Posted on: March 14, 2010 3:52 pm
Mississippi State may have just seen its bubble burst in the cruelest of ways, as the SEC Championship slipped out of their fingers, 75-74 in Overtime. In regulation, the Bulldogs were up three with 5 seconds to go, but chose to foul. Kentucky's Eric Bledsoe made the first free throw but then missed the second on purpose. John Wall retreived the rebound, shot an air ball and Demarcus Cousins put in the putback, just .1 seconds before time expired. The Cats then prevailed in overtime, after a circus three by John Wall that put the Cats up for good.
Now the waiting begins for the Bulldogs. Rick Stansbury was as deflated as any coach I have ever seen after the game and seemed on the verge of tears in his press conference. He said that the two OT losses to Kentucky should be considered by Tournament committee but acknowledged that the call was now out of his hands.
What a game. I have been to SEC Tournament games for 20 years and there are only one or two that could come close to this one in terms of quality of play, raw emotion and excitement. One for the books.
Posted on: March 14, 2010 12:10 pm
The talk all week has been about the seeding for the SEC Tournament and how it needed to change because it wasn't a true reflection of the relative power of the league. Critics said that the four best teams were all in the SEC East and that the SEC West had no talent and should not have received the benefit of the divisional seeding that characterizes the SEC Tournament. Maybe so. But today, the Mississippi State Bulldogs will be representing the West in the Finals, after defeating two of the top East teams convincingly. Vanderbilt and Florida have gone down, but will MSU be able to repeat its magic against Kentucky? An NCAA bid may be what is at stake.
Because of the wins by Houston and New Mexico State yesterday, there are two fewer bubble teams that will find their way into March Madness. Mississippi State was all but forgotten as a Tournament team but now find themselves squarely on the bubble, potentially the last team in or out. Win today and you take away any mystery...lose today and you are the team the analysts fight about during the endless preview shows from Monday to Wednesday.
As for Kentucky, the city is painted Blue and Calipari admitted he had changed his mind and wants to win this for the fans. There will be a lot of them in Nashville today, where the crowd will give the Cats a huge homecourt edge. MSU has played the Cats well over the last few years and Jarvis Varnado seems to have big games in every meeting. How he plays may determine the winner.
Its raining Cats and Dogs in Nashville at 1 pm...or 2 pm, if you forgot to set your clocks forward, Check it out, and dont forget to make fun of Jimmy Dykes' ridiculous "black on black" Johnny Cash look on the microphone.
Posted on: March 13, 2010 10:27 am
The toughest ticket in 20 years in the SEC occurs today, as the SEC Semifinals take place in Nashville, Tennessee. The three best teams in the conference, Kentucky, Tennessee and Vanderbilt, are all in the final four and all are within a four-hour drive from Nashville. Kentucky has approximately 25,000 fans who have travelled here, the vast majority of whom will not even find their way into the arena. Combine that with the Tennessee and Vandy contingents and it will be as one ticket scalper told me, "a day to make some real money."
As for games themselves, each has distinct subplots that will make the games worth watching, The Kentucky vs Tennessee matchup puts together two teams that play similar style, are equivalent athletically (a rarity amongst Kentucky opponents) and have a history of great games. Patrick Patterson said yesterday that he loves playing against the Vols because "they get me focused unlike anyone else. They talk trash before the game starts, while its going on and it doesnt even matter if they are winning or losing, no matter what." Tennessee on the other hand loves to not only compete against Kentucky, but Bruce Pearl has been known to throw a few jabs the Big Blue's way such as his comment after the first round fo this tournament that they were shooting threes so bad that "we looked lke Kentucky."
At stake is a birth in the finals, but possibly more importantly for both teams, it is the rubber match of the season series, which is tied at one. Both teams won on their homecourt and each can make a case they should win here. Tennessee is playing in its home state but will be the decided underdog from a crowd perspective, as Kentucky fans will make up the significant majority of the crowd. This game will be a wild scene and unlike anything the SEC has seen in years.
While the first game may be wilder, the Vanderbilt vs Mississippi State game may be more important. While Vandy is playing for seeding, the Bulldogs still want to get in the NCAA Tournament and it might take a win today over the Commodores to make it happen. The Bulldogs dominated Florida early and hung on late to get to this point, but this may be their true play-in game for the Tournament. Vandy won the original meeting between these two teams and will have a crowd advantage on Saturday. But desperate teams sometimes come up with desperate performances, and that may be just what it takes for the Bulldogs to get a win in their biggest game of the season.
It is going to be wild in Nashville today and elsewhere. Kansas vs Kansas State in the Big 12, San Diego State trying to make the NCAA Tournament out West and Evan Turner becoming transcendant in the Big 12. Great day of college basketball awaits:
Posted on: March 12, 2010 10:22 pm
I hate to criticize a college kid, I really do. But the fact of the matter is, whatever Florida's Dan Werner touches, turns to stone. It certainly wasn't Werner's fault that Florida fell down by 19 points to Mississippi State in an important bubble battle in the SEC Tournament. The Gators did that themselves. And it isn't Werner's fault that Florida's collection of talent seems to drop every season, somehow negating the effect of back-to-back titles that seemed to have established the Gators as one of the nation's elite. But it was his fault that after the Gators had cut the game to three, he had a pass hit his hands as he stood wide open, ready to cut the game to one. For Werner it was another mistake on a career that has been haunted by such plays. He has become the Saul Smith of Florida basketball and one has to feel bad for him.
