Archives for posts with tag: CBI

PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM-

Some Marches become memorable because your school steals a game it had no business winning…while others are made by incredible tournament runs that keep the season alive for another weekend.  The select few seasons end with your team playing for it all during the first weekend of April…with the chance to bring home hardware.  This was not one of those years for the area schools…as even George Washington fell Monday night in the College Basketball Invitational (also known as CBI) to UIC (previously known as Illinois-Chicago) in the Quarterfinals (I feel like I should continue the trend and call it the QF).

As the dust clears from a wild weekend–what happened?  If you went into the tournament recognizing Mount St. Mary’s would be overmatched with Villanova, each of the other locals (Maryland, Virginia, Virginia Tech and VCU) had potential red flags.  And each red flag was flown high.  And while the answer opening weekend was less than ideal for each school, as the offseasons begin there will only be more questions until next October 15th.

Maryland (24-9) had issues beginning with its January 1st loss to Nebraska where they did not score for the final six minutes of regulation.  Minus a proven post presence the Terps were reduced to a jump-shooting/drive-and-kick team this winter…and when they were hitting it was great.  But they had too many stretches of wandering in the offensive wilderness-against Purdue, Wisconsin and Northwestern-and losing Michal Cekovsky to injury limited their options inside further.  The Terps’ 76-65 loss to Xavier saw another one of those extended scoreless stretches (six minutes in the second half)…along with getting hammered on the boards by ten.  As Damonte Dodd graduates and L.G. Gill wraps up his one year with the program as a graduate transfer, all eyes are on Melo Trimble.  Will the 22-year old now projected to land in the middle of the second round by nbadraft.net return for his senior season?  Even if the junior departs, there’s a solid base in College Park with the freshman trio of Anthony Cowan, Kevin Huerter and Justin Jackson.  Not to mention redshirt Micah Thomas. Will six-foot-ten center Bruno Fernando be the inside answer?  Come back next winter.  

I didn’t know the Musketeers were that loaded- Xavier is the only double-digit team to survive the first weekend, and Chris Mack’s team did so after entering the tournament on a 4-7 lurch where three of those wins came against lowly DePaul (I have yet to check with the NCAA office, but I believe until further review one has to refer to the Blue Demons as “lowly DePaul”).  They hadn’t been the same since losing point guard Edmond Sumner and the NCAA Tournament is a guard’s game, right?  While the victory over Maryland wasn’t a complete shock their dismembering (91-66) of #3 Florida State was.  Along with fellow Big East newbie, Xavier is flying the conference banner in the regional round.

Virginia (23-11) gained the reputation as “London Perrantes plus four guys from the Y” during a stretch where they lost six of eight…and had trouble shaking that status no matter how many good games Kyle Guy and Marial Shayok produced.  Perrantes was the only Cavalier on the roster in March averaging in double figures (transfer Austin Nichols was dismissed in November after scoring 11 points in his only game for UVa)…and Saturday in the 65-39 loss to Florida the rest of the team shot 14 of 42 (33%).  Perrantes leaves Charlottesville having been the pulse of the team that averaged 28 wins and brought home the school’s second-ever ACC Tournament title.  He leaves a roster of players who need to develop over the next offseason…from Shayok and Guy to Jack Salt (the New Zealander had a season-high 10 rebounds against the Gators) and Isaiah Wilkins (limited by illness in the NCAA’s).  The only commit so far is shooting guard Marco Anthony, so the next floor general will have to come from within the ranks.  Darius Thompson, we presume?

ACC stands for Annoying Conference Collapse- nine schools made the field of 68…and one by one each went down over the weekend.  While nobody had Wake Forest or Miami making the Final Four, Louisville and Notre Dame had each been in the top ten during the regular season.  And both were gone by the end of the weekend.  Same with Florida State and…Duke?  Granted-they lost to South Carolina in Greenville, SC-but the way the Blue Devils had been playing down the stretch their faithful were confident in (and their detractors were fearful of) a Final Four run.  Only North Carolina somehow pulling victory not only out of the jaws but out of the esophagus of defeat against Arkansas kept the league from going 100% sour before the Sweet Sixteen.

Virginia Tech (22-11) ranked last in the ACC in rebounding…and that was before losing top rebounder Chris Clarke to a season-ending ACL injury.  So it was no surprise that the Hokies got crushed on the glass in their 84-74 defeat against Wisconsin…especially when the Badgers blew up everyone’s bracket by bouncing defending national champ Villanova two days later.  But let’s sit back for a second…Virginia Tech made the tournament for the first time in ten years.  And despite a rapidly thinning bench, coach Buzz Williams’ team entered selection Sunday having won six of nine.  While Zach LeDay and Seth Allen have played their final games in maroon and orange, there’s a solid nucleus that has plenty of starting experience (truth be told, LeDay and Allen were coming off the bench by the end of the season).  Another recruiting class for the energetic Williams comes to Blacksburg…and next winter they try to post the school’s third straight winning conference record for the firs time since 1986 (three moves ago, or when they called the Metro home).  Even with a loss to the Badgers, the Hokies’ glass is more than half-full.

