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Tag:Jeff Borzello
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

Posted on: March 7, 2012 9:18 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2012 10:08 pm
 

Tiny Dancers: Lehigh

A year ago, Lehigh lost on a last-second shot at Bucknell in the semifinals of the conference tournament. This season, the Mountain Hawks got revenge, going into Lewisburg, Pa. and knocking off the top-seeded Bison, 82-77, to win the Patriot League championship and getting an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Player of the Year C.J. McCollum went for 29 points and five assists, while forward Gabe Knutson had one of the best games of his career, finishing with 23 points and seven rebounds. The Mountain Hawks were able to speed up the tempo, and didn’t let Bucknell make it a half-court game.

Lehigh, coached by Brett Reed, has been consistent throughout the season, suffering only bad loss in the non-conference season and losing to no one outside the top four of the Patriot League. The Mountain Hawks won their final five games of the regular season, including a road game at Bucknell that gave them confidence heading into the title game.

This team pushes the tempo, but takes care of the ball and has several guys who can knock down 3-pointers. With McCollum leading the way, the Mountain Hawks won’t back down.

Lehigh went onto the homecourt of top-seeded Bucknell and won the Patriot League title game. (US Presswire)

Player to know: C.J. McCollum. A two-time Patriot League Player of the Year, the 6-foot-3 junior guard is one of the most productive all-around players in the country. He has scored at least 20 points in 11 of his last 12 games, and is also a tremendous rebounder for his size. McCollum also creates for others, too. In games against St. John’s, Iowa State and Michigan State, he averaged 18.0 points per contest. He is capable of carrying the Mountain Hawks.

The Vitals:

  • Record: 26-7 overall, 11-3 in Patriot
  • Most recent tournament appearance: 2010, No. 16 seed, lost to Kansas 90-74 in the first round.
  • We’re thinking: 15 seed.
  • KenPom ranking: 88
  • Sagarin ranking: 97
  • RPI: 101
  • Best wins: Bucknell (2), Wagner
  • Worst losses: Cornell, Holy Cross
  • Notable stat: Lehigh could be tough in a close game. The Mountain Hawks rank second in the country in free-throw percentage, at 77.8 percent.

-- Jeff Borzello

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 7, 2012 7:38 pm
 

Arizona's Josiah Turner suspended indefinitely

By Jeff Borzello

It looked like Arizona freshman guard Josiah Turner was figuring things out.

He had cut down on his turnovers and was playing more consistently for the Wildcats. In fact, he had a 15-point, six-assist, zero-turnover performance in a win over USC two weeks ago.

Now, though, comes the news that Turner has been suspended indefinitely and did not make the trip to the Pac-12 tournament on Wednesday.

“I am disappointed in Josiah for his actions,” head coach Sean Miller said in a release. “Unfortunately this suspension comes at a time of great excitement and opportunity for our team.  However, the standards of our program will not be compromised under any circumstances.  Hopefully, Josiah will learn a valuable lesson from this experience.”

Turner had previously been suspended this season, on December 7, after “violations of team policy.” He also missed a game against Ball State and was late to a pregame shootaround prior to an early November contest against Duquesne.

The 6-foot-3 guard is averaging 6.8 points and 2.4 assists this season. 

Posted on: March 7, 2012 2:38 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2012 11:56 pm
 

Poppin' Bubbles: Focus is on Big East bubblers

South Florida kept itself in the at-large discussion by winning ugly over Villanova. (US Presswire)

By Jeff Borzello

The bubble of the Big East has been discussed nonstop for the past several weeks, and the conference takes center stage on Wednesday. All four of the bubble teams are in action, with two of them facing off. Cincinnati is in good shape, especially with the double-bye, so it gets a reprieve until Thursday. It remains to be seen if anyone that loses today can survive on Selection Sunday; teams need to get to the quarterfinals.

