No. 2 Wichita St (25-6) held off a pesky No. 7 Temple (17-15) in a 89-81 win the American Athletic Conference quarterfinals.
The game was won at the free throw line as Wichita forced Temple into foul trouble and made seven more free throws (28) than Temple attempted (21)
Sophomore guard Landry Shamet led the Shockers with 24 points while senior forward Rashard Kelly added 16. Sophomore guard Quinton Rose scored 25 for Temple with 15 points a piece from senior guard Josh Brown and junior guard Shizz Alston, Jr.
Wichita awaits the winner of the last quarterfinal between No. 6 UCF and No. 3 Houston. Temple will most likely be headed to the NIT.
In the first time since both universities have been Division I participants, both North Dakota and North Dakota St have legitimate shots to go dancing.
At the publishing of this post, North Dakota is in first place by a half-game in the Big Sky while North Dakota St is tied for first in the Summit with South Dakota.
This would be quite the feat for the two universities and would give the state bragging rights over the Dakota to the South. Both schools will most likely be 15/16 seeds, but that doesn’t take away of how historic this will be for the state. Besides, the world needs to see North Dakota’s Quinton Hooker in the Big Dance.
Stock Up: Wichita St. As you will see below the Shockers are an No. 8 seed without an at-large resume. That’s because I believe what my eyes tell me when I watch them play. This is a tournament team. They are destroying the Missouri Valley. In 13 of their 15 conference wins, the margin has been double digits. In fact they beat Illinois St, the team they’re tied with for first place, by 41 points earlier this month. You don’t want to see this team in March.
Stock Down: Virginia. I’m starting to wonder if the rest of the ACC has figured Tony Bennett out. It happens from time-to-time, but the Cavaliers are currently on a four-game losing streak and haven’t looked good in the process. There is now a scenario where Virginia is playing in a 7/10 or 8/9 game in the Big Dance.
Stock Up: Bucknell. On Sunday, Bucknell traveled to Boston University to play a game for first place in the Patriot League. When the game was over; there was no doubt. Bucknell throttled Boston 86-66 to take a two-game lead and are now the odds-on favorite to win the automatic bid.
Stock Down: Mountain West. Last week we spoke about the downturn of Conference USA and this week it’s the Mountain West, which appears to be a one-bid league again. Long-term this appears to be more of a blip than a trend as it has major state universities. However, more is expected of this league.
Last Four In: TCU, Seton Hall, Syracuse, California
Last Four Out: Alabama, Marquette, Providence, Illinois St
AMERICA EAST: Albany was by far the most dominant team in the league this season. The Great Danes didn’t lose their first conference game until Feb. 17. With all games being at campus sites its going to take a lot to keep Albany from repeating.
MISSOURI VALLEY: This certainly was a top heavy league this year as Wichita St and Northern Iowa ran away and hid from the rest of the conference. That’s why it is expected that those will be the two teams playing for the championship on Sunday. In the rubber match, expect Wichita St, the team with the superior experience and talent, to cut down the nets.
METRO ATLANTIC ATHLETIC: A loss on the last day of the regular season is the only thing that kept Iona from winning the league by three games. The Gaels’ misstep doesn’t scare me too much as they’ve been to the tournament recently and will be tough prep on short rest. The tournament will be competitive as always, but expect Iona to go dancing.
SOUTHERN: As good as Wofford has been over the course of the year, Chattanooga has been right there all along. The two squads were far and away the class of this conference and appear to be on a collision course for a Monday night showdown. The teams won on each other’s home floor so this creates a bit of intrigue. Wofford is the favorite here, but not by much.
COLONIAL: The regular season in the CAA finished in a four-way tie for first place. If there’s anyone out there who’ll tell you they have this league pegged than than call that person’s bluff. On a true neutral court in Baltimore anything can happen. Given the disappointment from last season and performing well against the other top teams in the league, I’m going with William & Mary.
WEST COAST: There may be many people wondering if there’s a major kink in the armor of Gonzaga after losing to BYU in it’s last regular season home game. I am not one of those people. BYU played fantastic and could very well be a tournament team itself, but Gonzaga is one of the best teams in the country and it’ll have motivation. The Zags will win in Vegas.
SUMMIT: South Dakota St and North Dakota St went back and forth this season vying for the Summit League’s No. 1 spot. At the end of the day, both teams finished with 12-4 records with South Dakota St winning the tiebreaker. Playing the tournament in the state of South Dakota gives the Jackrabbits a bit of a chance. Despite that, there’s a team on their side of bracket who’s beaten them and is even closer to the site where the tournament will be played. That’s the South Dakota Coyotes and they’re my upset pick to win the Summit League.
The country has been so enamored with Wichita St over the past three years that it overlooked a program that has been among the most successful in the Missouri Valley in the past decade. That is no longer an issue as Northern Iowa has staked its claim as the team to beat in the MVC.
As in most years, the Panthers are doing it with defense as they lead the league in points allowed, field goal percentage defense, and three-point field goal percentage defense. In fact, when Wichita St made the trip up to Cedar Falls it only shot 35.4 percent for the game.
Defense can carry a team a long way in March and the Panthers, who’ve only allowed one opponent to score 60 since December 13, have the tools to get to the second weekend.
Stock Up: Oklahoma and Oklahoma St. The arch rivals are having quite the run in recent weeks. Both are climbing the Big XII standings and posting impressive wins while they do it.
Stock Down: Georgetown. There’s a lot of talent on the team, but it’s just not coming together as of yet. The Hoyas have plenty of time to climb out of their current funk, but getting swept by Xavier and Providence won’t look good on Selection Sunday.
