In the first game of the 2018 American Athletic Conference Championship, No. 9 SMU (17-15) defeated No. 8 UConn (14-18) 80-73.
The Mustangs were led by senior guard Ben Emelogu’s 23 points and senior forward Akoy Agau’s 21. Sophomore guard Christian Vital led the Huskies with 24 while senior guard Antoine Anderson had 19.
SMU head coach Tim Jankovich said he was not only happy with the win, but he was particularly happy to see Emelogu and Agau play so well. He said the two players have been going through several off the court issues.
“I swore I would challenge anyone, ever, to find me a couple guys who have been through more amazingly difficult adversity in their careers than [Emelogu and Agau],” he said.
The loss capped a disappointing season for UConn as they’ll miss the NCAA tournament for the second season in a row. It has led to speculation about Ollie’s job security. After the game, Ollie said he expected to return as coach next season, but he also said he needed to evaluate everything he did as a coach.
“I’m gonna assess everything I’ve done as a coach and see how I can get better,” Ollie said.
“I can’t name out a list, but we don’t want to be here,” he continued. “We don’t want to be 14-18.”
With the win, SMU will move on to face No. 1 Cincinnati on Friday. UConn’s season is over.
NOTE: Agau twisted his ankle late in the game. He said he’ll ice it up and be good to go on Friday vs. Cincinnati.
In an unlikely semi-final matchup, the Memphis Tigers (19-14) cruised to a 74-54 victory over the upstart Tulane Green Wave (12-22).
It appeared that playing three games in as many days had caught up with the Green Wave. As turnovers and missed shots began to pile. To add on even more, the team has been dealing with rumors that its coach will be fired once the season ends.
“From day one since I’ve been in this program Coach Conroy always preached to keep the
outside noise out and don’t listen to what no one says and just stay together,” said senior guard Louis Dabney. “When all that was going down, we didn’t really bother to even care, because Coach Conroy always put us first.”
Memphis will now try to play spoiler for a bubble team as it has a chance to win an automatic bid by defeating UConn.
“We know we’re going to have to play a great game if we want to have an opportunity to beat them,” Memphis coach Josh Pastner said. “But we’re excited about the challenge, and it should be a high level game with two high level teams tomorrow afternoon.”
UPDATE: 9:45 p.m.
The UConn Huskies (23-10) continue to ride the wave of emotion following their quadruple overtime win on Friday with an impressive 77-62 victory over the Temple Owls (21-11).
“It was a well-played game by our guys,” said UConn head coach Kevin Ollie. “They were focused. They were determined to get to the championship game.”
The game was decided midway through the first half when the Huskies went on a 35-11 run to turn an eight-point deficit at 14:05 into a 16-point lead at 1:44 in the first half.
Temple struggled with UConn’s size in the first half – struggling to finish around the hoop causing it to shoot 28.1 percent and being outrebounded by nine boards at the break.
The Owls were able to dwindle the Huskies lead down to six on several occasions in the second half – the last being at 9:44. However, the Huskies had an answer to every run.
Sophomore guard Daniel Hamilton and senior forward Shonn Miller both finished with 19 points for the Huskies. Senior forward Jaylen Bond led the Owls with 17.
UConn saw its NCAA tournament hopes take another step forward and it can erase all doubt with a win in the championship game. In the meantime, Temple will have 24 hours to see if its fate will be the same as last season.
“It’s not in our hands,” said junior guard Josh Brown. “We pray that our name is called”
For the second year in a row, the Tulsa Golden Hurricane wilted under the pressure of the bubble as it fell to the Memphis Tigers 89-67.
Freshman forward Dedric Lawson scored 22 points and grabbed 12 boards. Senior guard Ricky Tarrant, Jr. and senior guard Trashon Burrell added 21 and 19 points respectively.
Tulsa was outsworked from the tip as Memphis seemed to be the more motivated team. Memphis out-rebounded Tulsa 43-35 and forced 13 turnovers.
Now, the American is a conference bubble teams around the country will be watching as the late semifinal will feature two teams that need an automatic bid to make the Big Dance.
Tune in tomorrow as the blog will be back live from the Amway Center for semifinal Saturday. Tulsa, meanwhile, will be on a flight back to Oklahoma pondering whether or not it will make the tournament.
UPDATE 12:20 a.m.
The upstart No. 10-seed Tulane Green Wave outscored the No. 2 seed Houston Cougars by 11 in the second half and pulled off the biggest upset of the day in Orlando with a 72-69 win.
With nine seconds left in the game, sophomore guard Cameron Reynolds knocked down a three to put the Green Wave up 70-69. On the ensuing Houston possession freshman guard Galen Robinson, Jr. turned the ball over.
Robinson’s turnover was indicative of a sloppy game for the Cougars as they allowed the Green Wave to stick around in the second half despite taking a eight-point lead into the break.