From Much-Maligned to Sweet Revenge- the Big Ten was undervalued early and often this winter, culminating with a Selection Sunday slap in the face to multiple teams.  How’d they respond?  Purdue fought back the ghosts of brackets past with two solid wins (including a great punch-counterpunch victory over Iowa State) and their first Regional trip since 2010.  Michigan continued its great play that started well before its 4-0 sweep through the Big Ten Tournament (6-2 in final eight regular season games)…and bounced Oklahoma State before upsetting Louisville.  Wisconsin?  The conference runnerup after being given a #8 seed found a way to eliminate defending champ and overall number one seed Villanova.  Instead of misery this March is filled with magic for the Big Ten-as the league’s three teams alive are tied with the Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC.  Maybe it was because their tournament was held in DC…

VCU (26-9) had issues shooting the three all season…tying for 248th in Division I.  Against an underseeded St. Mary’s (the Gaels were a #7 despite finishing the regular season 22nd in the writer’s rankings) in Salt Lake City the Rams were held to 2-of-13 from outside the arc in an 85-77 loss.  One wonders what sort of seed they would have received if VCU had managed to hold off Rhode Island in the Atlantic 10 Tournament finals.  One doesn’t wonder about the force of nature that was JeQuan Lewis:  the senior went down shooting in his final game, leading the Rams with 30 points.  While the Rams return juniors Justin Tillman (2nd in the A-10 in rebounding) and Jonathan Williams (2nd on the team in assists), coach Will Wade won’t as the 34-year old wunderkind gets swept away to rebuild LSU.  Caveat Emptor:  the power conferences are littered with former VCU coaches, from Anthony Grant at Alabama to Jeff Capel at Oklahoma.  And Shaka Smart just went through an 11-22 campaign at Texas.

Alma Mater Update- the Orange finished the season 19-15 much like their inconsistent play mandated:  tipping off an 11am Saturday NIT game.  While Tyler Lydon is off to the NBA, longtime #1 assistant and “coach in waiting” Mike Hopkins is headed to Washington as the Huskies’ head coach.  This allows Jim Boeheim to stay after the 2017-18 season that was originally agreed upon as his retirement date (you know, after the probation that stripped the school of over 100 wins and 2 Big East Tournament titles).  Betty White applauds…

Bracket Busted- my CBSSports.com bracket did not lose a game the first weekend–because the computer site froze between 11:30am and 12:30pm. Epic fail, kids…but let that be a lesson to procrastinators worldwide. Get it done early…and watch suckers like me freak out at the last moment.

Conference Carousel- the ACC’s flameout (especially after last year’s incredible success) in the Big Dance this year reminds me of the Big East in the 1980’s.  1985 saw the league send three schools to the Final Four and post an 18-5 record, before going 4-4 the following March while getting shut out in the Sweet Sixteen.  The Big East bounced back in 1987 with a 14-5 record, two Final Four teams and a third that reached Regional Final.  So  2018 is on notice…

Sunday Night Special- I understand that TNT, TBS and TRU own the first Sunday of the tournament and thus are putting their games on at night for the biggest audience.  But could we move the 9:40 game to 4:40?  The 8:40 game (Duke-South Carolina) was the perfect cherry on Sunday’s games–making UCLA-Cincinnati seem like the cherry’s stem. It’s there but you don’t want to look at it…especially for those of us who have consumed 47 games over 48 hours of watching over four days.

PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM–

Selection Sunday comes and goes with the usual joy (Northwestern is going dancing!), customary disappointment (so you’re telling me a Syracuse team that went 2-11 on the road and lost to sub-500 Georgetown and St. John’s at home belongs?) and hair-splitting (Duke beats UNC twice and doesn’t get the #1 seed??).  Not to mention storylines waiting as we begin a new countdown to Thursday.

Finally, the First Four is just that.  That’s right- no more referring to the first weekend as the second and third rounds!  I conscientiously objected over the years and called them the “round of 64” and “round of 32”.  And yes, I skipped the Tuesday and Wednesday doubleheaders in the “new countdown” because that is how the NCAA treats these eight schools that make the field. Mount St. Mary’s, New Orleans, North Carolina Central and Cal-Davis:  welcome to the kiddie table.  Please make room for Providence, USC, Kansas State and Wake Forest.  I know Dayton sells these games out and goes the extra mile to make the schools feel special, but it’s kind of lame that a school/fan base has to fly to Dayton only to turn around and go to Buffalo, Tulsa and Sacramento for a game that takes place less than 48 hours later.  Have the First Four schools play at those eventual sites on Tuesday/Wednesday;  if anything you’re just cutting travel costs and letting them experience the true tournament.

