College Hoops Week in Review: And we’re off!

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Games of the Week: George Mason 92, Rhode Island 90 OT

It was a wild one in at the Patroit Center on Friday night. With both Jamil Wilson of Rhode Island (38 points) and Ryan Pearson from George Mason (28 points, 12 boards) were in a groove offensively, the two teams saw the lead change hands 22 times — with 17 ties thrown in for good measure — in an exciting, back-and-forth game. Mason erased a 10 point first half deficit to tie the game at the half. After opening up a five point lead early in the second half, GMU saw Rhode Island go on a 12-2 run to go ahead by five. The Patriot responded with a 9-1 spurt of their own.

George Mason eventually took an 80-77 lead with 39 seconds left when sophomore Sherrod Wright cleaned up a miss by Vertrail Vaughns. But at the other end, Jonathon Holton — who was 0-5 from long range at that point in the game — buried a three to force the extra period. In overtime, GMU scored six of the first seven points, taking an 86-81 lead, but Wilson responded with a 7-1 run of his own. Pearson game GMU the lead back and after trading baskets, he hit a free throw with 11 seconds left to take a 92-90 lead. URI used their hot hand Wilson as a decoy, but Orion Outerbridge missed a would-be buzzer-beating three.
Evansville 80, Butler 77 OT: Butler somehow always seems to be involved in games with weird endings. Everyone will remember the strange finish to Butler’s upset of Pitt in last year’s NCAA Tournament, but do you remember when Butler beat Xavier when the clock stopped for 1.2 seconds? Believe it or not, Butler may have topped that with the way they lost to Evansville on Saturday evening. After blowing a 12 point second half lead, Butler fouled Colt Ryan with 0.9 seconds left and a one point lead. But Ryan missed the first before making the second shot, tying the game.

On the ensuing inbounds, Butler threw the ball the length of the court to Andrew Smith who made the catch and laid the ball in at the buzzer. The only problem? The refs said the lay-in came after the buzzer, but that he was fouled with 0.2 seconds left on the clock. Smith would proceed to miss both free throws and Evansville won the game in overtime when Chrishawn Hopkins failed to get a shot off to try and tie the game. For a more in-depth look at the controversy involved in the finish, we wrote about it here.

Player of the Week: Nurideen Lindsay, St. John’s

St. John’s may not have played a murder’s row schedule in the first week of the season, but the youthful Johnnies were tested. They dug themselves a big hole against William & Mary and a bigger hole against Lehigh before coming back and winning both of those games. Lindsay played a huge role in both of those comebacks, getting 15 of his 19 points in the second half against W&M and finishing with 15 points against Lehigh. Lindsay’s best game of the week came against UMBC. He finished one assist shy of a triple-double with 15 points, 10 boards and nine assists.

For the week, Lindsay finished with averages of 16.3 ppg, 4.7 apg and 4.7 rpg. He also added 3.3 spg while shooting a crisp 50% from the field. Lindsay is a slippery penetrator. He’s got a crafty handle and while he doesn’t have blazing speed, he’s quick and understands how to change speeds. He’s a good finisher when he gets into the paint and, at least against some mid-major competition, was able to avoid getting his shot blocked while drawing fouls. He still has plenty of room to improve — Lindsay turned the ball over 10 times in the three games while shooting 0-7 from three and just 15-27 (55.6%) from the line — but what makes him so important to the Steve Lavin’s team is he is one of the only guys that is capable of getting his own shot.
The All-They-Were-Good-Too Team

G: Tray Woodall, Pitt: The talk of the Panthers coming into the season was their front line and Ashton Gibbs, but Woodall was the star of the first two games. He averaged 21.0 ppg, 10.0 apg and 6.5 rpg while committing just six turnovers and hitting 9-17 from beyond the arc.

G: Allen Crabbe, Cal: Most outlets had Allen Crabbe pegged as an up-and-coming star, and he did nothing to dispute that notion through two games. Crabbe averaged 22.5 ppg in two blowout wins, hitting 9-17 from beyond the arc.

F: Dominic Cheek, Villanova: Cheek is an important piece for the Wildcats if he can become a consistent scorer on the wing. We know about his defensive acumen (he had three steals), but his 27 points and 5-8 shooting from beyond the arc was a pleasant surprise for Nova fans.

