For fans of schools in a number of non-BCS conferences Monday was a big day with the announcement of the eleven televised games in the ESPNU BracketBusters event. And the masses received their wish in regards to the headline contest with Siena visiting Butler on February 20th (11 AM on ESPN2). With both teams still undefeated in their respective conferences at this time it could possibly match up ranked teams if both continue on their current runs. The goal of the eleven TV games is to match up teams in hopes of bolstering their resumes for NCAA Tournament seeding (and in some cases a possible at-large selection). The other televised games are:
2/19 Old Dominion at Northern Iowa (7p ESPN2)
2/19 William & Mary at Iona (9p ESPNU)
2/20 Morgan State at Murray State (Noon ESPNU)
2/20 Louisiana Tech at Northeastern (1p ESPN2)
2/20 Nevada at Missouri State (3p ESPN2)
2/20 Akron at VCU (4p ESPNU)
2/20 College of Charleston at George Mason (8p ESPN2)
2/20 Western Carolina at Kent State (8p ESPNU)
2/20 New Mexico State at Pacific (10p ESPNU)
2/20 Wichita State at Utah State (11:59p ESPN2)
But while Monday was definitely a big day for these schools in regards to finding out who they'll be playing, the game is still three weeks away. In order for it to truly mean anything, especially for teams such as Butler, Northern Iowa and Siena, you've got to take care of business in the conference games leading up to BracketBusters weekend. For if you can't do that it's essentially guaranteed that you won't have much of a chance in what's been an at-large pool flooded with mediocre teams with "big names".
Three Key Happenings
1. Texas relies on a freshman to snap out of their three-game losing skid. The Longhorns lost three straight games with their sudden lack of consistent scoring being a concern for many. But thanks to freshman Jordan Hamilton, who's played just two minutes in their overtime loss to Baylor on Saturday, Texas won at Oklahoma State 72-60. The Los Angeles native hit five of eight three pointers on his way to 27 points and as a team the Longhorns made 59.3% of their shots in the second half. James Anderson, the Cowboys' leading scorer, managed just four points in the second half thanks to a much-improved defensive effort from the Texas backcourt (especially Dogus Balbay) and essentially put the game away.
But the performance put up by Hamilton is an important development for Rick Barnes' squad, especially if the freshman can provide consistent scoring punch off the bench. It's essentially he and J'Covan Brown getting the lion's share of the minutes off the bench and when they score Texas can better manage the lack of scoring from Balbay at the point. Also, Texas took far better care of the basketball than they had in any of their three losses, turning the ball over just five times. While their defending of Anderson in the first half left much to be desired, Texas showed what will ultimately make them successful in March.
2. Louisville beats Connecticut and buys itself a little more time. The Big East matchup on Monday night was more about which team could pick up a win and apply a band-aid to their tournament hopes. And with much work left to be done it was Louisville who came out early with an understanding of the moment, jumping out to an early lead on their way to the 82-69 win at Freedom Hall. Edgar Sosa led four Cardinals in double figures with fifteen points and eight assists while Jerome Dyson led the Huskies with a game-high eighteen.
"He (Sosa) has been distributing all year," said head coach Rick Pitino after the game. "I think a lot of the time the guys get fouled and he doesn't get the assist (quote courtesy of uoflsports.com)."
Another key for Louisville was the three-point shot, something that isn't a huge surprise when considering the history of the program under Coach Pitino. But when you go into a game ranking tenth in the Big East in three point percentage in conference games (31.8%) you won't be expected to shoot 10-for-22 as the Cards did on Monday night. While most of the credit should go to their offensive execution they found a number of looks that were either open or not challenged with the most vigor. While both teams may have known the importance of the moment it was Louisville who played with a sense of urgency from the start.
3. Jackson State retains control of the SWAC race. A loss at Arkansas-Pine Bluff would have dropped the Tigers into a tie for first with Texas Southern. But thanks to seventeen points apiece from Garrison Johnson and Phillip Williams they retained their one-game lead with a 72-67 win at UAPB. In a game that features fifty-seven fouls, seventy-five foul shots and forty turnovers it was Jackson State who took better advantage of their opportunities, making 47.5% of their shots and outrebounding the Golden Lions 31-24 while limiting them to 38.3% shooting. And with three games between the Tigers and their rematch with Texas Southern (who won the first meeting 51-44) this is a big result. Those three games: home meetings with SWAC bottom-feeders Alcorn State and Southern followed by what should be a challenging contest at Prairie View A&M. Halfway through the conference schedule, Jackson State finds itself in the driver's seat in the SWAC.
Top Three Games
1. Lipscomb 60, Campbell 59 A Josh Slater three-pointer with two seconds remaining proved to be the difference as the Bisons won on the road to move to within a half-game of first-place Jacksonville in the Atlantic Sun. Adnan Hodzic (24 points, 11 rebounds) led the winners while Jonathan Rodriguez (15 points, 14 rebounds) led the Camels in a losing effort.
2. Prairie View A&M 56, Alabama State 55 A Darnell Hugee shot with four seconds left moved the Panthers into a tie with the Hornets and Arkansas-Pine Bluff for third place in the SWAC. Hugee led all scorers with 19 points while Tramaine Butler led ASU with 15 points, including a layup that gave the home team a 55-54 lead with 29 seconds to go.
3. Eastern Michigan 62, Akron 59 Carlos Medlock scored four points in the final 51 seconds to help lead the Eagles to the win at Akron. EMU's Jay Higgins led all scorers with 17 points while Brett McKnight was the lone Zip in double figures with thirteen points.
Three Notable Performances
1. G/F Jordan Hamilton (Texas) The freshman led the Longhorns to a 72-60 win at Oklahoma State with 27 points (5-8 3PT) and four rebounds.
2. F Adnan Hodzic (Lipscomb) Hodzic scored 24 points and grabbed eleven rebounds in the Bisons' 60-59 win at Campbell.
2. G James Anderson (Oklahoma State) Anderson's team fell short but he didn't disappoint, accounting for 28 points, six rebounds and three assists for the Cowboys in their loss to Texas.