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Tag:Matt Norlander
Posted on: March 9, 2012 12:49 am
 

Thursday night Big East recap

Yes, this is what it was like for more than two hours. (US Presswire)

By Matt Norlander

NEW YORK —  Thanks to South Florida and Notre Dame torturing us with free basketball, 2012 matches 1998 and 2011 for the most overtime games in a Big East tournament (three). Let’s get to the night session, with reaction from coaches mixed in from both games.

Notre Dame 57, South Florida 53.

After barfing all over itself on the way to a 56-47 win Wednesday night, South Florida was involved in an armless fist fight with Notre Dame, ultimately falling short due in large part to a missed breakaway layup by Jawanza Poland with 32 seconds left in regulation when South Florida had a 45-44 lead.

And now we have a 20-13 South Florida team with a resume that isn’t terrible. It waits in limbo with other teams until Selection Sunday, only South Florida isn’t the underachiever that Mississippi State, Northwestern and Washington are. And we want to keep it out? The urge is there because the basketball looks so ugly, but teams aren’t initiated into the field based on how pretty or hideously they win their games.

“I’m real proud of my guys,” Heath said.

Heath was really composed at the presser. He didn’t politick. He didn’t get loud or start to campaign by tossing out a list of teams beaten (that list lacks impressiveness, to be fair).

Here’s more of Heath. I compiled a few responses from questions and molded it into one big quote. Take from it what you will. I’d say this is a man whose truly proud of his team and content with its accomplishments.

 “Any time you have a team that’s giving that kind of effort on the defensive end. Coaches in our league, they really appreciate when you  have teams that sacrifice themselves on the defensive end. And that’s why I think most coaches really like the way we play. People on the outside, the casual observer that don’t really know how difficult that is, I don’t think they understand that. Teams like us not only get in the tournament, win and advance. You see Butler over the years, the way they guard and how hard they play. Tonight, I think you saw a more complete team. Yesterday, we had some guys who were a little bit tight. We played a much better all-around game of basketball tonight. Ugly is in the eye of the beholder. I love the way we play. It’s almost like I have to come up here and apologize for the way we play. I don’t understand that at all. It baffles me.”

Again, the perspective of a coach and the reality of a team’s cosmetic appeal are irrelevant to selection, though. The loss doesn’t look bad because USF wasn’t competitive; the Bulls just looked like a team incapable of playing its best basketball when the Selection Committee is looking for the newest evidence to attach to the numbers they’re lurching over in a Westin Hotel room in Indianapolis.

Now the wait comes for Heath. He’s anxious. The Bulls haven’t been in the NCAAs since 1992 and only have two Dance trips in program history. All things considered, this is one of the most critical decisions — for stature of the program, for perception, for recruiting benefits — of any the Selection Committee will make in less than 72 hours.

“I won’t sleep,” Heath said. “You want to hear your name called Sunday at six. I think we’ve done a great job. I think our team is worthy.”

Louisville 84, Marquette 71.

“I’m not sure they’ve had a better meal all year long than what we served them tonight,” Buzz Williams said of his team’s uncompetitive loss to Louisville Thursday.

Louisville scores 84 after not cracking 62 in its past five games? An oddity, considering the opponent, which is No. 19 in the nation in defensive efficiency and lets up .91 points per possession. The Cardinals also forced 26 turnovers, which was a season-high for MU, the highest giveaway total in Buzz Williams’ tenure and one shy of the Big East tournament record.

“I did a really bad job. If your team has 26 turnovers, and allows 26 offensive rebounds, which is the most since I’ve been here, it’s on the head coach,” Williams said. “Every player that played more than three minutes had a turnover.”

And yet, the game didn’t mean that much for the Golden Eagles. Marquette was waxed last season against Louisville in the quarters. It followed that up with a Sweet 16 appearance. How teams finish in the conference tournaments — last year notwithstanding — don’t have a correlation to NCAA tournament performance. Syracuse has run the table before and lost in its first game. Others have bowed out in their first game and made Final Fours. Williams’ team will be a three or a four seed on Selection Sunday, and they’ll win at least a game, no problem, next week. The coach isn’t fretting. This was a bad game, but it’s not indicative of the team’s season, and really, what was the urgency for Marquette here?