F: Ryan Pearson, George Mason: The Patriots big man went for 28 points and 12 boards in an overtime win over Rhode Island on Friday night.

C: John Henson, North Carolina: In a 2-0 week for the Heels, Henson finished with averages of 16.0 ppg, 9.5 rpg and 5.5 bpg while shooting 66.7% from the floor. He even showed off a turnaround jumper in the win over UNC-Asheville.

Bench: Nathaniel Lester, Hofstra (33 points in a win over Long Island; Jamil Wilson, Rhode Island (38 points in a loss to George Mason); Trae Golden, Tennessee (29 points, 9 assists in a win over UNC Greensboro); Robbie Hummel, Purdue (21 points in his return to the court); Eric Atkins, Notre Dame (27 points, 6 assists, 6-7 FGs, 12-12 FTs in a win over MVSU); Dorian Finney-Smith, Virginia Tech (10 points, 16 boards, 5 assists, 5 blocks in Tech debut); CJ Wilcox, Washington (20.5 ppg in a 2-0 start); Arnett Moultrie, Mississippi State (16.3 ppg, 12.7 rpg in three games this week); J’Covan Brown, Texas (28 points, 8 assists, 1 turnover in a win over Boston U.); Kendall Marshall, North Carolina (15 assists, 1 turnover against UNC-Asheville)

Team of the Week: Cleveland State

The Vikings were a bit of an afterthought heading into this season. That’s generally what happens when you are a mid-major program and you lose a player as talented and important to your team as Norris Cole. But Gary Waters’ team did a fine job introducing themselves to the country on Sunday afternoon, as they went into Memorial Coliseum and bullied Vanderbilt into a 71-58 victory. D’Aundray Brown led the way for the Vikings, finishing with 18 points and 8 boards, but he got plenty of help, as five of his teammates scored between seven and 11 points.

But the offensive end of the floor isn’t what won this game for Cleveland State. It was their defensive pressure. Vanderbilt, a top 10 team known for having a powerful offensive attack, had more possessions end in a turnover (20) than in a made field goal (18). John Jenkins, the Commodores all-american, was hounded the entire game, shooting 5-14 from the floor (2-8 from three). Jeff Taylor had just nine points, shooting 3-8 from the field and turning the ball over six times. All in all, it was an impressive performance from the Vikings, one that will likely get them into the conversation — along with Butler and Detroit — for the favorite in the Horizon.
Teams deserving a shoutout:

Akron: Akron made a statement on Wednesday night, as they went into Starkville and handled Mississippi State fairly easily. Quincy Diggs led the way with 19 points, but it was an all-around team effort that got the job done. Much like Cleveland State’s win over Vanderbilt, it was work on the defensive end that got the job done.

Cal: The Bears looked quite impressive in their two games this week. After running through UC-Irvine with a dominating first-half performance, Cal used a 21-0 run to close out the first half against George Washington on Sunday night. Jorge Gutierrez and Allen Crabbe have been as good as advertised, but it was the play of Justin Cobbs (16 points, five assists on Sunday) and Brandon Smith (seven points, six assists on Friday) that was promising.

St. John’s: The Johnnies went 3-0 this week, and while all three games were against overmatched opponents, there is reason to be excited about this team. They are young and, obviously, will go through some growing pains, but the fact that they were able to come back from halftime deficits twice was promising. God’sgift Achiuwa and Moe Harkless have been promising up front and when the Johnnies press is clicking, they are a dangerous team.

Five Thoughts:

The SEC stinks again?: Vanderbilt was supposed to be a Final Four contender this year, but they were manhandled by Cleveland State at home on Sunday. Mississippi State was a team that everyone thought could finally turn the corner this year, but with Renardo Sidney still out of shape — and now injured, apparently — that looks like wishful thinking. The loss to Akron on Wednesday confirms that. Now to be fair, those are the only two league teams that lost this week and Cleveland State and Akron are both legitimate contenders to make a run at an NCAA Tournament bid this year. But to get an idea of the significance of two of the league’s top five teams having a mark in the loss column right now, only three other high-major teams do as well — Michigan State (who lost to North Carolina), Oregon (who lost to Vanderbilt) and UCLA (who lost to Loyola Marymount).

