1. BYU survived a pesky San Diego squad to advance to the WCC semifinals.
A win over San Diego wasn't going to do a whole lot for BYU from a resume standpoint. Sure the Cougars would pick up a 25th win on the season, but a loss would have had a much larger impact on their NCAA tournament hopes than a win. That's what made the return of Noah Hartsock so important, given how much the Cougars struggled with the pesky Toreros.
Hartsock, who played just seven minutes at Gonzaga and sat out the Portland game with a knee injury, returned to give BYU 19 points and five rebounds in 27 minutes of action as the Cougars beat San Diego 73-68 in a WCC quarterfinal. The win moves BYU to 25-7 and sets up a third meeting with Gonzaga, but most importantly the Cougars avoid a damaging loss and likely avoid any of the selection committee hijinks that could have sprung up with a loss.
"I knew my knee wouldn't be 100 percent, but the trainers did a great job of helping me rehab and get stronger," said Hartsock. "I was able to come out tonight and really produce. It started to feel, as the game went on, that the adrenaline and blood started pumping."
San Diego's small, quick guards gave the Cougars fits for much of the night, especially point guard Matt Carlino. Carlino, who knocked down two important three-pointers in the second half, had his hands full with Christopher Anderson all night long. Carlino finished with eight points and seven assist but he also turned the ball over nine times. Anderson finished with 14 points and six assists while Dennis Kramer led the Toreros with 17 points and nine rebounds, but unfortunately for them Johnny Dee made just three of his eleven shots after scoring 30 on Thursday night.
BYU gets another shot at Gonzaga, who beat the Cougars by eleven last Thursday, and having a relatively healthy Hartsock is a dimension they were missing in Spokane. The senior went off for 24 points and 14 rebounds in BYU's 83-73 win over Gonzaga in Provo, and there's no doubt that his presence alongside Brandon Davies (16 points, five rebounds against USD) is a key factor in BYU's success. BYU isn't a "bubble" team but a loss to the Toreros could have added some doubt to the situation. Thanks to Hartsock that won't be an issue.
2. The top two seeds advance in the OVC while FGCU upsets host Mercer in the A-Sun semis.
The semifinals of the OVC tournament went according to form on Friday night as the top two seeds, Murray State and Tennessee State, advanced to Saturday's title game. Kevin Murphy scored 31 points to lead Tennessee Tech but with Jud Dillard (3-9 FG, eight points) struggling offensively the Golden Eagles were unable to keep up with the Racers, who went on to win
78-58. Donte Poole scored 25 points and grabbed seven boards and Isaiah Canaan added 18 to set up a rubber match with Tennessee State, who beat Morehead State 59-52. Robert Covington scored 14 points for the Tigers, who also received 13 points apiece from Patrick Miller and reserve Jordan Cyphers. The road team won both regular season meetings between the Racers and Tigers, which should make for an interesting tiebreaker in Nashville.
As for the Atlantic Sun semifinals, for the second straight season a team in its first year of eligibility for an NCAA bid advanced to the title game. Sherwood Brown scored 14 points and Christophe Varidel added 13 off the bench to help lead Florida Gulf Coast past two-seed (and host) Mercer 62-58 in the second semifinal of the night. Jakob Gollon scored 17 points and grabbed eight rebounds and Langston Hall added 16 to lead the Bears but they went cold at the wrong time, failing to score a field goal over the final 6:18 of the game.
The opponent for the Eagles in Saturday's title game will be top-seed Belmont, who blew out upstart North Florida in last season's title game. The Bruins beat ETSU 69-61 thanks in part to 19 points, four rebounds and four assists from Ian Clark, who made five of their twelve three-pointers. The 24-point disparity in points from beyond the arc made up for Belmont's poor free throw shooting, as they finished the night 13-for-25 from the charity stripe.
3. Butler dominates the second half to advance to the Horizon League semifinals.
Regardless of what happens in the regular season games that lead into March, Brad Stevens' Bulldogs have been a very tough team to beat in the month of March. Khyle Marshall and Roosevelt Jones scored 17 points apiece (Marshall also grabbed ten rebounds) to help lead Butler past Milwaukee 71-49 to set up a semifinal meeting with top-seed Valparaiso on Saturday.
Beginning with a Marshall dunk with 48 seconds remaining in the first half Butler went on an 11-0 run to push their lead out to 31-18, and another Marshall bucket (with 7:15 remaining) started a 25-5 run that put the Panthers away. Butler was efficient offensively as they shot 50% from the field but they were even better on the other end of the floor. Milwaukee shot just 31% from the field, which included a cold 6-for-23 night from three, and Butler out-rebounded the Panthers 42-23.
