Friday’s Bubble Banter
GAME OF THE DAY: Arkansas State 116, Arkansas-Little Rock 114 (4OT)
The wildest game of the day was played at the Sun Belt tournament in New Orleans, with the Red Wolves final beating the Trojans after four overtimes were played and 230 points were scored. Melvin Johnson III’s three-point play with six seconds remaining in the fourth overtime was the difference for Arkansas State, who will face top-seed Georgia State in Saturday’s semifinals. Ed Townsel led five Arkansas State players in double figures with 32 points, and Leroy Isler paced six Trojans in double figures with 25.
1) No. 16 Iowa State 94, No. 10 Kansas 83
Not having Joel Embiid in the lineup certainly impacts the way Kansas defends, and that was the case in their loss to Iowa State in the Big 12 semifinals. Iowa State shot 54% from the field and 11-for-19 from beyond the arc, and all five starters scored in double figures with Georges Niang scoring 25 points. Perry Ellis scored 30 points in a losing effort with Andrew Wiggins adding 22 (on 7-for-21 shooting), but the shoddy defense was too much to overcome.
2) N.C. State 66, No. 11 Syracuse 63
The Orange lost for the fifth time in their last seven games Friday night, dropping a three-point decision to N.C. State in Greensboro. T.J. Warren scored 28 points and grabbed eight rebounds for the Wolfpack, who will play No. 7 Duke in the ACC semifinals, but the issue for Syracuse was their offense. C.J. Fair shot 3-for-16 and Trevor Cooney 1-for-6, and as a team the Orange shot 32.7%. Syracuse has shot 40% or better in just two of their last eight games.
3) No. 24 Ohio State 71, Nebraska 67
With just under 14 minutes remaining the Huskers led 48-30 and looked poised to reach the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament for the first time in their short time as a member of the league. But Ohio State decided to take better shots and not turn the ball over, and the Buckeyes were able to come back and win as a result. LaQuinton Ross scored 26 points and Amedeo Della Valle gave the Buckeyes some really good minutes off the bench, scoring 12 points.
1) Russ Smith (Louisville)
Smith scored a career-high 42 points (14-for-22 FG) to go along with three rebounds and three assists in the Cardinals’ 94-65 win over Houston in an American semifinal.
2) Ed Townsel (Arkansas State)
Accounted for 32 points, seven rebounds and six assists in the Red Wolves’ 116-114 quadruple overtime win over UALR in a Sun Belt quarterfinal.
3) LaDontae Henton (Providence)
Scored 26 points (9-for-13 FG) and grabbed 14 rebounds in Providence’s 80-74 win over Seton Hall in a Big East semifinal.
1) Andre Hollins (Minnesota)
Hollins shot 2-for-14 in Minnesota’s 83-57 loss to No. 12 Wisconsin in a Big Ten quarterfinal.
2) C.J. Fair (Syracuse)
Fair made just three of his 16 shot attempts in Syracuse’s 66-63 loss to N.C. State in an ACC quarterfinal.
3) Kendall Anthony (Richmond)
Anthony shot 2-for-15 from the field in the Spiders’ 71-53 loss to VCU in an Atlantic 10 quarterfinal.
- ACC: No. 7 Duke withstands furious Clemson rally
Up 12 in the second half the Blue Devils looked to be on their way to another ACC semifinal appearance, but their taking the air out of the basketball helped get Clemson back into the game. Two Rodney Hood free throws with 3.8 seconds remaining gave Duke the 63-62 win, but they’ll need to be better against N.C. State. The other winners on Friday were top-seed Virginia and five-seed Pittsburgh, with the latter beating North Carolina and adding a quality win to its resume.
- American: No. 21 UConn eliminates top-seed No. 13 Cincinnati
Kevin Ollie’s Huskies put forth one of their best defensive efforts of the season, limiting the Bearcats to 37.9% shooting in their 58-56 win. Shabazz Napier scored 15 points and DeAndre Daniels added 14 and nine rebounds, with Ryan Boatright, Niels Giffey and Amida Brimah also contributing. UConn will play No. 5 Louisville in the title game, with the Cardinals whipping Houston 94-65 in the other semifinal.
- Atlantic 10: St. Bonaventure upsets top-seed Saint Louis
The will be a new champion in the Atlantic 10, as Jordan Gathers’ three-pointer as time expired gave the Bonnies a 71-68 win over the 18th-ranked Billikens. Mark Schmidt’s team will face Saint Joseph’s in one semifinal, with Langston Galloway’s three-pointer with 17.9 second remaining giving the Hawks the lead for good in their 70-67 win over Dayton. The other semifinal matches VCU and George Washington, with the Rams beating Richmond and GW holding off UMass.
- Big 12: Baylor moves to 10-1 in its last 11 games
Scott Drew’s Bears are playing their best basketball of the season at the right time, with their latest victory being an 86-69 whipping of Texas. Brady Heslip scored 24 points and Cory Jefferson added 20 to go along with 13 rebounds and three blocks. Baylor takes on No. 16 Iowa State in the title game.
