Time for a little game, we like to call: Last Night In...
Last Night In is a roundup of the activity from the night before, setting the stage for the next round of the conference tournament, as well as recap major Waiting Line action from the night before...
Butler defeated Seton Hall 85-78, avoiding a complete collapse of their 16-pt halftime lead, Butler has now won 5 of 7, achieved their third top 50 win, and improved their computer numbers to R:57;B:33;K:35. As of the latest Buffetology, Butler was among the last teams in, this win will, at a minimum, keep them there.
VCU defeated Davidson 70-60. A wire-to-wire win that propelled (thanks to the result of the next paragraph) VCU back into first place in the A-10. They're still not secure if that regular season 1st place doesn't translate to an autobid, but sitting an 9 in the latest Buffetology, computer now have VCU at: R:35;B:28;K:35 - so they're in a good spot.
One of the bigger wins of the night belongs to St. Bonaventure, defeating St. Joseph's 98-90. That's 9 of 10 for Bonnie, at the perfect time. There are still some blemishes to either cover up or hide, as they move into the A-10 tournament, with only St. Louis to go in the regular season - couple of bad losses, including LaSalle as the missing 10th game in their current streak. But they are moving in the correct direction. They were among the first 4 teams in the Waiting Line being considered for the First Four games in Dayton, and with Alabama & Tulsa suffering bad losses, and Gonzaga with very little to propel their resume, St. Bonaventure needs to avoid the bad loss, pick up another resume booster, but are in the right place at the right time to sneak into the tournament.
On the flip side, meet the Crimson Tide, a bad home loss at the wrong time, 62-61 to Arkansas, marking their 3 loss in 4 games, and 2nd to a 101+ team at home in that span. They have nice wins on the road/neutral court to keep them late in at-large discussions, but barring a run in the conference tournament, this is likely a team that will sit in the Waiting Line, right up front, but not at the tournament Buffet.
Wisconsin took care of it business, with an easy win over Minnesota, winning 11 of 12, with Purdue to go until the Big10 tourney, and at a 7 last we checked, Badgers are virtually locked in.
Pittsburgh is pretty safe overall, given the mess below them in line, but losing at a non-tournament bound Virginia Tech in March was not part of the at-large selection recipe.
Minus Tess Tinkle, injured in practice Tuesday with an unknown prognosis, Oregon State, already a shaky road team, looked lost in an 11 point road loss at Souithern California. Oregon State has lots of nice parts of their resume, no bad losses, wins against the top computer ranked teams, wins against teams projected in. What they don't do well is play away from home. With a game in LA versus UCLA and then the Pac-12 tournament, this team needs to win at least 1 more game, if not 2, to assure themselves of a tournament berth, and end the ceaseless drought they've been party to.
As for their opponent, Pac12 is home to the home court hero (which speaks to the degree of difficulty in conference road games, which actually helps teams buy a bit of leeway), but leeway is not given when you've lost 3 straight and 5of6, Southern Cal is largerly safe with their strong SOS and computer profile, 11 top 100 wins (4 against top 50) and no bad losses. A win over Oregon this weekend could secure it, but avoiding bad losses and not rolling losing 7 of 9 (and another 5 of 6) is highly advisable.
America East: Top seeded Stony Brook survived a scare, as UMBC hung around and hung around before free throws and Jameel Warney overwhelmed the Retrievers 86-76. New Hampshire outlasted Binghampton in the a slugfest of a 4/5 matchup 56-51. Vermont took care of Maine handily, 99-82. And the upset that may project a lifting of the cure, as Albany felt to the HAWKS of Hartford, 68-59, in a home AmEast shocker.
Northeast Conference: The NEC was a mixed bag, with top seeded Wagner and 2-seed Fairleigh Dicksinson moving of, though the Knights got much more of a fight than they expected from the tournament's 7th seed. The other two games featured upsets, as LIU-Brooklyn (6th seed) and Mount Saint Mary's (5th seed) moved on in the re-seeded tournament. You all can officially sleep on St. Francis (NY), they gone.
