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Major Conference Tournaments Day 3

Big 12 Quarterfinals

#4 Iowa St. defeated #5 Oklahoma, #1 Kansas defeated #9 Texas Tech, #2 Kansas St. defeated #7 Texas, #3 Oklahoma St. defeated #6 Baylor

The most compelling image of the conference tournaments (so far) is Baylor’s Pierre Jackson lying on the floor after missing the game winning shot and realizing his NCAA dream may be over.

The backstory: Jackson never had an easy road to success in basketball. He had to play Junior College basketball at the College of Southern Idaho. But after dominating at that level, he finally got his chance in the Big 12. He joined a talented Baylor squad and for two years and was an All-Big 12 caliber player. But this was his senior year, and as the announcers noted, Baylor was 1-7 in close games this season. And that meant that Baylor had to win this game to have a shot at an at large bid.

Things looked ugly for most of the game. Baylor fell behind by 20 and at one point the Bears were 1 of 18 from three point range. But Pierre Jackson refused to let his season end. The senior put his team on his back and scored 31 points. And still his team trailed by 4 in the final seconds. That was when he kicked the ball to teammate Gary Franklin who took a three and was fouled. Franklins’ four point play tied the game and fully completed the 20 point comeback. Baylor’s dream NCAA comeback seemed like it might become a reality.

But then, Phil Forte, the Oklahoma St. player who committed the foolish foul on Franklin, drove the lane and drew a foul. His two free throws gave Oklahoma St. the lead with just 3 seconds left. Jackson would need one more heroic play. Baylor executed to perfection getting the ball to Pierre Jackson on the run and allowing Jackson to step into a three point shot at the three point line. But his shot was off the mark. And the epic senior comeback came up short. Despite all of Jackson’s heroics, Baylor seems headed to the NIT. And as he lay on the floor on Thursday night, you could tell Jackson knew it.

If the NCAA selection committee picks teams based on heart, Jackson will be in. But based on the overall profile, they simply blew too many close games against Top 50 teams.

Elsewhere in the Big 12, Iowa St. may have sealed their NCAA bid by completing a come from behind win against Oklahoma. The Cyclones trailed by 14 before winning by 7. This win was all the more impressive considering how poorly Iowa St. shot from three point range to open the game. True, their 1 of 12 pales in comparison to Baylor’s 1 for 18, but Iowa St. relies extremely heavily on three point shots for their offense, whereas Baylor can thrive on drives and post feeds. Despite an 0-8 game from PG Korie Lucious and 2 for 8 game from Tyrus McGee, Iowa St. won, showing they can win games even when their shot isn’t falling.

A10 First Round

#9 Charlotte defeats #8 Richmond, #5 Butler defeats #12 Dayton, #10 St. Joseph’s defeats #7 Charlotte, #6 UMass defeated #11 George Washington

Yesterday I noted that the A10 tournament might be the best tournament this weekend, and so far it has delivered.

St. Joseph’s was the preseason pick for A-10 champion because they brought back their entire rotation from last season. And seeing them play on the Barclays center floor reminded me of the game they played on that floor in November against Notre Dame. At that point, we were so excited about the prospects of this team, and Langston Galloway embodied his team’s heart by diving on the floor and losing a tooth in that upset. Four months later, the preseason favorites finished in 10th place, and the team’s primary stars have all regressed:

St. Joseph’s Players

2012 ORtg

2013 ORtg

Langston Galloway

124.9

108.3

Carl Jones

103.9

102.9

Halil Kanacevic

94.6

93.6

CJ Aiken

117.0

116.4

 Teams are supposed to build chemistry over time, not lose it. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder if St. Joseph’s might be looking for some redemption in this tournament. St. Joseph’s came back from 8 down to make it close. Down 1 with 8 seconds left, St. Joseph’s Langston Galloway drove the lane and drew a foul (instead of settling for a jump shot), and his free throws gave St. Joseph’s a one point lead.  Then with just 1.4 seconds on the clock Xavier knew they needed to throw the ball the length of the court. Justin Martin reached back and chucked the ball the entire length of the court. In fact, he threw it so hard it bounced off the backboard on the other end. This surprised St. Joseph’s and left them completely out of position defensively. Xavier’s Isaiah Philmore was in the right place at the right time, and caught the ball right under the basket and had a wide open 2 foot look at the game winning shot. But in the hurry of the moment Philmore missed. And St. Joseph’s lives to play another day. They still have no shot at an at-large tournament berth, but don’t count the preseason favorites out until the final buzzer sounds. St. Joseph’s plays VCU on Friday and the Hawks took VCU to overtime in the regular season.

