Late Night Snacks: Coastal Carolina, Mercer and No. 2 Wichita State join NCAA field

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GAME OF THE DAY: Maryland 75, No. 5 Virginia 69 (OT)

In Maryland’s final regular season game as a member of the ACC the Terrapins needed five extra minutes to beat Virginia in College Park. The Cavaliers executed well late in regulation to force the extra session, with Anthony Gill’s basket with less than a second remaining tying the game. That could have been a crushing blow for the Terps, but Seth Allen and Dez Wells made important baskets in overtime to make sure that wasn’t the case.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

1) No. 2 Wichita State 83, Indiana State 69

34 games. 34 wins. Gregg Marshall’s team took the next step in its quest to win a national title, responding to a second-half Indiana State run the way that champions are supposed to. Fred VanVleet scored 20 of his 22 points in the second half, and Tekele Cotton added 20 points for the winners. Jake Odum and Justin Gant scored 18 points apiece for the Sycamores, who should land in the Postseason NIT.

2) Nebraska 77, No. 9 Wisconsin 68

While some bubble teams have managed to stumble down the stretch, others have risen to the occasion. One of those teams is Nebraska, which knocked off No. 9 Wisconsin in Lincoln. Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields scored 26 points apiece to lead the way, and there were other contributors as well. After starting conference play 0-4 Tim Miles’ Huskers have won 11 of their last 14, and they’re moving closer to their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1998.

3) Ohio State 69, No. 22 Michigan State 67

After dropping games at Penn State and Indiana the Buckeyes were in need of a win and they got it, with their defense and LaQuinton Ross standing out. The Buckeyes held Michigan State scoreless over the final 4:30, and Ross scored 22 points on 9-for-15 shooting. As for Michigan State, while there’s no need to panic their offensive execution down the stretch is something they need to improve on ahead of the Big Ten tournament.

STARRED

1) T.J. Warren (N.C. State) 

Warren made his final statement ahead of the ACC’s vote for Player of the Year, scoring 42 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in the Wolfpack’s 78-68 win over Boston College. Warren’s scored 40-plus points in consecutive games, the first time an ACC player’s done this since 1957.

2) Jarvis Threatt (Delaware) 

19 points, 11 rebounds and five assists in the Blue Hens’ 87-74 win over Northeastern.

3) Shavon Shields and Terran Petteway (Nebraska) 

Shields and Petteway scored 26 points apiece in the Huskers’ 77-68 win over No. 9 Wisconsin, with Petteway also grabbing ten rebounds.

STRUGGLED

1) Chris Wilson (Saint Joseph’s) 

Wilson struggled in the Hawks’ 71-63 home loss to La Salle, shooting 1-for-9 and finishing with two points, four rebounds and three assists.

2) Akil Mitchell and Mike Tobey (Virginia) 

Mitchell and Tobey combined to score six points on 2-for-7 shooting in the Cavaliers’ 75-69 overtime loss at Maryland.

3) Sampson Carter and Raphiael Putney (UMass) 

Both players shot 2-for-10 from the field, combining to score 13 points in their 64-62 loss to No. 17 Saint Louis.