“I don’t think we’ll make any adjustments. It’s groundhog day every day from what we do,” Williams said of his team’s preparation. “We’re fortunate that our body of work lets us play another game. … If you study our 31 games prior to now, we’re probably just as good playing against teams that are like us. This is an aberration to how we play.”

Absolutely. No matter how far they go, the Golden Eagles won’t have another game with more than 25 turnovers and 25 offensive rebounds relented.

As for Louisville — great win. The Cardinals played themselves into at least a six seed, maybe even a five, and offered up a game unlike any other they’d played this season. The Cardinals pressed, and pressed again, winning games the way Rick Pitino loves to: with speed, aggressiveness and out-huffing the other guy.

“I think we had an idea that they were going to pressure us; I didn’t think it was going to be a that a high level like that,” Marquette’s Darius Johnson-Odom said.

The Cardinals had 20 from Kyle Kuric (that’s a really good sign), but the 19 turnovers are still a concern. Starting point guard Peyton Siva had more than 25 percent of those turnovers. Against Notre Dame Friday night, the pace will be much slower. Pitino admitted as much in the postgame; he knows his team is helpless to get more than 65 possessions a game against this team — and so the turnovers won’t be as much of an issue.

Let's hope the Cardinals' pace and Irish's normally reliable ball-handling give us something worth cheering about. Or at least something that isn't stomach-churning.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 8, 2012 6:13 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2012 6:15 pm
 

Gates plays to potential and Cincy looks sharp

Henry Sims, left, and Yancy Gates went toe-to-toe and blow-for-blow Thursday afternoon. (US Presswire)
By Matt Norlander

After two days of yawn-inducing basketball -- some of it even eye-gouging -- the afternoon session of the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden Thursday delivered the goods.

First it was Syracuse coming back to beat UConn 58-55 to advance to the semis, and then Cincinnati and Georgetown needed 50 minutes to decide who gets the Orange Friday night. It's Cincinnati by way of a 72-70 double-overtime victory. The Bearcats: holding seed, winning again and getting production from all over the floor. They're starting to look like they did in January, when the team was rolling, beating good teams on the road and looking like a top-two or -three team in the Big East.

“To go 2 for 21 from 3 and win the game against Georgetown is unthinkable, it’s just unthinkable,” Bearcats head coach Mick Cronin said.

The Bearcats outscored Georgetown 13-4 in the last 6:02 of regulation, and then the Hoyas had a span of nearly seven minutes when they only put up five points, three of which came off of free-throws. It came to bea game of runs. Had Otto Porter and Henry Sims not hit game-tying shots at the end of regulation and the first overtime, Cincinnati wins -- maybe a little too easily.

One win in a game on a neutral floor doesn't complete the return to form, but it's a really good sign. Cincy trailed for most of the game, but it stayed in it thanks to Yancy Gates' play. And how often have we been able to say that in the past? Gates has been improved ever since the brawl (I hate to mention it, but it is the only frame of reference for his turnaround in this case) and become a guy who isn't a black hole when he's on the floor.

“It’s like a proud parent,” Cronin said. “We’ve been working on this guy a long time. Yancy, and Dion Dixon, they’re traditional guys. They’re young seniors. … His best basketball is still way ahead of him. He’s been called upon to do a lot — too much — to rebuild our program. … For me, two things, I’m happy for him, but also as a coach, it’s great when you know you have a horse, and you get him the ball and he’s delivering. It gives you options.”

Used to be in past seasons, and even in this one, that Cincy wasn't functional when Gates was in the game. He took the wrong shots at the wrong times. Made dumb fouls. Killed on-court chemistry. But that's not the case anymore. Gates had a skilled big man go at him all day -- and the Cincy senior responded beautifully. The final tally:

Gates: 23 points and eight rebounds, three steals on 10-of-19 shooting. Turnovers: none.

Sims: 22 points and 15 boards.

Both played 46 minutes. It was awesome. The Big East is almost assuredly never going to be the conference of big men that it was for 15 years, but this was a fine fight to see. Gates spoke about not wanting to just be one-and-done in the Big East in his final season. He wanted to see Friday night -- badly.

