Late Night Snacks: Georgetown likely NIT bound following loss to DePaul

Leave a comment

Wednesday’s Bubble Banter

GAME OF THE DAY: UCF 94, Temple 90 (2OT)

Outside of keeping their seasons alive there wasn’t much on the line in this contest, and that motivation proved to be enough in a game that needed two extra sessions. Isaiah Sykes scored 36 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead the way for UCF, who will take on top-seed Cincinnati on Thursday night. Quenton DeCosey scored 28 points and Will Cummings 25 for the Owls, who finished its tough season with a record of 9-22.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

1) American 55, Boston University 36

Mike Brennan’s Eagles, picked to finish ninth in the Patriot League’s preseason poll, won the automatic bid thanks in large part to their stifling defense. Playing man for much of the first half, American’s 2-3 zone made life difficult for the Terriers in the second half. And in their three-game run to the Patriot League crown American allowed no more than 0.87 points per possession, with BU scoring 0.64 points per possession.

2) DePaul 60, Georgetown 56

John Thompson III’s Hoyas needed to make a run in New York City to feel good about their chances of earning an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. That won’t be happening, as Billy Garrett Jr. and Forrest Robinson helped lead the Blue Demons to their first Big East tournament win since 2009. D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Markel Starks combined to score 38 points for the Hoyas but they didn’t receive much help offensively, resulting in the close loss.

3) Colorado 59, USC 56

For bubble teams avoiding bad losses is just as important as picking up quality wins, and that’s exactly what the Buffaloes did in Las Vegas. Askia Booker played well, finishing with 21 points, seven rebounds and four assists, and Colorado also benefitted from USC shooting 5-for-22 from beyond the arc. The win sets up a very important matchup with Cal on Thursday, with the Golden Bears having defeated Colorado by a point in the regular season finale for both.

STARRED

1) Isaiah Sykes (UCF) 

Skyes scored 36 points to go along with nine rebounds and three steals in the Knights’ 94-90 double overtime win over Temple.

2) Jeremy Ingram (North Carolina Central) 

Ingram made nine of his 12 shots from the field, finishing the Eagles’ 92-46 win over Howard with 30 points, two assists and two steals.

3) Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State)

Accounted for 18 points (6-for-10 FG), seven rebounds and seven assists in the Cowboys’ 80-62 win over Texas Tech.

STRUGGLED

1) D.J. Irving (Boston University)

Shot 1-for-10 form the field in the Terriers’ 55-36 loss to American in the Patriot League title game.

2) Alex Barlow and Kellen Dunham (Butler) 

Combined to shoot 3-for-21 in Butler’s 51-50 loss to Seton Hall in the first round of the Big East tournament.

3) Tahj Shamsid-Deen (Auburn) 

Made just one of his ten shot attempts in the Tigers’ 74-56 loss to South Carolina in the first round of the SEC tournament.