CONFERENCE TOURNAMENTS 

  • America East: New tournament format year too late for Vermont
    After Stony Brook lost at Albany in last season’s semifinals the conference changed its tournament format, with the higher seed hosting every game. But that won’t occur until next season, leaving Vermont in the situation Stony Brook found itself in a season ago. Final score: Albany 67, Vermont 58. Peter Hooley scored 26 points and Gary Johnson added 17 to go along with 13 rebounds for the Great Danes, who will play at Stony Brook on Saturday for the automatic bid.
  • Atlantic Sun: Mercer returns the favor to earn first NCAA bid since 1985
    Last season FGCU began its captivating run with an Atlantic Sun title game win over Mercer on the Bears’ home court. Mercer hopes to do the same after beating FGCU 68-60 at Alico Arena. Langston Hall and Anthony White Jr. scored 15 points apiece for Bob Hoffman’s team, which has the ability to spring an upset in the NCAA tournament.
  • Big South: Coastal Carolina earns first NCAA berth since 1993
    The Chanticleers are headed back to the NCAA tournament thanks to a 76-61 win over Winthrop. Warren Gillis led four starters in double figures with 22 points, and Cliff Ellis has now led four programs to the NCAA tournament as a head coach.
  • CAA: Delaware, William & Mary advance to Monday’s title game
    Top-seed Delaware took care of business, beating Northeastern 87-74 in one semifinal. Their opponent in Monday’s title game will be William & Mary, with the Tribe beating Towson 75-71 in the other semifinal. And there will be some really good guards on the floor Monday night in Baltimore, with the Blue Hens being led by an experienced four-guard attack and Marcus Thornton the headliner for William & Mary.
  • MAAC: Bitter rivals Iona, Manhattan to play for the title
    Two schools separated by about ten miles will play for the MAAC automatic bid for the second consecutive season, with Iona holding off Canisius 75-72 and Manhattan whipping Quinnipiac 87-68. Iona’s Sean Armand and Manhattan’s George Beamon are two of the headliners who will be on center stage in Springfield, and these are two very talented teams capable of winning once in the NCAA field as well. But only one can go.
  • Southern: Western Carolina knocks off Davidson
    There will be a new SoCon representative in the NCAA tournament, with Western Carolina beating Davidson 99-97 in overtime. Trey Sumler scored 26 points for the Catamounts. Their opposition on Monday for the automatic bid: Wofford, with the Terriers eliminating Georgia Southern by the final score of 71-57.
  • Summit: Denver, South Dakota State roll
    Both winners scored 71 points, with Denver beating South Dakota 71-55 and South Dakota State outclassing Western Illinois by a final score of 71-50. Next up for Denver is top-seed North Dakota State, which received a bye to the semifinals. As for last season’s conference representative, the Jackrabbits face two-seed IPFW.

NOTABLES 

  • Jerami Grant made his return to the lineup in No. 7 Syracuse’s 74-58 win at Florida State and he played well, finishing with 16 points and eight rebounds. The Orange will be the two-seed in the ACC tournament.
  • Jordair Jett’s layup with just over three seconds remaining gave No. 17 Saint Louis a 64-62 win at UMass, ending their three-game losing streak just ahead of the Atlantic 10 tournament. The Billikens will be the top seed in Brooklyn, while the loss dropped UMass from a three to a six-seed in the event.
  • Saint Joseph’s suffered a tough loss for its resume, losing 71-63 at home to Big 5 (and Atlantic 10) rival La Salle. The Hawks will be a four-seed in the Atlantic 10 tournament, so they’ll get a bye to the quarterfinals.

Calipari defends Diallo and gives insight into his own philosophy

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John Calipari was asked a question about struggling freshman Hamidou Diallo. He ended up giving an answer about his general coaching philosophy.

“Making them be responsible for who they are. In his case, I’m with Hami. He’s trying. He’s working,” Calipari said. “If he’s willing to do that and put in extra work, I’m for him. If you’re playing awful, I may not play you as much, but I’m going to play you and if you’re doing what we’re asking you to do, I’m going to encourage you.

“It would probably be easier when a guy plays poorly to say you’re out and i’m going with these seven I’m just not going to do that.”

Calipari likened the approach to what a well-intentioned parent might say to him about their son who is struggling.

“I would say (a parent) would say, ‘Coach, he’s responsible for himself, but please keep coaching him and let him know you love him and keep being there for him but hold him accountable,’” Calipari said. “‘If he’s not going to listen to you you should not play him. That’s what I think a parent that’s not trying to enable their son (should say).”

On the other hand, Calipari discussed what the opposite of that situation would look like.

