Blogging Championship Week: Thursday

Bookmark this page and check back periodically for my thoughts as I watch the scores roll in on Thursday. There are at least 10 bubble teams in action today, starting with Providence/Louisville in the Big East quarterfinals.

1:32 AM:
I’m going to hit the hay. I’ll be back tomorrow at 12 PM ET to start this all again. New Mexico is currently down seven to Wyoming with two minutes to play, so their bubble might be bursting tonight. It was a great day of basketball capped by one of the best games I’ve ever seen.

1:25 AM: The Orangemen finally prevailed, 127-117 (6 OT). Syracuse plays a ton of zone and I think that gave them an advantage in a game of this length. When you’re playing man to man, you have to go from side to side (of the half court) to cover your guy. When you’re in a zone, you just cover an area, so there’s less running involved. Over the course of a regular 40-minute game, it doesn’t make that much of a difference, but if you give a player the choice of playing 70 minutes of man-to-man or 70 minutes of zone, they’ll pick zone. Zone simply requires less effort, and I think the Orangemen had more in the tank at the end. I’m exhausted and I didn’t play a minute. What a great game…

1:07 AM: This is insane. This UConn/Syracuse game just went to a 6TH OVERTIME! Forget about the winner having any gas left in the tank for tomorrow night. Hell, they might not even show up to play.

12:57 AM: Bill Rafferty with the line of the night, “These guys are so tired they’re going to need cabs to get to the other end of the court.” A.J. Price has been great in the last two OTs.

12:47 AM: Wow, what a game in New York. UConn and Syracuse are in a 5TH OVERTIME. My TiVo ran out of space at the end of the second overtime, so I checked the internet to see who won and I saw that the game was still going on. So I flipped it on and watched the 4th OT. Hasheem Thabeet just fouled out, but Syracuse couldn’t finish at the rim with time winding down. Five more minutes.

11:06 PM:
USC just beat Cal in a tight one, so the Trojans are still alive for an NCAA berth. Mizzou is controlling its game against Texas Tech as is Boston College in its game versus Virginia. UConn and Syracuse are battling with about nine minutes left on ESPN. The Huskies are up two and probably need the win if they hope to secure a #1 seed next week.

10:00 PM: USC is beating Cal by 15 at halftime. The Trojans are a team that could play their way into a bid with a few wins in the Pac-10 tourney. Their RPI (61) and SOS (27) aren’t bad, but they’re 0-4 against Top 25 RPI teams.

9:17 PM: Down goes Pitt! Down goes Oklahoma! The Panthers lost to a very good West Virginia team that was helped by DeJuan Blair’s foul trouble. Watch out for the Mountaineers in the tourney. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State nipped Oklahoma in a great game, which means that the top two seeds in the Big 12 tourney have been knocked out (and Missouri has yet to play). OSU was already in, but now the door is open for a team like Baylor or Texas Tech to get a bid by winning the tourney. The other three teams still alive – OSU, Mizzou and Texas — are already in. In the ACC, Maryland beat NC State to keep the Terps’ slim NCAA hopes alive. They really need to win another game or two to have a legit shot.

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Providence takes care of business

The Providence Friars (19-12) fought off a feisty DePaul team, 83-74, keeping its tournament hopes alive, at least for now. Unfortunately, they really need a win against Louisville to earn a bid. If they give the Cardinals a great game, it will probably keep them in the conversation, but at 19-13, they’d likely to be on the outside looking in when it’s all said and done.

The bottom line is, if you’re a fan of one of those other teams on the bubble, you want Providence to lose, and lose bad.

Championship Week Primer: Bubble teams and #1 seeds

Strap ‘em up, kids. Championship Week is upon us!

Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s square off tonight in the final of the WCC tourney (9 PM ET, and why isn’t this game on national television?), and with the Gaels’ #45 RPI, they could really use a win to guarantee a NCAA tourney berth. The good news is that their leading scorer, Patrick Mills, is back, scoring 12 points in 35 minutes in yesterday’s win over Portland. If Saint Mary’s loses to the ‘Zags, it would put the Gaels squarely on the bubble. ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi has Saint Mary’s as a #10 seed, but I think that assumes that the committee will take Mills’ injury into account. After all, he was out of the lineup for three of the team’s five losses. Lunardi says that the Gaels are safe, but they don’t have a marquee win and are just 2-2 against the RPI top 50, so anything can happen.

