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Tag:Jeff Borzello
Posted on: February 25, 2012 4:26 pm
Edited on: February 26, 2012 11:44 am
 

Poppin' Bubbles: Winners and Losers

Iowa State beating Kansas State on the road highlighted a big day of bubble winners and losers. (AP)

By Jeff Borzello

Another February Saturday means another monster day for bubble implications. With the overall bubble so weak this season, there are still plenty of bids up for grabs in the NCAA tournament. Moreover, several teams are trying to play themselves into consideration after being an afterthought for much of the season. In the past week, we actually saw some teams play their way into the tournament, as opposed to losing and just hanging on. Which will we see on Saturday?

Note: This page will be updated throughout the day, with bubble discussion and analysis.

WINNERS:

Iowa State: The Cyclones needed one win in their last three games against Kansas State, Missouri and Baylor to feel comfortable about their NCAA hopes. They broke through on the road on Saturday, holding off Kansas State down the stretch for the victory. Iowa State is now 11-5 in the Big 12, with two wins over Kansas State and another win over Kansas. Moreover, the lack of any sort of good win away from home is no longer a glaring weakness.

Purdue: The only thing holding the Boilermakers back in the at-large hunt was the lack of good wins over the Big Ten's best teams. That is no longer the case after Saturday, as Purdue went into Ann Arbor and knocked off Michigan. It gives the Boilermakers a marquee victory, to add to Temple. Purdue improves to 9-7 in the Big Ten, with a home game against Penn State coming up this week. With this win, the Boilermakers are in very good shape heading forward. 

Alabama: 
The Crimson Tide regained the services of the suspended JaMychal Green, and they cruised to a win over fellow bubbler Mississippi State. It was their third victory in a row, and sixth in their last eight games, to solidify their fourth-place spot in the conference pecking order. A home game against Auburn, and a road trip to Ole Miss, still await, but Alabama is in good shape for now. The win over Wichita State looks better and better, and the victory over Purdue is also solid. 

Arizona:
The Wildcats just need to keep winning in order to stay in consideration for an at-large bid. They just survived on Saturday, needing a missed jumper from UCLA's Jerime Anderson to come out with a 65-63 victory. Arizona has now won seven of its last eight games, and sit at 12-5 in the conference standings. The profile is still not impressive in general, with only a win over California standing out. However, if the Wildcats win at Arizona State to finish the season and then get some wins in the conference tournament, it could be tough to leave them out.

Saint Joseph's: The Hawks picked up a huge win Saturday night over Temple, their fourth win in their last five games. The win also gives them a second top-25 victory, with a previous victory over Creighton also on the docket. Saint Joe's has also defeated Dayton and Drexel, which could help in bubble comparisons. A win at St. Bonaventure on Wednesday would get them to 10-6 in the Atlantic-10, and a trip to the conference tournament semifinals could get it done. 

Memphis: The Tigers were in pretty good shape, but they really solidified things by beating Marshall on Saturday. It kept them on pace to stay atop the league, and it also gives them another decent win for the resume. The next two games will still have a say in their Selection Sunday fate, though -- vs. UCF and at Tulsa. Win both, and Memphis won't even be sweating its inclusion to the NCAA tournament. 

Washington: The Huskies didn't make it easy on themselves, but they did come out with a win at Washington State. They are still tied atop the Pac-12 standings with California, which is a nice trump card come Selection Sunday. The lack of marquee wins is still a problem, but a sweep this week over UCLA and USC would guarantee at least a share of the title. Washington will be a very interesting case for inclusion.

Drexel:
The Dragons had already clinched the No. 1 seed in the CAA tournament, but their win at Old Dominion on Saturday gave them the outright regular-season title. That is a big-time addition to the at-large resume, especially since Drexel has won 17 in a row and has lost just once in 2012. There aren't any great wins on the docket, but a run to the CAA title game would give them 27 wins -- would the Committee leave them out?

Texas: For much of Saturday, it looked like the Longhorns might kiss their NCAA hopes goodbye. However, they came back down the stretch against Texas Tech and pulled out a late victory. The win snapped a two-game losing streak, and puts them back at .500 in the Big 12. A win next Saturday at Kansas would likely clinch a bid, but without a victory there, Rick Barnes' club will need to make some noise in the conference tournament.  

Xavier: Jumping out to a 14-0 lead and holding Richmond scoreless for about 10 minutes was enough for the Musketeers to get the win and improve to 9-5 in the conference. The big game for Xavier will be this week at Saint Louis. If the Musketeers can get the key road win, they could feel a lot better about their chances heading into the A10 tournament. 

