Northwestern and USF Stumble Late: Thursday's Quick Hitters
It was a tough day for bubble teams in the Pac-12 as both Washington and Oregon fell in the quarterfinals.
1. Also stumbling on Thursday were Northwestern and USF, with the former being in far greater trouble at this point.
Northwestern University has never made the NCAA tournament, and with their 75-68 overtime loss to Minnesota in the first round of the Big Ten tournament that could very well remain the case after Sunday. In each of the last two seasons there seems to be a moment where Bill Carmody's team needs to make one play, be it a score or a defensive stop, to get the job done but the Wildcats simply can't. The problem against Minnesota: they couldn't shoot inside of the arc.
Both teams finished the game 11-for-26 from beyond the arc, but the Wildcats squandered a 17-6 edge from the foul line (points) by making just nine of their thirty-one shots from two (29%). John Shurna scored 21 points on the afternoon but made just two of eight two-point shots, and Drew Crawford did the same while scoring just eight. If not for JerShon Cobb putting up 24 points and eight rebounds, there likely would not have been an overtime period to play.
As for USF, while many can argue with the aesthetics you really can't argue with the results, as Stan Heath's Bulls have won 13 conference games when adding their second round win over Villanova. But against a team that also plays a deliberate brand of basketball USF was unable to pick up the signature win they needed, falling to Notre Dame 57-53 in overtime in the final game of the night in the Big East Championship. Stan Heath's team looked to be in good shape late in regulation, but stunning decisions lef the door for the Irish, and USF's execution on their final possessions of overtime provided a fitting ending for a frustrating night. But unlike Northwestern the Bulls were able to win a game in their conference tournament, so they have that going for them at least.
2. Texas was one team that took advantage of their opportunity as they beat Iowa State.
It seemed to take a while on Thursday to find a team that truly took advantage of its opportunity to make a statement to the selection committee, but Rick Barnes' Longhorns didn't disappoint in the final game of the night at the Big 12 tournament. After shooting 26.3% from the field in the first half Texas shot 50% in the second, scoring 46 points to beat three-seed Iowa State 71-65 to advance to the Big 12 semis. Texas shot 54% from two and got to the foul line at a higher rate, knocking down 14 of their 17 attempts while the Cyclones could manage just four attempts.
J'Covan Brown led the way with 23 points and five rebounds while Myck Kabongo added 11 and five assists with no turnovers, and Clint Chapman was solid on both ends of the floor with ten points and eight rebounds while also helping defend Royce White. Texas should feel good about their NCAA hopes but there is the matchup with Missouri on Friday night, and a win there would provide a nice boost to their seeding as well.
3. Indiana beats Penn State but they may have lost Verdell Jones III for the remainder of the season.
Tom Crean's Hoosiers knocked off Penn State 75-58 in a Big Ten tournament game, out-rebounding the Nittany Lions 45-29 to make up for shooting just 36.5% from the field. But it may have been a Phyrric victory, as senior guard Verdell Jones III went down with that was reported to be a sprained knee during the first half. More tests will be done on Friday, but when an injury occurs like Jones' (non-contact) there isn't a very positive outlook.
Head coach Tom Crean was near tears when discussing the injury in postgame interviews, and it's easy to see why. Jones III was one of the guys who was there with Crean from the start, going through the horrible 6-25 campaign and the tough process of bringing Indiana basketball back to this point. Do the Hoosiers have the depth needed to make up for Jones' loss if he can't go in the NCAA tournament? They do, and this likely means more minutes for a Will Sheehy, but it's deeper than that. For all the work Verdell Jones III put into the program it would be fitting that he's on the floor in the Big Dance. Sadly, that may not happen.
1. One more team was added to the NIT field on Thursday night as the regular season champ in the Southland, UT Arlington, fell 92-72 to McNeese State. The defense let the Mavs down as McNeese State shot 54.2% from the field and knocked down 11 of 24 three-point shots to ensure the win.
2. Also of note in New York was Syracuse's 58-55 win over Connecticut, and for a team that's had so many answers this season the Orange found another on Thursday. James Southerland scored ten points off the bench and Scoop Jardine 18 as Syracuse advanced to Friday's quarterfinal.
3. Two players their respective teams will need to step up in the Big Dance did just that in the Big 12 quarterfinals, as Perry Jones III put up a double-double (31 points, 11 rebounds) in Baylor's 82-74 win over Kansas State. As for the other player that would be none other than Kansas' Elijah Johnson, as he scored 26 points in the Jayhawks' 83-66 win over Texas A&M.
4. Iowa may have brought an end to the Bruce Weber era in Champaign, beating Illinois 64-61 in the first game of the day at the Big Ten tournament. Matt Gatens paced the Hawkeyes with so 20 points and Aaron White added 13 and nine rebounds off the bench. In fact it was announced that Weber will not be retained as head coach on Friday morning.
5. The game of the day may not have been artistic by any means, but that's of little concern for a Marshall team that outlasted Tulsa 105-100 in triple overtime. DeAndre Kane led all scorers with 40 points, and it would come as no surprise if the Herd were to reach Saturday's title game.
6. Cal State Fullerton picked arguably the worst time of the season to have their three-point shot to betray them. In the Titans' 65-59 loss to UC Irvine the Titans shot 5-for-20 from three while the Mustangs shot 10-for-22 from beyong the arc. Chris McNealy led the way with 24 points.
7. ACC bubble teams NC State and Miami took care of business on Thursday night, beating Boston College and Georgia Tech respectively to advance to the quarterfinals. Next up for the Wolfpack is four-seed Virginia, while the Hurricanes take on Florida State in the day's final quarterfinal.
8. It wasn't the prettiest shot but all that matters is the end result, as Jamaal Franklin's three as time expired gave San Diego State a 65-62 win over Boise State in a Mountain West quarterfinal. The top four seeds all advanced and that includes Colorado State, who beat TCU 81-60 and should be safely in the NCAA tournament field at this point.