Trey Burke, John Beilein

What teams have the most to play for now that March is here?



Michigan: The Wolverines lost on Wednesday in one of the most embarrassing losses that you’ll see this season. They were beaten by previously-winless-in-the-Big-Ten Penn State while giving up 84 points. For a team that had recently loss three of their last four games, that’s bad. But the Wolverines still have a shot at a No. 1 seed. Why? They host Indiana, they host Michigan State and they play in the Big Ten tournament. They can still beat four top ten teams this season.

Gonzaga: Can the Zags do it? Can they string together three more wins? Can close out the season with suffering the kind of loss that will convince the doubters that no team from the WCC deserves a No. 1 seed? The Zags are a win against Portland away from being the No. 1 team in the country. Think about that.

New Mexico: The Lobos have one of the nation’s most under-appreciated resumes. I went in-depth about it here. Let’s assume they win out. They’ll have won the MWC regular season by two games, won the MWC tournament in Las Vegas, and they’ll have five top 25 wins (three away from home), 10 top 50 wins (three on the road, three on a neutral court) and 19 top 100 wins. Is that a No. 1 seed’s resume?

Georgetown: Let’s go beyond the fact that the Hoyas host Syracuse on the season’s final day with a chance to sweep their rivals in the final season as league foes. If Georgetown can win the Big East regular season title and the Big East tournament title, can the team that lost at home to Pitt by 28 points actually earn themselves a No. 1 seed?


Kentucky: The Wildcats may have a lot on the line heading into March, but they unquestionably have the least amount of pressure of any team on this list. They’re not supposed to be here. They were supposed to be relevant after Nerlens Noel got hurt. And if they can somehow find a way to beat Florida in the season finale, they’ll head into the SEC tournament on the right side of the bubble. Amazing.

Middle Tennessee State, Belmont, Akron and Louisiana Tech: Hope is all but lost for these four teams. They are pretty unlikely to play their way into an at-large bid at this point in the year. That said, all four are probably good enough to pull off an upset or two in the tournament. They just have to get there first. Auto-bid or bust.

Creighton and Wichita State: On Saturday, they play in Omaha for the MVC regular season title. That will be awesome, but for the loser, they’re put into a precarious positon. A loss in the first round of Arch Madness could end up dumping them into the NIT. Two league titles and a trip to the NCAA tournament on the line in the span of two weeks?

Iowa, Arizona State, Villanova and Iowa State: What do these four teams have in common? They’re all on the bubble, but they all have tough schedule down the stretch and play in power conferences that will provide plenty of conference tournament opportunities for big wins. Iowa gets Indiana and Illinois. Arizona State is at USC and at Arizona. Villanova has Pitt and Georgetown. Iowa State has Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

Boise State: The Broncos are in the same boat. They’re probably on the outside of the tournament looking in as of right now, but take a gander at their schedule down the stretch: Colorado State, at UNLV, San Diego State, the MWC tournament. If Leon Rice’s club wants to go dancing, they’ll have plenty of chances to make it happen.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

No. 14 Cal goes 0-2 in Las Vegas Invitational

Jaylen Brown
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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After midnight on the east coast on Thanksgiving, No. 14 Cal blew a 15 point second half lead against San Diego State, allowing the Aztecs to use a 30-6 run to put away the game and advance to the final of the Las Vegas Invitational. That’s the same San Diego State team had scored 43 points in a loss to Arkansas-Little Rock last week.

Not 24 hours later, the Golden Bears were shredded defensively by the Richmond Spiders, losing 94-90 in the consolation game of a four-team tournament they were considered to be the heavy favorite in.

It’s a disappointing two-game stretch for Cal, who entered the season as a Pac-12 favorite and had looked the part for the first four games of the season.

And the issue appears to be on the defensive end of the floor.

Richmond is a good Atlantic 10 team. Terry Allen and Marshall Wood are high-major big men, Shawn’Dre Jones is a jitterbug at the point and Chris Mooney runs a Princeton-esque system that is very difficult to prepare for without a day in-between games. So it’s not really surprising that the Spiders gave Cal a fight.

But 94 points?

On the heels of giving up 44 points in the second half against the offensively-challenged Aztecs?

That’s a problem, one that I’m sure that Cuonzo Martin is going to address this week in practice. Martin has managed to put together a roster that is build for small-ball, with four talented perimeter players surrounding a first round pick in the post. But that’s not the style that he’s known for. Martin played his college ball at Purdue in the Gene Keady days. He cut his teeth as a head coach at Missouri State in the Missouri Valley. His team’s at Tennessee were known for being tough and physical defensively.

That’s how Martin coaches, which is part of the reason Cal had such hype entering the year.

The talents of Tyrone Wallace, Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews on a team with a coach that gets teams to defend the way Martin does? It’s no surprise that pundits would be optimistic.

But as of now, they have some work to do defensively if they want to live up to that hype.

Tyler Ulis injured as No. 1 Kentucky beats South Florida

Tyler Ulis, Ky Howard
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MIAMI (AP) Jamal Murray had 21 points and No. 1 Kentucky scored the final 15 points of the first half on the way to beating South Florida 84-63 in the HoopHall Miami Invitational on Friday.

Skal Labissiere added 17 points for the Wildcats (6-0), who led by as many as 31. Charles Matthews scored 11 points and Isaiah Briscoe finished with seven assists for Kentucky, now a winner of 37 consecutive regular-season games and 39 in a row against unranked opponents.

Chris Perry scored 14 points for USF (1-5), which has lost 18 consecutive games against teams ranked in the Top 25. Jaleel Cousins added 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting, and Jahmal McMurray scored 11 points for the Bulls.

Kentucky played the second half without starting guard Tyler Ulis, who departed with a right elbow injury after getting hurt while fighting for a ball loose on the floor.

Kentucky announced after the game that the injury was a hyperextension of the elbow and that he will be day-to-day.

The Bulls were within 27-21 with 6 minutes left in the first half after McMurray banked in a 3-pointer only a few feet away from where John Calipari was standing, and the look of anguish on the Kentucky coach’s face was clear.

It didn’t last long.

The Wildcats scored on seven of their next nine possessions and the game was over by halftime, Kentucky going into the break with a 42-21 lead.

It was a reunion for plenty of people on both benches. Calipari squared off with his former assistant Orlando Antigua, now in his second year leading USF. Antigua’s staff includes another former Calipari assistant in Rod Strickland, plus former Kentucky basketball staff members Mike Malone and Dominic Lombardi.

So the staffs have plenty of familiarity. On the court, there was plenty of disparity. Kentucky finished with a commanding 23-6 edge in points off turnovers and finished with 16 assists to the Bulls’ six.