Archie Goodwin, Alex Oriakhi, Keion Bell

Saturday Bubble Busting: Who helped, who hurt tourney chances?

Leave a comment

Five Biggest Winners:

  • Kentucky: Quite a turnaround from last Saturday, eh? The Wildcats knocked off Missouri in overtime on Gameday, picking up their best win of the season and, thanks to Ole Miss losing to South Carolina, giving them their only top 50 win. Missouri struggles on the road, but those neutral court wins over VCU and Illinois sure look good right now. Kentucky is anything but a lock for a bid, there’s now a chance they can sneak in without beating Florida. Perhaps more important is the fact that Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin finally showed up. UK is trending the right direction. Finally.
  • North Carolina: You can more or less take everything I just wrote about Kentucky and say the same thing about UNC, with the only difference being that they knocked off NC State, they may not have to beat Duke now, and it’s their four-guard lineup that’s playing well.
  • St. Mary’s: The Gaels picked up a massive win on Saturday, as they knocked off floundering Creighton at home. St. Mary’s still has some work to do if they want a realistic shot at getting an at-large bid — this was, after all, their first top 50 win — but if they lose in the WCC title game, there’s still hope.
  • Villanova: At this point, Villanova should be able to feel pretty safe about getting an at-large bid, as there aren’t many teams in the country that can boast a trio of wins like Louisville, Syracuse and Marquette, not to mention a victory at UConn. Jay Wright’s club knocked off the Golden Eagles on Saturday afternoon behind 22 points from Darrun Hilliard.
  • Cal: Thank you, Olaf Schaftenaar. The Oregon State forward was whistled for a technical foul for dunking in warmups, allowing Allen Crabbe to get to the free throw line before the clock started. He made one. Cal won by one.

Seven Biggest Losers:

  • Creighton: It still may be a bit of a stretch, but Creighton is toying with the possibility of being on the wrong side of the bubble. They’ve lost six of 11 and four of their last six. They are a game behind Wichita State in the MVC standings thanks to losses against Drake, Illinois State, and Northern Iowa. With a trip to Bradley and a home game against Wichita State left on their schedule, there’s no guarantee that the Bluejays win their last two. Creighton does have a win over Wisconsin and they did beat Cal, which looks better by the day, but they are playing with fire.
  • Southern Miss: The Golden Eagles likely won’t be getting an at-large bid this season, as Memphis completed their sweep and clinched the Conference USA regular season title with an 89-73 win in Memphis.
  • Alabama: The Crimson Tide may have a gaudy SEC record, but they’ve collected too many ugly losses to warrant serious consideration for an at-large berth. On Saturday, it was a three-overtime debacle they dropped at LSU. It’s their fifth sub-100 loss this season. It’s looking like 2011 all over again, when the Tide went 12-4 in the SEC and missed the tournament.
  • Xavier: Xavier blew a golden opportunity to boost their tournament resume as they blew a 17 point lead in the span of about five minutes on Saturday afternoon against VCU.
  • Iowa: Iowa had just managed to crawl their way back into the bubble conversation when they blew a 19 point lead and lost to Nebraska on Saturday.
  • Baylor: The Bears have lost three straight and six of their last eight to fall to 16-11 overall and 7-7 in the Big 12. The good news? They’ll still have a chance to pick off Kansas State and Kansas at home.
  • Arizona State: The Sun Devils suffered a loss they could ill-afford, as Washington went into Tempe and left with a 68-59 win. The worse news? Their last three games are on the road: at USC, at UCLA and at Arizona.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

No. 22 Butler ruins No. 2 Villanova’s seniors’ perfect Pavilion record

Butler center Nate Fowler and Villanova forward Eric Paschall, right, vie for a rebound in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017, in Villanova, Pa. (AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)
AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson
Leave a comment

All Villanova players have known since they joined the program is winning at The Pavilion. Late into Wednesday’s game against No. 22 Butler, it looked like that would continue to be their only frame of reference for a group of seniors that were 45-0 in the building.

Then another ‘0’ turned that zero into a ‘1.’

The Bulldogs ripped off an 18-0 run in a 5-minute span to ultimately claim a 74-66 victory over second-ranked and defending national champion Villanova.

VIllanova looked like it was going to cruise to another home win when Josh Hart’s 3-pointer with 10 minutes, 37 seconds remaining put the Wildcats up 49-42.

They wouldn’t score again until nearly the 4-minute mark.

During that span, Butler made 7 of 11 shots, with three being 3-pointers, while the Wildcats went 0 of 6 from the field and turned the ball over twice.

A seven-point lead for Villanova became an 11-point advantage for Butler. Villanova would try to rally, but couldn’t pull it off as it saw its home winning run stopped, its seniors’ perfect Pavilion record blemished and its seven-game winning streak come to a halt.

Beyond it probably being immensely annoying to the senior class, the loss probably doesn’t hurt Villanova too much as it looks to hold on to a No. 1 seed, preferably in the East region. The Wildcats’ resume is still as strong as nearly anyone in the country and they are, after all, the defending champs. They’ll be fine.

