Belmont Murray State

The Little Dances: Championship Week Day 5 Preview

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The NCAA Tournament doesn’t get going until March 19, but for the real college hoops fans, the days leading up to Selection Sunday is when the madness really begins. Over the next two weeks teams will fight for the postseason lives. Bubbles will burst and tickets will be punched, and Cinderellas will be born. This is the real March Madness.

(CLICK HERE to browse through all of our conference tournament previews)

Here’s what to watch for on Saturday.

Game of the Night: Belmont vs. Murray State
March 9th was circled on all the OVC calenders as soon as Belmont joined the league this past off-season. This game represents the two best teams in the league, the conference’s old guard versus the new elite, the league’s best player against the league’s best team. Belmont may have an outside shot at an at-large bid if they lose today. For Murray State it’s all or nothing. This could be the final time we see Isaiah Canaan compete at the collegiate level.

– Watch this too: MVC Semifinals
This is #ArchMadness at it’s finest. The four best teams in the league converge with some interesting at-large implications and one intriguing back story. Indiana State was once thought to be an at-large candidate, but for them it’s auto-bid or bust. In order to do so, they will have to go through All-American Doug McDermott and company. the other semifinal pits Illinois State against Wichita State in a rematch of the infamous “Jumpkick-gate” game, in which Jackie Carmichael kicked a WSU defender in the chest while going up for a rebound in the waning moments of the game.

Player to Watch: C.J. Garner, LIU-Brooklyn
Blackbirds forward Jamal Olasewere garners all the acclaim, but as NEC Player of the Year it’s deservedly so. However, the Blackbird’s senior guard has been on a tear as of late, scoring 30 points in back-to-back games, and is averaging 23.4ppg in his last five games. LIU-Brooklyn faces stiff opposition in Wagner, and if they want to advance to their third straight NEC championship game, C.J. Garner must have a big night.

Miscellaneous Madness:
Two 20+ loss teams remain alive in postseason play. The Liberty Flames (13-20) have a chance to advance to the Big South Finals with a win over Gardner-Webb today. Out west, Loyola Marymount (11-22) has a chance to shock the world, as they face No. 1 Gonzaga in the WCC semifinals. Before postseason play began, the Lions had not won a game in 55 days. They’ve now won three games in three days and have the opportunity to pull off possibly the biggest upset of the entire college basketball season.

Saturday Schedule:

America East Conference Quarterfinals
Noon – New Hampshire (7) vs. Vermont (2)
2 p.m. – UMBC (6) vs. Hartford (3)
6 p.m. – Binghamton (8) vs. Stony Brook (1)
8 p.m. – Maine (5) vs. Albany (4)

Atlantic Sun Conference Finals
Noon – Florida Gulf Coast (2) at Mercer (1)

Big South Conference Semifinals
Noon – VMI (2N) vs. Charleston Southern (1S)
2 p.m. – Liberty (5N) vs. Gardner-Webb (2S)

Colonial Athletic Association Quarterfinals
3:30 p.m. – Drexel (5) vs. George Mason (4)
6 p.m. – Hofstra (7) vs. Delaware (2)
8:30 p.m. – William & Mary (6) vs. James Madison (3)

Horizon League Semifinals
6 p.m. – Wright State (3) vs. Detroit (2)
8:30 p.m. – Green Bay (4) at Valparaiso (1)

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Quarterfinals
2:30 p.m. – Siena (9) vs. Niagara (1)
4:30 p.m. – Canisius (5) vs. Iona (4)
7:30 p.m. – Fairfield (7) vs. Rider (2)
9:30 p.m. – Manhattan (6) vs. Loyola-MD (3)

Missouri Valley Conference Semifinals
2:35 p.m. – Indiana State (5) vs. Creighton (1)
5:05 p.m. – Illinois State (6) vs. Wichita State (2)

Northeast Conference Semifinals
Noon – LIU-Brooklyn (3) at Wagner (2)
2:30 p.m. – Mount St. Mary’s (5) at Robert Morris (1)

Ohio Valley Conference Finals
6 p.m. – Murray State (2) vs. Belmont (1)

Patriot League Semifinals
2 p.m. – Lehigh (3) at Lafayette (2)
4:30 p.m. – Army (4) at Bucknell (1)

Southern Conference Quarterfinals
Noon – Georgia Southern (9) vs. Davidson (1)
2:30 p.m. – Furman (12) vs. Appalachian State (4)
6 p.m. – UNC-Greensboro (10) vs. Elon (2)
8:30 p.m. – Western Carolina (6) vs. Charleston (3)

