Night Court: Cronin beefs with ref; Perfect 31-0; five top-10s go down
It's a loaded Saturday. March is here! There's so much to see. Come in and look at the best of Saturday so far.
That's a good win: Virginia closes on 35-16 run to win the ACC over Syracuse.
It's been 31 years since Virginia won the outright ACC regular-season title. As the game ended, and cheers filled John Paul Jones arena, UVa coach Tony Bennett had a couple of tears come out and stain his nose. A great image and a 75-56 victory. This is 13 wins in a row and a 25-5 mark for the Cavs.
No. 2 seed? It could happen. Read more, from Jeff Borzello, here.
It was dominating and impressive to see this group execute and then rise above the pressure/situation in the final five minutes. Malcolm Brogdon, who's scored double digits in every ACC game this season, led UVa with 19. The Wahoos held Cuse to 5-of-22 3-point shooting (this probably will be what does in Syracuse down the road) and 35.7 percent shooting from the field. Impressive, considering Syracuse only had five turnovers.
As for Syracuse, a No. 1 seed is now up in the air. Have to note Jerami Grant was not healthy (back), though. The team, at full strength, is still arguably one of the five best in the country, but which group do you think will go further in the NCAA tourney, Cuse or Hoos?
Another good win: VCU gets momentum-building win against Saint Louis.
This is interesting: in the first meeting, VCU and Saint Louis played a 71-possession game (VCU's season average). Saint Louis won. On Saturday, there were only 61 possessions (below even Saint Louis' average) -- and VCU won by 11. The Rams utilized HAVOC to perfection, forcing 17 turnovers and turning them into 23 points. Treveon Graham led the way with 17 points and eight rebounds, while Jordair Jett was the only Billiken in double-figures, with 18 points.
Punching its ticket? Xavier took down Creighton on Saturday, a win that could put the Musketeers in very good position to make the NCAA tournament.
The win comes after beating fellow bubbler St. John's on the road on Tuesday, and puts Xavier at 10-6 in the Big East. Assuming they don't lose out, they should make the NCAA tournament. Justin Martin came up huge, finishing with 19 points and 16 rebounds, while Semaj Christon had 21 points in the backcourt. Doug McDermott went for 27 points, but he was the only Creighton player in double-figures.
A bubble win: Dayton gives its NCAA tourney hopes a shot in the arm.
The Flyers won the first game of the day. A home W, 86-79, over another in-league surefire NCAA tourney team in UMass. Jordan Sibert led the way with 23 points. The Atlantic 10 is undervalued as a league, and it's going to get at least five into the NCAAs. What's really impressive: Dayton's won 20 or more games in 11 of the last 15 seasons. Indisputably a top-50 program in college basketball. Archie Miller, now in his third year as coach of the Flyers, is starving for his first appearance in the NCAAs.
But that's a bad loss: Kentucky, Kentucky.
As Gary Parrish pointed out on Twitter, the Wildcats might be the most disappointing team in the country for the second season in a row. They lost to South Carolina on Saturday night, and Matt Norlander will have more on that in a little bit. Going forward, what sort of seed is Kentucky going to get in the NCAA tournament? The Wildcats have beaten one sure-fire NCAA tournament team (Louisville), and that might not change the rest of the season. They aren't beating Florida in Gainesville, and barring a run to the SEC title game, they might end up in the 8-9 game of the tournament. Of course, with all the talent John Calipari has at his disposal, the Wildcats are not a team anyone wants to play in March -- but it's still disappointing nonetheless.
And that’s a bad loss too: Michigan State, what in the world?
The now 22-7 Spartans, who had Branden Dawson back after a nine-game absence from a broken hand, lost 53-46 at home -- TO ILLINOIS. It should be noted that Keith Appling definitely does not appear 80 percent, let alone 100 percent. But only 46 at home to a team that is hoping to make the NIT is a bad look. MSU is now 4-6 in its last 10 games and out of the conversation for a No. 3 seed now.
What a fall. This is odd, and now few will consider Michigan State capable of a Final Four run.
Credit to John Groce, who is a very good coach, in getting a win that will probably make all the struggles from this season feel a little less stressful come the end of this month.
