Teams of the Week
LSU - Tiger fans were disappointed during the Bracket Reveal telecast when they found out that their Bayou Bengals were left out of the Top 16 projected seeds. With a month of basketball still left to go - LSU went to Rupp Arena on a Tuesday evening to face one of the hottest teams nationally, Kentucky. It was a game to remember for LSU folks. Tigers trailed by nine points on four occasions in the second half against Kentucky, yet rallied to pull out a thrilling 73-71 victory in a game that ended with a slice of controversy. Kavell Bigby-Williams tipped in a missed FG attempt by Skylar Mays at the buzzer, which officials dissected on replay before ruling that the tip-in beat the buzzer. The monitor can’t be used for goaltending or basket interference plays. Tigers escaped with perhaps the biggest win of the week! LSU then had to remain focused as they faced an improving Georgia team on the road. Tremont Waters once again stepped up and led the Tigers to victory 83-79. Waters had 20 Points, 5 Rebounds. LSU wrapped up the week as a projected 3-seed in our current Bracket. Quite a week.
UAB - Blazers have been all over the map in Conference USA play this season. This week, the rollercoaster continued in a good way. UAB had to win both road games at Marshall and at WKU to have any chance at being included in the Top Pod of the brand new CUSA Bonus scheduling format (which I love by the way). This is still critical because the Top 5 teams go to Pod 1, and are assured of having the top 5 seeds in the CUSA Tournament. Well guess what? The Blazers pulled off the unthinkable sweep and got tremendous help when North Texas experienced some serious roster turmoil and lost to both Southern Miss and Louisiana Tech. Congrats to the Blazers, who now can play their way up to a top seed and improve their overall metrics should they win the automatic bid next month.
Liberty - The Flames have been a fun story this season. They had an excellent non-league season, scoring big wins at UCLA, over Georgia State (preseason Sun Belt favorite) and over a tough Kent State club. The Flames had a Top 50 NET rating after killing a lot of inferior competition. Then the first showdown with Lipscomb happened and the Flames were ultimately embarassed on their home court…by 20! This past week presented a rematch in Nashville. Liberty took it as an opportunity to return the favor. Liberty started the game way out in front, but Lipscomb kept charging back. In the end, the Flames left Nashville with a gutsy 74-66 victory. Lipscomb’s 19-game ASUN win streak - gone. Lipscomb’s 11-game overall win streak - gone. Over the weekend the Flames were also able to take care of business over Division 1 newcomer North Alabama. I’d be shocked if we do not see Lipscomb-Liberty Round 3 next month in the ASUN Title Game for all of the marbles.
Missouri State - First Year Head Coach Dana Ford has been foundationally building a revised program with purpose and character in Springfield. This team has been written off several times this season. The week began with the Bears being two games out of first and in a logjam in the middle of the MVC standings. The Bears took care of Evansville on Wednesday evening in their building. Meanwhile, 1st place Loyola Chicago lost to Bradley to create a late week showdown between Loyola and Missouri State on Sunday. The Bears went into a packed Gentile Center and shot 63 percent from the field and hit three free throws in the final 5.5 seconds en route to catching Loyola and Drake atop the league standings. Final score: 65-61 Bears. Tulio Da Silva had 16 points and nine rebounds for the Bears, who won their fifth Valley road game. Da Silva has been playing great lately. Bears now have a sweep over the Ramblers, which could be key for Arch Madness seeding purposes.
Virginia - The Hoos were licking their wounds a bit after Duke came into their house and scored somewhat willingly on Virginia’s well regarded defense. The big challenge next for UVA was that they needed to then take on a hungry and hot UNC Tar Heel club in Chapel Hill with only one day off in between. Talk about a scheduling disadvantage. Well Virginia did what they’ve done best in recent memory and got tough. The Cavaliers held UNC to 30% shooting from deep and the Heels attempted 30 of them. It was a rough go to get open looks all evening. Big win for Virginia’s resume as they left Chapel Hill with a 69-61 victory. Saturday, UVA got somewhat of an unexpected test from Notre Dame. De’Andre Hunter (20 Pts in each game last week) and Kyle Guy (20 vs. UNC, 22 vs. ND) carried Virginia’s scoring efforts throughout the week and it was just enough to slip past the Irish 60-54.
Manhattan - Going through a very rough season, but managed to win at league leading Canisius and at Niagara.
Omaha - Hit GW basket to stun league leader South Dakota St. and followed it up with win over Purdue Fort Wayne.
VCU - Big win at Dayton, despite huge Flyers rally late. Also took care of business against rival Richmond.
BYU - Has taken the 2nd place WCC torch and ran with it. Two big road wins at USD and at LMU.
Ole Miss - Another big road win at Auburn last week, plus took care of Mizzou.
Montana (Pivotal win at Weber St. and also won at Idaho St.), Michigan St. (Impressive win at Wisconsin, also beat Ohio State), Iowa State (In only game last week won at Kansas St.), Buffalo (Passed big test at Toledo, also won at Akron), UMKC (Knocked off Grand Canyon and CSUB, big wins for the program) Marist (two surprising road wins at Quinnipiac and at Monmouth), Florida (Key Road win at Alabama and beat Vandy), Lamar (First Southland team to beat SHSU, and beat NW State), Duke (record comeback win at Louisville and took care of NC State), Illinois (Surging Illini won at Ohio State in only game), Harvard (Impressive road sweep of Penn and Princeton), St. Francis PA (won at FDU and completed sweep of Robert Morris), Wright State (Earned share of 1st Place lead with big win over NKU), Colorado (Swept Arizona schools), Furman (Crucial win over UNCG, also took care of VMI), Bradley (Suddenly hot. Beat Loyola-Chicago and won at Illinois St.). Gardner Webb (Swept Winthrop and Charleston So.), Youngstown St. (6-game win streak. Beat IUPUI and UIC last week), Temple (much needed road win in OT at USF, also took down SMU), Mississippi State (Won at Arkansas without Nick Weatherspoon, and beat Alabama).
Conference USA has finished the scheduled part of their regular season. Now the fun begins! Bonus play with the Top five teams grouped in Pod 1, the next five teams in Pod 2, and the bottom four teams in Pod 3. The way things worked out for the league was unfortunate to not have an At Large bid contender alive at this point. However, it should be noted that the increased metrics for the top five would potentially get the Auto Bid winner a better seed come Selection Sunday. Curious to see how that plays out.
Quinnipiac and Siena played a game to remember on Sunday. A 107-100 3OT victory for the Bobcats. Two individual stat lines, were off the charts in this one. QU’s Cameron Young ended with 55 Points and shot 9-13 for three point land. He was incredible. Siena’s Jalen Pickett was hanging with Young all night. Pickett went for 46 Points and 13 Assists. What a game!
Austin Peay has quietly had an excellent year over in the Ohio Valley Conference. The Governors sit at 11-3 in the conference which includes a road win at Jacksonville State. Peay got all they could handle on Saturday at Morehead State, and if not for Terry Taylor’s efforts they likely would’ve lost. Taylor had a ridiculous 42 Points (10-19 2's, 5-9 3's, 7-9 FT's) and 18 Rebounds. The OVC Tournament next month will be a ton of fun, watch out for the Gov’s.