Friday, February 29, 2008

PAC-10: Blowout City

#17 Notre Dame 85 #13 Louisville 90
This game wasn't nearly as close as the score indicates. Louisville held a 17-point lead with less than 7 minutes to play, but their inability to shoot free throws (20-32, 63%) and Notre Dame's streaky 3-point shooters made it a little exciting at the end. Luke Harangody scored a game-high 40 points (along with 12 boards) for the Irish, but David Padgett's 26 mattered more.

Wright St. 61 #14 Butler 66
Butler wrapped up the Horizon League title with a win over their closest rival, leading almost from start to finish. The Bulldogs actually have clinched only a tie for the regular season title, but their last game is at home against last place Detroit, over which the Bulldogs already have a win. Butler's a shoo-in for the tourney, but Wright State will have to play well in the upcoming conference tourney to be considered for more March play.

#19 Michigan St. 42 #10 Wisconsin 57
Brian Butch nailed 4 of 6 three-pointers and the Badgers hammered the slumping Spartans, who have now lost 5 of their last 8. Michigan State has three games remaining, against Indiana Sunday, before closing out the schedule at Illinois and at Ohio State. They're almost sure to lose two of those games, possibly all three. The team has no depth and the starters aren't even very good. Somehow, they'll finish with eight or nine losses, including one more in the Big Ten tourney and an invite to the field. Watch where the Spartans are seeded (if they get in, there's a chance they won't make it) because they're upset material for sure.

Wisconsin is still locked in with Indiana and Purdue atop the Big Ten standings. Each team has just two losses. The Badgers currently are a 1/2-game leader due to having played one additional game.

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Washington 79 #8 Stanford 82
The Cardinal keeps winning and the PAC-10 post-season dance party continues to receive regrets. The Huskies' slim chances have departed, as have those the Oregon Ducks. Stanford still has a shot at the regular season crown, though it would take a UCLA loss. The Cardinals head down the coast for a March 6 showdown with the Bruins following Saturday's home game with Washington State.

4 UCLA 70 Arizona St. 49
Looks like "that's all folks" for the Sun Devils, who got tanned by the Bruins and dropped to 7-8 in the conference. Worse, it was AZST's 10th loss overall. Off the bubble and into the NIT pit.

#22 Washington St. 70 California 49
This wasn't close, ever. Cal is 6-9 and done for the season.

Four teams from the PAC-10 will go to the NCAA's: UCLA, Stanford, Washington St. and USC (barely). The only other team with a chance is Arizona, but USA pummeled them by 12 last night. Besides, the Wildcats are only 7-8 in the conf., 17-11 overall, easy to dismiss.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Big East, SEC Pack Punch: Feb. 27 College Hoops Notes

Five games involved teams ranked in the Top 25, all of which won over unranked opponents.

#6 Kansas 75 Iowa St. 64
Jayhawks put it all together in this road rout. Darrell Arthur led the scoring parade with 19 points in 31 minutes. Brandon Rush and Mario Chalmers each hit 3-4 three-pointers and scored 15. Kansas held a 43-30 rebounding edge. Jayhawks appear ready to avenge their loss to K-State, when the Wildcats come calling on Saturday.

Tulsa 67 #2 Memphis 82
A total breeze for the Tigers, but that's what happens when you hit 13-25 from beyond the arc.

Minnesota 53 #16 Purdue 65
Boilermakers continue to play great defense and hit perimeter shots, though being outrebounded 43-29 is a cause for concern. Purdue forced 20 turnovers, which somewhat balances things out.

GA Tech 58 #7 Duke 71
Blue Devils hit only 2 of 15 3-pointers, but still breezed as the Yellow jackets couldn't handle the pressure, turning the ball over 20 times.

St. John's 52 #11 Georgetown 64
Smothering the Johnnies isn't saying much. Roy Hibbert's 17 points, 3 rebounds and 4 fouls speaks volumes about this team's readiness for serious competition. Three rebounds? Come on.

Key games from around the nation:

Cincinnati 67 Pittsburgh 73
A much-needed win for the Panthers, but how far can Sam Young and DeJuan Blair (20 and 18 points, respectively) take them? Big rebounding edge (37-25) to the Bearcats, but Pitt won it at the free throw line. These two now tied in the Big east standings at 8-7.

West Virginia 85 DePaul 73
Nice win for the Mountaineers, who have won 4 of their last 5. The offense continues to click. They hit 53% overall and 77% from the foul line, which bodes well for the immediate future. Saturday's game at UConn ought to be a beauty. Big East is still wide open, with 9 teams vying for 7, maybe 8 tickets to the big dance. Mountaineers got a leg up with this win, making them 9-6, in sixth place.

Clemson 79 Miami (FL) 69
A key win for the Tigers, now 8-5 in the ACC and a cinch to make the field of 65. Tough loss for Miami, after winning four straight, they drop to 6-7 in the conference, but close out the regular season with Virginia and BC at home, then Florida St., away. Still hope for the Hurricanes.

Texas Tech 54 Texas A&M 98
Blowout win for the Aggies keeps them in the chase, but they've dropped out of the Top 25 and are just 7-6 in the Big 12. This ended a 3-game skid for A&M, which scored 56 1st-half points and cruised from there.

Oklahoma 45 Nebraska 63
Cornhuskers are red-hot, having won three straight, improving to 6-7 in the conference. Oklahoma St., Texas and Colorado close out the season. will 8-8 in the Big 12 translate to a dance pass? Depends on how the 'Huskers do in the Big 12 tourney. Stay tuned.

In the SEC, Florida won at Georgia, 77-64, improving to 8-5, 21-7. Defending champs look good to return to the NCAA tournament. Mississippi St. turned back Auburn, 89-78, making the Bulldogs 11-3 and clinching at least a tie for the SEC West title. Punch their ticket. Tough road for the Razorbacks, losing at Alabama, 59-56. Arkansas is now 7-6 in conference and on the outside looking in, because Kentucky dumped Mississippi, 58-54, making the Wildcats 10-3 in the SEC East and good enough to meet the committee's approval.

Catch all the college hoops action and key analysis at College Basketball Daily

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Tough Being on Top: Vols Lose to Vandy One Day After Ranking #1

#1 Tennessee 69 #18 Vanderbilt 72
Chris Lofton couldn't hit a three-pointer late in the game, but his teammates only managed one for the whole game.

Just one day after reaching the #1 ranking for the first time in school history, the Tennessee Volunteers suffered a letdown following their upset of Memphis on Saturday and fell to SEC East rival Vanderbilt. Lofton scored 25 points, hitting 6 of 15 treys, but his last three were all misses, as the Vols could not overcome Shan Foster's 32 points.

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Foster put the Commodores on his back and led them to a huge win, hitting 9-of-13 from the field, including 6-of-9 3-pointers and 8-of-11 from the foul line.

Tennessee's shooters were off all night, shooting just 32% for the game. Besides Lofton, the Vols hit only 1 of 11 from beyond the arc, by JaJuan Smith, who finished with 9 points.

Despite the horrible shooting, Tennessee (11-2, 25-3) kept the game close. It was only their second SEC loss, the other coming against Kentucky. The Vols beat Vanderbilt (9-4, 24-4), 80-60, back on January 17 and host Kentucky, with a chance to avenge their earlier loss, on Sunday.

A win over the Wildcats would all but secure the best record in the conference, the SEC East title, the top seed in the SEC tourney and a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Kentucky is 9-3 in the conference and hosts Mississippi tonight.

Ohio St. 69 #12 Indiana 72
Once again, the Buckeyes came up just short. Ohio State (17-11, 8-7) has now lost three straight and five of their last seven, placing them in an iffy, bubbelicious position for the NCAA tourney.

Hoosier Armon Bassett led the scoring with 23 points. Stalwart scorers Eric Gordon and D.J. White had 17 and 16, respectively.

This was the first home game for Dan Dakich, who replaced disgraced Kelvin Sampson, who retired on Friday amid a swirl of recruiting violation allegations and NCAA sanctions. Dakich was greeted warmly by the home crowd as Indiana (13-2, 24-4) won for the second straight time with Dakich as coach and has racked up four straight overall.

