The bubble teams can rejoice. Creighton and Murray State were both able to win the conference tournaments, albeit in close fashion, thus giving them automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament.
The best part about that for the bubble teams is that those two squads were going to be locks anyway. If Illinois State were to win the Missouri Valley or Tennessee State win the Ohio Valley, it would have taken a bid away from a team like Miami or Texas.
Illinois State and Tennessee State sure made the bubble teams worry though. After upsetting No. 14 Wichita State the previous day, the Redbirds were in good position to knock off Creighton in the MVC championship. Nic Moore drove coast-to-coast for a layup with 6.5 seconds left to force overtime with the Bluejays. Creighton’s Antoine Young took over in the extra period, however, scoring eight of his 14 points in overtime to preserve the victory for the favorite.
As for Tennessee State, they had already defeated Murray once this year — the only loss of the year for the Racers. They almost did it again, up seven points with just over five minutes left. Murray was somehow able to come back and get the automatic bid. Jewaun Long drove the baseline to scored the winning layup with 4.4 seconds left to win it for Murray.
So what does this mean for the rest of the country? The MVC was going to get two bids regardless of the conference tournament, Wichita and Creighton. Likewise for the OVC, where Murray is a lock. This gives the bubble teams a much better chance at making the Big Dance.
Both Creighton and Murray State are threats to make a run in the tournament and possibly pull off an upset. They both feature stars (Isaiah Canaan for Murray and Doug McDermott for Creighton), they are both deadly from deep and they both rebound well — all of which are key in making a March run.
North Carolina-Ashville and Belmont were the top other squads that punched in their automatic bids over the weekend. Ashville will likely be a 15/16 seed, possibly playing one of the first round games. Belmont could possibly be a sleeper to make a run, having not lost since Jan. 21. In their season-opener they lost to Duke by just one point, 77-76. Depending on who they play, their opposition should be on alert next week.
On that note — next week — that feels good to say. This is going to be a fun week for all of us in Championship Week, but the real fun begins next week.
Get the ladders and succors ready, today is the day that we start cutting down the nets.
Big South Championship: VMI vs UNC Asheville. The top seeded Bulldogs defeated the Keydets twice this season, but they always say it’s tough to beat a team three times. Asheville is 5th in the nation is Points Per Game (81.3), VMI is 6thwith 80.2. (Noon ESPN2).
OVC Championship: Murray State vs Tennessee State. The Tigers were able to get the win February 9th, while the Racers won the 2nd meeting. What have we not said about the Racers, it’s been a season to that the team and fan base will not forget. (2pm ESPN2).
Atlantic Sun Championship: Florida Gulf Coast vs Belmont. To go dancing the Bruins will have to get their 3rd win over the Eagles this season, both wins have been by more than 20 points. The Bruins rank 4th in the nation in Points Per Game with 81.5, 5th in Assist Per Game with 17.5. (7pm ESPN2)
Other games to note today: The ESPN hype will be focused on Tobacco Road with UNC @ Duke (7pm ESPN), Georgetown @ Marquette (2pm Big East Network), Baylor @ Iowa State (7pm ESPN Full Court), San Francisco @ St. Mary’s (9pm ESPN2)
We are in the Final Countdown of the regular season, so that means the final what to watch for because if you don’t know what you’re watching next week, well you need to turn in your fan card.
Monday: Notre Dame @ Georgetown (7pm ESPN) – The last Big Monday game of the season, always hate to see this happen since they have one of the best announcing crews. Back to the game the 3rd place Irish and 4th place Hoyas have the coveted double-bye, for now, at Madison Square Garden but can still drop to a single-bye so expect this to be a great game. If you wanted to the Daytona 500 may be on (I really need to invent a tarp for NASCAR) to flip to during the media timeouts.
Tuesday: Michigan St at Indiana (7pm ESPN) – Sparty comes to Bloomington where the Hoosiers have had some success (cue the Kentucky video) against ranked opponents.
Wednesday:The first conference tournament starts with the Atlantic Sun on ESPN3. Marquette visits Cincinnati (7pm ESPN), the Bearcats have played well ever since the fight vs Xavier earlier this season including wins over Louisville, Connecticut, Pitt and Georgetown. USF will be looking for a resume building win as they visit the KFC Yum! Center (can’t forget the !) to take on Louisville (7pm Big East Network). 8pm Iowa State travels to Missouri (Big 12 Network).
Thursday: Michigan takes on Illinois (7pm ESPN), in what could be Bruce Weber’s last game as head coach of the Fighting Illini. The Missouri Valley and the West Coast Conference tournaments appear on the screen.