Winners

Connecticut: Thank you, Shabazz Napier. The Huskies have essentially locked up a bid, by coming from behind and knocking off West Virginia in overtime. Now we don’t need to really debate whether Connecticut is worthy of an at-large bid. The Huskies are 6-6 against the top-50, with 10 wins against the top 100. They needed to win three in a row at some point down the stretch, and they finally reached that achievement. Connecticut is now 7-8 away from home, so the negatives on the resumes are becoming limited. No matter what happens against Syracuse on Thursday, Connecticut will hear its name on Selection Sunday.

South Florida: It wasn't pretty -- or even remotely attractive -- but the Bulls came out with a win over Villanova in the second round of the Big East tournament. Will that be enough to get an at-large bid? South Florida went 12-6 in conference play, and has a pretty solid computer profile. Avoiding a bad loss to Villanova was important, as it gives them something to separate from Seton Hall and West Virginia. The Bulls are only 1-9 against the top 50, with the lone victory coming at Louisville a week ago. They did go 5-0 against teams 50-100, but there's also three sub-100 losses. In the quarterfinals, South Florida will be pitted against Notre Dame. If the Bulls can knock off the Fighting Irish, there will be no need to sweat on Selection Sunday. A loss there, and the lack of quality wins could catch up to them.   

Losers

West Virginia: Heading into the Connecticut vs. West Virginia matchup, the stakes were pretty clear: the winner is a lock heading into Selection Sunday, and the loser will sweat it out. Well, the Mountaineers blew a late lead and couldn’t execute in overtime en route to a 71-67 defeat. West Virginia moves to 4-8 in its last 12 games, and although that’s not a criterion anymore, it doesn’t bode well. The Mountaineers have a solid computer profile, but they are just 4-8 against the top 50 (and one of those wins, Oral Roberts, is on the cutline). They have nine top-100 wins and are 4-2 on neutral courts. What could help them is the bubble wins; West Virginia has defeated Miami, Cincinnati, South Florida and Oral Roberts. The best wins are Georgetown and Kansas State, but they also have two sub-100 losses. It will be a close call, but we have West Virginia in as of today. 

Seton Hall: The Pirates will have a long next four days to wait until Selection Sunday, after losing to Louisville in the second round of the Big East tournament. Seton Hall now has losses in three of its last four games, and four of its last games. The two games that the Pirates may end up regretting if they get left out could be the season-ending losses to Rutgers and DePaul. Had they won those two, Seton Hall would have been a lock heading into the Big East tournament. Now, the Pirates are in trouble. The computer profile is not very impressive, and the non-conference strength of schedule is fairly high. The Pirates are 4-8 against the top 50, with wins over Georgetown and Connecticut. They have also defeated fellow bubblers West Virginia, Dayton and Saint Joseph's, which could help. The three sub-100 losses and 5-10 record to finish the season could cost them, though. 

Posted on: March 7, 2012 1:25 pm
 

Championship game preview: Patriot

Despite so many upsets in conference tournaments this year, the Patriot League has remained immune to the Cinderella bug. The two best teams during the regular season – Bucknell and Lehigh – will meet in the championship game on Wednesday night, and rightfully so.

The two teams have represented the league the past two seasons in the NCAA tournament, with Lehigh getting a bid in 2010 and Bucknell winning the championship last year. The two best players in the league – and the last three Patriot League Players of the Years – will also battle it out, in Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum and Bucknell’s Mike Muscala.

It gets more intense. Bucknell and Lehigh split the two regular-season contests, with each winning on the opponent’s home floor. The title game will take place at Sojka Pavilion, on Bucknell’s campus.

The game will be a contrast of styles, as Lehigh would prefer to push the ball and get points in transition, while Bucknell bogs you down and plays a halfcourt contest. Lehigh gets a lot of its points by attacking the basket and getting fouled, so Bucknell needs to limit fouls and keep Muscala on the floor. The Bison also need to get out on Lehigh’s shooters. On the other side, Lehigh has to slow down Muscala on the inside, while also keeping an eye on Bucknell’s secondary options. It’s not all Muscala.

