Monday, February 28, 2011

2/28 - College Hoops Week in Review: The Pac-10 race just got crazy

Games of the Week: Wisconsin 53, Michigan 52

The Wolverines were so close to finally picking up a marquee win. With 30 seconds left and the score 52-50, Michigan's Darius Morris headed to the free throw line. He missed the front end of a one-and-one (one of six straight free throws Michigan missed down the stretch), but the Wolverines still had four fouls to give. So they worked the clock down to 5.4 seconds left, setting up this final play:

The loss was all the more crushing for Michigan as they continue to chase an NCAA Tournament bid. They are currently sitting right on the cut line with, at best, a shot at a .500 league record. You don't think a win over the No. 12 team in the country could help?

UNC Asheville 61, Coastal Carolina 58: At first, I felt bad for Coastal Carolina. Their season has gone up in flames. Two of their best players have been suspended. Their starting point guard is done for the season with a knee injury. What seemed like a year with the potential to win a game in the NCAA Tournament has become a disaster. But then I read this. Maybe Matt Dickey was just playing the role of karma:

Player of the Week: Nikola Vucevic, USC

Vucevic is one of the best big men in the country, but I'm willing to bet you've never seen him play. Its not necessarily your fault. The Pac-10 has a garbage TV deal that makes it extremely difficult to see any Pac-10 game, let alone ones with a team that was expected to be one of the worst high-majors in the country.

But USC has had a bit of a resurgence of late. They've now won four straight games, including a sweep of the Arizona schools this past weekend, and Vucevic has been the best player on the floor. He has six straight double-doubles, including the 25 points and 12 boards he had in the Trojan's upset of Arizona on Thursday. Making that performance all the more impressive was the eight points that Derrick Williams finished with. All told, Vucevic averaged 22.5 ppg and 11.0 rpg.

All of a sudden, USC looks like a team that could end up stealing a bid. They've got wins over Texas, Tennessee, UCLA, and Arizona. Their bad losses came early in the season, before Jio Fontan was on the roster. If they sweep Washington and Washington State on the road to close out the season, they will be tied from third in the Pac-10. That's stronger than some of the profiles currently on the bubble.

The All-they-were-good-too team:

  • G: Jacob Pullen, Kansas State: Pullen averaged 25.5 ppg for the Wildcats in a 2-0 week as they all but locked up a tournament bid with a win against Missouri on Saturday. All told, in the last four games, Pullen is averaging 29.0 ppg, shooting 48.4% from the floor, 15-23 (65.2%) from three, and 41-47 from the foul line.
  • G: Dwight Hardy, St. John's: Hardy averaged 27.5 ppg this week, including a career-high 34 point performance in the Johnnie's win at Villanova. In the past seven games, Hardy has set his career high three times.
  • F: Reeves Nelson, UCLA: The Bruins moved into a first place tie in the Pac-10 this weekend with a 71-49 win over Arizona. Nelson outplayed Derrick Williams, a potential top ten pick, to the tune of 27 points and 16 boards. He also had 12 points and 10 boards in a win over Arizona State.
  • F: John Henson, UNC: Henson has a long way to go before he becomes a legitimate offensive threat, but his performance on the defensive end of the floor and on the glass is a huge reason for the Tar Heel's resurgence. This week, he had 30 rebounds (nine offensive) and 13 blocks in two wins.
  • C: JaJuan Johnson, Purdue: Johnson had 20 points and nine boards in a win at Indiana, and followed that up with an impressive 20-point, 17-rebound, 7-block performance at Michigan State.
  • Bench: Tu Holloway, Xavier (12 points, 15 assists, nine boards vs. La Salle, 26 points, 6 boards, 5 assists at Dayton); BJ Jenkins, Murray State (21.5 ppg as Racers clinched OVC title); Marshon Brooks, Providence (52 points in loss to Notre Dame); Tim Abromaitis, Notre Dame (25.0 ppg, had scored 20 just once in 2011)

Team of the Week: Virginia Tech Hokies

It was really difficult this week to pick a team of the week given the number of quality options there were. I had to go with the Hokies, though. With their win over Duke on Saturday night, Virginia Tech has all but clinched an NCAA Tournament bid barring a collapse down the stretch.