#15 Connecticut 79 Rutgers 61
The Huskies got back to business after losing to Villanova on Saturday, crushing an undermanned Rutgers team that was thoroughly outplayed by taller, faster UConn players. The Huskies outshot the Scarlet Knights, 52-42%, and outrebounded them, 41-24.

It was the 8th straight loss for Rutgers, which fell to the bottom of the Big East, at 2-14 and 10-19 overall.

The Huskies (11-4, 22-6) still trail 12-3 Louisville and Georgetown by one game in the Big east standings. Sandwiched in between is Notre Dame at 11-3. All the teams have three regular season games left, except the Irish, which has four.

UConn doesn't play any of the top three, but Louisville has both Notre Dame and Georgetown on the schedule. The Hoyas will have to contend not only with Louisville, but also with Marquette (11-5, 21-6). Notre Dame may just sneak in a win the Big East title. Following the tilt at Louisville Thursday night, they play at DePaul, host St. John's and finish at South Florida. Those three teams are a combined 11-32 in conference play.

#20 Drake 83 Missouri St. 86
The Missouri Valley conference is one of the best in the nation, top to bottom. Ample proof of that statement was made by Missouri State last night, knocking off top dog Drake in a game that was anything but a fluke. The Bears of Missouri State are 8th (of 10) in the conference standings with a 7-10 record, but are 15-15 overall and have already posted wins over Bradley, Indiana St., Southern Illinois and Northern Iowa, all teams ahead of them in the standings.

Drake, the only team from the conference ranked, has already wrapped up the MVC title, though they've now lost three of their last four in the conference. The upcoming conference tournament should produce a winner other than the Bulldogs and the second entrant to the NCAAs. The conference could easily place four solid teams into the field of 65.

Correction: In a post last week, I mistakenly mentioned that Selection Sunday was March 9. It is actually March 16, which means the championship game will be held on Monday, April 7.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

More Top 25 Wins on Monday

Make it eight straight for Top 25 teams over unranked opponents, as Marquette, Texas and St. Mary's added to the five Top 25 wins Sunday.

#21 Marquette 85 Villanova 75
This was a nice win for the Golden Eagles, their fifth straight overall and third road win in succession. Dominic James was on fire for Marquette, leading all scorers on 9-13 shooting for 25 points.

Next, Georgetown comes calling on Saturday and the Hoyas haven't been exactly overpowering lately. Marquette, with a win, could end the season on a nine-game streak, because only creampuff Florida Gulf Coast and a trip to the Dome at Syracuse remain.

Villanova goes back on the bubble with a 7-8 Big East record.

#5 Texas 74 Kansas St. 65
D.J. Augustin scored 24 as the Longhorns handed K-State their third straight loss. Michael Beasley put up 30, but hasn't gotten much help from his teammates of late.

It doesn't get any easier for the Wildcats, as they travel to Kansas to tilt with the Jayhawks on Saturday. After that, though, the season concludes against the bottom two in the Big 12, Colorado and Iowa State. The conference tournament will be a major factor in determining of seedings for the big dance.

San Diego 54 #25 St. Mary's 61
This was expected, with the Gaels being at home following a rare loss, but the future for St. Mary's seems to be that of a martyr against a 1 or 2 seed the second week of March.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Separation Sunday for College Basketball

Six Top 25 teams took to the hardwoods on Sunday and all six defeated teams in their conference which had high hopes prior to tip-off. By the end of the day, teams heading for the Big Dance sent a reality check to those chasing the dream.

Wake Forest 73 #3 North Carolina 89
The Tar Heels saw what the Dekes did to Duke, so they invited them over for a little hard medicine. The home team shot 56% from the field and 77% from the foul line. Tyler Hansbrough scored 29 points. Even without Ty Lawson, who may be back by the weekend, the Tar Heels must be feared and respected.

California 69 #9 Stanford 79
Nothing special here except for another home win for the Cardinal. Cal has a good team, and they own wins over USC and Washington State, both of which they face over the next two weeks. Closing out the regular season isn't going to aid their cause, though, nor is their current 6-8 PAC-10 record.

#10 Xavier 57 Dayton 51
The X-Men put the final nail in the Flyers' coffin - their 8th loss against just five wins in the A-10. At 17-9 overall, Dayton may need another couple of wins to just make it to the NIT.

#11 Wisconsin 58 Ohio St. 53
Nice try by the Buckeyes, who would be the fifth team from the Big 10 to make the field of 65, but their schedule says they're not going to make it. Their final four games are at Indiana, at Minnesota, then home against Purdue and Michigan State.

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If they win just one, presumably against the Gophers, they'll finish 9-9 in the league and 18-13 overall. NIT material. Better luck next year. If the committee lets them in, it's a travesty unless the Buckeyes somehow win two or three of these games and don't implode in the Big Ten Tourney. Michigan State, now in 4th place in the conference, is marginal at best, and these guys can't even beat them.

#18 Louisville 75 Pittsburgh 73
Pitt played one of its best games of the season and they still lost by a bucket. David Padgett and Edgar Sosa had their way with the Panthers, going 9-13 and 7-11, respectively. No sustained defensive effort and a third straight loss (this one at home) has put the Panthers' season on the edge. There's still time, but Cincy and West Virginia have passed them in the standings. The Panthers have them both on the remaining schedule, plus Syracuse and DePaul.

Syracuse 87 #21 Notre Dame 94
Cross off the 'Cuse. Whether they were employing coach Boeheim's vaunted 2-3 defense or man-on-man, Kyle McAlarney torched them for 30 points, hitting an incredible 9-of-11 3-pointers. Syracuse falls to 7-8 in the Big East and 17-11 overall. There are to many teams already in front of them for the Orange to be even considered to be on the bubble. They're young and suffered a number of key injuries this season, so they'll be back with a bullet next season.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Vols Top Tigers, Claim #1; Notes from Saturday, Feb. 23

#2 Tennessee 66 #1 Memphis 62
In the most widely-anticipated game of the season, #2 Tennessee marched into Memphis and ended the Tigers' 25-game winning streak, while also stopping the nation's longest home winning streak at 47 games and likely knocking the Tigers off the #1 ranking perch when a new Top 25 poll comes out on Monday.

For the Volunteers, it was largely a team effort, with just three players in double figures. Tyler Smith led the way with 18 points. Wayne Chism and J.P. Prince added 13 apiece. JaJuan Smith scored 9 and grabbed 10 rebounds. Chris Lofton, regarded by many as the best all-around player on the team, was guarded tightly all night and finished with just 7 points on 2-11 shooting. Lofton misfired on all four of his 3-point attempts.

The game was tight throughout, with neither team opening more than a 7-point lead. Memphis, one of the worst foul shooting teams in the nation, hit just 8 of 17 free throws. They also hoisted 27 3-balls, hitting just 8.

Inability to score from behind any line, be it the foul line or 3-point line, is going to be a killer come tourney time, which is why Memphis should not go into the NCAA tournament as a #1 seed. Despite their lofty record, they play in a weak conference, shoot just 58% from the charity stripe and only 34% from the 3-point arc. While their 3-ball stat number is acceptable, the foul shooting figure is not. In fact it's horrible and partly why they lost to Tennessee last night and won't win a national championship this season. Little things matter come tourney time and hitting freebies becomes large, especially if you can't make them.

Around the NCAA on Saturday:

#4 Kansas 60 Oklahoma St. 61
The Big 12 is not very predictable. At least it wasn't yesterday. Of the four ranked Big 12 teams playing on Saturday, three of the lost. BTW: the Cowboys improved to 5-7 in the conference and close out the season with Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas. 8-8 or 9-7 could get them a dance card.

St. John's 56 #5 Duke 86
Who scheduled this? Obviously, St. John's was getting a nice cut of the gate. Duke needed a little break after losing two straight. This was better.

Oregon 65 #6 UCLA 75
The Ducks hung around until UCLA got serious. Oregon is just a shade smallish and it hurts them. If their shooters get hot, as they were in the first half of this game, they can be dangerous. UCLA's defense is tremendous. They look more and more like a #1 seed every time they hit the court.

