GAME OF THE NIGHT: BYU vs. Gonzaga, 9:00 p.m.
In a vacuum, this is the kind of game that any basketball fan that enjoys high-scoring, uptempo games will want to tune into. Both BYU and Gonzaga can put up points, and neither of them are particularly fond of playing any defense. But there’s so much more on the line tonight, as both the Zags and the Cougars will be looking to secure an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. That matters because neither team is in a position where they can assume that they’re a lock for an at-large bid at this point.
THE OTHER GAME OF THE NIGHT: IPFW vs. North Dakota State, 9:00 p.m.
I’ve been asked a number of times about mid-major programs capable of making a run in the Big Dance, and every time, I drop the name North Dakota State in there. The Bison are led by Marshall Bjorklund and Taylor Braun, two of the nation’s best kept mid-major secrets. They could end up being a 12 or 13 seed if they can get past IPFW.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:
There are two other automatic bids up for grabs tonight:
- 1) Robert Morris takes on Mount St. Mary’s in the NEC title game.
- 2) Milwaukee snuck into the Horizon title game after knocking off Green Bay. They’ll play Wright State.
Three other conference tournaments will take place tonight:
- 3) The SWAC first round
- 4) The MEAC first round
- 5) Conference USA first round
Monmouth used a 17-2 run in the final minutes to beat Rider on Friday night, a win that will keep the Hawks within striking distance of the kind of an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament should they fall in the MAAC tourney.
The run was capped by star point guard Justin Robinson, who buried this three with three seconds left to put Monmouth up for good, 79-78:
Allonzo Trier scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half and Parker Jackson-Cartwright scored 16 points in his second career start as No. 17 Arizona knocked off UCLA, 81-75, in Tucson on Friday night.
UCLA was up by as much as 11 points in the first half and took a ten point lead into half time, but in the second half, the Bruins were eventually done in by foul trouble and the stronger front line of the Wildcats.
Ryan Anderson and Kaleb Tarczewski were dominant down the stretch. The duo combined to score 12 of the last 23 point for the Wildcats, including the bucket that put the Wildcats ahead for the first time since early in the first half. Off of a missed free throw, UCLA’s Thomas Welsh battled with Tarczewski for the rebound, but when Welsh finally seemed to gain control of the loose ball, Anderson knocked it out of his hands and bullied through Jonah Bolden for a layup.
All told, those two combined for 20 points and 27 boards, seven of which were offensive. They also managed to foul out both Welsh and Tony Parker, although some of the calls that went against UCLA down the stretch were questionable.
The win keeps Arizona within a game of first place Oregon in the Pac-12 standings and tied for second with No. 23 USC, who will be visiting the McKale Center on Sunday night.