Dallas Colleges: Florida State Seminoles
Until the new configuration of the BCS is settled (i.e., what form will a four-team playoff take?), the Big 12 won't be taking much action, if any. Outgoing commissioner Chuck Neinas confirmed at least that much. Neinas also said he might stay on through July to relieve new commissioner Bob Bowlsby, who has other obligations on the United States Olympics Committee's board of directors. Bowlsby would still come aboard June 15, but there would be a period of overlapping commissioners.
"It was great to see Bob and Chuck together today at the head table, talking about things," Oklahoma State president Burns Hargis told reporters Thursday. "I think the transition will be smooth."
The league's presidents were in attendance Thursday and reaffirmed the athletic directors' stance on expansion.
To my knowledge, that's the first public confirmation that the expansion committee is indeed inactive. Interesting stuff. If Notre Dame becomes a possibility, it's clear the Big 12 would listen, and I'd assume that Florida State would engender a similar reaction, to a lesser extent. For now, though, the Big 12 maintains it's sitting at 10, even if no one (yours truly included) really believes it.
With Florida State officials expressing conflicting messages about the school's future conference affiliation, and the future of the Big East very much in flux, how could you?
A few other quick notes:
- Texas AD DeLoss Dodds came out firing on Thursday, tossing barbs just about everyone's way. The SEC has Texas in its footprint? "They have a sliver of the east side," he told reporters. On the Big East? "I don't know if they qualify as a BCS [conference]. They've lost a lot of strength."
- Neinas, on the league extending its six-year grant of media rights agreement, which is in progress, but not a done deal? "I don’t believe the membership feels it’s a gun-at-the-head arrangement. It’s just a step forward moving together."
- The league membership also didn't sound very fired up about re-instituting a championship game in the new iteration of the BCS. Reports John Hoover of the Tulsa World: “We have come to really appreciate the position we’re in right now by not having a championship game,” said Iowa State’s Jamie Pollard, chairman of the Big 12 athletic directors. Said Dodds: "If this all happens the way we’re visualizing today, I think there are some football coaches out there that will say, ‘Well, what are we doing? We’re 12-0, we’ve got to go into play a team that’s 9-3, we’ve got a shot at getting beat.' Or, 'We win the game, it’s a struggle, we get two kids hurt’ -- I mean, those kinds of things are gonna be the reality of it."
Dodds might not have been making many friends Thursday, but he did make some among the league's coaches with that comment for sure.
Friday is the final day of meetings, but it's been a quiet week compared to the past two years at Big 12 spring meetings. For now, it's mostly just been the league's members drawing battle lines on where they stand in relation to the playoff and expansion.
Oh, we all hear them. And when they happen, it's time to compare the prospective team to its possible future home.
We always do these for the Big 12, and I definitely always learn a thing or two. I hope you do, too.
Here's our history:
- Nebraska vs. the Big Ten
- Texas A&M vs. the SEC
- TCU vs. the Big 12
- Missouri vs. the Big Ten
- Missouri vs. the SEC
- West Virginia vs. the Big 12
- Florida State is 1-2 all-time vs. the Bears, but the last meeting was in 1974.
- Florida State is 1-1 all-time vs. the Cyclones.
- The Seminoles narrowly edged Seneca Wallace and ISU in the season opener in Kansas City, 38-31. FSU led 31-14 at half, but Wallace led ISU back to within 38-31 early in the fourth quarter.
- Florida State is 5-2 all-time vs. Kansas, but haven't met the Jayhawks since 1993.
- In that 1993 game, FSU tromped the Jayhawks, 47-0, on the way to its first national title.
- Florida State is 3-0 all-time against the Wildcats, but haven't met them since 1977. In Manhattan, that equates to the year 12 B.S. (Before Snyder).
- Florida State is an eye-popping 1-6 all-time vs. Oklahoma.
- The Sooners beat FSU 13-2 in the 2000 Orange Bowl to win the national title.
- Last year, Oklahoma marched into Tallahassee and won, 23-13, with ESPN's College Gameday in attendance.
- Florida State is 3-1 all-time vs. OSU, but haven't met the Cowboys since 1985.
- Florida State won that game, the 1985 Gator Bowl, 34-23.
- Texas and Florida State have never played. I blame Dan Beebe.
- Florida State is 1-2 all-time vs. TCU, but the two teams haven't met since waaaaay back in 1965. I was only eight years old that day, but I remember bits and pieces of the game. FSU won the season opener in Fort Worth, 7-3.
