17 games last night.. seems like a good day to write capsules for all 17..
BC 85 - FSU 82 - You figure FSU just needs to stay at .500 to make the Tournament.. but they're now 2-4. Against teams not named Stetson or Georgia State, the Noles are 0-5 away from home. Lets assume they beat Wake (a lock) and Maryland (not a lock, but 80% chance) at home next week, this would get them back to .500. But then brutal road games loom against Clemson and Duke back to back, which presumably drops them back to 4-6. Will be an uphill battle from there.
Illinois 51 - Indiana 43 - This was a huge win for the Illini, who hadn't beat a decent team (let alone a ranked one) all year. This game was pretty ugly though.. good defense, scrappy play, but some pretty horrendous offense. The difference was two back to back Rich McBride threes deep in the 2nd half.. otherwise neither team was really able to hit perimeter shots. (9 of 36 threes combined).
The NCAA Tournament is less than two months away.. the Final Four will be here before you know it. That much we know.. but who will make the Final Four? According to the AP Poll, there's a pretty clear top 4 at this point. Florida, Wisconsin, UCLA, and UNC are ranked in that order and all 4 received first place votes. Obviously though, the odds are slim that all 4 of those teams, or whichever teams get seeded one through 4, make it all the way to Atlanta.
I'll leave it to the bettors to quantify teams Championship chances as being 200 to 1, or 1,500 to 1 or whatever the odds may be. Instead, I'm going to rank the Top 10 teams based on their chances of reaching the Final Four.
Biggest win on Saturday? New Mexico State upsetting #13 Nevada in a key WAC battle. This should probably be a two-bid league this year and the Aggies are the team fighting for the 2nd bid. After losing a close OT game against Louisiana Tech, NMSU bounced back for the big (huge really) win behind 29 points from Justin Hawkins. Making things better for the Aggies, they now have games against conference bottom-feeders Idaho and San Jose State coming up which should leave them at 17-4.
The MWC should also be a two-bid league, but no one besides Air Force is really locked in. The Falcons picked up a big win over San Diego State yesterday, rebounding from their 2nd loss. SDSU is now 13-6 and their hopes of an at-large bid are basically done. UNLV is the likely 2nd bid, but the Rebels are just 3-2 in league play. Home wins this week against SDSU and New Mexico are musts.
Nothing like a good Saturday of college hoops.. 21 of the Top 25 teams in action. More importantly, a lot of these teams are on the road at hostile conference foes. #5 Kansas at Texas Tech, #13 Nevada at New Mexico State, #19 LSU at Arkansas are just a few of them. Then you have some solid non-conference games like #23 Texas at Villanova.
Will be interesting to see how the Longhorns rebound from the epic triple-OT loss at Oklahoma State. My guess is that game will only make them better in the long run. Durant's on crazy good run, averaging 34 ppg over his last 4 games. Nova's no joke either, but they have been vulnerable at home with losses to DePaul and Drexel. DJ Augstin isn't the only top freshman PG in this game. Scottie Reynolds has been playing the best ball of his young career in recent weeks. The once almost-Oklahoma recruit is averaging 20.5 per game over his last four, after not breaking the 20 point mark in his first 13 games.
Duke had no problem with Wake Forest Thursday night, winning 62-40. Duke didn't even play that well.. Wake is just no good. The Deacons are 9-8 overall, 1-4 in the ACC, and its hard to see them winning another league game until they host Miami a month from now.
The MAC West is like the NBA's Atlantic Divison. First place Toledo has an 8-8 record and none of the other five teams are over .500. Thinks are better in the East where Ohio and Akron are 12-win teams. Big problem for those two teams is that this is only a one bid league..
Marist won again in the MAAC, to improve to 14-4, 6-1 in league play. Jared Jordan had a monster 26 point, 8 assist, 7 board game. He was haunted by the usual turnover problems though with 6.. then again thats less than Ishmael Smith's 8 against Duke. And Smith didn't have 1 assist.. brutal. Back to Marist though, the Red Foxes aren't running away with the league because suddenly hot Manhattan is also 6-1. The Jaspers were 3-8 before winning six straight out of nowhere (including a win over Rider last night).
Thoughts, thoughts, and more thoughts: UNC owned Clemson from the opening tip. Thankfully Clemson can block shots, otherwise the Heels would have won by 40. Even decent basketball fans have probably never heard of anybody on Clemson. The same can be said for Air Force, but every other team has a name player or a guy whose gotten some pub during the season (like Aj Graves on Butler.) This isn't necessarily a bad thing though. Good stories about how hard UNC's practice was after losing to Va Tech. That practice was probably better than just about any game you'll ever see.
Tyler Hansbrough's still putting up good numbers, but I get the sense his draft stock is dropping just about every week. Every time he shoots the ball from his waist, you can see a scout cringing.
3 OT's, 108 points, a crazy circus shot, two stars combining for 74 points, and a coach that looked like he was dying.. Texas-Oklahoma State had it all. I'm not sure which team I was more impressed with. Oklahoma State for managing to survive the end of regulation and three overtimes with their starting point guard and top defender having fouled out? Or Texas for simply going 3-OT's on the road at the #14 team in the country? The Cowboys hadn't lost a home game since February 13th last year, and even #7 Pitt couldn't topple the Boys at a semi-home game. Then again, Oklahoma State won with Tyler Hatch, a walk-on with 6 career field goals, playing 33 important minutes.
Felt like doing some predicting today.. so lets hope I get all 22 games right today. ESPN has 4 solid games tonight, starting with Iowa at Indiana and UCONN at Pitt at 7. The bettors don't think much of the road teams in this one.. as Indiana is favored by over 10, and Pitt by by 7. The Hoosiers are playing their best basketball and shouldn't have a problem at home.. I like them to cover the spread. UCONN hasn't proven they can beat a Top 10 team at home.. but the Huskies do have a lot of weapons, so you never know when they'll get hot. Pitt will win, but this game could be closer than expected.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.. have the top 6 teams in the country ever lost on the same day? With the exception of #2 Florida who rocked South Carolina.. the other top teams were in serious danger of losing on Saturday. #1 UNC obviously ended up losing by 6, #3 UCLA won by a point, #4 Wisconsin won by 6 in a poorly played game at Northwestern, #5 OSU won by 2, and #6 Kansas won in overtime. UCLA, Wisconsin, and Kansas all were down at half before pulling out close victories.
But what separates a team like UCLA from a Washington is the ability to win close games on the road. The #24 Huskies by the way are in a tailspin, having lost 5 of 6 games.. the last two which have come down to the wire. Even UCONN can now claim to have accomplished something Washington hasn't.. winning a game away from home. The #22 version of the Huskies beat St John's in the Garden, while the #24 version lost in overtime at California.