“If they’re listening to an enabler, whoever that enabler is, I can’t help you,” he said. “I told you when I walked in the door, this is going to be about the players first and I’m trying to stay that course but they are responsible for themselves.

“If they can’t perform, I’m going to play you but when they’re not performing, you can’t be in there.”

Calipari can oftentimes be full of bluster – it’s an essential part of his Always Be Selling philosophy that’s won the hearts of countless five-star recruits and a national championship. But this looks to be an honest look into the way he views his job and role with his players. Give ultra-talented guys opportunity, but keep them accountable. It’s a simple thought, but one that few execute as well and as consistently as he does.

Texas Tech’s Keenan Evans “day-to-day” with toe injury

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It would appear that sixth-ranked Texas Tech may have avoided its worst-case scenario with star guard Keenan Evans.

The senior is considered day-to-day with a toe injury suffered Saturday in a loss at Baylor, and could play as soon as Wednesday against Oklahoma State, Red Raiders coach Chris Beard said Monday.

“It’s going to come down to just pain tolerance and can he move,” Beard said, according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. “We all know Keenan is a warrior. He’s going to do everything he possibly can to play. … At the end of the day, just kind of how he reacts to his body.”

Evans is averaging 18.2 points per game for the Red Raiders, and his health is paramount for their attempt to unseat Kansas atop the Big 12. Texas Tech and the Jayhawks are locked in a first-place tie with matching 10-4 league records with four games to play. After the Red Raiders’ trip to Stillwater on Wednesday, they host Kansas on Saturday in a game that very well could decide the fate of the Jayhawks’ 13-year run of conference championships.

While the Big 12 race is certainly front of mind, the fact that Evans is potentially going to be able to play this week is a great sign for Texas Tech. Even if Evans does need to miss a game or two to get his toe fully healthy, the timeline and conditions Beard laid out Monday suggest that he’ll be good to go before the NCAA tournament for a Red Raiders team that certainly is a contender to finish its season in its home state – at the Final Four in San Antonio.

NCAA tourney chair addresses non-conference strength of schedule and quadrant system

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The way the NCAA tournament selection committee picks teams for inclusion into the sport’s crowning event is always under intense scrutiny. It’s a national past time, really.

One of the easiest targets is the RPI, an obviously flawed metric. It was the topic of discussion recently in the Omaha World-Herald, most notably the non-conference strength of schedule component.

That post spurred a lengthy response from Creighton athletic director and selection committee chairman Bruce Rasmussen, who defended the committee’s work with a metric that it acknowledges to be imperfect.

Here’s Rasmussen:

“Non-conference SOS is not a predominant tool in selections.

In fact, each year that I have been on the committee, we have discussed why you have to look beyond the number to evaluate a team’s non-conference strength of schedule, and even with this qualifier, non-conference schedule ranks well behind other factors such as how you did against other tournament caliber teams, did you win the games you were supposed to win, and how did you do away from home since winning away from home is difficult and the tournament games are all games away from home.

“I have argued each year that I have been on the committee that non-conference SOS should be taken off the team sheet, but until we develop a new metric it is staying. However, understand that the committee understands its fallacies (as we also recognize other weaknesses in the current RPI formula) and it is not a prominent factor in decisions.”

Rasmussen also examined the quadrant system being used:

“Many think that the first and second quadrants are silos and that every win in the first quadrant or every win in the second quadrant is treated equally.  I think it is important that while we refer to first and second quadrant wins, we also better communicate that this is only a sorting mechanism and each game in these quadrants is looked at differently. They don’t have the same value.”

So while it’s fair to question NCAA selection committee’s decisions and the way in which they make them, it’s clear there is an extensive amount of well-intentioned thought put into the process.

College Basketball Coaches Poll: Michigan State moves atop the Top 25

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Michigan State is your new No. 1 team in the country, according to the USA Today Coaches Poll.

The Spartans received 20 of a possible 32 first-place votes after their comeback from 27 points down to beat Northwestern on the road on Saturday.