- Florida State is 4-1 all-time vs. Texas Tech.
- The two teams haven't met since 1987. FSU won that game, a season opener in Tallahassee, 40-16.
- Florida State is an impressive 3-0 vs. West Virginia.
- The two teams last met in 2009, and FSU beat the Mountaineers 33-21 in the Gator Bowl.
- The Seminoles and WVU were scheduled to meet in 2012, but WVU canceled the game to make room for a new nine-game conference schedule in the Big 12, instead of the seven-game conference schedule used in the Big East.
My opinion," he told USA Today on Tuesday, "is college athletics would be well served by some period of smooth water and not all of the angst and disorganization that goes with moves from one league to another."
We've heard that from the Big 12. Florida State is forcing Bowlsby's hand, though he wouldn't mention the school by name.
"I think the topic of expansion will be on every agenda going forward. But it's on every other conference's agenda going forward, too," Bowlsby told the paper.
Over the weekend, Florida State's chairman of its board of trustees opened up a big ol' can of realignment worms, however, when he offered credence to a long-held rumor rumbling around college sports. Could Florida State leave for the Big 12?
"On behalf of the Board of Trustees I can say that unanimously we would be in favor of seeing what the Big 12 might have to offer. We have to do what is in Florida State's best interest," Andy Haggard told Warchant.com.
So, here we are. After two years of attrition and a role as the hunted, the Big 12 is doing some hunting of its own? Or is it? The league just added TCU and West Virginia for 2012 after Texas A&M and Missouri bolted for the SEC, leaving the Big 12 with eight members. That move was a year after Nebraska and Colorado left the Big 12 for the Big Ten and Pac-12, respectively, costing the conference its namesake. Could Florida State move the Big 12 one step closer to a return to 12 members?
Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds tamped down some of the discussion, telling the Austin American-Statesman that there was "no traction" to the reports.
He did not add a "yet" on the end of that sentence, but more than a few assumed that was the case. How could the Big 12 and Florida State at least not sit down at a table for an exchange of ideas?
Where does the Big 12 stand right now? Bowlsby's not showing his hand.
"It's all about driving value for the member institutions," Bowlsby said. "There is a case to be made for optimal value being driven by the status quo, and there is a case to be made for some form of expansion. And I'm not prejudging or adopting either side of that right now."
He is, however, discussing it. And while that happens, there won't be many calm waters in college football.
The chairman of the FSU board of trustees made headlines over the weekend when he told Warchant.com, "On behalf of the board of trustees, I can say that unanimously we would be in favor of seeing what the Big 12 might have to offer. We have to do what is in Florida State's best interest."
So what does our ACC blogger, Heather Dinich, say?
Before FSU decides to pursue a $20 million divorce from the ACC for a chance at better revenue in the Big 12, it should consider just how comfy ACC competition is. FSU isn’t ready for the Big 12. Heck, it wasn’t ready for Wake Forest last year (I know, I know, ‘guys were hurt’ …). Regardless of what conference the Noles play in, they still have to win to be relevant, and the ACC and its fans have grown weary of the program falling short of expectations in recent seasons. FSU hasn’t won the league title since 2005. Virginia Tech has won it three times since then, including in 2010, when the Hokies beat the Noles 44-33 in Charlotte.
Is Florida State ready for the Big 12? There's no doubt the Big 12 is tougher than the ACC. Only the SEC is a better league than the Big 12, and excluding the excellence at the top, a case could be made for the Big 12 as a better league from top to bottom.
Sure, Florida State's not going to run the Big 12 like it ran the ACC.
The Seminoles won 12 ACC titles from 1992 to 2005, helping stake its claim as a national power under Bobby Bowden.
Since 2005, the first year of the ACC Championship Game, Florida State's been shut out of the ACC's winner's circle.
But could Florida State compete? Absolutely. Jimbo Fisher has the 'Noles on the way up, and a move to the Big 12 wouldn't affect FSU's recruiting at all.
A national power in a talent-rich state? Florida State only has 25 players on its roster not from Florida. The talent will be there, and Fisher's brought in some of the best recruiting classes in school history in recent years.
It's been a rough run for FSU, but the 'Noles could compete. They won't dominate or win Big 12 titles by the bushelful, but they'll certainly compete, and if they do win, would only further validate the program in a much tougher conference.
