College Hoops Saturday: Your Commentary
One of the more important games in regards to the bubble are Louisville hosting Syracuse in the final game to be played at Freedom Hall. The Cardinals requested Cincinnati due to their history but the Big East gave them the Orange instead and Syracuse rolls into the Derby City ranked #1 as well. But maybe someone remembered the last game at Manley Field House (John Thompson II: "Manley Field House is now officially closed.") and decided that this would be a shot are "redemption" for Syracuse. But Louisville has traditionally done a good job executing against that 2-3 zone, including a win at the Carrier Dome earlier this season.
If they can once again work out of the high post the Cardinals can earn the season sweep since that will likely mean that Samardo Samuels will have an impact on the game. Wes Johnson, according to head coach Jim Boeheim, did have his right hand worked on earlier this week. What the procedure was or what its' effect will be remains to be seen, but he's got ample help on both ends of the floor in the likes of Andy Rautins, Arinze Onuaku and others. A win leaves no doubt for the Cardinals in regards to getting into the Tournament while the Orange would take their top ranking into the Big East Tournament should they come out on top.
Round two of North Carolina/Duke will have an impact on who gets the top seed in the upcoming ACC Tournament (either the Blue Devils or Maryland, who visits Virginia), West Virginia visits Villanova is another matchup of Top 10-ranked Big East teams (it's also Senior Day for Scottie Reynolds and company; and the 1985 national champs will also be on hand), Texas A&M looks to sew up a first round bye in the upcoming Big 12 Tournament and Mississippi State hosts Tennessee with the chance to add a solid win to their currently meager resume. Add in three conferences determining their automatic qualifiers and we've got a busy Saturday on tap.
Noon CBS West Virginia at Villanova
Noon ESPN Texas A&M at Oklahoma
Noon ESPN2 Florida State at Miami
Noon BTN Northwestern at Indiana
1p CBS-College Tulsa at Memphis
1:30p Raycom Maryland at Virginia
2p CBS Kansas at Missouri
2p ESPN Syracuse at Louisville
2p ESPN2 South Carolina at Vanderbilt
2:30p BTN Purdue at Penn St
4p CBS UCLA at Arizona St
4p ESPN Texas at Baylor
4p ESPN2 Winthrop vs. Coastal Carolina (Big South Final)
4p VS Wyoming at UNLV
4p Raycom Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech
5p FSN-SEC Georgia at LSU
5:15p ESPNU Detroit vs. Wright St. (Horizon League Semi)
6p ESPN Tennessee at Mississippi State
6p ESPN2 Mercer vs. East Tennessee St (Atlantic Sun Final)
6p FSN California at Stanford
8p ESPN2 Morehead St vs. Murray St (Ohio Valley Final)
8p ESPNU Milwaukee vs. Butler (Horizon League Semi)
9p ESPN North Carolina at Duke
9p MTN San Diego St at Air Force
Noon Cincinnati at Georgetown
1:30p Maryland at Virginia
2p Connecticut at USF
2p Richmond at Charlotte
2p Notre Dame at Marquette
6p Harvard at Princeton
7p Saint Louis at Dayton
7p Texas-San Antonio at Stephen F. Austin
9:05p New Mexico St at Utah St
10p Louisiana Tech at Nevada
America East (quarterfinals; West Hartford, CT) TV: AmericaEast.TV
Atlantic Sun (final; Macon, GA/Mercer hosts) TV: ESPN2
Big Sky (first round; at higher-seeded team) TV: see conference website
Big South (final; Conway, SC/Coastal Carolina hosts) TV: ESPN2
Colonial (quarterfinals; Richmond, VA) TV: Comcast/ESPN Full Court
Horizon (semifinals; Indianapolis/Butler hosts) TV: ESPNU
Metro Atlantic (quarterfinals; Albany, NY) TV: MSG/MSG2?MASN
Missouri Valley (semifinals; St. Louis, MO) TV: FS Midwest
Ohio Valley (final; Nashville, TN) TV: ESPN2
Summit (quarterfinals; Sioux Falls, SD) TV: see conference website
Sun Belt (first round; Hot Springs, AR) TV: see conference website
West Coast (quarterfinals; Las Vegas) TV: Comcast SportsNet/see conference website
The three title games take precedent on Saturday with the showdown between Morehead State and Murray State in the Ohio Valley Conference likely being the best matchup of the three. The Racers escaped Eastern Illinois on Friday night while the Eagles made sure that Tennessee Tech entertained no thoughts of winning by halftime. By now many know about the balance of Billy Kennedy's Murray State squad with five players averaging at least ten points per game and a sixth at 9.5. But in Maze Stallworth and Kenneth Faried the defending champions have a pair of players who can be a handful for the top seed. But it was Steve Peterson and Terrance Hill who stepped up in Morehead's 70-65 win last Thursday. Look for this to go down to the wire.
Coastal Carolina hosts the Big South final by virtue of their regular season title but it won't be Radford on the other side of the court. Winthrop put together an outstanding defensive performance in the Big South semis, forcing the Highlanders to settle for perimeter jumpers that they failed to make. But the Chanticleers have more options on the perimeter than Radford and they've got the ability to make Winthrop pay if left open too often. Joseph Harris and Chad Gray are the leading scorers for Cliff Ellis' squad, who lost at Winthrop back on January 30th. Mantoris Robinson and Reggie Middleton led the way on that afternoon and will likely have to do so again if they're to win in CCU's gym. Tempo will also be key; Randy Peele's team doesn't shoot particularly well and they're also averaging almost thirteen points per game fewer than the Chanticleers. A running game will lead to a blowout.
And the Atlantic Sun wraps up a tournament that's been positively wild from the word go. Sixth-seeded Mercer has taken full advantage of hosting the tournament, knocking off Belmont and Jacksonville on consecutive nights. But fifth-seeded East Tennessee State, who won the tournament last season, stands between the Bears and their first NCAA Tournament appearance in more than 20 years. James Florence made just one field goal against the Dolphins Friday night; Mercer can't afford for their senior guard to do the same on Saturday. But big man Daniel Emerson was sensational, scoring 21 points and grabbing 15 rebounds in the win. Four Bears average at least 11.0 ppg. For the Bucs, Micah Williams and Tommy Hubbard combined for 38 points to end Kennesaw State's dreams of a miracle run. Mercer won both regular season meetings by five points apiece, meaning that this should be a good contest.
Morehead State over Murray State: Tough to pick against the best team in the Ohio Valley but for the second time in just over a week they'll take on the team that's been playing better than anyone in the OVC. Maze Stallworth and Kenneth Faried lead the way as Donnie Tyndall's team wins a second consecutive title in what should be a classic. Eagles by three.