Thursday, March 17, 2011

Buzzer Beaters and Bracket Busters: Round of 64 Results, Early Games


West Virginia 84 Clemson 76 - the Mountaineers trailed early but rallied and led most of the second half, cruising to the win. They will face Kentucky in the next round.

Kentucky 59 Princeton 57 - John Calipari's youthful Wildcats survived an opening game scare from a very game Princeton squad. Josh Harrelson scored 15 points with 10 rebounds and 4 steals.


Temple 66 Penn State 64 - The Owls snapped a losing streak at the NCAA winning a nip-and-tuck battle with Vandy. Next up, San Diego State.

San Diego St. 68 Northern Colorado 50 - As expected, the powerful Aztecs cruised in their opening game. Kawhi Leonard led the way with 21 points.


Butler 60 Old Dominion 58 - senior Matt Howard tipped in a loose ball as time expired to escape a close call with a very capable senior-led Old Dominion team. Howard played the majority of the second half with three fouls and, as usual, was in the right place at the right time.

Pittsburgh 74 NC-Asheville 51 - No match here, as the Panthers dominated. Ashton Gibbs led all scorers with 26 points, including 6 0f 9 from three-point range.


Morehead State 62 Louisville 61 - In the upset of the day, Morehead State, the #13 seed from the Ohio Valley conference, knocked off #4 Louisville on a daring three-pointer by Demonte Harper with time running down and the Eagles behind by three. Louisville was left with lees than 3 seconds and could not get off a shot.

Richmond 69 Vanderbilt 66 - The Spiders, the region's #12 seed, hung with the Commodores throughout the second half, took a late lead and held on for the win over a badly over-seeded (#5) Vanderbilt team. Point guard Kevin Anderson was a thorn in Vandy's side all day and had the go-ahead bucket on a short runner from the left of the hoop and finished with a game-high 25 points.

Rams Defy Critics, Dump USC; UTSA wins, to Face Ohio State

College Hoops Player of the Day for Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Widely criticized for entry into the NCAA field, considered not worthy of playing with the nation's best teams, the VCU Rams left no doubt that they belonged, smashing the USC Trojans with a stifling defense and a dominating second half.

After the first half ended with the score tied at 22-all, Jamie Skeen and his band of upperclassmen went to work, limiting the Trojans to 24 points, while scoring 37 of their own, mostly on the inside and at the free throw line for the 59-46 victory.

Skeen led all scorers with 16 points on 6-for-12 shooting with a pair of three-pointers. He also had nine rebounds and was the only Ram in double figures.

VCU, seeded 11th in the Southwest region, faces the Georgetown Hoyas on Friday with the opportunity to advance further into the field.

In the earlier "First Four" contest, UTSA dropped Alabama State, 70-61. The Roadrunners face the daunting task of taking on the tournament's top seed, Ohio State, in the next round on Friday.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Primm, Dickey Lead NC-Asheville Bulldogs in NCAA Opener; Clemson Cruises

College Hoops Player of the Day for Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Nothing like kicking off the NCAA tournament on the "Ides of March" with the warning for favorites to beware.

The first victor and victim was, respectively, the University of North Carolina-Asheville Bulldogs over the Arkansas Little Rock Trojans, in overtime, 81-77, with the Bulldogs advancing to face #1 seed Pitt in the Southeast region.

Led by J.P. Primm and Matt Dickey, the Bulldogs forced overtime on Dickey's three-pointer with 10 seconds left in regulation. Primm nailed a series of free throws in regulation and five in the overtime period to seal the deal.

Both players scored 22 points to share the game-high-scoring honors and each played exceptional all-around games. Dickey hit 7 of 10 from the field, including 2 of 3 three-pointers and added 6 of 7 free throws to go with five boards and three assists. Primm went 4-for-11 from the field with a pair of treys, added 12 of 14 from the foul line and had four rebounds, five assists and three steals.

NOTABLE: Clemson cruised past UAB, 70-52 in the nightcap of the first day of the "First Four" play-in games. The Tigers led all the way and were never threatened by the Blazers, who were completely out of their depth. With the breezy win, Clemson, a 12 seed, will face East region #5 seed, West Virginia in a Thursday game.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Bracket Madness: Tuesday and Wednesday Play-in Games Preview

OK, so nobody has to actually pick these Tuesday and Wednesday play-in games. That's the good news. The bad news is that no matter what, the NCAA tournament committee will believe that college hoops fans actually like the idea of having an extra four teams added for no other reason than to make the field larger or more competitive, when all along the idea was just to fill empty space in some network's otherwise dull content.