CONFERENCE TOURNAMENTS

  • American: Rutgers outlasts USF
    A missed box out with five seconds remaining allowed Rutgers’ J.J. Moore to grab a key offensive rebound in the final seconds, leading to the Scarlet Knights beating USF 72-68. Rutgers advances to take on two-seed Louisville in the quarterfinals.
  • Atlantic 10: Fordham’s Ryan Canty dominates the glass
    Ryan Canty’s struggled with foul trouble at times this season but that wasn’t the case in Fordham’s 70-67 win over George Mason. Canty grabbed 19 rebounds and blocked three shots in the win, and next up for the Rams is a game against five-seed Dayton on Thursday.
  • ACC: Georgia Tech ends Boston College’s season
    Brian Gregory’s Yellow Jackets beat the Eagles for the third time this season, winning 73-70 in overtime. Georgia Tech advances to play Clemson on Thursday, with Wake Forest (beat Notre Dame) and Miami (beat Virginia Tech) moving on as well. Wake will play Pittsburgh on Thursday, with the Hurricanes facing N.C. State.
  • Big 12: Baylor, Oklahoma State take care of business
    No surprises on day one in Kansas City, with the Cowboys coasting past Texas Tech and Baylor holding off TCU. Oklahoma State gets another shot at Kansas, which will be without Joel Embiid, on Thursday and Baylor plays two-seed Oklahoma.
  • Big East: Seton Hall hangs on to beat Butler
    Kevin Willard’s Pirates will play top-seed Villanova on Thursday afternoon thanks to a 51-50 win over Butler. The Bulldogs rallied late but fell just short, with guard Kellen Dunham and Alex Barlow combining to shoot 3-for-21 from the field.
  • Conference USA: Host UTEP among winners on day two
    UTEP isn’t one of the top four seeds in the Conference USA tournament but having the event on their home floor makes the Miners a threat to win the automatic bid. Tim Floyd’s team beat East Carolina 77-68, advancing to play Southern Miss in one of Thursday’s quarterfinals. The other winners: Charlotte (over UAB), Old Dominion (over Marshall) and Tulane (over North Texas).
  • MEAC: Coppin State knocks off Hampton
    Top-seed North Carolina Central rolled in its opener but two-seed Hampton wasn’t as fortunate, as they fell 83-77 to Coppin State. The two winners advance to Friday’s semifinals, with NCCU taking on the winner of Thursday’s Savannah State/Norfolk State contest and Coppin State playing the winner of the Morgan State/Florida A&M quarterfinal.
  • MAC: Seeds hold to form on day two
    Just two games in Cleveland on Wednesday as the Mid-American Conference staggers its bracket to favor the teams who performed the best during the regular season. Ohio and Eastern Michigan advanced, setting up quarterfinals against Akron and Buffalo, respectively.
  • Mountain West: Utah State rallied to stun Colorado State
    Leading by nine with 1:35 remaining, Colorado State looked well on its way to meeting San Diego State in the quarterfinals. But Utah State had other ideas, storming back to win 73-69. In the other two first-round games Fresno State held off Air Force, and Boise State throttled San Jose State in a game they led 25-0 at one point.
  • Pac-12: Bubble teams go 3-0
    With Oregon (88-74 win over Oregon State) presumed to be safely into the NCAA tournament field, Utah and Stanford joined Colorado as teams needing to win on Wednesday. Utah made key plays late to hold off Washington, and Stanford managed to beat Washington State. All four winners will have the opportunity to strengthen their case on Thursday, with the top four seeds providing the opposition.
  • SEC: Two winners and one coaching change
    Both lower-seeded teams won on Wednesday, with Mississippi State beating Vanderbilt and South Carolina defeating Auburn. That loss was also the final game for Auburn head coach Tony Barbee, who was relieved of his duties shortly after the game’s end.
  • Southland: No surprises on opening day
    Five-seed Nicholls State and Six-seed Oral Roberts advanced, with Nicholls State beating Southeast Louisiana 71-64 and ORU holding off McNeese State 66-62. Next up for Nicholls State is a game against Northwestern State, and ORU will face Sam Houston State on Thursday.
  • SWAC: Texas Southern wins its opener
    Texas Southern beat Grambling State 79-54, with Aaric Murray scoring 18 points and blocking six shots to lead the way. In the other quarterfinal Prairie View A&M whipped top-seed Southern, 64-46. With the Jaguars and Tigers falling, just one team ineligible for postseason play (Arkansas-Pine Bluff) remains in the event.

Wednesday’s Three Things to Know: Duke blows out Louisville, Texas Tech falls to Oklahoma State

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

1. DUKE PICKED UP ITS FOURTH STRAIGHT WIN IN IMPRESSIVE FASHION (DESPITE MISSING MARVIN BAGLEY III ONCE AGAIN).

Duke was, once again, missing freshman star Marvin Bagley III with a knee injury, but it didn’t seem to matter too much as the Blue Devils ran past Louisville for an 82-56 win. Grayson Allen had 28 points to pace the Duke offense while Wendell Carter Jr. continued to look strong on the interior without Bagley.

CBT’s Rob Dauster explores Duke’s recent stretch without Bagley and wonders if the team might have a better defense without the All-American big man.

2. OKLAHOMA STATE UPSET NO. 6 TEXAS TECH AS KANSAS NOW HAS A ONE-GAME BIG 12 LEAD.

The Cowboys dropped the Red Raiders in Stillwater to earn a Big 12 upset win in this one. But the bigger story is Kansas assuming sole possession of first place in the Big 12 with another Texas Tech loss. The two Big 12 leaders are still scheduled to meet in Lubbock on Saturday as the Red Raiders will get a chance to even things up with the Jayhawks in the conference race.

First, Texas Tech has to get senior guard Keenan Evans healthy again. Hampered by a toe injury the past two games, Evans didn’t look close to 100 percent on Wednesday night. An unhealthy Evans is a big reason for Texas Tech dropping a few games.

3. VIRGINIA TECH GETS THE NIGHT’S BIGGEST BUBBLE WIN

On a busy Wednesday night for bubble teams, no team did more for its case than Virginia Tech. The Hokies took advantage of a depleted No. 15 Clemson in picking up an ACC home win.

While Virginia Tech has looked like a safe bet to make the field thanks to some big wins, the win on Wednesday gives the Hokies a fifth Quadrant 1 win — a huge safety net for a team trying to get in the field.

CBT’s Rob Dauster has more on Virginia Tech’s NCAA tournament hopes while he also breaks down the rest of Wednesday’s bubble action in Bubble Banter.

