Dayton went into Thursday night's game at Richmond knowing that they needed a tough win, especially on the road, to improve their resume in regards to a possible at-large bid. Having dropped six games by four points or less (five of which came on the road) they needed to find some way in which to reverse that luck. All they were able to do is add another line to the list, losing 60-56 at Robins Center despite out-rebounding the Spiders 44-25 on the night. The issues for Dayton have been two-fold and Thursday night was simply the most recent example.
In regards to bubble teams Wednesday saw a lot of teams leave the door open for someone to sneak in and grab an at-large bid, and it's made quite the case why we're just fine with sixty-five teams. But with this arguably being the weakest bubble pool in the 64/65 era there are ample opportunities for teams seemingly off the radar to sneak in and grab a bid. One of those teams is Dayton, who visits a Richmond team that looks to be a safe bet for the Big Dance.
While three leagues begin conference tournament play on Tuesday there's also plenty of things to be settled in conferences who won't start their tourneys until next week. Florida and Illinois are two teams that look to be in good shape as of right now but both are faced with ranked opponents who would vault them into the Big Dance for sure were they to win. The Gators host Vanderbilt, a team that's still got designs on the SEC's overall title, in a game they can win provided guards Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton make sound decisions with the basketball.
Before getting into the games of Thursday it would be appropriate to mention the tragic death of University of Southern Indiana basketball player Jeron Lewis, who fell and hit his head during a game against Kentucky Wesleyan. Tragically the senior had returned to school following the birth of his first child around Christmas. An autopsy will be performed on Friday. Jeron Lewis was 21 years old.
Three Key Happenings
Thursday's schedule may be lacking in regards to "marquee" games but there are important conference games to check out. Louisiana Tech hosts Fresno State in a matchup of the WAC's only two undefeated and there will be plenty of offensive talent on display. Kyle Gibson currently leads the conference in scoring and teammate Magnum Rolle has played the way people expected the LSU transfer to play when his career began. But on the other end, Louisiana Tech will have to account for Paul George and Sylvester Seay, two wings with the ability to light up the scoreboard.
The first few days of the Big East conference schedule certainly haven't lacked drama, with Seton Hall, Marquette and Cincinnati all having opportunities to knock off more established programs. But the difference between the Bearcats and the other two schools is that they were able to take full advantage of their opportunity, knocking off #10 Connecticut 71-69 at Fifth Third Arena. Lance Stephenson passed his first conference test with flying colors, scoring 21 points and knocking down two free throws with seven tenths of a second remaining to provide the final margin.