“Henry Sims, he’s a great player, so I was trying to guard him as tough as I can, and we try to call upon us. It was a good battle between two big men, two seniors, too,” Gates said.

The maturity in Gates is easy to see. His head just seems clearer. The taunts still exist, but he lifts up his teammates now. After a lot of made baskets and big rebounds Thursday afternoon, Gates was talking with teammates. Encouraging. Reaffirming communication on what went right on the previous play, or where he was going to be on the defensive one upcoming. It's a great thing to see, this big man playing like a big man and a most valuable one at that.

As a team, we don't know if Cincinnati is reliable. As a man, with less than 10 games remaining in his career, it seems Gates is.

Posted on: March 8, 2012 12:25 pm
 

Pac-12 quarterfinals preview

After a dismal day to start the Pac-12 tournament (it was sparsely attended and featured bad, bad basketball), can we see a better Day Two now that most of the top seeds advanced? The Staples Center is officially played out as a realistic destination for this league's tournament. It's unfortunate, but a proper reflection of the league's basketball this year that the conference tournament has reached the point where it could be played at any of these teams' tinier home gyms and still not necessarily fill to capacity.

Let's look at the matchups for Thursday.

Washington (1) vs. Oregon State (9)
. You never fully trust Washington, but I want to trust Washington to win this game Thursday afternoon. The Huskies have a lot more talent that Oregon State and swept the Beavers this season. Jared Cunningham is OSU's counter to UW's athleticism, as he's the best athlete on the floor, but the Huskies have a lot more size and collective offense than the Beavers. Expect the game to be close throughout, until about five minutes remain, when I think Washington pulls away.

Arizona (4) vs. UCLA (5). Arizona's got some drama now, since Josiah Turner was suspended for the rset of the season Wednesday. CBSSports.com's Jeff Goodman tweeted that Turner is not only out for the year, U of A fans shouldn't be surprised if the talented but troubled freshman point guard opts to transfer once the season is done. If that happens, it will be the second straight season Sean Miller has had a point guard leave; MoMo Jones transferred to Iona in 2011.

As for the game, it's the best one the Pac-12 has to offer. Both teams can beat Washington and get to the league championship game. UCLA is playing well ever since the Sports Illustrated article came out and undressed the program. It's the reverse jinx! The thing to watch here: UCLA likes going to the 3, but Arizona's one of the best 3-point defensive teams in the country.

California (2) vs. Stanford (7). Calling the upset now. Stanford's not a great team but it just beat Cal last week. The Cardinal match up well to the Golden Bears, who will officially be quaking if they cannot win one Pac-12 tournament game. The sense of urgency is just as high for Cal as it is Stanford, because the top seven seeds in this bracket feel like they're realistically capable of winning the whole thing.

Oregon (3) vs. Colorado (6). It's been a great year for Colorado, and Tad Boyle's gotten a lot of love for the job he's done with a thin roster. But what about Dana Altman? Getting Oregon to a three seed after the season started with talented recruit Jabari Brown promptly transferring about 15 minutes in is an accomplishment that I haven't seen receive enough love. Oregon's 22-8 and has a reliable offense. It should beat Colorado Thursday (the teams split the series, but Colorado's win came by one), but then again, this is the Pac-12. Kyle Singler, the former Duke star, his younger brother E.J. plays for the Ducks and is getting better by the hour.

-- Matt Norlander
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 8, 2012 11:55 am
 

C-USA quarterfinals preview

Apparently, the first day of the Conference USA tournament was a bust. Media members in attendance were mocking just how thinly attended the event was in Memphis. That will change Thursday, as the Tigers, the No. 1 seed, get things.

Let's look at today's matchups -- and why not -- do a little predicting.

Southern Miss (2) vs. East Carolina (10). Jeff Lebo's team advanced over Rice with a 68-66 victory. Good for Jeff Lebo, who's trying to make inroads at a tough place to win in college basketball. Coming from Auburn, Lebo knows that path well. Let me make this clear: Southern Miss has to win this. HAS TO. The Golden Eagles have skirted a lot of bubble talk, but I'm not sure why other than the RPI being way, way too high (17). The team's best wins are home over South Florida and home over Memphis. Gotta avoid a bad loss here. I think they do: 74-66, USM.

