Friday, March 14, 2014

Villanova Stunned, Arkansas and California's Bubbles Popped

There was a lot of action Thursday, so I am going to break things down by conference and go through all the action that went down. Let's get started.

First the bracket, which includes a new No. 1 seed in Michigan after Villanova lost to Seton Hall and new entrants Providence and Florida State. The Seminoles are in thanks to their wins over VCU and UMass on a neutral court and good record away from home. FSU is just ahead of the Minnesota for the final spot in the bracket.

Last Four Byes: Nebraska, SMU, St. Joseph's, Dayton
Last Four In: Tennessee, Xavier, Providence, Florida State
First Four Out: Minnesota, California, BYU, Missouri
Next Four Out: Arkansas, Green Bay, Southern Miss, Illinois

Conference Rundown:
7: Big 12
6: Atlantic 10, ACC, Big Ten, Pac 12
5: American
4: Big East
3: SEC
2: Mountain West
23 one-bid leagues

Atlantic 10
The action in Brooklyn kicked off with No. 8 La Salle taking on No. 9 St. Bonaventure. Led by a double-double (19 points, ten rebounds) for Youssou Ndoye, the Bonnies defeated the Explorers 82-72. Three other Bonnies scored in double-figures. Jerrell Wright led the Explorers with 26 and Steve Zack had a double-double with 11 and 11 boards. SBU will face top seed Saint Louis in today’s quarterfinals.
The second game saw Dayton avoid a bad loss to Fordham and Devin Oliver scored 17 points and grabbed 11 boards for the Flyers, who now face a huge quarterfinal game against fellow bubble team St. Joseph’s. It’s not exactly an elimination game, but the loser will sweat a bit on Sunday. Branden Frazier had 30 points for the Rams.
Richmond advanced with a 76-64 win over Duquesne. Terry Allen had 27 and Kendall Anthony had 23 for the Spiders. Ovie Soko led the Dukes with 23. The Spiders get VCU in the quarterfinals.
Massachusetts escaped their second-round game with Rhode Island, 65-61. Maxie Esho led the Minutemen with 15 off the bench, while Xavier Munford had 24 for the Rams. UMass will now play George Washington in the quarterfinals.
Florida State kept their bubble hopes alive and officially sent Maryland to the Big Ten, winning 67-65. The Seminoles now get a shot at top-seeded Virginia in the quarterfinals. Ian Miller had 17 points and Aaron Thomas added 14 for the winners. Boris Bojanovsky had a double-double (12 points, 12 rebounds) for FSU, also. The Terps got a pair of 18-point performances from Dez Wells and Seth Allen.
Pittsburgh left no doubt in their game against Wake Forest. The Panthers may not have strong wins, but the one thing they’ve been able to do is avoid bad losses. That’s what will put Jamie Dixon’s club in the field. They now will face North Carolina in the quarterfinals thanks to 24 points from Lamar Patterson.
In the evening session, North Carolina State kept their slim hopes alive, beating Miami (FL), 67-58, as T. J. Warren scored 24 and Ralston Turner had 22 for the Wolfpack, who now will face Syracuse in the quarterfinals. Rion Brown had 22 for the Hurricanes.
Clemson needed overtime to defeat Georgia Tech, 69-65. The Tigers advance to face Duke in the quarterfinals, whom the Tigers beat back on January 11. K.J. McDaniels had 18 points for the winners. Trae Golden had 23 in a losing effort for the Yellow Jackets.
American Athletic
The early session of the American quarterfinals saw one tournament team get upset and another run circles around its opponent.
SMU is heading to its first NCAA Tournament since 1993, but they didn’t exactly leave a good impression heading into the tournament. The Mustangs were upset by No. 6 Houston, 68-64, as Jherrod Stiggers scored 19 off the bench for the Cougars and three starters scored double-digits. This loss all but assured a double-digit seed, possibly even an 11, for SMU, who were led by Markus Kennedy’s 13 points and nine rebounds.
Louisville, however, turned their quarterfinal against Rutgers into an absolute laugher, nearly TRIPLING the Scarlet Knights, 92-31. Five Cardinals scored double-figures, led by Chris Jones’ 18. Not surprisingly, not a single Rutgers player hit ten points. The defending national champs will face Houston in the semifinals. That coin flip doesn’t look so bad for Rick Pitino now, does it?
No. 1 Cincinnati got all they can handle from UCF, but came away with the 61-58 win as Sean Kilpatrick led the way again. He had 21 for the Bearcats. Isaiah Sykes also had 21 for the Knights. Cincinnati can still climb to the 2-line with a double-championship.
Connecticut beat Memphis on its home floor, and pretty convincingly, too, winning 72-53. Niels Giffey had 24 for the Huskies, who will face No. 1 Cincinnati in the semis. Chris Crawford and Joe Jackson each had ten for the Tigers, who will be in the middle of the bracket come next week.
Big 12
Iowa State continued their strong season and push toward a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament by knocking off Kansas State, 91-85, in their Big 12 quarterfinal. Melvin Ejim continued his own sensational season by scoring 24 and bringing down 10 boards and Dustin Hogue also posted a double-double (19 points, 10 rebounds). Kansas State, led by 21 from Marcus Foster, now look destined for one of the 8/9 games next Thursday or Friday.
