Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, March 13, 2015 at 12:00 AM
THE COLLEGE HOOPS REPORT:
TEXAS CHOKES ON LATE-GAME LEAD
(AND BLOWS NCAA TOURNEY BERTH TOO!)
PLUS UPSETS OF ILLINOIS, TEXAS A&M
AND VANDY PROVE ULTRA-COSTLY TOO …
FRIDAY’S QUICK-HITTER PREVIEWS
INCLUDES PROVIDENCE-‘NOVA BIG EAST SEMI CLASH
Talk about your coast-to-coast thrillers!
Maybe the jam-packed Thursday mini-tourney card was too much for a weak heart – after all, there was Texas surrendering the game’s final 12 points en route to a stunning 69-67 loss/push against 2-point favorite Iowa State in last night’s Big 12 Tournament quarterfinal action and if you still think the Longhorns (20-13) are gonna get one of those 37 at-large bids from the NCAA Tournament Committee folks you had better think again!
True, Texas owns the nation’s 10th-toughest SOS (strength of schedule) ranking but how do you reward a team that absolutely melted down at crunch time – why didn’t they cover those wide-open three-point shooters for the I-State Cyclones? – and lost five of its final eight games? Not one notable conference road win for Texas this 2014-15 campaign and the best non-league road win was at underwhelming UConn, so better believe the clock already struck midnight for the ‘Horns and probably for head coach Rick Barnes too.
Meanwhile, there were three power conference clubs bitten by the upset bug in Thursday’s mini-tourney action and we believe they’ll suffer the same exact fate as aforementioned Texas … Illinois, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt all needed (at least) one win in their respective conference tournaments and instead they found various ways to blow it:
Illinois (19-13) was slammed 73-55 by 4 ½-point pup Michigan in the Big 10 Tournament in Chicago as the underachieving Illini canned just one three-point shot in 13 tries and how about the starting five shooting a combined 13-of-45 … yuck! Gotta admit that it appears head coach John Groce might well be “in over his head” in this league.
Texas A&M (20-11) blew a 33-23 halftime lead en route to a shocking 66-59 loss to 9-point dog Auburn in the SEC Tournament second-round game in Nashville as the had-to-have-it Aggies missed all 10 of their trifecta attempts in the second half and A&M’s fourth loss in its last five games cinched the deal that there won’t be any NCAA bid in the offing come Selection Sunday. If truth be told, we were never sold on Texas A&M and now they don’t even have a leg to stand on, folks.
And late-bloomer Vanderbilt (19-13) rolled over and played dead as Tennessee outscored the Commodores 20-2 in the game’s final six-plus minutes and so Kevin Stallings’ crew – which needed a couple of mini-tourney wins to get the NCAA Tourney’s attention – will have to settle for some so-what NIT game instead. Guess late-game meltdowns were the order of the day but Stallings having suffered the tough loss is one thing … we expect a Barnes-coached team to mess up with something on the line!
So, what does it all mean now that these four “bubble teams” had their seasons go boom on this mini-tourney Thursday?
Well, for starters, Murray State (27-5) must have some renewed life and ditto for Saint Mary’s (21-9) which likely won’t get an at-large bid but at least the Gaels still have a pulse. Don’t just suspect that other power conference teams will fill out the bill with Texas, Illinois, Texas A&M and Vandy all losing – the “little guys” could really benefit from this very critical day/night of action.
And Thursday’s biggest winner?
It’s a tie between Xavier (20-12) and UCLA (also 20-12) as the former won a bone-chilling OT game 67-61 at Madison Square Garden against 1 ½-point fav Butler; the latter smeared cross-town “rival” (and 10 ½-point dog) USC 96-70 behind Isaac Hamilton’s 36 points – put the X-men and the Bruins into your mock brackets as both power conference teams clinched bids.
And now hear this …
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will keep steamrolling their way through March with loads of College Basketball winners and take special note that The Network March Madness Package includes all of the Conference Tournament Games along with all the upcoming NCAA Tournament Games plus all the other post-season tournaments such as the NIT, CBI and CIT Tournies too.
