Big South Preview

All games are on campus sites, times listed in Eastern time.

Each game can be seen on ESPN3, and also each game can be heard on the individual school’s radio network feed:

First Round, Tuesday:  7. Campbell vs. 10. Presbyterian, 7 p.m.

Winner plays 2. UNC-Asheville on Thursday, March 2.

Quarterfinal, Thursday at 3 p.m.

3. Liberty vs. 6. Radford

First Round, Tuesday:  8. Charleston Southern vs. 9. Longwood, 7 p.m.

Winner plays 1. Winthrop on Thursday.

Quarterfinal, Thursday at 9 p.m.

4. Gardner-Webb vs. 5. High Point

Fast Analysis:  Winthrop leads the conference averaging 78.3 ppg, while UNC Asheville isn’t too far behind at 77.6.  I expect the top two seeds to play for the automatic bid on Sunday, March 5.

Briefly in the Atlantic Sun, the top seeds at “Dunk City”, aka FGCU breezed to an easy victory 87-57 over Stetson.  They will next play Kennesaw State who edged out South Carolina Upstate 80-78 on a last second layup by Aubrey Williams.  That semifinal will start again at 7 p.m. on Thursday.

One hour later, it will be the second seed of Lipscomb taking on the 3 seed of North Florida.  Lipscomb cruised to a 97-66 win over New Jersey Tech, aka NJIT–while North Florida edged out Jacksonville 77-74.  The big news from that game was that a new record was set for most points scored in a single season in Atlantic Sun Conference history by the name of Dallas Moore.  His 37 points set the new mark at 775.

 

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Bracketology 101: Welcome To The Conference Tournaments

First of 32 Automatic Bids kicks off on Monday

Good morning, everyone.  Hope you all had a nice weekend (sorry about the brief pause in the podcast, some brief technical problems again).

My plan is to blog only if there are major upsets (i.e. if a lower seed knocks out a higher seed) during the early rounds.  Once the championship games take place, I will cover all 32 automatic qualifiers like a blanket–providing you with at least one key stat worth blogging about.  And if there is any school doing something historic or noteworthy, I hope to maybe do a podcast especially if the one school is going to be dancing for the very first time.

Shifting briefly from my plans for the next two weeks and focusing on the actual games themselves, there is a small note worth mentioning:

In a small change from years past, the first mid-major conference will begin their postseason tournament two days earlier with the Atlantic Sun Conference.

All games will be held on campus sites, with the winners advancing to play in the semifinal round on Thursday, March 2 and three days later will decide the automatic bid on Sunday, March 5.

First Round schedule, all games online at the Watch ESPN app and ESPN3.com.  Tip times are at 7 p.m. Eastern except for the last game listed which begins at 8.  You can also check out the individual school’s websites for live streaming radio coverage, which is also good for all 31 other conference tournaments:

  1. Florida Gulf Coast vs. 8. Stetson

4. South Carolina Upstate vs. 5. Kennesaw State

3. North Florida vs. 6. Jacksonville

2. Lipscomb vs. 7. New Jersey Tech

I will be back tomorrow to give you the brief rundown for the Big South Conference.

Last of the Unbeaten Goes Down


BYU upsets Gonzaga for the third straight year at The Kennel

It was all Gonzaga for most of the first half and Gonzaga simply fell apart when it was crunch time.

The final score was 79-71 as hustle plays made the difference for the Cougars.

Forward Erik Mika made the upset possible with 29 points and 14 rebounds on the same night that Jackie Stiles’ all-time scoring record in women’s basketball was broken in Washington.

It will now be 42 years since Indiana was the last to go undefeated in 1976.

The four Number 1 seeds should pretty much be set in stone

As I explained briefly late Saturday night in my latest podcast, it appears the four Number 1 seeds should be nailed down and marked official in a few weeks.

In order, it will be Kansas, Villanova, North Carolina, and Gonzaga to represent the Midwest, East, South, and West Regionals–this according to Joe Lunardi, expert Bracketologist at ESPN.com.

See you all on Monday with my latest Stock Up, Stock Down analysis.

Michigan, Miami, Iowa State, and Rhode Island Add to Bubble Conversation

SONG SELECTION:
Sarah Bethe Nelson, “Face The Waves” from the album Oh, Evolution

Released February 24, 2017 via Burger Records

In a span of over 25 minutes, four games sent major shockwaves to the NCAA Division One Men’s Basketball Selection Committee.

