Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, March 9, 2012 at 11:30 AM
Wonder what College Basketball team felt the worst pain from knowing that their "bubble" probably had burst with a Thursday loss in conference tournament play:
Might it have been Northwestern (18-13) -who despite having a slew of opportunities to put away Minnesota -came up short 75-68 in overtime in Big 10 Tournament action?
Or maybe it was South Florida (20-13) who figures to make the "Big Dance" next week but might have upset NCAA Tournament Committee folks with its sloppy play in that grind-it-out 57-53 overtime loss to 3-point favorite Notre Dame in Big East Tournament quarterfinal round action.
And let's not forget Miss State (21-11) who inexplicably fell behind 5-point underdog Georgia early in the game and never did come all the way back in last night's SEC Tournament first-round game in a 71-61 win for the Athens Dawgs.
If any or all of the above teams -Northwestern, South Florida and Miss State -- fail to get an invitation to next week's NCAA Tourney, than they need to look no further than this second Thursday in March as none of'em came up big when a "W" was sorely needed. Tsk, tsk.
So, who than was yesterday's biggest winner?
In our book it was the Texas Longhorns (20-12) who rode the 23-point performance of dynamite guard J'Covan Brown to the winner's circle and now -more than likely -the'Horns simply need to not lose badly (see 20-or-more points) to Missouri in this evening's Big 12 Tournament semifinal game. Nice job (for once), Rick Barnes.
If you're looking for what amounted to yesterday's biggest upset than look no further than Cal-Irvine's stunning 65-59 win against 7 ½-point fav Cal Fullerton in Big West Conference first-round action. Cal Irvine's now 12-19 and Cal Fullerton is 21-9 but guess which one still has a shot to get to the NCAA's?
That's right -it's part of the magic of March Madness Mini-Tourney Style where one loss can wreck your season ... nice!
Okay, so let's dig in and get you a couple of game previews for this Friday and note the rankings below pertain to the current Associated Press Top 25:
In an SEC Tournament quarterfinal round game this afternoon, it's ...
LSU (18-13) vs. #1 KENTUCKY (30-1) -1 p.m. ET (at New Orleans)
It's not often that a bench player winds up taking 17 free throws but that's what happened Thursday afternoon in LSU's 70-54 triumph over 2 ½-point dog Arkansas.
Reserve Johnny O'Bryant nailed only 10-of-17 FTs en route to his 18-point, 11-rebound performance and now here's what LSU gets as a door prize: A date with #1 Kentucky who's reportedly champing at the proverbial bit to finish off this whole 2011-12 season without a single loss in Southeastern Conference play ... not bad for a bunch of freshmen, right?
No doubt the Bayou Bengals -a listed 16 ½-point underdog for this affair inside the New Orleans Arena -needs to shoot it better than 14-of-25 from the charity stripe here or John Calipari's club might win by 25 points in a waltz. In all, LSU sported five players in double digits against the Hogs (18-14) who now must plan ahead for the NIT while Kentucky looks for SEC perfection, the numero uno seed in next week's NCAA Tournament and likely first- and second-round games in either Louisville or Nashville.
The'Cats had a first-round mini-tourney bye and so frosh sensation F Anthony Davis -who posted a whopping 14 "double-doubles" this year -should be well-rested for this bash. Note Kentucky won 74-50 at LSU back on January 28th when F Terrence Jones powered the way with 27 points while Davis added 16 points and 10 boards.
In a Big East Tournament semifinal game tonight, it's ...
CINCINNATI (23-9) vs. #2 SYRACUSE (31-1) -7 p.m. ET, ESPN (at New York City)
Okay, guys, you can both exhale now! The Cincy Bearcats -in a game that sported seven ties and 18 lead changes against the Georgetown Hoyas -got the last laugh when silky guard Cashmere Wright banked in a runner with 7.6 seconds left in the second overtime and so it's on to the program's first-ever appearance in a Big East Tournament semifinal round game and hope Mick Cronin's club celebrated for a few minutes before absorbing some video because it sure is gonna be tough beating Syracuse's zone and especially if the'Cats shoot another 2-of-21 from beyond the three-point arc.
Naturally, the Orange -the Big East's top seed -should be ready for anything here and note the'Cuse was down by eight points in the second half and appeared in a major funk, thanks in large part because of bad passes by PG Scoop Jardine and a crazy top-of-the-key jumper by seven-footer Fab Melo, before rallying past Connecticut 58-55 in yesterday's first Big East quarterfinal round affair. The Orange managed to survive as reserves Dion Waiters (18 points) and James Southerland (10 points and all in the game's final eight minutes of play) keyed the comeback while UConn star Jeremy Lamb went AWOL en route to a silent 10-point game but here Syracuse figures to encounter a more physical challenge from Cincy big man Yancy Gates (23 points and 8 rebs against Georgetown).
If the'Cuse zone pushed Lamb too far from the hoop in yesterday's tilt than maybe tonight's game plan is to sag down low a bit and surround Gates who made a slew of big shots late as the'Cats have an effective inside game -the Huskies did not save for a couple of whirling-dervish hoops by their big men.
One major key here: Cincinnati guards Sean Kilpatrick and Dion Dixon -a combined 1-of-12 from three-land against the Hoyas -have to generate some points from deep ... or else!
In a Big 12 Tournament semifinal round game this evening, it's ...
#12 BAYLOR (26-6) vs. #3 KANSAS (27-5) -7:30 p.m. ET (at Kansas City)
The winning streak is up to nine in a row for the Kansas Jayhawks who clubbed 14 ½-point pup Texas A&M 83-66 on Thursday afternoon as Elijah Johnson's career-high 26-point game sparked Bill Self's club but the startling stat coming from that walk-in-the-park win was the fact Kansas shot 61.4 percent from the floor (that's 27-of-44 made field goals) and newly-minted Big 12 Player of the Year Thomas Robinson kicked in a stat line of 19 points and 10 boards while barely breaking a sweat.
Now, here comes a major challenge from a Baylor bunch that Self said, "They're (the Bears) so talented, it's a joke".
No laughing matter here as Kansas beat Baylor in both regular-season meetings and a triumph here and a third consecutive Big 12 Tourney title will land the J-hawks a #1 seed in next week's NCAAs and who thought that was possible when Kansas lost early-season games to Kentucky and Duke?
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NOTE: Remember we'll share our thoughts on what the NCAA Tournament's 68-team field should look like in Sunday's edition of Jim Sez plus make sure you're getting all the College Round-ball updates right here in our Saturday Sez.