And that’s a tournament-making damaging loss: Richmond looks to be done.
The Spiders had a road game at Rhode Island, a must-win situation, and fell 66-43. Now Chris Mooney's team -- which is playing without vital guard Cedrick Lindsey -- is 18-11. It only scored 15 points in the first half. Just a no-show here, and this will be damaging. Could Richmond still get in? Sure ... but it's going to take winning against VCU, and then at Dayton, and then at least one A-10 tourney game, minimally, to keep the Spiders alive. By the way, Richmond beating VCU and Dayton next week would mean a season sweep of both teams. Not exactly easy.
Who locked up league titles today:
-- Florida Gulf Coast -- yes, Dunk City -- won the regular-season Atlantic Sun title with a 92-72 win at Northern Kentucky. And so did Mercer, which beat Jacksonville, matching FGCU's 14-4 league mark. You might think FGCU won this league last season, but in fact it only won the postseason tournament. Mercer was the favorite that failed to hold seed, thus giving a chance to one of the better March Madness stories of the past 15 years.
-- By nature of the 68-64 road win over in-Massachusetts rival Holy Cross, Boston University is your 2014 Patriot League champions.
-- Delaware won 89-86 over Charleston, giving the Fightin' Blue Hens their first CAA regular-season title in school history. Last time this team won a league championship was 1999, when it was a member of the America East. Alum Jeff Borzello will probably have 3,000 words on this next week.
-- North Carolina Central clinched at least a share of the MEAC regular-season title with a win over South Carolina State. The Eagles have won 15 in a row, the fourth-longest winning streak in the country.
-- Belmont's win and Murray State's double-overtime loss to Southeast Missouri State gives the Ohio Valley Conference championship to the Bruins. Two years in the Ohio Valley, two regular-season titles for Belmont.
-- Southern clinched the outright SWAC title by winning at Alcorn State. As we wrote about this morning, the Jaguars will be allowed to play in the conference tournament despite not being eligible for the NCAA tournament.
-- Utah Valley clinched at least a share of the WAC championship with its win over Texas Pan American. The Wolverines are now one game up on New Mexico State with one game remaining.
Players with impact
- The best line of the night comes from VMI's D.J. Covington, who had 33 points, 14 rebounds and six blocks in a win over Longwood.
- Dartmouth guard Alex Mitola went 8-for-9 from 3-point range en route to 33 points.
- Effiency: Samford's Tim Williams took 11 shots from the field and finished with 32 points.
- Nice all-around line for McNeese State's Ledrick Eagles: 35 points, five rebounds, five assists.
- Your high scorer for the day is Santa Clara's Jared Brownridge, who had 38 points and seven 3-pointers.
- Shabazz Napier. He had 18 points and 11 rebounds in UConn's ugly win. Without him, this is not an NCAA tournament team.
- If it weren't for Talib Zanna's 17 points and 14 rebounds, Notre Dame would've probably beaten Pitt in regulation by about 10 points. The Panthers aren't inspiring anyone these days, but Zanna would make my list of 10 most undervalued players in the country.
- Jarvis Threatt had 13 points, 13 assists (the rest of the Hens had zero), six boards and five steals for UDel. That's how you live up to your last name.
- You don't have to win to get in this space. Montrezl Harrell was a freak on Saturday, scoring 25 and snagging 12 boards. He dominated the paint at times.
- The best line in a loss, though, probably came from Iowa State's Melvin Ejim. He had 30 points and 16 rebounds in a loss to Kansas State.
Numbers to figure
Jan. 18, 2003: Per ESPN, that was the last time five top-10 teams lost on the same day.
1,000: We could've put this under "players with impact," but the 1,000 is better and more meaningful. Jason Brickman, LIU Brooklyln's senior point guard, became the fourth player in D-I college hoops history to register 1,000 assists. He finished with 12, totaling 1,009 for his Blackbird career. The other three players ahead of him? All played in the triangle/North Carolina area: Duke's Bobby Hurley (1,076); N.C. State's Chris Corchiani (1,038); UNC's Ed Cota (1,030).