Dayton: The Flyers has now won four of its last five after handling Massachusetts on Saturday. Their record in the Atlantic 10 improved to 8-6, which puts them in position to potentially make a run to third-place. The wins over Temple, Saint Louis and Alabama are pretty solid, and they also defeated Xavier. Upcoming, the Flyers have winnable games against Richmond and George Washington -- a 10-6 finish in the league and a couple of wins in the conference tournament could get it done. 

Southern Miss: The Golden Eagles don't like making anything easy, barely escaping with a two-point home win over Rice to move to 10-4 in the league. They remain one game behind Memphis in the conference standings, but should take care of business against SMU this week. Next week's game at Marshall could be a key win. 

Northwestern: John Shurna's two free throws with 2.6 seconds left might have saved the Wildcats' season. A loss to Penn State would have really hurt their at-large hopes, but now they still have a chance to finish .500 in the Big Ten. It won't be easy, though. The Wildcats host Ohio State this week, which would be a huge chance at a marquee victory, and a road trip to Iowa next weekend looks tough. A win over Michigan State looks very good, but 2-8 vs. the top 50 isn't pretty. They might need to beat Ohio State. 

VCU: The Rams fell short of the CAA title, but beating George Mason gave them 14 wins in their last 15 games and another top-100 win for the resume. They still need to make a run to the championship game of the conference tournament, but a loss here would have dropped them to third in the league standings and would have made it difficult to get a bid. 

BYU: The Cougars only had to avoid a bad loss to Portland, and they obliged, getting the win and finishing in third in the WCC standings. With only a win over Gonzaga standing out on the resume, it's likely that BYU needs to make a run to the conference title game -- which would mean another win over Gonzaga in the semifinals. 

Oral Roberts: The Golden Eagles improved to 26-5 overall with a two-point win at Southern Utah, finishing 17-1 in the Summit League. Should they lose in the conference tournament, they will be an interesting look. The best win is over Xavier, but the computer profile is better than several bubble teams and they've played consistently well all season.

UCF: The loss earlier in the week at Rice really hurt the Knight's chances, but their win over UTEP keeps them in the conversation for now. They need to win at Memphis on Tuesday to have a shot.  

Nevada: It took three overtimes, but the Wolf Pack finally dispatched of Fresno State to improve to 11-1 in the WAC. Will a gaudy record be enough for an-large bid? Probably not, but they have defeated Washington. Nevada just needs to keep winning. 

LOSERS:

Saint Louis: The Billikens should have felt pretty confident about their NCAA hopes heading into the weekend. The lack of great wins was masked by a good Atlantic 10 record and wins in nine of their last 10 games. On Saturday, Saint Louis lost to 5-23 Rhode Island -- and now Saint Louis gets a second look and is no longer a lock. The Billikens don't have a single top-50 win and the URI defeat is in the sub-250 region. Tuesday's hoem contest with Xavier is now a must-win for both teams. SLU is still OK, but things could get dicey.

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs are falling apart. After making a valiant effort at Kentucky, they looked terrible in the second half against Alabama and fell for their fifth loss in a row. They are now just 6-8 in the conference, and could be on the outside looking in at this point. The resume isn't overly impressive, with the win over Vanderbilt the only truly standout victory. Wins against Alabama and West Virginia are OK. The Bulldogs still face South Carolina and Arkansas down the stretch -- they need to win both. And then win at least one or two in the SEC tourney.

Seton Hall: 
After beating Georgetown this week, the Pirates were in good shape -- as long as they could avoid a bad loss to either Rutgers or DePaul down the stretch. Well, they lost to Rutgers on Saturday in overtime, and now head back to the bubble. If they can beat DePaul in the season finale and then get a win in the Big East tournament, things will look OK. They have a good computer profile (although the loss to Rutgers didn't help) and a really good win over Georgetown plus some other bubble victories. Today's loss does leave less room for error, though.

North Carolina State: The Wolfpack were not in good shape heading into the weekend, and they got their bubble completely popped by losing in overtime to Clemson on Saturday. They are now just 7-7 in the ACC, and the rest of the resume is still paltry. NC State is 0-8 vs. the top-50, has two sub-100 losses and its computer profile is getting worse. The best wins are over Miami (Fl.) and Texas. That's not going to get it done. They need to make a run to the conference tournament title game.

Connecticut: The Huskies came so close to feeling very comfortable about a bid, but they couldn't make the plays down the stretch against Syracuse and fell short. Right now, they would still get a bid due to their tremendous SOS and six top-50 wins. With that said, they need to win at Providence and home vs. Pittsburgh to get to 9-9 in the Big East and get some momentum heading into the Big East tournament. Things can still go either way.