Ohio Valley Conference: As mentioned, the OVC got going with the quarterfinal play-ins, and traditional OVC powers, in the midst of down years, still found their way to tournament game wins: the 8th seed, Governors of Austin Peay and the 6th-seeded Racers of Murray State advanced.
Let's stay in this Valley, as the quarterfinals resume tonight:
Ohio Valley Conference Tournament, Music City Madness in Nashville - title game: March 5th, 6pm ET, ESPN2
Thanks to some inconsistent play down the stretch, this wasn't the regular runaway it seemed it might be on January 28. Belmont didn't limp to the finish, but they .500'd to the finish, 4-4 in conference play from Jan 30th on. With losses to all three teams sitting 1-game behind them at 11-5 in conference (Tennessee State, Tennessee Tech and Morehead State). The good news is 3 of those 4 losses were of the road variety, and the tournament is in Nashville. The team to watch here is Morehead, as the official OVC Don't Sleep On team. They dropped a pair of games in a row in early February, and haven't lost since. They are a low scoring, but well-balanced team, and their leading scorer, Corban Collins, while a modest 11.8 per game, still hits threes at a 42% clip. Conference top rebounding team, who also lead in steals per game -- defense can be a premium in the high scoring OVC, that makes Morehead State a looming danger. Korean DeShields (Tenn St) will keep the 4 seed afloat, and it'll be interested to see how far Chris Horton CAN carry Austin Peay, off his 37 point/21 rebound performance last night, but...
Belmont is still the Buffet Pick. Home in Nashville, with a pair dangerous scorers, one of whom Evan Bradds is very complete and should bring the Bruins back to the tournament for the 2nd straight year and third time in 4.
Big South - the 3rd day of conference tournaments is always a fun one for the Hoops diehards among us, they feature the breakfast Buffet courtesy of the Big South. From the Pope Center, on the campus of (11 seed) Campbell, with the championship game this Sunday 3/6 at 230pm ET on ESPN2. We've got ourselves what shapes up to a very competitive tournament battle. After a slow start, (2-3) Winthrop spent most of Fenruary as your projected Big South autobid earner, but High Point streaked to the finish line, with 6-straight wins and share of the title at 13-5. Just behind them at 12-6 come the red hot Coastal Carolina Chanticleers, winners of 8 of 10, and UNC-Asheville who faded down the stretch. One of the 4 teams playing today to keep an eye on, by virtue of holding the best non-conference, and top computer ranked win (a 69-67 home win over UNC-Wilmington is Radford. Who also won at Georgetown and Penn State in early November.
Don't Sleep On: Coastal Carolina & Winthrop. The conference top defensive and top offensive teams, respectively, would not be shockers coming out of this conference tournament. Coast is red hot, as mentioned, and behind Keon Johnson and Jimmy Jam Garvin, Winthrop is a potent offensive team.
Buffet pick: However, the most well-rounded is High Point. The league's hottest, best balanced between scoring (#2) and defense (#4), they also, and key for a potentially hotly contested tournament, turn over the ball least, shoot the best as a team from the free throw line, and feature Big South Player of the Year, John Brown. Buffet feels good things in store for the High Point (Highs) Panthers.
It's the MAAAAAAC...from the Times Union Center in Albany, NY. HSBC present the Metro Atlantic Association Basketball Tournament. Championship, Monday 3/7 ESPN.
Buffet Pick: There's heavy bias here, as this is a team the Buffet has long gotten behind. But this is a Monmouth tournament to lose. With wins over likely tournament teams in Notre Dame and Southern Cal in November, a neutral court tough loss to Dayton (73-70) and pretty swift run through the conference (though Iona's late season surge and win over Monmouth made it interesting), this team, at full strength, is the class of the MAAC, and potentially at-large worthy. Problem is? They're not a full strength. Their lone senior who sees the floor, 3rd leading scorer and leading rebounder, Deon Johnson broke his hand in the Feb 15th win over Manhattan. Since then they suffered a blowout home loss to Iona, needed overtime (and 18 FTs without a basket) to win at St. Peter's, though they did right the ship with a paid of convincing wins to close the season. All will be well if this talented team led by Justin Robinson, and a cool coach name, King Rice, everybody, chalks it to the NCAAs. This team, in MAAC play, is the 2nd highest scoring - no one will outscore Iona - 4th on defense, shoots it well from 3 and the free throw line, defends the 3 the best, and protects the ball. Strong recipe.