38: Both the number of points scored and the number of points defeated by for Vanderbilt, which got destroyed by Tennessee (76-38). By the way, this comes two days after Kevin Stallings stood up for UT coach Cuonzo Martin against the fans who think Martin should be let go. And then Martin's team goes out and takes a bat to Vandy's face. Hard to tell if this was a thank-you or not. Either way, UT still has a lot left to do to earn a bid. Antonio Barton led Tennessee with 21 points.
0 in 7:40: UConn had zero field goals in the final 7:40. The last one came to make it 41-32. And the Huskies won 51-45.
46: California was outscored by 46 points during its two-game trip to Arizona and Arizona State, with the latter beating the Golden Bears by 18 on Saturday. Not good for a bubble team.
24: Stephen F. Austin pushed its winning streak to 24 games, and is now 16-0 in the Southland.
1: Arizona has taken the No. 1 spot in the RPI from Kansas.
Stat of the night — San Diego State has 41 consecutive wins versus California teams…#Aztecs— Doug Gottlieb (@GottliebShow) March 2, 2014
Other outcomes of note:
- Kansas State picked up another statement win on Saturday, holding off Iowa State down the stretch to get the 80-73 victory. The Wildcats overcame Melvin Ejim's aforementioned effort, getting five players in double figures.
- Utah beats Colorado 75-64, and to me this should put the Utes in the "first four out" category. The RPI is a killer, though, so in reality the selection committee is probably still not going to advance Utah too much just yet. But this was a necessary victory to remain in the hunt.
- Pittsburgh flirted with the devastating, winning 85-81 on the road in overtime against Notre Dame.
- Minnesota couldn't build off its big midweek win over Iowa, falling at Michigan. The Gophers finish the season with Penn State.
- North Carolina dodged a dicey situation and won 60-56 at Virginia Tech. Heels still very much in play for a No. 4 seed, should they keep winning.
- Most meaningless game played between two good teams on Saturday? Oklahoma's home 77-65 win over Texas. Unlikely that outcome will alter either team's seed possibility.
- North Carolina State got punked at home by Miami, which had a season-best 85 points against the Wolfpack, who scored 70.
- Arkansas won 87-75 at home over Georgia, keeping the Hogs in the current projection.
- West Virginia, which has faint hopes of NCAA tournament inclusion, beat TCU 81-59. Next up for Bob Huggins' 16-13 team is at Oklahoma Wednesday.
- Saint Joe's wins 83-74 at St. Bonaventure, keeping the Hawks securely in the field.
- Missouri won a game it should have, which is ... progress. An 85-66 home win over Mississippi State.
- Gonzaga throttled Saint Mary's on Saturday night, with a final score of 75-47. It looks like we won't get a Zags-Gaels WCC title game, either, as Saint Mary's is the No. 4 seed in the conference tournament.
- Fresno State hung for a half, but San Diego State pulled away in the second half to take a half-game lead on New Mexico in the Mountain West.
- No probs for Florida, which won 79-61 over LSU, further stuffing the Tigers down the totem pole of NCAA tourney longshots.
- Nebraska kept its at-large hopes alive with a seven-point win over Northwestern.
- With Toledo's overtime win over Western Michigan, the MAC is a three-way tie at the top with those two teams and Buffalo.
- Harvard takes a two-game lead in the Ivy League into the final week of the season. The Crimson play second-place Yale on Friday night, but they need just one win in the final two games.
- Weber State couldn't clinch the outright Big Sky title, falling in overtime to Northern Arizona. The Wildcats have a two-game lead on North Dakota with two games left.
-- As we just mentioned, North Dakota stayed within striking distance of Weber State -- and it was because of this shot by Troy Huff:
-- A most taunting kind of failed shot. Indiana State fell at home after Jake Odum's final attempt flirted with falling through.
-- The situation the SWAC has gone with for its league tournament is unprecedented.
-- Randy Moss -- yes, that one -- has a daughter who plays D-III hoops. And she just broke the single-game scoring record.
-- Tough break for California, which announced Saturday afternoon that Kameron Rooks will miss the remainder of season with an ankle injury.
-- St. John's announced Rysheed Jordan will not play in Sunday's game against DePaul due to grieving over the death of a relative.
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