Ref blows Syracuse over-and-back call [video]

It’s been a tough day to be a ref, but the officials blew another one, this time in the Syracuse/Marquette game.

The rule (4.3.8) states:

After a jump ball or during a throw-in, the player in his/her front court, who makes the initial touch on the ball while both feet are off the playing court, may be the first to secure control of the ball and land with one or both feet in the back court. It makes no difference if the first foot down was in the front court or back court.

Notice that both feet of Scoop Jardine are off the court, and as he catches the ball his foot lands on the line. This should have been a play on, but the ref called a backcourt violation.

The game was tied at 59-59 with 0:52 to play and Marquette hit a three-pointer on the next possession to take control of the game. Marquette won, 66-62.

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Marquette knocks off #10 Villanova

If the Golden Eagles didn’t already have a bid to the NCAA Tournament, they should now. Marquette beat Villanova, 80-76, in the quarterfinals of the Big East Championship.

Joe Lunardi had Marquette as a #9 seed before the win, so they should be a sure thing at this point. They have five losses to ranked teams (Wisconsin, West Virginia, Georgetown, Syracuse and Villanova twice) by a total of 19 points, so they play everyone tough. Plus, they have nice wins against Georgetown, Xavier and now Villanova.

Four observations about the West Region

1. #11 Utah State looks like a sneaky smart pick against #6 Marquette.
The Golden Eagles are just 1-5 after losing Dominic James, their fourth-leading scorer and best playmaker, for the rest of the season. Granted, those five losses were to UConn, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Villanova, and they only lost by an average of 7.2 points, but Marquette has to travel to Boise to face #25-ranked Utah State, who had a 19-game winning streak this season. The Golden Eagles better account for Gary Wilkinson and Jared Quayle, who make up one of the best inside-outside combinations west of the Mississippi.

2. The committee didn’t do Mississippi State any favors.
Congratulations on winning the SEC tournament, Bulldogs! Now we need you to make the 2000 mile-trip to Portland, Oregon by Thursday, where you’ll play the Pac-10 champions in their neighboring state. Good luck, and enjoy the Pacific Northwest!

3. UConn shouldn’t be seriously challenged until the Elite Eight, but this is UConn we’re talking about.
If the Huskies come out with a singular focus, no team on their side of the bracket should be able to keep up. Washington, Purdue and BYU are nice teams, but they don’t have the star power or coaching experience of the Huskies. Nor do they have anyone to matchup with Hasheem Thabeet on the inside. However, UConn is known for having tournament ADHD, so its entirely possible that one or more of these teams make the Huskies sweat late into the second half.

4. Missouri/Memphis should be a good one.
The Utah State/Marquette winner could easily give Mizzou a run, and Memphis might be challenged by the winner of the Cal/Maryland game, but if the Tigers face the…um…the other Tigers in the Sweet Sixteen, it’ll be a nice matchup. Memphis hasn’t played a good team since early February (when they blew out Gonzaga in Spokane) and Missouri just won the Big 12 tourney in convincing fashion. Both teams are stellar defensively, but Mizzou has an advantage on offense with DeMarre Carroll and Leo Lyons on the front line.

Upsets in the Big 12; UNC & Pitt take care of business

#5 Oklahoma visited #12 Missouri last night, and the Tigers pulled the upset, 73-64. Blake Griffin had 16 points and 21 rebounds, but turned the ball over six times in the loss. The Tigers were obviously motivated after the 25-point drubbing they took from the Kansas Jayhawks. This looks like it would have been a fun game to watch — too bad it was only on ESPN360. The network really should have a way to bring great matchups like this to a wider audience.

#9 Kansas lost to unranked Texas Tech, 84-65. Senior Alan Voskuil had 35 points on 9 of 14 shooting from long range. I’m not sure what to make of these Big 12 teams right now. Kansas and Oklahoma looked like the cream of the crop, and they turn around a lose to Texas Tech and Missouri, respectively. (In the Sooners’ defense, Missouri was the #12 team in the nation and the game was on the road.) Oklahoma was in line for a #1 seed, but it looks like they still have some work to do.

Meanwhile, #2 North Carolina fended off a feisty Virginia Tech squad, 86-78, while #4 Pitt beat #15 Marquette, 90-75. The Tar Heels earned at least a share of the ACC regular season title, though they’ll have to beat archrival Duke on Sunday to avoid sharing the honors with the Blue Devils.

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