Friday: Murray State is playing in the Semifinals of the OVC Tournament (7pm ESPNU). If you want to find me I’ll be watching a great college baseball series of Pepperdine vs Louisville (two weeks in a row with a baseball plug, sue me).
Saturday: The first tickets are punched as the Big South, OVC and Atlantic Sun all determine a champion. Memphis @ Tulsa (Noon CBS) in a C-USA match-up of the top teams in the league, Louisville travels to Syracuse (4pm CBS), who knows what Louisville team will show up.
Sunday: The last day of games for the regular season and Kentucky travels to Florida (Noon CBS) and in state rivals Purdue @ Indiana (6pm Big Ten Net). A champion will be crowned for the MVC (2pm CBS).
March madness is here! The OVC Tournament will get a leap on things on Leap Day (bad pun, I know) in Nashville, TN. Of course the favorite will be the 1 seed, Murray State, who as the 1 seed are in the semifinals as well as Tennessee State, the only team that defeated the Racers this season.
A team that could give Murray State a scare would be the last team that they faced, Tennessee Tech. Murray State was able to beat the Racers by five points Saturday, but the lead was one point with a minute to go in the game. The win gave the Racers their best season on record (28-1, 15-1), and finished undefeated on the road for the first time in school history. It’s safe to say that an automatic bid is a given for the Racers if they don’t win the OVC Championship, but I’m sure coach Prohm won’t let his team think that, and will be playing for a better seed come Selection Sunday.
A team to watch out for would be the 3 seed, Morehead State. The Eagles will play the winner of Austin Peay / Jacksonville State. The winner of that game will advance to face Tennessee State.
The First Round and Quarterfinals will be streamed online at OVCSports.TV. The Murray State Semifinal game will be live on ESPNU at 6pm on March 2nd while the other semi will be live on ESPN3 and aired tape delayed on ESPNU. The automatic qualifier for the OVC will be determined on March 3rd at 1pm on ESPN2.
With Conference Tournament games just over a week away here is a look at some of the games that you should keep an eye on this week.
Monday: Connecticut @ Villanova (7pm ESPN) – ESPN’s Big Monday has a double-header worth watching. UConn and Nova both are in need of a confidence boost before they head to Madison Square Garden for the Big East Tournament. If you want a second game tonight, Baylor is at Texas at 9pm on ESPN
Tuesday: Kansas St at Missouri (7pm ESPN2) – The Big 12 leader host 5th place Wildcats. This games kicks off a tough week for both teams.
Wednesday: So many games to pick this week but a few to keep an eye on include West Virginia @ Notre Dame (7pm ESPN2), USF at Syracuse (7pm Big East Net.), Oklahoma State @ Oklahoma (8pm Big 12 Net.).
Thursday: Duke @ Florida State (7pm ESPN) – Two of the three teams at the top of the ACC meet in Durham. Murray State @ Tennessee State (8pm ESPNU), the top two in the OVC will battle it out, the Racers are coming off the win over St. Mary’s. Louisville @ Cincinnati (9pm ESPN) the long time conference rivals meet at Fifth Third Arena, both teams are currently at 9-5 in conference play.
Friday:Baseball is back; go watch your college program play our national past-time. If you really want to watch some hoops Butler @ Valparaiso (7pm ESPNU) and Marquette @ West Virginia (9pm ESPN) should settle that craving.
Saturday: Go on and clear your schedule it’s the last full Saturday of regular season basketball. The day starts with Vanderbilt @ Kentucky (Noon CBS), Iowa State @ Kansas State (1:30 Big 12 Net.), North Carolina @ Virginia (4pm ESPN), Creighton @ Indiana State (4pm ESPN2), and what could be the final meeting of Missouri @ Kansas (4pm CBS).
Sunday: It’s the Daytona 500 why do you want to watch basketball? Cincinnati @ USF (Noon Big East Net), Indiana @ Minnesota (1pm ESPN), Pittsburgh @ Louisville (2pm CBS), Florida State @ Miami (FL) (6pm ESPNU), Oregon @ Oregon State (7:30pm FSN).
If you can not find a game that peaks your interest this week then you might not be a college basketball fan.
Here is a quick look at a game each day this week that may catch your attention.
Monday: Syracuse @ Louisville (7pm ESPN) – ESPN’s Big Monday crew rolls into town with Louisville off a win at West Virginia, and Syracuse comes into the KFC Yum! Center with a five game winning streak.