Also advancing to the semifinals was Detroit, who shot 60% from the field and had five players score 11 points or more in their 93-76 win over Youngstown State. Ray McCallum Jr. scored 22 points to lead the Titans, who will take on two-seed Cleveland State in the other semifinal on Saturday. Youngstown State did manage to shoot 55% from the field but there were just 6-for-20 from three, and for a team that relies so much on the shot that didn't bode well for the Penguins.
1. The higher seeded teams held serve for the second straight day at Arch Madness, which featured Wichita State's dominant performance against Indiana State. The Sycamores weren't helped by the fact that point guard Jake Odum was dealing with plantar fasciitis and a stress fracture in his foot, but to be honest that didn't have much of an impact in the Shockers' 72-48 win. Toure' Murry and Joe Ragland led a balanced attack with 14 points apiece, and the Shockers will take on four-seed Illinois State on Saturday.
2. In the night session Creighton made the plays they needed to make late in order to survive Drake, beating the Bulldogs 68-61. Doug McDermott, who won the Larry Bird Trophy as MVC Player of the Year, scored 26 points and grabbed ten rebounds to lead the Bluejays, who also received valuable contributions from Antoine Young (16 points) and Gregory Echenique (ten points, five rebounds). Next up for Creighton is three-seed Evansville, who received 20 points and eight rebounds from Kenneth Harris to go along with 19 from Colt Ryan.
3. BYU may have avoided a loss to a lower seeded team in Las Vegas but the same can't be said for Loyola Marymount, who dropped a 67-60 decision to San Francisco. The game changed for LMU when point guard Anthony Ireland injured his groin on a collision with the basket support in the second half, but to be fair the Lions were having trouble guarding the Dons for much of the night. Michael Williams scored 19 points and Cody Doolin 16 to lead San Francisco, who gets another shot at regular season champ Saint Mary's in Saturday's semifinals.
4. It was a good day for the five seeds in the Southern Conference tournament as both Appalachian State and Furman advanced to the quarterfinals. The Mountaineers shot 53% from both the field and from three in their 93-81 win over College of Charleston, with Mike Neal leading five starters in double figures with 21 points. As for the Paladins, Bobby Austin and Charlie Reddick scored 15 points apiece to lead them to a 75-66 win over Samford.
5. Three of the four games at the CAA tournament in Richmond went according to form, with the lone exception being UNC Wilmington's 70-59 win over James Madison in the 8/9 game. The Seahawks, who were led by Cedrick Williams' 22 points and eight rebounds, shot just 39.6% from the field but unlike the Dukes (13-23 FT) Buzz Peterson's team took advantage of the foul line (26-32).
6. #19 Notre Dame attempted just ten three-pointers in their 75-69 win over Providence to lock up a double-bye in next week's Big East Championship, and Jack Cooley's play was a big reason why. Cooley scored 27 points and grabbed 17 boards for the Irish, who attempted fifteen more free throws (26-11) than the Friars while also having five players reach double figures.
7. Kyle Casey scored 19 points to lead Harvard past Columbia 77-70 in overtime on Friday night, keeping the Crimson a half-game ahead of Penn in the Ivy League race. Harvard closes their regular season with a game at Cornell on Saturday night while the Quakers, who beat Brown 54-43 on Friday, closes out with games against Yale and rival Princeton. Should the two teams finish tied atop the standings there will be a one-game playoff.
8. One day after their season ended with a loss to Indiana State in the first round of the MVC tournament Southern Illinois decided to fire head coach Chris Lowery. Lowery, who led the Salukis to three NCAA appearances in his eight seasons in Carbondale, struggled the last couple of years culminating in an 8-23 mark this season. Some have already suggested that SIU may be interested in talking to Bruce Weber, who was the head coach at SIU before moving on to Illinois.
9. No surprises in the first round of the MAAC tournament on Friday night as Marist and Niagara advanced to the quarterfinals with two of the conference's best freshmen playing well. Chavaughn Lewis led the Red Foxes to a 64-57 win over Saint Peter's with 17 points and seven rebounds, and MAAC Rookie of the Year Juan'ya Green scored a team-high 20 in the Purple Eagles' 80-70 win over rival Canisius.
Three Notable Performances
1. F Jack Cooley (Notre Dame)
27 points and 17 rebounds in the Fighting Irish's 75-69 win over Providence.
2. G Eric Ferguson (Georgia Southern)
26 points, eight rebounds and three steals in the Eagles' 76-70 win over Chattanooga.
3. G Donte Poole (Murray State)
25 points, seven rebounds and four assists in the Racers' 78-58 win over Tennessee Tech.