Michael White

Late Night Snacks: Mid-major tournament upsets litter college hoops landscape

1 Comment

Game of the Day: Oklahoma State 74, Baylor 72 

This one didn’t look like a candidate for this spot in the first half, as the Cowboys were in firm command and led 42-24 at the half. But Travis Ford’s team didn’t retain control of the game, and the end result was Baylor’s Pierre Jackson getting one last shot for the win. Jackson scored 24 of his 31 points in the second half to get Baylor back into the game, but if anything the result is a microcosm of the season for the Bears. Scott Drew’s team will in all likelihood end up in the NIT, while Oklahoma State advances to take on Kansas State in the Big 12 semifinals.

Important Outcomes

1. Illinois 51, Minnesota 49 

Brandon Paul’s jumper as time expired proved to be the difference in a game the Fighting Illini looked to be in control of for much of the first half. John Groce’s team will hear its name called on Sunday, regardless of what happens against Indiana on Friday afternoon. Poor offensive execution and early foul trouble (and Tubby Smith’s refusal to play either Trevor Mbakwe or Austin Hollins with two fouls) put Minnesota in a tough spot, and they don’t have the look of a team that will be around very long next week.

2. Iowa State 73, Oklahoma 66 

Will Clyburn sparked a 12-0 second half run the Cyclones needed in order to avoid possibly landing squarely on the NCAA tournament bubble. Clyburn finished with 17 points and eight rebounds, and forward Melvin Ejim led ISU with 23 points and 12 rebounds. The victory gives Iowa State one more shot at Kansas, who beat them twice during the regular season (with the loss in Ames being a controversial one). Is Iowa State in? Only the selection committee knows for sure but Thursday’s result certainly doesn’t hurt.

3. Utah 79, California 69 (OT)

While the victory is certainly a good one for Larry Krystkowiak’s Utes the concern is what this defeat does to Cal’s resume. At 20-11 on the season the Golden Bears do have five RPI Top 50 wins to their credit according to warrennolan.com, but the loss to Utah is their first to a team ranked outside of the Top 100 this season. If anything this could be more of an issue from a seeding standpoint rather than whether or not Cal will get into the NCAA tournament. But if they’re going to be successful next weekend, the Golden Bears need a third scoring option to emerge alongside Justin Cobbs (26 points) and Allen Crabbe (21).


1. G Olivier Hanlan (Boston College)

The ACC Rookie of the Year went off in the Eagles’ 84-64 win over Georgia Tech, scoring 41 points and grabbing five rebounds. At one point Hanlan made 12 consecutive field goals, and his point total sets an ACC tournament record for points in a game by a freshman.

2. F Chris Evans (Kent State) 

Evans accounted for 25 points (10-of-17 FG) and 15 rebounds to lead the Golden Flashes past Buffalo, 70-68, in a MAC quarterfinal.

3. G Pierria Henry (Charlotte)

The 49ers won the wildest game of the day 68-63 over Richmond, and without Henry they wouldn’t have been in position to take advantage of the Spiders’ meltdown. Henry finished the game with 28 points (8-of-14 FG), 12 rebounds, four assists and no turnovers.


1. G Sean Kilpatrick (Cincinnati) 

Kilpatrick shot 2-of-12 from the field (0-of-8 3PT), scoring just four points in the Bearcats’ 62-43 loss to No. 5 Georgetown in a Big East tournament quarterfinal.

2. F Rodney Williams (Minnesota) 

Five points (2-of-7 FG), two rebounds and four turnovers in the Golden Gophers’ 51-49 loss to Illinois in a Big Ten tournament quarterfinal.

3. G Darrun Hilliard and G Ryan Arcidiacono (Villanova) 

Hilliard and Arcidiacono struggled against the Louisville pressure, combining for ten points (4-of-14 FG), five assists (three by Hilliard) and ten turnovers (Hilliard- 7) in the 74-55 defeat.

Three Facts 

1. There were a number of mid-major favorites that met their demise on Thursday, including WAC co-champions Louisiana Tech and Denver, and in the MEAC none of the top four seeds reached the semifinals.

2. Both UCLA and Arizona advanced on Thursday, meaning that the Wildcats get a third shot at the Bruins this season. UCLA swept the season series, and if Arizona is to have a shot at winning Friday night they need to defend as they did in the first half of their win over Colorado.