As for the Gators, they are probably still in the Tournament after the 75-69 loss, but it isn't assured. Their resume is ok, but ok sometimes leaves good teams out of the Tournament, as Florida itself can attest after back-to-back NIT bids. As for Mississippi State, one more win is likely needed and a trip to the SEC Finals should have them dancing. The most disappointing team in the conference has found ways to underachieve all year, but they can make up for a lot with one more win. The fifteen people in Starkville who care about basketball are holding their collective breath.
Posted on: March 12, 2010 10:17 pm
Edited on: March 12, 2010 10:19 pm
See, it's clever because there was this book...
Georgia Tech all but solidified its spot in the field of 65 by topping second-seeded Maryland, 69-64 in an ACC quarterfinal Friday night.
The Yellow Jackets led by 19 in the first half and 16 at the break, but a furious rally by the Terrapins in the opening minutes of the second-half left things nip-and-tuck from the ten-minute mark on.
With Tech up 67-64 and under 15 seconds to play, ACC Player of the Year Grievis Vasquez pulled up for a potential game-tying three-pointer but had the ball stripped by Iman Shumpert. Vasquez then committed an intentional foul and Shumpert buried a pair of free-throws to seal the deal.
Georgia Tech negated 26 turnovers by shooting a season-best 56% from the field. Shumpert led the Jackets with 14 points while freshman star Derrick Favors added 11 points and 11 rebounds.
E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson combined for 50 of Purdue's 69 points as the Boilermakers overcame an early 11-point deficit and then held off a furious late Northwestern run to advance to Saturday's Big Ten semifinal against either Michigan State or Minnesota.
Following the game, Purdue fans said they didn't care which team they faced tomorrow night, just as long as the entire nation is still aware that Robbie Hummel is out for the season.
Georgetown and Marquette built upon a dazzling three days of Big East Tournament basketball by wowing the Garden crowd and a primetime ESPN audience with an 80-57 dud.
Not for your fault, Hoyas.
Georgetown, the No. 8 seed, advanced to the title game for the third time in four years. The storied program has brought the tournament title back to D.C. seven times.
Greg Monroe continued his campaign for tournament MVP by scoring 23 points, grabbing 13 rebounds and handing out seven assists. Not that the Hoyas needed it all. Jason Clark and Chris Wright both scored 15 points and Austin Freeman added 12.
Coming into the night, Marquette hadn't lost a game by more than nine all season. They fought to get it within five midway through the second half, but were outscored 24-6 from that point on. Jimmy "Jimmah" Butler led the Golden Eagles with 17 points.
Georgetown awaits the winner of tonight's West Virginia/Notre Dame clash.
SPOILER ALERT: They're going to lose to either one.
Down two with the ball and under 40 seconds to play, Dayton point guard Rob Lowery signaled for, and was granted, a timeout. Should've been the end of the story, but if it was it probably wouldn't have been the lead sentence. Xavier's Terrell Holloway slapped the ball out of Lowery's hands, an action the Flyer floor general apparently deemed worthy of punishment by half-hearted right cross.
Lowery received a technical, Holloway knocked down four straight free-throws and the Musketeers moved onto the A-10 semis.
Not that it should have ever come down to that.
UD led 61-46 with ten and-a-half minutes to play before they went ice cold from the field and turned to an ultra-conservative style of play. Xavier promptly went on a 19-3 run to claim a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
Dayton will not dance (figuratively...and literally, I guess) in large part because of nine losses that were decided by five points or fewer.
Jarvis Varnado blocked 52 shots and Florida may or may not have seen its bubble burst.
Only facts you need.
Posted on: March 12, 2010 6:31 pm
Edited on: March 13, 2010 1:00 pm
Before you settle in on a Friday evening to watch basketball, go to a party, head over to catch a movie or perhaps kill a drifter (hey, I don't know you), some business from late this afternoon.
Ole Miss (probably) punched out for the season today. But there's no way of knowing for sure. What we do know is that Ole Miss really needed a strong showing in the SEC Tournament to keep a chance for an NCAA bid. As it was, Bruce Pearl and company strolled into Nashville today to handle Andy Kennedy's Rebels fairly handily, keeping a nice cushion between the two teams for most of the second half. The Vols' Wayne Chism played 36 minutes for 16 points and a whopping 15 rebounds, and the stage is set for a third Tennessee-Kentucky matchup tomorrow (their series is split) that should be nothing short of a good old-fashioned SEC street fight. Does Ole Miss still have a chance for the Dance? Chances are slimmer, but tournament season never fails to surprise.