Virginia is still sitting at No. 2 while Villanova and Xavier round out the top four. Duke climbed a few spots to No. 5.

Here is the full coaches poll:

1. Michigan State (20 first-place votes)
2. Virginia (8)
3. Villanova (4)
4. Xavier
5. Duke
6. Gonzaga
7. Texas Tech
8. Kansas
9. Purdue
10. North Carolina
11. Cincinnati
12. Wichita State
13. Auburn
14. Arizona
15. Ohio State
16. Michigan
17. Clemson
18. Rhode Island
19. Tennessee
20. Saint Mary’s
21. West Virginia
22. Nevada
23. Houston
24. Middle Tennessee State
25. Arizona State

Was Bob Huggins justified in his anger over foul shots in Kansas win over West Virginia?

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Much has been made of Bob Huggins’ ejection on Saturday evening, as West Virginia blew yet another double-digit lead at Phog Allen Fieldhouse as Kansas picked up a critical, 77-69 win.

The ejection was hilarious, and everything that I want to remember Huggy Bear by: Cussing out all three refs as he earns his second technical and an ejection while needing to hold up his pants with his hands:

Huggs is a national treasure.

The more interesting conversation, however, centered around why Huggins was tossed. Kansas shot 35 free throws on Saturday. West Virginia shot just two, which is an absolutely staggering number.

And I thought this was deserving of further scrutiny.

Let’s start with the obvious: West Virginia fouls a lot, enough that it’s not an exaggeration to say that a foul could probably be called on every possession. Part of the strategy of playing the way that Press Virginia does is that they are betting that officials are not going to call a foul on every possession, because they won’t. West Virginia is also a jump-shooting team this season, as nearly 40 percent of their field goal attempts come from beyond the arc. Their free throw rate both offensively and defensively is dead last in the Big 12.

Put another way, the Mountaineers are always going to be outshot from the free throw line.

Then you have to combine that with the Kansas stats. The Jayhawks are second in the Big 12 on offensive free throw rate and third in defensive free throw rate. Throw in the home court advantage that comes with playing in the Phog, and the safest bet in the world would have been Kansas outshooting West Virginia from the charity stripe.

It also needs to be noted that the 35-2 advantage was 27-2 before West Virginia started fouling intentionally and before Kansas went to the line for those two late Huggins’ technical fouls.

But that didn’t stop Huggins from going off in the press conference after the game:

“We blew the game last year,” Huggins said. “We should have won the game. We had the game. They did a great job, they made shots, we threw it around, we missed free throws, we did everything humanly possible to lose the game. That was us.”

“I’ve been doing this 40 years. I don’t I’ve ever been in a game where we shot two free throws. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a game where the disparity 35-2. I’ve never been in a game like that.”

But perhaps his most telling line was this, when asked what his message to his team was:

“It wasn’t their fault.”

It’s pretty clear that Huggins believed his team was hosed on the road.

The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

West Virginia is normally going to shoot fewer free throws than their opponents. Kansas is normally going to shoot more free throws that their opponents. Studies have proven that home environments in college basketball have an impact referee decisions as much as any sport in the world, including English soccer. That’s part of having a home court advantage, and it’s part of the advantage of having a rowdy, raucous and loud crowd. It’s why places like Phog Allen, and Cameron Indoor Stadium, and Koch Arena, and the McKale Center, and anywhere else with a big and loud fan base.

But 35-2 is 35-2, and it will take quite a bit of video evidence to proof to me that Kansas did not get a significant benefit from playing in front of their home crowd on Saturday night.

So did the referees cost West Virginia the game?

Debatable. I’d argue that Jevon Carter missing some shots and Daxter Miles’ insistence on passing up open threes to try and pass the ball to players going for a rebound played a pretty big role, as did the fact that Kansas is a really good team that made some big shots down the stretch.

But the whistles played some kind of a role.

Just like they always do in the Phog.