And They're Off.. (plus our return to the Patriot uncovers a POY robbery from @LehighMBB)

It may have been day 3,  but last night, officially (and coincidentally because the calendar turned to March), it's on... 

And, as if on cue, just as this was being drafted -- 2 Big South game came down to the buzzer, both finishing in upsets, and one of which featured Chris Clemons of Campbell nearly single-handedly staging a big upset, the 7th seeded Campbell Camels taking out the regular season co-champs, UNC-Asheville. Clemons performance was stuff of March legends.  Down 23-69 early, this game turned for good at 23-11, when the sequence went Clemons three, then the 5'9 Clemons reached up for a block shot of a dunk attempt by 6'9 Giacomo Zilli, then ran out for a jumped, and suddenly it was 23-16, and there was really not turning back.. Mad respect to @GoCamelsBB and Clemons for a sick performance.

  • We came down to the final buzzer, twice, in the MEAC.
  • The Buffet made a prediction, and they lost, to the 7 seed, at home in the first tournament game
  • The Ohio Valley took us to 3 overtimes over 2 games
  • VCU & Dayton played like a pair of Atlantic 10 powerhouse wanting that regular season crown, and Dayton snatched it
  • TCU, TCU'd - losing their second straight by single digits in a game they needed
  • Marquette walked into Xavier and walked out with a double-digit win, all bought clinched a berth for the Golden Eagles. They finish at home with Creighton, then, no matter how the vast tie-breaking scenarios shake out, they've earned a bye and will face: Providence, Creighton again, or Seton Hall.  None of those would be a "bad" loss.  So essentially, the question is: have they done enough already - we think so.
  • Wake Forest (more on that later) and Illinois got the wins that two teams barely in the discussion badly need.
  • And, finally, Northwestern did this:

And the thing is...

On the 4th day of Conference Tourneys...

The goodness of it all means we're bring you, the readers, double barrel action today

  • Early Editions: Today's Conference Tournament Previews, Last Night's Results Review, Injury trouble in Westwood?
  • Late Edition: Where Are We Now: Update the Buffetology through yesterday's game with deeper dive into team's seeding, chances 

IT'S A MAAC-N-CHEESE FEST...

That is NOT just a Leif Beaver approved pun, that's a thing: 

And so is the conference tournament which gets started today at the Times Union Center in Albany, NY. And we've got our second small conference at-large contender and all around solid team in Monmouth. First the schedule

  • 3/2: (All games on WATCH ESPN, save championship on ESPN2)
    • Game 1: 8 Quinnipiac v 9 Niagara
    • Game:2: 7 Canisius v 10 Marist
    • Game 3: 6 Rider v 11 Manhattan
  • 3/3
    • Game 4: Monmouth vs. Game 1 Winner
    • Game 5: Saint Peter's v. Game 2 Winner
  • 3/4
    • Game 6: Fairfield v. Game 3 Winner
    • Game 7: Siena v Iona
  • 3/5
    • Game 4 Winner vs. Game 7 Winner
    • Game 5 Winner vs. Game 6 Winner
  • 3/6: CHAMPIONSHIP - ESPN2 6pm PT

Monmouth returned 6 of their top 7 producers from their painful 2015/16 team that went 27-7, beat UCLA, Notre Dame, Drexel, USC, Georgetown and went 17-3 in conference. This year? They did one better in conference, finishing on a 16-game winning streak and an 18-2 conference record.  Unfortunately, the path to at large may be just a dimly lit. They only hold wins over Memphis & Princeton, failed to add another in a 1-point OT loss to South Carolina back in November, were blown out by Syracuse and North Carolina, and while losing in conference is a thing that happens, it also gave them a pair of tough losses (134 & 198). The question will be, will 1 top 100 wins, a top 50 RPI, but middling numbers via the other computer rankings, 2 100+ losses but stillz a gaudy record (26 D1 wins to this point), 18-2 in the 16th ranked conference be enough. Doesn't seem likely. So let's check them in a MAAC context.

