College hoops is one sport where being at home matters. It was never more evident than yesterday, as a horde of ranked and quality teams hit the road and either lost or failed to cover spreads.
But, with conference regular seasons ending today, the unusually huge demands made on road teams will suddenly fly out the window. As the action shifts to neutral sites for conference tourneys and the Big Dance, that advantage/disadvantage disappears. The real quality will finally begin to step forward.
Villanova 78 Syracuse 75 - With their season on the line, the wildcats scratched out a regular season-ending home win over stubborn Syracuse. The Wildcats led by 10 with 2 minutes left, but turnovers, missed free throws and some big baskets by Demetris Nichols and Eric Devendorf (career high 33 points) made the game a close call to the final buzzer. Syracuse ended their Big East campaign at 10-6, Villanova, 9-7. Both teams have 21-9 records overall and their NCAA Tournament fate will likely be decided in the Big East tourney which starts on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Washington 61 #2 UCLA 51 - The Huskies led the entire game, at one point by 16, and completed their weekend sweep of the PAC-10's Southern California contingent. On Thursday, Washington humbled USC. With an 8-10 mark in the conference, Washington has slim hopes of making the NCAA Tournament field, though they may qualify if they fare well in the PAC-10 tourney next week.
#1 Ohio St. 65 Michigan 61 - Greg Oden played only 23 minutes due to foul trouble, but the Buckeyes surged late, scoring the last 10 points of the game to overcome a tough home team at Michigan. Oden finished with 16 points, as did senior guard Ron Lewis. Ohio State had already secured the Big Ten regular season title.
#20 Marquette 75 #12 Pittsburgh 71 - Pittsburgh had their chance, but host Marquette denied them a share of the Big East championship, as Georgetown won their final game to finish conference play at 13-3. Freshman David Cubillan and sophomore Wesley Matthews scored 20 points apiece as the Golden Eagles - who led by as many as 17 - held off a late rally by the Panthers. The loss was the 2nd straight on the road for Pitt, which seems to have lost some of its spark.
#10 Nevada 69 New Mexico St. 65 - The Nevada Wolf Pack scored 41 2nd half points and rallied past the determined Aggies for their final regular season home win. Marcelus Kemp had 32 for the victors to go with Nick Fazekas' 22. Nevada had already clinched the WAC title.
#17 Oregon 70 Oregon St. 49 - Overcoming mid-season struggles, the Oregon Ducks finished their regular season with their 3rd straight win, an 11-7 record in the PAC-10 (tied for 3rd with Arizona and USC) and a 23-7 mark overall.
#13 Washington St. 88 #23 USC 86 2OT - Aron Baynes scored a career-high 25 points as the Washington St. Cougars finished their regular season with a thrilling home win and 2nd place in the PAC-10 standings at 13-5.
#22 Notre Dame 73 Rutgers 66 - The Fighting Irish squeezed by Rutgers for only their 3rd road win in conference play against five losses. Notre Dame's Colin Falls was the game's high scorer with 22 points. The Irish finished their Big East campaign at 11-5, good for 4th place and a first-round bye in the Big East tourney.
#6 Memphis 64 SMU 61 - The Memphis Tigers completed an undefeated season in Conference-USA at 16-0, winning their 9th straight road game and extending the nation's longest winning streak to 19 straight. Only Memphis and Big South champion Winthrop concluded their conference schedules unblemished.
#24 Maryland 79 NC State 59 - The Terps won their 7th straight to close out their ACC campaign at 10-6 and 24-7 overall.
Wake Forest 78, Virginia 72 - The Cavaliers had a shot at winning the ACC title outright, but failed on the road to Wake Forest, which won only its 5th conference game. Boston College, North Carolina and Virginia Tech all have a chance to share the crown with wins today.
Creighton 75 Missouri St. 58 - Nate Funk scored a game high 33 points and Nick Porter added a double-double with 19 points and 13 boards as the Bluejays advanced to the Missouri Valley Conference finals against Southern Illinois today. Funk was 10-15 from the field and a perfect 10-10 from the foul line.
#11 Southern Ill. 53, Bradley 51 - Jamaal Tatum scored 20 points and the game-winner to lead the Salukis to their 13th straight win and a spot in the MVC finals today against Creighton.
Conference Tournament Champions:
Davidson 72 College of Charleston 65 - Davidson finished up a 29-4 regular season with a 17-1 record in the Southern conference by winning three straight tournament games. Stephen Curry, son of former NBA standout Dell Curry, scored 29 points as the Wildcats secured their spot in the NCAA Tournament.
Belmont 94 East Tennessee St.. 67 - Andy Wicke and Andrew Preston each scored 18 points as the Bruins made won their 2nd consecutive Atlantic Sun Conference tournament and automatic NCAA bid. Belmont heads to the tourney with a 23-9 record overall and 14-4 in conference.
Winthrop 84 VMI 81 - The Winthrop Eagles (28-4, 14-0) will represent the Big South in the NCAA Tournament for the 7th time in the last 9 years.
Eastern Kentucky 63 Austin Peay 62 - The Colonels upended #1 seed Austin Peay to capture the Ohio Valley championship and NCAA automatic bid.
Sunday's Conference Championships
Big Sky: Montana vs. Portland St.
Missouri Valley: Creighton vs. Southern Illinois
Kentucky at #4 Florida (-10) - The Gators have struggled, dropping 3 of their last 4. Kentucky will be seeking to impress the NCAA selection committee for a higher seeding. The Gators won 64-61 at Kentucky on Feb. 10. Take the Wildcats and the points.
Alabama at Mississippi State (-6) - Who dat? The Miss. St. Bulldogs or Alabama can gain a share of the SEC West title (with Mississippi) with a win. "Bama's struggled all year, but they are still tied with the Bulldogs at 7-8 in the conference and beat the Bulldogs 80-79 at home. This one should go right to the buzzer, so roll with the Crimson Tide.
Boston College at Georgia Tech (-6) - BC can earn a share of the ACC title with a win. Georgia Tech can keep slim tournament hopes alive. BC should win it outright.
#14 Duke at #8 North Carolina (-10) - With all the history - and coach K - associated with this game, I'd be very suspect to not go with the Blue Devils and the points. The Tar Heels aren't as formidable as many think, nor are the Devils as bad. In their first meeting on February 7, North Carolina won at Duke, 79-73. 10 is a good number of points to take in a rivalry game, though NC should win the game.
Clemson at #21 Virginia Tech (-6) - Even though Clemson is 6-9 and Tech 10-5 in the ACC, this is a pretty even matchup. Clemson will probably fail late, but will make Tech earn every point. Clemson may upset.