Raphielle Johnson's Blog
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.
It's tough enough for most teams to manage the emotions that come with Senior Night; what happens when you add in a conference title and a team that's beaten you six straight times? If you're Greivis Vasquez and company all that meant on Wednesday night was the opportunity to show the nation that you can play with a highly-touted Duke team that blew you out in the first meeting this season.
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 the best game of the night is the Top 5 battle between rivals Kansas State and Kansas, in regards to a conference title Duke visits Maryland with the winner either winning the ACC outright (Duke) or taking a step towards earing the top seed in the upcoming ACC Tournament (Maryland). Duke dominated the first meeting with Brian Zoubek playing an excellent game against a team that lacks the size required to deal with a seven-footer. Jordan Williams, the reigning ACC Rookie of the Week, will need to play arguably his best game of the season in the paint for the Terrapins.
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.
At one point a near-lock to wrap up a double-bye in the upcoming Big East Tournament, West Virginia finds itself just a game ahead of Louisville and Marquette in the race for one of those final two slots. They host a Georgetown squad that's in serious need of some positive momentum coming off of a double-digit home loss to Notre Dame on Saturday afternoon. The formula for the Hoyas is a rather simple one: as Chris Wright goes so do the Hoyas.
With there still being one day left in the weekend we've gout ourselves quite the question: who should be the nation's top-ranked team when the new polls are released on Monday? The top two teams, Kansas and Kentucky, went on the road Saturday and return to their respective campuses with losses. The Jayhawks fell to an Oklahoma State team likely one marquee win away from sewing up an NCAA bid 85-77 as they were unable to slow down James Anderson (27 points, eight rebounds) and three other Cowboys who finished in double figures.
Touted as the "Game of the Year" in the Big East, either Villanova or Syracuse will take a step towards a regular season title in front of what's expected to be the largest crowd in Carrier Dome history. The Wildcats bounced back from two straight losses to beat USF earlier this week while the Orange outran a Providence squad whose defense would be complimented if described as a "speed bump". Can the Wildcats find enough open looks (that they want) against the tough Syracuse zone?