Tulsa (3) vs. Marshall (6). Can a three seed be a dark horse? If so, Tulsa qualifies in this tournament. Marshall's better than a six, though, so this amounts to the most interesting, toughest call of the day. It'll be interesting to see if the Thundering Herd opts to stay away from the 3 ball, or they trust their size to clean up the glass. Marshall's one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country, and I'd imagine Tulsa will have its hands full down low. Marshall lost in the first meeting, 79-70, but I think it gets revenge today. 69-66.

Memphis (1) vs. UTEP (8). I'd love to say the Tigers will roll over the eight seed, but UTEP is responsible for Memphis' most recent loss, a 60-58 result AT Memphis on Feb. 18. Ah, heck, I'm saying it -- the Tigers will exact revenge and roll over the Miners. It'll end somewhere in the neighborhood of 79-62.

Central Florida (4) vs. UAB (5). The Blazers and Black Knights played twice this season, and UCF won it two very different ways. It was 48-41, and then it was 71-63 in the season finale. How tough is it to be a like-minded team three times in one season? Very. UAB steals it, 66-60.

-- Matt Norlander
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 8, 2012 3:12 am
 

Wakeup Call: Anticipation for Calhoun vs. Boeheim

Spike Lee at Wednesday night's NEC title game in Brooklyn. (Getty Images)

By Matt Norlander
and Jeff Borzello

Wait, is this story for real? // Did misunderstanding the moon lead to the Titanic's wreck? This is fascinating. OK, onto the hoops links ...

★ Dan Wetzel on Calhoun. What will Thursday bring? Syracuse vs. UConn is going to be gooood.

★ Pete Thamel knows and has covered Boeheim on and off for about 15 years now. And Boeheim just sounds snidely in print here.

Forbes looks at the 10 highest-paid coaches in college basketball.

★ John Templon has such a great passion for mid-major basketball. He was at the NEC title game last night and wrote very well about it.

★ I've not yet had a chance to read this long profile on former Michigan star Rumeal Robinson. But I've heard it's absolutely outstanding.

★ Now this is (illegal) homecourt advantage.
 
★ Savannah State, the No. 1 seed in the MEAC, was knocked out in the quarterfinals by No. 8 seed Hampton.

★ Vanderbilt is hoping to learn from its past first-round upsets heading into this season's NCAA tournament.

★ Pretty good stuff from Paul Biancardi on the biggest adjustments certain freshmen had to make from high school to college.

★ The Pac-12 tournament was apparently not overly populated.

★ Kareem Abdul-Jabaar says UCLA needs to return to the principles of John Wooden that made the Bruins great

★ Georgetown, Indiana, UCLA and Georgia will meet in the championship rounds of next season's Legends Classic. It will take place Nov. 19-20 at the Barclays Center.

★ Grassroots Canada AAU coach Ro Russell was the subject of an expose by a Canadian news station -- and he's already responded to several of the allegations. Borzello might do a full post on this sometime.

★ Head coach Mike Rice: "Rutgers is going to happen." Okay ...

★ Jabari Parker, a Chicago native and the No. 1 prospect in the class of 2013, is very, very interested to see what happens with the Illinois coaching situation.

► Liking the mindset and execution behind Amy K. Nelson's YouTube series. She gets deep into the UNC-Duke rivalry here. There's a Treebeard sighting!



♬ My heart is like a basketball. Let me roll it!

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 8, 2012 2:59 am
Edited on: March 8, 2012 3:03 am
 

Blackbirds play big because of smallest man

Jamal Olasewere, left, and Julian Boyd, right, hold up Blackbirds point guard Jason Brickman behind LIU-Brooklyn head coach Jim Ferry, in front holding his son. (Matt Norlander)

By Matt Norlander

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — The cube-like, royal blue scoreboard is mounted — it doesn’t hang — directly over midcourt at the Wellness, Recreation and Athletic Center on Long Island-Brooklyn’s campus. There are no other electronic indications of what the score is in the yellow-and-white-walled room. Players often retreat back on defense after a made basket and steal a look when their necks are forced to crane as the ball switches sides once again.