Tuesday: Buffalo at Kent St. (7pm ESPN Full Court) – 2nd and 3rd place in the MAC East Division take the court in a Valentine’s Night game. The Bulls won by one point when these teams met January 7th.
Wednesday: Missouri St. at Wichita St. (8pm ESPN Full Court) – 1st place Shockers host 3rd place Missouri St., the Shockers took the previous match-up at the start of the month by seven.
Thursday: Wisconsin at Michigan St. (7pm ESPN) – 2nd and 3rdin the Big Ten, the Spartans won by three in Overtime last month in Madison.
Friday: Northern Iowa at VCU (7pm ESPN2) – The kickoff game of this years BracketBusters event, two teams that have been busting brackets in March make for a great start to the 10th year of the BracketBusters series.
Saturday: St. Mary’s at Murray State (6pm ESPN2) – The match-up that everyone wanted in BracketBusters. This game should still be a great game even without the Racers being undefeated, plus Dick Vitale is calling the game, should be a great atmosphere.
Sunday: Michigan State at Purdue (1pm CBS) – The Boilermakers get a shot to get a quality win over the Spartans under the lights of CBS.
Here is a quick look at some headlines from those conferences that you may not follow.
Georgia Southern has gone from one league win last season, to nine SoCon wins at this point this season.
Chattanooga Senior Ricky Taylor is 8th on the Division I scoring list, he needs just two points to move to 6th
The Citadel is struggling to find a lineup that works for them; they have had eight different starting lineups with Mike Groselle being the only player in all of the lineups.
Akron has started 8-1 in the Conference and is ties for their 3rd best start ever; the Zips have won 12 of the last 13 in MAC play.
Buffalo ranks 3rd in the country in rebounding (41.6 rebounds per game) and are on a six game winning streak.
Murray State is still the lone undefeated team in the nation (23-0), and the only team undefeated in true road games (10-0), Cleveland State has the most road wins with 11.
The Racers have the programs highest rankings ever (7 in Coaches Poll, 9 in AP), they are the first OVC
team to be in the Top 10 since the 1970-71 Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. The 23 wins is the longest streak ever for any OVC school.
In the win of SIUE, Tennessee Tech’s Kevin Murphy scored a school record 50 points. He was the first 50 point scorer in the OVC since 1991-92.
By now we all know the 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers were the last to run the table (32-0).
Is there any surprise that the last undefeated team this season in Division I is from Kentucky and they wear the color blue? Not Kentucky Wildcat blue, Murray State Racer blue. The Racers have the best start to a season ever by an OVC team, as well as their 25th straight winning season (tied with UConn only trailing Syracuse, Kansas and Arizona) Now the question, will this be the season that we have the next team that runs the table?
On paper Murray State has a great shot, especially since leading rebounder Ivan Aska has returned to the lineup after breaking his hand December 30th. Let’s look at the rest of the Conference schedule.
Four road games – the team with the highest PRI of the four would be Tennessee Tech (RealtimeRPI of 180). When they played earlier this year the Racers won by 8. For the home games, the toughest test based on RPI appears to be Austin Peay (Racers won by 12 last time out).
That leaves us with one game to look at, the match-up that every basketball fan wanted for ESPN BracketBusters. St. Mary’s at Murray State. The Gaels will fly to Kentucky with a RPI Rank of 18, SOS of 115; their two losses, at Denver and vs Baylor (in Las Vegas). Both teams play on Wednesday of that weekend, so no extra time to prepare for either team, Murray State will be returning from Southeast Missouri (who they defeated February 2 at home despite trailing at the half), St. Mary’s will be flying in from a home game. There is no doubt that this will be the most talked about and most watched game, probably the best match-up in BracketBusters history.
Now let’s talk seeding. RPI of 34 (and falling), SOS 236 (ouch, thanks OVC!), quality wins: Southern Miss (RPI 9) Dayton (73) at Memphis (25). Current ESPN Bracketology has the Racers as a 6 seed, playing St. Louis in Columbus. CBS is projecting the Racers as a 3 seed in Nashville against Iowa State.
How has a 6 seed done in the tournament you ask. If they obtain a 6 seed, they have a better chance than as a 7 seed (never advanced to the Final Four). 3 teams have made it to the Final Four as a 6, same for the 8 seed (the 1985 Villanova team won the championship as an 8 seed, the lowest seed to ever cut down the nets). Since 1985, the 3 seed has taken home the trophy three times.
Can they run the table, yes they can, any thing can happen. Will they? That is something we will have to wait and find out, and it should be fun to watch.