All-American Jarrett Culver had a monster outing as No. 3 seed Texas Tech cruised to a 72-57 win over No. 14 seed Northern Kentucky during a Friday afternoon NCAA tournament first-round game in the West Region.
Finishing with 29 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, Culver was efficient and dominant for the Red Raiders as they opened up the game in the second half. Only a 30-26 lead for Texas Tech at the break, the Red Raiders clamped down and used the offense of Culver and it’s No. 1 overall defense to break the game open.
The Big 12 Player of the Year had one of the best individual games of any player in the first round as he was 10-for-17 from the floor and 3-for-5 from three-point range. Big man Tariq Owens also finished in double-figures for Texas Tech with 12 points while Davide Moretti added 10 points.
Northern Kentucky (26-9) stayed in the game for a half thanks to the hot shooting of junior guard Tyler Sharpe as he finished with 23 points on 8-for-13 shooting. The Norse couldn’t generate much consistent offense outside of Sharpe, however, as Northern Kentucky shot 5-for-21 from the three-point line. Horizon League Player of the Year Drew McDonald was held to only five points on 2-for-12 shooting as he struggled to get going. Dantez Wilson (11 points) was the only other double-figure scorer for the Norse.
The Red Raiders advance to face either No. 6 seed Buffalo or No. 11 seed Arizona State in Tulsa on Sunday.
NCAA Tournament 2019: Instant Analysis West Region
The West Region has an intriguing draw with Gonzaga gaining the top seed and Michigan, a Final Four team from last season, getting the No. 2 seed. This region has some potential darkhorse Final Four team and some trendy potential upsets to keep an eye on during the first weekend.
The No. 1 seed is Gonzaga. Despite a loss to Saint Mary’s in the WCC title game, the Bulldogs still earned a No. 1 seed out west as they face the play-in winner between No. 16 seeds Fairleigh Dickinson and Prairie View A&M.
It should be a matchup of a lot of length and athleticism when No. 8 seed Syracuse and No. 9 seed Baylor collide. The health of Orange star guard Tyus Battle (hip) and Bears senior guard Makai Mason (toe) could very well decide who advances in that one.
The best lead-guard matchup of the first round goes down in Hartford with No. 5 seed Marquette and All-American Markus Howard battling OVC champion and No. 12 seed Murray State and Ja Morant. The Golden Eagles struggled down the stretch in Big East play as they went from Final Four darkhorse into a potentially-popular first-round matchup.
A dangerousNo. 4 seed could be Florida State as the Seminoles just knocked off Virginia in the ACC tournament over the weekend. Coming off of an Elite Eight appearance last season, the Seminoles could be a sleeper Final Four team out of this region. The Seminoles collide with No. 13 seed Vermont, a team that shouldn’t be taken lightly. The America East champions had a beatdown of UMBC in the conference tournament title game.
After an impressive season in the MAC in which they became a consistent top-25 team, Buffalo gets a No. 6 seed. The Bulls could get a fascinating first-round matchup as they await the winner of the play-in game between No. 11 seeds Arizona State and St. John’s. If the Sun Devils advance past Dayton, it’ll be a matchup of Bobby Hurley-coached programs as he left Buffalo for Arizona State a few years ago.
TexasTech earned the No. 3 seed out of the Big 12 following an impressive regular-season title. Although the Red Raiders made the Elite Eight last season, the roster is almost entirely different from last season. But the Red Raiders have a star in Jarrett Culver and the nation’s best defense. Northern Kentucky, the No. 14 seed, draws Texas Tech after winning the Horizon League title.
Following a disappointing regular season, Nevada is a No. 7 seed facing No. 10 seed Florida. The Wolf Pack had preseason top-10 hype but failed to deliver results in the regular season behind a loaded roster that is mostly in-tact from last season’s Sweet 16 team. The Gators needed some late wins this season to get in — most notably over LSU in the SEC tournament. Florida is dangerous but extremely inconsistent.
Rounding out the West is No. 2 seed Michigan as the Wolverines attempt to return to the Final Four. Guard Charles Matthews recently returned from injury as Michigan appears to be near full-strength heading into the Big Dance. The Wolverines face No. 15 seed Montana to open things up as the Grizzlies represent the Big Sky.
Introducing Cinderella: In first season eligible for postseason, Northern Kentucky heads to NCAA Tournament
Seeding: The Norse won 24 games and holds an RPI inside the top-100. But with only a singular win against that top-100, and the fact that Northern Kentucky had a highly-favorable journey through the Horizon League Tournament, expect the committee to slot NKU as a No. 15 seed.
Names you need to know: Drew McDonald emerged as a first-team all-Horizon League selection as a sophomore, averaging 16.5 points — shooting just under 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from three — 7.6 boards and 1.8 assists per game. Lavone Holland is a junior guard who can stuff the stat sheet, like he did with a 20-point, six-rebound, four-assist and two-steal effort in the Horizon League Tournament championship win over Milwaukee. Cole Murray, like McDonald, is another sharpshooting wing.
Stats you need to know: One: In the program’s first postseason appearance, Northern Kentucky is going to the NCAA Tournament. The university moved up from Division II in 2012.
Big wins, bad losses: The Norse ended the regular season with an 82-78 win at home against Valparaiso. While Northern Kentucky won seven of eight heading into the Horizon League Tournament, its lone loss in that span was a bad one: allowing Youngstown State to come from behind to pick up an 81-77 win. In terms of worst beating, then-No. 11 West Virginia forced 28 Northern Kentucky turnovers in a 31-point defeat.
