The Big East's Brackets Are Busted Up Big-Time
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THE COLLEGE BASKETBALL MINI-TOURNEY REPORT - THE BIG EAST'S BRACKETS ARE BUSTED UP BIG-TIME AS SYRACUSE, PITT & 'NOVA ALL GET OUSTED THURSDAY NITE WHILE THE BUBBLE BURSTS ON BOTH MEMPHIS AND ARIZONA STATE AND WE LOOK AHEAD TO FRIDAY'S TOP HOOP STORIES
By Jim Hurley:
It's sure as heck gonna do down as the "go-figure" Big East Tournament of all time - when the semifinals of this conference mini-tournament convenes this evening at Madison Square Garden there will be a showdown between #8 seed Georgetown versus #5 seed Marquette and then a nightcap that will feature #7 seed Notre Dame versus #3 seed West Virginia ... and it very well could have been #11 Cincinnati instead of the WVU Mountaineers if not for a crazy three-point bank shot at the regulation buzzer.
The Big East Tournament's brackets were - indeed - busted up with a wild Thursday in "The World's Most Famous Arena" and the major questions coming from this quartet of games is would Syracuse lose its #1 seed in next week's NCAA Tournament and how will Villanova and Pittsburgh be effected in terms of NCAA seeds following their one-and-done mini-tourney?
We shall touch on that and all the big games/moments from Thursday's action plus we'll peek ahead to some of the big showdowns on tap here today in this edition of Jim Sez but first let's get you this ultra-important reminder:
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers get you all the College Basketball Conference Tournament Winners and all the NBA Winners too when you check in on Game Days anytime after 11 a.m. ET for these weekday afternoon College Hoop Games and then anytime after 1 p.m. ET Monday-through-Friday for all the night-time action. This Saturday and Sunday you can check in after 10 a.m. ET for all the weekend hoop winners
Go ahead and get it all right here online or else at our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 - and make sure to be with us all through "March Madness".
Hey, you don't want to miss out on all the fun-and-games, do you?
THE CONFERENCE TOURNIES: THURSDAY'S RE-CAPS AND TODAY'S QUICK-HITTER GAME COMMENTS/PREVIEWS
Let's go 'round the land and discuss the hot topics in the College Basketball Conference Tournaments:
You can say bye-bye to the double-bye now.
One year after two Big East high seeds were "gonesville" in their first mini-tourney game after receiving a "double-bye" we had three teams get unceremoniously dumped from this year's conference tournament - hats off to Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon for not blaming his club's 50-45 slowdown loss to 2 ½-point underdog Notre Dame last night on the double-bye format but Syracuse's Jim Boeheim wasn't as understanding and he went into this year's mini-tourney already biased against the concept that allowed this league's #1-thru-#4 seeds to sit by idle while the first two rounds of the tournament were in action.
Still, Syracuse's 91-84 quarterfinal round loss to 5 ½-point underdog Georgetown could be blamed more on the fact that Orange didn't exactly always hustle back on transition defense - one main reason why the Hoyas shot 33-of-57 from the floor including better than 70 percent after intermission. Guard Chris Wright had more trouble with his contact lens than he did with the famed 'Cuse zone defense as the cat-quick G-town star poured in 27 points and chipped in 6 rebounds and 6 assists in 39 yeoman minutes of action.
Okay, so the Orange may well have lost some of its zest following the game-ending knee injury to underrated center Arinze Onuaku with five-plus minutes left in the game but by then the Hoyas had figured out how to attack the Syracuse zone (great interior passing was the order of the day) and also by then Georgetown big man Greg Monroe has showed off his skill sets as he finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds and a team-high 7 assists and thus earned the plaudits from former President Bill Clinton who sure knew his stuff when interviewed during the Cincinnati-West Virginia affair.
Now, the Hoyas move on to this evening's battle royal against Marquette with both teams playing here for a third time in as many calendar days - a word of advice to Georgetown head coach John Thompson III: Don't let Marquette star Lazar Hayward (20 points including the go-ahead triple with 1:51 remaining) get open at the top of the key or else he'll bury you too!
Meanwhile, Notre Dame's never been to a Big East Tournament Championship Game but this new-look, slow-down-the-pace Irish squad is becoming the big hit at this year's party as Mike Brey's club has beaten Seton Hall and Pitt on back-to-back nights while yielding just 101 total points - heck, there was a day when ND would surrender that many points in a single game under Brey but that late-season injury to star Luke Harangody (an effective 12 points in last night's win) forced the Irish to change their culture and now they shorten games with longer possessions and the perimeter defense is much improved.