These games offer nothing to the brocketologists out there except to make their lives a little more difficult. All of the bracket challenges, in either online form or though your work or office are set up to just include the winner of these games, no matter which team wins. The problem is that one or the other may win, and set up a completely different match-up in (what now is) the second round. It's just confusing and the NCAA should go back to the straight 64-team format that has worked so well for so long.

Actually, adding these extra teams and games somewhat backfired on the NCAA selection committee only because they chose the wrong teams! Colorado should be in the tournament, along with Harvard and probably Virginia Tech and St. Mary's.

Whatever the outcome of these games, they're unnecessary and will likely have almost no impact on the overall tournament, so, be that as it may, let's analyze what we've been given.

Tuesday, March 15:

Play-in Game 1: North Carolina-Asheville vs. Arkansas Little Rock (Southeast Region) 6:30 pm ET - this gets a really, really big WHO CARES? because the winner will be up against the tp seed in the region, the Pittsburgh Panthers and they will lose, badly. If it's any consolation, the NC-Asheville Bulldogs got the automatic bid by winning the Big South tournament over Coastal Carolina in the final. They are however one of the dreaded 13-loss teams in the tournament and show pretty substantial losses to North Carolina, Georgetown and Ohio State. The Buckeyes nearly doubled them over, winning 96-49 back in December. The Bulldogs beat Auburn the first game of the season. Big whoop! They are, however, on a six-game winning streak.

Their opponent, Arkansas-Little Rock snuck into the tournament by beating North Texas in the Sun Belt tourney final, 64-63. The Trojans won four straight in the tournament and shocked even themselves and their coaches. Making these guys even more improbable, is their 19-16 record, not even a game against a ranked opponent and they finished with the 8th best record in their conference, at 7-9.

ADVICE: Take the kids from Asheville. At least they lost fewer games. Pitt will murder either of these teams.

Play-in Game 2: Clemson vs. UAB (East Region) 9:00 pm ET - This one is even worse. The Blazers blazed their way through the most overrated conference in America, Conference USA, winning the regular season with a 12-4 record. They lost to East Carolina, 75-70 in OT in the first round of their conference tournament (eventually won by Memphis). The Blazers did finish the season with a 22-8 record, though the bulk of those wins were over weak C-USA competition.

Clemson (21-11, 9-7) had a pretty solid season and sports a fine back-court, led by point guard Demontez Stitt, who led the Tigers in scoring, assists and steals. Clemson should be able to dominate the Blazers inside as well and it's a wonder the line is only -4 1/2. Clemson has an idea about winning tournament games and could easily advance in the next round, against a leaderless West Virginia squad. We'll have to wait and see.

ADVICE: Take the Tigers here and over WVA in the next round if you are playing some wide open brackets.

Wednesday, March 16:

Play-in Game #3: UTSA vs. Alabama State (East Region) 6:30 pm ET - Seriously, Alabama State was 17-17. There should be a rule that you can't get in if your team is .500 or worse, but the Hornets won the SWAC Tournament, so they get to play another game. The UTSA Roadrunners (let's hope there are no Wile E. Coyotes in the field) won the Southland tournament and here they are, complete with 19-13 record.

ADVICE: Hope the game is cancelled and Ohio State is given a bye, because neither of these teams stands a change against the Buckeyes.

Play-in Game 4: VCU vs. USC (Southwest Region) 9:00 pm ET - This game is at least interesting in that either team can win and have a chance against Georgetown, the #6 seed in the East, because Georgetown faded in the stretch and while they will have the services of point guard Chris Wright, but he has been out of action since mid-February and the Hoyas lost five of their last six, beating only South Florida.

VCU finished 4th in the Colonial Athletic and lost in the tourney final to Old Dominion. They sport some senior leadership and and compiled a 23-11 record over mostly nobody. They did beat UCLA and Wofford, though, and merit some respect. USC finished 4th in the PAC-10 with a 10-8 record and managed to beat both Texas and Tennessee and lost by just two points at Kansas. The Trojans have been up and down, but they're far more athletic than VCU and should win this one going away. Oddsmakers have them as a 4 1/2 point favorite, but they probably did that to encourage more people to take VCU.

ADVICE: USC played spirited ball down the stretch, winning six of their last seven and lost to Arizona in the conference tourney. They are surely well-rested and should also give Georgetown fits n the next round.