No. 6 seed Cincinnati (24-10) vs. No. 11 Texas (20-13), 12:15 p.m. ET
What to watch: Seeing the way Cincinnati scrapped its way into the Big East Conference championship game, it’s hard not to peg the Bearcats as one of those teams in the field playing its best basketball right now. They’ve won seven of their past nine games and lead the country with seven victories over ranked teams. Texas, on the other hand, enters the tourney trying to find some consistency after losing four of its past seven games. There’s no better time to find that mojo than right now. There were a lot of people who wondered if the Longhorns would even make the tournament. Here’s their chance to prove that they belong.
Who to watch: Texas guard J'Covan Brown can score points in bunches, and when he gets it going, he’s a headache to defend. The 6-foot-1 junior has averaged 24.8 points over his past four games and has scored at least 21 in each of those four. He leads the Big 12 in scoring at 20.1 points per game, but hasn’t shot it particularly well from 3-point range coming into this game. In his past five outings, he’s just 6-of-30 from behind the arc. Brown takes 28 percent of his team’s shots.
Why to watch: The Bearcats have been one of the turnaround stories this season in college basketball, but it goes much deeper than just hoops. The ugly scenes from their fight with Xavier on Dec. 10 remain etched in a lot of people’s minds, but Cincinnati recovered from multiple player suspensions -- and showing a new resolve along the way -- and played its way into the Big East tournament final. One of the catalysts has been senior forward Yancy Gates, who was suspended six games for his role in the brawl. When he returned, the Bearcats tweaked their offense to better utilize Gates’ offensive rebounding prowess, and they took off as a team -- winning seven of their nine games against ranked foes.
What they’re saying: “We had a chance to win the Big East tournament, which nobody expected us to do, and hopefully, we’ll do the unexpected and win games here, which nobody probably expects us to do. We’ll just do what we’ve been doing and keep playing against the odds and trying to prove people wrong.” -- Cincinnati forward Yancy Gates
“I’ve told my team all year if we would work as hard on the offensive end as we do on the defensive end, we’d be a much better team. And at times where I don’t think we’ve improved or shown the improvement is with our offense.” -- Texas coach Rick Barnes
Around the rim: This is the sixth time that Texas has been a double-digit seed in the NCAA tournament. Each of the previous five times, the Longhorns won at least one game in the tournament. … The Cincinnati-Texas game will tip off at 11:15 a.m. local time in Nashville, and the Cincinnati players haven’t been crazy about playing early games this season. Nobody was complaining Thursday, though. “It’s the NCAA tournament. If you can’t get up at whatever time the game is, you shouldn’t be here,” Cincinnati guard Cashmere Wright said. … Before Cincinnati boarded the bus for Nashville, coach Mick Cronin took the players into the UC Arena and had them look up at the Bearcats’ national championship banners. “I just think you’ve got to believe that you can win it, and I think my guys need to realize that it’s possible and that it’s happened at the University of Cincinnati. We’ve got to believe that it’s going to happen again,” Cronin said.
No. 3 seed Florida State (24-9) vs. No. 14 St. Bonaventure (20-11), 2:45 p.m. ET
What to watch: Is Florida State as good as it looked last weekend in gunning down Duke and North Carolina in back-to-back days to win the ACC tournament title? Granted, Duke and North Carolina didn’t have a lot to gain in Atlanta, but it’s not the first time the Seminoles have turned Tobacco Road upside down this season. Leonard Hamilton’s club beat North Carolina 90-57 at home Jan. 14, then won at Duke 76-73 a week later. It’s the first time in 16 seasons that somebody has recorded two victories over both Duke and North Carolina in the same season. That’s some pretty heady stuff. The trick now for Florida State is playing that way in the March tournament that counts.
Who to watch: Florida State senior forward Bernard James served six years in the Air Force, including deployments in Iraq, Afghanistan and Qatar. Now 27, the 6-10 James has been as valuable to his basketball team as he was to his country. An All-ACC Defensive Team selection, James ranks third in the ACC with 76 blocked shots, while averaging 10.5 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. He will be honored at the Final Four along with Tennessee women’s coach Pat Summitt and presented with the Most Courageous Award by the United States Basketball Writers Association.