If ND wants to get past West Virginia tonight, than knowing where clutch shooter Da'Sean Butler is at all times will help. Butler's game-winning triple electrified "The Big Apple" last night but his steady 15-point, 6-rebound, 4-assist game was monumental for a Mountaineers team that fell asleep at the wheel a few times.
As far as what we wrote earlier: Syracuse probably won't lose its grip on a #1 NCAA Tournament seed but might have some reason to fret if both Duke and Ohio State win the ACC and Big 10 Tournaments, respectively, while Villanova is probably a #3 seed now and Pitt no better than a #3 seed as well in the NCAA Tournament that tips off next Tuesday night.
P.S., in case you were wondering, Big East Tournament underdogs this week enter Friday's semifinal tilts at 9-3 ATS (against the spread) for a sizzling .750 winning rate.
No doubt that lots of folks want to be talking up how North Carolina (16-16) got dunked in opening-round play last night by Georgia Tech but that 62-58 final was "NBD" - as in no bid deal - as Roy Williams' club blew a 13-point first-half lead and shot just 33 percent from the field and so this post-championship nightmare season is over.
The real news in the opening round of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tourney was that a pair of NCAA-bound teams - that's Wake Forest and Clemson - really laid a couple of eggs:
Wake Forest was torched 83-62 by 3 ½-point pup Miami as the Deacons missed 10-of-28 free throws and shot a woeful 35 percent from the floor (that's 20-of-57) and you've gotta think that Wake's no better than a #9 or #10 seed in next week's NCAAs. Did you know that Wake Forest now is 0-3 in ACC Tournament games under head coach Dino Gaudio? Ugh.
Clemson was a 59-57 loser versus 7-point dog N.C. State in the final game of the ACC Tournament's opening round and what's really distressing is that the Tigers didn't show any interest in being here till it was too late - N.C. State galloped out to a double-digit lead in the early stages of the second half and then accepted a wake-up call but too late.
Believe it or not, Clemson's now a collective 16-57 in ACC Tournament games and 43 of those losses have come in its first game. Now, Oliver Purnell's 21-10 crew slinks into next week's NCAA Tournament having gone 6-7 SU (straightup) since mid-January and there's more rumblings about the head coach's job ... again.
It's sure going to be strange having the C-USA Tournament go on without the Memphis Tigers, right?
And it won't seem right with an NCAA Tournament without Memphis (23-9) - but that's where we're headed now.
The glorious run likely ended on Thursday afternoon when 6 ½-point underdog Houston stunned Memphis 66-65 - a Jim Hurley winner - as Aubrey Coleman's leaner with five seconds left in the game pushed Tom Penders' team over the top (yes, there was then a controversial palming violation that got ESPN's studio folks into a day-long tizzy!).
Maybe it was bound to happen - you know, Memphis had all that success under previous head coach John Calipari that new-kid-on-the-block Josh Pastner was gonna find out how things really go for many favorites at tourney time - but the irony to this Tigers loss is that it could now limit Conference USA to only one team in next week's NCAA Tournament and that's whomever wins Saturday's title tilt although the UTEP Miners (25-5) - easy 76-54 winners against 10-point dog Central Florida in Thursday's quarterfinals - probably would latch onto an at-large bid it they happen to get beat in either the semis (versus host Tulsa) or the finals (versus the Houston-Southern Miss winner).
It's worth noting that UTEP was a dead-eye-on-the-mark club in yesterday's win as the Miners shot 57.1 percent (that's 28-of-49) and canned 14-of-17 free throws as head coach Tony Barbee unleashed a full-court, trapping defense that rattled undermanned UCF - too bad we won't get a Pastner versus Barbee head-to-head showdown as both were Calipari assistants and the first-year Kentucky boss-man seems to be the only guy who knows how to win Conference USA crowns.
Yes, the nation's-best 25-year run of NCAA Tournament berths will end for the Arizona Wildcats (16-15) - who couldn't beat hungry UCLA for a third straight time this year.
The 'Cats were not physical enough in their 75-69 loss to the 1 ½-point favored Uclans yesterday afternoon at Staples Center and so that quarter-century mark of excellence has been ended - and don't the U of A kids wish they could take back some of those awful-looking three-point shot attempts?
Sean Miller's crew drilled just 4-of-19 triple tries while losing the all-important board battle 32-to-20 and it seemed even worse as goggled-eyed Reeves Nelson snatched down 11 rebounds to go along with his game-high 19 points while returning to action after missing four games with assorted eye injuries including a slight tear in the retina of his left eye. One tough kid!