Get it either right here online at www.jimhurley.com or at our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 – plus don’t forget we’re banging out lots of NBA Winners too these days and so go ahead and join the fun and profits today with all the hardwood action this month.
Here’s what we’ll be watching on this Friday menu of the College B-Ball Conference Tournaments …
In the American Athletic Conference quarterfinals in Hartford, it’s …
TEMPLE (22-9, 13-5) vs. MEMPHIS (18-13, 10-8) – approximately 2:30 p.m. ET, espn2
Okay, you tell us just how many teams from the AAC are gonna make it to this year’s NCAA Tournament – remember last year (and rather famously) the SMU Mustangs didn’t get a dance ticket and there are still folks claiming head coach Larry Brown’s jaw practically hit the floor when his club was snubbed and now there’s a great unknown what teams from this half-power conference/half non-power conference will make the cut.
No doubt Temple (with a neat RPI rank of 32) has the stuff but there’s some insiders that believe the Owls better win here to feel secure and remember one of Temple’s biggest regular-season victories happened back on Feb. 7th with a dynamic 3-Star Jim Hurley winner as the Owls (+ 3.5) topped host Memphis 61-60 despite the fact Fran Dunphy’s club shot just 19-of-57 from the field (that’s 33.3 percent).
Meanwhile, Memphis has staggered down the stretch with five losses in its last nine games – the only way Josh Pastner’s club makes it to the NCAAs is run the table here. Maybe the tag team of Austin Nichols and Shaq Goodwin can re-pay the Owls for that loss last month.
In the Atlantic-10 Tournament quarterfinals in Brooklyn, it’s …
VCU (23-9, 12-6) vs. RICHMOND (19-12, 12-6) – approximately 2:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network
It’s not often in the Shaka Smart Era at VCU that his Rams are playing with “double revenge” but that’s the case here in what figures to be a very spirited battle at Barclays Center – the Rams lost both of their regular-season showdowns to the rival Spiders including a twin-OT loss last month but now VCU has a bit of momentum following yesterday’s come-from-behind 63-57 non-cover win against 13 1/2-point dog Fordham.
Treveon Graham (22 points) and Melvin Johnson combined for 38 points as VCU shot just 30 percent from the floor (18-of-59) but hauled down 20 offensive boards and that latter stat category will be key against a Richmond squad that sports the A-10’s second-stingiest scoring defense. If the Spiders are gonna make this a “hat trick” against VCU, then G Kendall Anthony (team-leading 16.3 ppg) must free himself for some open looks. Hey, there is some pressure on Richmond to win here or else an NCAA Tournament berth could be gonzo!
In the Big East Tournament semifinals in New York City, it’s …
PROVIDENCE (22-10, 11-7) vs. VILLANOVA (30-2, 16-2) – 7 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1
Don’t let the “experts” fool you:
If fourth-ranked Villanova not only wins this Big East Tourney but does so in impressive fashion, then Jay Wright’s club will have a major case for being a #1 seed in next week’s NCAA Tournament … and so far, so good!
The ‘Nova Wildcats shot a blistering 30-of-57 from the floor (that’s 52.6 percent) in yesterday’s absolute runaway 84-49 triumph against 14-point dog Marquette but the really big news here is that the conference’s top seed nailed 17-of-29 shots from beyond the three-point stripe (58.6 accuracy) en route to the most lopsided Big East Tourney win in school history and that’s saying something while going back 35 years!
Guard Josh Hart drilled 5-of-7 triples to lead the power surge while the Providence win against lackluster St. John’s – a 74-57 triu,ph by the Friars in a pick ‘em affair – featured stat-stuffing days by lefty LaDontae Henton (20 points and 12 rebounds) and PG Kris Dunn (17 points and 11 assists) and dare we say Mr. Dunn could right now be a top 10 pick in this summer’s NBA Draft!
The winner gets the Georgetown vs. Xavier winner … and won’t MSG feel “special” come Saturday night if we get a ‘Nova-Georgetown tilt (see national championship game from exactly 30 years ago!).
NOTE: Stay with us for all the College Basketball Conference Tournament reports all week/weekend long right here at Jim Sez.