Their road to the autobid will travel through Quinnipiac, Niagara, Siena, and last year's season devastator Iona, before a likely championship versus Saint Peter's.  This season, Monmouth beat Quinn twice by 19, and swept Niagara (home win by 18, by 7 on the road), Then it's get a little interesting.  Whether it was season fatigue, or a foreboding sign after beating Iona & Siena by an average of 19 points in previous matchups, Monmouth closed the season with a pair of wins but by only 6 and 4, respectively. Iona had it tied at 61 with 5:35 to play, before a 5-0 run helped seal it, and against Siena at home, they Saints closed a 7 point halftime deficit to a see-saw second half, and was within 2 for the entire final minute, before a pair of FTs gave the final score.  Now a final versus St. Peter's has the potential for something special... St. Peter's ran over a 10-4 Monmouth team on January 2 by 10 points, and then on February 3rd Monmouth eeked out 1 point OT win... conference player of the year favorite Justin Robinson nearly replicated his is 2016 season scoring 19 points, grabbing 4 rebounds and dishing 5 assists per game. He had an 8 game streak scoring 20 or more points, and a 40 point performance versus Siena. Enter WATCHESPN.com into your browser and watch this kid play. Full stop. As long as he doesn't run into another 2-9 (1-6 from 3) game against St. Peter's, Monmouth should punch their ticket.  But, the supporting cast is a year more experienced, so watch for Micah Seaborn, Je'lon Hornbeak, Chris Brady and Austin Tilghman to be more equipped to provide reinforcements in the event of a Robinson cold spell. Especially Micah Seaborn who averaged 20 points in game where Robinson failed to reach his season average, 

Let's talk St. Peter's -- who has won 6 straight, 8 of 11, and those 3 losses were by a combined 6 points, 2 OTs, and a layup with 0.1 seconds left to prevent a 3rd OT.  In fact, 5 of their 6 conference losses were by an average of 2 points, the lone outlier coming back on December 2.  They tried to hang with Maryland by lulling them to sleep - it was successful, they turned a 61-40 deficit with 4+ minutes to the 10 point final, but it's tough to eliminate 20 point deficits through 4 corners basketball.  They hung a bit with Notre Dame, again working back from down 18 points through their slow down basketball (Notre Dame finished 22 points below their season average), to cut it to 9 with 5 minutes left, and ultimately fell by 8. They play slow, deliberate basketball (their Opp PPG is 9th in the nation), and an experienced group led by 3 seniors and a junior - the Peacocks have just the formula to frustrate the up-tempo, high scoring Hawks. But, let's stay measured, 6 conference losses is still 6 conference losess, no matter the final spread, and staying in striking distance but not actually striking in their toughest games is not a total achievement - and it exposed the real difficulty for the Peacocks -- getting the big shot when they need it most. Manufacturing offense is an Achilles' heel for this squad.

Siena, they of the recent close loss to Monmouth, does hold wins over both Iona and St. Peter's, There was a stretch of the season, following a 3-4 conference start, the Iona looked to have figured things out, running off 6 straight wins, including back to back wins over St. Peter's and Siena.  But, the inconsistency bug plagued them down the stretch 9-4 became 12-8... But  this is a capable team lead by Jordan Washington inside, and Fordham transfer, Jon Severe and UConn transfer, Sam Cassell, Jr. on the perimeter.  Hottest team not named Monmouth, Rider and their modest 3 game win streak.

Prediction: Monmouth still has the bitter taste in their mouth from last year's championship game. With so many returning contributors and the talents of Justin Robinson -- here's to them putting that taste to bed.

Jack Leasure Mad Bomber Award Candidate: Kassius Robertson, Canisius, 92 3s, 41%

(honorable mention to Justin Robinson, Monmouth, 84 3s, 40% and Ryan Funk, Marist, 80 3s 41%)

LET'S GET ARCHIE!

No, not that Archie.

No, not that Archie.

Yes. That Archie.

Yes. That Archie.

It's the MADNESS. From the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Missouri.

  • 3/2 (MVC TV Network)
    • Game 1: 9 Indiana St v. Evansville
      • Game 2: 10 Drake v. 7 Bradley
  • 3/3 (MVC TV Network)
    • Game 3: Game 1 Winner v. #1 Illinois State
    • Game 4: Southern Illinois v. Loyola
    • Game 5: Game 2 Winner v. #2 Wichita State
    • Game 6: #3 Northern Iowa v. #6 Missouri State
  • 3/4 (CBS Sports Network)
    • Game 3 Winner v Game 4 Winner
    • Game 5 Winner v Game 6 Winner 
  • 3/5 Championship 11AM CBS

Yes, you read that right -- mid-major Waiting Line... darlings Wichita State isn't the top seed in this tournament. The other new candidate for mid-major Waiting Line... darlings, Illinois State is. Both teams are trying to move themselves to an at-large invite.  But, we don't think that's possible for both. Wichita COULD earn a bid without the tournament championship, and losing to one of the non-Illinois State teams (but please for anxiety sake, make it Missouri State or Northern Iowa), but Illinois State only path to the tourney is chalk walking Arch Madness or losing to Wichita St in the final.  Basically, MVC has a potential for 2 bids, but best bet is to have those 2 Waiting Line squads in the tournament final to maximize those odds.