Good start for the MVC: Missouri State is in full-on rebuilding mode this year. That’s what happens when you lose six of your seven rotation players and overhaul the coaching staff. But that doesn’t mean the Bears won’t be competitive in the Missouri Valley this year. On the one hand, they bring back Kyle Weems, the reigning MVC player of the year. On the other hand, they opened the season with a 22 point win at Nevada. Making the win even more impressive? Weems had four points on 2-12 shooting. Northern Iowa was impressive as well. Old Dominion is in a bit of a rebuilding year as well, but the Panthers went into Richmond and beat the Monarchs by 17 despite the semi-surprising return of Kent Bazemore. Now if we could only forget about the loss Southern Illinois suffered against (wait for it) Ohio Dominican. Yeah, they’re D-II.

UConn’s strength is their back court?: That’s at least the way that it looks after UConn’s first game against Columbia. Jeremy Lamb lived up to the all-american hype, putting up 30 points on 11-17 shooting, while Shabazz Napier was just as good, finishing with 21 points, eight assists and six boards. The two combined for six steals. Alex Oriakhi and Andre Drummond, on the other hand, combined for just two points and nine rebounds. Drummond attempted a single shot in 12 minutes. As good as Napier and Lamb looked, they played a 36 and 38 minutes, respectively, against Columbia. The Huskies are going to need more balance — and depth — this season.

Duke and Belmont: Duke has some major issues they need to address this season. Austin Rivers is ridiculously talented but will make plenty of freshman mistakes this year. Seth Curry is a knockdown shooter, as if Andre Dawkins, but the best point guard — and perimeter defender — on the roster is Tyler Thornton. How does Coach K get him into the lineup? Duke’s big men have put up some solid numbers early, but are we ready to assume that the Plumlees are more than just the Plumlees and Ryan Kelly is better than a sixth or seventh man? But more than anything, what you should have taken out of Belmont’s one-point loss to Duke at Cameron Indoor is that the Bruins are going to be a team to reckon with in March. In other words, Belmont is legit. Memphis, you have been warned.

Who is the best team in the Pac-12?: It certainly doesn’t look like UCLA at this point. The Bruins looked awful in a loss to Loyola Marymount, as Josh Smith is clearly not in shape and their guards look better suited to playing at Cal. State Northridge. Arizona is dealing with their fair share of issues as well. They struggled against Valparaiso and Duquense before having to come back from a double digit deficit against Ball State. The Wildcats lack an interior presence and are trying to identify their go-to scorer and starting point guard; Josiah Turner lost his starting job after missing a shootaround and didn’t play on Sunday against Ball State. Oregon’s loss at Vanderbilt looks worse after Vandy lost to Cleveland State, and Washington has struggled against two inferior opponents. That leaves Cal. So are the Bears really the favorite in the Pac-12?

Matchups of the Week (all times eastern):

– 11/14 7:00 pm: UCF @ Florida State
– 11/14 8:00 pm: Oakland @ Alabama
– 11/14 9:00 pm: Detroit @ Notre Dame
– 11/14 10:00 pm: Nevada @ UNLV
– 11/15 12:00 am: Washington State @ Gonzaga
– 11/15 12:00 pm: Belmont @ Memphis
– 11/15 2:00 pm: SDSU @ Baylor
– 11/15 7:00 pm: Champions Classic — Duke vs. Michigan State and Kansas vs. Kentucky
– 11/15 8:00 pm: Florida @ Ohio State
– 11/15 8:00 pm: Bucknell @ Vanderbilt
– 11/16 9:00 pm: Long Beach State @ Pitt
– 11/17 1:00 pm: Purdue vs. Iona
– 11/17 7:00 pm: Texas A&M vs. Mississippi State
– 11/19 2:00 pm: Louisville @ Butler
– 11/19 6:30 pm: Vanderbilt vs. NC State

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

Kansas and Kansas State end rivalry game in fight

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Kansas and Kansas State erupted into a fight on Tuesday night.

