Game of the day: Wichita State 69, Bradley 49
The No. 2 ranked Shockers had little trouble notching their 30th regular season victory, dispatching Bradley summarily and with ease as Ron Baker led all scorers with 15 points and the team converted 48 percent from long-range. Gregg Marshall’s squad is now the first in men’s college basketball history to win that many games before their conference tournament. Next stop is win number 31, which could come Saturday against Missouri State, and then potentially wins 32 through 34 during Arch Madness.
1) Minnesota 95, Iowa 89: Not to discount Minnesota’s victory — we saw what the ideal Richard Pitino-Gopher offense, one predicated on constant ball movement, might resemble in tonight’s contest — but Iowa is struggling to get any stops. During the past two Iowa games, both losses, the team has allowed a shocking 1.29 points per possession. Part of the problem is Melsahn Basabe’s absence; the big is suffering from an illness, and played only one minute against Wisconsin (and didn’t take the court versus Minnesota). The Hawkeyes need Basabe as a rim deterrent and also for his defensive rebounding prowess — his defensive rebounding percentage leads the team by a wide margin.
2)Saint Joseph’s 79, Dayton 53: As Rob Dauster detailed in Bubble Banter, Dayton’s tournament hopes took a hit, but since the squad has the hardest remaining A10 schedule — games against UMass, Saint Louis, and Richmond — there are still ample opportunities for the Flyers to earn an at-large bid. This was a crucial win for the Hawks, for sure, one cemented by the play of Chris Wilson and Ronald Roberts Jr.: the duo was 16 of 19 from the field.
3)Xavier 65, St. John’s 53: Xavier’s path to the NCAA tournament got a bit easier while St. John’s route got significantly more problematic. The middle of the Big East, to quote a much better wordsmith than myself, has spent the past several weeks cannibalizing itself. Four teams, a group that includes SJU and XU, are fighting for the Big East’s bid scraps. Up to two teams, and that is a generous estimtion, will make the NCAAs, and even with the Musketeers victory, Chris Mack’s team still needs at least one conference tournament win (this is assuming they win out against Creighton and Villanova).
1) Charles Buggs: “He can do some things that you are going to go, ‘Wow’, and he shows you tonight.” This was how Pitino addressed the play of his freshman. Buggs, a forward, had scored just five points this season before tonight’s 13 point eruption.
2) Desi Washington: In early January, the Saint Peter’s guard hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to defeat Fairfield, 56-55. Washington must really not like the Stags because he added an encore, knocking down a game-winner with seconds remaining to help boost the Peacocks again, 63-62, over their MAAC opponent.
3) Jalen Reynolds: Even though St. John’s boasted a frontcourt chock full of top 100 recruits and junior college All-Americans, the Red Storm had no answer for Xavier’s redshirt freshman. Reynolds scored 17 points and grabbed 15 rebounds, thoroughly dismantling SJU’s interior.
1) D’Angelo Harrison: The junior guard isn’t a shooter — he is a volume scorer who will have off games. Unfortunately for Steve Lavin and his staff, Harrison’s down night came at the possibly the worst time. The guard was nearly blanked from the field, making one of his eleven field goal attempts, and his point production was sorely missed in a game SJU needed to win in order to safely dance.
2) KJ McDaniels: Clemson was set to win three in a row, a feat the Tigers hadn’t accomplished since mid-January, but somehow dropped a contest to a struggling Wake Forest team. McDaniels, Clemson’s top offensive threat, could not find any semblance of offensive rhythm, and scored ten points on eleven attempts.
3) Wesley Iwundu: The freshman wing had a solid game — 12 points — and Kansas State won a game they needed to take to keep up with the rest of the Big 12, but Iwundu cracked this list for his Andrew Bogut-like performance from the free throw line, pretending to high-five invisible teammates after a made freebie.