Meanwhile, Charlotte’s win over Richmond will go down as one of the wildest endings of all time. Richmond led 63-60 and elected to foul to prevent Charlotte from getting a game-tying three point shot. They committed that foul with less than 5 seconds left. For those who think this is a perfect strategy, what followed has to be the worst-ever sequence of events. Charlotte went to the line to shoot a one-and-one. The first free throw was good, but during the first free throw attempt Richmond’s Derrick Williams fouled a Charlotte player while boxing out for the rebound. That meant an automatic technical on Williams.

Charlotte got to finish the one-and-one, which cut the lead to 63-62, and then made two technical foul shots to take a 64-63 lead. Charlotte also got possession of the ball. Somehow, Richmond fouled while trying to steal the inbound and it was called a 3 point shot. Richmond coach Chris Mooney went ballistic and was called for a double technical and ejected from the game. Four made free throws later and Charlotte iced the game 68-63. Sometimes when you foul up three, you can still lose in regulation.

Finally, UMass trailed George Washington late in the game and Cady Lalanne and Terrell Vinson had fouled out. But UMass PG Chaz Williams refused to be denied. If you’ve never seen Williams play, you are really missing something special. Williams is simply a lightning bolt, and he had 3 drives for baskets in the final 90 seconds where he looked like he was shot out of a cannon. But even though Williams gave his team the 3 point lead, they still needed a stop. That’s when Williams stole the ball with 7 seconds left. UMass doesn’t quite have an NCAA tournament profile, but Chaz Williams run in this tournament is worth the price of admission.

Big Ten First Round

#8 Illinois defeated #9 Minnesota, #5 Michigan defeated #12 Penn St., #10 Nebraska defeated #7 Purdue, #6 Iowa defeated #11 Northwestern

Minnesota and Illinois might both be in the NCAA tournament, but the loser of this game was going to be sweating on Sunday. Early on Minnesota’s Trevor Mbakwe picked up two fouls. And after Austin Hollins made his first two shots of the game to give Minnesota a 7-2 lead, Hollins also picked up his second foul. With Tubby Smith stubbornly refusing to play his key starters with foul trouble, Illinois went on a 23-9 run and built a 25-16 lead. The Gopher’s subs couldn’t even seem to find open shots against the Illinois defense and the shot-clock violations and turnovers were horrible. (On a day where Villanova committed 18 first half turnovers, it doesn’t seem that bad, but the Gophers had 11 first have turnovers.) Then with the starters back in Minnesota went on a run and took the lead.

But with both teams diving for a loose ball in the final minute, Illinois’ DJ Richardson hit a three to tie the game. And after a Minnesota turnover, Brandon Paul drove to the left side of the elbow and hit a pull-up jumper for the game-winner.

Minnesota’s comeback and last second loss wasn’t nearly as emotional as Baylor’s comeback, but at least the Gophers showed some fight. For a team that has lost 11 of its last 16 games (but still earned enough quality wins to be in the NCAA discussion), that may be a small consolation. Illinois can now sit back comfortably on Selection Sunday while the Gophers will be sweating.

When Penn St. pulled to within 3 points of Michigan (50-47 with 13 minutes remaining) it felt like DeJaVu all over again. Michigan had struggled at home against the last place Nittany lions and lost on the road at Penn St. in one of the year’s biggest shockers. But instead of letting the close game rattle them, the Wolverines pulled away to win by 17.

Nebraska’s upset of Purdue moved the Cornhuskers up to #100 in the RPI which at least momentarily gives a number of Big Ten teams one or two more Top 100 wins. Iowa’s win against Northwestern kept them in the bubble discussion, but the game against Michigan St. is the much bigger game on Friday.

ACC First Round

#8 Boston College defeated #9 Georgia Tech, #5 NC State defeated #12 Virginia Tech, #7 Maryland defeated #10 Wake Forest, #6 Florida St. defeated #11 Clemson

This might have been the least compelling opening round of the ACC tournament in recent memory as the only legitimate bubble team, Virginia, is off until tomorrow.