Check back tomorrow and every day for frequent updates on the Road to Houston and the Final Four.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Nolan Smith Leads Duke Past Tar Heels for ACC Crown

College Hoops Player of the Day for Sunday, March 13, 2011

Like his co-player of the year candidates, Kemba Walker and Jimmer Fredette, did the previous two days, Duke's exceptional Nolan Smith rose to occasion and willed his team to a win on Sunday, avenging a regular season finale loss to North Carolina, to capture the ACC tournament title, 75-58.

Smith, who was far from perfect from the floor, hit just 6 of 18 shots, but he did score a game high 20 points and distribute 10 assists to his teammates. As far as Smith and the Duke program are concerned, it was a beautiful team effort, with Seth Curry and Kyle Singler scoring 11 points each and three other players finishing with nine apiece.

Following the game, the NCAA tournament committee made Duke the number one seed in the West region, a fitting reward for their season-long exploits.

Three other games decided tournament titles, and thus, automatic bids. Ohio State beat Penn State, 71-60, for the Big Ten crown, Kentucky subdued Florida, 70-54, in the SEC and the Richmond Spiders took home the Atlantic Ten hardware with a 67-54 win.

Ohio State was awarded the #1 seed overall, in the East region. Pitt was the top seed in the Southeast and Kansas took #1 in the Southwest.

Beginning Monday, check this space for frequent updates with game recaps, previews and top performances for the duration of March Madness.

Freshman Barnes Lifts Tar Heels Over Clemson; Will Face Duke in ACC Final

College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, March 12, 2011

Saturday saw loads of teams admitted to the Big Dance - too many to mention, in fact - but the most impressive performance of the day came from freshman Harrison Barnes, whose 40 points was the most by a freshman since Tyler Hansbrough did it in 2006 and led the North Carolina Tar Heels back from a huge deficit to force overtime and eventually beat Clemson, setting up a Sunday ACC Tournament final between Duke and North Carolina.

Barnes was simply unconscious, hitting 12 of 17 shots from the floor, including 6 of 8 three-pointers. He also went 10-for-11 from the foul line and snatched away 8 rebounds as the Tar Heels turned away the Tigers, 92-87, outscoring Clemson in OT, 19-14. Barnes' 40 was also a record for scoring by a freshman in the ACC tournament.

The North Carolina rise from the ashes has been extraordinary, to say the least. After losing to Texas and dropping to 7-4 in December, the Tar Heels have gone 19-2 since, including 12-2 in the ACC, winning the conference regular season by beating Duke in their final game, and are currently on a 9-game winning streak at just the right time. A win over the Blue Devils could actually land them a #1 seed in the NCAAs, though a #2 seems the most likely scenario, with the four #1 seeds going to Notre Dame, Pitt, Ohio State and Kansas, though, with Notre Dame losing to Louisville in the Big East semi-final, nothing's for certain.

Later today, the NCAA will release the full field of 68, after the finals of the remaining tournaments - SEC, ACC, Big Ten and Atlantic 10. CBD will be up late putting together our exclusive tourney cheat sheet to make your bracket busting fun and maybe even profitable.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

BYU Reaches Finals as Jimmer Fredette Drops 52 on Lobos

College Hoops Player of the Day for Friday, March 11, 2011

UConn's Kemba Walker was magnificent, leading the Huskies to a 76-71 overtime win over Syracuse in the Big East semi-finals, but what Jimmer Fredette did for BYU was record-setting.

Walker scored 33 points to go with 12 boards, five assists and six steals setting up a date in the finals with Louisville on Saturday; likewise Fredette led the Cougars to the finals of the Mountain West Conference Tournament. They will face San Diego State on Saturday.

A leading candidate for NCAA player of the year, Fredette scored a career-high 52 points, on 22-of-37 shooting, with seven three-pointers, leading the Cougars to an 87-76 win which snapped a four-game losing streak to the Lobos.

Fredette went to the foul line just once in the game and made his only free throw. His 52 points propelled him past Danny Ainge to become BYU's all-time leading scorer, set a conference tournament record and tied Marshon Brooks of Providence for the most points in a single game this season. BYU takes on the Aztecs at 7:00 pm ET, while the Huskies play Louisville - 83-77 OT winners over Notre Dame - for the Big East tourney championship at 9:00 pm ET in Madison Square Garden.