Why to watch: St. Bonaventure is back in the NCAA tournament for the first time since a scandal rocked the university during the 2002-03 season. The Bonnies played an ineligible player that season after a junior-college transfer was admitted to the university with a welding degree and no associate’s degree. The fallout included the firing of coach Jan van Breda Kolff and the resignation of the athletic director and school president. A few months later, Bill Swan, the president of the university’s board of trustees, committed suicide and left a note apologizing for the pain he caused St. Bonaventure as well as his family and friends. The next four seasons saw the Bonnies win a combined 24 games, but coach Mark Schmidt was hired in 2007 and has steadily led the program back to respectability. St. Bonaventure won its first Atlantic 10 tournament championship last Sunday.
What they’re saying: “Andrew (Nicholson) is the player of the year, so he does what players of the year do, and that’s put the team on their back and kind of sail the ship.” -- St. Bonaventure guard Matthew Wright
“We’re definitely expecting a punch right out of the gate. We’re going to throw one ourselves.” -- Florida State forward Bernard James
Around the rim: Florida State is ranked sixth nationally in field goal percentage defense (.381) and seventh in blocked shots (5.9 per game). … In the Seminoles’ past four games, they’re shooting 50 percent (34-of-68) from 3-point range and keeping their opponents to 29.2 percent (26-of-89) from behind the line. … The Bonnies received quite a send-off before leaving their campus in western New York. Schmidt said it seemed like 15,000 of the 20,000 people who live in the Allegheny community lined the roads. “They let the kids out of schools, and we had our bus go through all the little towns, by all the elementary schools, all the businesses, and it was special,” Schmidt said. … Nicholson, a senior forward and the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year, has been on a tear. He averaged 25.3 points and 11.5 rebounds in his final eight conference games.
Marquette at West Virginia (9 p.m. ET, ESPN): West Virginia has to win this game, right? The Mountaineers have lost six of their past eight games. The only wins were over lower-level teams (Providence and Pitt) on the road. Marquette has been on a tear of late and may have the Big East Player of the Year in Jae Crowder or Darius Johnson-Odom.
Vanderbilt at Kentucky (noon ET, CBS): Kentucky has three games left to finish off an undefeated SEC regular season. No offense to Georgia, but the Cats should take care of the Bulldogs. If Kentucky takes out Vandy, the only obstacle left is a game at Florida to end the regular season. If Kentucky can accomplish an unblemished mark, it would go down as one of the most impressive regular seasons in coach John Calipari’s career.
Iowa State at Kansas State (1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3): Wins at Baylor and Missouri have changed the complexion of Kansas State’s season. The Wildcats have finally finished games by playing smart in the final possessions. Iowa State has a tough slate to finish the season with games at Kansas State and Missouri and then hosting Baylor. Not an easy road for a bubble team.
North Carolina at Virginia (4 p.m. ET, ESPN): UVa has had injury issues and hasn’t been able to find consistency against the league’s elite (Duke and North Carolina). But the Cavs have a shot to re-establish themselves. This could turn into an ACC Player of the Year-type game as Tyler Zeller of the Tar Heels matches up with Mike Scott of the Cavs. UVa must ensure that it controls the tempo to have a chance.
Mississippi State at Alabama (6 p.m. ET, ESPN): Mississippi State has stumbled down the stretch and has no momentum going into the SEC tournament. The Bulldogs have lost to the bottom of the SEC and now to Kentucky at the top. Meanwhile, Alabama has done a tremendous job, despite player suspensions, to be in the hunt for an NCAA tournament berth. The win at Arkansas was one of the more impressive for the Tide this season.
George Mason at VCU (6 p.m. ET, ESPN2): George Mason was going to be in position to possibly catch Drexel and win the conference. But an overtime loss at Northeastern has pushed the Patriots into a second-place tie with VCU. The winner will get the No. 2 seed in the CAA tournament and potentially set up for a final matchup against Drexel.
Temple at Saint Joseph’s (7 p.m. ET, ESPNU): Temple has emerged as the class of the A-10. Saint Joe’s had some fleeting hopes of getting a bid, but the Hawks lost at home to Richmond and scored only 49 points in the process. This is a huge rivalry game but the toughness of the Owls should prevail.
Penn at Harvard (7 p.m. ET, ESPN3): If Harvard gets by Princeton on Friday night, a win against Penn could give the Crimson a share of the Ivy League title and a chance to clinch it outright the following Friday at Columbia. Harvard is trying to get to the NCAAs for the first time since 1946.