Jason Brickman, the shortest player on the floor, looks on every retreat. He has to.  

The pint, shy-as-hell point guard for Long Island University-Brooklyn has made himself into a role that’s vital and surprising. Vital because he’s a point guard, and so with that the vitality is obvious. Surprising because the 20-year-old is about as shy as any player commanding an offense in the country. Averaging 7.2 assists per game, he's fifth in the nation in successful distribution. He’s the counter to his booming teammates: NEC Player of the Year, Julian Boyd; and Jamal Olasewere, the flanking, flying, braggadocio wing that is at times even more unguardable than the formidable, big Boyd.

After the top-seeded Blackbirds earned their second straight NCAA tournament bed with a 90-73 home victory (their 26th in a row, the second-longest streak in the nation behind Kentucky) over No. 3 Robert Morris Wednesday night, when a media liason asked to have a microphone put in from of Brickman at the postgame press conference, teammate C.J. Garner, who had a team-high 21 points, responded, “He ain’t gonna talk anyway.” Boyd and Olasewere laughed. Then they said this:

Olasewere: “He controls the game night in and night out. Without him, we couldn’t do this. He’s a great point guard.”

Boyd: “I definitely wouldn’t have gotten Player of the Year, we wouldn’t have gotten all these accolades without him. I love that guy — just for now, though.”

The tongue-in-cheek post-note on the compliment came with a big brother’s sentiment of protection. Brickman is little brother that knows the way and leads the team and takes the jokes in stride, even coyly laughing along with them. The dynamic is an interesting one. He’s teased because his teammates know he can take it. He's grown into the role. He's tougher than he looks.

“I joke with them a little bit too, but I’m the serious type in the locker room,” Brickman said.

On the floor, his game is extremely serious. Brickman’s proved to be not a reliable, but a dangerous scorer in the second half of the season.  The personality patterns mirror each other. Boyd and Olasewere interact with the crowd and can be caught smiling constantly. Brickman goes about the game like he’s diligently finishing up Saturday morning chores for mom. Brickman finished with 18 points and 11 assists Wednesday night. Afterward, Robert Morris coach Andy Toole said he was clearly the most uncontainable aspect of the Blackbirds’ attack.

“I knew they were going to play hard on these other guys, they’re all-conference players, and I knew they weren’t going to leave them, so if I made a move I’d get to the basket,” Brickman said. “I think they were trying to play the pass more because I’m a pass-first guy. They were taking away the passing lanes, so it was opening the drives for easy layups.”

“I’ve always been a quiet guy, and don’t say a whole lot, but with these guys the relationships get better and I just try to lead by example,” Brickman said. “I don’t have a loud voice or a whole lot of emotions, but these other guys do.”

He’s not as nervous to talk to the media now as he was a year ago, or even two, when he was cripplingly shy, but he’s still avoiding eye contact when I’m talking to him and asking question.

“He fascinates me every day,” LIU-Brooklyn coach Jim Ferry said.

                                                            ****

On his official recruiting visit, Brickman arrived with his little brother and his mom. At one point during the courting, when Brickman wasn’t around, his mother turned to Ferry asked the coach not to take her son’s reactions the wrong way. He was loving the visit, she said, he just wasn’t outward about it. It’s just the way he is. The rare silent and effective leader is proving by example and plus action how much he’s needed.

Early in the season, LIU-Brooklyn was not only struggling, it was under .500 on Dec. 17. During the team’s 2010-11 NCAA tournament season, the group was never below average. A big part of the team’s struggles were related to Brickman’s inhibition with creating offense for himself. Ferry brought Brickman in, sat him down, and told him he had to be more aggressive—at least with the ball, if it wasn’t going to happen with his vocal chords. Ferry talked to Brickman’s father about it, too.

“He was trying to be a distributor too much,” Ferry said. “He was turning the ball over trying to get everyone involved. I told him, ‘Jason, you put up 22 points a game in high school. Go for it.’