NOTABLE: A number of conference championships will be decided on Saturday with the rest - including the Big 10 and SEC - on Sunday. Two of the biggest are Kansas vs. Texas in the Big 12 at 6:00 pm ET and Washington vs. Arizona for the PAC title, also at 6:00 pm ET.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Kemba Walker Hits Buzzer-Beater to Oust Pitt from Big East Tourney

College Hoops Player of the Day for Thursday, March 10, 2011

Having just about done everything that could be expected from a player this season, including leading the NCAA in scoring for the first few weeks of the season and bringing a suspect Connecticut squad into national prominence, Kemba Walker put an exclamation point on his season as he calmly tossed in an 18-foot jumper as time expired to catapult the Huskies to a 76-74 quarterfinal win over Pitt in the Big East tournament.

With Panther defenders focused on limiting his penetration and scoring, Walker had a tough night shooting, going 8-for-22 from the field, but he nailed down 8 of 9 from the foul line and led the Huskies in scoring with 24 points. Walker also grabbed 5 boards and tossed five assists. Pittsburgh's Ashton Gibbs led all scorers with 27 points, hitting 6 of 7 from three-point range.

Connecticut advances to the semi-finals to face Syracuse, 79-73 winners over St. John's, at 7:00 pm Friday night. The Orange and Huskies met two years ago in the Big East tournament and produced a classic, 6-overtime game won by the Orange. Syracuse was the only Big East team to beat St. John's at Madison Square Garden, also having done so during the regular season.

In the other quarterfinal games, Notre Dame dispatched Cincinnati with ease, winning, 89-51, and Louisville took a seven point lead into half time and outscored Marquette by 20 in the second half for an 81-56 victory.

The Cardinals and Fighting Irish face off in the other semi-final match-up, following the SU-UConn tilt.

NOTABLE: Colorado seems to have secured their NCAA berth, dumping Kansas State for the third time this season while advancing to the semi-finals in the Big 12 with an 87-75 win. The Buffaloes face #2 Kansas in one semi-final at 7:00 pm ET. Texas and Texas A&M square off in the other semi-final game.

In the PAC-10 conference tourney, USC plays Arizona and Washington takes on Oregon in semi-final action Friday night.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Colorado Likely in Field of 68 after Big Game by Burks; Blackbirds and Bears Get Bids

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.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Solomon Bozeman Sends Trojans Dancing; Villanova Bubble-icious

College Hoops Player of the Day for Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Solomon Bozeman kept his team in hotly-contested Sun Belt final with North Texas and stepped up with a crucial three-pointer (his only trey of the game) with 1.5 seconds left to put the Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans ahead by a point to win the conference tourney, 64-63.

A senior guard, Bozeman was the Sun Belt Player of the Year, and showed why with his clutch, game-winning shot that sends the Trojans to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1990. The North Texas players were stunned and deflated after the winning shot, especially after leading by seven points with under a minute to play.

Bozeman led all scorers with 20 points, hitting 6 of 12 shots from the field (1-for-2 from beyond the arc) and 7 of 8 free throws. He's averaged 16.5 points per game this season and now has the opportunity to add to his, and the Trojans' resume.

NOTABLE: The Villanova Wildcats seem to have dug themselves a hole from which they may not emerge again this season, losing their fifth straight game, in the opening round of the Big East tournament, dropping a 70-69 to South Florida.

Villanova's slide has been pronounced as the Big East season wore on. The Wildcats lost six of their last eight games in the regular season, falling to 9-9 in conference play and now must watch and wait through the Big East tournament to see if the NCAA tournament selection committee still feels they are worthy of an invitation. At 21-11 and sitting out the fun and games at Madison Square Garden, they're looking mighty shaky.

Butler will be dancing once again, after beating Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the Horizon League championship game, 59-44. The Bulldogs, who lost to Duke in last season's NCAA final, took control early and led by 15 points just minutes into the game. Senior Matt Howard was the game's high scorer with 18 points.

Oakland took the Summit League championship with a 90-76 victory over Oral Roberts. The Golden Grizzlies went 17-1 in conference play, easily winning the regular season title and now will represent their conference at the NCAAs.

In the Ivy League, Princeton tied Harvard for first place, winning, 70-58, at Penn, setting up a one-game playoff for the league title and the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The game will be played at a neutral site, Saturday, at Yale’s John J. Lee Amphitheater in New Haven, Connecticut. Both Princeton and Harvard finished the regular IvY League season with 12-2 records.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Old Dominion, Wofford, St. Peter's, Gonzaga Go Dancing

College Hoops Player of the Day for Monday, March 7, 2011

Big Frank Hassell dominated in the lane and the Monarchs of Old Dominion ruled over the VCU Rams, 70-65, in the Colonial Athletic Conference tournament final.

