Saturday night featured some more games where bubble teams bolstered their tournament prospects fairly well:
- Marcus Smart played like the Preseason All-American we all knew he was capable of doing. Except, it took him an entire half to get totally warmed up. Like this cold weather snap that has stymied most of the eastern half of the United States, Smart’s only point during the first half was one converted free throw. Even Oklahoma City Thunder megastars in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were in attendance and could not believe the comeback that the Cowboys made. Markel Brown shared scoring honors with Smart at 21 points each as OSU wiped out a 52-42 deficit by outscoring Kansas 30-13 in the final ten minutes. Oklahoma State is 19-10, 7-9 in Big 12 play but the computer rankings really like the Cowboys chances going forward. Even though Kansas had pretty much nothing to play for, since they won their 10th straight outright Big 12 Conference regular season title, Andrew Wiggins could only muster 15 points on a meager 5 of 16 shooting from the floor. The Jayhawks were held to 23 of 57, just a shade over 40 percent for the night.
- Doug McDermott continues to light up the scoreboards again. Another game high 27 points, but it was not enough as Xavier clamped down on everybody else and the Musketeers got a much needed resume boost with an impressive 75-69 win. A victory by Villanova on Sunday afternoon at home against Marquette could give the Wildcats a share of the regular season Big East title. If not, both Creighton and Villanova will be tied entering the final week of the regular season.
Kentucky’s late season shooting woes continue
- South Carolina last beat Kentucky in 2010, and without UK Coach John Calipari who winded up being ejected midway through the second half…the Gamecocks held on for dear life and pulled out a huge win. Kentucky (21-8 overall, 11-5 in the SEC) looked lethargic at times, but give them some credit for coming back after the ejection. The Wildcats made things interesting with a 28-17 run. After a three-point play by Julius Randle, Kentucky trailed 68-67 with 22 seconds left. But after being fouled at the other end, freshman Sindarius Thornwell hit two free throws for South Carolina (11-18, 4-12 in the SEC), and Alex Poythress’ attempt at a game tying three-pointer fell short. The last time South Carolina won over a Top 25 ranked team was in 2011, and if this turns out to be their last major win of the season–it was a very good one, to say the least. Kentucky shooting an abysmal 27 percent did not help their cause in any way, shape, or form.
- Other teams making a case Saturday night included VCU who upended St. Louis 67-56 to go to 22-7, but 10-4 in the Atlantic 10. Included was a road win at Virginia, who used a barrage of three-pointers to throttle Syracuse 75-56. The game was a back-and-forth affair until the Cavaliers went on a 35-16 run in the final 7 minutes and 49 seconds. In winning their first outright ACC regular season title since Ralph Sampson was a freshman way back in the Olivia Newton-John/Pretenders days of 1980-81, Virginia clinches the top seed in the always topsy-turvy ACC Tournament.
- And from the Ivy League, both Harvard and Yale won (Harvard creamed Columbia 80-47, while Yale survived on the road at Penn, 70-63). This sets up an NBC Sports Network tilt next Friday night at 7:30 p.m. Eastern time. A Harvard win will clinch another automatic berth for the Crimson. I bet somewhere in the halls of Fox Business, Melissa Francis will be screaming out, “Woo Hoo!” over her alma mater’s recent basketball success.
A very light schedule for Sunday and even Monday night, with the small exception of ESPN’s second game with Kansas State going to Oklahoma State while on ESPNU will feature North Carolina State at Pittsburgh. Many other bubble schools like BYU, Tennessee, and Missouri will be watching with closer scrutiny.
Hope to see you all then. My fingers were starting to get real tired while typing this blog, so I hope to see you sometime on Monday when I hope to upload the first 13 of the 31 conference post-season tournament schedules for your easy viewing (or listening to your favorite campus radio station) pleasure. Have a good night, everybody.