Syracuse at Connecticut (9 p.m. ET, ESPN): The Huskies have new life after Shabazz Napier’s 3-point heave went in to beat Villanova on Monday night. The Orange have been as good, if not better, on the road than at home -- other than at Notre Dame. Syracuse should dominate the bench scoring. The Huskies have a chance if Andre Drummond and Alex Oriakhi can win the post, and Napier and Ryan Boatright can get into the zone with floaters to score. UConn is in desperate mode to get this win.
Wisconsin at Ohio State (4 p.m. ET, CBS): The Badgers lost at Iowa on Thursday night and now have to go to Ohio State? Yikes. Iowa let Wisconsin back in the game, but then the Badgers couldn’t finish and lost by one. OSU, save the game against Michigan State, has been as dominant at home as any team in the country. The Badgers have to find a way to score and avoid the droughts that can decimate their chances of pulling off an upset like this one.
California at Colorado (5:30 p.m. ET, FSN): Colorado had a chance to make some noise down the stretch in the Pac-12, but losing at home to Stanford took some of the energy out of this game. The Buffaloes had overachieved to that point. Cal needs to get a sweep of the mountain area to win the Pac-12 regular-season title, assuming Washington doesn’t stumble.
Florida State at Miami (6 p.m. ET, ESPNU): The Seminoles lost their shot to win the ACC regular-season title by dropping a home game to Duke. Miami desperately needs this game to prove to the selection committee that it is tourney-worthy. This game will have ACC tournament seeding implications.
[Editor's note: Per usual, we encourage you to stay with the blog all day for on-site reports from our writers across the country and, later, our recaps of all the big-time Saturday night action, including Saint Mary's-Murray State and Ohio State-Michigan.]
Kansas State 57, No. 10 Baylor 56: I found myself defending Baylor quite a bit in recent days. Myron Medcalf and I have been pretty hard on the Bears at times this season, and for good reason -- this team should be much better than it is. Frankly, it should be dominant. But for all of the struggles and frustrations and close scrapes with obviously inferior teams, it was important to remember one thing: Two teams had beaten Baylor all season. One of them was Kansas. The other was Missouri. There's something to be said for that.
At least there was before Saturday. Kansas State went ahead and spoiled that line, toppling Baylor in Waco in an ugly, questionably officiated contest. Not that the Wildcats minded. For obvious reasons, this was the win of the season for Frank Martin's team. K-State has long been dogged in the bubble discussion by an inexplicably anemic RPI figure, one that threatened to derail a mediocre but otherwise tourney-worthy at-large résumé. The Wildcats needed a big win down the stretch to compensate for that RPI number. An escape from Baylor with a one-point margin, aesthetically displeasing though it may have been, is just what the doctor ordered.
As for the Bears, well, what's left to say? You know the drill by now: This team is as talented as any in the country. It is also every bit as suspect. For whatever reason -- growth, personality, sheepishness, your guess is as good as mine -- Perry Jones III continues to register games like this: 6 shots, 4 points, 4 rebounds, 5 fouls and zero (yes, zero) free throw attempts. In each of Baylor's past four losses, Jones posted single-digit scoring and rebounding efforts. We hate to be openly critical of a college kid, but for a player of Jones' talent, isn't that inexcusable? For a team as long and active as this one, why are the Bears so blasé on the boards, so mediocre on the defensive end? Why, after a 2010-11 season derailed by constant turnovers, haven't these guys learned to value the ball?
It's not like Baylor is having a bad season. (Though since starting 17-0 they are a disconcerting 5-5 in their past 10 games.) The standard defense in the first paragraph still, for all intents and purposes, makes sense. But it's impossible to watch this team and not know that the product on the floor is merely a fraction of what it could be. We only ever get hints. That's what's frustrating.
New Mexico 65, No. 11 UNLV 45: If you failed to notice what New Mexico did earlier this week (winning at San Diego State, moving to 7-2 and alone atop the Mountain West conference standings) and haven't seen just how good this team has been playing over the past three weeks (before Saturday, UNM had won six in a row and risen to No. 11 overall in Ken Pomeroy's adjusted efficiency rankings) it's officially time to take note. The Lobos are rolling, kids -- and Saturday was no different.
The lopsided outcome wasn't a foregone conclusion from the opening tip, and UNLV was in solid shape in a typically frenzied Pit atmosphere for nearly 30 minutes. But with 12:15 remaining, the Lobos did what they do best: They locked down on the defensive end. At that point, the score was 36-36. Just four minutes later, after a handful of impressive plays by Tony Snell, Demetrius Walker and Drew Gordon, the Lobos led 48-36. UNLV scored just nine points the rest of the way.