Hassell, a 6'9", 255 behemoth, scored 22 points on 8-for-9 shooting, many of his baskets dunks or easy layups on feeds from his hawk-eyed teammates. when he was harassed and fouled, Hassell was efficient at the free throw line, hitting 6 of 7 attempts. He also fell one rebound short of a double-double, grabbing nine boards.

ODU gets the automatic bid for their conference, after finishing tied for second place during the regular season with Hofstra, at 14-4. George Mason, which took the regular season with a 16-2 record, is also expected to receive an invitation to the Big Dance, via the at-large route.

NOTABLE: Two other teams punched their ticket to the NCCA tourney Monday night. Gonzaga outlasted a determined St. Mary's squad to capture the West Coast Conference tournament final, 75-63, and surprising St. Peter's upset Iona, 62-57, to grab the automatic bid from the Metro Atlantic Athletic conference. The Peacocks beat both Fairfield and Iona in the tourney after having lost all four of their regular season games against the two which finished 1-2 in the conference.

Wofford downed Charleston, 77-67, in the Southern Conference tournament final. The Terriers will represent their conference in the NCAAs for the second straight season. Last year, they were taken down in the opening round by Wisconsin, 53-49.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Diebler Leads Buckeye Rout of Wisconsin

College Hoops Player of the Day for Sunday, March 6, 2011

In their final regular season game, capping off their Big Ten title, the top-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes took a victory lap at home, avenging one of their two losses this season, whipping the #10 Wisconsin Badgers, 93-64.

Amid the scoring onslaught, senior guard Jon Diebler had himself a nearly perfect afternoon, leading all scorers with 27 points on 8-for-10 shooting, going 7-of-8 from beyond the arc and hitting 4 out of 5 free throws. Ironically, Diebler's first three-point attempt - which he missed - was the only errant 3-pointer of the day for Ohio State, as the Buckeyes set an NCAA mark for a team attempting 10 or more 3-pointers by going 13-for-14 on threes, an incredible 93%.

Jared Sullinger added 22 for the Buckeyes, who head to the post-season with the best record in the country along with Kansas, at 29-2.

NOTABLE: Winning the regular season isn't everything, as the Fairfield Stags are learning after being dumped by St. Peter's in the semi-finals of the Metro Atlantic tournament, 62-48. The Stags had dropped the Peacocks twice during the regular season - once by 27 points - but shot just 33% for the game as St. Peter's clamped down on defense and move to the finals to face Iona Monday night.

A similar fate was dealt to George Mason, which had won the Colonial Athletic conference going away with a 16-2 record. They were knocked off by VCU in the tournament semi-final, 79-63, though there are indications that the Patriots will still receive an at-large invitation to the NCAAs. VCU, 12-6 during the regular season, will face Old Dominion, winner of eight straight, in the final, Monday night.

One more team secured an automatic bid on Sunday. Indiana State defeated Missouri State, 60-56, to take the Missouri Valley conference tournament title.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Tar Heels Rout Duke Behind Kendall Marshall's Double-Double

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.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Conference Tourneys Underway; Wood Hoists Valpo with 30

College Hoops Player of the Day for Friday, March 4, 2011

Close calls, overtime and exultation typified the opening rounds of conference tournaments from the Metro Atlantic to the West Coast.

While no ranked teams took to the hardwoods on Friday, the action was no less exciting, as teams vie for one final chance to impress the NCAA tournament committee or perhaps pull off enough upsets to win their conference tournament and thus receive an automatic bid.

One such team on a mission is Valparaiso, which finished the regular season in the Horizon League at 12-6, a game behind the trio of Butler, Cleveland State and Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The Crusaders outlasted a gritty Detroit squad, 88-78, getting 30 points from the team's leading scorer, junior guard Brandon Wood. Wood hit on 11 of 22 shots from the field, but was dead on from beyond the arc, nailing 7 of 10 three-pointers.

Advancing to the semi-finals against Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Saturday, Valparaiso is keeping hope alive that they can get to the final against the winner of the Cleveland State - Butler match-up and grab the whole prize with a win. The Crusaders split their two games with each of the three teams above them in the standings, with each team winning at home.

