USF Picks Up a Big Win: Sunday Thoughts
It wasn't pretty but USF found a way to get the job done, beating Cincinnati 46-45 to move to 11-5 in the Big East and 18-11 overall. Freshman point guard Anthony Collins made a pair of free throws with 3.4 seconds remaining to give the Bulls the win, and while it isn't a resume-building win the Bulls did the simplest thing a bubble team can do this time of the year: they won. Collins, who is going to be an outstanding point guard in the Big East as he gains experience, led USF with 14 points and five assists and Toarlyn Fitzpatrick added eight and ten rebounds.
The burning question is what this win does for USF's tournament chances, and the response is a simple one: they're still alive. The same goes for Cincinnati in spite of their non-conference strength of schedule (321 going into today's action). While teams can't control what their opponents do there is the simple aspect of taking care of your own business, and if that's done the door will remain open.
Stan Heath's Bulls are 14-1 at home this season, a record that may not impress when considering the opposition but they've played in three different arenas due to renovations to the Sun Dome. For this group to be in position to earn their first NCAA berth in 20 years (1992) is an impressive achievement when all things are considered. USF has games remaining at Louisville and against West Virginia at home before the Big East Championship in New York, and Cincinnati closes with #10 Marquette at home and at Villanova.
Stony Brook wins America East: Dallis Joyner scored 12 points and four other players scored between seven and nine points as Stony Brook beat Maine 55-48, wrapping up the outright America East title and grabbing the one-seed in next week's conference tournament. Steve Pikiell's Seawolves shot just 37% from the field but they were better on the defensive end of the floor, holding New Hampshire to 32.1% from the field and 4-for-21 from three.
Big Games Later Today
#15 Wisconsin at #9 Ohio State (4 PM, CBS)
This is a big one for the Buckeyes in regards to both the Big Ten title and the opportunity to grab a one-seed in the NCAA tournament, while the Badgers would do wonders for their NCAA seeding possibilities with a win. Ohio State is 17-1 at home this season, and a big part of their win in Madison on February 4th was their defending of the three. Wisconsin, who scores 35.2% of their points from three (per statsheet.com), shot 5-for-27 from beyond the arc in that contest.
That was also during a period when Jordan Taylor was struggling from the field, and clearly he'll be the focal point of what the Badgers look to do offensively. Aaron Craft is an outstanding defensive point guard, which will make for a fun battle within the game. If William Buford is scoring at an efficient rate it will be tough for Wisconsin to leave Columbus with a win.
Loyola (MD) at Manhattan (4 PM)
Iona already has the top seed wrapped up for next weekend's MAAC tournament but seeds two through four are all up for grabs. Fairfield (at Rider; 3:30 PM) also has a shot but the focus will be on Loyola's trip north to take on the Jaspers. Loyola won the first meeting 61-60 in Baltimore on January 5th and a lot has changed with both teams since then.
Rhamel Brown is one of the country's best shot blockers when taking height into consideration (he's only 6'6" but averages 2.5 rejections per game), but he'll have a tough matchup with Loyola calling on the likes of Erik Etherly. The first meeting was bizarre in that the Greyhounds won despite shooting 30.5% from two, and a Dylon Cormier three in the final seconds was the difference. Expect another tight affair at Draddy this afternoon.
California at Colorado (5:30 PM, FSN)
The visit from the Bay Area schools could not have gone worse for Colorado to this point, as they were blown out on Thursday night by Stanford...and then watched the Cardinal lose at Utah on Saturday. To say the least this is a huge game for Tad Boyle's team as the Golden Bears are the only team in the Pac-12 with a Top 50 RPI. A win over Cal will by no means punch Colorado's ticket (they aren't close at present time) but it will keep them alive, and in order to do so Carlon Brown needs to snap out of his funk.
Good luck doing that against Jorge Gutierrez, who is one of the best defenders in the country. Add in Justin Cobbs playing outstanding basketball of late and this will be a tough task for Colorado, but it can be done. Spencer Dinwiddie is one of the best freshmen in the conference and Andre Roberson has been good all season long, so they'll have a shot to knock off the Bears if they can keep Cobbs, Gutierrez and Allen Crabbe under wraps.
#16 Florida State at Miami (6 PM, ESPNU)
How's this for a bubble twist: Miami center Reggie Johnson has been declared ineligible by the NCAA and will not play tonight against Florida State, according to Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press. That means the Hurricanes will need even more from Kenny Kadji, who has played well this season, if they're to beat the Seminoles at home. FSU is deep inside with Bernard James, Xavier Gibson, Okaro White and John Kreft, meaning that they're better equipped to navigate foul trouble and that was before the Johnson news hit.
Malcolm Grant, Shane Larkin and Durand Scott will need to control the tempo if Miami is to take care of business at home, and if they can turn over the Florida State guards that would be even better. Maybe this is another game Michael Snaer wins at the end as he owns a pair of buzzer-beaters this season, but FSU may have caught a break with the Johnson news.