College Hoops Player of the Day for Wednesday, March 9, 2011
With tournaments underway in all the major conferences - and most of the minor ones - college hoops has entered the elimination phase of March Madness.
On Tuesday, it was Villanova deposited atop the NCAA bubble, and Wednesday saw St. John's narrowly defeat Rutgers with a controversial 65-63 win in a game that ended at least 1.7 seconds too soon. The refs who blew the call must have had a prior engagement as they rushed off the court without seeing that St. John's player, Justin Brownlee had stepped out of bounds.
Nonetheless, the result stood and Rutges can go home wondering what might have been.
In the Big 12 tourney, Nebraska saw its hopes dashed in a 53-52 loss to Oklahoma State, while the surging Colorado Buffaloes live to fight another day thanks to an outstanding effort from Alec Burks and his 29 points. The Buffs downed stubborn Iowa State, a team which had knocked off the Buffaloes just a week ago, by a 77-75 score to advance to the next round of the tourney.
Even if the Buffaloes lose to Kansas State - they beat the Wildcats twice during the regular season - Colorado looks comfortably off the bubble as the sixth team in from the Big 12.
Burks, who leads the Buffalos in scoring and assists, produced a double-double with 29 points and 15 boards. A 6'6" sophomore guard that is a match-up nightmare, hit 9 of 16 shots and canned 11 of 14 free throws, adding in six assists and three steals for good measure.
The Buffalos finished the regular season with an 8-8 record, but won four of their last six games and now have a cumulative record of 20-12, seemingly a good enough fit for a pair of dancing shoes.
NOTABLE: A few more teams punched their dance card tickets by winning their conference tournaments on Wednesday. Long Island had to go to overtime to down Robert Morris, 85-82 and grab the bid from the Northeast Conference. The Blackbirds took the regular season crown in a breeze with a 16-2 record and are 25-7 overall.
Coming out of the Big Sky, Northern Colorado will make its first ever NCAA appearance, after winning the regular season (13-3) and slipping by Montana, 65-60, in the tourney final. The 21-10 Bears head to the NCAAs with a seven-game winning streak.