For more scores and recaps of a slew of opening round tournament games from the Colonial, Missouri Valley, Horizon, Ohio Valley, West Coast, Metro Atlantic, Southern and Atlantic Sun conferences, click here.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Jordan Taylor Pumps in 39 for Badgers in 77-67 Win Over Hoosiers

College Hoops Player of the Day for Thursday, March 3, 2011

Looking extremely strong and confident heading into the post-season, the Wisconsin Badgers won their 4th straight and 8th of their last nine, winning at Indiana, 77-67, behind a career high 39 points from their star point guard, Jordan Taylor.

Hitting seven of eight three-pointers on shooting of 11-for-19, Taylor took on the scoring load, accounting for just more than half of the Badgers' total. He also went 10-for-10 from the charity stripe and scored in double figures for the 28th time in 29 outings.

Wisconsin is all set for the Big Ten tournament which commences next week and could be the #1 seed in the Midwest should they manage to win the tourney or defeat Ohio State, or both. At 13-4, they've secured at lest third place in the conference, behind 15-2 Ohio State and 14-3 Purdue.

Taylor, a junior, will get strong consideration for Big Ten player of the year, along with Ohio State freshman Jared Sullinger and Purdue's JaJuan Johnson.

NOTABLE: Jeremy Hazell scored 31 points and the Seton Hall Pirates - the worst three-point shooting team in the Big East - nailed 12 of 18 from beyond the arc in an 84-70 upset of St. John's, snapping the Red Storm's 6-game win streak. It's not a huge deal for St. John's, though a win might have wrapped up a double bye in the upcoming Big East tournament, which begins Tuesday on St. John's home court at Madison Square Garden.

The PAC-10 is still evolving into what looks like four NCAA tournament bids. Washington stopped UVLA in its tracks with a 70-63 home win, but the major development of the evening was Washington State's 85-77 victory over USC. The Cougars have won two straight to get to 9-8 in conference play, host UCLA on Saturday in their final regular season game before heading into the conference tourney. A couple of wins in the PAC-10 tournament could land the Cougars the 4th bid for the PAC-10, along with Arizona, Washington and UCLA.

Some key games to watch on Saturday are #8 Notre Dame at #16 UConn; #19 Villanova at #4 Pittsburgh; #21 Vanderbilt at #14 Florida; and the late night spectacle (9:00 pm ET) of #4 Duke at #13 North Carolina. Ivy League fans will be thrilled with Princeton at Harvard, a game that could determine the conference champion.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Lobos Stun BYU Again as Mountain West is Mashed

College Hoops Player of the Day for Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Sometimes, a team just has another team's number.

In the case of the New Mexico Lobos, that number is two, the times they've beaten BYU this season, or maybe it's 32, the number of Jimmer Fredette's jersey (he had 33 in the most recent loss), but probably it's 18, the number of points by which they beat the Cougars, in an 82-64 thrashing at BYU Wednesday night.

18 is also double the number by which the Lobos topped the Cougars last time they met, when New Mexico stopped them, 86-77, back on January 29.

Junior guard Phillip McDonald, who had a mere 11 points in their first meeting, set the tone with 26 on Wednesday, hitting 9 of 14 shots from the field, including 5 of 8 from three-point range, making many in the crowd wonder, "Jimmer who?"

The Lobos also took advantage of the absence of BYU's Brandon Davies, as forward Drew Gordon dominated inside, with 15 points and 15 boards. Davies was booted from the team for allegedly engaging in pre-marital sex, a violation of team and school codes which maintain that students remain virtuous and chaste. Like it or not, rules are rules, and Davies broke one.

Missing his presence in the middle, as the Cougars' third-leading scorer and top rebounder, sets up a potentially game-changing scenario in the upcoming Moutain West conference tournament, the winner of which receives and automatic bid to the NCAAs.

With #3 BYU supposedly already in, the door is now open for UNLV (10-5 in conference play) and New Mexico (7-8, but hosting 6-9 Air Force in their final regular season game). Of course, with BYU missing one of their key starters, somebody still has to beat San Diego State, and the only team to have done that this season is BYU, twice.

That team could be the Runnin' Rebels, upon whose home court the tournament will be played. San Deigo State topped them twice this season, but only by six points each time. Maybe the Lobos will rise to the occasion, though they've lost to the Aztecs by 6 and 10 points.

Whatever the case, expect the Mountain West to send three teams - BYU, San Diego State, and somebody else - and maybe even four, onward to March Madness.

NOTABLE: BIG EAST not so easy... Connecticut, after surprising many early in the season, is clearly on the tournament bubble now, having lost convincingly at West Virginia Wednesday night, 65-56. The Huskies have dropped three of their last four and finish up their regular season at home against Notre Dame on Saturday.

