Wichita State, better when they’re the underdog?

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Wichita State is the latest in a long line of recent Cinderellas that have played their way into the Final Four.

It started with George Mason in 2006, when the Patriots made a run to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed. It continued in 2011, when No. 11 seed VCU reached the Final Four along with No. 8 seed Butler, the second time in as many years that the Bulldogs would reach the national title game.

But the difference with these Shockers is that they’re not a random mid-major program that happened to get hot at the right time.

Wichita State is a good basketball team. They were 15-1 at one point this season. They were ranked as high as 15th at one point this season.

But they don’t like looking at themselves that way

“It’s interesting, our team, the coaching staff, we’ve talked, we’re better all year long when we’re the underdog, when nothing is expected,” Marshall said on today’s Final Four teleconference.

It’s ironic, really. Wichita State has been better when they’re the hunter this season, not when they’re the hunted.

It started at the beginning of the year, when not much was expected out of this team. They had lost their starting five from a season ago and were more-or-less an afterthought in the Missouri Valley, a league Creighton was picked to win.

They were 9-0 and in the top 15 when they lost to Tennessee. They were 23rd when they lost to Evansville in their fourth league game. And right when they were on the precipice of climbing back into the Final Four, they lost again, this time dropping three in a row and five of their last 10 regular season games.

 

“This team has done better when nothing has been expected, when they’re the underdogs, which we’ll clearly be on Saturday,” Marshall said.

Maybe Wichita State has Louisville right where they want them.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Hobbled Keenan Evans can’t help as No. 6 Texas Tech upset by Oklahoma State

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Oklahoma State used a hot-shooting second half to race past No. 6 Texas Tech for a 79-71 Big 12 home win on Wednesday night.

The Cowboys knocked down five consecutive three-pointers and seven straight shots to jump out to a double-digit lead in the second half as they earned the upset win over the Red Raiders. Kendall Smith (21 points), Lindy Waters III (18 points) and Jeffrey Carroll (14 points) supplied most of the offense for Oklahoma State as the team was a blistering 11-for-22 from three-point range.

Although this win gives first-year head coach Mike Boynton another quality effort, the biggest takeaway is how Kansas has regained complete control of the Big 12 thanks to Texas Tech losing its second straight game.

Even though the Jayhawks have lost four games in conference play, while looking beatable at home, they find themselves one game ahead of the Red Raiders ahead of Saturday’s huge Big 12 clash in Lubbock. And it’s all because of a toe injury to Texas Tech All-American senior guard Keenan Evans.

Injured against Baylor over the weekend, Evans hasn’t been able to complete his last two games — both Red Raider losses. Evans only played in 18 minutes of Texas Tech’s loss to Baylor over the weekend as he was 1-for-6 from the field. In the loss to Oklahoma State on Wednesday, Evans attempted to gut it out. It proved to be a mistake as Evans didn’t look ready to play. Evans deserves credit for showing toughness by playing 25 minutes, but he was only 1-for-7 from the field and 0-for-5 from three-point range as he sat out a Texas Tech rally from the bench. As noted in the broadcast, Evans was short on four of his five three-point attempts — which makes you wonder if the toe was hampering him there.

Even with the back-to-back losses, Texas Tech remains a top-10 team and the second best team in the toughest top-to-bottom league in the country. Unfortunately, the Red Raiders have likely lost their chance to win the Big 12 title because of this two-game slide and the injury to Evans. This recent stretch showed just how important Evans has been to Texas Tech this season.

Without its All-American contender in the lineup, Texas Tech dropped two straight games to lower-level Big 12 teams. They haven’t had the same flow on offense. Evans has been brilliant at times this season and he’s perhaps the nation’s most underrated Player of the Year candidate.

The timing of the injury also makes you wonder how Evans might look over the next week of play when the Red Raiders have two more difficult games. Texas Tech has to follow up these two losses with games against Kansas and on the road at West Virginia. The end of the regular season doesn’t get any easier. If Evans shows any more lingering issues then Texas Tech could continue a slide that sees them finish behind West Virginia in the standings heading into the Big 12 tournament.

It’s unfortunate that such a promising conference season could be derailed by a toe, but that is what Texas Tech is currently dealing with heading into the final stretch of the regular season. The Red Raiders might have potentially lost the Big 12 regular-season race, but they can still close out the season in strong fashion in the postseason if Evans can regain his health and his prior form.

Marshall helps No. 4 Xavier beat Georgetown 89-77

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WASHINGTON — Naji Marshall scored a career-high 21 points and No. 4 Xavier beat Georgetown 89-77 on Wednesday night, bouncing back from its loss to No. 3 Villanova.

J.P. Macura added 20 points, including four 3-pointers, while Quentin Goodin had 19 points as the Musketeers (25-4, 13-3 Big East) swept the season series with Georgetown for the second straight season.

Xavier’s leading scorer Trevon Bluiett scored a season low two points on 1 for 10 shooting in 23 minutes. Xavier has now won five straight road games.

Jamorko Pickett tied a career high with 21 points to lead Georgetown (15-11, 5-10) while Jessie Govan added 15 points and 11 rebounds. Pickett made a career high six 3-pointers.

Xavier trailed 40-38 at the half but used a 12-0 run to take a 59-50 lead with 12 minutes remaining. Georgetown closed to 63-58 on a Jahvon Blair 3-pointer but the Hoyas never drew closer.

Blair finished with 12 points for Georgetown while Kaleb Johnson added 11.