Kansas passed their quarterfinal test against Oklahoma State, as they look to show the committee they are still a strong team even without Joel Embiid. Andrew Wiggins took the game in his own hands and scored 30 points, helping keep the Jayhawks No. 1 seed hopes alive. Oklahoma State joins Kansas State as another team likely heading to an 8/9 game next week.
Baylor is really starting to move up the bracket. This team was 2-8 at one point in Big 12 play. They’ve won nine of their last ten after a 78-73 win over Oklahoma, ending the Sooners’ hopes of a protected seed. All five Baylor starters scored in double-figures, led by Isaiah Austin’s 18. Cory Jefferson and Royce O’Neale added 11 and ten rebounds, respectively. Cameron Clark had 19 for the Sooners.
Texas ended West Virginia’s hopes with a 66-49 win. The Longhorns are still alive for a protected seed in the NCAA Tournament. They’ll face Baylor in the semifinals. Jonathan Holmes had 20 points in just 19 minutes for Texas. Brandon Watkins, a reserve, led the Mountaineers with 10.
Big East
The craziness from Wednesday night trickled over into Thursday afternoon. Sterling Gibbs hit a buzzer-beater to upset top-seed Villanova, giving Seton Hall a 64-63 victory, sending the Pirates into the Big East semifinals and likely crushing the Wildcats’ chances of getting a No. 1 seed. Eugene Teague led all scorers with 19 points for the eighth-seeded Pirates, who can play major spoiler in Madison Square Garden. As for Villanova, everyone will now bring up the famous fact “No team has ever lost their conference tournament opener and went on to win the NCAA Tournament.”
Seton Hall will take on Providence, who sent St. John’s to the NIT with a 79-74 win.  The Friars continued their surprising season as Josh Fortune scored 24 and a pair of Friars posted double-doubles, Kadeem Batts (13 and 12) and LaDontae Henton (16 and 11). D’Angelo Harrison led the Red Storm with 21 and ten. This sets up a potential bid-stealer in the Big East championship.
Doug McDermott scored 35 and is now just 20 points away from being a top-five scorer in NCAA history, leading the Bluejays to an 84-62 win over DePaul, who got 21 from Brandon Young. Creighton still has a shot at a No. 2 seed and is obviously now the favorite in the Big East tournament with Villanova out.
Xavier scored a huge win over Marquette, 68-65, keeping them in the field and giving them a shot at Creighton in the semis. Marquette’s hopes are over. Justin Martin and Semaj Christon led the Musketeers with 19 and 18, respectively. Deonte Burton had 23 for Marquette, who is likely off to the NIT.
Big Sky
No. 2 North Dakota squeaked by No. 7 Sacramento State, 79-76, to advance to the semifinals as Troy Huff led the way with 18 points.
No. 6 Northern Colorado, who spent some time atop the Big Sky standings, defeated No. 3 Northern Arizona 62-60. With the conference reseeding for the semis, the Bears will now face No. 1 seed and tournament host Weber State.
No. 5 Portland State made it a pair of lower-seed winners in Ogden, as they defeated No. 4 Montana, 70-63. The Vikings will face North Dakota in the semis. They were led by Kyle Richardson with 19 pointsm while Kareem Jamar had 20 for the Grizzlies.
Big Ten
Illinois kicked off the action in Indianapolis by ending Indiana’s run, 64-54, sending the Hoosiers to the NIT, where they likely end up in the middle of the bracket. Tracy Abrams scored 25 points for the Hoosiers, who now get a shot at No. 1 Michigan. Yogi Ferrell led Indiana with 14.
Purdue missed a chance to pull off a major upset, but instead, it is Ohio State advancing to the quarterfinals to face Nebraska, after their 63-61 victory. LaQuinton Ross had 19 points and 15 rebounds and Aaron Craft added 16 for the Buckeyes. Four Boilermakers scored ten-plus, led by 15 from A.J. Hammons. Things just haven’t been the same in West Lafayette since Robbie Hummel left.
Minnesota kept their at-large hopes alive by defeating Penn State for the second game in as many games, 63-56. With other bubble teams falling, the Gophers are now right in the mix. A huge game awaits in the quarterfinals, where they will meet Wisconsin. A win there could very well put the Gophers in the field. Austin Hollins scored 18 to lead all scorers, while D. J. Newbill dropped 16. Tim Frazier scored 11 in his final collegiate game.
Iowa is limping into the NCAA Tournament after suffering their sixth loss in seven games, as they lost to Northwestern 67-62. Iowa has fallen to a ten-seed in our projection. Tre Demps scored 20 points for the Wildcats, who advance to the quarterfinals, where they will meet Michigan State. Roy Devyn Marble had 25 for the Hawkeyes.
Big West
No. 2 UC Santa Barbara was flat-out embarrassed by No. 7 Cal Poly, scoring just 38 points. So there will not be a USCB-UC Irvine showdown in the finals. Joel Awich and Dave Nwaba each had 11 for the Mustangs.
Long Beach State advanced to the semifinals by virtue of their 66-56 win over Cal State Fullerton, as Mike Caffey scored 14 to lead the 49ers. Alex Harris led all scorers with 17 for the Titans.
Top seed UC Irvine is in the quarterfinals are their win over UC Riverside, 63-43. Will Davis II (16) and Luke Nelson (14) paced the Anteaters, who are looking for their first tournament bid ever. They will play Cal Poly in the semis. Nick Gruninger had 10 for the Highlanders.