Oklahoma 45 #7 Texas 62
A breeze for the Longhorns as G.J. Augustin scored 19.

#16 Drake 71 #8 Butler 64
Earth to Horizon League: There are probably four or five teams in the Missouri Valley conference better than Butler.

Cincinnati 53 #12 Georgetown 73
The Hoyas won for all the wrong reasons. They were outrebounded, but hit 27 of 35 free throws (77%). Roy Hibbert scored 12 points and had 3 rebounds in 31 minutes. He needs anger management. to make him mad. There's never been such a mild-mannered big man, ever. The Hoyas are, however, one of the better defensive teams out there, but teams with good post players can beat them.

#13 Connecticut 65 Villanova 67
Nova's got game, for sure, and they sorely needed this win to keep their tourney hopes alive. They're now 7-7 in the Big East. Respect. You have to earn it.

Arizona 65 #17 Washington St. 55
This was somewhat of a shock because Arizona had been doing a death spiral, losing four of their last five coming in, but the Cougars hit only 5 of 22 3-pointers while the Wildcats hit 8 of 14. At 7-7 in the PAC-10, Arizona is still alive. The Cougars matched their season-low in scoring, and are 2-4 against teams in California (they beat USC twice). Their next two games are at Cal and at Stanford. Trouble.

Iowa 52 #19 Michigan St. 66
Tom Izzo breathed a real sigh of relief when this one was over. The Spartans have struggled against the best in the Big 10, and have Wisconsin and Indiana up next, then close out the season at Illinois and Ohio State. Still 10-4 in the conference, they need to win three of those final four to avoid having to face an 8, 9, or 10 seed in the tourney. They have issues with everything from perimeter shooting to fundamental defense.

Georgia 74 #20 Vanderbilt 86
The Commodores ought to move up in the rankings. They're probably no worse than 15th nationally.

Nebraska 65 #22 Texas A&M 59
The Aggies are deflating faster than a blow-up doll on Valentine's Day. Yesterday, I put them in the "likely" column to make the NCAA tournament. Put me in the "idiot" column. They suck, and I was suckered.

Kent St. 65 #23 St. Mary's 57
We all knew Kent State was better than St. Mary's didn't we? Well, didn't we?

#24 Kansas St. 86 Baylor 92
A big win for Baylor, probably enough to get their ticket punched for the big dance. Good on them. K-State is still growing and maybe can get things right during the Big 12 Tourney. They have lots of upside.

Rutgers 48 #25 Marquette 78
That's four straight wins for the Golden Eagles, one of the real sleepers in the country. They have one of the best inside-outside tandems in Lazar Hayward and Jerel McNeal and when they go to their 3-guard offense with Wesley Matthews and Dominic James, they turn up the heat from the perimeter and on defense. The rest of the field better look out for these guys in March because they're truly dangerous.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

College Basketball March Madness: Bubble Trouble

With the month of Madness just a week away, it's not too early to start looking at which teams have to amp it up a bit to make the field of 65 for the NCAA Tournament. Here's a quick peek at teams that are surely in, those with a solid shot and those on the bubble.

No-Doubters: These teams can relax. They're 99% assured of getting in, no matter what.

North Carolina
Washington St.
Notre Dame
St. Mary's
Kansas State
America East Conference Champion
Atlantic Sun Conference Champion
Big Sky Conference Champion
Big South Conference Champion
Big West Conference Champion
Colonial Athletic Association Champion
Ivy League Champion
Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Champion
Mid-American Conference Champion
Mid-Continent Conference Champion
Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Champion
Mountain West Conference Champion
Northeast Conference Champion
Ohio Valley Conference Champion
Patriot League Conference Champion
Southern Conference Champion
Southland Conference Champion
Southwestern Athletic Conference Champion
Sun Belt Conference Champion
Western Athletic Conference Champion

That's 43 spots already taken. I've included the likely winners or runners-up from the major conferences as individual teams, like Tennessee in the SEC, Duke and North Carolina in the ACC, etc.

That leaves 22 spots remaining to be filled. All records are as of Friday, Feb. 22.

Likely candidates:
Clemson 19-7
Wake Forest 16-8
Marquette 19-6, ,
Michigan St. 21-5, ,
St. Joseph's 16-8
Texas A&M 20-6
Houston 19-6
Wright St. 20-8

That's 8 almost certain to get in, leaving just 14 more spots, but, uh-oh, there are 31 teams on the bubble (and there may be a couple I missed from minor conferences). Texas A&M, Wake Forest, Michigan State and Marquette could get bumped from the likely list if they lose 3 or more games or take early exits from conference tourneys. Overall, however, those still look like they'll make the grade.

On the Bubble:

ACC: Virginia Tech 15-11, Miami 18-7, Maryland 17-10 - The Terps lay claim to a win over North Carolina. Miami upset Duke last week and late-season wins count more. The Hokies have beaten Maryland twice, but essentially, nobody else. With Maryland losing to Miami on Saturday, give the Hurricanes the edge and maybe just five teams from the ACC go dancing.

Big East: Cincinnati 13-12, West Virginia 18-8, Pittsburgh 19-7, Syracuse 17-10, Villanova 16-9 - With 16 teams in the conference, the Big East could legitimately send 7 teams to the party. Villanova got a huge boost on Saturday, breaking UConn's 10-game win streak. Cincy lost to Georgetown, and 13 losses is going to be tough to overcome, even though the Bearcats are now 8-6 in the conference. Pitt's been sketchy to say the least, losing three of their last five. The 'Cuse and Mountaineers could make some noise in the Big East tourney and grab a bid.

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Big Ten: Ohio St. 17-9, Minnesota 16-9 - Both teams need to step it up, though it is conceivable that the Big Ten only sends four teams and both of these are out. Most of the smart money is on Ohio State.

Big 12: Oklahoma 18-8; Baylor, 17-8, Texas Tech, 14-11 - Doubtful that even two of these can get to the tourney unless the Aggies continue to implode. Baylor, hot early, needs to win a couple more. The Red Raiders evened their Big 12 record at 6-6, plus their recent win over K-State will look good to the committee, but they have A&M, Texas and Kansas all in a row upcoming. The Sooners have quietly hung around, and early wins over Arkansas, Gonzaga, West Virginia and Baylor should go a long way.

Conference USA: UAB 18-8 - With Memphis running the table in the C-USA and Houston playing well, UAB is about all that's left from this weakened conference.

Mid-American: Akron 9-4, 19-7; W. Michigan 9-3, 15-10 - Kent State looks like the team to beat, and one of these, but not both, could make the final cut.

Missouri Valley: Illinois St. 11-5, 19-8; Southern Ill. 10-6, 15-12; Creighton 9-7,18-8; Bradley, 9-7, 16-12 - With Drake odds-on to win the Missouri Valley title, each of these teams are deserving of a closer look. Bradley has won their last two, against Creighton and Drake, the two Illinois schools are solid. Illinois State had a nine-game win streak earlier in the year that included four straight road wins. The Salukis have won three straight and have loads of playoff experience, plus that great name. Lots to like in the land of the Ozarks and the tournament committee might take a total of four teams from this excellent mid-major.

Northeast: Robert Morris 13-2, 22-6 and Wagner 13-2, 20-6 - these two tip on Saturday, so the winner will likely take the Northeast Conference Champion championship. A sleeper is Sacred Heart, which owns a win over Robert Morris.

PAC-10 USC 7-6, 16-9, Arizona St. 6-7, 16-9, California 6-7, 15-9 , Arizona 6-7, 16-10, Oregon 6-8, 15-11, Washington 6-8, 15-12 - How many Pac-10 teams are going to go? Four, five? Almost certainly not six. That means four of these will miss out. While USC has a leg up in conference play, they don't look particularly well-balanced and could miss out, especially with big games at home vs. Cal and Stanford and a road trip to both Arizona teams coming up. Washington will have the toughest time, and Arizona hasn't impressed all season. From the looks of it, Arizona State, Cal and Oregon will battle it out for two spots.