So, all the TV folks wanted to talk about Arizona and the end of that streak - but the bigger news here was the other team from the Cactus State.
After all, Arizona State (22-10, 12-6 in the Pac-10 regulation season) was considered to be in pretty good shape in terms of an NCAA at-large berth but a 70-61 loss last night to 7 ½-point pup Stanford figures to have popped the Sun Devils' "Big Dance" bubble with California (22-9) and Washington (22-9) potentially the only two Pac-10 teams to get invitations to next week's big tournament.
No doubt what Arizona State needs to happen here is for either Cal - a 90-74 winner against 11-point fav Oregon in the Pac-10 Tournament quarters - and/or Washington (a 59-52 winner against dogged 9-point pup Oregon State late last night) to lose in this evening's semifinals ... or else.
If it's a California versus Washington finale on Saturday in LA-LA land, then both of these teams will know they're going dancing while A-State sits and waits for another NIT bid.
Hey, that's what happens when you allow a pedestrian Stanford team to shoot nearly 55 percent from the field while Sun Devils' guards Ty Abbott and Derek Glasser combine to shoot 9-of-29 from the field with a combined 6 assists and 6 turnovers.
Thursday's Final Note: The College Basketball Betting Favorites finished a collective 15-24-1 against the Las Vegas odds with one pick 'em affair (that was Baylor's 86-67 beat-down of rival Texas) and note that all four Big East Tourney dogs covered while all four WAC Tournament chalk-eaters notched pointspread wins.
In Friday action ...
The Atlantic-10 Tournament resumes with quarterfinal round play at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City and conventional wisdom says that as many as four teams from this ever-improving league will make the NCAAs but Saint Louis can't afford a mini-tourney loss here against Rhode Island while these URI Rams could get a bid if Jim Baron's club can eke its way into the A-10 Championship Game on Saturday ...
Maybe the best under-the-radar game on this mini-tourney Friday is the Mountain West Conference semifinal clash between BYU (29-4) and host UNLV (24-7). The BYU Cougars rode the 45-point game from Jimmer Fredette last night into this next round as Dave Rose's club overcame a halftime deficit to topple TCU 95-85. Fredette canned 23-of-24 free throws but he shouldn't necessarily expect to spend so much time at the charity stripe here even with UNLV playing in-your-grill defense.
Note that the Coogs and Rebels split their regular-season series - BYU won 77-73 in Provo back on Jan. 6th and UNLV repaid the favor with an 88-74 home triumph on Feb. 6th. If UNLV wins this rubber match, it could propel Lon Kruger's club into the NCAA's while if BYU wins this MWC Tourney, get ready to see the Cougars somewhere on the #5 of #6 seed line in the NCAAs.
THE NCAA TOURNAMENT REPORT: A CONFERENCE-BY-CONFERENCE LOOK AT WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT TO SEE ON "SELECTION SUNDAY"
By Jim Hurley:
Hey, don't shoot the messenger (that's us!) here but the fact of the matter is this year's College Basketball Conference Tournaments may have done more to "muddy the waters" than to clear things up when it comes to next week's NCAA Tournament.
Consider the following:
The NCAA Tournament folks went into conference tournament or mini-tourney play with the commonly held belief that Syracuse would get a #1 seed in the "Big Dance" - of course, the Orange went out and lost to Georgetown in the Big East quarterfinals;
The NCAA Tournament folks believed the likes of Minnesota, Illinois, San Diego State and Rhode Island were - at best - "on the bubble" but more likely on the outside looking in and here we exited Friday night's games and all of the above were still very much alive;
Finally, just when you thought that a slew of teams would nudge each other around for the #2 and #3 seeds in the upcoming NCAA Tournament, the likes of - and in no particular order - Villanova, Pittsburgh, Maryland, Wisconsin, Michigan State and New Mexico all lost even before they could get to their respective conference tourney's semifinal round of play.
The Big East Tournament, the ACC Tournament and the Big 10 Tournament - just to name just a few - all went absolutely haywire at conference tourney time with a slew of #8 and #11 and #12 seeds going deeper than anyone could imagine and so now the NCAA Tournament Committee has the toughest task in memory:
How to come up with the best and most qualified 34 at-large teams when - as ESPN analyst Jay Bilas rightfully has been stating all along - this is the "weakest at-large field" in a long, long time?