No. 5 Cal State Northridge ended Hawaii's run, 87-84. Josh Greene had 27 and Stephan Nicks had 21 to lead the Matadors, who advance to face Long Beach State on Friday. Christian Standhardinger had 28 and nine rebounds, while Keith Shamburger had 20 for the Warriors.
Conference USA
In a game featuring two teams in their final C-USA tournament, Tulsa pounded Tulane 70-49 to advance to the semifinals. James Woodard had 24 for the Golden Hurricane.  Jay Hook led the Green Wave with 21.

Last year’s Sun Belt regular-season champion Middle Tennessee won their first tournament game as a member of C-USA, defeating Old Dominion 62-48 as Neiko Hunter had 16 points to lead the Blue Raiders. Ambrose Mosley’s 13 off the bench led the Monarchs.
Southern Miss basically won a road game, despite being the higher seed, as they beat UTEP on the Miners’ home floor, 64-56, to advance to the semifinals. Aaron Brown had 18 points for the Golden Eagles, who have a slim shot at an at-large if they fail to win the C-USA tournament. Julian Washburn had 16 for UTEP.

Louisiana Tech made sure the C-USA semis were all chalk, as they got past Charlotte, 86-65. Michale Kyser had 20 and Alex Hamilton had 19 for the Bulldogs, who will face Southern Miss in the semis. Pierria Henry and Terrence Williams each had 13 for the 49ers.