Colorado State: After the Rams' victory over New Mexico earlier in the week, a win at San Diego State could have really solidified their profile. However, they fell short -- but get another chance at a marquee win on Wednesday against UNLV. The computer profile is pretty solid, with an RPI around 30. They do need another key victory, though. They're only 6-6 in the Mountain West, and have two sub-100 losses. 

LSU: Well, that was fun. The Tigers had made their way to the bubble after winning four in a row to get to 7-6 in the SEC. However, after getting destroyed on the road at Ole Miss on Saturday, they're likely no longer under consideration. There are a couple of good wins on the docket, but the overall resume isn't impressive. LSU would need to win out and then do serious damage in the SEC tournament.

Marshall: The Thundering Herd were attempting to play themselves back into the NCAA discussion by taking advantage of their big shots down the stretch: vs. Memphis and vs. Southern Miss. If they could win both, they might have had a chance. Instead, they got destroyed down the stretch by Memphis, losing by 20 on their homecourt. Marshall is now amongst a large group of teams in the middle of Conference USA. Their NCAA hopes are extremely dim at this point.

Harvard: The Crimson now deserve a closer look after losing to Penn on Saturday night and moving back into a tie for first place with the Quakers. Should they stay tied, a one-game playoff will be necessary; if Harvard loses that one, will they get an at-large bid? Their best wins are over Florida State and Saint Joseph's, and they have an RPI in the high 30s. The loss at Fordham in early January looks horrible, but they're 13-3 away from home, and are 7-3 against the top-100. For their sake, they should just take care of business in the potential playoff.

More College Basketball coverage
Posted on: February 25, 2012 3:36 pm
Edited on: February 25, 2012 3:43 pm
 

Kidd-Gilchrist: I'm staying at Kentucky

By Jeff Borzello

Don't write off the idea that Kidd-Gilchrist would return for his sophomore season. (US Presswire)

It’s around this time every year when we start to see some of the top players in the country swear they’re returning to college next season. And then, come April, they go pro anyway.

As a result, most people took Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s comments after Kentucky’s win over Vanderbilt with a grain of salt.

“I’m graduating here. I’m not going nowhere. I’m staying at Kentucky,” Kidd-Gilchrist said, according to Brett Dawson of Rivals.com. “I’m dead serious. I don’t know why y’all laughing.”

Will Kidd-Gilchrist definitely return to school? I have no idea. I wouldn’t doubt that he’s thinking about it, though.

Kidd-Gilchrist is just wired differently than most of the star freshmen and college players these days. He’s always been that way. He has never truly carried himself like a superstar, and even his skillset doesn’t resemble that of a typical “future NBA All-Star.” Kidd-Gilchrist outworks players, he outhustles players and he’s a winner above everything else.

If Anthony Davis had said the same thing about returning to school, would I believe him? Not a chance. He’s the No. 1 pick in the draft.

Kidd-Gilchrist has moved all the way up to No. 3 in several mock drafts, but I don’t think he’s overly concerned with that. He’s not the kind of player who will regress with another year in college. Kidd-Gilchrist doesn’t have a ton of people feeding him all sorts of conflicting information; he has a good support team around him that will help him make the right decision.

Like I said, do I think Kidd-Gilchrist is a lock to return to Kentucky for his sophomore season? No. But I certainly wouldn’t write off the idea when it comes to him.

Posted on: February 24, 2012 12:47 pm
 

Today's Specials: WVU needs win vs. Marquette

Without a win at home vs. Marquette tonight, West Virginia could be on the outside looking in for the Big Dance. (US Presswire)

By Jeff Borzello

This week doesn’t feature too many marquee matchups, or ranked teams played other ranked teams, but it’s a prove-it week for bubble teams. Wednesday is slightly different, as many teams simply have to avoid bad losses.

Note: All times are Eastern, and the rankings are according to the AP poll.

Best game: No. 10 Marquette at West Virginia (9 p.m., ESPN). This is a must-win game for West Virginia, which has lost six of its last eight games. A victory would get the Mountaineers back to .500 in the Big East, and would add a quality win. Meanwhile, Marquette is in the running for second-place in the conference. The key in this game will be the Golden Eagles’ defensive rebounding against Kevin Jones and West Virginia’s offense rebounding. Moreover, can the Mountaineers keep up with Marquette when it forcing turnovers and running the floor?

Second-best game: Fairfield at Iona (9 p.m., ESPNU). If you had asked us back in January if Fairfield would be in position to forge a tie for first place with a win on Friday night, we would have looked at you pretty strangely. The Stags have won seven MAAC games in a row, with the last loss coming at home to Iona. Iona has a one-game lead on Fairfield and Loyola (Md.), but gets two home games to finish the season. The pace of this game will be a factor, as Iona wants to speed things up. Scott Machado vs. Derek Needham should be fun.