Since that conversation, LIU-Brooklyn’s lost two games. And as it’s been, the rules for Brickman are the rules for only Brickman. Ferry calls him “the perfect point guard.” In practice, when the 44-year-old coach is collectively telling his guys what they’re doing wrong and what they need to change, Ferry will discreetly pull Brickman to the side and insist he not change a thing.

                                                            ****

Brickman ran the offense with Peyton Manning-like allowance in the NEC title game. He’d never been given so much leash so early and often in a game, but the noise mandated he run the team. Ferry’s voice couldn’t be heard, as his guys were running offense on the opposite end for the first 20 minutes. Brickman guides this team a way that’s unconventional. Often times you’ll hear the trite message of “leading by example,” only Brickman truly does that — because there’s no other way. Not only is he not shouting to players on the court, he’s likely not saying a word in huddles before free throws and during timeouts.

The only assumption you get upon seeing Brickman is that he could be the bus boy for famous Junior’s Restaurant, which sits a block from LIU-Brooklyn’s campus and proudly displays more than 40 cheesecakes of increasing flavor and calorie-count varieties in its windows.

“He’s a great point guard, and they’re very rare, so when you get them you have to cherish him,” Ferry said. “Those two guys’ personalities are so booming, it’s almost good there’s not another guy trying to get in there. Jason balances us. He controls the game.”

“Control.” An interesting word choice, because the team runs. It never stops running until the scoreboard stops counting. It’s not arrogant, it’s just the way they play — aggressive all the time. The NEC title game’s defining play came from a Garner alley-oop to Boyd that curled and unfurled, developed then exploded like a Hawaiian rip tide and gave the Blackbirds a 59-45 lead with 9:57 to go. The team practices those long-range, parabola passes when it closes out practices.

“I don’t think we ever threw one that far or that high,” Ferry said.

By the final two minutes, Robert Morris was reduced to a slow-death foul fest before the championship was taken again by the Blackbirds. All of this was a factor from Brickman’s heady play, which included many layups and four trips to the foul line.

After going nearly two decades without back-to-back representative in the NCAAs, the Northeast Conference has had repeated champs for four straight years. Brooklyn-born Spike Lee made the time to stop by and watch the game from underneath Long Island’s second-half hoop. The place was a constantly flaring nerve center for nearly two hours. And amid all that activity, the quietest person in the building killed and killed again the hopes and chances for Robert Morris.

Jason Brickman didn’t need to say anything and never will if he keeps playing like this. His teammates speak for, and up for, him. And the crowd always reacts; louder on this night than it ever had before.


Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 8, 2012 1:55 am
Edited on: March 8, 2012 11:48 am
 

Big East Thursday lookahead

South Florida's tournament chances couldn't have possibly been helped with how it won over Villanova, right? The Bulls got yet another Big East win -- their 13th now, by the way -- yet plenty stil see USF as a team with more to prove. Stan Heath's team faced the easiest schedule in the Big East. Things shook out their way, but credit to Heath for actually getting his team to a one-day bye and not slipping up in the opening game.

I think the Bulls are in. They've compiled enough and had so many good players missing from the early parts of their schedule, I think to judge the team on what it's done when it's been completely healthy means USF is not only in, but just skirts out of the First Four and will have its first tournament game next Thursday or Friday.

Now, let's look at what Thursday has to offer in the World's Most Famous Arena.

Syracuse (1) vs. Connecticut (9). The day's most anticipated game if the first one, as 30-1 Syracuse gets its first Big East tournament game against Connecticut. It's the 14th meeting between programs in Manhattan; Syracuse leads the series 7-6. The intrigue behind this game has almost nothing to do with the basketball to be played. UConn's ensured itself of an at-large bid after coming back and beating West Virginia in overtime Wednesday. Syracuse is locked into a No. 1 seed and will play in the East Regional, even if it loses this game by 74 points.

The interest around this game, of course, is the coaches. Boe and Cal. Jim Calhoun's had a week of appreciation for his team and his feelings on this season. He's a fighter, but there's a tenderness coming through that's not typical of the man. Calhoun coaches this inconsistent team, chasing as many more wins possible this season knowing that 2012-13 could bring an academic-related NCAA tournament ban.