How’d they get here?: This was the first year Northern Kentucky was eligible for the postseason, as the NCAA requires a four-year transitional period when an institution moves up from Division II to Division I. In their first postseason appearance, the Norse benefited from a host of upsets in the quarterfinals. No. 1 Oakland lost at the buzzer to Youngstown State, No. 2 Valparaiso and its league player of the year Alec Peters, lost, 43-41, to 23-loss Milwaukee. No. 6 seed UIC upset No. 3 Green Bay. With No. 10 Milwaukee reaching the tournament final, the highest seed Northern Kentucky had to beat was No. 5 seed Wright State.
Outlook: This should be a good experience for a team, and a university, that has only been a Division I member since 2012. The Norse were rolling before the start of their first postseason appearance, but you could argue that it was extended by an improbable path where they played a lower seed each round they advanced. That won’t be the case in Northern Kentucky’s next game.
How do I know you?: As a newcomer in 2012, you likely don’t.
Northern Kentucky head coach Dave Bezold will not return
Bezold has been with the Norse since 1990, first as an assistant coach and then as the head coach. He ushered the program into Division I basketball, as Northern Kentucky is in the third year of a four-year NCAA transitional period.
The head coach since the 2004-2005 season, Bezold was 194-133 in his career with the program. Bezold never found his footing at the Division I level, however, as he was only 33-54 and 21-29 in the Atlantic Sun.
Athletic director Ken Bothof released a statement.
“This is difficult given Dave’s role in our university and our community,” Bothof said. “Dave is a good man and has given much of himself to the development of the young men in our basketball program. I am grateful for his service and wish him and his family well.”
2014-2015 Season Preview: Without Mercer in the Atlantic Sun, does anyone contend with Dunk City?
For the second year in a row, an Atlantic Sun program captivated the nation in March, as Mercer defeated Duke in the Round of 64. The Bears reached the NCAA tournament after knocking off Florida Gulf Coast in the A-Sun title game, avenging a conference tournament loss from the previous season. Mercer exited the Atlantic Sun on a high note, as Bob Hoffman’s program is now a member of the Southern Conference.
Despite the departure of Mercer, one thing remains the same in 2014-2015: Dunk City will be the favorite once again. The conference’s two best guards — Bernard Thompson and Brett Comer — both reside in the FGCU back court. The three-year starters were part of the Original Dunk City back in 2013, the first No. 15 seed to reach the Sweet 16. Transfers Julian DeBose (Rice) and Brian Greene Jr. (Auburn) provide depth in the backcourt, and while the Eagles lose Eric McKnight to transfer and Filip Cvjeticanin to injury, Joe Dooley feels good about his frontline with returning Jamil Jones and Nate Hicks with newcomers Demetris Morant (a transfer from UNLV), Marc-Eddy Norelia and Eric Moeller.
Two teams that finished .500 last season could emerge as the biggest challenges to FGCU. Lipscomb has four starters back led by twin brothers Martin and Malcolm Smith. In Casey Alexander’s second season, his Bisons finished strong with eight wins in their last 11 games. North Florida has rookie of the year Dallas Moore in the back court and Beau Beech headlines a host of returnees on the interior who can help combat the loss of Travis Wallace, the team’s second leading scorer and top rebounder.
USC Upstate lost three of its top four scorers from a team that qualified for the CollegeInsider.com Tournament, but Ty Greene, one of two returning starters, can help keep Spartans in the top half of the league standings.
Perhaps the biggest concern for the Atlantic Sun is the number of programs that have left the league. In addition to Mercer, East Tennessee State and Belmont have also left the league in recent years. Those were three of the best programs in the conference.
Out: East Tennessee State, Mercer
PRESEASON ATLANTIC SUN PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Bernard Thompson, Florida Gulf Coast
The 6-foot-3 shooting guard makes up one-half of FGCU’s star-studded back court. The team’s top scorer from a season ago posted 15.1 points to go along with his 4.1 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game. He is also has a presence on the other end of the floor being named A-Sun Defensive Player of the Year as a sophomore in 2012-2013.
THE REST OF THE PRESEASON ATLANTIC SUN TEAM:
Brett Comer, Florida Gulf Coast: The Dunk City floor general is the conference’s top returning assist man. First-team all-conference selection in 2013-2014.
Dallas Moore, North Florida: The Atlantic Sun Rookie of the Year averaged 12.5 points, 2.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game, shooting 37 percent from beyond the arc.
Martin Smith, Lipscomb: The A-Sun’s top returning scorer at 15.6 points per game. Dropped 20 on FGCU twice last season.
Ty Greene, USC Upstate: The 6-foot-3 senior posted averages of 14.3 points, 3.0 boards and 3.5 assists per game.
The Atlantic Sun Conference announced on Tuesday that Northern Kentucky would be eligible for the postseason in all sports, including men’s and women’s basketball.
“This is a moment to celebrate for all current student-athletes at NKU, and the A-Sun is extremely proud to lead the way,” Commissioner Ted Gumbart said in a statement.
NKU has played at the Division I level for two season now, and while they still have to complete four years of Division I competition in order to make the NCAA tournament, the Norse will be allowed to play for an A-Sun title.
“This is tremendous news for all of our student-athletes and coaches,” said NKU Athletics Director Ken Bothof. “Since my arrival here at NKU, the ability to participate in postseason play is something that has continued to be a point of discussion. This is a wonderful opportunity to enhance the student-athlete experience. There are many conferences that discuss the importance of the student-athlete experience; the Atlantic Sun continues to show leadership in such discussions. The Commissioner and our fellow members have not only done a great job of communicating the importance of our student-athletes, they have also demonstrated a willingness to support them as well.”
The Norse went 9-21 overall and 5-13 in conference play last season, which was good for 8th in the ten-team conference.