The Jayhawks were closing out an 81-60 Big 12 home win over their in-state rivals. Things got heated when the buzzer sounded.

Kansas forward Silvio De Sousa threw a punch and picked up a chair during the chaos. It’s difficult to pinpoint specific things from there. Police, security and team personnel stepped in to clear up the melee.

It’s one of the uglier incidents in recent memory for the heated Kansas state rivalry.

It’s been a wild night in college basketball. Illinois’ Alan Griffin stepped on Purdue’s Sasha Stefanovic and was ejected. This is yet another bad incident that doesn’t involve basketball.

We’re definitely going to see suspensions out of this Kansas and Kansas State fight. It will depend on what the Big 12 is able to see during its investigation. The conference will try to track down as much evidence as possible to see how this started and who instigated things further.

Kansas and Kansas State have some recent history during this rivalry. Bill Self and Kansas forward Jamari Traylor had a difficult time with a court storm after Kansas State won on its home floor five years ago. But that was more of a student-related incident instead of the two teams starting a fight.

No. 3 Kansas improves to 15-3 overall and 5-1 in the Big 12 with the win. Christian Braun paced the Jayhawks with 20 points. Devon Dotson added 18 points while Udoka Azubuike had a double-double with 10 points and 14 rebounds.

A clearly-frustrated Kansas State dropped to 8-10 and 1-5 in the Big 12 as the rebuilding season continues.

These two teams will meet again in the Octagon of Doom on Feb. 29. The fight in the first matchup will be something to monitor as Kansas could still be fighting for a Big 12 title or No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

Illinois’ Alan Griffin ejected for stepping on Purdue player

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Referees ejected Illinois’ Alan Griffin for stepping on Purdue’s Sasha Stefanovic on Tuesday night. The Boilermakers were hosting No. 24 Illinois in a heated Big Ten clash. The ejection happened midway through the first half when Griffin intentionally stepped on Stefanovic.

Griffin turned to run back on defense and clearly stepped on Stefanovic while he was on the ground. Attacking the basket and not getting a call, Stefanovic was on the ground when Griffin stepped on his chest.

Before the ejection, Griffin was scoreless.

A 6-foot-5 sophomore, Griffin is a key reserve during Illinois’ resurgent season. Playing 17.9 minutes per game, Griffin is an adequate three-pointer shooter and good rebounder from the wing.

Potentially facing a suspension for his actions, Griffin’s potential absence is something to monitor.

Following an important Big Ten road win for No. 24 Illinois, head coach Brad Underwood spoke out against Griffin’s actions.

 

Walter McCarty dismissed as Evansville head coach

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Walter McCarty was fired as Evansville’s head coach on Tuesday night.

The school officially announced the decision after additional reports of alleged misconduct. On administrative leave since Dec. 26, McCarty was under investigation for Title IX violations.

Bennie Seltzer will remain interim head coach.

“While the investigation of potential Title IX violations will continue under University policies, UE has decided that, based on the facts uncovered thus far, it is necessary to terminate Mr. McCarty’s employment immediately,” the release said.

“There is no place at UE for any behavior by any University employee or student that jeopardizes the safety and security of others,”

The statement also said McCarty received “warnings last year regarding inappropriate off-court behavior with members of the campus community.”

The 45-year-old McCarty was in his second season with the Purple Aces. After an 11-21 finish in the first season, Evansville had a promising 9-4 start. Evansville made national news when the beat No. 1 Kentucky at Rupp Arena earlier this season.

Player of the Year Power Rankings: Powell vs. Pritchard vs. Howard vs. Toppin

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At this point, I do feel like we have reached a point where there is finally a top tier in the College Basketball Player of the Year race.

Myles Powell. Payton Pritchard. Markus Howard. Obi Toppin. That’s the order that I have it in, but there is a strong and legitimate argument for all four to be No. 1 on this list. I wouldn’t call any of them wrong.

This doesn’t mean that the players from outside those ranks cannot win the award — it is so wide open this year, anyone with a couple of big weeks will be in the mix — but as of this moment in time, those are the likely favorites.