The Hokies had a nice record coming into the game, but they didn't have the power at the top that you need to make the NCAA Tournament. With how weak the bubble is this year, snagging a win over the No. 1 team in the country is almost enough to carry you from the wrong side of the bubble to the right side. Tech still has some work to do -- they play both Boston College and Clemson, two other ACC bubble teams, down the stretch -- but as long as they can avoid being swept, Seth Greenberg should finally be taking his team to the NCAA Tournament.

Teams deserving a shout out:

Marquette: Have the Golden Eagles finally made their patented late season run? Needing a win on Thursday to keep their tournament hopes alive, Marquette went into Hartford and knocked off the UConn Huskies in overtime. They followed it up with a win over Providence. With two games (Cincinnati, at Seton Hall) left, Marquette should feel like they are in solid position to earn a bid.

Louisville: The Cardinals also picked up two big wins this week, winning at Rutgers before taking care of Pitt at home. With the win over Pitt, Louisville moved into a third place tie with St. John's in the Big East standings. If they win out, the Cardinals will receive one of the double byes in the conference tournament.

UCLA: UCLA wiped the floor with both Arizona State and Arizona in Pauley Pavilion this weekend, the latter thanks to Reeves Nelson's 27 points and 16 boards. The Bruins have now moved into a first place tie in the Pac-10 with the Wildcats. They'll have their work cut out for them this weekend, having to travel to the Washington schools, but a sweep would give the Bruins a share of the Pac-10 title. Who saw that coming?

Kansas State: Is there a team in the country playing better basketball than the Wildcats right now? Jacob Pullen has been on fire, his supporting cast has been playing with purpose and passion, and K-State earned their fourth straight win against Missouri on Saturday, which should be enough to get the Wildcats into the NCAA Tournament so long as they avoid a late season collapse.

Colorado: All of a sudden, the Buffaloes look like they may actually be capable of earning themselves an NCAA Tournament bid after they won at Texas Tech and then came from 22 points down to knock off Texas. They'll have their work cut out for them -- winning out in league play may not be enough -- but its possible.

Syracuse: The Orange continued to prove that they are a better team away from home this season, going into Philly and Washington DC and coming away with hard-fought wins over Villanova and Georgetown. There is a silver lining, however. Villanova has struggled mightily down the stretch in Big East play, while the Hoyas were playing without Chris Wright.

USC: As we detailed earlier, the Trojans are now in a position that they can make a claim for deserving an at-large bid. They knocked off Arizona and Arizona State this week, they have four quality wins, and their bad losses all came before Jio Fontan was eligible to play. If they win out at the Washington schools this week, USC will be an interesting case on Selection Sunday.

Gonzaga: The Zags knocked off St. Mary's on the road in overtime on Thursday, meaning that their win over San Diego on Saturday night gave them a share of the WCC regular season title. They also managed to get themselves back into the thick of the bubble conversation, although they've lost enough games that anything short of an automatic bid will leave them sweating when the brackets are announced.

  • 2/28 - 7:00 pm: Villanova @ Notre Dame
  • 2/28 - 9:00 pm: Kansas State @ Texas
  • 3/1 - 7:00 pm: Illinois @ Purdue
  • 3/1 - 7:00 pm: Alabama @ Florida
  • 3/1 - 9:00 pm: Vanderbilt @ Kentucky
  • 3/1 - 9:00 pm: Boston College @ Virginia Tech
  • 3/2 - 8:00 pm: Cincinnati @ Marquette
  • 3/2 - 9:00 pm: UCLA @ Washington
  • 3/2 - 9:00 pm: Texas A&M @ Kansas State
  • 3/4 - 12:00 pm: Kansas @ Missouri
  • 3/4 - 2:00 pm: Notre Dame @ UConn
  • 3/4 - 4:00 pm: Villanova @ Pitt
  • 3/4 - 6:00 pm: Florida @ Vanderbilt
  • 3/4 - 8:00 pm: Duke @ UNC
  • 3/4 - 9:00 pm: Texas @ Baylor
  • 3/5 - 12:00 pm: Wisconsin @ Ohio State
  • 3/5 - 4:00 pm: Kentucky @ Tennessee

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