Tied at 9-8 with Marquette and Villanova, the Huskies, if they lose to the red-hot Fighting Irish will need a couple of wins in the Big East tournament to garner enough consideration by the selection committee to advance to the NCAAs. All three of the 9-8 teams are ensured to finish at least at .500, though Villanova is also on the ropes, having to play on Saturday to close out their regular season at Pitt. The Wildcats have lost three straight and five of their last seven.

Marquette appears to be the lucky dog of the bunch, finishing up at Seton Hall, also on Saturday. The Golden Eagles had won three straight before falling to Cincinnati on wednesday, 67-60.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Jon Diebler Hits 10 3s as Ohio State Rolls Over Nittany Lions

College Hoops Player of the Day for Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Ohio State's Jon Diebler didn't take any shots from inside the three-point line in the Buckeyes' lopsided, 82-61, win at Penn State.

Diebler's touch from downtown was deft, hitting 10 of 12 three-pointers en route to scoring a game-high 30 points. That was it. He didn't even get to the foul line, not even once, as he set a personal career high and set the record for 3-pointers in a game for an Ohio State player.

The top-ranked Buckeyes took a 15-point lead into half time and expanded it from there. Will Buford added 21 points, as he and Diebler accounted for nearly two-thirds of Ohio State's total.

The Buckeyes close out their regular season on Sunday, hosting Wisconsin. Only the Badgers and Purdue have beaten Ohio State this season, both losses occurring on the road. Ohio State is 28-2 and 15-2 in the Big Ten. They look like a certain #1 seed for the Midwest region.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Fighting Irish Shock and Awe Assault

College Hoops Player of the Day for Monday, February 28, 2011

The US military coined the term "shock and awe" to describe what opposing inhabitants would think of our bombing attack, but the Notre Dame Fighting Irish may have successfully transferred the terminology into basketball parlance by bombing Villanova Monday night.

The Irish, undefeated at home this season, bombed the Wildcats, 93-72 in a game that was decidedly one-sided from just about the opening tip. The Irish opened the game with a trio of three-pointers and went on from there, hitting 20 of the 32 shots they took from beyond the painted arc.

Tim Abromaitis and Ben Hansbrough both scored 30 points, Abromaitis registering a season high with 9 of his 13 three-point shots falling pure. Hansbrough, being mentioned widely for Big East Player of the Year honors, was 8-for-12 overall, with 7 of 10 threes. He was also a perfect 7-for-7 from the foul line.

The 20 three-pointers was a Notre Dame record, and the 8th-ranked Irish are also the only team in the Big East to go undefeated at home this season, a perfect 17-0. The win put them 1/2 game behind Pittsburgh (13-3) for the Big East lead, with a 13-4 record and one game left to play, that a Saturday tip at UConn. Pitt plays at South Florida on Wednesday and closes out at home vs. Villanova.

The Wildcats have been skidding, losing five of their last seven games, and a loss at Pitt would put them at 8-8 in the conference, though they are 21-9 overall, their only non-conference loss coming at Tennessee in November.

NOTABLE: Just about the time everybody assumed the Kansas State Wildcats were dead, they came roaring back to life. Over the past two weeks the Wildcats have beaten Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Missouri and Texas, knocking off the Longhorns, 75-70, Monday night in Austin. The five game win streak, following a loss to Colorado which many were scratching their heads over, was like a Midwest tour de force, and Kansas State once again looks the part of a contender.

As it turns out, the loss to Colorado was no fluke. The Buffs are 7-7, beat Texas on Saturday and are battling for respectability with Nebraska and Baylor. Kansas Stat etook over 4th place in the conference at 9-6 and appear to be a lock for the NCAA tourney.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Who Belongs? Et Tu, Xavier?

College Hoops Player of the Day for Sunday, February 27, 2011

Heading into what is the final week of the regular season for the majority of conferences, the questions of bubbles and belonging have naturally arisen. This season being one of the more tumultuous of the recent past, bubble-sitting has become a crowded affair and the addition of three more teams - as the NCAA field expands to 68 - makes the watching and waiting even more exasperating.

One team nearly certain to get their ticket to the big dance is the #25 Xavier Musketeers, winning their 7th straight - and 14th of their last 15 - with a 66-62 win at Dayton on Sunday.

Tu Holloway, scoring leader of the Musketeers and tied for 16th in the nation at 20.5 ppg, poured in 26 points on 9-for-17 shooting and 8 of 9 from the charity stripe. Holloway and his teammates have compiled a solid 22-6 record and are 13-1 and in first place in the Atlantic 10 conference, holding off 12-2 Temple and 11-3 Richmond.