But let’s move on to the “major” conference tournaments that will take place this week. I’m going to tackle these one-by-one in the order of Jeff Sagarin’s conference rankings.


Lunardi projects six ACC teams – UNC, Wake Forest, Duke, Clemson, Florida State and Boston College – to make the Dance, and of those teams only BC really has anything to worry about. The Eagles (#57 RPI) are probably safe, but a first round loss on Thursday against Virginia might make BC squirm a bit on Selection Sunday.

Miami, Maryland and Virginia Tech are three teams that could play themselves into an NCAA berth with a nice ACC tourney run. What do I mean by “a nice run”? Well, Virginia Tech and Miami square off on Thursday, so if whomever wins gives North Carolina a great game on Friday, that might be enough. The Hurricanes are a bit closer than the Hokies, so VT would probably have to pull the upset against the Tar Heels to earn a bid. Miami could potentially get in with an 18-12 record and a #53 RPI (against the 26th-toughest schedule) if they were to lose to North Carolina.

Meanwhile, Maryland has to beat N.C. State on Thursday and then (at least) pull the upset against the seemingly vulnerable Demon Deacons on Friday.

As far as #1 seeds go, North Carolina pretty much sewed one up with their second win against Duke on Sunday. Neither the Blue Devils nor Demon Deacons would seem to have a shot at one of the other three #1 seeds. It’s conceivable that Duke would be able to make a case if they win the ACC Tournament (beating Wake and UNC in the process) and a few of the teams ranked ahead of them have poor conference showings. Despite the brutal schedule (#3) and stellar RPI (3), Duke is realistically shooting for a #2 or #3 seed.

ACC Tournament bracket

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Big East has at least three teams on the bubble

The Big East (apparently) doesn’t have a regular season championship. They call their postseason tourney the Big East Conference Championship. The “bracketologists” over ESPN project that the conference will get eight bids — UConn, Pitt, Louisville, Marquette, Villanova, Syracuse, West Virginia and Providence, with the Friars being one of the last teams in. That leaves Cincinnati and Notre Dame on the outside looking in.

Cincy plays at South Florida and at home against Seton Hall this week, so with two wins, they would finish the regular season at 20-11 and 10-8 in conference. If that happens, it would be tough for the selection committee to leave them out. However, they are just 1-6 against Top 25 teams and the one win was against an overrated Georgetown team. Basically, they’ve been winning games that they should win, but aren’t beating any “superior” opponents. They don’t have a single marquee win on the season, so unless they win out and make some noise in the Big East tourney, they may not get a bid.

Notre Dame is in an even tougher position…

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Another #1 falls

For the sixth time in less than eight weeks, the #1 team in the nation has lost. This time it was #1 Pittsburgh losing to unranked, on-the-bubble Providence.

Weyinmi Efejuku scored 16 points for Providence, which took a 20-point lead and then turned back one last rally by No. 1 Pittsburgh for an 81-73 victory Tuesday night, the school’s second win ever over a top-ranked team.

The victory greatly improves the at-large resume for the Friars (17-11, 9-7), who are in sixth place in the 16-team Big East, a league considered by most as the toughest in the country.

“I think they made a big step to be able to continue their collegiate careers tonight,” [Keno] Davis said of his seniors after their final home game. “We’re in a pretty good situation: we’re in the top half of the best conference in the country. It puts us in the conversation. I’m sure if we had lost, they wouldn’t be talking about us anymore.”

This is a huge win for the Friars, but it’s only the team’s second win against a ranked opponent this season. Providence is just 2-5 against Top 25 opponents, so they’re not out of the woods yet. A win against #12 Villanova on March 5 would certainly help, but the game is on the road. If they lose to the Wildcats (or Rutgers on March 1), they’ll also need to win a game or two in the Big East tournament to get a bid.

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