked in the preseason to the verge of a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

Performance I hope you missed: Jackson Emery took nine 3-pointers and missed eight of them. That's not a violation of BYU's Honor Code, but it ought to be. Yes, the Cougars overcame a halftime deficit and beat TCU 64-58 in the Mountain West quarters. But what they really did is provide another 40-minute sample that suggests they miss Brandon Davies just as much as most anticipated, and that's going to be an issue come Selection Sunday.

Three other things worth noting

1. Southern California's 70-56 victory over California means the Trojans have an opportunity to get a sixth top-50 win in Friday's Pac-10 semifinals against Arizona. But would that be enough? Honestly, I'm not sure. Because though the Trojans have better wins than most bubble teams, they also have worse losses -- specifically three outside of the top 200. My advice: Go for the automatic bid, Kevin O'Neill, just to be safe.

2. St. John's suffered more than a 79-73 loss to Syracuse in the Big East quarters. The Red Storm also lost D.J. Kennedy to a torn ACL that ended his season prematurely and will send Steve Lavin's team into the NCAA tournament short a key contributor. Kennedy was averaging 10.7 points and 5.7 rebounds per game.

3. Washington State's Klay Thompson returned from his one-game suspension and dropped 43 points in an 89-87 loss to Washington. So Thompson was high -- or at least in a car with a substance you use to get high -- last Thursday and the nation's highest scorer this Thursday. That's impressive.

Final thought: No team has ever lost its conference tournament opener and gone on to win the NCAA tournament.

You've heard that before, right?

You heard it when Pittsburgh lost to Connecticut, didn't you?

Of course you did. We all did. And though it's a statement that's 100 percent true, it's also misleading because it fails to recognize that we've never had a league as large and strong as the Big East that requires a true national title contender to open its league tournament with a game against a team the caliber of Connecticut. Bottom line, there are plenty of reasons to think Pitt won't win a national championship. But the fact that the Panthers lost to a nationally ranked UConn team on a ridiculous stepback jumper from an All-American on Thursday shouldn't be among them.
Posted on: March 9, 2011 9:42 pm
Edited on: March 10, 2011 12:39 am
 

Wednesday Wrap-up

Baylor was bad.

The St. John's-Rutgers officials were worse.

Here's Wednesday's Wrap-up to recap the day in college basketball.

Teams that punched tickets: Long Island and Northern Colorado each earned automatic bids to the NCAA tournament on Wednesday. That means 13 of the 68 spots in the field are now claimed.

Best game: The contest was terrific but the officiating at the end of St. John's' 65-63 win over Rutgers in the second round of the Big East tournament was embarrassing and inexcusable, and that's putting it nicely. Jim Burr, Tim Higgins and Earl Walton somehow missed St. John's senior Justin Brownlee travel and then step out of bounds with 1.7 seconds left. By doing so, they committed what Big East commissioner John Marinatto later acknowledged were "two separate officiating errors" that cost Rutgers a chance to tie or win at the buzzer. Those "two separate officiating errors" should also cost Burr, Higgins and Walton future assignments.

Other best game: Long Island's 85-82 win over Robert Morris in the title game of the Northeast tournament represented everything that makes small-conference basketball great. It was a bunch of players most folks have never heard of competing in front of a rowdy crowd in a rare national television appearance with an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament on the line, and it ended with a court-storming. Jamal Olasewere's career-high 31 points turned him into a name worth remembering heading into next week. That's when the Blackbirds will play in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1997.

Team whose dream remained alive: Colorado was down six with less than three minutes to play in a potential bubble-bursting game. Then Alec Burks made a jumper, sparked a comeback and led the Buffaloes to a 77-75 win over Iowa State in the first round of the Big 12 tournament. Burks got 25 of his 29 points in the final 17 minutes. It was a performance that kept Colorado's quest to make the NCAA tournament intact, though the Buffaloes probably need a win over Kansas State in Thursday's quarterfinals to feel reasonably good about their at-large chances.

Team whose dream was crushed: Nebraska entered Wednesday on the bubble thanks to a resume that included wins over Texas, Texas A&M and Missouri, and just three losses outside of the top 100 of the RPI. But the Huskers still needed to do work, everybody agreed. And now the Huskers are off the bubble, everybody agrees, thanks to a 53-52 loss to Oklahoma State in the first round of the Big 12 tournament.

Performance I hope you witnessed: I voted Notre Dame's Ben Hansbrough the Big East's Player of the Year. So I can't join those who think Connecticut's Kemba Walker was slighted for that award because I'll never give Player of the Year honors to somebody whose team finishes in the bottom half of a league. That said, it's baffling that Walker wasn't a unanimous all-league selection, and he showed why in the Huskies' 79-62 win over the Chris Wright-less Georgetown Hoyas in the second round of the Big East tournament. Walker was 10-of-18 from the field. He finished with 28 points. "I think he's the best player in the country," said UConn coach Jim Calhoun. "That should be more important."

Performance I hope you missed: UCF's 75-60 loss to East Carolina means the Knights, in a span of three months, transformed from a nationally ranked team with non-league wins over Florida and Miami into a nationally unranked team that was bounced in the first round of its league tournament. Marcus Jordan was 1-of-9 from the field with four turnovers against the Pirates. It was a fitting ending to a strange season.

Three other things worth noting

1. Baylor's bad day that started with the announcement that star freshman Perry Jones has been suspended because of a violation of NCAA rules ended with an 84-67 loss to Oklahoma in the first round of the Big 12 tournament. So the Bears' season began with their best guard (LaceDarius Dunn) suspended and it will end with their best big (Jones) suspended. It'll also end in the NIT, most likely.

2. Marquette's 67-61 win over West Virginia in the second round of the Big East tournament ensured the Golden Eagles won't have to spend Selection Sunday worrying whether they're in or out. They're in. Safely. Regardless of what happens Thursday against Louisville.

3. Manhattan fired Barry "Slice" Rohrssen on Wednesday while Northern Illinois fired Ricardo Patton. There will be more firings Thursday, I'm certain. It's that time of the year, you know?

Final thought: Texas Tech announced early this week that Pat Knight won't return next season.

Lots of possible replacments have been mentioned.

I'd hire Billy Gillispie.

Yes, I know Gillispie has had issues, and those must be addressed. But don't let two weird years at Kentucky make you forget that he was considered among the nation's best and hottest coaches just four years ago, and that he earned that reputation by winning at two Texas schools (UTEP and Texas A&M).  At Kentucky, Gillispie was out of his element, and he didn't handle it well. A subsequent drinking-and-driving arrest further damaged his reputation, but it should be noted that he's stayed free of negative headlines for the past 18 months. That's not everything. But it's something.

Bottom line, Gillispie's pros outweigh his cons at a place like Texas Tech.

I bet he would win there if given the chance.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com