Another one to watch: Butler at Valparaiso (7 p.m., ESPNU). Valparaiso has already clinched the regular-season title, but the favorite heading into the conference tournament could be Butler. The Bulldogs have won five in a row to move to 11-6 in the league, and could finish in second. Butler has been playing very solid defensively, but it will need to defend the 3-point line and avoid silly fouls. Moreover, it needs to hit outside shots.

Guaranteed win: Manhattan has lost three of its last four conference games to drop to fourth place in the standings, but the Jaspers have a nice bounceback game tonight against Canisius (7 p.m.). Canisius is 1-15 in MAAC play and lost by 12 to Manhattan the last time the two teams played. With the way Manhattan plays defense, this one could get out of hand in a hurry. 

Potential upset: Loyola (Md.) blew its chance to get a stranglehold on the league by losing two in a row after taking over first place, but the Greyhounds are still in the hunt for a title. However, they have to travel to Rider tonight (7 p.m., ESPN2). The Brocs are 5-2 at home in the conference, and they shoot the 3 as well as any team in the league.

Three things to keep an eye on:

  • Harvard looks for revenge against the only team to beat it in the Ivy this season, Princeton (7 p.m.). A home sweep this weekend would put the Crimson in good position to win the automatic bid.
  • Idaho probably won't score 115 points like New Mexico State did on Thursday, but the Vandals need to win at Utah State to keep pace for second-place in the WAC (9:05 p.m., ESPN3).
  • The race is on for second-place in the Ivy League, and a win by Penn at Dartmouth (7 p.m.) would give the Quakers a chance to tie for first on Saturday at Harvard. Yale also hosts Columbia (7 p.m.).
More College Basketball coverage
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 24, 2012 12:53 am
Edited on: February 24, 2012 11:26 am
 

Rick Pitino goes off about referees, Cincy fans

By Jeff Borzello

Rick Pitino wasn't pleased with the officiating or the Cincinnati fans after Louisville's loss. (US Presswire)

Louisville’s 60-56 loss at Cincinnati on Thursday night was a tough one for the Cardinals. It could prevent them from getting a top-four seed in the NCAA tournament, and the defeat also makes it difficult to get a top-four seed – and double-bye – in the Big East tournament.

All in all, clearly not a great night for Louisville.

But it seems Louisville head coach Rick Pitino is not just upset about his team’s loss. According to Card Chronicle, Pitino went off in the postgame press conference about the officiating.

The officials “are really starting to get under my nerves,” Pitino said. “I don’t know who the hell they think they are. The level of arrogance, I just cannot believe it.”

And more, according to our RapidReporter Evan Hilbert: “I have a problem with the officials. They thought they were the three guys going into the Referee Hall of Fame the way they talked to me. I don’t know what they’re looking at sometimes, but they’re so positive, they should really go into the Referee Hall of Fame.”

Wow.

Looking at the box score, both teams had the same number of fouls (16), and each team’s marquee big man – Yancy Gates for Cincinnati, Gorgui Dieng for Louisville – were saddled with four fouls. Throw in the fact that Louisville had to commit fouls late in the game to get Cincinnati to the free-throw line, and it doesn’t seem egregious in either direction.

With that said, there were some questionable out-of-bounds calls, as well as a couple of travel (and non-travel) calls that went against Louisville at key points.

And Pitino wasn’t done with his venom. He wasn’t fond of how the Cincinnati fans acted. He did say Cincinnati had the biggest homecourt advantage he’s seen this season, and would like to see the Louisville crowd bring the same energy on Sunday.

There’s one caveat, though, according to Pitino: “without some of the low-class behavior.”

He would not give specifics about that behavior, of course, but we know the crowd was hostile toward Louisville freshman Chane Behanan. Behanan is a Cincinnati native who committed to the Bearcats after his freshman year in high school before moving to Kentucky and changing his mind later on. Behanan found the atmosphere “fun” and “electric,” for what it’s worth.

Pitino was clearly upset about the loss, but the defeat wasn’t because of the officiating or the fans. It was because Louisville shot 1-of-14 from 3-point range, turned the ball over 14 times and allowed 15 offensive rebounds.

At least he found a way to defer attention from his team.

Posted on: February 23, 2012 2:59 pm
 

Royce rolls comfortably into new role

Royce White quit basketball in 2009. Now he has Iowa State on the verge of an NCAA tournament appearance. (US Presswire)

By Jeff Borzello

Royce White was ready to give it all up.

It was the fall of 2009, and White had yet to play a game for Minnesota. The highly-touted freshman was battling multiple legal affairs, including misdemeanor shoplifting charges and fifth-degree assault. Moreover, he was being investigated regarding the theft of a laptop.

Things were spiraling out of control off the court, and White felt he no longer needed the pressure of basketball.

