Wednesday was a big night for bubble teams as a few had opportunities to either bolster or solidify their NCAA tournament resumes. Three were able to take advantage with wins over ranked opponents: Cincinnati, Colorado State and USF. Tim Miles' Rams were at the end of a three-game stretch in which they took on the top three teams in the Mountain West, and CSU's 66-59 comeback win over #17 UNLV may have punched their ticket to the Big Dance. Dorian Green scored 16 points and dished out three assists to lead the way for the Rams, who outscored UNLV 40-18 in the second half.
It was a night to forget for UNLV forward Mike Moser, who sat through the first media timeout due to his being late to study hall. Moser was unable to get going at any point in the night, scoring just five points on 1-for-10 shooting before fouling out. Over his last four games Moser has shot a frigid 8-for-34 from the field, averaging just 6.5 points per game, and that's clearly not good for a guy who leads the Runnin' Rebels with an average of 14.6 per contest.
This wouldn't be the only area in which Colorado State would take advantage however, as they grabbed some key offensive rebounds down the stretch as they made their comeback. Trailing by as many as 16 points in the second half the Rams looked to be in dire straits, and with a 2-9 record in road games a loss of that caliber could have been the death knell in regards to their tournament hopes. But they kept working on both ends of the floor and the end result is a second win over a ranked team in the last eight days, which is an accomplishment few other teams on the bubble can boast.
The most impressive win of the three may have been USF's 58-51 win at #18 Louisville, if only for the fact that the Bulls were able to boost their resume on the road. Despite 19 turnovers the Bulls won with a combination of defense, as they limited Louisville to 34.0% shooting, and offensive contributions from the bench. Toarlyn Fitzpatrick (11 points, seven rebounds) and Jawanza Poland (16 points) led the way for the Bulls, whose reserves outscored the Cardinals' subs 30-16.
USF's 12-5 Big East record may lack bulk due to the unbalanced schedule but there's no denying the improvement that Stan Heath's team has shown throughout the season. Whether or not they have enough bulk to warrant an at-large bid remains to be seen, but Thursday's win certainly didn't hurt their candidacy. Cincinnati beat the highest-ranked opponent of the three as they took care of #7 Marquette by the final score of 72-61. Darius Johnson-Odom (18 points, seven rebounds) and Jae Crowder (17 points, 12 rebounds) got theirs but no other Marquette player scored more than nine points, as Marquette was unable to find open looks against the Bearcat defense.
Jaquon Parker (28 points, seven rebounds) and Dion Dixon (21 points) led the way for Cincinnati, who turned the ball over just seven times compared to 17 for Marquette. The computer profile for Mick Cronin's team may not be the greatest but they do hold wins over Georgetown (road) and Marquette, and that's going to be tough to match when comparing bubble teams for those final spots. The simplest thing for teams to do when looking to help their case is to win, and doing so can prove to be quite profitable. Cincinnati, Colorado State and USF may have put themselves in position to be rewarded handsomely on Wednesday night.
Three Notable Performances
1. G Chaz Williams (Massachusetts)
26 points, 11 assists, eight rebounds and four steals in the Minutemen's 90-88 overtime loss at Temple.
2. F/C Andrew Nicholson (St. Bonaventure)
32 points and 14 rebounds in the Bonnies' 98-93 double overtime win over Saint Joseph's.
3. F Robbie Hummel (Purdue)
26 points, eight rebounds and six assists in the Boilermakers' 80-56 win over Penn State.
Upsets rule the afternoon in the Big South and the rest of Wednesday's Quick Hitters