It could come down to whether Cameron Ayers can stifle McCollum. In the second meeting, McCollum beat him off the dribble and knocked down a game-winning 3-pointer in the final seconds. What will happen in round three?

-- Jeff Borzello

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 7, 2012 12:42 am
Edited on: March 7, 2012 12:54 am
 

What-to-know conference previews: Big West

The Big West is always one of the more intriguing conferences in the country. It normally produces a high-scoring, up-tempo outfit that plenty of people pick as an upset special in the NCAA tournament. This season, Long Beach State is that team – but the 49ers are legitimate.

Long Beach State received publicity throughout the preseason and non-conference season for its schedule. The 49ers played North Carolina, Kansas, Kansas State Louisville, San Diego State and others, getting wins over Pittsburgh and Xavier. They are battle-tested, despite coming up one win short of an undefeated regular-season campaign, losing to Cal State Fullerton in the season finale.

The 49ers have myriad weapons, led by Player of the Year Casper Ware. He’s one of the most explosive guards in the country. Head coach Dan Monson also has Defensive Player of the Year Larry Anderson and double-double lock T.J. Robinson at his disposal. Eugene Phelps and James Ennis are also threats.

This isn’t a lock for Long Beach State, though. UC Santa Barbara has a high-scoring duo in Orlando Johnson and James Nunnally, and the Gauchos slow the game down and contest shots on the defensive end. Cal State Fullerton can really fill it up, and the Titans have won 11 of their last 13 games. Kwame Vaughn and D.J. Seeley can really stroke it from deep, and Omondi Amoke is consistent inside.

If you’re looking for a sleeper, UC-Riverside could be an option. The Highlanders play really stiff defense, contesting shots both inside and outside the arc. They have won three of their last four, and knocked off UC Santa Barbara and Washington State earlier this season.

Long Beach State wouldn’t be a lock for the NCAA tournament if the season ended today; the 49ers need the automatic bid as much as the rest of the Big West.

Dan Monson and Long Beach State might need to win the automatic bid to get into the NCAA tournament. (US Presswire)

****

TOURNAMENT BRACKET

Title game: Saturday, March 10 on ESPN2 (10:00 p.m., ET)

BEST PLAYERS

  1. Casper Ware, Long Beach State
  2. Orlando Johnson, UC Santa Barbara
  3. Larry Anderson, Long Beach State
  4. D.J. Seeley, Cal State Fullerton
  5. Phil Martin, UC Riverside

Conference RPI: 24

KenPom.com rating: 21

Sagarin rating: 21

NCAA Tournament Locks: None

NCAA Tournament Bubble Teams: Long Beach State

Last NCAA Tournament Appearances

  • Cal Poly Mustangs: Zero appearances.
  • Cal State Fullerton Titans: 2008, No. 14 seed, lost to Wisconsin 71-56 in the first round.
  • Long Beach State 49ers: 2007, No. 12 seed, lost to Tennessee 121-86 in the first round.
  • Pacific Tigers: 2006, No. 13 seed, lost to Boston College 88-76 in the first round.
  • UC Davis Aggies: Zero appearances.
  • UC Irvine Anteaters: Zero appearances.
  • UC Riverside Highlanders: Zero appearances.
  • UC Santa Barbara Gauchos: 2011, No. 15 seed, lost to Florida 79-51 in the first round.

- Jeff Borzello

Posted on: March 6, 2012 9:32 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2012 10:27 pm
 

Tiny Dancers: Western Kentucky

We have our first true Cinderella story of March.

Western Kentucky, which was 5-14 at one point this season, ran through the Sun Belt Conference tournament as the No. 7 seed, beating the Nos. 10, 2, 3 and 5 seeds along the way. It was capped with a come-from-behind 74-70 win over North Texas in the championship game, led by big men George Fant and Teeng Akol combining for 40 points and 11 rebounds.

Head coach Ray Harper took over the program on January 6 after Ken McDonald was fired, going 4-7 over the next 11 games. On February 19, it was announced that Harper had his interim tag removed and therefore became the permanent head coach of the Hilltoppers. Since that announcement, Western Kentucky is 6-0. 