The Musketeers have already put down double-digit wins over both of those opponents, appearing to be the class of the league. Whether Temple (ranked 24th) and/or Richmond get in will be up to the tournament selection committee and highly dependent on how those teams fare in the upcoming conference tourney.

NOTABLE: As far as determining who belongs in this season's March Mayhem, a ot of energy is being expended on the choices from the Big East, which looks to be sending as many as 11 teams tourney-bound. The league is bifurcated, with 11 at 9-7 or better and the five bottom teams all 5-11 or worse (1-15 DePaul is at the bottom). with five teams - Cincinnati, Villanova, West Virginia, Marquette and Connecticut all sporting that 9-7 mark, reasoning can be discerned for all of them making it in, though the Mountaineers and Golden Eagles seem to be still bubbly, with respective 18-10 and 18-11 records.

20 wins is generally a good guideline, though not always, but the two aforementioned teams will have ample opportunity to prove themselves, with two regular season games and at least one conference tournament tilt remaining. In any case, the Big East will send nine teams at least, and probably all eleven with .500 or better records.

A couple of teams that may not be deserving suffered lopsided losses on Sunday. Stumbling Michigan State - 16-14, 8-8 - lost at home to Purdue, 67-47, and Maryland's 87=76 loss at North Carolina was never really close.

The Terrapins have falling into a tie for 5th place in the ACC with Boston College at 7-7. So the ACC now looks like Duke, North Carolina, Virginia Tech (10-4), Florida State (9-5) and maybe even Clemson (8-6). Maryland? Sorry, maybe next year.

The Big Ten was supposed to be one of the stronger conferences, but the demise of the Spartans has weakened it substantially. They are tied for 4th place with Illinois and Penn State at 8-8, leaving only Ohio State, Purdue and Wisconsin the only true locks.

As for the PAC-10, only UCLA and USC seem headed in the right direction, which happens to be bad news for the Washington Huskies, currently in third place (10-6), but hosting both LA teams this week. The Huskies took it on the chin from hopeful Washington St. (18-10, 8-8), 80-69. Arizona, tied with the Bruins for first place, will get either an automatic or at-large bid, but they have the look of a first round loser written all over them.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Hardy Has 34 as Red Storm Blasts Wildcats

College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, February 26, 2011

With an 81-68 win at Villanova, the St. John's Red Storm has taken sole possession of third place in the Big East at 11-5. Ahead of them are Notre Dame (12-4) and Pitt (13-2), both teams the Red Storm have already beaten.

With the continued exceptional play of senior guard Dwight Hardy, who led all scorers with 34 points - there's no telling where this Steve Lavin-coached team is headed, except to the NCAA tournament for the first time in ten years. St. John's has just two games left on their regular season schedule - at Seton Hall and home vs. South Florida - before the Big East tournament, for which they will receive a double bye should they maintain at least 4th place in the conference.

Hardy's 34 was a career high, topping the 32 he had against UCLA and the 33 points he scored in a win over UConn. He went 9-for-16 from the field, including 5 of 9 three-pointers and nailed 11 of 13 free throws. It was the sixth straight win for the Red Storm and their sixth win over teams ranked in the top 15 or higher.

NOTABLE: In a day full of upsets, none was bigger than Colorado's stunning 91-89 win over Texas, coming back from a 22-point first half deficit. Alec Burks led the way with 33 points, 10 rebounds and four assists.

Elsewhere in the Big 12, unranked Baylor knocked off #21 Texas A&M, 58-51. Likewise, Kansas State dumped #20 Missouri, 80-70.

The biggest story of the day came late in the evening in Blacksburg, Virginia, where the Virginia Tech Hokies upended #1 Duke, 64-60. It was the third time in as many weeks that a team was named the #1 squad on Monday but tasted defeat before the week was over. Ohio State and Kansas suffered the same fate prior to Duke.

In other surprises, UCLA pummeled #10 Arizona - which probably shouldn't have been ranked that high - 71-49 and #23 Kentucky held court at home, defeating #13 Florida, 76-68.

Arizona's loss was their second straight, having lost at USC on Thursday. The Bruins and Wildcats are now tied for the PAC-10 lead at 12-4. In the SEC, despite losing, Florida remains two games ahead of 9-5 Vanderbilt in the SEC East at 11-3. The Gators face Alabama on Tuesday before closing out the regular season at Vanderbilt on Saturday.