No. 5 Duke’s defense turns up again as Blue Devils look like title favorite

Grant Halverson/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Duke is back!

After drubbing Louisville 82-56 in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Wednesday night, the Blue Devils have now won four straight games despite the fact that they have been playing without Marvin Bagley III during this stretch.

Grayson Allen is back, too. He finished with 28 points on Wednesday night, making six threes and handing out threes assists. He entered Wednesday night averaging 22.3 points and 5.3 assists in his last three games, the first time all season long that he has scored more than 19 points in three consecutive games. He’s shooting the ball with confidence. He’s been moved into more of a playmaking, lead guard role in the half court offense as Coach K has transitioned back to being the focal point on that end, the first time he’s been in that role since his sophomore season.

Wendell Carter’s been on fire, too. He missed his fourth-straight double-double by a single rebound on Wednesday, but he did finish with 18 points, six assists and three blocks. In four games without Bagley, he’s now averaging 16.3 points, 10.5 boards, 3.0 blocks and 3.0 assists.

But that’s not why Duke is winning these games.

It’s not why I’m sitting here saying that Duke is back.

The reason why I’m warming up to the idea of Duke finding a way to be a Final Four team again is because they’ve figured out a way not only to just get stops, but to be damn good on the defensive end of the floor.

During this four-game stretch, Duke has not allowed a team to break 1.0 points-per-possession against while holding three of their four opponents to 57 points or less. In those four games, they’ve allowed 0.883 PPP. If they did that over the course of an entire season, the Blue Devils would be third-nationally defensive efficiency* behind only Virginia and Cincinnati. In the process, they’ve managed to climb from 79th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric to 27th, which is precisely the kind of drastic defensive improvement that the 2015 team made. They were in the 60s and 70s in adjusted defensive efficiency for much of the season. They were 37th before the tournament started. They were 11th when they cut down the nets.

And it begs the question: Is Duke better without Marvin Bagley III?

Lol.

No.

Don’t be stupid.

Marvin Bagley III is an alien. He makes every single team that he is on a better one.

What will be interesting to see is how Duke integrates him back into the team when he finally does return to the floor. There are two things that have allowed Duke to improve the way that they’ve improved over the course of the last two weeks, and both of them involve Bagley in a pretty significant way:

  1. The ball doesn’t stick as much offensively as it did when he was on the court. That’s why Allen’s been able to play the way that he’s played of late. The middle of the floor has also opened up because Duke’s gone away from trying to run high-low actions as much as they did before. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better to run offense this way, but you cannot convince that it’s a bad thing that Allen is back into a rhythm.
  2. Much more importantly, however, is that Duke has turned into a very good defensive team in this zone, and the biggest reason for that is the activity of Javin DeLaurier. Bagley is a terrific athlete, but he’s more of a five at this level than a four and he’s also a guy that is not an instinctual or, frankly, energetic defender. DeLaurier is more mobile and, since he’s not really a threat offensively, he can burn off of his energy on that end.

Bagley wasn’t the lone culprit for Duke’s defensive problems.

The bigger issue may have been simply that the Blue Devils vacillated between playing man and zone until these last four games, and Coach K fully embracing being a zone team has allowed them to figure it out. As one high-major coach put it to me, it’s better to be great at one defense than it is to be good at seven of them. Duke is doing that now.

But there is valid reason to be concerned about playing Bagley and Carter together simply because playing them together has been an issue defensively before.

Maybe that means that, instead of seeming them on the court together for 30 minutes a night, they’ll each play 10 minutes with DeLaurier at the four and play together for 20 minutes. Maybe it means that instead of being awesome defensively Duke is simply good enough, and maybe good enough is all they need to make a run in March this season.

And maybe the answer is that Bagley returns and is ready to defend the way that he needs to defend.

We’ve seen that happen, too. Remember the Miami game?

Whatever the case may be will play out over the course of the next six weeks. The one thing that is clear, however, is that these Blue Devils are suddenly a whole lot more intriguing than they were two weeks ago when they lost at North Carolina.

*(For those looking at KenPom, raw points-per-possession and KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric are two different numbers. The latter is the former adjusted for strength of opponent.)

Williams helps No. 19 Tennessee beat Florida 62-57

(Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Grant Williams bounced back from one of his worst performances of the season to score 23 points and No. 19 Tennessee beat Florida 62-57 on Wednesday night to hand the Gators their third consecutive loss.

Williams had a season-low five points Saturday in a 73-62 loss at Georgia. The Tennessee scoring leader responded Wednesday by shooting 8 of 13 from the floor and 7 of 8 from the foul line.

Florida trailed nearly the whole way, but threatened in the final minute.

