Arizona State, Oklahoma’s losses show why conference play always matters in college basketball


Wednesday was the last slow day of college basketball we’ll see for the rest of the week.

Only one ranked team was playing (No. 12 North Carolina) and one autobid was decided. The major conference tournaments don’t really pick up until Thursday.

The only storyline to follow on Wednesday was the bubble. And two months ago, nobody would have expected that Arizona State and Oklahoma would both lose in first-round conference tournament matchups that leave them seriously sweating on Selection Sunday.

That’s exactly what happened on Wednesday. The Sun Devils lost by double-digits to Colorado in their first Pac-12 Tournament game while Oklahoma lost a rubber match with in-state rival Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Tournament.

On Jan. 1, Arizona State was 12-1, previously the last unbeaten in the nation, and the No. 4 team in the national rankings. Oklahoma was the No. 7 team in the country and freshman guard Trae Young was the heavy frontrunner for National Player of the Year. Both teams were among the darlings of college basketball; surprise teams with fun, uptempo styles of play.

Now both former top-10 teams are waiting a long four days to see if they’ll even be playing in the Big Dance at all. There’s a chance that both teams could be playing in the NIT next week. The downfall of Arizona State and Oklahoma the past two months shows why conference play is still very important in college basketball.

The Arizona State situation is probably been more shocking. The Sun Devils have the two best non-conference wins of any team in college hoops after they picked up a road win at Kansas and a neutral court win over Xavier. Then unbeaten Arizona State entered Pac-12 play and went 8-11 against a very mediocre league that might only get two or three teams in the field.

Oklahoma ran through the buzzsaw of the Big 12 without much help for Young. The Sooners looked like they might be a potential top-four seed after wins over Wichita State, Texas Tech and TCU. They bottomed out after a difficult stretch through conference play as Oklahoma hasn’t won two straight games in almost two months.

Conference play exposed both of these formerly top-ten teams for what they actually are: deeply flawed teams limping into the postseason. If the bubble weren’t weaker, you could even argue that both of these teams could have been out of the NCAA tournament picture awhile ago.

It just goes to show that ruling the rankings after non-conference play doesn’t mean much of anything if you can’t put together a solid stretch in your own league. It doesn’t matter how good you look after non-conference play; you still need enough conference wins to play in March.

Police: Thief steals electronics from UNC basketball program

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — Police say someone stole thousands of dollars in electronics from the University of North Carolina men’s basketball team locker room and office while they were away for the ACC tournament.

UNC-Chapel Hill campus police said on Twitter that the break-in happened at the Dean Smith Center on March 9, and they released images of a man they believe may have been involved.

A police report says the thief managed to get into the team locker room and basketball office without forced entry, according to The Herald-Sun.

The report says the thief stole a PlayStation 4, Xbox One and clothing worth $2,900 that belonged to the athletic department. Police say the thief also stole a laptop worth $1,200 and a financial document worth about $3,000 belonging to one of the players.

No upsets over here: No. 1 seed UConn women set scoring records in first round game

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The No. 1 overall seed on the men’s side of the NCAA tournament made history on Friday night.

They because the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed in the first round of the tournament, as Virginia lost to UMBC, if you were still unaware.

Over on the women’s side, the bracket is nowhere near as broken, because UConn’s women made history, too. They set NCAA tournament records for … well, almost everything it seems like.

The Huskies were up 55-19 at the end of the first quarter of their first round game against St. Francis (PA). Those 55 points are an NCAA tournament record. They held a 94-31 lead at the half, another NCAA tournament record, and held on to win 140-52.

The 140 points that Geno Auriemma’s team scored was an NCAA tournament record. The 88 points that they won by was one point short of an NCAA tournament record 89 points that was set by Baylor in a win over Texas Southern last season.

Oh, and the Huskies set the record for more assists in an NCAA tournament game — 38 — for good measure.

All in all, I think it’s safe to say that the fans in Storrs had a better weekend than the fans in Charlottesville. Hopefully, that will allow them to forget the fact that the men’s basketball program has become a laughing stock.

2018 NCAA Tournament: Maryland Governor calls UMBC upset, so does NBC Sports’ writer son

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Never before in the history of the NCAA tournament as a No. 16 seed upset a No. 1 seed.

That was until Friday night, when UMBC sent the No. 1 overall seed Virginia packing.

And if you thought no one had picked that upset, you were wrong.

Let’s start with the Maryland Governor, who was clearly a homer in picking UMBC to not only beat Virginia, but to win a national title:

Never say never, but … that’s never going to happen bud.

But how about this: My son, who is two years old and based his picks on his hard and fast rule of “all the doggies”, called this upset!

He also called Penn over Kansas, Fullerton over Purdue and Butler winning a national title, but whatever.

That bracket is actually pretty good!

VIDEO: Virginia’s Ty Jerome does not appreciate dumb question after UMBC loss

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You have to give Virginia some credit.

After losing to No. 16 seed UMBC in the first round of the NCAA tournament, the players on that roster faced the music. They went up to the dais and answered question from reporters on national television.

There is no way they enjoyed that.

And you can tell because Ty Jerome had absolutely no interest in answering dumb questions from reporters:

He was not amused.

2018 NCAA Tournament: Saturday’s betting lines, point spreads, over-unders

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Here is the full TV schedule, with spreads, over-unders and betting lines, for every game for the first four days of the NCAA tournament.

(Lines are updated for Saturday morning.)

Pittsburgh: Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller, Dan Bonner and Dana Jacobson

  • 12:10 p.m.: No. 1 Villanova (-11.5) vs. No. 9 Alabama, CBS (149.5)
  • 2:40 p.m.: No. 2 Duke (-9.5) vs. No. 7 Rhode Island, CBS (149)

Boise: Brian Anderson, Chris Webber and Lisa Byington

  • 5:15 p.m.: No. 5 Kentucky (-5.5) vs. No. 13 Buffalo, CBS (155)
  • 7:45 p.m.: No. 4 Gonzaga (-4) vs. No. 5 Ohio State, CBS (141.5)

Dallas: Spero Dedes, Steve Smith, Len Elmore and Ros Gold-Onwude

  • 6:10 p.m.: No. 3 Tennessee (-5) vs. No. 11 Loyola (Chicago), TNT (131.5)
  • 8:40: No. 3 Texas Tech (-1.5) vs. No. 6 Florida, TNT (133.5)

Wichita: Brad Nessler, Steve Lavin and Evan Washburn

  • 7:10 p.m.: No. 1 Kansas (-4.5) vs. No. 8 Seton Hall, TBS (154.5)
  • 9:40 p.m.: No. 3 Michigan (-3) vs. No. 6 Houston, TBS (135)