AP photo

Late Night Snacks: Four autobids decided; should BYU be concerned?

Leave a comment

GAME OF THE DAY: North Dakota State 60, IPFW 57

In a tremendous back-and-forth contest for the Summit League Conference Tournament title, Taylor Braun and the Bison pulled off a win in the final minutes after falling in the Summit League title game to South Dakota State last season. The Bison will be a trendy upset pick in the NCAA Tournament because they are a senior-laden team that shoots a nation-leading 51 percent from the field.

Check out the NCAA Tournament Primer for North Dakota State here.


1) Gonzaga 75, BYU 64

The Zags are heading to the Big Dance for the 16th consecutive time after knocking off the Cougars in Las Vegas for the WCC Conference Tournament title. Gonzaga is dancing, again, but the bigger question is how this will affect BYU’s NCAA Tournament at-large hopes? The Cougars now sit at 23-11 (13-5 WCC) with an RPI of 30 and a strength of schedule that was at 39 entering the Gonzaga game. With a couple of sub-150 RPI losses, BYU shouldn’t feel too safe, but the Cougars did make it to the championship game in the WCC. It’s worth noting that BYU beat Mount St. Mary’s — the NEC conference champs — earlier in the season and their RPI should improve just a tiny bit with that win. BYU will take any help it can get right now as they sit right on the bubble.

Check out the NCAA Tournament Primer for Gonzaga here.

2) Milwaukee 69, Wright State 63

Picked to finish dead-last in the Horizon League in the preseason, the Panthers pulled off another road win on Tuesday after winning at Green Bay in the semifinals. Since senior guard Jordan Aaron returned from suspension, the Panthers haven’t lost and with two consecutive road wins against solid opponents, this team will be a scary 15 or 16 seed in the field of 68.

Check out the NCAA Tournament Primer for Milwaukee here.

3) Mount St. Mary’s 88, Robert Morris 71

At 16-16, Mount St. Mary’s was an unlikely NCAA Tournament team, but after winning the NEC Conference title game over Robert Morris, they’re going dancing. Robert Morris never led and Mount St. Mary’s led by double-digits the entire second half as five players finished in double-figures for the Mountaineers.

Check out the NCAA Tournament Primer for Mount St. Mary’s here.


1) North Texas junior guard Chris Jones made two free throws to push the game into overtime and won it with two more as No. 10 seed Mean Green beat No. 15 seed Rice in the first round of the Conference-USA tournament. Marshall was also a winner over Florida Atlantic in day-one action at the C-USA tournament.

2) Summit League Player of the Year Taylor Braun struggled to find his offense in the first half, but had a key three-point play on a driving layup with 12 seconds left to give North Dakota State a four-point lead it would never relinquish. Braun finished with 15 for the Bison.

3) Sam Dower paced Gonzaga with 20 points and 13 rebounds on 10-of-16 shooting in the Bulldogs’ win over BYU. Dower was the only member of Gonzaga’s team to have more than seven field goal attempts in the win.


1) Matt Carlino struggled to only 8 points — way below his season-average of 13.9 points — on 3-for-12 shooting as the BYU junior guard fouled out in the loss to Gonzaga.

2) IPFW struggled to only 22 points in the second half and blew a five-point halftime lead in the Summit League title game loss to North Dakota State. The Mastodons just couldn’t find a go-to player down the stretch as three players tied for the team lead with nine points.

3) The Robert Morris defense picked a bad night to play poorly. Mount St. Mary’s shot 60 percent from the field — 44 percent from three-point range — as Robert Morris never recovered from a 20-point, first-half deficit.

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.