Thursday, March 5, 2009

Thursday Morning Shootaround: Does Anyone Want To Play In the NCAA Tournament?

Monday, it was Notre Dame. Tuesday, it was Georgetown, Cincinnati, Maryland, and Kansas State. On Wednesday, we added quite a bit to the list of teams with their bubbles bursting.

North Carolina 86, Virginia Tech 78: Tyler Hansbrough looked like Tyler Hansbrough tonight, going for 22 points and 15 rebounds as UNC pulled away from Virginia Tech late. The Heels had a bit of a cushion for most of the game, but Va Tech went on a little surge in the second half, tying the game twice and cutting the lead to 63-62 with 5:16 left. But the Heels responded by going on a 10-0 run to put the game away. Ty Lawson had 22 points and 5 assists, while AD Vassallo scored 25 for the Hokies. Tech still has a shot at getting an invite to the dance, mainly because there are not many other teams that are making a push. But the Hokies really are struggling. They have lost five of six and seven of ten, and have fallen to 7-8 in the league. Their biggest issue is an inability to win close games. Tonight was their ninth loss by eight points or less. The good news is that the Hokies get Florida State on the road to close out the regular season, which means that they have a really good opportunity to add to their resume. At this point, however, it still may not be enough.

Georgia 90, Kentucky 85: This was a game that the Wildcats had to have. Playing the worst team in the SEC at home with your tournament chances on the line is as must-win as you can get, and the Cats still somehow managed to blow it (I wonder who Billy Gillispie blames for this one?). Terrence Woodbury had 30 to lead four scorers in double figures, and the Bulldogs managed to hit 11-16 from long range in the win. This loss was more than likely the fatal blow to Kentucky. Their RPI is 67 (which is going to drop big time after losing the Georgia, who isn't in the top 200 - at least VMI isn't their worst loss anymore) and they have just one significant non-conference win.

Mississippi State 80, Florida 71: The Bulldogs ended the first half on a 7-0 run to go into the break up 42-33, and they never looked back, getting up by as much as 16 in the second half. Florida is in a bit better shape than Kentucky is. Their RPI is higher and they have a better record, but their only win of any significance is Washington (early in the season, before U-Dub figured it out) and they have just two wins on the road. Bottom line - Florida plays Kentucky on Saturday, which means that the loser, barring a fantastic run through the SEC tournament, will be headed to the NIT.

NC State 74, Boston College 69: On senior night, Ben McCauley scored 20 points as the Wolfpack were able to hold off the Eagles down the stretch. Up 66-58 with just under three minutes left, Rakim Sanders hit three consecutive three's to cut the lead to two. With five seconds left and BC down three, Sanders stepped to the line but missed a front end. McCauley grabbed the board and sealed the victory with foul shots. BC may already be in the tournament on the strength of their impressive collection of wins (UNC, Duke, Florida State), but they also have a pretty impressive set of losses (St. Louis, Harvard, Miami twice, NC State). If they can beat Georgia Tech on Saturday, they should be ok.

Georgia Tech 78, Miami FL 68: The U was a longshot at best to get a bid, but with the way that other bubble teams had been losing, if they had gotten to .500 in the ACC, they would at least have had an argument. That possibility is gone, as the Canes let Lewis Clinch go for a career high 30 (on 9-16 from deep) and fell behind by as much as 19 at 52-33.

The rest of the nights hoops action:

  • Pitt 90, Marquette 75: The Golden Eagles fought valiantly for a while, using a 21-6 run at the start of the second half to take a nine point lead. But the Panthers took over in the last 15:43 of the game. They outscored Marquette 42-18 while dominating the glass and shooting 16-20 from the field, which included a 21-2 run immediately after Marquette took the nine point lead. DeJuan Blair had 21 points, 9 boards, and 4 blocks for the Panthers, who also got 17 and 10 dimes from Levance Fields. Jerel McNeal had 23 points, but was just 8-24 from the floor. Lazar Hayward added 22 and 10 boards. Insert obligatory Dom James is hurt reference here. Of note, Levance Fields took a hard fall and bruised his, umm, keister during the second half.
  • Missouri 73, Oklahoma 64: The Tigers moved into a tie in second place with Oklahoma in the Big XII standings as they thoroughly dominated the Sooners. OU's guards simply could not handle the Mizzou press. To me, this game wasn't as much about the Tigers as it was about Oklahoma. The Sooners are a team in turmoil. They have lost three of four. Juan Patillo was suspended for the Texas Tech game for violating team rules. Willie Warren lost his starting job because of an attitude problem before the Texas Tech game. Does this sound like a team that is coming together in March? DeMarre Carroll led Mizzou with 15 and 10, while Griffin had 16 points and 21 boards.
  • Minnesota 51, Wisconsin 46: In what many were calling the most important game of the night, Lawrence Westbrook scored all fifteen of his points in the second half, which included the Gopher's last 10, as he almost single-handedly carried the Gophers to a huge win in their pursuit of an NCAA tournament bid. When it comes down to it, however, both of these teams are going to get in the dance. Both have RPI's in the 30's, Wisconsin has the less impressive record and resume, but they also have the fifth toughest schedule in the country. Minnesota has a win over Louisville in non-conference play. The bigger issue here is that with one game left, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Ohio State are all tied at 9-8 for the fifth spot in the Big Ten standings (top five get a bye in the tourney) just a half game behind Penn State and a game up on Michigan and Northwestern.
  • Northwestern 64, Purdue 61: While the Wildcats may not be deserving of an NCAA bid yet (beat Ohio State Saturday and it is a different story), they must be put into the conversation now. Their list of quality wins is pretty impressive - Florida State, Michigan State, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio State, and now Purdue. What is killing them right now is that they have been borderline abysmal on the road - yes, they beat MSU in East Lansing, but a loss at Iowa and 30 point losses at Wisconsin and Minnesota look really bad. That said, pick up a win at Ohio State, and things may change.
  • Louisville 95, Seton Hall 78: Typical Louisville performance - Earl Clark with 27 and 14, while T-will adds 14, 12 boards, 8 dimes, 3 steals, and 3 blocks. Louisville now needs a win and a Pitt win/UConn loss in their matchup Saturday afternoon and they win the Big East.
  • West Virginia 82, DePaul 63: Alex Ruoff led five Mountaineers in double figures and Devin Ebanks added 14 and 14 as WVU rolled.
  • Vanderbilt 75, LSU 67: Just when everyone was hopping on the LSU bandwagon, the Tigers go and lose to Vanderbilt. At home. On the senior night. What the ..? AJ Ogilvy had 33 and 10 boards for Vandy.
  • Memphis 69, Houston 60: Memphis needs to move out of C-USA. Tyreke Evans scored 23 points as the Tigers moved within a game of their third straight undefeated conference season. They have beaten 57 straight conference foes.
  • Texas Tech 84, Kansas 65: Alan Voskuil went for 35 points on 9-14 shooting on the Red Raiders senior night as they jumped all over the Jayhawks early. Kansas was down by as much as 17 in the first half, but got the lead all the way down to two in the second half before Tech pulled away. Oh note, Tyshawn Taylor limped off the floor with less than a minute to go in the half after tripping over a defenders foot. No word yet on what the injury is.
  • Texas A&M 72, Colorado 66: The Aggies kept their NCAA tourney hopes alive by coming back from eight down at the half to beat the Buffaloes. Josh Carter had 18 for A&M.
  • BYU 78, Wyoming 68: The Cougars managed to rally in the second half to knock off the Cowboys and move into a tie for first in the MWC. Lee Cummard, Jimmer Fredette, and Jonathon Tavernari combined for 58 points.

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