Georgia Tech took a 15-0 lead to open its game against Boston College, but was outscored by 35 points the rest of the way. Boston College freshman Olivier Hanlan set an ACC tournament record with 41 points.

Maryland and Florida St.’s wins weren’t exactly easy, but at least they stayed alive on Thursday. The big games for these schools will come on Friday against Duke and North Carolina respectively.

Big East Quarterfinals

#1 Georgetown defeated #9 Cincinnati, #5 Syracuse defeated #4 Pittsburgh, #2 Louisville defeated #7 Villanova, # 6 Notre Dame defeated #3 Marquette

The beauty of the Big East Tournament is that all 8 quarterfinal teams will likely be in the NCAA tournament. This is why the Big East Tournament has been so fun to watch since it expanded to its current format less than a decade ago.

After Georgetown took a 24-8 lead, Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin sent 4 players to the scorer’s table for a mass-substitution, just looking for some energy. Cincinnati responded by knocking down a series of three pointers and jump shots. But as Len Elmore noted when Cincinnati tied the game up, it seemed like a bit of fool’s gold. Cincinnati had only 4 points in the paint, and the jump shots couldn’t keep falling forever. The Hoyas eventually pulled away again to win by 19.

When Syracuse went up 43-30 on Pittsburgh on a Brandon Triche three pointer, it felt like this game might be over. But if the above recaps have taught me anything, it is that no lead is safe. Pittsburgh fought all the way back and had the ball down three with a chance to tie in the final minute. Pittsburgh’s Lamar Patterson took a three that was off the mark, but Talib Zanna grabbed the rebound and his bucket and one could tie the game. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, Zanna missed the free throw, Syracuse made its free throws, and Pittsburgh turned the ball over on the subsequent possession to end the game.

I sort of wish Zanna would have made that free throw. I would have loved to see Syracuse go for another buzzer beating win in the Big East tournament. James Southerland was 6 for 6 from three point range (after shooting 6 for 9 on Friday) and I was very curious if Jim Boeheim would have drawn something up to get Southerland a shot. Syracuse was 12 of 19 from three point range in this game which was critical because Pittsburgh got 16 offensive boards against the zone defense. Syracuse needed every ounce of its hot shooting to grab the victory.

Syracuse and Georgetown will now play for the third time this season on Friday night. If the Big East’s biggest rivalry is going to end, it only seems fitting that Georgetown and Syracuse will meet in the Big East Tournament.

Villanova turned the ball over 18 times in the first half against Louisville, and Louisville eventually pulled away. Meanwhile Notre Dame’s Pat Connaughton’s has 6 threes on back-to-back nights. That would be impressive in any tournament, but his 12 of 18 three point shooting in the Big East tournament has been overshadowed by James Southerland’s 12 of 15 shooting on threes (as noted above).

SEC Second Round

#9 LSU defeated #8 Georgia, #5 Tennessee defeated #13 Mississippi St., # 10 Vanderbilt defeated #7 Arkansas, #6 Missouri defeated #11 Texas A&M

Tennessee and Missouri kept their at-large tournament hopes alive with wins. But Arkansas, which hasn’t been able to do anything away from home, once again blew it, losing against Vanderbilt. The Razorbacks slim NCAA hopes are now over.

Pac 12 Quarterfinals

#1 UCLA defeated #9 Arizona St., #4 Arizona defeated #5 Colorado, # 10 Utah defeated #2 California, #3 Oregon defeated #6 Washington

Arizona St. entered the day needing a major upset to have hope at an NCAA at-large bid, but blew a 15 point lead to UCLA. But Arizona St. super-freshman Jahii Carson made a case for the Pac-12 tournament team with his 55 points in two games. North Carolina fans continue to grimace at Larry Drew’s redemption tour for UCLA. Drew had 20 points on 8 for 10 shooting while dishing 4 assists in the win. UCLA will face Arizona on Friday in one of the day’s most intriguing games.

Speaking of Seniors who refuse to let their seasons end, Utah Senior Jarred DuBois’s three at the end of regulation tied the Cal-Utah game and sent it to overtime, where the Utes prevailed. Utah knows that any loss will end their season, but they are now just two wins away from the NCAA tournament. And even though their game went to OT, Utah can take solace in the fact that Oregon also needed OT to advance to the semifinals.