This is where New Mexico really shines. For as good as UNLV and SDSU have been this season, the Lobos are the MWC's best defensive team. They rank No. 1 in the league (and No. 11 in the nation) in adjusted defensive efficiency, primarily thanks to really good first-shot defense. The Runnin' Rebels have been struggling lately -- this week's 101-97 loss at TCU was profoundly strange, and they're now just 5-6 on the road this season, with four of those coming to unranked teams. But they're still awfully talented, and their struggles today had as much to do with the Lobos' pressure as any self-inflicted cause.
In the game's final moments, as Walker poured in another bucket and Gordon topped off his beast-mode 27-point, 20-rebound performance (Gordon was just the eighth player in the past 10 seasons to drop a 20-20 game on a Top-25 team, and just the fifth to do so in regulation), CBS play-by-play man Tim Brando said the affair had "become a New Mexico coronation." He was absolutely right. For too long, the Lobos slipped slightly under the radar. Their gaudy efficiency numbers belied a team that, when you got right down to it, hadn't beaten a team better than Saint Louis all season. It was easy to cast doubt.
No more. In the past week, New Mexico has held Wyoming to 38 points, beaten San Diego State in Viejas Arena by 10, and coasted right by a very good UNLV team. Steve Alford has built a beast in Albuquerque. If you were sleeping on UNM before, it will be impossible to do so now.
Washington 79, Arizona 70:Both of these teams' at-large pictures remain in flux, and that didn't change much today. A win over Arizona won't put Washington in the tournament in any definite way; a loss to Washington won't drop Arizona off the bubble. This is life in the current Pac-12, a power-six league in name only. (PSINO? PINO? We'll work on it.) This league was 2-31 against the RPI top 50 in nonconference play and 0-15 against the top 25. Simply put, this conference offers zero opportunities for marquee wins. At this point, the best the at-large contenders can do is just keep winning.
On Senior Day, the Huskies did exactly that, dinging the defensively resurgent Wildcats in the process. Terrence Ross was fantastic, and his line -- 25 points, 5 rebounds, 5 steals, 1 assist, 1 block -- was the stuff of fantasy basketball fever dreams. That's a pretty good example of why this Washington team has been so frustrating this season. With Ross and freshman guard Tony Wroten (not to mention Aziz N'Diaye and Abdul Gaddy and so on) this team has obvious Top-25 talent. But here it is, struggling to get in the field. The Huskies have been better in Pac-12 play and are 12-3 atop the standings, but as recently as last week were absolutely drubbed 82-57 at Oregon.
If this team makes a run in the NCAA tournament, I won't be the least bit surprised. A first-round loss wouldn't shock me, either. Everything is on the table here. But the Huskies have to get there first. With their final three games on the road, and opportunities for bad losses -- at Washington State, at USC, at UCLA -- any and all outcomes are on the table. Should be interesting.
No. 21 Florida State 76, NC State 62: This is not what NC State needed. OK, sure, Thursday night's loss at Duke -- wherein the Wolfpack coughed up a 20-point second-half lead -- was hard to swallow. I get that, and I empathize. But NC State still has much to accomplish in Mark Gottfried's first season, chief among it a possible NCAA tournament bid. And so Saturday's game could have gone two ways: Either NCSU would come out angry at Thursday's letdown and focused on fixing it, or the Wolfpack would be emotionally (and physically, on one day's rest) exhausted.
Turns out it was the latter. Gottfried's team committed 17 turnovers and it shot just 29 percent. (Some of that is FSU's lockdown defense, but still.) In doing so, the Pack saw a chance to get a quality résumé win slip away. Will NC State's tourney chances, already very much in doubt, do the same?
For the Seminoles, this win was their 10th in the ACC. In each of the past four years, Leonard Hamilton's team has won at least 10 league games. FSU has stamped its position as the third-best team in its conference as Hamilton has built a program with staying power at a school that has traditionally treated its basketball as an only occasionally worthwhile diversion from breathless updates about the next great football recruiting class. Really impressive.
Wichita State 91, Davidson 74: Davidson, with that December win over Kansas in its back pocket, desperately needed a win here if it wanted to hold on to any scant hope of an at-large look. Obviously, that's done now. Wichita State just keeps beating up on people. Forget the mid-major label -- there are few teams in the country, regardless of conference, playing as well as this team right now. How many? Five? Maybe six? If that?