Suffice to say, the results on this March weekend will carry a lot of weight into who goes where in this year's NCAA Tournament but we figured to take a conference-by-conference shot at what lies immediately ahead - and we'll get to our Jim Sez NCAA Tournament Report in just a moment but first this ultra-important reminder:
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers have all the weekend's College Basketball Conference Tournament Winners and all the NBA Winners too when you check in with us on game days after 10 a.m. ET either right here online or at our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453.
Editor's Note: We will have all the day-time NCAA Tournament games this coming Thursday/Friday after 10 a.m. ET with the night games released sometime after 1:30 p.m. ET - so make sure you're all aboard for the next stage of "March Madness"!
Okay, so let's check things out with first a look at the power conferences and note our final line in each segment includes a first-round NCAA Tournament First-Round matchup we'd love to see:
Did you realize that six of the first eight games played in the ACC Tournament were outright upsets (two apiece by Miami and N.C. State) and so the whole darn mini-tourney fell apart right at #1 seed Duke's feet...now talk about getting the breaks!
If the veteran Blue Devils do go on and win the ACC Tourney crown, then you can bet your last Ben Franklin that Mike Krzyzewski's club will snatch up a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and our best guess is that the Dookies would be playing the first two rounds in the Jacksonville site (Friday & Sunday).
Expect Maryland to be a #3 seed despite that 69-64 ACC Tourney loss to 4-point underdog Georgia Tech while Clemson, Florida State and Wake Forest all wind up in either #8-vs.#9 games or #7-vs.#10 tilts - and don't expect Virginia Tech to make the NCAA Tournament field unless all the other "bubble teams" have their dreams burst on Saturday/Sunday of this Conference Championship weekend.
NCAA Tournament First-Round Matchup We'd Love to See...Wake Forest vs. Texas
It's safe to say that West Virginia will get a #2 seed no matter how you slice it - a Big East Tournament Championship Game win against Georgetown isn't gonna elevate Bob Huggins' crew to a #1 seed and a loss won't hurt 'em much either but it's the aforementioned Hoyas who become the really interesting case study here as G-town could wind up as high as a #2 NCAA Tourney seed if it can win four games in four calendar days in NYC.
We touched on Syracuse who appears to have dodged any/all bullets and will get a #1 seed after all - you know, body of work jazz and all that stuff - and it says here that the Orange will get to play in Providence for its first two rounds (Thursday & Saturday) and that could be the reward site too for whoever wins Saturday night's Big East Tourney affair at "The World's Most Famous Arena".
Meanwhile, the Big East will get eight teams into this year's NCAAs with Villanova and Pittsburgh getting either #3 or #4 seeds while Notre Dame, Louisville and Marquette all will get fitted anywhere between a #5 seed and a #8 seed.
NCAA Tournament First-Round Matchup We'd Love to See...Louisville vs. San Diego State
Let's just say that Evan Turner's 45-foot bomb that beat Michigan on Friday afternoon might well have catapulted the Ohio State Buckeyes to a #2 NCAA Tournament seed - no questions asked - and a Big Ten Tournament Championship would ensure Thad Matta's club of being the "best" of the #2 seeds when the committee folks are drawing that "S curve" bit that actually numbers the teams in order from 1-thru-65.
Still, there's so much other juicy stuff coming from this conference with Michigan losing to Minnesota 72-67 in OT - thus shoving "Sparty" down to no better than a #3 seed and more than likely a #4 seed - plus Purdue could be a big winner here on Selection Sunday as just getting to the mini-tourney title game (must beat Minny) would convince the committee folks that the Boilers are still rock-solid even without injured star forward Robbie Hummel.
If Purdue just gets to Sunday, then it punched its ticket to no worse than a #3 seed while Wisconsin should settle in at a #5 seed and born-again Illinois can count on being a double-digit tourney seed unless Bruce Weber's club sweeps through Indianapolis and wins this weekend's whole shindig.
NCAA Tournament First-Round Matchup We'd Love to See...Michigan State vs. Siena
It's no secret that the Kansas Jayhawks will be a numero uno seed in this year's NCAA Tournament (and we say they'll be playing first- and second-round games in Oklahoma City) but don't buy the hype that archrival Kansas State can get onto that #1 seed line even if the Wildcats were to upset Bill Self's guys in Saturday's conference tourney title game in Kansas City. The 'Cats will march into the NCAA's with a #2 seed and - no surprise here - won't be in the same bracket as heavyweight Kansas but could well be playing in Okie City come Thursday/Saturday.