The top-seeded Redbirds are led by MVC Larry Bird player of the year, Paris Lee.  Lee fills the stat sheet, with 13 points, 5 assist, and 2 steals (he's ISU all time steals leader). He's back by team leading scorer Deontae Hawkins (14 points + 7 rebounds), Phil Fayne (6 rebounds and 1 block per game) and MilKyle McIntosh.  In conference, Illinois St suffered a single loss, a Feb 4 road game in Wichita, it was pretty brutal, 86-45, but they bounced right back put Drake down on the road 82-53, and then finished the season on a 6 game win streak.  They did handle Wichita at home 76-62, but they've faced their fair share of close calls (Two wins over Missouri State by a total over 4 points, 5 point win over Indiana State, and a 4 pt win over Southern Illinois), so the 17-1 was impressive but not always dominant. Illinois State is an interesting at-large case, and will help in the tournament chances evaluation.  Their top win is the Wichita win (which is dulled slightly by the later 40 point loss), a home win over New Mexico and a Diamond Head Classic win in Hawaii over Tulsa,   Again, dulled slightly by the earlier loss to Tulsa (by 2), and they have bowling shoe ugly loss to Murray State (#236) that they will have to shake out of committee's minds.  Here's what they do have: A share of the regular season title, 9 true road wins, a 6 game win streak, a top 50 and top 100 wins, and a 48th ranking average across computers... here's what they'll need to have - extended that winning streak to 8, and then the loss will HAVE to be to Wichita State, or else it's another, at best, top 100+ loss, on top of a resume that is simply barebones, no matter how much the eye test might tell us this is a better team than Georgia Tech, California or Rhode Island (to name a few Waiting Liners...)

Do you recognize Wichita State? I do not. They are recognizable in their continued MVC dominance and overall NCAA tournament worthiness - but where's Van Vleet and Ron Baker? Rising in their place, are familiar faces, but new lead actors: Markis McDuffie & redshit freshman Landry Shamet (who briefly appeared in 3 games before a stress fracture injury to his foot required surgery and ended his true freshman season) are both first team MVCers. Kansas transfer Connor Frankamp and Shaquille Morris (3rd teamers) are also carrying more of a load, and their are joined by Darral Willis, Jr., who was named to the MVC-all newcomer team.  The Shockers spent their MVC season in far fewer close shaves than Illinois St. Other than the single loss, only 2 other games finished within 10 points, both were better games than their final scores, but ultimately Wichita St flexed their will (turning a 3point game vs Indiana State to an 8 point win and overcoming an 8-point second half deficit to beat Drake by the same 8). Wichita State is another computer darling (25th average), but with a bit more meat on their resume bones.  27 wins, 9-1 road record, but other than a dominant road win over the Mountain West co-leader Colorado State, its an equally bereft group of wins (now, its tough that Tulsa, Oklahoma, or even LSU aren't remotely the teams they were last year), but failing to finish games versus Louisville, Oklahoma State, and Michigan State could prove haunting.  Will inconsistent and poor overall showings with flashes of beating the best, or overall consistent teams who dominated lesser opponents, hung with better ones but ultimately couldn't finish the job be of more value to this year's committee -- that's the intrigue, given the state of the Waiting Line.

It's a steep drop from the top to third (we go from a pair of 1-loss conference teams to #3 seed at a 9-9 record -- now you see why we're so emphatic Illinois St only loses to Wichita State, if they're going to lose at all, and semi-emphatic the same goes in the reverse for WIchita). Both Northern Iowa & Missouri State can play solid basketball -- but ultimately don't stack up. Actually, your hottest squad not at the top is 7-seed Bradley, on a 3 game win streak.  Keep your eye on Indiana State, who played both Wichita & Illinois St tough, nearly knocked off Iowa State on a neutral court, and upset Butler in Terre Haute in December - led by conference #2 scorer Brenton Scott.  They suffered ugly losses and finished 4-12 in conference, but their showings on bigger stages suggest capability.  Also, keep tabs on Evansville -- why do we care about a 6-12 MVC team? Well, they spent February going 5-3 (including a 4 game win streak), knocked off Boise State at home, and feature the conference leading scorer in the dynamite Jaylon Brown (average 5 points more per game than the next player in MVC).

