Cal May Not Be As Safe as We Think: Friday's Quick Hitters

    
March 10th, 2012

Cincinnati and Louisville advance to the Big East final, marking the first time that no original members will be in the game.

1. California falls to Colorado in the Pac-12 semis, which could mean two bids for the league.
Based on conventional wisdom, Mike Montgomery's Cal Golden Bears had the best resume of any team in the Pac-12. But in a league that went 1-31 against non-conference Top 50 opponents this season, what's that really saying? Thanks to the Golden Bears' 70-59 loss to Colorado in the second Pac-12 semifinal we've got extra time to figure that out. Carlon Brown and Andre Roberson scored 17 points apiece and Austin Dufault added 15 for the Buffaloes, who are one win away from being picked to finish 10th in the conference to grabbing the Pac-12's automatic bid. 

As for Cal, who shot a decent 42.9% from the field but turned the ball over 17 times and saw Colorado shoot 50% from the field? They may be in a little more trouble than many thought. Entering Friday with an RPI of 34 and a strength of schedule of 82 (non-conference SOS: 71), Cal looked to be in good shape in that regard. But this is where further inspection is needed. 16 of their 23 wins have come against teams sitting 101 or worse in the RPI, and their two Top 50 wins both came at the expense of Oregon, who was 49th at the start of the day. Their best non-conference wins: Weber State and Denver. Cal likely will find their way into the Field of 68 come Selection Sunday, but the optimism may need to be a bit more cautious at this point in time. 

2. Baylor and Missouri advance to the Big 12 title game in Kansas City.
Entering the Big 12 tournament most of the talk centered around the possibility of Kansas and Missouri meeting for a third time this season, and with a one-seed possibly being on the line it was expected that the Jayhawks and Tigers would meet. But two things were learned on Friday night: Baylor, who felt a little disrespected by the talk (they did go 0-4 against those two this season), stepped up after Kansas made their run and beat the Jayhawks 81-72. Secondly, Missouri didn't seem to be in the mood for "Border War" talk, as they showed a focus that championship-caliber teams tend to display at this point in the year.

Marcus Denmon may have gone 0-for-10 from the field but Missouri beat Texas 81-67 anyway, as Kim English and Phil Pressey scored 23 points apiece and Ricardo Ratliffe added 18 and 14 boards. The Bears now get another shot at the Tigers, and with Brady Heslip coming off of a big performance in which he knocked down some key three-pointers and A.J. Walton playing well this week it's fair to say that Baylor has improved. Missouri can earn a one-seed with a victory, but Baylor could jump a seed line as well (likely tapping out at a two). 

3. Miami loses Durand Scott before the game, and their loss to Florida State may have cost them an at-large bid too.
Just before the tip-off of the final quarterfinal of the night in the ACC, Miami announced that starting guard Durand Scott was ineligible to play due to the possible receipt of impermissible benefits. That certainly didn't help Jim Larranaga and his Hurricanes, who fell 82-71 to Florida State. With so many other bubble teams faltering maybe the loss doesn't kill Miami's NCAA hopes, but with the chance to distinguish themselves from the "competition" the Canes were unable to do so.

Not only did the Seminoles take care of the basketball, finishing with 11 turnovers (they average more than 16 per game), but they outscored Miami 25-9 from the foul line. Michael Snaer and Ian Miller led five FSU players in double figures with 20 and 18 points respectively, and the Seminoles put together their most efficient showing on the offensive end since their 84-70 win over Maryland on January 17th. Miami has to hope for a swift (and positive) decision regarding Scott, because the selection committee does take a team's current parts into consideration. This capped a day in Atlanta that also saw John Henson injure his left wrist and NC State may have locked up an at-large bid with their win over Virginia. 

Quick Hitters

1. It was a busy day in the Big Ten and not just because of a full day of action in Indianapolis. Both Illinois and Nebraska made moves at the top of their programs, deciding that it was time to move forward without the services of Bruce Weber and Doc Sadler respectively. While neither move is a surprise, what is interesting about Tom Osborne's decision to let Sadler go is that he'd given him an extension after last season. 

2. With the quarterfinal between Xavier and Dayton being thought of as almost an NCAA tournament elimination game, the Musketeers' 70-69 victory could loom large on Selection Sunday. Chris Mack's team may be safe at this point but a win over Saint Louis on Saturday wouldn't hurt their chances either. 

3. Another game of that magnitude was the first game of the night session at the SEC tournament, and Ole Miss picked up a much-needed 77-72 overtime win over Tennessee. Next up for Andy Kennedy's Rebels is a matchup with Vanderbilt, and a win over the Commodores would likely lock up a bid for a team few had near the bubble just a couple weeks ago. 

4. One more automatic bid to the NIT may have been accounted for as well, as WAC regular season champion Nevada fell 78-73 to Louisiana Tech in the WAC semis. David Carter's Wolf Pack find themselves in a situation similar to that of Drexel: gaudy record but the strength of schedule numbers (168 overall, 165 non-conference) could put them in a tough spot come Selection Sunday.  

5. Once again it will be Long Beach State and UCSB playing for the Big West crown, and while quite a few believe that the 49ers would get in with a loss one can never be too sure. The Gauchos, who held off Cal Poly, have won the last two conference tournament titles. 

6. Three players who hail from the state of Ohio scored 30 points or more in Big Ten quarterfinal games, all leading their teams to wins. Rob Wilson scored 30 points in Wisconsin's 79-71 win over Indiana, Trey Burke scored 30 in Michigan's 73-69 overtime win over Minnesota and Jared Sullinger scored 30 in Ohio State's 88-71 win over Purdue. 

7. One player to watch out of the Mountain West, which should get four teams into the Big Dance, next week is New Mexico wing Demetrius Walker. In wins over Air Force and UNLV, Walker's averaging 15.5 points per game, more than double his season average. The Lobos take on top-seed San Diego State in Saturday's title game. 

8. Marshall advanced to the Conference USA title game with a 73-62 win over Southern Miss, and a win by the Thundering Herd could make C-USA a three-bid team. Tom Herrion's team will have their work cut out for them however as they take on Memphis, who took UCF's resume and ripped it to shreds with an 83-52 demolition of the Knights. 

9. Top-seed Akron took care of business in their MAC semifinal, beating Kent State 78-74 with Nikola Cvetinovic leading four Zips in double figures with 15 points. They'll take on three-seed Ohio, who beat two-seed Buffalo 77-74 in the other semifinal. D.J. Cooper led five Bobcats in double figures with 18 points to go along with nine assists. 

10. The top two seeds in the SWAC tournament will meet on Saturday as both regular season champ Mississippi Valley State beat UAPB 71-64, and Texas Southern beat Alcorn State 60-55. Cor-J Cox led the Delta Devils with 19 points and 11 rebounds as they avenged their lone conference defeat.