The one team that took a seeding hit thanks to a Big 12 Tournament opening-round loss is Missouri but you got the sense that head coach Mike Anderson didn't want to stress his Tigers in that mini-tourney even if it meant risking a one- or two-seed drop - expect Mizzou to be a #7 seed while Baylor, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State and Texas all figure on being between #5-thru-#9 (with the Texas Longhorns a sure bet to be playing in one of those #8/#9 games).
NCAA Tournament First-Round Matchup We'd Love to See...Texas A&M vs. Saint Mary's
The fact that this much-criticized league was able to get frontrunners California and Washington into Saturday's conference tourney title game means both are lead-pipe cinches to make the NCAA Tournament field of 65 - but that's it. No Arizona, no Arizona State, nobody but the Golden Bears and the Huskies and both of these teams figure on getting slotted in no higher than a #6 seed and no lower than a #9 seed.
Maybe the NCAA Tournament Committee folks were cut a break by the way the Pac-10 Tournament fell just right - if UCLA or Stanford would have pulled off a semifinal win (instead they lost on Friday night by 13 and 15 points, respectively, to Cal and Washington) than there could have been lots of sweaty palms out there in bubble-land but instead the disappointing Pac-10 gets a mere two teams and gotta believe the mini-tourney winner will get to "stay home" and play a first- and possibly second-round game in San Jose (Thursday/Saturday).
NCAA Tournament First-Round Matchup We'd Love to See...California vs. UTE
It was a slam dunk (at least in our opinion) that all four teams that entered Saturday's SEC Tournament semifinals in Nashville were headed to berths in the NCAA Tournament:
Kentucky's getting a #1 no matter how the current weekend turned out for 'em; Tennessee could be as high as a #2 if the Vols could pull off the mini-tourney upset; and Vanderbilt and Mississippi State both have locks on tourney bids no matter who loses that head-to-head battle on Saturday afternoon and so that makes Ole Miss the lone "bubble team" from this league that must sweat things out during the Selection Show on Sunday.
The fact the up-and-down Rebels lost 76-65 to Tennessee (note that Ole Miss had a one-point halftime lead) in SEC Tourney quarterfinal play likely has Andy Kennedy's team on the outside looking in right now but a winning record in league play (9-7 in the regular season) could squeak Ole Miss in ahead of someone such as Minnesota or Rhode Island. Stay tuned.
NCAA Tournament First-Round Matchup We'd Love to See...Vanderbilt vs. Richmond
Now, let's touch on some of the so-called mid-majors...
Expect four teams from this getting-better-all-the-time league to land NCAA Tournament berths and look for regular-season champ New Mexico to be rewarded for its "body of work" and not penalized for losing a heart-stopping 72-69 verdict against 2 ½-point underdog San Diego State in the MWC semifinals. Fact is Los Lobos could be as high as a #5 seed and could wind up being part of the field that plays first/second-round games in Oklahoma City.
Meanwhile, BYU also won't be hurt badly by its mini-tourney loss in the semis to "host" UNLV - while both those Runnin' Rebels and the San Diego State Aztecs will find their way in after battling on Saturday night for the conference championship although both will be double-digit seeds.
NCAA Tournament First-Round Matchup We'd Love to See...BYU vs. Notre Dame
Folks, this is only gonna be a one-bid league as long as favored Utah State tops New Mexico State in Saturday's WAC Championship Game in Reno - the fact that Nevada was bopped 80-79 by NMSU late Friday night kayoed the Wolf Pack once and for all from the party scene.
Still, if Utah State wins that mini-tourney game and thus enters the NCAA Tournament with a total of 28 wins, we believe the Aggies will be seeded higher than usual for a WAC champ - maybe a #7 seed.
NCAA Tournament First-Round Matchup We'd Love to See...Utah State vs. Mississippi State
It's no cinch that four-or-more teams are going to get bids to the NCAA Tournament from this league that seems to have an inferiority complex - hey, those joker announcers who are talking up Saint Louis and Dayton can drop that argument after both were beaten Friday in mini-tourney play and it's Temple, Xavier and Richmond who are locks and Rhode Island who might have to sweat if Jim Baron's Rams don't at least get to Sunday's championship round.
Put it this way: If Rhodie is ultra-competitive against Temple on Saturday but loses, we'll still be tempted to put 'em into the field of 65.
NCAA Tournament First-Round Matchup We'd Love to See...Xavier vs. Marquette
NOTE: We'll dig deep into this year's NCAA Tournament News & Notes - like who's in and who's not and why - in the next edition of Jim Sez.
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