At the start of Saturday’s play, the bubble did not seem that large.  But entering the dinner hours in the East, that bubble list has grown to at least four (4) more schools looking to earn their possible invite as potential at-large suitors with only 15 days to go until the draw is released to the world.

In Rhode Island, the Rams got a pair of players that gained double-doubles:  Jared Terrell had 20 points and 10 rebounds, while Hassan Martin chipped in with 17 points and grabbed a career-high 18 boards.  Even more impressive a stat was Jarvis Garrett coming off the bench and earning all 12 of his points from the free-throw line.  Both teams shot the same percentage (35 percent), but Rhode Island made 11 more charity attempts and that proved to be the difference in a convincing second half over VCU.  The final score was 69-59, and that sets up a huge matchup with Dayton, who is currently the top seed in the Atlantic 10 Conference on Wednesday night.  VCU is one game back in second place (23-6 overall, 13-3 in A-10 play), while Rhode Island (19-9, 11-5) is now tied with the Richmond Spiders for third place.

At Ann Arbor…it was Senior Day for Dan Dakich’s son and he watched from the bench as Michigan pounded Purdue on the glass as the Boilermakers forgot to bring their shooting eyes up north losing 82-70.  Caleb Swanigan had another nice game from the field, scoring 18 points but he only ended up with five rebounds on the day.

For the Wolverines, it was a huge win to get them back in the bubble picture as they got a big effort from Moe Wagner (22 of his 24 points he scored in the first half) as he almost single-handedly overpowered Purdue’s mostly rock solid front line.  Derrick Walton also had a nice game finishing up with 17 points to go along with 11 rebounds.  Michigan as a team was also perfect from the free-throw line, hitting on all 11 of their attempts.

At Ames…Iowa State missed a bunch of free-throws towards the end of their game with Baylor, but somehow held on for a close-shave 72-69 victory.  The game featured nine ties and 13 lead changes.  Senior guard Deonte Burton was the difference as his cold-blooded three proved to be the difference with 1:17 to play.  But Johnathan Motley, a late season bloomer to be listed as a Top 20 candidate for the annual John R. Wooden Award as Player of the Year had 27 points on 12 of 19 shooting and 11 rebounds.  Baylor hosts West Virginia for second place in the Big 12 on Monday night.

Finally, in Miami…Grayson Allen sat out for Duke with an injured left ankle, but Luke Kennard and Frank Jackson did their best to keep the Blue Devils close each scoring 16 points.  However, it was the heady play of Bruce Brown who made the upset possible finishing with an impressive stat line of 25 points on 11 of 18 from the floor to go along with 4 rebounds and 4 assists in a nice 55-50 Miami upset win over Duke.  The win catapults the Hurricanes into a fourth-place tie in the Atlantic Coast Conference, as North Carolina clinched a tie for another regular season title earlier in the day.

For Duke, this was their second straight loss to a ranked team on the road.  We will see if this damages their chances to earn at least a 2 seed come Selection Sunday.  However, a pair of bigger school milestones await Coach K and one of his star players:

Amile Jefferson in the loss tied Andre Dawkins for 10th on the school’s all-time games played list at 142.  If he plays on Tuesday which is a home game against Florida State, he will tie Danny Ferry, Quinn Cook, and Nolan Smith for seventh place all-time.  Mike Kryzezewski needs only seven more wins to earn 1,000 all-time as Duke Head Coach.

The other startling stat on Senior Day for Miami was that only two seniors will be graduating in Devon Reed and Kamari Murphy.   There are twice as many graduating team managers that were honored on Saturday than there were players.

Talk about continuity, it is all flowing like a calm breeze across the Atlantic Ocean.

Please enjoy the rest of your weekend and I hope to be back again on Monday with another edition of Stock Up, Stock Down.  Take care, everybody.

 

 

Under the Microscope: Arkansas

bc

Image courtesy of microscope.com

Pint sized version of Under the Microscope to round out the Dog Days of February.

One school that was flying under the radar during the first three months is suddenly on a hot streak.  Will this bring back Hog Heaven to Fayetteville during their 1994 title run winning it all in Charlotte and subsequent repeat appearance at the 1995 Final Four in Seattle?

Please look over my capsule and comment for yourself:

Arkansas Razorbacks, Southeastern Conference

Current Record:  21-7 overall, 10-5 in conference play.