SEC: Kentucky 8-3, 14-10, Florida 7-5, 20-7, Mississippi St. 8-3, 17-8 , Arkansas 7-4, 18-7, Mississippi 4-7, 18-7 - After Tennessee and Vandy, everybody in the SEC is on the bubble. Figuring that the conference will send a maximum of six teams to the tourney, two of these aren't going to make it and the decision will likely come down to the SEC tournament. Of these, Mississippi, with that losing conference record, looks the weakest. Kentucky beat Arkansas on Saturday and upped their conference record to 9-3. Florida, Mississippi St. and Arkansas may all go, if Kentucky gets their pass.

Confused? You should be. I've identified 16-19 teams on the bubble with good chances of moving forward, but, like I said earlier, only 14 can go. Some good teams will be bumped, as is usually the case.

I'll provide another update next Saturday. Selection Sunday is March 9, so why haven't you bookmarked College Basketball Daily?

Friday, February 22, 2008

Irish Win 35th Straight Home Game

Pittsburgh 70 (21) Notre Dame 82
Luke Harangody scored 23 points and pulled down 12 rebounds as the Irish ran their home win streak to 35 games.

Pitt made it difficult. Notre Dame overcame an 11-point deficit in the second half for the win. 5'11" Tory Jackson hauled in a career-high 13 rebounds.

The win tied the Irish with UConn at 10-3 in the Big East. The two trail Georgetown and Louisville, both at 11-3, by 1/2-game.

Pitt continues to struggle through their Big east schedule. The Panthers dropped to 7-6 in league play, have lost two straight and host Louisville on Sunday.

Other Top 25 Scores:

Oregon St. 49 (6) UCLA 84
Duquesne 48 (10) Xavier 75
Arizona St. 47 (17) Washington St. 59

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Duke, K-State Stunned: College Hoops Notes from Feb. 19 & 20

Tuesday's Results

DePaul 60 (13) Connecticut 65
Punch that ticket to the dance for the Huskies. Any team capable of winning 10 straight in any conference, much less the Big East, has earned the right to play on.

(14) Purdue 68 (15) Indiana 77
Indiana put all concerns over the future of coach Kelvin Sampson behind them as the Hoosiers' tremendous trio of Eric Gordon, A.J. White and Armon Bassett scored 22, 19 and 16, respectively. White and Bassett controlled the boards, which the Hoosiers won convincingly, 46-30. White had 15 rebounds, while Bassett finished with 8.

The win tightened the race in the Big Ten, with Purdue a 1/2-game up - at 12-2 - on both Indiana and Wisconsin, both with 11-2 records.

Bradley 72 (16) Drake 71
Disappointment for Bulldog fans as Drake suffered its first home loss of the season, but, with only two conference games remaining the Missouri Valley is already a done deal. Drake plays at Butler on Saturday.

Wednesday's Results:

(1) Memphis 97 Tulane 71
Coach John Calipari notched career win #400 as his Memphis Tigers built a 19-point lead at the half and coasted to their 26th straight win and a 12-0 conference record in advance of their Saturday meeting with #2 Tennessee. Chris Douglas-Roberts had 20 points in the first half and finished with a game-high 29 on 13-17 shooting, including 2-of-3 three-pointers.

Auburn 70 (2) Tennessee 89
In one of their easier wins of the season, the Vols led 46-20 at the half and cruised to their 24th win against just 2 losses. At 10-1, Tennessee leads the SEC East by two games over Kentucky.

(3) North Carolina 84 NC State 70
Once again, Tyler Hansbrough led the way for the 24-2 Tar Heels, with 32 points and 12 rebounds. Hansbrough, a strong candidate for player of the year honors, hit 11 of 19 shots from the field and canned 10-13 free throws.

(5) Duke 95 Miami (FL) 96
Sophomore Dwayne Collins scored a season-high 26 points, while Duke's Greg Paulus struggled through a tough shooting night as Miami upset #5 Duke. Leading 41-36 at halftime, the Hurricanes went on a 18-3 run to open the second half, building a 20-point lead which proved insurmountable. Collins was nearly unstoppable inside, connecting on 12 of 14 shots, most of them from point-blank range. Jon Scheyer kept Duke in the game, hitting 5 of 9 three-pointers and a game high 27 points. Duke closed the gap and scored at the buzzer, but still fell short. Paulus was 3-12 from the field and finished with 12 points.

The loss dropped Duke into a tie with North Carolina for the ACC lead. Miami improved to 5-6 in the conference and 18-7 to keep their post-season hopes alive

(8) Butler 51 Illinois-Chicago 46
In a night loaded with blowouts, this Horizon League matchup provided some excitement. A.J. Graves hit his 4th three-pointer of the game with 48 seconds left to give the Bulldogs a 49-46 lead and his two free throws with 2 seconds left sealed the win. Butler has clinched at least a tie for the conference title and can wrap it up with a win over arch-rival, 2nd place, Wright St. next Thursday.

(11) Wisconsin 71 Illinois 57
The Badgers won their third straight and tied Purdue atop the Big Ten at 12-2. Trevon Hughes scored 18 points and Marcus Landry had 17.

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Penn St. 49 (19) Michigan St. 86
After losing three of their last four, the Spartans got back on track, avenging a Feb. 2 loss at Penn State. They did it in a big way, leading by as many as 35 points in the second half before Tom Izzo emptied his bench. Eleven different Michigan State players had at least a bucket as the Spartans shot 58% for the game.

(24) Kansas St. 64 Nebraska 71
Michael Beasley had an off night, hitting just one of six three-point attempts and finished with 17 points as the Wildcats dropped a key road game. The loss dropped K-State to 8-3 in the Big 12, a game behind leaders Kansas and Texas.

(25) Marquette 73 St. John's 64
Jerel McNeil had 20 points and Dominic James scored 19, boosting Marquette's season record to 19-6.

Note: Home teams listed second in line scores; AP rankings in parentheses.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

College Hoops Scores and Notes for Feb. 18

(10) Xavier 81 Rhode Island 77
The X-Men are now 10-1 in the A-10, with a three-game lead over 7-4 St. Joseph's and 3 1/2 over 3rd place Richmond, the two teams against whom the Musketeers finish the regular season. With the lead they have, the games may be, well, academic. Seven Xavier players scored 8 or more points, led by senior forward Josh Duncan's 23.

(12) Georgetown 68 Providence 58
Roy Hibbert led the Hoyas with 18 points, 8 rebounds and 6 blocked shots. The win kept them tied with Louisville atop the Big East standings at 11-3.

Syracuse 50 (18) Louisville 61
Every game critical for the Orangemen, but Louisville (11-3, Big East) was too much down the stretch. Syracuse shot just 28% for the game and hit just 2 of 20 three-pointers.

(22) Texas A&M 50 (7) Texas 77
This loss may have taken A&M off the short list for an NCAA bid and into bubble territory. While 20-6 overall, the Aggies are just 6-5 in the Big 12. An earlier win over Texas, plus non-conference victories over LSU, Alabama, Washington and Ohio St. will help, but the schedule is a testy one, especially the regular season finale against Kansas.

D.J. Augustin scored 27 points and dished 9 assists for the Longhorns, who tied Kansas at 9-2 in the conference.

(23) St. Mary's 100 Pepperdine 64
The Gaels put six players into double figures and notched 100 for the first time this season. Their previous high score was all the way back on November 20, when they beat Oregon, 99-87. St. Mary's hit 17-of-29 three-pointers.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Oh! The Horror! Blue Devils Torched by Freshmen Deacons

Wake Forest 86, (2) Duke 73
Freshmen James Johnson and Jeff Teague scored 50 points between themselves and Wake Forest did what no other ACC team has done this season: they beat Duke.

Johnson, a 6-8 forward, scored 24 points on 8-of-13 shooting and snagged a career-best 16 rebounds. The Blue Devils had no answer for the big man, and when he wasn't dancing inside, Teague was blazing from the perimeter, scoring a game-high 26 points, including 3-of-3 from 3-point range.