No such worries for Maryland (24-8) regarding a Dayton destination, although there was a little more suspension this March than on the previous two Selection Sundays.  In 2015 and 2016 the Terps were listed among the first matchups in the bracket; this year they were the second to last school to read its name on TV.  Coach Mark Turgeon said, “I don’t know what their (his players’) reaction was because I was going crazy.  I got up so fast I almost fainted.”  Maryland gets a #6 seed in the West Region and a first round date with Xavier (21-13) Thursday in Orlando.  The Musketeers enter the tournament minus offensive catalyst Edmond Sumner (torn ACL in January) and are 4-7 since February 5th.  Three of those four wins came against lowly DePaul.  6:50 tipoff Thursday.

Virginia (22-10) also is headed to Orlando…but as the #5 seed in the East Region and a First Round showdown with UNC-Wilmington.  The 29-5 Seahawks bring a potent offense (10th nationally at 85.1 points per game) as well as a seven game winning streak.  UVa has won three straight round of 64 games under coach Tony Bennett; the stickler might be the fact that if they win the Cavaliers would likely face Florida.  I’ve been told by multiple sources that the University of Florida happens to reside in the same state as the city of Orlando, although many will tell you that the Magic Kingdom technically has jurisdiction. 12:40 gametime Thursday.

Virginia Tech (22-10) is in the same half of the East Bracket, getting the #9 seed and a First Round date with Wisconsin in Buffalo.  Having seen the Badgers’ big men Nigel Hayes and Ethan Happ during the Big Ten Tournament (they lost to Michigan in the championship game), one’s going to wonder how the Hokies will hide the worst rebounding margin in the ACC.  Don’t worry-likely awaiting Buzz Williams on Saturday will be overall number one seed and defending National Champ Villanova.  9:40 start Thursday.

VCU (26-8) heads West as the #7 seed and goes to Salt Lake City for a Thursday evening game with St. Mary’s.  Yes, the Gaels who were actually ranked entering Selection Sunday will be the lower seed.  Three of their four losses were to top seed Gonzaga…and coach Randy Bennett’s team allows the second-fewest points per game in Division I.  Was the committee that miffed that they’d have to include Rhode Island in the field that they elected to punish the Rams in this manner?  7:20 tipoff Thursday.

Mount St. Mary’s (19-15 and not to be confused with Mt. Saint Mary’s) gets the Big Spin before the Big Dance and a date in Dayton with New Orleans Tuesday…although many fans and alums would much rather have a date with Dayton in New Orleans.  The Privateers boast a 20-11 record and a big man by the name of Erik Thomas;  the six-foot-five senior averages 19 points and 8 rebounds while making 59 percent of his shots.  The Mountaineers will have their hands full on the glass, as they rank 341st in the nation in rebounding margin while UNO is 63rd.  The winner gets to go from Dayton to Buffalo to face Villanova Thursday.  6:40 start Tuesday.

 

Missing the Field-

Alma Mater Update- the Orange went 18-14 en route to a #1 seed in the NIT.  Ironically the lack of wins away from the Carrier Dome ensures that they will play up to three more games in that building.  And it’s not just the NCAA that has a sense of irony:  less than one week after coach Jim Boeheim proposed moving the ACC Tournament from Greensboro, NC because it had no value SU draws UNC-Greensboro in the First Round.

Richmond (20-12) will play at Alabama in the NIT Tuesday.  The Spiders were unable to hold off a late charge by VCU in Saturday’s Atlantic 10 Semifinal and lost in overtime to the Rams-the third time they’ve been bounced by their neighbors in the A-10 tourney since VCU joined the league.  It’s always intriguing to see how a power conference team approaches the NIT after missing the NCAA cut; the Crimson Tide are in the “other tournament” for the third straight year and have lost on the road the previous two seasons.  It’s a good thing spring football practice doesn’t begin until next week.

George Mason (20-12) and George Washington (19-14) are headed to the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) after Friday night losses to their Commonwealth Capital brethren in the Atlantic 10 Quarterfinals.  Wednesday at 7 the Patriots host Loyola of Maryland (15-16 with six losses in their last eight games) while the Colonials will entertain Toledo (17-16 with a 4-7 record away from home) at the same time.  It’s the second CBI for both schools:  George Mason was the 2013 runner-up while George Washington fell in the 2010 First Round.