By the 13-minute mark, and despite the lead getting up to nine, the motivated Green Wave tied the game.
The victory was made all the more astonishing by the fact that reports came out during the game had Tulane head coach Ed Conroy being fired as soon as the season was over.
“I had two guys behind the bench put their phones up and say ‘hey coach, you’re gone,'” Conroy said. “That was fun when you’re trying to come back from an eight-point deficit.”
Houston’s faint at-large hopes are now certainly destroyed with a loss to a team, who’s RPI is below 230.
UPDATE 9:45 p.m.
In arguably the best game in the three-year history of the American Athletic Conference, the UConn Huskies (22-10) outlasted the Cincinnati Bearcats (22-10) in quadruple overtime 104-97.
The high drama came at the end of the third overtime. After Cincinnati junior guard Kevin Johnson broke a 95-95 tie with a three-pointer with .8 seconds left, UConn freshman guard Jalen Adams banked in a three from halfcourt to force a fourth overtime.
“It’s something that just happened,” Adams said. “Early in the year, me and (sophomore wing Daniel Hamilton) used to see who could make the most halfcourt shots. I guess it’s paying off.”
The Huskies trailed by as many as 11 in the first half, but fought back to take a seven-point lead with 3:36 remaining in the second half. However the Bearcats clawed their way back into the game to force overtime at 62-62
From there, the game became a slugfest with neither team leading by more than four in any of the first three overtime periods.
In the fourth overtime, UConn grabbed a five-point lead at 100-95, Cincinnati was able to cut it to three on a tip-in by senior forward Octavius Ellis with 25 seconds left. From there UConn was able to salt the game away from the free-throw line.
For UConn, they have a 3 p.m. tilt tomorrow with Temple. Cincinnati, on the other hand, is left to wonder about its NCAA tournament fate. It’s a fate that head coach Mick Cronin says should already be decided.
“I don’t even know why anyone would ask us the question, based on what we’ve accomplished this year versus the rest of the field,” Cronin said. “I understand that our conference doesn’t get as much respect by the people on TV a lot as some other people.”
UPDATE 6:25 p.m.
In the first game of the day here in Orlando, Temple (21-10) pulled away in the second half en route to a 79-62 win over South Florida (8-25).
The Owls were paced by senior guard Jaylen Bond’s 17 points and 8 rebounds. His fellow senior and backcourt mate, Quenton DeCosey added 14 points and 8 rebounds while sophomore forward Obi Enechionyia chipped in 13 and 5.
Meanwhile, the Bulls were led by junior forward Chris Perry who dropped 19 points and grabbed 8 boards. Freshman guard Jahmal McMurray added 16 points.
This blog believes the Owls are in, but they certainly saved themselves from a more nerve wracking weekend by taking care of business versus the Bulls – especially with this being the day that will make or break bubble teams around the country.
Despite that, the Owls say after last year’s disappointment their only focus is the automatic bid.
“Having that feeling from last year, we all remember it. We all remember how it felt,” Enechionyia said. “That’s something we all want to experience – getting to the tournament. Getting to play late in the season.
“Having that feeling in our minds and remembering that. I think its motivated all of us,” he continued
Today we’re going to examine the resumes of several teams on the bubble. Central Florida, Colorado St, Connecticut, Loyola Marymount, Miami(FL), NC State, Northwestern, Seton Hall, St. Joseph’s, Texas, Washington, Xavier
Record: 19-7 (8-4 Conference-USA)
Key Wins: Connecticut, Memphis
Key Losses: Louisiana-Lafayette, Tulsa
Outlook: UCF is just 2-4 against Memphis, Southern Miss, Tulsa and Marshall – the other top teams in Conference USA. Still has a road game at Memphis but will probably need to get to at-least the Conference USA title game to feel good about their chances.
Record: 16-9 (5-5 Mountain West)
Key Wins: Colorado, Denver, Wyoming, San Diego St
Key Losses: TCU, Boise St
Outlook: The Rams still have a road game at San Diego St sandwiched between home games against New Mexico and UNLV so the opportunity to make a jump is there. It’ll be difficult, but if the Rams can go 3-1 in their last four and get to the semi-finals of the Mountain West tournament then that will probably be enough for a bid.
Record: 16-10 (6-8 Big East)
Key Wins: Florida St, Harvard, West Virginia, Notre Dame, Seton Hall
Key Losses: Rutgers, Tennessee
Outlook: The Huskies will have one of the top two or three strength of schedules in the country. Despite the issue that have plagued them, they have a favorable schedule down the stretch. A split in their last four and a visit to the quarters will get them to the Big Dance.