Western Kentucky is a young team, starting three freshmen and two juniors. It’s certainly not the same team that made back-to-back NCAA tournament in 2008 and 2009, winning three postseason games in two years. With that said, the Hilltoppers are miraculously dancing again.

Western Kentucky won four games in four days to get into the NCAA tournament with a 15-18 record. (US Presswire)

Player to know: Derrick Gordon. Playing alongside Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Dexter Strickland and Kyrie Irving at St. Patrick (N.J.), Gordon was often overshadowed. He has made sure that didn’t happen in the Sun Belt, entering the league as a freshman and making an impact immediately. Gordon struggled in the semifinals and title game, but he had been on a tear in the previous stretch. The 6-foot-2 guard had 25 points and 15 boards in the upset of No. 2 seed Arkansas-Little Rock. 

The Vitals:

  • Record: 15-18 overall, 7-9 in Sun Belt
  • Most recent tournament appearance: 2009, No. 12 seed, beat Illinois 76-72 in first round, lost to Gonzaga 83-81 in second round.
  • We’re thinking: 16 seed (play-in game)
  • KenPom ranking: 197
  • Sagarin ranking: 206
  • RPI: 197
  • Best wins: Middle Tennessee, Denver
  • Worst losses: Troy (2), FIU, Furman
  • Notable stat: Western Kentucky gets to the free-throw line with exceptional effectiveness. The Hilltoppers took 118 foul shots in the Sun Belt tournament.

-- Jeff Borzello

Posted on: March 6, 2012 3:40 pm
 

What-to-know conference previews: ACC

The Atlantic Coast Conference tournament has been owned by Duke for most of its recent history, as the Blue Devils have won the championship in 10 of the last 13 seasons. North Carolina won back-to-back in 2007 and 2008, and Maryland defeated Duke in 2004. Overall, it’s been a Tobacco Road monopoly, with only eight of the 58 tournament championships won by a team besides Duke, North Carolina, North Carolina State and Wake Forest. 

Things don’t look likely to change this season, as North Carolina and Duke head into Atlanta as the odds-on favorites to win the title. However, there is still plenty on the line when it comes to NCAA tournament ramifications. With North Carolina’s win over Duke last weekend, the Tar Heels now have the inside track towards a No. 1 seed. The winner of this tournament will likely get a top seed. Florida State is fine, Virginia should be good with one win, and Miami (Fl.) and North Carolina State are firmly on the bubble.

The top four seeds receive a bye in the quarterfinals, and it doesn’t seem like a team from the lower half of the conference has the chops to win four games in four days and get the automatic bid. Duke vs. UNC, round three? It’s possible.

TOURNAMENT BRACKET

No. 8 Maryland vs. No. 9 Wake Forest: Both teams have had few bright spots this season, with the Terrapins having won just four of its last 14 games. Wake Forest didn’t do much besides beat Boston College, although the Deacons’ win over Loyola (Md.) to start the season looks solid after last night. Maryland won the first meeting.

No. 5 North Carolina State vs. No. 12 Boston College: NC State absolutely needs two wins to get an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. The Wolfpack are 0-8 against the top 50 of the RPI, and therefore need to beat Virginia in the quarterfinals. Boston College’s win over Florida State in February looks like an anomaly.

No. 7 Clemson vs. No. 10 Virginia Tech: Both teams have been competitive throughout the season, and Clemson has actually won five of its last seven games to end the regular season. Virginia Tech has seen nine of its losses since the start of 2012 decided by five points or fewer. This one could be close.

No. 6 Miami (Fl.) vs. No. 11 Georgia Tech: Another bubble team facing a must-win, Miami (Fl.) has two really good wins over Duke and Florida State, but not much else. The Hurricanes were swept by North Carolina State, and likely need to reach the semifinals to get a bid. Georgia Tech is playing in its home city; will it matter?

-- Jeff Borzello

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