How much work the Colorado Buffaloes needed to do in Las Vegas is up for debate, with some believing that Wednesday’s win over USC locked up a spot in the NCAA tournament. But it never hurts to keep winning, and Tad Boyle’s team did just that by beating California 59-56 in a Pac-12 tournament quarterfinal. Askia Booker scored 17 points and Xavier Talton added 13 for the Buffaloes, who will play No. 4 Arizona Friday night.
A 19-6 first half run gave Colorado the early separation it needed against the Golden Bears, who also arrived at the MGM Grand looking to strengthen its case for the selection committee. Rebounding proved to be key, with the Buffaloes finishing the game a plus-9 in rebounds and a plus-6 in second-chance points (10-4).
Friday’s game against the Pac-12 champions will be a significant challenge for the Buffaloes, who haven’t matched up particularly well with Arizona in either meeting. Arizona put on a clinic in the second meeting, limiting Colorado to 32.7% shooting while also making 22 of their 26 field goal attempts in the second half of that 88-61 beating.
Booker, Josh Scott and Xavier Johnson will all be key in the third meeting, but the fact of the matter is that Colorado will need contributions from all members of their rotation if they’re to win.
As for Cal this defeat is their fifth in the last seven games, with the Golden Bears dropping from “virtual lock” to make the NCAA tournament to a team that will be left to do nothing but wait and hope they’re selected. With no more games to play between now and Sunday California can do nothing but scoreboard watch, as they’ve lost the ability to control their own fate.
GAME OF THE NIGHT: Syracuse vs. No. 18 UConn, 3:30 p.m.
For the first time since the Orange departed the Big East, the two former rivals will square off. Today’s battle will take place at the Battle 4 Atlantis, as the Orange knocked off Charlotte yesterday and the Huskies dispatched Michigan. To get ready for this battle, I’d suggest ready through the conversation @NoEscalators had with himself last night.
THIS ONE’S GOOD, TOO: No. 25 Texas A&M vs. No. 10 Gonzaga, 1:00 p.m.
The other semifinal in the Battle 4 Atlantis could end up being just as good, as the Aggies — who might be the second best team in the SEC — square off with a Gonzaga team that has one of the best front lines in the country. This will be a good test to figure out just how good both of these teams are.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR
1. No. 20 Wichita State vs. USC, 2:00 p.m.: The Shockers will be without Fred VanVleet for this event. It will also be a chance for us to gauge just how good this 4-0 USC team is.
2. No. 23 Xavier vs. Alabama, 12:00 p.m: The Musketeers should have no problems dispatching Alabama.
3. No. 8 Villanova vs. Stanford, 4:30 p.m.: The Wildcats are, once again, as good as any team in the country. Josh Hart might be the nation’s most underrated star.
4. No. 14 Cal vs. San Diego State, 12:00 a.m.: Tyrone Wallace and company have been awesome this season. They get their first real test of the season tonight.
5. Providence vs. Evansville, 7:00 p.m.: Evansville is one of the nation’s best mid-majors, good enough to give the likes of Wichita State and Northern Iowa a fight in the Missouri Valley. And Providence? They got a kid named Kris Dunn. Heard of him?
THE REST OF THE TOP 25
- No. 3 Michigan State vs. Boston College, 6:30 p.m.
- No. 11 Arizona vs. Santa Clara, 11:30 p.m.
- No. 17 Notre Dame vs. Monmouth, 6:30 p.m.
No. 2 Maryland finally found their rhythm on Wednesday night, blowing out a good Rhode Island team, 86-63, in the finals of the Cancun Challenge.
Melo Trimble and Rasheed Sulaimon combined for 34 points and eight assists on 13-for-14 shooting and Robert Carter added 15 points, nine boards, three assists and three blocks. Peak Maryland, which is what we saw tonight, is really dangerous.
But Peak Maryland wasn’t the story after the game, as tempers flared in the waning minutes.
It started when Maryland coach Mark Turgeon called a timeout with less than two minutes remaining. Jake Layman had just hit a three to put Maryland up by 24 points and Turgeon wanted to get his walk-ons in the game. Hurley said to the Maryland bench, “We’ll see you again, boy,” according to Inside Maryland Sports, which prompted this reaction from Turgeon:
After the game, the two teams had to be separated in layup lines. According to reports from IMS and from the Baltimore Sun, Hurley was cursing at Maryland players as he was shaking their hands after the game. According Doug Gottlieb, who called the game for CBS Sports Network, Trimble said that the Rhode Island team wanted to “fight us”: