Mid-Week Update + Tourney Previews
THE COLLEGE ROUND-BALL MID-WEEK UPDATE –
IT’S GETTING DOWN TO NITTY-GRITTY TIME IN REGULAR-SEASON PLAY AND WE’RE BUSY CHECKING OUT FIVE KEY CONFERENCE HEAD-TO-HEAD “BUBBLE” TILTS ON THIS SUPER-IMPORTANT WEDNESDAY NIGHT …
PLUS WE WEIGH IN ON THE UPCOMING MINI-TOURNIES INVOLVING THE MISSOURI VALLEY & THE WEST COAST CONFERENCES
By Jim Hurley
It’s safe to say that there are approximately six-to-eight conferences out there that sport multiple “bubble teams” as we head into the games of Wednesday, March 5th – we’re not quite sure if that means mediocrity rules in many of these leagues or that simply so many teams are dead-even these days – but look around and you’ll see the ACC, Big East, Big 10, Pac-12 and SEC all have three-or-more “bubble teams” as we speak.
As fate would have it on this first Wednesday night in March, there are five – count ‘em, five – conference games here that pit one “bubble team” against another and so this is a particularly intriguing calendar date … wouldn’t you say?
We’re turning our hoops attention to three conferences in particular for these mid-week games, and so here goes:
In the Big 10, it’s …
NEBRASKA (17-11, 9-7 Big 10) at INDIANA (17-12, 7-9 Big 10) – 7 p.m. ET, Big 10 Network
Gotta say that the Big 10 has become a bit more muddled than in recent days as we count three teams squarely on the fence for an NCAA Tournament bid with Nebraska, Indiana and Minnesota more likely than not battling it out the next week-plus for just one spot in the “Big Dance”.
No doubt the biggest surprise here has been the Cornhuskers, who’ve banged out eight wins in their last 10 games, and now Nebraska’s looking for the clean season sweep against Indiana.
Note that back on Jan. 30th, two-point home favorite Nebraska rallied all the way back from 16 points down to grab a 60-55 win that starred transfer Terran Petteway who registered 13 of his 18 points after intermission but one other real key to victory there for Big Red held the Hoosiers scoreless for six-plus minutes in the second half of that tilt in Lincoln and here Tom Crean’s kids need the tandem of Yogi Ferrell and Will Sheehey to go for more than 26 combined points in this Bloomington bash.
Remember that Indiana’s been “gold” at home against ranked teams Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa and Ohio State – the latest a 72-64 mild upset win in which Ferrell (20 points) and Sheehey combined for 39 points – but against the non-power teams in the league Crean’s guys have struggled … so you have been forewarned!
Gut feeling is Indiana needs this win plus at least one win in the upcoming Big 10 Tournament to have a shot at the NCAAs – a Hoosiers loss here (and an expected loss at Michigan this Saturday) would mean Indiana needs three mini-tourney wins to crack the code.
In the SEC, it’s …
OLE MISS (17-12, 8-8 SEC) at ARKANSAS (20-9, 9-7 SEC) – 8 p.m. ET
Our conservative count includes six teams from this 12-team Southeastern Conference that are squarely on the bubble – and both Ole Miss and Arkansas are part of that proverbial six-pack.
Note the Arkansas Razorbacks have won five in a row en route to chasing this NCAA Tournament berth, but consider the Hogs are at Alabama come Saturday, and so if Mike Anderson’s squad – right now more “in” than “out” come the tourney – loses at home here and then gets beaten at ‘Bama, we’d venture to say then that the ‘Backs would probably need to win at least one SEC Tournament game … and does Anderson and Company really want to let it all get down to that scenario?
On the flip side, Ole Miss is heading in the wrong direction while attempting to chase down a tourney berth as the Rebels have dropped five of their last six games and that included last Saturday’s 71-60 defeat at 1 ½-point fav Texas A&M – a game in which the Aggies shot slightly better than 50 percent from the floor (that’s 27-of-53 made FGs) while Ole Miss G Marshall Henderson drained a mere 5-of-16 three-point attempts.
Could the polarizing Henderson – who leads Ole Miss with a 19.2 points-per-game average – be starting to wear down as the season rolls into the stretch drive?
Ole Miss will host Vanderbilt this Saturday and it says here the Rebels need to somehow get to 20 wins overall this year or else the bubble will surely burst.
P.S., note the two best non-SEC wins for Ole Miss this season came against Georgia Tech and Penn State – we know, big deal!
TEXAS A&M (17-12, 8-8 SEC) at MISSOURI (20-9, 8-8 SEC) – 8 p.m. ET
One of the major questions that gets asked at this time of the year is just how many power conference teams with .500-or-worse records in league play really deserve an NCAA Tournament berth?
Heck, you could ask both of these SEC teams that very query here as Missouri does have 20 wins in its “side pocket”, but the Tigers are at Tennessee this Saturday and thus can’t afford to conclude regular-season play having lost seven of their final 11 games and that would be the case if Mizzou loses here and then in Knoxville too.