2012 Atlantic 10 Power Rankings

With a 13-3 record, Temple won the 2012 Atlantic-10 regular season championship. Saint Louis finished in second place with a 12-4 record, followed by Xavier and St. Bonaventure at 10-6 apiece.

How did the conference rank in terms of our Floor Impact Counter statistical rankings?

In order to determine our team rankings, we calculate the difference between a team's own FIC per game and their opponents' FIC for the entire conference season.

The FIC is a single statistical measurement that encompasses things such as scoring efficiency, rebounding, blocked shots, etc. Its purpose is to combine the box score into one statistic, both on a team level and for players.

1. Temple: 16.27  
2. Saint Louis: 12.43  
3. St. Bonaventure: 11.73  
4. Saint Joseph's: 6.02  
5. Dayton: 5.23  
6. Xavier: 5.00  
7. Massachusetts: 0.92  
8. La Salle: -0.28  
9. Richmond: -0.56  
10. George Washington: -4.59  
11. Duquesne: -7.73  
12. Charlotte: -7.97  
13. Rhode Island: -13.34  
14. Fordham: -23.12

Atlantic-10 Prospect Watch List

Chris Gaston: Gaston is an intriguing prospect with a lot of room for growth. While he has carried his Fordham squad over the past two seasons, he must demonstrate a refined perimeter shot to be considered at the next level. As it currently stands, he has the requisite athleticism to crash the boards (34th in the nation in Defensive Rebounding %) and attack the basket. At this stage, Gaston gets to the line very often (6th in the A-10 in Fouls Drawn), but rarely converts on these opportunities. (51.7% FT% a year ago)  If he can develop some semblance of an outside shot and simultaneously improve his free throw shooting, Gaston has a chance to make the jump to the professional level. With that said, it will be an uphill battle.

Terrell Vinson: After suffering through foot injuries in his sophomore campaign, Terrell Vinson is looking to bounce back and lead his UMass club to a top 5 finish in conference play. With the loss of offensive focal point Anthony Gurley, the Minutemen are going to lean on the efforts of Vinson and wing Freddie Riley to provide the brunt of UMass’s scoring attack. And, the wiry Vinson has responded to this need by putting in the effort in the offseason to add girth. When the season begins, look for him to be featured as UMass’s top post weapon, and for him to regain the speed that he once had prior to his injury.

TJ McConnell: After an impressive showing in the Green Tree Summer League, McConnell is poised for a breakout season on a national scale. He is already one of the top true point guards in his conference, finishing 5th in the A-10 in Assist Rate as a freshman. Further, he was efficient on the offensive end, holding the 6th best Offensive Rating in the conference, while shooting a blistering 57.2% Effective Field Goal % from the floor. On the defensive end, McConnell was the 7th best in the nation at Steals %. All in all, look for McConnell to earn All-Conference honors in his second season with Duquesne.

Andrew Nicholson: After an extremely impressive junior season, Nicholson has firmly positioned himself on the NBA draft radar for this coming season. This lengthy forward is an impressive athlete that got to the line at will a season ago, finishing 1st in the A-10 in Fouls Drawn. Further, Nicholson was efficient from the field and finished 4th in his conference in Effective Field Goal %. Nicholson is also a fairly effective shot blocker and defensive rebounder. He should be on scouts’ radars all season long and will likely hear his name called on draft night.

Tu Holloway: Holloway is one of the best returning point guards in the country. He ranked 4th in his conference in Assist Rate and provided the necessary leadership for his squad. Further, he shot a 60.2% True Shooting %, while being forced to take roughly a fourth of his team’s shots. Moreover, he was 2nd in the A-10 (behind Nicholson) in Fouls Drawn. All in all, he must prove to scouts that he can hit the long ball (34.5% from beyond the arc last season) in order to receive more serious NBA consideration.

Mark Lyons: Holloway’s backcourt counterpart Lyons has made some noticeable strides over the summer, and appears poised for a big season in his own right. Look for him to improve on his shooting percentages and for him to attack more off the dribble. Lyons is also an underrated passer, and he will have ample opportunity to demonstrate this aspect of his game in front of scouts, as his Xavier team is one of the ten best programs in the country entering the year.