Anyway, here is the definitive Player of the Year power rankings:

1. MYLES POWELL, Seton Hall

Stats: 22.4 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 2.3 apg, 34.9 3PT%

Powell had his best week of the season last week, averaging 29.0 points — including 21.0 points in the second half — as he led the Pirates to a pair of come-from-behind wins at Butler and at Saint John’s. It took Powell a while to get to this point, as he dealt with an ankle injury and a concussion, but there is no questioning the fact that he is the leader and the go-to guy for a Seton Hall team that is currently sitting at No. 10 in the AP poll and in sole possession of first place in the Big East.

And here’s the ironic part in all of this: It took a Powell injury for Seton Hall to really find themselves as a team. They made their leap on Dec. 19th, when the Pirates beat Maryland at home without Powell in the lineup. That’s when the supporting cast found their confidence. That’s when Seton Hall became a team, not just a bunch of guys playing next to Myles Powell.

2. PAYTON PRITCHARD, Oregon

Stats: 19.5 ppg, 5.7 apg, 4.4 rpg, 41.2 3PT%

No one in college basketball has had more, or bigger, moments this season. He scored 19 of his 23 points in the second half and overtime, including 15 in the final five minutes, in a win at Michigan. He had 16 points and six assists in a come-from-behind win against Seton Hall in the Battle 4 Atlantis. He hit a number of big shots late as Oregon knocked off Memphis in November, the only game against a quality opponent that James Wiseman played. Then there was Saturday’s game at Washington, when Pritchard hit a 30-footer to tie the game and force overtime then made a pair of big shots in the extra frame, including this ridiculous game-winner:

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Payton Pritchard called game!!!!!!

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He has carried the Ducks this season. He’s the reason this team is a top ten team.

3. MARKUS HOWARD, Marquette

Stats: 28.2 ppg, 2.9 apg, 43.1% 3PT, 9.8 3PAs

The numbers themselves are ridiculous.

Howard is leading the nation in scoring at 28.2 points. He’s shooting better than 43 percent from three on nearly 10 threes attempted per game. He’s doing it while posting a significantly higher offensive rating than Myles Powell and a significantly higher usage rate than Payton Pritchard.

To put his season into context, there is one other high-major player since 1992 that has made better than 42 percent of his threes while shooting more than nine threes per game: J.J. Redick during his college basketball Player of the Year season in 2005-06. Stephen Curry did the same during the 2007-08 season, when he led Davidson to within one shot of the Final Four.

Markus Howard has been the most lethal offensive weapon in college basketball, and if Marquette was a title contender this season, he’s easily be No. 1 on this list.

4. OBI TOPPIN, Dayton

Stats: 19.6 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 35.3% 3PT

What Obi Toppin provides for Dayton cannot be overstated. He’s putting up massive numbers this season, and he’s doing it while being the piece that makes everything Anthony Grant wants to run work so well. The breakdown below explains it all:

The thing that’s tough about placing Toppin on this list is that he is not the go-to guy for Dayton. Jalen Crutcher is going to be the player that takes and makes all of the big shots. See: Kansas, when he forced overtime, and Saint Louis, when he won the game in overtime.

But the reason Dayton is in a position to do things like take Kansas to overtime, get ranked in the top ten and have a shot at winning a national title is because of what Toppin opens up for them every possession other than the final one.

He may not have the moments we all remember, but Dayton is as good as they because of him. That matters.

5. LUKA GARZA, Iowa

Stats: 22.9 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 1.6 bpg

Garza has been relentless this season, and he is absolutely one of the most improved players in the country. The reason that he’s just outside the top four, for me, is because of the defensive side of the ball. I talk through that more in this piece.

6. CASSIUS WINSTON, Michigan State

Stats: 18.1 ppg, 6.1 apg, 2.4 rpg

Winston has been really, really good this year. He has not been quite as good as expected — he was the consensus preseason college basketball player of the year — and neither has Michigan State, which hurts him a bit. I think he’ll be back in the mix by the time the season ends, particularly if the Spartans play their way back into being one of the nation’s elite teams.

7. JARED BUTLER, Baylor

Stats: 16.1 ppg, 3.1 apg, 1.5 spg, 38.1% 3PT

It’s getting harder and harder to ignore the fact that the sophomore point guard is the best player on the best team in college basketball. That’s worth something in the Player of the Year race.