Anyway, before we move on, let's pause and reflect on the insane performance Joe Ragland unleashed Saturday. He scored 30 points and grabbed seven boards at the guard position. Even better? His points came on 11-of-14 from the field. He shot 3-of-4 from 3 and 5-of-5 from the charity stripe. He was about as close to offensive perfection as a college basketball player can ever get. Bravo, sir.
Other observations from the afternoon action:
- After the big win, I thought it was pretty much impossible (or unpossible!) for Steve Alford's day to get any better. And then it did: San Diego State fell to lowly Air Force on Saturday, 58-56, thanks to an 18-of-52 mark from the field and -- even worse for this perimeter-oriented team -- a 3-of-16 mark from behind the line. The Aztecs got to the line with relative ease. But they went 17-of-25, and when you're shooting that poorly on the road, and you leave eight points on the board, look out.
- Following UConn's home loss to Marquette -- the Huskies' seventh loss in their past nine games -- guard Shabazz Napier, who has tried (and failed) all year to emerge as a bona fide leader of a UConn team that desperately needs just that, told reporters the following: "I hate to say it, but I have to question some of these guys' heart." Anyone who's seen Connecticut play this season has no choice but to agree. What a timid, lifeless bunch. That's the polar opposite of the Golden Eagles' scrappy style, and it showed all 40 minutes Saturday. (For colleague Andy Katz's dispatch from this game, click here)
- A win at Cleveland State doesn't quite look as great as it might have, say, three weeks ago, but no matter: Drexel's 20-point road victory was its 15th win in a row and 21st in its past 22 games. The committee may have a problem getting past the Dragons' cruddy performances in November (including the loss to Norfolk State), and those nonconference issues are part of the reason the CAA isn't getting much at-large love or even remotely passable RPI numbers for top teams like Drexel, VCU and George Mason. But 21-1 in 22 games? That's awfully hard to ignore.
- Speaking of mid-major teams with gaudy records that haven't earned much of a tourney look, how about Oral Roberts? The Golden Eagles held on to top Akron in their BracketBusters affair, moving to 25-5 overall in the process. ORU is 18-1 in the Summit League. If it wins out but loses in the conference tournament, can it get a bid? We'll see. Unlike those CAA squads, this team's RPI is certainly in the picture. The question is whether the committee can look past ORU's lack of quality wins (the victory at Xavier came just a few days after the Dec. 10 brawl against a skeletal, half-suspended Musketeers lineup) and ugly nonconference strength-of-schedule figure. ORU might want to play it safe and just go ahead and win the tournament. Why leave it to chance? Either way, this is an undeniably above-average team.
- Missouri is really good. Texas A&M is not. Our research group passed along two stats that rather tidily demonstrate as much: (1) This victory was Missouri's first win in College Station since 2001, and (2) Missouri's 56 percent shooting made the Tigers the first team to shoot better than 50 percent against A&M all season. Just a solid, workmanlike win from a really self-assured club. Fun to watch.
- DePaul is a little unlucky to be just 2-9 in Big East play after today's overtime loss to Louisville. It's not that the loss itself was particularly unlucky -- DePaul played well for 40 minutes, but the Cardinals were too much in OT -- it's just that this team's obvious improvements on the floor haven't quite shown up in its record. Such is life at a rebuilding project, I suppose.
- Nice win for Iona. The Gaels were probably a bit hard done by their BracketBusters matchup -- they needed a higher-profile game to really make a dent in the bubble picture -- but we can't fault the aesthetic quality of the end result. In other words, this was still a pretty awesome game. Iona won 90-84, and the replay is available on ESPN3. It's worth your while. Iona's offense was scorching hot: The Gaels went 33-of-53 from the field (62.3 percent) and 8-of-14 from beyond the arc, and had five players score 13 points or more. Point guard Scott Machado had 15 assists, which is nothing new; Machado's 9.9 assists per game lead the nation (his assist rate of 44.3 percent is the nation's third-highest; word to Tim Frazier!) and his brilliance is emblematic of this team in general. With Machado, MoMo Jones and Michael Glover, Iona might the most talented mid-major squad in the country. The only problem? The Gaels don't really defend. But if that changes even marginally in the coming weeks, look out. Points in bunches, and all that.
- Kentucky and North Carolina both easily handled their middling conference foes, and both looked great doing so. The Wildcats' win was their 50th in a row at home. John Calipari doesn't lose at Rupp Arena. That's just the way it goes.
