Jack Cooley, 'Angelo Harrison

St. John’s beat No. 20 Notre Dame while Jack Cooley watches?

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Where was Jack Cooley?

That’s the question that every Notre Dame fan wants answered after the Irish lost their second straight game to an unranked opponent on Tuesday night, this one being a 67-63 defeat at the hands of St. John’s.

Cooley had struggled throughout the game, there’s no question about that. Steve Lavin made the adjustment to go small, leaving Chris Obekpa on the bench in favor of a lineup that featured Jakarr Sampson, Amir Garrett and Sir’Dominic Pointer — three athletes that can barely be considered power forwards.

Defensively, the Johnnies were able to fall back into a zone, using their length and athleticism to make it difficult for the Irish to get the ball into Cooley. On the offensive end of the floor, that smaller lineup forced Cooley to guard a much quicker player. The result? Sampson scored 14 of his 17 points in the first 20 minutes while Cooley picked up two fouls by the midway point of the half.

Cooley also picked up a quick foul in the second half, and on three straight possessions during one stretch, the all-Big East center shied away defensively. Those defensive lapses — that tentativeness brought on by the foul trouble — sparked a St. John’s run that pushed their lead to as much as 12.

Notre Dame fought back to take the lead with an 18-4 run, but after D’Angelo Harrison buried a 25-foot three, the Irish found themselves down 64-63 with less than a minute left on the clock. Eric Atkins — who was sensational yet again, finishing with 21 points, four assists and six steals — drove and dropped the ball off to Tom Knight under the rim for what looked like an open layup. But Knight was slow to get the shot off and ended up having his shot blocked against the backboard by Harrison.

Knight is a senior that’s playing 5.0 minutes per game this season. Cooley averages a double-double and is having the kind of season that would warrant all-america consideration.

So we have to ask:

Why was Cooley on the bench in the final minute?

Why was Knight on the floor?

Why was one of the Big East’s best big men watching as the third-string center was getting his shot pinned against the backboard by a 6-foot-3 jump-shooter?

Anyone?

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

BUBBLE BANTER: All of the action on the fringe of the NCAA tournament

Fred VanVleet
(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
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Tonight’s bubble action. This post will be updated as the games are completed.

Cincinnati at UCF, 7:00 p.m.
Pitt at No. 12 Miami, 7:00 p.m.
No. 25 Wichita State at Drake, 8:00 p.m.
Ole Miss at Florida, 9:00 p.m.
Georgia at No. 22 Kentucky, 9:00 p.m.
Arkansas at Mississippi State, 9:00 p.m.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: A Big 12 and a Big Ten showdown

Denzel Valentine
(AP Photo/Al Goldis)
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GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 10 West Virginia at No. 6 Kansas, 7:00 p.m.

The last time these two teams got together, West Virginia actually knocked off Kansas in Morgantown. It was the third time in the last three seasons that WVU has beaten KU at home. So there’s some revenge at stake here. But there’s also the whole Big 12 title race, which West Virginia currently leads. If the Mountaineers win tonight, they’ll be up by two games on Kansas with the tie breaker and just seven games left to play. The Jayhawks regular season title streak could be over if that happens.

THIS ONE’S GOOD, TOO: No. 8 Michigan State at No. 18 Purdue, 7:00 p.m.

We think the Spartans are back to their early season form after wins over Maryland (at home), Northwestern, Rutgers and Michigan. If Michigan State really wants to prove something to the college basketball world, they will go into West Lafayette tonight and get a win. Denzel Valentine vs. Raphael Davis will be fun.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR

  1. Pitt will pay a visit to No. 12 Miami in a game the Panthers could really use a win in. Pitt hasn’t been the most consistent team in the country and without adding a few quality wins they could be looking at the bubble.
  2. Duquesne will be paying a visit to No. 19 Dayton, who moved into a tie for first place in the Atlantic 10 thanks to VCU’s loss on Saturday.
  3. Georgia is right there on the bubble, and they will have a chance to try and push themselves into a better spot when they play at No. 22 Kentucky tonight.
  4. Creighton probably has to win out to have a shot of making the NCAA tournament, and that includes tonight, when they host No. 5 Xavier.
  5. No. 7 Virginia will be hosting Virginia Tech, who picked off the Wahoos in Blacksburg earlier this year.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • No. 1 Villanova at DePaul, 8:30 p.m.
  • No. 25 Wichita State at Drake, 8:00 p.m.