So he announced, via YouTube, that he was quitting the sport. And taking control of his life.

“That was more of an address to the fans and people who cared and wanted an explanation,” White said this week. “There was a lot of uncertainty about the situation, and a lot of people were questioning why I’m not on the court. It gave people something from my mouth that couldn’t be distorted by the media.” 

And White meant it too. He stopped playing basketball, instead focusing on things outside of sports. White became a writer, penning everything from music and songs to business plans and marketing schemes. Instead of seeing a future in basketball, he began to think about long-term goals in business.

But, as much as he tried, White couldn’t get away from basketball. He saw the other guys from the class of 2009 dominating in college: John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Jordan Hamilton, Derrick Favors, etc. Watching them succeed at the next level ignited a fire in him. Not a jealous type of fire, but a competitive one.

White knew he could hang with those guys on the court.

“Competitiveness is instilled in you,” he said. “Seeing them being so successful pushed me to be successful. I had a burning to get back to the court. I almost wanted to prove something to myself.”

There were several schools in the running for White, but he wanted to stay close to home and go to a place that was an underdog on the national scene. After leaving the sport, many people wrote him off – and so he felt he was something of an underdog too.

White leads Iowa State in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals and blocks. (US Presswire)

Iowa State, with new head coach Fred Hoiberg arriving on campus, was the perfect match for White’s rejuvenation. Hoiberg was stockpiling talented transfers, with White as the headliner. Reports out of Ames in the offseason described White being a dominant performer – but questions still remained about the Cyclones.

Could all these attitudes and egos mesh together so quickly? Will all of the transfers remain focused? Has Royce White figured it out yet?

“Personally, I took offense to that,” he said. “People who were saying it were part of the industry, who I already had a vendetta against. I was looking for something to take offense to; it helped me stay hungry. I embraced the idea of team and family. I had the most publicized problems, the most noted issues. They got grouped together with that. They didn’t deserve the scrutiny.”

White’s motivation wasn’t the only thing that changed since he originally gave up basketball. His mentality was completely different, his skillset was completely different, everything was different.

He no longer felt the need to prove he was the best player on the court at all times, no longer felt the need to dominate or score the most points.

“I was a better player than when I left,” White said. “My mentality about the game; I was playing for fun. It was about achieving success on a team level. My success couldn’t come without the success of the team. My thoughts about the game changed. Continuity, flow, getting people involved; those were the things I tried to embrace.”

After figuring himself out, figuring out the Big 12 was easy.

White has had an enormous impact on the Cyclones, leading the team in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals and blocks – the only player in Division-I to achieve that milestone. The 6-foot-8 sophomore has a unique skill set, even at 270 pounds. As the team’s best playmaker, he is basically a point-forward when it comes to facilitating offense and creating open looks for teammates.

White also has Iowa State on the precipice of the NCAA tournament, as the Cyclones sit tied for third in the Big 12 at 10-5. It would be the program’s first NCAA tournament since 2005.

One might think that getting revenge on the game and proving everyone wrong might excite White. But he’s not even thinking about that.

“It doesn’t feel as good as I thought it would, to be honest,” White said. “Basketball has become a piece of my life, but not all of my life. There’s so much more now, wanting to help people on a very high level. My team’s success, for this community, is the fulfilling part of it. It took the place of my own vendetta.”

What would be the perfect ending?

“This community being happy with what we achieved,” White said. “I know that winning an NCAA championship is my goal, winning a Big 12 tournament championship is my goal. But more important, this community being happy with this season and what we’ve done.”

The next time White talks about giving up the sport of basketball, don’t feel bad for him.

His future is in good hands. His own. 

Posted on: February 23, 2012 12:29 pm
 

Freshman of the Year: Who's the most valuable?

Trey Burke has Michigan in the thick of the Big Ten title hunt. Without him, where would the Wolverines be? (US Presswire)

By Jeff Borzello

With only a couple of weeks left in the season, the proverbial Freshman Wall of January is in the rearview mirror and the top newcomers are making a push. Nearly every single one of the top 10 newcomers is playing outstanding ball lately – and many of them have their teams in the thick of a conference title race. Which brings us to the question: which freshman is most valuable to his team? Anthony Davis would still be No. 1, but would the rest of the top 10 be the same? Trey Burke might be No. 2, and someone outside the top 10 might make the rankings. Just some food for thought.

The Freshman of the Year rankings are released every Thursday afternoon, shortly after Jeff Goodman and Gary Parrish’s Player of the Year rankings.

1. Anthony Davis, Kentucky (Last Week: 1): 13.8 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 4.8 bpg, 64.6 FG%
Davis didn’t dominate at either end over the past week, but he’s still the biggest game-changer in college basketball. Took two 3-pointers against Mississippi State; he had only attempted six all season.

