Four Teams That Must Make Noise This Week
THE COLLEGE B-BALL REPORT
HERE'S FOUR TEAMS THAT MUST MAKE NOISE THIS WEEK DURING THE ALWAYS-WILD MINI-TOURNIES
By Jim Hurley
Gee, we wish we had a nickel for every time the ESPN folks mentioned the name Joe Lunardi as the lead"bracketologist" for the family of networks sure gets touted plenty at this time of the year when College Basketball takes front-and-center stage in the sports world.
Ahh, let Lunardi have his more-than-15-minutes of fame these days.
We have much bigger fish to fry such as informing you what Four (4) teams - and you could very well argue there's more than that, of course - must make some noise in the mini-tourney games this week.
No doubt the Connecticut Huskies - who we admittedly had dead-and-buried at this time last week - have roared in this week's Big East Tournament in New York City with back-to-back wins against DePaul and West Virginia with yesterday's stirring 71-67 overtime win against the 2-point underdog Mountaineers reviving memories of last year's fantastic run to the NCAA National Championship that included five wins in as many days in the Big East Tourney.
Who needs Kemba Walker, right?
Okay, so let's pencil Jim Calhoun's club back into this year's"Big Dance" and add the likes of South Florida and Stanford following their respective wins on Wednesday and now let's turn our attention outside the Big East/Pac-12 to some other real"bubble teams".
MIAMI (18-11, 9-7 ACC) - Let's face it, the U of M Hurricanes are your prototypical"bubble team" as Jim Larranaga's gang must beat Georgia Tech tonight (9:25 p.m. ET) in Atlantic Coast Conference first-round action just to remain in the NCAA Tournament conversation and do keep in mind that the Yellow Jackets will enjoy a sort of home court flavor as this ACC Tournament tilt is being played at Philips Arena in Atlanta.
If the 'Canes are able to win here than here's the scenario next against rival Florida State: Just don't get blown out!
It's possible that a"good loss" against a rock-solid Florida State squad in Round II will allow Miami to stay in there as one of the 68 teams in next week's NCAA Tournament but it says here that leading scorer Durand Scott (13 points per game) must get help from someone else in the Miami lineup to rifle up a 17-to-20-point game against one of the country's fiercest defensive units. But let's not put the cart before the horse - beat G-Tech and than we'll be all ears to your NCAA Tourney argument, guys!
COLORADO STATE (19-10, 8-6 MWC) - Count us among the folks who have been enraptured by the big-time home wins of the C-State Rams this season whether it was the 17-point triumph over San Diego State or the 8-point victory against New Mexico or that late-season stirring 66-59 come-from-behind mild upset against UNLV but here's the problem for the gang from Fort Collins:
The Rams lost 6-of-7 Mountain West Conference road games this year and there's some prevailing thought that the rarified high altitude air really has aided the team's cause so let's see if CSU can win its first-round mini-tourney game against 4-point pup TCU ... in Las Vegas this afternoon (5:30 p.m. ET tip). It's no gimme, folks!
No question that blue-collar F Pierce Hornung (8.4 ppg and 8.3 rebounds per game) is a real throwback player for the Rams and he sure would be fun to watch in the NCAA's but something tells us Colorado State has to win here and not have a proverbial"bad loss" in the MWC semifinals against San Diego State.
It's as simple as that and than you can punch their ticket.
We'll get to our other two"gotta-make-some-noise bubble teams" in just a moment but first this quick reminder:
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Now, here's a couple more College Hoop teams with"work to do" to get into this year's NCAA Tournament ...
UCF (21-9, 10-6 C-USA) - Here's the lowdown on the Central Florida Knights:
They've received precious little media coverage in their pursuit of an NCAA Tournament at-large bid this year but the fact remains - no matter what Mr. Lunardi may say at the moment - is that should Keith Clanton, Marcus Jordan (yes, Michael's son) and Company win twice this week/weekend in Memphis and thus get into the Conference USA Championship Game than it might be downright impossible to keep head coach Donnie Jones' squad from getting a"Big Dance" bid.
Keep in mind UCF earned a first-round mini-tourney bye and already this club has its 20-plus wins (for a second straight year, mind you!) and a semifinal round win against host Memphis - should both get there - figures to seal the deal for a team that bares gets on the college hoop radar screens of America. The first order of business for Central Florida is to beat UAB - a 72-64 winner last night against 6 ½-point dog Tulane in Conference USA Tournament first-round action - and than we'll chat!
NORTHWESTERN (18-12, 8-10 Big 10) - Here's a $64,000 question as it involves these here-and-now Wildcats:
Will sentimentality play a role - at all - in determining whether or not Northwestern gets into this year's NCAA Tournament?
Remember that the 'Cats have never gone to the NCAA's and there is plenty of buzz that Bill Carmody's club has"done enough" to land a tourney berth with high-profile conference wins against Michigan State and - to a lesser degree - in-state rival Illinois helping the cause and don't forget non-league triumphs over LSU and Tulsa but the fly in the ointment comes here in this Big 10 Tourney in Indianapolis as N'western must beat #10 seed Minnesota (the 'Cats are just 2 ½-point favs) in this tilt scheduled for 5:30 p.m. ET.
Northwestern has been a real feel-good story this hoops season but there's no denying the facts and they include the Wildcats having that sub-.500 record in league play and a 3-6 mark in conference road tilts including a 33-point loss at Ohio State and a 20-point loss at Wisconsin.
Game plan for the 'Cats here in Round I: Lean on the tag team of F John Shurna and G Dave Sobolewski who combined for 40 points in the 64-53 home win against Minnesota back on February 18th ... remember guys?
In College Basketball News/Notes from Wednesday's mini-tourney action ...
The only upset among power conference teams yesterday was Texas A&M's 62-53 mild upset against 1 ½-point favorite Oklahoma in Big 12 Tourney action in Kansas City. The Aggies (14-17) haven't had much to smile about this hoops season (their final one as a member of the Big 12 Conference) but they moved into a quarterfinal game against Kansas this afternoon (3 p.m. ET) after Khris Middleton and David Loubeau scored 15 points apiece even though Texas A&M shot only 21-of-55 from the floor (that's 38.2 percent) ...
In the Big East, the night-time action was downright ugly as Louisville bested 4-point pup Seton Hall 61-55 - the big news here was U of L big man Gorgui Dieng blocked six shots and hauled down 10 rebounds for a Cardinals club that looked out of control en route to a 19-of-49 FG night. Meanwhile, South Florida wrapped up a brutal night card with its 56-47 triumph over 2 ½-point dog Villanova as the Wildcats shot 5-of-25 from the floor in the first half and Day One star Maalik Wyans wound up shooting 3-of-14 from the floor for 9 points for Jay Wright's club that would just like to forget 2011-12 ever happened (see 13-19 final record).
Don't know about you but we had to turn away from this car wreck a few times!
NOTE: Stay on top of all the College Basketball action all week long right here at Jim Sez.
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