Xavier outrebounded Georgetown 38-29 including an 11-6 edged on the offensive glass.

BIG PICTURE

Xavier: The Musketeers kept pace with Villanova for the top seed in the conference as well as kept alive their shot at being a top seed in the NCAA Tournament with the victory.

Georgetown: The Hoyas fell to 0-4 against Top 25 teams this season and have lost seven straight against ranked opposition going back to last season.

UP NEXT

Xavier: Musketeers have a week off before hosting Providence on Feb. 28 in their final home game of the season.

Georgetown: Hosts Providence on Saturday and then Marquette on Monday to close out their home slate of games.

Report: FBI’s case could reveal detailed information about cheating in college hoops recruiting

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The dealings of NBA agent Andy Miller and former business associate Christian Dawkins could unravel a lot of key information in college basketball over the next several months.

According to a report from Pete Thamel and Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports, financial records, documents and wiretaps from Miller and Dawkins have given a surprising level of detail into payments of college players and their families. In Thamel and Forde’s report, it states that many cases include the exact dollar figures and intricate documentation of how payments were made.

“There are spreadsheets detailing who got paid, how much they got paid and how much more they were planning to pay,” one source familiar with the investigation said in the Yahoo report. “The feds got everything they wanted and much more. Don’t think it will only be players who ended up signing with ASM that got paid. Those spreadsheets cast a wide net throughout college basketball. If your school produced a first-round pick in the past three years, be worried.”

All of this information threatens college programs, head coaches and current players as NCAA amateurism rules come into play for a number of potential players.

The FBI’s investigation into college basketball corruption has been ongoing over the last several months with three seperate criminal cases set over the next 14 months. It’s unclear how this potential information from Miller and Dawkins might be revealed, so it’s difficult to speculate about any potential ramifications until we know exact details.

Even if those details aren’t used in any criminal proceedings, the NCAA also has to render separate rulings on these findings based on how they see fit. Overall, it will be a messy few months for all levels of basketball as many in college hoops brace themselves for the potential fallout.

Providence/Seton Hall suspended due to unsafe playing conditions

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Providence and Seton Hall are playing a key bubble game in the Big East on Wednesday night as both teams aim for another solid win that can help them get in.

But the outcome of this one will have to wait.

The game was suspended with 13:03 left in the second half due to unsafe playing conditions on the court. Condensation was causing players to slip and it wasn’t safe to continue the game. The Dunkin’ Donuts Center had ice under the court that was melting onto the court due to unseasonably warm weather.

Seton Hall was winning 56-47 when the game was suspended. No makeup date has been announced yet.

Bubble Banter: It is a massive night for teams on the bubble

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As we will do every day throughout the rest of the season, here is a look at how college basketball’s bubble teams fared on Saturday.

It’s worth reminding you here that the way winning are labeled have changed this season. Instead of looking at all top 50 wins equally, the selection committee will be using criteria that breaks wins down into four quadrants, using the RPI:

  • Quadrant 1: Home vs. 1-30, Neutral vs. 1-50, Road vs. 1-75
  • Quadrant 2: Home vs. 31-75, Neutral vs. 51-100, Road vs. 76-135
  • Quadrant 3: Home vs. 76-160, Neutral vs. 101-200, Road vs. 136-240
  • Quadrant 4: Home vs. 161 plus, Neutral vs. 201 plus, Road vs. 240 plus

The latest NBC Sports Bracketology can be found here.

WINNERS

VIRGINIA TECH (RPI: 49, KenPom: 31, NBC seed: 9): The Hokies added their fifth Quadrant 1 win of the season on Wednesday night as they knocked off Clemson at home. The Tigers have been sliding a little bit and were playing without Shelton Mitchell, but that is not going to factor in in the eyes of the Selection Committee. At this point, with a 20-8 record, I think we can move the Hokies out of the Bubble Banter discussion for the time being.

ST. BONAVENTURE (RPI: 26, KenPom: 68, NBC seed: Play-in game): There is no margin for error for the Bonnies. With two bad losses on their résumé right now and just three Quadrant 1 wins, they’re right on the cusp of being in the tournament. If they win out during the regular season and lose to Rhode Island in the Atlantic 10 tournament, I think they will get a bid. If they lose to anyone else, it’ll be close. No matter what happens, it is not going to be a fun Selection Sunday for Mark Schmidt and company.

LOSERS

SYRACUSE (RPI: 46, KenPom: 45, NBC seed: Play-in game): The Orange lost at home to North Carolina on Wednesday night. They entered this week having to win two of their last four games to feel good about where they stood heading into the ACC tournament. They’re at Duke on Saturday and then at BC and home against Clemson. The last two were always the two games they were most likely to win.

PENN STATE (RPI: 76, KenPom: 25, NBC seed: Out): The Nittany Lions had a chance to get this thing done. Losing by three at Purdue was a killer; they were up by nine in the first half of a game that would have been one of college basketball’s 10-15 best wins this season. Then, on Wednesday, the lost to Michigan at home. A win at Nebraska would help — that’s a Quadrant 1 game — but it probably won’t be enough. The Nittany Lions are going to have work to do in the Big Ten tournament regardless.

YET TO PLAY

SETON HALL and PROVIDENCE had their game postponed because the ice underneath the floor of the Dunkin Donuts Center created too much condensation to safely play a game. They will finish up tomorrow.

TCU
MARQUETTE
LOUISVILLE
FLORIDA
TEXAS
KANSAS STATE
USC