Chris Chiozza made a basket to cut Tennessee’s lead to 60-57 with 24.5 seconds left, and he got fouled by Williams in the process. But Chiozza missed the ensuing free throw and couldn’t get Florida any closer.

Jordan Bowden made a pair of clinching free throws with 14 seconds left.

Admiral Schofield had 16 points and eight rebounds for Tennessee (20-7, 10-5 Southeastern Conference).

Jalen Hudson had 13 points for Florida (17-11, 8-7), and Chiozza and Keith Stone each added 11. Chiozza also had nine assists and six rebounds.

Florida was seeking a quality road win that could boost its NCAA Tournament credentials.

The Gators entered the night 65th in the RPI and have a demanding schedule the rest of the way. Florida hosts No. 12 Auburn, visits Alabama and hosts Kentucky in its final three regular-season games.

The offensive struggles that have hindered Florida lately carried over. Florida had more turnovers (eight) than baskets (seven) during a first half in which it shot 26.9 percent overall and 1 of 10 from 3-point range.

Tennessee closed the first half on an 11-1 run to go into the locker room with a 27-18 advantage.

The Vols extended the lead to 10 early in the second half, but Florida crept back into the game while Williams was on the bench with three fouls.

Florida was trailing by just one point when it had two chances midway through the second half to regain the lead, but Deaundrae Ballard missed a 3-pointer on one possession and Dontay Bassett missed a baseline jumper the net time the Gators had the ball.

Tennessee then created some distance by going on a 7-0 run that included a Jordan Bowden dunk and five points from Schofield.

BIG PICTURE

Florida: The Gators continually misfired from 3-point range for most of the night. They missed 15 of their first 17 3-point attempts before making four of their last seven. By the time they finally started to heat up, they already had dug themselves too deep a hole.

Tennessee: The Vols got big efforts from their two top players — Williams and Schofield — and didn’t back down when Florida finally started making its shots down the stretch. Tennessee preserved its lead by going 13 of 15 from the foul line, including 9 of 11 in the second half.

UP NEXT

Florida: Hosts No. 12 Auburn on Saturday.

Tennessee: At Mississippi on Saturday.

VIDEO: George Mason stuns Saint Joseph’s with second buzzer-beating win this season

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

George Mason knocked off Atlantic 10 rival Saint Joseph’s with a ridiculous buzzer-beater for the second time this season on Wednesday night as Ian Boyd was the hero this time.

The Patriots went the length of the floor to attempt a game-winning shot as a loose ball ended up in Boyd’s hands at the top of the key just before the game ended. Boyd launched a quick prayer and knocked it down to give George Mason the unlikely win.

Earlier this season, the Patriots won on another buzzer-beater over the Hawks when Otis Livingston II buried a contested 30-footer to win that one. By this point, Saint Joe’s is probably hoping to avoid George Mason in the Atlantic 10 Tournament after the two devastating losses they’ve already endured.

Harper, Okeke lead No. 12 Auburn to 90-71 win over Alabama

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

AUBURN, Ala. — Jared Harper scored 21 points, Chuma Okeke had 16 points and 10 rebounds, and No. 12 Auburn beat rival Alabama 90-71 Wednesday night even without ailing star Mustapha Heron.

Down to seven scholarship players, the Tigers (24-4, 12-3 Southeastern Conference) turned a five-point halftime lead into a blowout thanks largely to big performances from Okeke and Malik Dunbar off the bench.

Auburn responded with Heron out with a stomach ailment one game after center Anfernee McLemore was lost for the rest of the season to an ankle injury.

Collin Sexton scored 25 points to lead the Crimson Tide (17-11, 8-7).

Bryce Brown scored 18 points for the Tigers despite shooting just 3 for 14 on 3-pointers. Harper also had six assists.

Okeke, who figures to be a key figure on replacing McLemore, scored 13 points in the second half and finished with a career-high. Dunbar also turned in his top performance with 14 points. Desean Murray had nine points and eight boards.

Auburn took command with a 17-2 run after having its lead cut to one early in the second half.

Sexton made 8 of 12 shots for the Tide, but other top scorers struggled.

John Petty, who had eight 3-pointers and 27 points in the Tide’s January win, missed his first eight attempts and finished with three points.

Donta Hall came in hot but had just seven points and five rebounds. Backup point guard Avery Johnson Jr. scored 10 points.

BIG PICTURE

Alabama: Had won five straight games over ranked teams and could have made a big statement for the NCAA Tournament. Came into the game giving up a league-best 65.6 points in SEC games.

Auburn: Moved a step closer to clinching its third SEC title and first since 1999. Game had to be a confidence builder for players like Malik Dunbar and freshmen Okeke and Michell.

UP NEXT

Alabama hosts Arkansas on Saturday.

Auburn visits Florida on Saturday night.