Prediction: Just find Wichita to be a better team than Illinois State AND we get to pick something other than chalk.

Jack Leasure Mad Bomber Award Candidate: Landry Shamet, 64 3s made, 45.7%  It is a shame they lost this kid so early last year, almost assuredly would've avoided the first 4, who knows with him supporting Baker & Van Vleet where they could have gone.

NEVER FORGET THE PATRIOT LEAGUE

So, the omitted Patriot picks back up today. 

  • 3/2 (Campus sites - Patriot League Network)
    • Game 1: 8 Army @ 1 Bucknell
    • Game 2: 5 Holy Cross @ 4 Navy
    • Game 3: 6 Colgate @ 3 Lehigh
    • Game 4: 7 Loyola MD @ 2 Boston U
  • 3/5 (Campus sites - CBS Sport Network)
    • Game 5: Winner Game 1 v Winner Game 2
    • Game 6: Winner Game 3 v Winner Game 4
  • 3/8 (Campus site - CBS Sports Network) - CHAMPIONSHIP

Well look who's back in first. It's our good friends the Bison of Bucknell with their 5th Patriot League title in 6 years. Unfortunately for them, history exists, and history says no top seed has won the Patriot League tournament since 2013. Bucknell features 4 players named to the 3 all league teams, including Patriot POY Nana Foulland, carrying the brusing Center tradition of Bucknells of xmas past, like Mike Muscala -- Foulland averaged 15 points, 8 rebounds and nearly 2 blocks per game. He's got held in the form of Zach Thomas, Kimbal Mackenzie, and Stephen Brown. Finishing 23-8, Bucknell never extended themselves to 2 losses consecutively, However, Lehigh is a conference nemesis, having swept the Bison in a pair of games (not to mention an inexplicable road loss at Loyola). While there isn't a path to an at-large invite -- Lehigh is the next best team in conference, and at over 100 RPI, losing to them a 3rd time, would not only be losing to a sub-100 team a third time, but also another dark mark on the resume. But, this is not an unaccomplished team out of conference -- a very impressive road win over Vanderbilt and a home win over Richmond, suggests their strength might be overwhelming to the League.

You know who disagrees with that last sentence? And up and down Patriot League slate left them at 12-6, but 2 of those 12? We already said it -- earned in a season sweep of the tournament #1 seed.  They also hold a W over Ivy league undefeateds Princeton and walked into Starkville and knocked off MIssissippi State. And while MIss State isn't outstanding by any stretch, walking into an SEC gym and beating the SEC team is never assumed.  Lehigh's probably has been an inconsistent offense -- during the Patriot league, they put up 45, 60, and 59 in their last 3 losses, after averaging ~78 otherwise. They are led by the player who the Buffet believes was robbed of the POY award -- Tim Kempton, Jr. (son of former Phx Sun, Tim Kempton) - who averaged 20 points, 10 rebounds, and a block per game. So he scored more points, averaged more rebounds, been this effective for 3 years, and swept the team who was given whose player won the award simply because the team won 3 more games? Nana Foulland is a real good player and by all account a good kid, but this was poor form Patriot League. Chip on his shoulder and 4 double-digit scorers on the roster? I hope so, that will make for a fun tournament.

The 2 seed around here is Boston U - led by Eric Fanning and Justin Alston who literally carry this team. While they swept Lehigh, though also suffered losses to Army and 20-point blow to Bucknell.

Prediction: This is a conference of tournament surprises, and while it's a call not on the level of Holy Cross storming though -- we are seeing a Tim Kempton marathon, and Lehigh victory here. You want 2017s Patriot version of Holy Cross? That would likely be Loyola MD and their pair of scorers Jarred Jones and Andre Walker (with Cam Gregory support). And poor February left them 8-10 and in 6th place, but momentum can come from playing an extra game (2.28 win over Lafayette) and they do hold conference wins over both Bucknell and Lehigh (they swept the Mountain Hawks, in fact).  

