Northern Iowa became the fifth team to earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament, beating Wichita State 67-52 to win their second consecutive Missouri Valley Conference tournament title. Trailing by three at the half, Ben Jacobson's Panthers outscored the Shockers 39-21 in the second half, holding Wichita State to 23.1% shooting in the final twenty minutes. Kwadzo Ahelegbe led the way with 24 points while Jake Koch added 13 off the bench. Koch's performance highlighted a solid effort from the UNI reserves, who helped spark the decisive 23-3 run.
Bad news hit West Lafayette and Columbia on Thursday afternoon, with Purdue's Robbie Hummel and Missouri's Justin Safford both going down for the remainder of the season with torn ACLs. The more important ligament on a national level: clearly that would be Hummel's, and his injury could be the difference in seed lines for the Boilermakers. Many have used Kenyon Martin's broken leg back in 2000 as the comparison to Purdue losing Hummel, but that's a bit off when you further examine the cases.
Monday's rivalry game between Georgetown and Syracuse didn't get off to the best of starts for the home team, who fell behind 14-0 before the game was even three minutes old thanks primarily to the shooting of Austin Freeman (3-3 from deep during that sequence) with a Jason Clark trey being the final salvo in that outburst. The outside shots were coming easily for the Hoyas, something that actually make the Syracuse zone more effective especially if you don't commit to getting the ball inside.
Led by future #1 NBA pick John Wall, this year's freshman class will be one to remember. What makes it particularly interesting is that not all of the top performers are at power conference schools. The WCC, CUSA, A10, MWC, WAC, and others have top-level rookies that can play with the best in the country. Here's a list of the Top 25 freshman in the country so far, with a bias on actual performance as opposed to potential. While players like UNC's John Henson may one day tear up NBA harcourts, this list focuses on the guys who are getting it done right now.
Random facts, tidbits, thoughts, and comments about a big day of college basketball..
#7 Michigan St at Minnesota - 12:00 CBS
When Blake Hoffarber scores 10+ points, Minnesota is 9-0. They've lost 6 in a row when he hasn't hit that mark. The inconsisent junior is coming off 2 bad games in a row (2 losses), but if he gets hot, expect a Gopher upset.
Auburn at Vanderbilt - 1:30
With four minutes left in regulation it looked as if North Carolina was on its way to surviving a treacherous trip to Charleston to take on the preseason favorites to win the Southern Conference. But the fun had yet to begin, with Andrew Goudelock helping to spark a 12-1 run that he completed with a three-pointer to send the game into overtime. In fact, Goudelock scored the Cougars' last eight points in regulation on his way to a 24-point night for him and an 82-79 win for his team.
There was no mistaking what the big game of the night was on Thursday with a pair of unexpected unbeatens facing off in Tampa on the final night of the SEC/Big East Invitational. Both Syracuse and Florida have posted impressive early-season results, showing the pundits who didn't expect much of them in the preseason that they've got the ability to have an impact nationally. And with neither team expected to be this good this early it was fitting that an unexpected source of offense proved to be the difference in Syracuse's 85-73 victory.
For the first half, the championship game of the Coaches vs. Cancer tournament between North Carolina and Syracuse was a competitive affair that promised to go down to the wire. That's when Syracuse flipped a switch, going on a 22-1 run that removed any doubt in regards to the result and ultimately winning 87-71 in front of a pro-Syracuse crowd at Madison Square Garden. Wesley Johnson scored twenty-five points and added eight rebounds while Andy Rautins posted one of the better overall stat lines of his career with 11 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists and 7 steals.
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