Akron knocked out their in-state rival Ohio, 83-77, to set up a semifinal showdown with No. 1 Western Michigan. Quincy Diggs (20) and Isaiah Johnson (19) led the Zips. Nick Kellogg, the son of CBS analyst Clark Kellogg, had 25 for the Bobcats.
In the other quarterfinal, Eastern Michigan upset No. 3 Buffalo, 69-64, as Karrington Ward had 19 points and seven rebounds for the Eagles, who will face No. 2 Toledo tomorrow. Buffalo was led by 26 from Joshua Freelove.
No. 3 seed Morgan State advanced to the semifinals to face No. 7 Coppin State after defeating Florida A&M, 81-68. Justin Black put up 29 points for the Bears. Jamie Adams had 26 for the Rattlers in a losing effort.
No. 4 Norfolk State eliminated Savannah State, 57-47, to advance to the semifinals where No. 1 North Carolina Central awaits. 20 points for Pendarvis Williams to lead the Spartans. Jyles Smith had 15 for the Tigers.
Mountain West
It wasn’t the dominating performance Louisville had against Rutgers, but San Diego State easily handled Utah State, 73-39, continuing their hopes at a No. 3 seed in the Dance. Xavier Thames had 15 points and seven assists for the Aztecs. For the Aggies, Jarred Shaw had 14 points.
Host UNLV knocked off Wyoming, 71-67, to set up a semifinal showdown with San Diego State. A pair of bench players led the Rebels, as Bryce Dejean-Jones had 22 and Roscoe Smith had a double-double with 18 points and 13 rebounds. Josh Adams had 24 for the Cowboys.
Second-seeded New Mexico eased by Fresno State, 93-77, as both Alex Kirk and Cameron Bairstow had 21 points. Bairstow also grabbed 10 boards. For the Bulldogs, Alex Davis had 17 and Paul Watson had 16.

In the lone "upset" of the day, No. 6 Boise State defeated No. 3 Nevada, 75-62. The Broncos get a shot at New Mexico in Friday's semifinals. Anthony Drmic, Derrick Marks and Ryan Watkins went for 17, 16 and 15, respectively, while Deonte Burton had 22 for the Wolf Pack.

Pac 12
Yet another team holding their opponent under 40 points, as Arizona held Utah to just 39, while putting up 71 to advance to the semifinals. This should lock in Arizona as the No. 1 seed in the West region, and they will open on next Friday, the 21st, in San Diego. Utah will likely be selected for the NIT.  The Wildcats got 14 from Nick Johnson, 13 from T. J McConnell and 11 from Aaron Gordon. No one scored more than nine for the Utes.
California may be another team that is finished. The Golden Bears lost to Colorado, 59-56, which should lock in Colorado and may send Cal to the NIT after they stumbled down the stretch, though they do have four top-50 wins, and hold a neutral-court victory over Arkansas. We’ll see if it’ll be enough, but right now, they’re on the wrong side of the bubble. Leading Colorado was Askia Booker with 17, while Justin Cobbs scored 21 for the Bears.
UCLA pounded Oregon, 82-63, to advance to the semis and possibly send Oregon to an 8/9 game, as five Bruins scored in double-figures. Joseph Young did put up 29 for the Ducks.

