Who Got Busted in Bracket Buster Saturday?
OUR COLLEGE BASKETBALL WEEKEND NOTEBOOK:
OKAY, SO WHO GOT "BUSTED" IN BRACKET BUSTER SATURDAY?
(GO AHEAD AND RAISE YOUR HANDS, NEVADA AND KENT STATE!)...
PLUS IT'S O.T. MADNESS AS LOUISVILLE, V-TECH & NOTRE DAME ARE AMONG THE HOOP FOLKS WHO COP BONUS TIME WINS
By Jim Hurley:
Here's a question we have "after the fact":
Can a loss by one of College Basketball's so-called mid-major teams in this Bracket Buster weekend really/truly do damage to one's reputation and resume?
You bet your black high-tops it could and in today's edition of Jim Sez we'll spell a couple of teams that really took a major hit in terms of their NCAA Tournament hopes plus we'll go three-deep in terms of delving into overtime games as a slew of regularly schedule, regular-season games went "bonus time" and we'll have quick-hitter reviews of triumphs by Louisville, Virginia Tech and Notre Dame - anyone got any fingernails left at those places?
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NEVADA (22-5) - Maybe it was more than a little unfair that the Wolf Pack had to travel cross-country for its Bracket Buster game on Saturday as a tilt at 9-point favorite Iona sure made it feel as if the Reno gang was swimming in deep water.
Still, there it was at halftime and Iona sported the slimmest of slim leads at 47-46 and it surely appeared to eyeball witnesses that this was a closer matchup than the experts had forecast. Maybe Nevada could hang with the run-run Gaels who do sport NBA-type talent in their backcourt as "Momo" Jones and point guard Scott Machado - who combined for 31 points - are real-deal types but after trimming an Iona lead to 82-77 with 4:04 left it appeared that the Western Athletic Conference club could steal a game on the East Coast and give ‘em a "signature win" come NCAA Tournament Selection time.
The WAC leaders (they're 10-1 in conference play and some 2½ games ahead of second-place New Mexico State) simply could not slow down the amped-up Gaels attack that wound up shooting a blistering 62.3 percent from thee floor (that's 33-of-53 field-goal makes) and let's not forget here that Nevada's highly questionable bench gave the Pack a mere five total points in 26 man-minutes - not nearly good enough. Maybe Nevada will make the tourney on its own merits within the WAC - but here was a golden opportunity to sink its teeth into a Bracket Buster road upset and instead they let it slip-slide away despite a 28-point effort by F Olek Czyz.
Will Nevada necessarily be punished for losing here? No, but the reward for a "W" was great - tsk, tsk.
KENT STATE (19-7) ) - Don't think for a minute (as many of the TV "experts" say all the time) that the Mid-American Conference is your typical one-bid league when it comes to NCAA Tournament berths. There's plenty of room in this year's "Big Dance" to include the Mid-Am's mini-tourney title winner next month plus another team with great credentials but one possible such squad was derailed badly here in the Bracket Buster games and we're wondering how the Kent State Golden Flashes are gonna be sleeping the next couple of nights!
Note that Kent State was a rock-solid 8½-point betting favorite against visiting College of Charleston (and note the Las Vegas price jumped a half-point right before game time and so folks out there thought the Flashes were the "hot side") but instead Charleston charged out to a 67-49 lead before Kent State made a way-too-little, way-too-late surge and if K-State doesn't make it into the field of 68 teams less than a month from now, you might want to point at this game as the numero uno reason why.
The visiting Cougars drained 26-of-37 free throws (that's 70.3 percent or a whole lot better than many college teams are shooting FTs these days!) and Kent State came out flat and seemingly unable to handle CC guard Nori Johnson who poured in a game-high 27 points.
The up-to-the-moment word on Kent State's NCAA Tourney chances?
The seven-game winning streak while heading into this Bracket Buster mess was super-impressive as are wins this year against the non-conference likes of UAB and West Virginia but here was an opportunity to make a national statement against a good-but-not-great Charleston crew (see 17-11 overall) and they got a wake-up call around 7:40 p.m. for a 6 p.m. ET start.
HERE'S TO SATURDAY'S O.T. WINNERS
Think there wasn't aa little bit of overtime being played on this next-to-last weekend in February?
Here's the roll call of all the OT winners and they include...
Louisville over DePaul, Western Carolina over Elon, Virginia Tech over Georgia Tech, Penn over Columbia, Xavier over Dayton, Pacific over Idaho State, Arkansas-Little Rock over Troy and Notre Dame over Villanova - yes, eight overtime games is enough to get even the hard-core College Hoops fan all excited but how about the fact that the ND Fighting Irish even got the cash in the extra session as the 2½-point road favorites from South Bend overcame a 20-point deficit along the way - condolences to anyone that had ‘Nova plus the small price here as that one stings.
Note Dame (19-8 overall and 11-3 in Big East play) has really blossomed this year when no one saw it coming - did someone invoke the namke of the NFL's New York Giants? - and no wonder so many in-the-know folks are saying Irish head coach Mike Brey deserves National Coach of the Year recognition (again!).
Meanwhile, how about Virginia Tech's 74-73 OT non-cover home win against 8-point underdog Georgia Tech? The Hokies (15-12, 4-8 in ACC play) appeared doomed after G-Tech's Mfon Udofia nailed a jumper with five seconds to go in OT to give the Yellow Jackets a 73-71 lead but Dorenzo Hudson netted a three-pointer at the buzzer (yes, Virginia Tech head coach Seth Greenberg's you-gotta-be-kidding-me look said it all, right?) and all heck broke loose for a VT team that's lost its fair share of tough ones this year.
Finally, the whole day of dramatic hoops action actually got started early with Louisville's 90-82 non-cover OT win at 10-point pup DePaul in a game that started at 11 a.m. Chicago time. Hey, Louisville here stormed back from a 17-point deficit - ‘Ville guard Chris Smith said afterwards that, "Everyone just stayed positive" and it didn't hurt matters that the U of L Cardinals that G Russ Smith nailed back-to-back triples in OT to give Rick Pitino's team a little separation - and isn't that always a key component to winning these OT games in the first place?
In other key Saturday action...
Hey, don't ever let it be said that College Basketball is played in nameless gyms out there as some of the action on this hot-hot-hot February day/night included a loss by Buffalo (of all teams) at Frost Arena at South Dakota State, a crunchy 65-64 win by Boise State over visiting TCU at Taco Bell Arena and a 63-53 win by 7-point fav Georgetown over host Providence at the Dunkin' Donuts Center and wouldn't you know that the Friars' offense had lots of holes in it (shot 14-of-54 from the field for a 26 percent accuracy rate)?
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