For Butler, it’s a signature win for a team that’s had a number of really good victories, but a few confounding losses, like St. John’s on the road and to Creighton (without Maurice Watson) and Georgetown at home. Beating Villanova – at the Pavilion, no less – could be worth a seed line.

Keelan Martin was fantastic for Butler, going for 23 points and eight boards, while Kamar Baldwin went for 15 points off the bench.

Jalen Brunson led the way for Villanova with 24 points while Josh Hart had 18 points and six rebounds. Kris Jenkins struggled, going 1 of 8 from the floor while scoring eight points.

The Wildcats get a chance to start a new streak at the Pavilion on Saturday with Creighton coming to town.

 

No. 8 North Carolina stakes their claim to the title of ‘nation’s best’ with beatdown of No. 7 Louisville

CHAPEL HILL, NC - FEBRUARY 22:  Theo Pinson #1 of the North Carolina Tar Heels reacts after a play against the Louisville Cardinals during their game at the Dean Smith Center on February 22, 2017 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Leave a comment

North Carolina may not have anyone on their roster that sends chills down the spine of opposing coaches, and they may not have anyone on their roster that is going to be targeted by NBA franchises as lottery pick, and they may not be dominating the headlines like undefeated Gonzaga, reigning champ Villanova, winner of 13 straight Big 12 titles Kansas or even Tobacco Road rival Duke.

They’re not a sexy pick, they’re not the favorite in Vegas and they may finally crack the No. 1 seed line in all bracket projections after beating No. 7 Louisville 74-63 on Wednesday night, but at this point, I’m not sure that the Tar Heels aren’t the best team in college basketball.

‘The Best Team In College Basketball’ is not an easy title to earn this season, not because there are too many candidates but more because everyone of those candidates have some kind of glaring flaw that makes you wonder have they’ve made it to late-February with a winning record. Think: UCLA’s defense. Or maybe: Kansas’ total lack of front court depth. How about: Kentucky can’t shoot. And then there’s: Duke doesn’t have a point guard, or: Gonzaga doesn’t play anyone.

We can play that game with every team in the country.

In fact, I did, just last week on a podcast.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher and Audioboom

North Carolina didn’t escape our wrath. There are question marks about Joel Berry II’s consistency, as he had a nasty habit of laying an egg every once in a while. Is that defense going to hold up for six games in a single-elimination tournament? Do they have enough consistent three-point shooting? Can Isaiah Hicks and Theo Pinson stay healthy?

Here’s the thing: I think the answer to all those questions is ‘yes’.

Justin Jackson has developed into a bonafide all-american and quite possibly the ACC Player of the Year. He’s a versatile scorer that is shooting the grip off the ball and has proven the ability to be the guy to take and make big shots for the Tar Heels this season. That’s taken some of the pressure off of Berry, who can spend more time as a secondary offensive weapon, facilitator and a leader than having to worry about carrying the team offensively. Theo Pinson’s return has opened some things up offensively, while UNC’s four-headed front court monster — Kennedy Meeks, Hicks, Tony Bradley and Luke Maye — have shown that they can score in the post or off of a missed shot, where they lead the nation on offensive rebounding percentage.

And as far as the defense is concerned, they’re ranked 20th in adjusted defensive efficiency by KenPom.com. Yes, a lot of that has to do with the pistol-whipping that was Gameday on Saturday night against Virginia, but Louisville, who was the third-best offensive team in ACC play, managed just 63 points in 73 possessions on Wednesday.

My point?

That defense doesn’t have to be great, it just has to be good enough, and it probably is.

But here’s the most important number to know: Two.

That’s how big North Carolina’s lead in the ACC is as of today. Louisville, Duke, Florida State and Notre Dame have all lost five times this year. As long as the Tar Heels can go into Pittsburgh and get a win over the Panthers, they are going to clinch a share of the ACC regular season, and they can lock up the outright league title before the showdown with the Dukies on the season’s final night.

The margins are thin, yes, but after Wednesday, North Carolina has as much claim to the title of ‘Nation’s Best’ as anyone in college basketball.

VIDEO: UNC fan ejected after heated exchange with Rick Pitino

screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-11-24-38-pm
Leave a comment

A UNC fan sitting court side in the Dean Dome on Wednesday was ejected from No. 8 North Carolina’s win over No. 7 Louisville after getting in a heated verbal exchange with Rick Pitino.

Cell phone video posted by a reporter attending the game showed Pitino having to be held back by members of his staff. According to ESPN sideline reporter Maria Taylor, who said she heard what the fan said, the line that set Pitino off was, “Pitino you suck.”

VIDEO: Brooks hits 3-pointer with 0.2 left to lift Oregon past Cal

screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-10-15-56-pm
Leave a comment

Dillon Brooks did it earlier against UCLA. Wednesday, he added Cal to his list.

The Oregon junior hit a game-winning 3-pointer with 0.2 left on the clock to give the sixth-ranked Ducks a 68-65 victory over the Bears after trailing by as many as 16 in the second half.

#POSTERIZED: Deng Adel dunks on the entire state of North Carolina

screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-9-48-03-pm
Leave a comment

Deng Adel of No. 7 Louisville quieted a rowdy Dean Dome crowd by going coast-to-coast and doing this to the Tar Heels: