PLAYER OF THE DAY: Markis McDuffie, Wichita State
Duke’s Zion Williamson has a really good argument to be in this spot, as he went for 31 points and 11 rebounds and scored the game-winning basket in Duke’s ACC semifinal win over North Carolina. But since he was one of the choices Thursday we’ll spread the wealth a bit and go with Wichita State’s Markis McDuffie, who accounted for 34 points, 12 rebounds, three steals, two assists and two blocked shots in the Shockers’ 80-74 win over Temple.
There are two potential bid thieves lurking in the American, with both Wichita State and and host Memphis in the semifinals. And with Gregg Marshall’s group having won six straight and 11 of its last 13 games, Cincinnati will be dealing with a team that is playing its best basketball of the season at the right time Saturday afternoon.
TEAM OF THE DAY: Minnesota
Facing Purdue for the second time in ten days, Richard Pitino’s team had the opportunity to strengthen its standing with regards to an at-large bid. The Golden Gophers did just that, beating the Boilermakers 75-73 to advance to the Big Ten semifinals where they’ll face Michigan Saturday afternoon. Jordan Murphy scored 27 points to go along with eight rebounds and four assists, and Minnesota limited Carsen Edwards to 4-for-17 shooting from the field.
ONIONS OF THE DAY: Andrew Nembhard, Florida
One of the bubble teams that improved its NCAA tournament profiles Friday was Florida, which beat top-seed LSU 76-73 in the first SEC quarterfinal of the day. Nembhard’s three-pointer with one second remaining, which came 13 seconds after LSU’s Naz Reid tied the game with a triple of his own, was the difference.
Florida State: Leonard Hamilton’s Seminoles controlled the action for much of their ACC semifinal matchup with Virginia, winning by the final score of 69-59. Florida State controlled the glass, shot 57% from the field and its reserves outscored Virginia’s by a 28-8 margin. Regardless of what happens against Duke Saturday night, keep an eye on where Florida State is seeded on Sunday. This group can do some damage.
Duke: As noted above, Zion Williamson’s put-back was the difference in the Blue Devils’ thrilling win over North Carolina. But it’s worth noting that Duke received valuable contributions from Jordan Goldwire and Antonio Vrankovic when the game could have gotten away from them in the first half. For a team that isn’t the deepest, that could be the most important development moving forward.
San Diego State: For the second consecutive year Nevada has failed to reach the Mountain West final as the top seed, with Brian Dutcher’s Aztecs pulling away for the 65-56 win in Las Vegas. The Aztecs, who won the automatic bid last year, is now one win away from a repeat. Utah State, which whipped Fresno State in the other semifinal, will be the opponent. And if San Diego State wins, a bubble will burst.
Oregon: For all the jokes made about the Pac-12 possibly being a one-bid league earlier this season, the conference is now 40 minutes away from getting three teams in. Dana Altman’s Ducks outlasted 2-seed Arizona State 79-75 in overtime to advance to Saturday’s final, where top-seed Washington will be the opposition.
Iowa State: The Cyclones haven’t been the most consistent team this season, but Steve Prohm’s team advanced to the Big 12 title game with a 63-59 win over top-seed Kansas State. Marial Shayok scored 21 points and Michael Jacobson grabbed 16 rebounds for Iowa State, which will face three-seed Kansas Saturday night in Kansas City.
Michigan and Kentucky: Not only did both teams win their respective conference tournament openers in comfortable fashion, with the Wolverines handling Iowa and the Wildcats beating Alabama, both welcomed back key contributors that missed time due to injury. Michigan’s Charles Matthews played 25 minutes against Iowa, and while he didn’t shoot the ball well (1-for-9 from the field, five points) the redshirt senior’s defense was key. As for Kentucky, Reid Travis accounted for eight points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots in 23 minutes of action.
Rhode Island: The Rams’ dream of a third straight NCAA tournament appearance isn’t dead yet, as URI beat Atlantic 10 regular season champion VCU 75-70 in an Atlantic 10 quarterfinal. Another winner here: the Atlantic 10, which will be a two-bid league with VCU now in need of an at-large bid.
Admiral Schofield: Instead of listing Mississippi State’s Robert Woodard in the category below, we’ll be positive and list Schofield as a winner for what he did in the second half of the Volunteers’ 83-76 win over the Bulldogs.
Nebraska: The Cornhuskers’ stay at the Big Ten tournament came to an end Friday, as Tim Miles’ depleted team ran out of gas down the stretch in a quarterfinal loss to Wisconsin. And let’s just say that athletic director Bill Moos’ statement did not provide much in the way of clarity when it comes to Miles’ status moving forward. He’ll make a decision whenever Nebraska’s season comes to an end, as the team waits to see if it will receive an NIT bid.
Ohio State: Depending upon who’s asked the Buckeyes may have locked up an NCAA tournament bid with their second round win over Indiana on Thursday. Chris Holtmann’s team missed out on an opportunity to remove any doubt Friday, as it fell behind top-seed Michigan State by a significant margin before having its second half rally fall short. Ohio State may be in good shape, but the best thing for a bubble team at this point is to “live to fight another day.”
Temple: Could the American end up receiving five NCAA tournament bids? It’s certainly possible as Memphis and Wichita State are still alive. But Temple, which lost to Wichita State Friday night, will have an uncomfortable wait for Selection Sunday. And with this being Fran Dunphy’s final season at the helm, to not reach the Big Dance at this point would be crushing.
Xavier: The Musketeers survived Creighton on Thursday, and were just one stop away from knocking off Villanova in Friday’s Big East semifinals. But Eric Paschall’s follow tied the game in the final seconds of regulation, and Villanova would go on to win 71-67 in overtime. Travis Steele’s team missed out on what would have been a huge win for their NCAA tournament hopes, which could have used the boost.
Sam Houston State: The Bearkats entered the Southland tournament as the top seed after going 16-2 in conference play, with the league bracket advancing the team directly to the semifinals. Their hopes of an NCAA tournament bid slipped away Friday, as 4-seed New Orleans won 79-76 with Jorge Rosa scoring 18 points to lead the way. Sam Houston State’s loss also means that there’s one less available at-large bid in the Postseason NIT. New Orleans will face 2-seed Abilene Christian, which has yet to reach the NCAA tournament as a Division I member, in Saturday’s final.
The officials in the Seton Hall vs. Marquette game: Three ejections, 57 personal fouls, nine technicals and 85 free throws in a game the Pirates won 81-79. While the game didn’t lack for excitement, it was quite clear early on that the officials needed to do a bit more to keep things under control. They didn’t do that.
Practically every year the conversation regarding the NCAA tournament bubble is that it’s the weakest that it’s ever been, and this year is no exception. One team that finds itself in the conversation for an at-large bid is Texas, which dropped to 16-16 with its Big 12 quarterfinal loss to Kansas Thursday night.
Shaka Smart’s team is 9-15 in Quadrant 1/2 games this season, with the Longhorns’ best win coming against North Carolina on a neutral court Thanksgiving night. Ranked 37th in the NET and boasting the fifth-toughest schedule in the country, there are some numbers that work in Texas’ favor. But with a .500 record and a strength of record ranking of 57, there are numbers that work against the Longhorns as well…as is the case for any team.
Will the selection committee make history and select an at-large team with a .500 record for the first time ever? Or will a team like a Belmont (5-3 vs. Quadrant 1/2) or UNCG (4-6), which put up gaudy win totals but also don’t have as many opportunities to pick up Quadrant 1/2 victories, hear its name called on Sunday? This is a question that comes up every March regardless of the metrics used, but the Texas question makes this year’s process even more interesting.
I’m betting that at least one of the exceptional at-large candidates that hail from non-power conferences will be sent to Dayton.