2. Cody Zeller, Indiana (Last Week: 2): 15.7 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 64.5 FG%
While Zeller continues his stellar offensive play, his rebounding is the biggest positive right now. He’s averaging 8.7 boards in his last six games, after a poor January on the glass.

3. Trey Burke, Michigan (Last Week: 5): 14.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 4.8 apg
Burke has Michigan in the thick of the Big Ten race, and he came up big in the past week. He averaged 18.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists in wins over Ohio State and Northwestern.

4. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky (Last Week: 3): 12.2 ppg, 7.8 rpg
Kidd-Gilchrist bounced back from a rough offensive stretch with a great performance against Mississippi State, going for 18 points and 10 rebounds – and locking down Dee Bost in the second half.

5. Moe Harkless, St. John’s (Last Week: 4): 15.4 ppg, 8.7 rpg
Harkless played 40 minutes in each of his last two games, and shows no signs of slowing down. He nabbed double-figure rebounds in both games, and shot 6-for-9 on Monday.

6. Tony Mitchell, North Texas (Last Week: 6): 15.7 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 3.0 bpg, 58.7 FG%
Mitchell dominated as soon as he moved up the rankings, getting 18 points, 15 boards and six blocks. But he struggled over the weekend, suffering from foul trouble en route to seven points.

7. Brad Beal, Florida (Last Week: 8): 14.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg
Beal continues to perform at a very high level over the last month. He’s become Florida’s most consistent player, averaging 16.3 points and 7.4 rebounds in his last eight games.

8. Austin Rivers, Duke (Last Week: 7): 15.0 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 39.8 3PT%
Rivers is starting to get comfortable as a 3-point shooter and go-to-guy on the perimeter. He scored 16 points in each of his last two games, hitting four 3-pointers.

9. Tony Wroten, Washington (Last Week: 9): 16.5 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 3.5 apg
Wroten’s game against Arizona was what the Huskies need from him (aside from overshooting). He had 22 points, nine rebounds – and just two turnovers. He’s great off the dribble, just needs to play under control.

10. D’Angelo Harrison, St. John’s (Last Week: 10): 16.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg
To be honest, we’re looking for reasons to move new players onto the list, but Harrison is making that harder and harder. He averaged 22.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.0 assists in his last two games.

Notes:

  • Once again, no one moved in or out of the rankings.
  • Arkansas’ B.J. Young was one of the last ones left out of the rankings. Despite the Razorbacks’ struggles of late, Young is rolling. He’s averaging 23.0 points in his last four games, shooting 31-for-55 from the field and 10-for-20 from 3-point range.
  • Butler’s Roosevelt Jones has been a major part of the Bulldogs’ resurgence, averaging 11.8 points and 9.0 rebounds in his last eight games.
  • Myck Kabongo is rounding into form. He’s putting up 15.0 points and 4.3 assists in his last four games.
  • Providence’s LaDontae Henton has played at least 39 minutes in 11 of his last 12 games. That’s unbelievable for a 6-foot-6 frontcourt player.
  • Anthony Collins continues to transform the South Florida offense at the point guard position. He’s averaging 11.1 points and 6.7 assists in his last seven games.
  • Kevin Pangos was on the verge of breaking into the rankings, but he shot 2-for-11 from 3 in his last two games, averaging just 8.0 points.
  • Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant is averaging 13.8 points and 5.2 assists in his last nine games.
  • The injury to Rodney Hood could be huge for Mississippi State. He gives the Bulldogs a bonafide third or fourth scorer who can knock down outside shots or get into the mid-range.
  • Prior to Sunday’s subpar performance against UCLA, Stanford’s Chasson Randle was averaging 18.7 points in his previous three games.
  • Iowa forward Aaron White is putting up 14.5 points and 10.3 rebounds in his last four games.
  • Nice couple of games from Western Kentucky’s Derrick Gordon: 14.5 points and 10.5 boards in the last week.
  • Freshman leaders – Points: Kyle Vinales, Central Connecticut State (18.1); Rebounds: Tony Mitchell, North Texas (10.4); Assists: Dylan Garrity, Sacramento State (6.8)
Posted on: February 23, 2012 11:01 am
Edited on: February 23, 2012 11:05 am
 

Today's Specials: Duke looks for revenge at FSU

By Jeff Borzello

Thursday features plenty of interesting matchups, including no fewer than six teams that can clinch at least a share of their respective regular-season titles. A rematch of one of January's best games is also on the docket.

Note: All times are Eastern, and the rankings are according to the AP poll.