Jack Leasure Madbomber Candidate: NIck Lindner, Lafayette, 77 3s, 37.7% (safe to say the award will not be tagged to the Patriot League)

Last night's bonkers action

  • First, the most potential NCAA tournament impact came out of Westwood, where TJ Leaf went down with an ankle sprain early and did not return.  The import of TJ Leaf to UCLA cannot be overstate or lost in the Lonzo Ball shuffle.  He's their clear #2, and when they turned the tides in late season wins over Oregon & Arizona, it was moving to a power game down low, and a stretch 4 with a variety of inside moves is catalyst for that... Only information we've uncovered is Steve Alford confirming it is not a broken ankle, that he does not believe the sprain to be a severe one, but that Leaf's ankle is going to be immobilized in a walking boot and the next 48 hours will give them much more information. Foot injuries for basketball players suck.

 

  • Georgia cannot be dismissed, YET and BARELY, they edged Auburn at home 79-78
  • Rhode Island did just what you are supposed to do in the Waiting Line.. blew out a lesser team and they did it on the road.
  • Wagner survived a spirited Fairleigh Dickinson team in their NEC quarterfinal
  • This - http://collegebasketball.nbcsports.com/2017/02/23/five-maine-players-suspended-following-a-fight-over-locker-room-music/ - happened to Maine, and then a 86-41 loss to Vermont happened to Maine
  • We showed you the shot above, and guess what NORTHWESTERN IS UNDOUBTEDLY REACHING THEIR FIRST NCAA TOURNAMENT EVER regardless of outcome of any of their Big10 tournament games.
  • Florida bounced back from their loss to Kentucky with a nice 13 point win over likely tournament bid receiver Arkansas
  • Oh Connecticut. Oh Connecticut, I'll just leave it there.
  • Tennessee finished their post-Kentucky victory demise with an ugly loss at LSU
  • In the first of two games reaching OT in Nasheville, SE Missouri State got a 3 from Tahj Eddy with 2 seconds to go, giving them a 3 point OT win over Tennessee State, keeping their tourney hopes alive
  • The second of 2 OT games was somehow even more a thriller. Behind 41 points and 3 with six seconds left from Jonathan Stark, Murray State downed Tenn Tech in double OT 85-84. A Tenn Tech run out flush with 1 second left forced the first OT.
  • Clemson won't go away. They outlasted the corpse of NC State basketball 78-74
  • Dayton was going to the tournament before, during and after last night, regardless of outcome. But they avenged an earlier loss and won the outright regular season A10 title with their 7 point home win over VCU, so good on them.
  • Alabama stayed in the discussion, with a nice 15-point win over Ole Miss, who probably leaves the consideration discuss with that (to be reviewed in deeper depth later today in Buffetology)
  • In a major NEC shocker, 12-18 Bobby Mo strolled into Brooklyn, and eliminated the best basketball team (college or pro) from the NEC tournament -- sometimes the Buffet makes predictions, USUALLY they're wrong.
  • Texas Tech kept a bad loss from appearing on their resume beating a interest fading Texas team by 10,
  • Marquette EMPHATICALLY made a statement, walking into Xavier and walking out winners by 10. Xavier meanwhile similarly made a statement, but it was wildly different as their February (and now March) is an ongoing results disaster.
  • Hi Illinois, we're the Buffet, we will not leave you behind in discussions, just yet.
  • USC did what a team wanting to be included should do when coming off an ugly loss - they 23 point dusted Washington State.
  • @tiedyenation! @tiedyenation! @tiedyenation! Wake did what the needed to do, a HUGE signature win over Louisville. The promised deeper dive in Wake is coming in the second barrel, we vow.
  • Houston @ Cincinnati - first, why is it so hard for me to spell Cincinnati? Second, big chance for Houston to stick something real nice right at the top of their resume
  • Tulane @ Memphis - just don't lose to Tulane here, Memphis. Even if the CIT or CBI is your ceiling this year.
  • California travels to Utah, hoping to move that road record closer and closer to .500 and rise above the last 4 in line...
  • Iowa @ Wisconsin - Iowa isn't dead, and Wisconsin is getting in -- but, of late, beating Wiscy is turning to a good one into an expected one.  There's a ton of room at the front of the Waiting Line, so we'd prefer to see Wisconsin reassert themselves here...
  • FIU @ Middle Tennessee -- After their Saturday scare, time for Middle Tenn to re-flex their C-USA dominance and show their tournament worthiness
  • Nebraska @ Minnesota - Minnesota is well above the Waiting Line... but this time of year, finishing poorer teams is always the best medicine
  • UCF @ South Florida --  UCF has won 4 straight, just came off a win over Cincinnati -- a win here pushes their road record to .500, won't do much for their SOS, but would keep an awful loss off their resume when they've already got 6 semi-awful losses to date.