UTEP-Tulsa went according to plan. The University of Texas-El Paso hasn't been nationally ranked since 1992, and they appear to be taking that quite seriously. The Miners faced Tulsa in Tulsa today to unseat the Golden Hurricane 75-61. In typical UTEP "who's turn is it today?" fashion, Randy Culpepper pulled down 21 points (you'll recall it was junior Jeremy Williams' moment the night before), and that means that -- according to the rotation -- it should be transfer Derrick Caracter's shift tomorrow as UTEP takes on either Houston or Southern Miss tomorrow at an 11:30 am tip-off.
One-half of the SWAC finals is set. Arkansas-Pine Bluff started the season 0-11 in nonconference play. And they're still a two seed in the SWAC tournament, headed to the finals tomorrow after a 69-66 edging out of Alabama State in Bossier City today. The Golden Lions -- despite horrific shooting early on -- hung on to send the Delta Demons packing and will play the winner of a Grambling-Texas Southern matchup later tonight. Make no mistake about it, if anyone in this conference wants to live past the SWAC tournament, they've gotta win it. And even then, they're a sixteen.
Keep your internet dial right here, folks. There's more to come.
Posted on: March 12, 2010 4:15 pm
If you look on Wikipedia, you will read that the University of Kentucky is located in Lexington, Kentucky. But if you happened to find yourself in Nashville, Tennessee for the SEC Tournament, you would be forgiven if you thought the campus had moved South. In front of an 18,000 seat arena that was likely 85% filled with Kentucky fans, the Cats kept their dream of the #1 overall seed alive with a 73-67 victory over Alabama.
The game was never easy and early on, Anthony Grant's Alabama team looked as if they would produce a performance as impressive as Grant's starched shirts (seriously, no one has a better shirt collection than Grant...I challenge you to find a wrinkle). The Tide jumped out to an 11 point first-half lead and dominated the offensive glass, producing 10 first half offensive rebounds that they converted into 13 points. Kentucky on the other hand, had little to show for their early start. Demarcus Cousins had 2 points, Patrick Patterson 0 rebounds and John Wall three missed layups. It was as if the team saw the noon start and realized that their decision to stay up all night and watch a "Thats So Raven" marathon may have not been the wisest.
And then, as Tiger Woods can most certainly attest, things can change quickly. In the second half, John Wall attempted to match the performance by Evan Turner, and make his case for National Player of the Year. He took the Cats from down 6 to up 8 on a 16-2 run, highlighted by his continued ability to get to the basket to either score, or create for his teammates. Wall finished with 23 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists in a dominating performance that showcased, as teammate Demarcus Cousins said after the game, "sometimes he is just amazing and that is all you can say."
With Syracuse's loss, Kentucky is now left hoping for a Kansas trip-up in order to garner the #1 overall seed, and more importantly, a trip to St Louis for the Regional final. St. Louis is less than 5 hours from Lexington and if Nashville is any indication, it will turn into Lexington west in two weeks. For now, the Cats await the winner of Tennessee and Ole Miss in the Semifinals tomorrow.
Posted on: March 11, 2010 9:47 pm
Edited on: March 11, 2010 9:48 pm
Upset Thursday continued in the Big East as No. 7 Notre Dame eliminated second-seeded Pittsburgh, 50-45. Tory Jackson hit 4-of-6 threes to score 12 points and Luke Harangody came off the bench to add 12 more as the Fighting Irish won back-to-back games in the Big East Tournament for the first time in program history.
The loss dropped teams which had earned double-byes into the quarterfinals to 0-3, with only third-seeded West Virginia left to take the court.
After advancing to the championship game in four straight seasons, the loss marked the second straight one-and-done tournament for the Panthers, who were also the No. 2 seed in 2009.
Notre Dame's newfound commitment to defense was on full display again, as they held Pitt to their lowest point total of the season. The Irish have now held five of their past six opponents to 54 points or fewer. They've won all six games over that span and leapt from NIT-bound to single-digit NCAA Tournament seed.
Georgia Tech went ahead and put the bullet in the head of the gravely injured animal that was North Carolina's 2009-2010 season, knocking the Tar Heels out of the ACC Tournament by a final score of 62-58.
The Yellow Jackets, playing with their season on the line, trailed by ten at the break but a monster second half by star freshman Derrick Favors helped keep them (most likely) in the dance for the time being. Favors finished with a game-high 18 points.
Kansas State began its three-day case for a one seed by completely humiliating Oklahoma State, 83-64 in a game they led by as many as 33. Jamar Samuels scored 21 of his career-high 27 points in the first half.
The Cowboys are still almost certainly in the field of 65, but the loss - which came just a day after an impressive rout of rival Oklahoma - may have knocked them down a seeding row or two.
OTHER MAJOR CONFERENCE GAMES I WATCHED ZERO SECONDS OF
Elsewhere, Minnesota beat Penn State by 21 in a game I thank every possible religious deity that I wasn't forced to watch, and Florida at least momentarily speared itself from the knowledge of having a stressful Sunday on the horizon by knocking off Auburn, 76-55.