- Big East: Providence, Creighton advance to title game
Of the two winners Providence, still fighting to lock up a spot in the NCAA tournament field, had more to lose. LaDontae Henton scored 26 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in the Friars’ 80-74 win over Seton Hall. As for the Bluejays, they continued their march with an 86-78 win over Xavier and Doug McDermott led the way with 32 points.
- Big Sky: North Dakota, Weber State move on to Saturday’s final
Weber State needed five extra minutes in their semifinal, beating Northern Colorado 66-63 in overtime. Their opponent in Saturday’s title game will be North Dakota, which beat Portland State 79-63. Davion Berry (Weber State) and Troy Huff (North Dakota) on the same court should be fun to watch.
- Big Ten: Did No. 12 Wisconsin punch Minnesota’s ticket to the NIT?
That’s the question some Minnesota fans may ask themselves in the aftermath of the Badgers’ 83-57 pasting of the Golden Gophers, and that may turn out to be the case. Next up for Wisconsin is No. 22 Michigan State, who took care of Northwestern. The first semifinal matches No. 24 Ohio State and No. 8 Michigan, with the Wolverines beating Illinois 64-63 in the first game of the day.
- Big West: Cal Poly picks off UC Irvine
One day after eliminating two-seed UCSB the Mustangs were at it again, this time beating top-seed UC Irvine 61-58. The opponent for the seven-seed in Saturday’s title game: five-seed Cal-State Northridge, which beat Long Beach State 82-77 in the nightcap. Given both teams’ records the winner is almost a lock to be headed to Dayton for the First Four.
- Conference USA: Louisiana Tech rolls over Southern Miss
The semifinals matched the four teams that finished tied atop the C-USA standings, and the game between Louisiana Tech and Southern Miss wasn’t very close with the Bulldogs winning 88-70. Louisiana Tech will take on Tulsa for the league’s automatic bid, with the Golden Hurricane holding on to beat Middle Tennessee in the other semifinal.
- MAC: Top two seeds advance to title game
Western Michigan (beat Akron in overtime) and Toledo (beat Eastern Michigan) took care of business Friday night in Cleveland, meaning that the top two seeds will play for the league’s automatic bid. What it also means is that the West Division will represent the MAC in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2004, when Western Michigan beat Kent State in the final.
- MEAC: North Carolina Central one win away
Levelle Moton’s North Carolina Central squad moved one step closer to its goal of reaching the NCAA tournament with a 68-45 win over Norfolk State. Next up for the Eagles is Morgan State, which beat Coppin State 79-64 in the other semifinal.
- Mountain West: Round three set up for Saturday night
With No. 8 San Diego State and No. 20 New Mexico splitting the regular season series, a third meeting to determine the league’s tournament champ isn’t a bad deal at all. SDSU held off UNLV 58-51, with the Lobos hanging on to beat Boise State 70-67 in the other semifinal.
- Pac-12: No. 4 Arizona, UCLA roll into title game
For some reason there was just one regular season meeting scheduled between the Wildcats and Bruins. Luckily fans will get to see a second meeting, as both Arizona and UCLA coasted into the title game with commanding wins Friday night. Arizona clamped down on Colorado in the first game, with UCLA blitzing Stanford right out of the gates in the nightcap.
- SEC: Top four seeds advance
Missouri had a chance to enhance its profile with a win over No. 1 Florida, but a 12-0 second half run sparked by Scottie Wilbekin put an end to that drama. The Gators will face Tennessee in one semifinal, with Kentucky and Georgia meeting in the other. Florida/Kentucky, round three? Maybe, but the Volunteers have played well recently.
- Southland: Stephen F. Austin wins 27th straight game
It was close down the stretch but the Lumberjacks made the plays they needed to make late in order to hold off Northwestern State, 85-78. Standing in between SFA and a trip to the NCAA tournament is Sam Houston State, which beat two-seed Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in the other semifinal.
- SWAC: Texas Southern, Prairie View A&M advance to title game
The best team in the SWAC eligible for postseason play, Mike Davis’ Tigers are one win away from the NCAA tournament after beating Alabama State 73-61. Next up for Aaric Murray and company is eight-seed Prairie View A&M, which upset Alabama A&M 55-49 in the other semifinal.
- Sun Belt: Xavian Rimmer leads Louisiana past UT Arlington
Xavian Rimmer scored 24 points and dished out three assists in the Ragin’ Cajuns’ 91-85 win over the Mavericks, setting up a semifinal matchup with two-seed Western Kentucky. The other semifinal will match top-seed Georgia State and four-seed Arkansas State, with the Red Wolves coming off of a four-overtime win.
- WAC: Idaho eliminates top-seed Utah Valley
Stephen Madison scored 25 points as five-seed Idaho beat the regular season champions 74-69. Idaho will meet preseason favorite New Mexico State in the title game, with the Aggies beating Bakersfield 69-63.