Stanford scored a huge win over Arizona State, moving them up the bracket and likely giving the Sun Devils either a nine or ten-seed. The Cardinal won 79-58, to advance to the semifinals against UCLA as Chasson Randle led the way with 21 points. Shaquielle McKissic had 12 for Arizona State.
Missouri and Texas A&M played a doozy, going to a second overtime, before Missouri went red-hot at the foul line, hitting 12 free throws in the extra extra frame.  Jabari Brown had 26 and Earnest Ross had 24 for the Tigers, who absolutely needed this game.  But they can’t stop here. They still have to win tomorrow against the top team overall, the Florida Gators. Alex Caruso had 28 points, seven assists and eight rebounds for the Aggies.
While Missouri kept the bubble intact, Arkansas’ has officially been popped. The Razorbacks were hanging on after losing to Alabama, but losing to South Carolina in the second round of the SEC tournament will likely doom Arkansas. Their RPI now sits at 72 and their non-conference will not bite them in the butt, with a rating outside the top-200. This one will haunt the Razorbacks for some time. Sindarius Thornwell led the Gamecocks with 17, who advance to face another bubble team, Tennessee. Coty Clarke had 13 for Arkansas, who now sit outside the field and will be sweating all weekend.
LSU stayed alive after their 68-56 win over their big football rival, Alabama. Now the Tigers face Kentucky, who has struggled of late, so this is a good opportunity for the Tigers to grab a late top-50 win. Shavon Coleman led LSU with 15 points and Jordan Mickey had 11. The five starters for the Tide ranged from eight to 11 points.
Mississippi beat their old rivals Mississippi State, 78-66, advance to the quarterfinals against Georgia. Jarvis Summers and Marshall Henderson each had 21 for the Rebels. Fred Thomas and Craig Sword each had 16 for the Bulldogs.
No. 4 Northwestern State eliminated No. 5 Nicholls State, 88-72, to set up a rematch of last year’s championship game with No. 1 Stephen F. Austin in the semifinals. DeQuan Hicks had 21 points off the bench to lead the Demons, last year’s Southand tournament champs. Jeremy Smith had 21 for the Colonels.
No. 3 Sam Houston State knocked off No. 6 Oral Roberts, 70-61, to advance to the semifinals against No. 2 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. Kaheem Ransom and Jabari Peters had 19 and 17 points, respectively for the Bearkats. Korey Billbury led the Golden Eagles with 20.
Alabama State got past Alcorn State 64-51 in the early game of Thursday’s session of the SWAC quarterfinals. Four Hornets scored at least ten points. ASU will now face No. 2 Texas Southern in the semifinals. The winner will have the inside track to the SWAC’s auto-bid.  Leading the way for the Braves was Marquis Vance with 15.
Alabama A&M defeated Arkansas-Pine Bluff ensuring that all four SWAC semifinalists are tournament-eligible, meaning we will get a true tournament final for the auto-bid. The Bulldogs will face No. 8 seed Prairie View, who upset No. 1 Southern University yesterday and who will have a day of rest coming into this one. Brandon Ellis (18) and Justan Banks (16) were top-scorers for A&M. Tevin Hammond (14) and DaVon Haynes (13) were the leaders for the Golden Lions.
Sun Belt
Arkansas-Little Rock kicked off Sun Belt tournament action with a 74-51 win over Troy. They advance to face No. 4 Arkansas State in the quarterfinals. Three UALR Trojans scored double-digits, led by 14 from James White, while four Troy Trojans achieved the feat.
In the other first-round game, Texas-Arlington defeated Louisiana Monroe, 68-65, as Reger Dowell had 18 points for the Mavericks, who will face No. 3 Louisiana-Lafayette in the quarterfinals. Tylor Ongwae had 18 and Marvin Williams had 16 for the Warhawks.
The first game of the day saw No. 1 Utah Valley score a 20-point victory over Texas-Pan American as Holton Hunsaker scored 24 points and Ben Aird grabbed 13 boards for the Wolverines. Shaquille Boga had 21 in a losing effort for the Broncs.
Utah Valley will face Idaho in the semifinals, after the Vandals defeated UMKC in the quarters. Stephen Madison had 26 for the winners, while Martez Harrison had 18 for the Roos, who were in their first WAC tournament.

Cal State Bakersfield upset No. 3 Chicago State, 68-62, ending the Cougars' first season in one of the most geographically-odd conferences. Issiah Grayson had 29 points and Aly Ahmed had a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds for the Roadrunners. Nate Duhon had 19 for Chicago State.

Finally, No. 2 New Mexico State squeaked by Seattle, 70-68, to set up a semifinal with Cal State Bakersfield. Sim Bhullar had 24 points and 14 rebounds to pace the Aggies. Isiah Umipig had 25 points and Jack Crook had 13 points and ten boards for the Redhawks.

What a long day of action. A lot of movement in the bracket, with teams moving both up and down, and in and out. And expect more of the same today and tournaments enter their quarterfinal and semifinal rounds. Here is the rundown of today's games.

Atlantic 10 Quarterfinals (in Brooklyn) (all games on NBC Sports Network)
No. 9 St. Bonaventure vs. No. 1 Saint Louis, 12:00
No. 5 Dayton vs. No. 4 St. Joseph's, 2:30
No. 7 Richmond vs. No. 2 VCU, 6:30
No. 6 Massachusetts vs. No. 3 George Washington, 9:00

ACC Quarterfinals (in Greensboro, NC)
No. 9 Florida State vs. No. 1 Virginia, 12:00, ESPN2
No. 5 Pittsburgh vs. No. 4 North Carolina, 2:00, ESPN2
No. 7 North Carolina State vs. No. 2 Syracuse, 7:00, ESPN
No. 6 Clemson vs. No. 3 Duke, 9:00, ESPN