Stock Up: Harvard. Hasn’t been the prettiest start, but it looks like the Crimson has found its groove. Harvard is beginning to resemble the team everyone thought it would before the season started.
Stock Down: USC. The Trojans are 1-10 in conference play and this is a down year in the Pac-12. Andy Enfield has yet to get Dunk City to move to Los Angeles.
On to the Bracket.
Last Four In: Miami(FL), Stanford, Purdue, Texas A&M
Last Four Out: Colorado St, Michigan St, Boise St, Rhode Island
This bracket is good for games thru 2/8
Quick Note: Virginia is on the No. 2 line because of Justin Anderson’s injury. We’ll see how this week plays out.
In a conference boasting the likes of Duke, Louisville,North Carolina and Syracuse, there’s one team that’s standing out above all those. The Virginia Cavaliers are one of the best teams in the country and looks to be the class of the ACC.
With Virginia, it’s all about defense. Virginia’s pack line defense has befuddled foes ever since head coach arrived on campus. This year has been no different as Virginia is fifth nationally in defensive efficiency, second in field-goal percentage and second in points per game.
That kind of defense keeps the Cavaliers competitive in every game and if they’re able to continue to do this all year, they might be on their way to the Final Four.
Stock Up: Kentucky. This is the only team with better defensive numbers than Virginia. Kentucky’s size, length, athleticism and skill makes it the heavy favorite to win the national championship.
Stock Down: Pac-12. I thought the league was on the cusp of a basketball renaissance, but it looks like its going to take a step back this season. If it weren’t for the surprisingly good season for Utah, the Pac-12 would really be in trouble.
Stock Up: Wichita St. The Shockers clearly aren’t undefeated this year, but they’re still a real threat to go to the Final Four. They have one of the best backcourts in the country and can play with anybody.
Stock Down: WAC. Quietly, the biggest loser in conference realignment. The WAC went from having teams like Utah, New Mexico and BYU to Grand Canyon, Utah Valley and Cal State Bakersfield. Even the MEAC has a better RPI as a conference.
On to the bracket
Last Four In: Mississippi, Kansas St, Tennessee, Washington
Last Four Out: Colorado St, Texas A&M, Ohio St, Alabama
Threw almost three months of the season there is one team whose undefeated record is as surprising as its run to the Final Four last season. Wichita St rolled through its non-conference schedule and with Creighton in the Big East, it looks like the Shockers will face little resistance in the Missouri Valley this season.
Led by one of the best point guards in the country in Fred VanVleet, the Shockers destroyed Indiana St, the only other team in the Valley with real at-large aspirations. He runs the show and is surrounded by talent that plenty of high majors schools are probably envious of. Throw in Gregg Marshall, a man who’s legitimately one of the best coaches in the country and this is a team that looks like a national title contender.
Stock Up: Tyler Ennis. The Syracuse freshman has taken this team to another level. Any thoughts of a drop off after Michael Carter-Williams have been erased as Ennis has made the Orange the favorite to win the ACC.
Stock Down: Big East favorites. Both Georgetown and Marquette are sputtering to find themselves as injuries, suspensions and early departures have crushed their respective rosters. Both squads thought they’d perform much better this season but neither have been close to upholding the standard the each program has set.
Stock Up: Kansas. The Jayhawks are putting it together and its going to get scary for everyone else. It appears that Joel Embiid has taken the reigns as the best player on this team and everyone else has followed. Kansas already has four losses, but it could be a good while before it losses again…if it losses again.
Stock Down: VCU. The Rams have been figured out. If you limit VCU’s transition opportunities they can’t score. This team can get hot from deep, but it’s not consistent when the Rams are off, they’re extremely easy to defend.
On to the bracket:
First one of the year.
Last Four In: North Carolina, Stanford, Providence, SMU
Last Four Out: Saint Mary’s, Boise St, Purdue, Georgetown
WEST COAST: This one is academic. There is one team in this league that will potentially be a No. 1 seed and then there is one team who may get an at-large bid. Gonzaga went 16-0 in league play this year with some really impressive victories. In Las Vegas this weekend, I can’t see anyone beating the Bulldogs on a neutral floor. Saint Mary’s is playing for its NCAA tournament life, but I don’t think it will be enough to overcome the talent Gonzaga has.
NORTHEAST: Robert Morris finished two games ahead of the crowded bunch of teams which includes Wagner, Bryant and Long Island University. In fact, the top seven finishers in the NEC finished .500 or above so I expect this to be one of the craziest conference tournaments in all of college basketball. In a situation like this I give the edge to a team that’s been there before and that team is LIU. The Blackbirds know how to navigate this tournament and I expect them to go dancing again.
PATRIOT LEAGUE: This year was supposed to be nothing short of a coronation for Lehigh. However, C.J. McCollum injured his foot and Lehigh wasn’t able to sustain early season success. One school that has been able to is Bucknell. The Bison have lost only two games in conference play and five overall and since this tournament is played on the home court of the higher seeded team, I’d say its the heavy favorite to win this tournament.
MISSOURI VALLEY: The eyes of the nation were on Creighton and Wichita St in the Missouri Valley this season. While many expected the two to dominate; history tells us that this conference has been known to eat its own and that’s why Indiana St’s at-large hopes have gone up in smoke. This is always one of the more competitive tournaments and this year should be no different. I expect one of the hottest teams in the league to shock the world. Evansville will cut down the nets in St. Louis.