Summit League Quarterfinals
7 p.m. – IUPUI (8) vs. South Dakota State (1)
9:30 p.m. – South Dakota (7) vs. Western Illinois (2)

Sun Belt Conference Quarterfinals
7 p.m. – Arkansas-Little Rock (5) vs. Florida International (4)
7:30 p.m. – Louisiana-Lafayette (8) vs. Middle Tennessee State (1)
9:30 p.m. – Western Kentucky (6) vs. South Alabama (3)
10 p.m. – Troy (10) vs. Arkansas State (2)

West Coast Conference Semifinals
9 p.m. – Loyola Marymount (9) vs. Gonzaga (1)
11:30 p.m. – San Diego (6) vs. Saint Mary’s (2)

You can find Troy Machir on Twitter at @TroyMachir

No. 10 Gonzaga outlasts No. 18 UConn despite late offensive struggles

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No. 10 Gonzaga survived a furious rally from No. 18 UConn to win the third place game in the Battle 4 Atlantis, 73-70.

The Zags were up by as much as 21 points early in the second half, leading 48-27, but UConn slowly chipped away at the lead. Kyle Wiltjer led four players in double-figures with 17 points while Eric McClellan added 15 points, making a number of key plays in the second half when it looked like the Zags were in danger of giving away the lead.

As good as Gonzaga looked in the first 22 minutes of this game — and they looked really, really good — the second half exposed the concerns that many had with this group entering the season. Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr., who both shot around 40 percent from beyond the arc and started for four years, graduated, meaning that Gonzaga’s point guard situation is, more or less, Josh Perkins.

Perkins was terrific in the second half of a loss to Texas A&M on Thursday. He played 17 foul-plagued minutes against UConn. When UConn’s defense ratcheted up during the second half, Gonzaga struggled finding a way to consistently get good shots on the offensive end. Part of that was due to ineffective point guard play and part of it was a result of not really having anyone on the offensive end that can create a look on their own. As skilled as Wiltjer is, his impact can be limited when pick-and-pop actions aren’t working and he’s getting doubled in the post.

Perkins is talented, but this is essentially his first season of college basketball; he was a medical redshirt last season after breaking his jaw last November. There are going to be ups-and-downs, and that’s problematic on a team where he is essentially the only point guard on the roster.

The good news?

Gonzaga beat a good UConn team on a day when their best players struggled in crunch-time. It was McClellan and Kyle Dranginis that made the big plays down the stretch, not the big names on the Gonzaga roster.

Wichita State’s Anton Grady ‘awake, alert’ after getting stretchered off court

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Wichita State big man Anton Grady was stretchered off of the floor in the second half of a loss to Alabama after a nasty collision with Dazon Ingram.

The video can be seen above. There was nothing malicious about the way that Grady was injured. When he turned to run up the floor after missing a shot in the lane, he went face first into Ingram’s shoulder. He neck bent in an awkward directions and, after stumbling a few steps, he laid motionless on the floor.

It took 10 minutes for the training staff to strap Grady to a backboard and wheel him out of the arena.

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A Wichita State spokesman told that Grady was taken to a local trauma center for evaluation and that he is “awake, alert and is answering questions appropriately”.

We will have more updates as they come available.

From a basketball perspective, the No. 20 Shockers lost their second game in a row and are now 2-3 on the season.

While for some the Shockers’ résumé is up for questioning following losses to USC and Alabama, two teams projected to finish in the bottom half of their respective leagues, the team’s health is the biggest concern.

Fred VanVleet has been dealing with a hamstring issue since the season began, and an ankle injury limited him in a loss at Tulsa earlier this month. He won’t play again until at least Dec. 5th. and who knows when he’ll be back to full strength. The same can be said for back up point guard and freshman Landry Shamet, who underwent surgery to address a stress fracture in the fifth metatarsal in his left foot. Their injuries have led to even more being asked of senior guard Ron Baker, and the loss of Grady for any significant amount of time certainly isn’t going to help matters..

These early-season losses won’t help Wichita State when it comes to the NCAA tournament, but it’s important to make note of the circumstances surrounding those defeats. To be shorthanded, with one of the absent players ranking among the nation’s best point guards, has an impact that has to be accounted for when evaluating Wichita State. The Shockers will add Conner Frankamp in mid-December, which will help them on the perimeter.

But with their rotation currently being in flux, it’s tough to make any definitive statements on what Wichita State will have to do in order to make another trip to the NCAA tournament. At this point Gregg Marshall and his staff will look for other contributors, one of whom being Markis McDuffie (14 points, seven rebounds vs. Alabama), to emerge and show themselves capable of picking up the slack.