The best non-league win right now for these kids from Columbia would be triumphs against West Virginia – good but not great, we know – while note Texas A&M does have a bit of momentum here with three wins in its last four games including that aforementioned 11-point triumph over Ole Miss last weekend when Aggies’ star Jamal Jones scored 21 points and the club played without starting guards Fabyon Harris (“personal issues”) and Shawn Smith (he fainted in the team’s morning shoot-around) and no doubt A&M is hoping to have both back here.
Again, a not-so-golden-rule would be 20 wins if you’re Texas A&M although Billy Kennedy’s club does own a pair of SEC wins against Tennessee (18-11 and 9-7 in SEC play) and that’s gotta count for something, right?
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In the Pac-12, it’s …
COLORADO (20-9, 9-7 Pac-12) at STANFORD (18-10, 9-7 Pac-12) – 9 p.m. ET, espn2
Heck, if you listen to ESPN game analyst/Hall of Famer Bill Walton you’d get the distinct impression that the Pac-12 teams should get 11 teams into the upcoming NCAA Tournament (hey, even Walton would kayo a USC team with just a single league win this season!) but in reality the two Pac-12 “bubble games” here – that’s Utah at Cal, too – could serve as elimination games of sorts as the winners will have proverbial “legs up” and the losers could find themselves in situations where they need to win the regular-season finales this weekend … and then maybe even another game in next week’s Pac-12 Tourney in Las Vegas.
First off, note that Colorado has spent part of this season (well, 12 of their first 29 games) without leading scorer Spencer Dinwiddie, who went down with a season-ending knee injury, and so his absence actually could benefit the Buffaloes’ bid with a sympathy vote or two but be sure the NCAA Tournament Committee folks are sitting up and taking notice that Colorado’s lost two in a row and three of its last five games and is just 2-5 SU (straight-up) on the Pac-12 road with one of those “W’s” coming against horrid USC.
Stanford, on the other hand, has been mediocre in recent weeks winning six of its last 11 games and the recent back-to-back losses at Arizona State and then Arizona don’t help the cause. The best thing Stanford has going for ‘em is a two-point win at Connecticut in mid-December and road wins at Oregon and Washington although both teams were scuffling at the time.
The Cardinal pretty much has two shots to win one game here to ensure a winning mark in Pac-12 play – Johnny Dawkins’ crew hosts bubble boy Utah this Saturday – but advice to Stanford is don’t necessarily play with fire.
UTAH (19-9, 8-8 Pac-12) at CALIFORNIA (18-11, 9-7 Pac-12) – 11 p.m. ET, ESPNU
Maybe the single most interesting bubble team out there in all the land are the California Golden Bears:
Mike Montgomery’s club has the arrow pointing down right now with seven losses in the team’s last 11 games, but the plus side of the pro-NCAA Tournament argument includes a 5-4 mark on the Pac-12 road (wins at Stanford and Oregon are worth mentioning here), but in the past two weeks the Bears have lost three-of-four games and none of ‘em were close as Cal lost by 20 points against UCLA, by 28 points at third-ranked Arizona and by 18 points at Arizona State last Sunday night when defensive breakdowns had Montgomery more than a little distressed after that tilt.
If Utah’s gonna take advantage of this recent California dive, then the Utes could well get an inside spot for one of the at-large bids even though critics of Utah’s non-league schedule will be quick to point out wins against the likes of Evergreen State, Grand Canyon and Savannah State … gee whiz!
And now hear this …
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers keep rockin’-n-rollin’ through March with this College Basketball and NBA season as there are gonna be loads of winners right here online at www.jimhurley.com or at our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 – so go ahead and join the fun and profits today with all the hardwood action this month and remember the conference tournaments or so-called mini-tournies heat up next week with day-time action all throughout the month – we’ll keep you posted for all the important conference tourney news and notes!
COLLEGE B-BALL MINI-TOURNEY NOTES
The heavy-hitter conference don’t begin their so-called mini-tournies till next week but there’s plenty of good stuff on this week’s agenda including two leagues who get Conference Tournament action started on Thursday:
MISSOURI VALLEY CONFERENCE – Don’t care if any of the so-called hoop experts disagree, if this Wichita State squad -- 31-0 overall and 18-0 in MVC play this year – wins this mini-tourney in Saint Louis then it’s a slam-dunk that Gregg Marshall’s gang will be a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but consider the quandary the committee folks would be in if the Shockers lose this week … then what?
The fact is Wichita State’s an overwhelming choice to snag this “Arch City” tourney, and only Indiana State (21-9, 12-6) offers serious competition but the Sycamores have been awful lately with three consecutive losses heading into action here.
The Favorite: Wichita State
The Dark Horse: Missouri State
WEST COAST CONFERENCE – We won’t be surprised if this turns out to be only a one-bid league and that team is Gonzaga (25-6, 15-3) but should the ‘Zags not snag this mini-tourney crown than the only team we could see besting Mark Few’s crew would be BYU.
Still, hats off to San Francisco – a 20-win team that rolls into this mini-tourney in Las Vegas on a five-game winning streak but the Dons have lost their two games to Gonzaga by a grand total of 38 points.
The Favorite: Gonzaga
The Dark Horse: San Diego
NOTE: There’s more College Basketball News/Notes/Previews in the next edition of Jim Sez and remember the various conference tournaments continue to roll on his week as we’ll check in on the Colonial Athletic Conference later this week with tons of previews next week on all the power conferences.
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