Best game: No. 5 Duke at No. 15 Florida State (7 p.m., ESPN). Looking back, January 21 is what changed the complexion of the ACC title race. Florida State went into Cameron Indoor Stadium and knocked off the Blue Devils, giving the Seminoles a huge edge heading down the stretch. Florida State has won 10 of its last 11 games, while Duke has become the comeback kids, using late runs to beat North Carolina and North Carolina State in recent weeks. Florida State's defense is usually rock-solid, but it needs to take care of the ball.

Second-best game: BYU at Gonzaga (11 p.m., ESPN2). This is an important game for both teams. A win here for BYU, and the Cougars could feel very confident about their at-large hopes. Moreover, after Gonzaga's loss to San Francisco over the weekend, both the Bulldogs and Cougars are tied at 11-3 in the conference -- one game back of reeling Saint Mary's. BYU won the first meeting by 10, but that was home. The battle inside should be fun to watch, with Noah Hartsock and Brandon Davies going against Robert Sacre and Elias Harris.

Another one to watch: No. 17 Louisville at Cincinnati (9 p.m., ESPN). Despite its hideous RPI and computer profile, Cincinnati has won four of its last five and would be in the NCAA tournament if it were selected today. The Bearcats have a chance to really boost their resume with a win over the Cardinals. Louisville has won seven of its last eight to look likely as a top-four seed in the Big Dance. Louisville will need to knock down its outside shots, and also limit the second-chance opportunities for Cincinnati

Guaranteed win: All season long, California has seemed to remain above the Pac-12 fray. The Golden Bears are tied atop the league standings, and should take a half-game lead after tonight as they travel to Utah (9 p.m.). The first time the two teams played, California rolled to a 36-point victory. The Utes have lose three straight single-digit games, but methinks this one will be a bigger margin.

Potential upset: This one shouldn’t surprise anyone, as the first time they played, Iowa won at the Kohl Center on New Year’s Eve. The Hawkeyes are coming off a 12-point win over Indiana, and they have also defeated Michigan at home. No. 16 Wisconsin has actually been better on the road than at home this season, but Iowa’s ability to score inside the arc could be the difference (9 p.m., ESPN2). 

Three things to keep an eye on:

  • Three teams can win outright conference titles on Thursday, in Belmont, Davidson and Middle Tennessee. LIU-Brooklyn and Bucknell can clinch a share of the championship in their respective conferences. Saint Mary’s can also clinch at least a tie at Portland (10 p.m., ESPNU).
  • No. 14 Murray State looks to get revenge for its only loss of the season, at Tennessee State (8 p.m., ESPNU).
  • Bubble games: Alabama at Arkansas (7 p.m., ESPN2), USC at Arizona (8:30 p.m.) and Stanford at Colorado (10:30 p.m., ROOT). 
More College Basketball coverage
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 22, 2012 8:30 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2012 12:40 am
 

Poppin' Bubbles: Avoiding bad losses is key

Wyoming saw its bubble burst with an overtime loss at San Diego State. (US Presswire)

By Jeff Borzello

Tuesday was a prove-it day for bubble teams, as seven of them played ranked teams and another two had to pass road tests. Only three teams out of that group came out victorious. Wednesday is another huge night for bubblers, but in a different ways. Only a few have a chance to get statement wins, but nearly a dozen teams have to avoid bad losses. With so many different things at stake, we’ve expanded our categories too. 

Note: This page will be updated throughout the night, with bubble discussion and analysis. 

Status quo

Purdue: The Boilermakers didn’t suffer the same fate as Illinois over the weekend, throttling Nebraska out of the gate en route to an 83-65 win. The win moves the Boilermakers to 8-7 in the Big Ten heading into their final stretch against Michigan, Penn State and Indiana. If Purdue can get one of the two road games (Michigan, Indiana), it will feel awfully comfortable heading into the conference tournament.

Memphis: The Tigers suffered a really bad loss at home over the weekend to UTEP, so they could not afford to lose another questionable game. That wasn't a problem, as Memphis handled East Carolina with ease in the second half. The Tigers also took over first place in the league standings after Southern Miss' loss, but their Selection Sunday fate will be decided down the stretch. They have road trips to Marshall and Tulsa sandwiched around a home against UCF. The Tigers need to prove themselves in those three games.

Iowa State: Heading into a very difficult three-game stretch to finish the season, the Cyclones needed to beat Texas Tech on Wednesday to get to 10 wins in the Big 12. It wasn't as easy as expected, but they still dominated the final 10 minutes en route to an 18-point win. With road games at Kansas State and Missouri and a home date with Baylor still on the docket, Iowa State will have chances to seal its bid. One win would make the Cyclones feel pretty good.