3. Villanova struggled mightily against Louisville’s pressure defense, turning the ball over 24 times in their 74-55 loss to No. 4 Louisville. By head coach Rick Pitino’s estimation the Cardinals tallied 58 deflections, and if they can continue to play that well defensively Louisville may repeat as Big East tournament champions. Russ Smith, playing with a heavy heart following the passing of his high school coach, scored a game-high 28 points.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

No. 1 Kentucky survives without Tyler Ulis in lineup

Tyler Ulis
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
Leave a comment

Less than a week after giving No. 2 Maryland all they could handle, Illinois State went into Lexington and gave No. 1 Kentucky fits.

The Redbirds never really threatened UK in the second half, but they went into the break tied and were within single digits down the stretch, eventually losing 75-63.

Kentucky was flustered. They turned the ball over 15 times compared to just eight assists, they shot 2-for-12 from three and just 29-for-46 (63 percent) from the charity stripe. They simply did not handle Illinois State’s pressure all that well.

And there was a reason for that.

Tyler Ulis didn’t play.

Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate just what a player brings to a team until that player is not in the lineup, and that was precisely the case with Ulis on Monday night. It was crystal clear what he provides Kentucky. Beyond leadership and the ability to break a press without throwing the ball to the other team, he’s a calming presence. He doesn’t get rattled when a defender is harassing him and he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a situation like a mid-major threatening the No. 1 team in the country in their own gym.

He’s everything you look for in a pure point guard, and for as good as Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe have looked at times this season, it should be crystal clear who the most important player on this Kentucky team is.

LSU loses to Charleston, eliminates at-large bid margin for error

Ben Simmons
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
Leave a comment

Ben Simmons scored 15 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, the second time in his six-game career that the LSU freshman has collected that many caroms, but that wasn’t enough for the Tigers to avoid dropping a game on the road to the College of Charleston, 70-58. It was the third straight loss for Simmons’ crew, as they fell to Marquette and N.C. State at the Legends Classic last week.

But here’s the thing: LSU didn’t just lose.

The game really wasn’t close.

LSU was down by as many as 23 points. It was 39-17 at the half, and that was after Charleston had a shot at the buzzer called off upon review. They made a bit of a run in the second half but never got closer than seven. When LSU would cut into the lead, the Cougars would respond with a run of their own, killing LSU’s spirit while keeping them at arm’s length.

[RELATED: Ben Simmons’ one college year a waste?]

Now, there are quite a few things here to discuss. For starters, LSU’s effort was, at best, apathetic, and, at worst, regular old pathetic. The team has a serious lack of leadership that was plainly evident on Monday night; would Fred VanVleet let his team fold against a program picked to finish at the bottom of the SoCon? Would Tyler Ulis? For that matter, would Tom Izzo or Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari?

Perhaps more importantly, does any of that change when Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor get back?

Simmons did show off his potential — 18 boards, four assists, he even made his first three of the year — but he also showed precisely why there are scouts that are trying to curtail the LeBron James comparisons. Simmons was 4-for-15 from the floor with seven turnovers against a mediocre mid-major team. There are so many things that Simmons does well, but scoring efficiently — particularly in half court setting — and shooting the ball consistently are not on that list.

But here’s the biggest issue: LSU may have put themselves in a situation where they aren’t a tournament team. As of today, they’re 3-3 on the season with losses to a pair of teams that, at best, seem destined to be in the bubble conversation on Selection Sunday in addition to this loss to Charleston. The rest of their non-conference schedule is ugly. The only game worth noting is at home against No. 6 Oklahoma at the end of January.

The NCAA factors in non-conference schedule strength when determining at-large teams. You need to at least try, and LSU didn’t try; they have one of the worst non-conference schedules in the country.

The great thing about being in the SEC — as opposed to, say, the Missouri Valley — is that the Tigers will have plenty of chances to earn marquee wins. Six, by my court: Kentucky twice, Texas A&M twice, Vanderbilt on the road and Oklahoma at home. They probably need to win at least two or three of those games to have a real chance, and that’s assuming they can avoid anymore horrid losses in the process.

The season isn’t over six games in, not by any stretch of the imagination.

But LSU has done a hell of a job eliminating their margin for error.