8. JORDAN NWORA, Louisville

Stats: 19.6 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 42.7% 3PT

On the plus side, Louisville once again looks like a team that can win the ACC, get to a Final Four and win a national title now that David Johnson has taken the point guard reins, and Nwora is unquestionably the best player on the roster. On the down side, he really hasn’t shown up in Louisville’s biggest games. That’s a delicate balance.

9. VERNON CAREY, Duke

Stats: 17.3 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 1.8 bpg

Carey looked like a much bigger player in this race before Duke lost two games last week in large part due to the ability to Miami and Louisville to expose Carey on the defensive end of the floor. Coach K has fixed issues like this before. We’ll see what he has up his sleeve this year.

10. MALACHI FLYNN, San Diego State

Stats: 16.5 ppg, 5.0 apg, 3.6 rpg, 40.4% 3PT

Malachi Flynn is the best player, the leader, of the only team in college basketball that remains undefeated. And the reason they are still undefeated is because of him: It was his three that allowed the Aztecs to avoid defeat at the hands of San Jose State back in December.

Three Things To Know: Shaka’s seat heats up, Baylor survives, Virginia doesn’t

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It was a slow night for college hoops on Monday, but there is still plenty to talk about after some weird results.

Here are the three things you need to know:

1. SHAKA’S SEAT IS HEATING UP

The Shaka Smart era at Texas feels like it has hit an inflection point.

On Monday night, the Longhorns went into Morgantown, W.V., and found themselves wishing Country Roads would take them home before the first half came to a close. No. 14 West Virginia, coming off of blowout loss at Kansas State on Saturday, used a 28-2 run over a 10 minute stretch in the first half to turn a 15-13 lead into a 43-15 blowout. They would go on to win 97-59.

The loss dropped Texas to 12-6 on the season and 2-4 in the Big 12. The Longhorns certainly are not out of it just yet — three of their four Big 12 losses came against teams that currently rank in the top six at KenPom — but it’s getting harder and harder to defend the situation that’s brewing in Austin. Texas has now lost four of their last six and five of their last eight. They are in danger of missing the NCAA tournament for the second straight season and for the third time in four years.

But perhaps the biggest concern is that the Longhorns just don’t seem to be growing as a program. Last year, while Texas ended up missing the tournament, they finished as a top 25 team on KenPom and made a run all the way to the NIT title. It’s worth noting that before the tournament started, they were already a top 30 team on KenPom; their ranking wasn’t skewed by getting hot for three weeks in a tournament no one cares about.

The problem this season is that there has been no progression. Texas has been a program under Shaka that has hung their hat on defense, but this is the worst defensive team he has had in his tenure. That becomes even more of an issue when you factor in that they cannot score. They’re 111th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency, which is what happens when your offense is, essentially, a spread ball-screen into a contested three.

KenPom has Texas favored to win just three more games the rest of the season. They’re projected to finish 17-14 overall and 7-11 in the Big 12.

That’s not good.

2. NO. 1 BAYLOR SURVIVES

It looked like Baylor was going to cruise to a pretty easy win at home against Oklahoma, but the Sooners had other ideas. They hung around long enough in the second half to make things interesting late. Oklahoma hit back-to-back threes in a 40 second span to cut a 59-51 lead to 59-57 with 41 seconds left, and after Baylor couldn’t find a way to score on their next possession, Austin Reaves cut off a 3-on-1 break to flare to the corner and fire up a wide-open, go-ahead three with less than five seconds left.

He missed.

Baylor won.

And No. 1 lived to fight another day.

3. VIRGINIA LOSES AGAIN

The reigning national champions lost for the fourth time in their last five games on Monday night, this time falling at home against N.C. State, 53-51.

Like Oklahoma, Virginia had a shot to win the game at the buzzer, as N.C. State fouled up three and then missed free throws of their own at the other end. But Virginia is the 346th-best three-point shooting team in the country for a reason, and Casey Morsell missed the game-winner as time expired.

At this point, it’s getting harder to see how Virginia is going to find a way to play their way into the NCAA tournament.