RPI:  35 according to CBSSports.com, with a 59th best Strength of Schedule

Good Wins:  February 15 at South Carolina

Bad Losses:  November 22 at Minnesota, December 29 vs. Florida, January 7 at Kentucky, and January 28 at Oklahoma State

Brief Analysis:  The Razorbacks don’t have many quality wins.  Most of their non-conference slate featured schools ranked 99th and worse in the RPI.  With them 0-3 against Top 25 teams and not winning both of their true road games in November and December, when the time comes for the Selection Committee to compare teams–Arkansas might be on the outside looking in.

Percentage Chance of Reaching the Big Dance:  10 percent, since their remaining games are mostly against bottom feeder teams in Auburn and Georgia.  The Florida game may be a tough one to figure out, but with the distinct possibility again of having maybe multiple bids coming from the Missouri Valley and also from the West Coast Conference if somehow St. Mary’s sneaks up and beats Gonzaga in Las Vegas.  Otherwise, Arkansas fans are going to have to do a lot of praying between now and March 12.

Northwestern Welsh-Ryan Arena Swan Song To Be Televised on CBS

This news might have flown briefly under the radar this past Tuesday, but the Final Four announcing team of Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery, Grant Hill, and Tracy Wolfson roaming the sidelines will be hand to cover Senior Day at Northwestern in Evanston.  The game marks the first time that Northwestern has appeared on CBS since 2011.  Figuring how historic this season has been for “Chicago’s Big Ten Team”, it is no wonder they are finally going to get some national love just nine days before the Big Dance begins for real in Dayton.

The Wildcats will take on Caleb Swanigan and Purdue during their Welsh-Ryan finale in the old configuration on Sunday, March 5 beginning at 4:30 p.m. Eastern time.  This game (being the back end of the network tripleheader) will start shortly after the Missouri Valley Conference will decide its’ automatic bid qualifier to the NCAA Tournament in St. Louis.

Just FYI–Northwestern will play the 2017-2018 season at Allstate Arena in nearby Rosemont and eventually return to campus in their renovated and upgraded digs in November 2018.

And it will be a much bigger coup for CBS Owned & Operated station WBBM, aka CBS2 as they are the home court channel for one of the rare times since the NFL returned to CBS beginning with the 1998 season.

For the record, the highest rating in WBBM history was on Sunday, January 12, 1986 during the NFC Championship game whitewash which ended in the snow against the Los Angeles Rams at the old configuration of Soldier Field.  Over 52 percent of television sets were tuned to that game, which broke the previous record from the week before in the Chicago Bears’ convincing shutout of future Super Bowl MVP Phil Simms and the New York Giants.

 

 

Butler stuns Villanova, Syracuse edges out Duke at the buzzer

SONG SELECTION:

Half Waif, song “Night Heat”

From the form/a EP, released February 24, 2017 via Cascine Records

In the Carrier Dome, as newly minted NBC Olympics host Mike Tirico extended his personal attendance streak in attending a game at Syracuse for another year…John Gillon made a mad dash three to beat Duke 68-65.  Neither team gave into the other all night.  This was a game the Orange simply had to have to get themselves off the bubble and they pretty much sealed an at-large bid.

Come Thursday or Friday, my next Under The Microscope will profile a late bloomer in Arkansas.  The Razorbacks won again on Wednesday night 86-77 over Texas A&M and are 21-7 on the season.

The second half of the ESPN doubleheader was a blowout as North Carolina raced out to a nice lead and never looked back, beating Louisville 74-63.  Justin Jackson led the way for the Tar Heels with 21 points, sharing game high scoring honors with Donovan Mitchell of Louisville.

But the biggest upset of the night was in Philadelphia…

Butler is for real

Butler never knows the word “quit”.  The Bulldogs play hard, tough, gritty defense and play so well with their fluid offensive schemes and motions.  The result was handing the defending national champions a crushing blow towards having one of the four Number 1 seeds with a convincing 74-66 win on the road at Villanova.  It was a nip-and-tuck affair before Villanova mostly settled for jump shots that wouldn’t fall and Butler played it close to the best and got the Wildcats out of rhythm.  A huge win for Butler as they are shooting for a double-bye in the upcoming Big East Conference tournament.

Other upsets of note included Providence winning at Creighton 68-66 and Minnesota stomped Maryland 89-75 as the Gophers scored a whopping 55 points in the second half to win going away in College Park.  Finally, Seton Hall edged out Xavier 71-64.

Please have a good night and I hope to do another blog and podcast soon.

Take care, everybody.