Jim Boeheim, on the other hand, walks into a situation where he'll be asked about why there have been problems with his program's drug-testing and if the team has looked the other way on positive tests. The Boeheim press conference around 2:20 on Thursday afternoon will be must-watch. Boeheim and Calhoun are the biggest of rivals in college basketball, but they also respect each other a tremendous amount. I wonder if they've shared a phone call leading up to this.

Cincinnati (4) vs. Georgetown (5). Like the first game of the day, this doesn't have much gravity to it. Both teams are easily in the tournament, and the loser of this one won't get shaken in the seed list overall, most likely. Cincinnati's probably in the 8/9 game right now, and if it loses to the Hoyas, it's going to stay there. Georgetown has potential to crack a top-four seed if it plays to Saturday, so that's what it's fighting for.

Marquette (2) vs. Louisville (7). The Cardinals fell in last year's Big East tournament to Marquette, but that was when Marquette was the shaky 11 seed needing one more really nice win to get into the NCAAs. It ended up 81-56, Golden Eagles Cardinals. (Sorry for the error, folks.) Buzz Williams' team made its way to the Sweet 16. This year, MU is clearly superior to Louisville, which uglied the world to its way to a win over Seton Hall Wednesday night. Both teams can do good for their seeding here, but obviously Louisville stands more to gain. This is the second meeting between these two this season. Marquette won the first, 74-63, on Jan. 16.

Notre Dame (3) vs. South Florida (6). We addressed the South Florida hideousness up top. So here's a thought. How many people will be in Madison Square Garden by halftime of this game? USF doesn't travel well, and Notre Dame's sidewalk alumni aren't potent in New York City. You combine that with the fact neither of these teams has a star, both need two games to get to 80 points, and this could be another late-night leper colony of a basketball game. Please, get us to the mid-60s, we beg you. The temperature will be that in Manhattan, at least.

-- Matt Norlander

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 7, 2012 9:57 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2012 10:01 pm
 

Tiny Dancers: LIU-Brooklyn

When LIU-Brooklyn clinched homecourt advantage throughout the Northeast Conference tournament, the Blackbirds became the heavy favorites to win the automatic bid. After all, they have won 27 in a row at the WRAC in Brooklyn. Jim Ferry’s troops followed through, cruising to a 90-73 victory over Robert Morris in Wednesday’s championship game.

C.J. Garner led the way with 21 points, as LIU-Brooklyn will head to its second-straight NCAA tournament. In the second half, the Blackbirds turned an eight-point halftime lead into a run-and-gun show, including a halfcourt alley-oop from Garner to Julian Boyd that gave LIU a 14-point lead.

With Boyd and Jamal Olasawere dominating the paint, and Jason Brickman controlling tempo and making plays for himself and teammates, the Blackbirds won’t be an easy out. They like to get out and push the tempo, and they have plenty of finishers. LIU also has Big Dance experience, losing by 15 in the first round of last year’s NCAA tournament to North Carolina.

LIU-Brooklyn is heading to its second straight NCAA tournament after beating Robert Morris in the NEC title game. (AP)

Player to know: Julian Boyd. He was the NEC’s Player of the Year for a reason, and that reason is his dominance at both ends of the floor. The 6-foot-7, 230-lb. big man is a load to handle in the paint and on the glass, totaling 14 double-doubles this season. He had 18 points and 10 rebounds in the championship win, and has finished with 20 or more points in five of his last eight games. Boyd won’t be pushed off the block, as long as he stays on the floor (he’s fouled out five times). 

The Vitals:
Record: 25-8 overall, 16-2 in Northeast Conference
Most recent tournament appearance: 2011, 16 seed, lost to North Carolina
We’re thinking: 16 seed
KenPom ranking: 174
Sagarin ranking: 163
RPI: 90
Best wins: vs. Wagner, vs. Vermont
Worst losses: at Hofstra, at Norfolk State, at Monmouth
Notable stat: The Blackbirds don't fly -- they run. The team averages 74.5 possessions per game, third-most in the nation.

-- Jeff Borzello and Matt Norlander

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com