Record: 18-10 (10-4 West Coast)
Key Wins: Saint Louis, BYU, Saint Mary’s
Key Losses: Columbia, North Texas, Morgan St
Outlook: The Lions’ wins over Saint Louis, BYU and Saint Mary’s are better than any wins many of the teams on this list will have. Those losses to Columbia, North Texas and Morgan St give severe pause though. May have to win the West Coast Conference tournament to get in, if they get to final they’ll be seriously considered.
Record: 16-9 (7-5 ACC)
Key Wins: Massachusetts, Duke
Key Losses: None
Outlook: Miami has just one quality win, but a win in Cameron carries a lot of weight. The Hurricanes have a pretty solid strength of schedule, but are just 1-6 against the top 50. They go to Maryland followed by a home game against Florida St and a road game at NC State. Their margin of error is extremely slim.
Record: 18-9 (7-5 ACC)
Key Wins: Texas, Miami (FL)
Key Losses: Stanford, Georgia Tech
Outlook: NC State had the worst week ever last week. The Wolfpack lost a game it had won at Duke and then lost at home to Florida St where two of it’s legends were kicked out of the arena. Win those two games and they’re not even on this list. NC State has North Carolina and Miami at home coming up. The opportunity to solidify a tournament berth is still available.
Outlook: The Wildcats have never gone to the NCAA tournament before, but that all can change this season. They have Michigan and Ohio St at home along with trips to Penn St and Iowa. 4-0 definitely, 3-1 probably, 2-2 and they better get to the Big Ten tournament semifinals.
Record: 18-9 (7-8)
Key Wins: Virginia Commonwealth, Dayton, West Virginia, Connecticut, Pittsburgh
Key Losses: Villanova
Outlook: Solid Strength of schedule, but still has a lot of work to do. The Pirates have Georgetown at home this week and that will go a long way. Remaining games versus Rutgers and Depaul are more can’t lose than must wins. If Seton Hall goes 2-1, one of those two needs to be against Georgetown.
Outlook: The Hawks are benefitting from a weak bubble. They’re currently 0-3 against Temple, Saint Louis and Xavier, which makes their game against Temple on Saturday uber-important. They lose that game and they’re probably looking at winning the Atlantic-10 tournament to get in.
Record: 17-10 (7-7 Big 12)
Key Wins: Temple, Oklahoma St, Iowa St, Kansas St
Key Losses: Oregon St
Outlook: The Longhorns host Baylor tonight and close the season at Kansas. They have four games remaining and I thing going 3-1 in those games will get them in. Under no circumstances can they lose to Texas Tech or Oklahoma.
Record: 19-8 (12-3 Pac-12)
Key Wins: Oregon, Arizona (2)
Key Losses: None
Outlook: Washington is going to have to finish at least tied for the Pac-12 regular season title and make it to the championship game to get an at-large berth. Whether the committee wants to admit it or not; winning the regular season title of a power six conference carries weight.
Record: 17-9 (8-4 Atlantic-10)
Key Wins: Vanderbilt, Purdue, Cincinnati, Duquesne, St. Josephs, Dayton
Key Losses: Hawaii
Outlook: While the Musketeers haven’t been playing as well as they had been before the brawl, they still have the same roster. That means this team is still capable of winning big games. One of the best resumes on this list and may have a larger margin for error than other team seen here. Still, I’d go 3-1 down the stretch if I were Xavier.
This Week’s Bracket Projections:
Last Four In: St. Josephs, Connecticut, Miami (FL), Seton Hall
Last Four Out: UCF, NC State, Colorado St, Illinois
Good for games through of 2/19
1.Kentucky16.Vermont/Savannah St Louisville
6.UNLV11.Mississippi St Columbus
1.Duke16.UNC-Asheville/Mississippi Valley St Greensboro
Will this be the year? Will this be the year a team other than one from Virginia wins the Colonial Athletic Association. If the Drexel Dragons have anything to say about it, it will.
It’s been six years since UNC-Wilmington won the regular season title in the CAA. That’s six long years for the rest of the league as George Mason, Virginia Commonwealth and Old Dominion have dominated the league. In that span, Mason and VCU have gone to Final Fours and Old Dominion has gone to the NIT semifinals in addition to winning a first-round tournament game.
This year may be different though. Drexel is currently in a three-way tie for first with Mason and VCU, but it has beaten both teams and has lost only one time in is last 18 games.
The Dragons are hot and only have one game remaining against a team with more than three conference wins remaining. They’re in prime position to win the CAA title.
Stock Up: Travon Woodall. He’s made such a difference for the Panthers since returning from injury. This team looked completely lost without him and now look like one of the best teams in the Big East. If the tournament began today I don’t think Pitt would be in it, but I’m willing to bet money we’ll see Pitt in the Big Dance and that’s all due to Woodall.
Stock Down: Connecticut. I’ve never seen this before out of a UCONN team. The Huskies have had some down years, but what’s going on right now is downright embarrassing. As I write this, Louisville is currently beating them as if the Cardinals are the Dream Team and the Huskies are Angola. I’m pretty shocked.
Stock Up: Southern Miss Golden Eagles. The school that Brett Favre built is having quite a season. The Eagles are sitting at 20-3 and are atop the Conference-USA standings. They’ve achieved a season split with Memphis have beaten title contenders Marshall and UCF. They have a favorable schedule down the stretch and can solidify an at-large bid.
Stock Down: Duke’s Homecourt Advantage. First reports surface that student demand for tickets at Cameron Indoor Stadium isn’t as high as it’s been in the past. Then the Blue Devils go out and lose to Florida St and Miami. Not the Heat, the “U.” Obviously this says more about Duke than it does about Cameron, but it’s definitely surprising to see.
This Week’s Bracket Projections:
Last Four In: California, Minnesota, Wyoming, UCF
Last Four Out: Colorado St, NC State, Arkansas, Northern Iowa
Good for games through of 2/5
1.Kentucky16.UNC-Asheville/Norfolk St Louisville
8.Southern Miss9.Iowa St
4.Marquette13.Long Beach St
6.Gonzaga11.New Mexico Nashville
1.Missouri16.Stony Brook/Mississippi Valley St Omaha
In the 2005-2006 season, the season after North Carolina won its previous national championship, not much was expected. All that happened was North Carolina having a surprisingly good year and Roy Williams doing perhaps his best job ever as coach. Unfortunately for Tar Heel fans, this season isn’t shaping up to be quite as successful.
The Tarheels are struggling in every since of the word right now. They are losers of three of its last four including a blowout loss at Clemson and a road loss at the College of Charleston. They are 12-6 right now and their RPI is in the 50’s. The Michigan St and Ohio St wins will go a long way for them, but if they don’t turn it around soon, this season can spiral out of control.
The main reason North Carolina is in this position is because Ty Lawson plays for the Denver Nuggets. North Carolina is solid in the frontcourt, but guard play is holding it back. If they’re able to get solid play out of Larry Drew, this team can be dangerous in March. Right now though, its just not looking good for Roy Williams.
Stock Up: Ohio State. This is a completely different team with Evan Turner. As you saw by the show he put on in West Lafayette, Ind. last week, he’s clearly an All-American. In a foul-plagued game against Wisconsin, Turner still managed to score 15. This team might be too far behind Michigan St to catch the Spartans for the Big Ten regular season title. However, at full strength, this very well may be the best team in the conference.
Stock Down: UConn. The Huskies are very much in the same boat as the Tarheels, except they aren’t the defending national champions and preseason favorites to win their conference. That being said, they are reeling. They haven’t been the same since Georgetown rallied to beat them and with Texas on its way, it could get worse before it gets better.
Stock Up: BYU. The Cougars continue to be the top program in the Mountain West. They were expected to win the conference again, but they way they’re playing it looks like no one else is going to have a shot. At 17-1, the Cougars are in complete control at it appears that they’re going to sail to another NCAA tournament berth.
Stock Down: Coastal Carolina. The Chanticleers are having the best year they’ve had in years, but they had an opportunity to send a message to the rest of the Big South last week and failed. The Radford Highlanders went into the Chanticleers building at took their lunch. Although the Coastal is still a game ahead, no one is going to put their money on it over Radford to win the Big South.
This Week’s Bracket Projections:
Last Four In: St. John’s, UConn, Northwestern, Old Dominion
Last Four Out: Virginia, Notre Dame, California, Oklahoma St
1.Texas16.Lafayette/Jackson St Oklahoma City
5.Temple12.Old Dominion Jacksonville
6.Northern Iowa11.UNLV San Jose
1.Villanova16.Morgan St Providence
4.Gonzaga13.College of Charleston
6.Vanderbilt11.Cincinnati New Orleans
2.Duke15.Coastal Carolina WEST
1.Kansas16.Campbell Oklahoma City
5.BYU12.UConn San Jose
6.Ohio St11.Washington New Orleans
7.Wake Forest10.Texas A&M Buffalo
2.Syracuse15.Sam Houston St MIDWEST
4.West Virginia13.Western Kentucky
6.Xavier11.North Carolina Providence
7.New Mexico10.Mississippi Milwaukee
This blog will be dedicated to nothing but college basketball. Right now, we’re in the midst of Holiday tournament season with one of the great tournaments, EA Sports Maui Invitational tipping off today.
Saint Josephs vs. (8) Texas
Indiana vs. (9) Notre Dame
Chaminade vs. (1) North Carolina
Oregon vs. Alabama
We also have two other barnburners on tap for today as well.
(22) Wisconsin vs. (2) Connecticut-Championship game of the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands
Syracuse vs. (19) Florida in the semi-finals of the O’Reilly Auto Parts CBE Classic.
Lot’s of action makes this Monday tolerable. Talk to you later.