American Athletic Semifinals (in Memphis) (both games on ESPN2)
No. 6 Houston vs. No. 2 Louisville, 7:00
No. 4 Connecticut vs. No. 1 Cincinnati, 9:00

Big 12 Semifinals (in Kansas City, MO) (both games on ESPNU)
No. 4 Iowa State vs. No. 1 Kansas, 7:00
No. 7 Baylor vs. No. 3 Texas, 9:30

Big East Semifinals (in New York City) (both games on FOX Sports 1)
No. 8 Seton Hall vs. No. 4 Providence, 7:00
No. 3 Xavier vs. No. 2 Creighton, 9:30

Big Sky Semifinals (in Ogden, Utah)
No. 5 Portland State vs. No. 2 North Dakota, 6:30
No. 6 Northern Colorado vs. No. 1 Weber State, 9:05

Big Ten Quarterfinals (in Indianapolis)
No. 9 Illinois vs. No. 1 Michigan, 12:00, ESPN
No. 5 Ohio State vs. No. 4 Nebraska, approx. 2:30, ESPN
No. 7 Minnesota vs. No. 2 Wisconsin, 6:30, Big Ten Network
No. 11 Northwestern vs. No. 3 Michigan State, approx. 9:00, Big Ten Network

Big West Semifinals (in Anaheim)
No. 7 Cal Poly vs. No. 1 UC Irvine, 9:30, ESPN3
No. 5 Cal State Northridge vs. No. 3 Long Beach State, 12:00 midnight, ESPNU

Conference USA Semifinals (in El Paso, TX) (both games on CBS Sports Network)
No. 3 Middle Tennessee vs. No. 2 Tulsa, 4:00
No. 4 Southern Miss vs. No. 1 Louisiana Tech, 6:30

MAC Semifinals (in Cleveland) (both games on ESPN3)
No. 4 Akron vs. No. 1 Western Michigan, 6:30
No. 6 Eastern Michigan vs. No. 2 Toledo, 9:00

MEAC Semifinals (in Norfolk, VA)
No. 4 Norfolk State vs. No. 1 North Carolina Central, 6:00
No. 7 Coppin State vs. No. 3 Morgan State, 8:00

Mountain West Semifinals (in Las Vegas) (both games on CBS Sports Network)
No. 4 UNLV vs. No. 1 San Diego State, 9:00
No. 6 Boise State vs. No. 2 New Mexico, 11:30

Pac 12 Semifinals (in Las Vegas)
No. 5 Colorado vs. No. 1 Arizona, 9:00, Pac 12 Network
No. 6 Stanford vs. No. 2 UCLA, 11:30, FOX Sports 1

SEC Quarterfinals (in Atlanta)
No. 8 Missouri vs. No. 1 Florida, 1:00, ESPNU
No. 13 South Carolina vs. No. 4 Tennessee, approx. 3:30, ESPNU
No. 7 LSU vs. No. 2 Kentucky, 7:00, ESPN3
No. 6 Mississippi vs. No. 3 Georgia, approx. 9:30, ESPN3

Southland Semifinals (in Katy, TX) (both games on ESPN3)
No. 4 Northwestern State vs. No. 1 Stephen F. Austin, 6:00
No. 3 Sam Houston State vs. No. 2 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, 8:30

SWAC Semifinals (in Houston)
No. 3 Alabama State vs. No. 2 Texas Southern, 3:30
No. 8 Prairie View vs. No. 5 Alabama A&M, 9:30

Sun Belt Quarterfinals (in New Orleans) (both games on ESPN3)
No. 5 Arkansas-Little Rock vs. No. 4 Arkansas State, 7:00
No. 6 Texas-Arlington vs. No. 3 Louisiana-Lafayette, 9:30

WAC Semifinals (in Las Vegas)
No. 5 Idaho vs. No. 1 Utah Valley, 9:00
No. 6 Cal State Bakersfield vs. No. 2 New Mexico State, 11:30

It's another long and busy day, the last one without any auto bids up for grabs. We're just over two days away from seeing the field revealed. Hang in there, the wait is almost over.

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