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Duke simply could not guard every on the floor efficiently, as all five of their starters fouled out of the game. Kyle Singler, who was coming off his best performance of the season against Maryland, was 6-of-10 and scored 17 points, but the shooting was off for Duke. Greg Paulus was only 1-6 on three-pointers, and Duke shot just 41% for the game, much of that attributable to the Deacons pressure defense.

Other alarming stats for Duke showed up at the free throw line. Wake Forest went to the charity stripe 38 times - unusual against a Duke team which almost always gets to the line more than their opponent - and the Blue Devils were also shabby at the line, making only 13-of-25. Wake Forest hit 27 of their freebies - 71%.

While the loss was not critical for Duke, the win was important for Wake Forest, a team squarely on the bubble at 16-8 and now 6-5 in the conference. The win over the #2 team in the country certainly improves their chances for an at-large bid, though they still have to travel to #5 North Carolina next Sunday before filling out the regular season schedule with winnable games against Maryland, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and NC State. 19-10 or 20-9 overall should be good enough, considering only five teams in the ACC have winning conference records right now.

Notre Dame 71 Rutgers 68
The Fighting Irish aren't very good on the road and it showed as they struggled past Rutgers. The Irish managed only 41% shooting from the field, though they did manage to hit 8-of-17 3-pointers (47%). Rutgers was simply worse, hitting only 38% including 9-of-25 beyond the arc.

UCLA 56 USC 46
In the West Coast version of Last Man Standing the Bruins, who used only 8 players, outlasted the Trojans, who used just six. USC turned the ball over 22 times against the Bruins trapping defense and were outrebounded, 38-31. Freshman standout O. J. Mayo was held t a season-low 4 points.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Top 25 Results and Notes from Saturday, Feb. 16

(1) Memphis 79 UAB 78
Closest game so far this season for the unbeaten Tigers, who needed a three-point play from Chris Douglas-Roberts and a made shot by the Blazers ruled too late. Memphis was only 12-22 (.545) from the foul line, which won't help their cause in March. Here's a #1 with targets on their chests. 25-0 ain't bad, though.

Colorado 45 (3) Kansas 69
Bill Self emptied the bench as this one was done early. KU remains in commanding position in Big 12.

(4) Tennessee 74 Georgia 71
This one figured to be close and it was. Chris Lofton had 18 of his 22 in the second half, and the Vols roll ever closer to clinching the SEC East. Tennessee visits Memphis on the 23rd (Saturday) in a major out-of-conference showdown.

VA Tech 53 (5) UNC 92
Nobody's paying much attention to the Heels, but Tyler Hansbrough (23 points and 9 boards in 29 minutes) is making a bid for player of the year.

(7) Stanford 67 Arizona 66
Stanford got out of Arizona with a loss and a narrow win. As the competition heats up their close-out games with Washington St., then At UCLA and USC should prove how good the Cardinals really are.

(8) Georgetown 70 Syracuse 77
Paul Harris, 22 points and 8 boards; Jonny Flynn, 17 points. The main strength and vulnerability for the Hoyas is center Roy Hibbert (11 points, 3 rebs.) and 'Cuse coach Boeheim knew that. Georgetown's center saw plenty of bench time with foul trouble. Syracuse still on the bubble, but this was huge for them.

Cleveland St. 46 (9) Butler 51
Butler has a date with Missouri Valley top dog, Drake, on Feb. 23 and only 3 conference games left. Wright State on the 28th should be the clincher for the Horizon league. Mike Green and A. J. Graves make these Bulldogs tough to beat (23-2)

(10) Michigan St. 61 (13) Indiana 80
Down 18-8 early, the Hoosiers went on a 33-15 run to the half and never looked back. Despite the distractions involving coach Sampson, the team is solid and Eric Gordon (game-high 28 points) is ridiculous. Look for him to enter the draft shortly after the Hoosiers are knocked out of the tourney. Spartans have lost 3 of their last 4. In March, 2 dance limit for them.

(11) Texas 82 Baylor 77
Damion James had 19 points and 10 rebounds in the Longhorns' 5th straight win and 22nd straight over Baylor. The fact that it was close gives the Bears some cred, but they have to start winning a few here and there.

(14) Drake 65 N Iowa 55
The Missouri Valley title clincher for Drake wasn't all fun and games, as the Bulldogs shot just 39% from the floor, but hit 18 of 19 freebies to the Panthers' 3 of 5.

Minnesota 56 (15) Wisconsin 65
Balanced scoring and tenacious defense make the Badgers one of the real sleepers in the nation. Just one game behind Purdue (11-1) in the Big 10 standings at 10-1, they could run the table (only Michigan State left as ranked opponents) and the conference tourney and end up a #2 or #3 seed.

Oklahoma St. 59 (16) Texas A&M 54
No real knocks on the Aggies, but 18 second half points at home isn't going to cut it in this or any other conference. The loss snapped a five-game win streak, but the schedule suggests that A&M still has work to do.

(17) Connecticut 74 S Florida 73, OT
A tough road win for the Huskies, puts them in great position for the post-season. Their ninth straight win and no ranked teams in their final six Big East games means they're a lock for an at-large bid.

Missouri 63 (18) Kansas St. 100
Michael Beasley tied his season high with 40 points (and 17 rebounds) and this one turned into a rout early on as the Wildcats opened up a 21-point lead at the half. Beasley makes K-State one of the more dangerous teams in the nation. Nobody's been able to slow him down yet and it's doubtful anybody will as he's averaging 25.7 and 12.6. #1 draft pick? Count on it.

(19) Purdue 71 Northwestern 56
Make it 11 straight for the Boilermakers, who might be a little under-appreciated by the pollsters. Tuesday's visit to Bloomington ought to be killer.

(21) Wash St. 62 Oregon 53
The Ducks hung in until the final three minutes, and both teams may be just good enough to get tourney bids, but how far they'll go is an open question. Lots to still be sorted out in the PAC-10.

(23) Louisville 80 Providence 72
Cardinals now tied with Georgetown at 10-3 in the Big East standings, but have a tough schedule remaining: Syracuse, at Pitt, Notre Dame, Villanova, at Georgetown. Louisville sure to move up in the polls while the Hoyas fall.

Florida 58 (24) Vanderbilt 61
Commodores seem to have their groove on once more, with their 5th straight win. The Gators are still fighting for an at-large bid, but have to contend with with three solids in the SEC West: Arkansas, Mississippi and Mississippi State. All four teams have 7 losses and winning conference records.

(25) St. Mary's 80 Loyola-Marymount 49
If you can hold a team to 26% shooting, your chances for a win improve dramatically. That's what the Gaels did on Saturday, and that tough defense will work in March as well. Big games with San Diego and Gonzaga, Feb. 25 and March 1, respectively, should tell us more.

Note: Home teams listed 2nd in line scores, rankings in parentheses.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Bubble Puzzle: Marquette Pounds Pitt

Marquette 72 Pittsburgh 54
There's a swinging door at the entrance to the NCAA field of 65, and it swung wide open for the Marquette Golden Eagles last night. For the Panthers, though, that door is closing fast, and they may just have to climb in through an open window in the Big east tournament.

Marquette outplayed the Panthers in every aspect of the game: the Golden Eagles shot 49%, grabbed 36 rebounds, dished 20 assists, turned the ball over 10 times, made 6 steals and blocked 4 shots. The numbers for Pitt were 37%, 33, 12, 15, 3 and 1. The Panthers were also a dreadful 1-11 from 3-point range.

Marquette stepped past Pitt in the Big East standings, improving to 8-5 in conference and 18-6 overall. Pitt is 7-5 and 19-6. Both teams are on the bubble, but Marquette served notice that they are worthy of reaching the next level.

Pittsburgh is an enigma wrapped in a sweat sock. Here's a team that's beaten both Duke and Georgetown, but has lost to the likes of Dayton, Rutgers, Cincinnati, UConn and Villanova. They're a horrible 2-4 on the road against Big East opponents and their next game is at Notre Dame, where the Irish have won 34 straight. Pitt will have to raise the ghost of Andrew Carnegie to win that one.

