College Hoops Player of the Day for Wednesday, March 10, 2010
On January 18, the Texas Longhorns were 17-0 and ranked #1 in the nation. From that point through the end of the regular season, they went 6-8 and as of the most recent poll had dropped right out of the Top 25, finally settling in the "other teams receiving votes" category.
Wishing to put the latter part of their schedule behind them, the Longhorns found new life as the Big 12 conference tourney began on Wednesday, getting 28 points and 16 rebounds from their floor leader, Damion James, as the Longhorns snuffed Iowa State, 82-75, advancing to a second round game against #21 Baylor, a team that's beaten them twice.
How Texas will do against the Bears and in the NCAA tourney (at 24-8, they're still considered a lock for an at-large bid) will depend largely on how short their memories are. If the Texas players can put the latter half of their season behind them, they have enough talent to reach the Sweet 16 and maybe beyond. Most teams have their ups and downs, but Texas has been particularly aberrant this season.
As for James, a senior forward, his game is still incomplete. Even though he was the game's high-scorer and rebounder against Iowa St., his play was faulty, as he hit just 9 of 20 shots (3 of 8 3-pointers), but was magnificent on the boards. His 28 points matched his season high. Still, Texas still needs to find more scoring options, and time is working against them.
Notable: Notre Dame got 20 points and 10 boards from Luke Harangody as the Irish topped Seton Hall, 68-56, winning their opening Big East tournament game and 5th overall. The win put the Irish on the list of teams that will almost surely receive an at-large bid to the Big Dance.
Also in the Big East was the upset of the day, as Cincinnati stormed back from a 41-32 half time deficit to knock off Louisville, 69-66, and advance to the quarterfinals.
Even though the Bearcats shot only 38%, they outrebounded the Cardinals, 54-32 (21-8 on the offensive end), and scored on numerous put-backs in the paint. Cincy can get after it on the boards and will face #7 West Virginia in the last of four games Thursday at Madison Square Garden. A win would almost surely put Cincinnati into the NCAA tournament. With an 18-14 record, they are still considered to be on the bubble.
Two more teams found their way into the main event on Wednesday by winning conference tournaments. Robert Morris held off a determined Quinnipiac squad, 52-50, to capture the Northeast Conference Tourney, and Montana got 42 points from senior Anthony Johnson to slip past Weber State, 66-65. Johnson brought Montana back from 22 points down early in the second half, scoring their last 21 points, but, even though the Grizzlies earned a trip to the NCAAs by winning the Big Sky tourney, they will probably be a one-and-done team against a probable #1 or #2 seed.