Ramone Moore: Moore is a fairly efficient scoring guard that plays an unselfish brand of basketball. While he finished 7th in the A-10 in Offensive Rating amongst players with at least a 24% usage, he also was able to find his teammates at the right moments. Therein, he ranked 23rd in the conference in Assist Rate and will probably function as more of a distributor this coming season. 

Juan Fernandez: Fernandez is a big lead guard that is capable of hitting clutch shots for his team. He was rated very highly in the preseason polls, and for good reason. Fernandez is a willing passer and an efficient offensive threat despite the fact that he hit a shooting slump last year after sitting out due to some injuries. He finished 8th in the A-10 in Assist Rate a season ago. Defensively, he has the size, but lacks the lateral quickness to defend elite level guards. This will limit his long run potential.

Tony Taylor: Taylor quietly had one of the best seasons in the A-10 last year as the lead guard for the George Washington Colonials. He distributed the ball very well, finishing 50th in the country (and 2nd in the A-10) in Assist Rate. Further, in doing this, he was able to get to the basket and draw contact. Look for him to excel in this area once again and to have an excellent senior season overall. And, if he can lead his team towards the top half of the standings, he should earn All Conference nominations.

Carl Jones: Jones is one of the best up and coming players in the A-10. After not receiving much hype entering his college career, Jones has managed to generate considerable buzz as the leader of his St. Joes’ squad. In his second season, Jones improved in virtually every area, becoming much more consistent from behind the arc and looking for his teammates more often. Jones shot a 48% Effective Field Goal % last season, while managing to take 27% of his team’s shots. Look for Jones to step up once again this year and to be one of the few bright spots on a depleted St. Joes roster.

Chris Johnson: With the loss of world class athlete Chris Wright, Johnson is ready to embrace a position of leadership on his Flyers squad. Functioning as a secondary option at times, Johnson was able to score the basketball efficiently, hitting a 52.0% Effective Field Goal % and earning the 3rd best Offensive Rating overall in the conference. Further, the loss of Wright should open the door for him to become more of a rebounding presence. He was the 25th best Defensive Rebounder in the A-10 last season, and he should only improve in this capacity this coming year. All in all, Johnson is one of the more interesting players to keep an eye on, as he appears ready to break out as Dayton’s top weapon.

Kwamain Mitchell: After a breakout sophomore campaign, Mitchell redshirted this past season because of a suspension that was levied just prior to the start of the Fall Semester. Now he is back to lead his St. Louis squad to a potential NCAA Tournament appearance. In 2010, Mitchell was very efficient at the point guard position, posting a 52.3% Effective Field Goal %. Moreover, he was a willing passer, as evinced by his 11th best Assist Rate in the A-10. Expect him to immediately become St. Louis’s go-to option.

Mike McCall Jr.: With Mitchell redshirting in 2010-2011, McCall emerged as an intriguing point guard prospect. He finished 10th in the A-10 in Assist Rate as a freshman. This season he will look to take some of the ball pressure off of Mitchell, and will likely play off the ball at times. Look for him to score more efficiently this season and to demonstrate his long run potential as a professional prospect.

Tyreek Duren: While Duren was fairly turnover prone in his first season, he was saddled with most of the ball handling responsibilities. Look for his decision making to improve considerably in his sophomore year, and expect him to make more of an impact on the offensive end. From the get-go, he was able to distribute the ball to his teammates, as demonstrated by his 12th ranked Assist Rate amongst A-10 players. Duren will likely continue to develop as a facilitator, but should also look to shoot more often with the departures of Williams and Aaric Murray, both of which commanded most of the offensive touches.

Chris Braswell: The 6’9 Braswell is one of the more intriguing forward prospects in the A-10 this season. He is a capable athlete that is aggressive on both ends of the floor. Further, he is one of the better returning rebounders in the conference, finishing 11th in the A-10 in Offensive Rebounding % and 7th in Defensive Rebounding %. Braswell is very aggressive inside and is able to draw fouls fairly frequently. If he can convert on a higher percentage of his free throws, Braswell could be in for a breakout year.

12 Compelling Storylines From Exempt Events

Here are 12 under-the-radar reasons to watch the smaller November tournaments of the 11-12 NCAA Basketball season.

Surprises And Flops, Part 2

Examining the surprises and flops this season in the Big East, ACC, Big 12 and Atlantic-10.

 

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