But Don't Sleep On: Iona, the league's hottest team, with the recent confidence of a blowout win at Monmouth in their minds. Yes, the Buffet is promoting a team featuring Tim Cluess running their Xs and Os. No one in the MAAC scores like Iona or A.J. English (22.3 a game) or shoots the 3 like Deyshonee Much (46%). St. Peter's, at 12-8, would be one to watch, but it's hard to see a grind-it-out team with a stellar talent at the top win in a run/gun league the MEAC has become. Other to watch see if they can make noise is Marist, they struggled in conference (and, really, everywhere), to a 4-16 record, but they boast the highest scoring tandem (Khallid Hart (20 pts) and Brian Parker (16 ppg)), and in a tournament setting on a neutral court where anything can happen -- who knows. Plus, Hart at Junior at Parker at Freshman, could be looking at the team looking to ascend to be Monmouth's foil in 2016-17.
The other Valley, Missouri's & Arch Madness gets going today - with a couple first round, play into the quarters matchups (8 Loyola-Chi (Northern Iowa's nemesis) vs Bradley & 7 Missouri State versus 10 Drake)... we'll dive further in the MVC tomorrow as the top 6 seeds get going, but, spoiler alert, we're seeing a Wichita World.
In the Waiting Line Games, March 3rd.
Illinois at Maryland: This is no waiting line game, the Terps will be in the tournament. But at what seed? What once seemed like a #1/#2 seed line contender, has gone into free-fall, and is 4th in the Big Ten. They've lost 3 of 4, including Minnesota's first conference win at the time. But with a road game at Indiana before the tournament, and currently under-.500 on the road, getting mentally healthy against Illinois is more important than this looked 10 games ago. Maryland had slipped to a 4 in the latest Buffetology, trending the wrong direction.
Georgia at South Carolina: Not much analysis to give here, don't take bad home losses in March. South Carolina was a 9 in the latest projection, but there's a thin line between 9 and gasping for Dayton.
Memphis at Temple: Is Temple a Waiting Line candidate? It's hard to discount a conference leader. With 6 wins against projectable (Tulsa is questionable and SMU is ineligible), a strong road record, and 7 wins in their last 10 - they can't be simply discounted. A loss here, or especially against Tulane in the finale and we'll more safely say a regular season conference championship will not be enough, and a tournament championship will be required.
Cincinnati at Houston: Good ol' fashioned double-Waiting Liner action. Too early, and too much conference tournament play to say anyone is eliminated. Though with Houston having drifted far from the bracket, you could argue that while Houston needs it more, Cincinnati benefits more - a top 75 road win, late season, to buoy off their UConn win on 2/20 and continue their late season 8-2 surge.
Connecticut at SMU: UConn is safe. SMU is ineligible. A nice surprising road win here would silence all those folks, mostly eating their caviar and watercress sandwiches in Greenwich, who believe for a second the tournament won't include the Huskies.
California at Arizona: Interesting game here, Cal's recent play has really solidified them. But a win at UofA for a notorious home court hero. That would qualify them as dangerous. Meanwhile, Arizona's star took a hit with a sweep in the Rocky Mountain Road trip last weekend. Their seed number continues to rise, and need to put an end to that with Bay Area schools in town for the regular season finish.
And, on a somber note, the #lopesrising movement came to a close on Tuesday night. As a poor, and low-scoring first half, the Antelopes never led, and although they did cut it to 2 with 10 minutes to play, the random late-season Patty Mill Honorary non-conference game, saw Grand Canyon's miracle end with a 73-64 loss in Moraga to St. Mary's. Grandy Glaze finished with 16/9, but GCU's tentative play (only 4 FT attempts) proved costly.