Next Sunday, the Panthers host Louisville, one of the hottest teams in the country, then play Cincy, a team that already beat them. Two road games, against contentious Syracuse and West Virginia precede the season finale against DePaul.

If the Panthers finish up 4-3 or 5-2 in those final seven games, they'll need a bit of a run in the Big East tourney to impress the NCAA selection committee. Winning less than four of their remaining games probably wipes them off the bracket board even before the conference tourney.

Marquette has similar bubble problems, but the win over Pitt really aids their cause. A pair of losses to Louisville, a split with Notre Dame and road losses at UConn and West Virginia are among the negatives. An out-of-conference win over Wisconsin helps, though a March 1 showdown with Georgetown, at Marquette, and the Big East tourney, will be keys to their success.

The Big East is likely to send seven teams to the national tournament. Georgetown, UConn, Louisville and Notre Dame look like locks already. With Syracuse, Cincinnati and West Virginia knocking on the door, Pitt may be the odd team out.

Friday, February 15, 2008

PAC-10 Punch: Arizona St. Downs Stanford in OT

Arizona State 72 Stanford 68 OT
Is this a bubble team or a real contender for the field of 65 in March? The Arizona State Sun Devils (6-5, 16-7) will have every chance to claim that they belong as they continue to play down the stretch of their PAC-10 schedule.

After losing five straight - to Stanford, Washington, Washington St., USC and UCLA - the rest of the conference was about to write them off. But, with their second straight win, they are suddenly back in the thick of it, just a 1/2-game behind third place Washington St. (7-5), with 9-3 Stanford and 9-2 UCLA ahead.

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The PAC-10 will likely send 5 or even six teams to the national tourney, and Arizona State has a legitimate chance at being one of the chosen few.

With seven games left on their schedule, they have the opportunity to avenge all of their losses, they've already swept in-state rival Arizona, and the remaining games are with Cal, Oregon and Oregon State, three teams they've already beaten. Supposing they win those three and split the revenge/avenge games, they'd finish up at 21-9 and 11-7 in the conference, and it would depend on which of the teams (USC, UCLA or the two Washington teams) they beat and how those teams finish.

They may be firmly on the bubble for a couple of weeks, but after last night's win, the Sun Devils have everything in front of them. The big home win over highly ranked (#7) Stanford, in which they rallied from seven points behind in the final two minutes of regulation, could be just the juice they needed.

Elsewhere in the Top 25, the Butler Bulldogs (23-2, 12-2) easily dispatched Youngstown St., 89-73, to maintain their two-game lead in the Horizon league, and #21 Washington State won their second straight after three consecutive losses, going on the road to defeat Oregon St., 70-57.

Tonight's schedule is light, with only one top 25 team in action. #22 Pittsburgh travels to Marquette for a pivotal Big East showdown. The Panthers are 7-4 in the conference and have won two straight, while rebounded with a win at Seton Hall after losing to Louisville and Notre Dame. The Golden Eagles are 7-5. Point guard Lavance Fields is expected to see action for the Panthers. He's been out 7 weeks with a broken foot.

The weekend has a number of great games on tap with all Top 25 teams taking to the hardwood. Saturday's Texas at Baylor game stirs some interest, along with Missouri at Kansas State. A late Saturday game sends Michigan State to Indiana in a battle of Big Ten powerhouses.

On Sunday, #2 Duke visits Wake Forest, while out West, UCLA tangles with crosstown rival USC.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Big Ten Mash-up: Purdue, Wisconsin on Top

Wisconsin 68 Indiana 66
Following Tuesday's surprisingly easy win by Purdue over Michigan State, the Big Ten produced another upset as the Wisconsin Badgers upended Indiana in Bloomington, 68-66, handing the Hoosiers their second conference loss and third overall.

Down 66-65, Wisconsin senior Brian Butch hit a three-point shot with 4.5 remaining to propel the Badgers to their second victory over the Hoosiers this season and into sole possession of second place in the Big Ten standings at 10-2. Both of Wisconsin's losses have been to Purdue.

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Purdue leads the Big Ten with a 10-1 record, Indiana is third at 9-2, followed by 8-3 Michigan State.

Butch's big three-pointer capped a 13-point effort, including 9 of the Badgers' final 12 points. Michael Flowers had 15 and Jason Bohannon led the way with 18, but it was Butch's work at the rim that kept the Badgers in the game late, converting misses by Flowers and Bohannon into scores.

Indiana was led by Eric Gordon and D.J. White, who had 23 and 17, respectively.

The game itself was partially overshadowed by a NCAA report which took Hoosier head coach Kelvin Sampson to task for violating previously-imposed recruiting sanctions from his tenure at Oklahoma.

While Sampson defended his actions, penalties are likely, but not until the off-season, as Indiana has 90 days in which to appeal the charges that Sampson participated in recruiting phone calls and three-way calls which the NCAA had specifically prohibited him from making.

Texas Tech 84 Kansas State 75
Pat Knight's first win as a head coach was a big one, knocking K-State out of first place in the Big 12 and sending the conference into a February frenzy.

Knight, who took over the coaching reins when his father, Bob, abruptly retired on Monday of last week, got a career-high 30 points from Alan Voskuil and a big boost in job security.

Voskuil hit 5 of 6 3-pointers and canned 7 of 9 from the charity stripe in the Red Raiders' biggest upset of the season. The loss sends 7-2 Kansas State into a second-place tie with Texas, behind 8-2 Kansas. 6-3 Texas A&M and 5-4 Baylor remain in the mix, as the conference heads down the stretch to determine a regular season champion.

All of the contending teams have either 5 or 7 games remaining of the 16-game slate.

Around the Nation
17th-ranked UConn downed Notre Dame, 84-78, for its 8th straight win and an 8-3 record in the Big East. Georgetown leads the conference at 10-2, with Louisville second at 9-3. Notre Dame shares third with the Huskies at 8-3.

Three of the top four teams in the nation were in action on Wednesday. #1 Memphis rolled to 24-0, handling Houston, 68-59; #2 Duke held off Maryland, 77-65, and #4 Tennessee crushed Arkansas, 93-71.

In a story that didn't get as much coverage as it should have, #24 Vanderbilt pounded Kentucky, 93-52 on Tuesday night, the worst SEC loss ever for the Wildcats.

Kentucky, which shot 33% for the game, scored just 11 points in the first half while the Commodores piled up 41. The Wildcats hit only 1 of 10 3-pointers and committed 25 personal fouls and 15 turnovers.

It was a rout of historic proportions, unfortunately for first-year coach Billy Gillespie, who took over after Tubby Smith left the program in shambles. Smith is now head coach of the Minnesota Golden Gophers, who are 15-8 overall, but just 5-6 in the Big Ten.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Carolina Wins Another Close One; Purdue Whips Michigan St.

North Carolina 75 Virginia 74
Tyler Hansbrough's hook shot with 21 seconds left in the game gave North Carolina a 75-71 lead and it turned out to be enough to hold on over feisty Virginia. Sean Singletary scored 27 points to top all scorers and hit a three-pointer with 8 seconds remaining to claw the Cavaliers back to within a point, but it was all they could muster.

For Hansbrough, the little hook shot that gave the Tar Heels a 4-point lead in crunch time was almost routine for the North Carolina star. He finished with a team-high 23 points and 7 rebounds and Roy Williams' kids have ridden his first rate efforts to a couple of close wins in the challenging ACC.

On Sunday, the Tar Heels had to go to double overtime before finally dispatching Clemson, 103-93. North Carolina has five straight games against lower-eschelon teams in the ACC before closing out the regular season March 8 at Duke.

The Blue Devils already have a win over Carolina (a Feb. 6 89-78 win) and have a grip on the top spot in the conference standings. Duke leads at 9-0. The Tar Heels are second at 8-2, followed by 6-3 Maryland and 5-4 Clemson.

Duke hosts Maryland tonight at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Purdue 60 Michigan St. 54
These are tough times for Tom Izzo and his Spartan basketball team. On Tuesday night, they found out that the Boilermakers were for real, dropping their only meeting of the season at Purdue in a game that wasn't nearly as close as the final score indicates.

Outshot, 47 to 38%, the Boilermakers forced Michigan State into a slew of mistakes and turnovers, building a huge lead that left them ahead 34-18 at the break. The Spartans rallied to within one point three times in the second half, but could never draw even or take the lead away.

Frosh Robbie Hummel had another brilliant game, with a career-high 24 points, including 4 of 7 3-pointers. He also grabbed 11 rebounds in an all-around noteworthy effort.

While Purdue improved to 11-1 in the conference and stayed in first place ahead of 9-1 Indiana, the Spartans fell back to 4th at 8-3. Michigan State's losses have all come on the road - at Iowa, Penn State and last night at Purdue.

Indiana hosts 9-2 Wisconsin in tonight's key Big 10 matchup.

#1 Memphis hosts Houston, #2 Duke welcomes Maryland while in the Big East, #17 Notre Dame travels to #20 Connecticut.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Longhorns KO KU, 72-69

In the premier college hoops match Monday night, #4 Kansas traveled south to Texas to face the #11 Longhorns. By the time the night was over, Kansas had suffered their second loss, Texas earned their 20th win and unlikely Kansas State stood alone atop the Big 12 standings.

Both teams had ups and downs during the contest, but especially D.J. Augustin, whose only bucket of the game (on 1-13 shooting) turned out to be the most important.

The lead had changed hands several times during the first half and most of the second half. With 7:28 remaining, the score was knotted at 57-all. When the teams got back on the court, Texas took the advantage. A.J. Abrams made a jumper, Justin Mason hit one of two free throws and then Augustin made a layup at 5:58 to give Texas the lead for good at 62-57.

Though the Jayhawks had enough time and opportunity to get back in the game, the closest they could come was 69-67 on Mario Chalmers' only three-pointer of the game.

Kansas hit just 4-of-17 shots from beyond the arc, and though they outshot the Longhorns 44 to 41%, they didn't get to the foul line often enough - they were 11 of 14, to Texas' 20 of 28.

Chalmers had a final chance at the buzzer, but his long jumper bounded off the rim.

Both squads placed four players in double figures, though Kansas' Darrell Arthur topped all scorers with 22 points. Damian James had a double-double for Texas with 14 points and 13 rebounds, and teammate Connor Atchley had a perfect shooting night, hitting 6 of 6 from the floor and making all four of his charity tosses for a team-high 16 points.

Kansas dropped to 23-2 and 8-2 in the conference; Texas improved to 20-4 and 7-2. Both teams trail 7-1 K-State, with #16 Texas A&M following at 6-3. Kansas State, while leading the conference, is the lowest ranked team of the bunch, at #18.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Memphis Tops Polls; Tar Heels Survive Clemson; Bruins Fall

As the sole remaining undefeated team in the country, the Memphis Tigers received all possible first place votes in both the AP and USA Today/ESPN Top 25 polls.

Playing in watered-down Conference USA, the 23-0 Tigers, have only one more significant challenge leading up to the NCAA tournament, that being a non-conference home game against Tennessee on February 20. The Vols were ranked #4 in the most recent polls.

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Besides the Tennessee game, Memphis has only seven games left in their regular season schedule. Two games are against UAB, currently third in the conference standings at 6-2, and one against Tulane (5-4, 15-8). The other four games are against opponents the Tigers have already defeated once - Houston, SMU, Southern Miss and Tulsa. The Tigers have beaten those teams by an average of 23 points, the worst of those an 83-47 pasting of Southern Miss.

Memphis has more than just a gaudy conference record to their credit, though, owning wins over Gonzaga, Connecticut, Georgetown, USC, Arizona and Oklahoma. All but the Connecticut game were played on the Tigers' home floor.

On Sunday, North Carolina (22-2) survived a scare at home from the testy Clemson Tigers, who got a huge game from senior guard Cliff Hammonds as the Tar Heels won in double overtime, 103-93.

Hammonds had a season-high 31 points, but Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough - who is averaging a double-double on the season - outdid him, scoring 39 points to go with 13 rebounds. Hansbrough has been doing it all of late; he's scored 89 points and grabbed 51 rebounds over the last three games, even though one was a home loss to Duke.

Out West, UCLA (21-3) suffered their worst loss of the season, a 71-61 setback at Washington. The Huskies' Justin Dentmon scored 20 points while holding Bruins point guard Darren Collison to just 3 points on 1-for-8 shooting.

The win was wholly unexpected. Washington won its 4th PAC-10 game against 7 losses and is 13-11 overall. The Bruins were ice cold, shooting 34% from the field, including a dismal 1-16 from 3-point range.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Big East, Big 10 Tighten Up

Two critical games were played in two of the nation's top conferences Saturday and the results tighten the races for their respective titles.

In the Big East, Louisville defeated Georgetown, 59-51 to create a four-team log jam atop the division. Georgetown still leads with a 9-2 record, but 8-2 Notre Dame, Louisville (8-3) and Connecticut (7-3) are in the mix. With 7 or 8 games remaining for each squad - some against each other - the Big East is certainly up for grabs, setting up a thrilling finish to the regular season and a highly anticipated post-season tournament.

The same applies in the Big 10, where unheralded Purdue knocked off Wisconsin for the second time this season, 72-67. The Boilermakers got 21 points from freshman swingman Robbie Hummel on Saturday and lead the conference at 10-1, followed by Indiana (9-1), Wisconsin (9-2) and Michigan State (8-2).

Purdue hosts Michigan St. on Tuesday (Feb. 12) and, after a trip to Northwestern, stays on the road to play Indiana on Feb. 19. Those two games may go a long way toward deciding the conference and whether Purdue will have any staying power when the competition ratchets up in March.

On Sunday, the Hoosiers downed Illinois, 59-53, getting 21 points from power forward D. J. White, but have a testy slate of games just ahead. Indiana hosts the top three contenders in the conference in consecutive games. Wisconsin comes calling on Feb. 13, followed by Michigan St. on the 16th and then Purdue on the 19th. A sweep would give the Hoosiers serious bragging rights, though that's hardly a done deal. Wisconsin already has a win over Indiana, Purdue leads the conference and Michigan State can run with anyone.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Memphis, Duke, Butler, Kansas All Winners

Butler 62 Wisconsin-Green Bay 57 - The Butler Bulldogs are ranked in the top 10 nationally, and a major factor is the stiff competition in the Horizon League. Seven of ten Horizon League teams have winning records.

Trailing 29-26 early in the second half, the Bulldogs outscored their Green Bay hosts 23-10, to seemingly take command of the game with 8 minutes remaining.

The Phoenix responded with a 8-0 run of their own to trail 49-47 with 4:20 left, but Pete Campbell knocked down consecutive three-pointers to increase the lead back to eight.

Campbell joined A. J. Graves, Mike Green and Matt Howard in double figures as the Bulldogs improved to 10 -2 in the conference and 21-2 overall. The loss by the Phoenix dropped them to 7-6 and 13-10 overall, dimming hopes for a trip to the NCAA tournament.

Butler shot only 39% from the field and hit just 8 of 32 threes, but they made them when they mattered most.

Kansas 100 Baylor 90 - The Jayhawks took their first step toward opening up some daylight in the contentious Big 12, putting down the Baylor Bears with their highest point output since a season-opening 107-78 rout of Louisiana-Monroe.

Kansas has scored 90 or more in back-to-back wins, topping Missouri, 90-71, on Monday. The win kept the Jayhawks 1/2-game in front of Kansas State, which topped Oklahoma State, 82-61, earlier in the day. Kansas is 8-1, K-State, 7-1. The two meet at Kansas March 1, in a game that will likely decide the Big 12 champion.

The Wildcats stunned the Jayhawks on January 30, handing them their first loss f the season, 84-75.

Surprising Baylor dropped to 5-3 in the Big 12, but are a solid 17-5 overall and should get an invite to the big dance in March.

Darrell Arthur led the Jayhawks with 23 points. Russell Robinson came off the bench to score 22, hitting 14-of-15 from the foul line. Kansas shot 51% from the field but was 0-9 from behind the three-point line. It was the first time since 1999 that a Jayhawk team failed to register a three-point shot.