Hurt itself

West Virginia
: The Mountaineers hung with Notre Dame for a half, but the Fighting Irish came out of the break with a bang and simply ran away with the game. The loss is West Virginia's sixth defeat in eight games, and drops them to 7-8 in the conference. On Friday, Marquette comes to Morgantown in a game that would really solidify the Mountaineers' at-large hopes. If they drop that one, they need to win the final two games of the regular season and then do some damage in the league tourney.

Southern Miss: Things are getting dicey for the Golden Eagles. They survived a loss to Houston over the weekend and remained in pretty good shape, but Wednesday's double-overtime loss to UTEP (by the way, when did the Miners become such a giant-killer?) moves them into suspect territory. They are now tied for second-place with Tulsa in the standings and have three sub-100 losses. Southern Miss has to survive its next two games -- Rice and SMU -- before the season finale against Marshall. The Golden Eagles are still in, but nowhere near as safe. 

South Florida: Despite a gaudy Big East record, the biggest knock on the Bulls is their lack of good wins and their soft conference schedule. They jumped out to a double-digit lead at Syracuse, but couldn't make plays late in the game and fell short. They are now 10-5 in the league with three games left. They have Cincinnati, Louisville and West Virginia remaining -- two of them coming at home -- so there are still chances. Right now, though, one good win over Seton Hall isn't getting it done.

Saint Joseph's: The Hawks were one of the final teams out of the bracket this week, but that will change next week after their loss at home to Richmond, which came into Wednesday with an RPI nearing 150. Unless the Hawks beat Temple and St. Bonaventure to finish the season and then get a couple quality wins in the Atlantic 10 tournament, Phil Martelli's club won't have a happy Selection Sunday.

Minnesota: Farewell, at-large hopes. The Golden Gophers have now lost four in a row and six of their last eight, and suffering a heartbreaking loss to Michigan State. Tubby Smith's troops had the game in their grasp, but completely malfunctioned in the last three and a half minutes and will now be relegated to the NIT. Barring a crazy run the rest of the season, Minnesota is done. 

UCF: The talk of the Knights as an at-large team seemed to be jumping the gun a little bit in the past couple weeks, and Wednesday's horrible second-half loss to Rice pushes them further out of the field. They now drop to a fourth-place tie in the league standings, and still have to go to Memphis in next-to-last game of the season. 14 of their 17 wins are sub-100. 

Still alive

Dayton:
The Flyers made it into several brackets this week on the basis of their seven top-100 wins and victories over Temple and Saint Louis. However, they are only one questionable loss from falling from the picture. They survived on Wednesday, going on the road and beating Duquesne. They still probably need to win their final three regular-season games.

Marshall:
The Thundering Herd shook off a double-digit first half deficit to dominate Houston in the second half. It is their third straight win, and with chances sitll remaining against Memphis and Southern Miss, Marshall has the opportunity to play itself into the league title -- and at-large -- race.

Drexel: The Dragons still have plenty of work to do to move into consideration for an at-large berth, but the Dragons stayed alive with a win over James Madison. An outright regular-season title could really help their profile, so they need to win at Old Dominion on Saturday and also hope George Mason drops one to VCU.

VCU: Like Drexel, VCU just needs to keep winning and hope quantity of wins is enough for the Selection Committee. The Rams survived a trip to UNC-Wilmington on Wednesday night, and now get a shot at co-league leader George Mason this weekend. A win there and a Drexel loss to Old Dominion would give the Rams a share of the regular-season title.

LSU: The Tigers popped on the radar in the past week, and they kept their winning ways going with a victory over Georgia on Wednesday. That's now four straight victories for the Tigers, leaving them 7-6 in the SEC -- good enough for fourth in the conference standings. If they can win out in the regular season, LSU will have an interesting at-large case. It owns wins over Marquette, Alabama and Mississippi State.

Bubble Popped

Wyoming:
The Cowboys looked like they were about to revive their at-large hopes by leading at San Diego State for most of the game. However, the Aztecs tied it late and then dominated the overtime period. Wyoming is now 4-7 in the Mountain West and in sixth place. Their at-large hopes are likely gone. 

Ole Miss:
The Rebels have completely fallen off since getting some serious consideration a couple weeks back. Their 13-point loss at Tennessee on Wednesday night was their third in a row, and fifth in their last six games. Barring an amazing run to -- at least -- the SEC title game, no NCAA for them. 

La Salle: If the Explorers could have won out and then done damage in the conference tournament, they had a chance. Their overtime loss to Temple on Wednesday ends their at-large hopes.  

George Mason: The Patriots can still win a share of the CAA title with a win over VCU this weekend and a Drexel loss, but their loss at Northeastern on Wednesday night ruins their at-large hopes. Despite their 14 CAA wins, they have just two top-100 wins and four sub-100 losses. 

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