Michale Kyser

Bubble Banter: Who helped and who hurt their tourney chances?

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THURSDAY’S BUBBLE WINNERS

Virginia: Thanks to an RPI that’s weighed down by six sub-100 losses — and one sub-300 loss to Old Dominion — Virginia still isn’t a lock for the NCAA tournament after they knocked off No. 3 Duke on Thursday night. But Virginia has three very winnable games left — at BC, at Florida State and at home for Maryland. This win should mean that, if the Cavs win out, they’ll earn themselves an at-large bid.

North Carolina: The Tar Heels have probably worked their way off the bubble at this point barring a disastrous collapse down the stretch of the season. It didn’t happen tonight, as UNC extended their small-ball winning streak to four games by beat Clemson on the road.

Louisiana Tech: Because of a strength of schedule that is outside the top 250 nationally, Louisiana Tech is going to have a lot of ground to make up if they want to get an at-large bid to the dance. The problem? They play in the WAC. They don’t have the chances to get quality wins that teams in bigger leagues do. Throw in the fact that the Bulldogs have lost to McNeese State and Northwestern State, and, well, it’s a long shot they’ll get in without winning the WAC’s automatic bid. But here’s the thing: playing on ESPN3 tonight, Mike White’s team beat down a (depleted, I know) 19-8 Utah State team. The eye test will always have some kind of role in this process, and this was a good way to make a statement.

Temple: Khalif Wyatt scored 10 straight points in a two-minute stretch at the end of the game to turn a 74-69 deficit into a 79-74 lead as the Owls hung on to beat Detroit at home on Thursday night. With three top 50 wins — including a win over Syracuse at the Garden — and eight top 100 wins, the Owls should be in good shape if they can win out. That would include beating VCU at home.

Missouri: The Tigers are barely in the bubble conversation right now, but with an ugly road record, Mizzou still has some work left to do. They left no doubt on Thursday night, going into South Carolina and knocking off the Gamecocks.

California: The Bears are in a similar spot as Missouri. Thanks to a late-season surge, Cal should feel pretty good about their chances as long as they don’t slip up down the stretch. They didn’t on Thursday, beating Utah by 18 points at home. Saturday’s date with Colorado should be more telling.

Middle Tennessee State: The Blue Raiders are an interesting case. They are 23rd in the RPI, but that’s mostly the result of beating a lot of mediocre teams and avoiding truly disastrous losses. MTSU has no top 50 wins and just a single top 100 win — Ole Miss. They cannot afford a loss, and will be a questionable at-large candidate even if they lose in the Sun Belt title game.

THURSDAY’S BUBBLE LOSERS

(No one)

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

No. 5 Xavier stumbles at Creighton, lose 70-54

Creighton's Cole Huff (13) and Toby Hegner, left, guard Xavier's Jalen Reynolds (1) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
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Mo Watson went for a career-high 32 points, seven boards and five assists as Creighton jumped out to an early 21-4 lead and never looked back, beating No. 5 Xavier, 70-54, in Omaha on Tuesday night.

 

It was a massive win for the Bluejays, who still have an outside shot at earning an at-large bid this season. (We wrote all about that here.)

As well as Creighton played, the bigger story here may actually be Xavier, who lost for just the third time this season; they had been the only top ten team with just two losses to their name.

The issue for the Musketeers tonight was two-fold, but they both are a symptom of what could be an issue down the road for this team: Xavier doesn’t really have a true point guard.

They certainly didn’t have anyone to stop Watson. By the second half, they had essentially asked Reynolds, who was playing the middle of their 1-3-1 zone to matchup with Watson. It was weird but was actually somewhat effective.

The Musketeers also started out ice cold from the floor, missing 11 of their first 13 shots, and those misses led to leak outs from Bluejays, who got layups and open threes in transition to build that 17 point lead. Once Xavier got behind, it turned into scramble mode for Xavier. They forced shots early in the clock and didn’t start pounding the ball into the paint until it was too late. What they needed was someone to be able to settle things, to ensure that offensive would get initiated and sets would get executed when they were able to get the lead down to single digits.

That 1-for-19 shooting performance from beyond the arc certainly didn’t help matters, and neither did the fact that they got just nine field goals all game from players not named James Farr or Jalen Reynolds. The most frustrating part for head coach Chris Mack? They had good shots. It wasn’t like Creighton took away everything that Xavier wanted to do.

The kids just had one of those nights where nothing went down.

Those happen.

And when you combine them with a total inability to contain the opposing team’s point guard, what you get is a 16 point loss on the road against a team that was desperate to get a good win.

Gill’s 16, ‘D’ lead No. 7 Virginia past Virginia Tech, 67-49

Lehigh Virginia Basketball
AP Photo/Andrew Shurtleff
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) Anthony Gill scored 16 points and No. 7 Virginia turned the tables on state rival Virginia Tech with a 67-49 victory Tuesday night, the Cavaliers’ seventh straight.

Isaiah Wilkins added a career-best 14 points and Malcolm Brogdon had 12 for the Cavaliers (20-4, 9-3 Atlantic Coast Conference). Virginia avenged a 70-68 loss to the Hokies in Blacksburg on Jan. 4 in what rates as their worst performance of the season, and extended their winning streak at John Paul Jones Arena to 17 games.

Freshman Justin Robinson scored 16 points and classmate Chris Clarke had 11 in his first action for the Hokies (13-12, 5-7) since breaking his right foot in late December. Virginia Tech’s top two scorers, Zach LeDay (16.0 ppg) and Seth Allen (14.5), were limited to seven and six points, respectively, in part because of foul trouble.

Virginia coach Tony Bennett said his team wasn’t ready to play when it lost to the Hokies earlier, but they have been surging of late and were focused from the outset. They were credited with assists and 14 of their first 15 baskets and forced 10 turnovers in the first half; they forced just eight in the last meeting of the teams.

For most of the game, the Hokies had more turnovers than field goals.

The Cavaliers led 32-20 at halftime and extended their advantage to 47-29 on a three-point play by Mike Tobey with 12:11 remaining. It capped an 11-4 run for Virginia, during which LeDay was whistled for his fourth foul. On Virginia’s next trip down court, it got the ball to Gill inside and LeDay basically backed off and let him score, quickly earning a spot on the bench.

The Cavaliers’ lead never dipped into single digits again.

The Hokies had just eight turnovers and outscored Virginia 26-6 off turnovers in their first meeting. This time, Virginia Tech had 10 turnovers by halftime and the Cavaliers had already turned them into 15 points. Virginia Tech finished with 16 field goals and 15 turnovers.

Already leading 9-6, Virginia got scoring from eight players in a 23-8 run that spanned about 8 1/2 minutes.

Gill started it with a dunk, Brogdon hit a 3-pointer, London Perrantes had a four-point play and Wilkins finished it with two free throws, giving the Cavaliers a 32-14 lead with 2:06 left in the half. They didn’t score again, and the Hokies closed within 32-20 by halftime.

TIP-INS

Virginia Tech: The Hokies shot 57.1 percent (15 of 26) from the field in the second half of their 70-68 victory against Virginia on Jan. 4. … Virginia Tech’s starting five totaled four points in the first half.

Virginia: The Cavaliers have held four consecutive opponents to 50 points or fewer.

UP NEXT

Virginia Tech plays at No. 12 Miami next Wednesday.

Virginia plays at Duke on Saturday.

Follow Hank on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/hankkurzjr

The AP’s college basketball page: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org