This Monday, Kansas plays at #12 Texas, third in the conference at 6-2. It is the only meeting beg 12 rivals this season. The Longhorns beat Iowa State on Saturday, 71-65.

Around the Nation

Elsewhere in the Top 25, top-ranked Memphis made quick work of UCF, 85-64, as the Tigers improved to 23-0 and remain the only unbeaten team in Division 1. #2 Duke dispatched Boston College, 90-80 and #7 Tennessee scraped by LSU, 47-45. Surging UConn won their 7th straight with an 80-68 win over Georgia Tech.

Notre Dame won their 34th straight home game, squeaking by Marquette, 86-83. The Irish canned 10 straight free throws down the stretch to seal the win, holding a huge edge at the charity stripe. Notre Dame was 24-31, while Marquette was just 5 of 8.

Late games of note had Purdue at Wisconsin and Georgetown at Louisville.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Indiana Survives Scare fom Illini in 2OT

Indiana 83 Illinois 79, 2OT

Armon Bassett hit a critical three-pointer and went 8-for-8 from the free throw line in double overtime to seal the win for Indiana and keep the Hoosiers in the thick of the Big 10 race.

Star freshman Eric Gordon suffered one of the worst shooting nights of his career, hitting only three of thirteen attempts from the floor - all 3-pointers - the last of which tied the game at 63 with 23 seconds left to send the game into the first overtime.

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In the extra period, Jordan Crawford found the hot hand, making consecutive three-pointers to give the Hoosiers a 69-66 lead, but Illinois' Demetri McCamey knocked down a three-ball with 1:08 remaining to re-tie the game at 69. Neither team could find the touch after that, pushing the contest to double overtime.

Indiana improved to 8-1 (19-3 overall) to pull to within a game of Wisconsin and Purdue, both 9-1 in conference play.

Following a trip to Ohio State on Sunday (Feb. 10), the Hoosiers will have every opportunity to stake their claim to the Big 10 title, playing consecutive home games against Wisconsin (Feb. 13), Michigan State (Feb. 16) and Purdue (Feb. 19).

Illinois suffered another tough loss and is not likely to make the NCAA tournament and now even the NIT looks doubtful. The Illini are 10-14 overall and have won only 2 of 11 conference games. Only Michigan (1-9) and Northwestern (0-9) have worse conference records.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

How Good are the Blue Devils?

Duke 89 North Carolina 78

After watching the Duke Blue Devils dismantle the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill last night, one wonders if we were watching the best team in the country.

While Duke didn't have an answer for Tyler Hansbrough, who finished with game-high 28 points and 18 rebounds, but the Blue Devils were deadly from outside, played with poise and skill, and every time Carolina seemed on the verge of pulling even, the Duke shooters would slam the door shut.

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Greg Paulus was a phenom on the wings, hitting 6 of 8 three-pointers and finishing with a team-high 18 points. Kyle Singler hit 3 of 6 and Jon Scheyer 2 of 4 from beyond the arc. Singler had his own double-double, with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

But the Blue Devils shooting wasn't the whole story. Despite being outrebounded and allowing more attempts from both the floor and the free throw line, they still won by 11, held the lead for the entire second half, and put six different players in double figures. Ridiculous. That's not sharing the ball, that's like having Mother Teresa clones all over the court.

North Carolina was without Ty Lawson, but it didn't seem to matter very much. The Tar Heels only recorded three steals, to Duke's 11. They shot 41%. Duke shot 46%. It was good enough, especially considering they went 13 of 29 from 3-point range.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski actually used a word he seldom attaches to his own teams: "special." If he thinks of them in that terminology, the rest of the NCAA should be put on notice. This team is coming, and they're taking no prisoners.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Georgetown, Tennessee Roll

Georgetown 63 South Florida 53 - The Georgetown Hoyas won their 9th Big East game against one loss, retaining their lead in the conference with a comeback win at South Florida.

The Hoyas trailed by as much as 10 points in the first half, on the strength of DaJuan Summers' career-high 24 points and 9 rebounds. Center Roy Hibbert added 13 points and 8 rebounds as the Hoyas shot just 39% from the field.

Georgetown is 19-2 overall, their only losses coming on the road against powerhouse teams Memphis and Pittsburgh. The win, the 6th straight for Georgetown precedes a string of three road games in their next four, a testing schedule. The Hoyas are at Louisville Saturday, then home against Villanova, followed by road games at arch-rival Syracuse and Providence.

Tennessee 104 Florida 82 - The Volunteers topped the century mark for the third time this season and for the first time in SEC play, improving to 20-2 on the season and 7-1 in the conference.

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Tennessee got off to a slow start against the Gators, trailing by 13 points in the first half, but they finished strong as Chris Lofton threw down 26 points and JaJuan Smith and Tyler Smith each posted 23.

Both Lofton and JaJuan Smith hit 6 3-pointers. Tyler Smith was a force inside, hitting 10 of 16 shots while pulling down 9 rebounds and dishing 6 assists. The Vols retain a solid 2 game lead over Kentucky in the SEC East.

1-2-3 Teams in Action

On Wednesday, the top three teams in the nation take to the hardwood. #1 Memphis hosts SMU, while #2 Duke visits #3 North Carolina in a battle for ACC supremacy.

While the Tigers are prohibitive favorites, one of the ACC teams will lose and cause a shakeup in next week's polls.

In another interesting matchup, #19 Connecticut, one of the hottest teams in the nation, travels to Syracuse to take on the unranked Orangemen, who are just a 1/2-game behind the Huskies in the Big East standings. UConn is 6-3, while Syracuse has posted a 6-4 conference record.

The Orangemen are coming off three straight wins of their own, including strong road performances over DePaul (60-55) and Villanova (87-73).

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Knight Retires As Winningest Coach

Bobby Knight will be remembered fondly in college basketball circles, though his feisty and cantankerous personality often raised eyebrows and ire from fans and officials alike.

Knight resigned unexpectedly on Monday from the coaching ranks, saying it was time to move on. Knight holds the record for most wins by a coach in NCAA history with 902, spanning 42 years at Army, Indiana and Texas Tech.

His accomplishments were greatest at Indiana, where he led the Hoosiers to three national championships, including an undefeated season in 1976, which is the last time any division 1 college basketball team has finished without a loss.

At 67, Knight has done just about everything a coach can do, including winning a gold medal at the 1984 Olympics with Michael Jordan as one of his players. The Red Raiders, 12-8 in the Big 12, will be turned over to his son, Pat, for the remainder of the season.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

SEC in Flux: Florida dumped, Wildcats 'Getting It'

Likely the most contentious conference in the nation, teams in the SEC took some serious turns at ranking maneuvers over the past week.

The enigmatic Arkansas Razorbacks, which started their SEC campaign with two wins (Auburn and Alabama) followed by two losses (South Carolina and Georgia), yesterday won their third straight, whipping the tar out of the Florida Gators, 80-61, while moving into first place tie with Mississippi State in the West division.

That may have come as a surprise to some, but the Gators are rebuilding, having lost their starting five after capturing two straight NCAA championships. That level of excellence is difficult to maintain, even for coach Billy Donovan.

Meanwhile, the Razorbacks have been knocking on the door for the past couple of seasons. They made an unanticipated run to the SEC championship game last season, only to lose to the Gators by 21 and end up in the NIT tourney.

Sonny Weems led the scoring with 17 and Gary Ervin added 15 points with six assists. Arkansas improved to 16-5 and 5-2 in the conference.

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The only ranked team in the SEC West, Mississippi, lost at home to South Carolina, 80-77, while the Mississippi St. Bulldogs fell 76-71 at SEC East leader Tennessee (19-2, 6-1), clearly the class of the conference.

Kentucky made more noise with their third consecutive conference win and first on the road, knocking down Georgia, 63-58 to get to 4-2. Both Vanderbilt and Mississippi are 3-4 in SEC play after beginning the season undefeated, with 15-0 and 13-0 records, respectively.

The SEC may not be the best conference in the country, but it certainly is one of the more unpredictable and exciting.