College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, March 5, 2011
Point guard Kendall Marshall scored 15 points and distributed 11 assists as the #13 North Carolina Tar Heels captured the ACC regular season title with an 81-67 victory over their chief rival, the #4 Duke Blue Devils.
Even though ACC leading scorer Nolan Smith had 30 points, only he and Seth Curry (20 points) were in double figures for Duke. While the Blue Devils were struggling, shooting just 36% from the field, thanks to the deft ball-handling of Marshall, North Carolina players got layups and close-in shots to go 33-for-63 (52%) overall.
It's been an amazing turnaround for North Carolina, a team that suffered early-season losses to Minnesota, Vanderbilt, Illinois and Texas, but made changes and came away with a 14-2 record in the ACC. Coach Roy Williams should be given credit for sticking with his young troops, but when Marshall took over as the full time point guard is when things really started clicking. The Tar Heels head into the ACC tourney with loads of momentum.
NOTABLE: Beware the Aggies! No, not Texas A&M, Utah State and their clamp-down defense, which held Louisiana Tech to 18% shooting (10-56) in the regular season finale for both teams. Tai Wesley had 11 points and 8 boards in the 72-30 shellacking. The #25 Aggies are 28-3, clinched the WAC weeks ago and finished with a 15-1 record, their only loss coming at Idaho. Wesley is difficult to handle inside, and, even though Louisiana Tech was the worst team in the conference (2-14), holding any team to 30 points for a full game is pretty impressive.
In the Big East, seeding was completed for the upcoming tournament at Madison Square Garden. Pitt captured the regular season crown with a 15-3 record and a 60-50 win over Villanova, losers of their last four and in danger of being passed over by the selection committee. Also precariously on the NCAA bubble are Connecticut and Marquette, which, along with the Wildcats, finished up 9-9 and will play on Tuesday.
Along with Pitt, Notre Dame, Louisville and Syracuse will get double byes for the tourney, and next hit the hardwood on Thursday. Single byes went to St. John's, Georgetown, Cincinnati and West Virginia.
IN-SKI: Three teams have already clinched automatic bids to the NCAA tournament with more coming today and as the week progresses through conference tournaments. Of 31 automatic bids, 30 are gained by winning said conference tournaments and one, the Ivy League, going to the regular season champion. Already in are Belmont, winners of the Atlantic Sun; Morehead State, from the Ohio Valley; and UNC Asheville from the Big South.
Harvard topped Princeton, 79-67, to, at worst, tie the Tigers for a share of the Ivy League title. Princeton plays at Penn Tuesday night and a win would put both Harvard and Princeton at 12-2, setting up a one-game playoff at a site as yet to be determined, probably played on Friday or Saturday, to determine both the league champion and the NCAA automatic bid.
Harvard has never won an Ivy League title since the league was formed in 1956-57. Princeton has won it 25 times. There's a chance that both teams could make the tournament, though a slim one, as each school has compiled strong records. Harvard is 23-5; Princeton, 23-6.