- And then there's Binghamton. The nation's last winless team had its best remaining opportunity to notch a victory on the road at 5-23 Radford. Unfortunately, the Bearcats lost 64-59, and so the sad story of their brutal season rolls on. Binghamton's next two opponents (Vermont, Albany) are both much better than lowly Radford (though the Bearcats do get both games at home, so that's good), and their season finale at New Hampshire isn't a totally insurmountable challenge (though Pomeroy's predictive model gives the Bearcats just a 7 percent chance of winning). Bottom line? This team could very well go the entire length of its season without a win. Poor Binghamton. Can you say Bottom 10?
Iona at Loyola (ESPNU, 7 p.m. ET): Loyola coach Jimmy Patsos was peeved that his squad was left out of the TV BracketBusters games. Well, this one is on TV and it’s a shot for the Greyhounds to let the rest of the country know that the more publicized Gaels aren’t the only team in the MAAC. The teams are tied atop the league. This should be the MAAC tournament final, with one of the two earning the bid in Springfield, Mass., next month.
Louisville at West Virginia (ESPN, noon ET): The Cardinals are rolling while the Mountaineers haven’t been the same since losing to Syracuse and failing to get that goaltending call on Jan. 28. If West Virginia doesn’t stop Louisville in transition, the Mountaineers are in serious trouble. But you have to expect WVU will get this win at home.
Virginia at North Carolina (ESPN3, 1 p.m. ET): The Cavaliers can disrupt the Tar Heels and control the tempo. The key will be how the Heels respond to their disheartening loss Wednesday to Duke. UNC is the more talented team, but are the Tar Heels mentally tough enough to bounce back and beat a disciplined Cavs squad?
Miami at Florida State (ESPN3, 1 p.m. ET): The Seminoles had to take care of business against the bottom of the ACC. But they didn’t for the second time when they were stunned at Boston College on Wednesday. Miami comes in on a roll after following up its win Sunday over Duke with a victory over Virginia Tech on Thursday. This could be one of the most evenly matched ACC games -- not involving Duke or Carolina -- the rest of the conference season.
Connecticut at Syracuse (1 p.m. ET): The Huskies need to show some pride and play well at Syracuse. Orange coach Jim Boeheim wasn’t at all pleased with his team’s effort Wednesday against Georgetown. UConn, meanwhile, is coming off a brutal performance Monday at Louisville. The Orange have more talent, depth and experience. UConn needs to create havoc on the defensive end to have a shot and Andre Drummond and Alex Oriakhi better play one of their best games to control the post.
Baylor at Missouri (ESPN3, 1:30 p.m. ET): The Bears got worked over by Kansas at home; Missouri is coming off a gritty victory at Oklahoma after beating Kansas in Columbia last Saturday. Separation has occurred in the Big 12, with Missouri and Kansas a game ahead of Baylor. The Bears had better find a way to defend. Missouri already proved it can win against a taller set. If Missouri wins, Baylor would not have beaten Mizzou or Kansas this season.
VCU at Old Dominion (2 p.m. ET): This should come as no surprise: VCU is on a roll and atop the CAA with Drexel and George Mason. ODU is a game behind after losing last week at Mason. If the Monarchs want a shot at the CAA title, they probably have to win this game. ODU gets one more shot at one of the leaders, hosting Drexel to end the season. All four are postseason teams, but only one might be in the NCAAs.
Wyoming at New Mexico (3:30 p.m. ET): The Lobos won where UNLV could not -- at Wyoming. New Mexico has quietly put together a potential MWC title season. UNM is tied with UNLV and a game behind San Diego State. This is another chance to stay in stride with the Rebels and Aztecs.
San Diego State at UNLV (4 p.m. ET): The Aztecs knocked off the Rebels in the final second Jan. 14 at Viejas Arena. Each has suffered a surprising road loss since, at Colorado State and Wyoming, respectively. Thomas & Mack will be rocking. The key will be if the Aztecs can again keep the Rebs off the backboards in key moments.
Wichita State at Creighton (ESPN2, 5 p.m. ET): The Bluejays are reeling, by their Missouri Valley standards, after losing two straight. Wichita State lost at home to Creighton on Dec. 31, and if the Shockers want to win the Valley regular-season title, they need to win this game. Don’t be surprised if this ends up being game two of three between these two Valley favorites. A meeting in St. Louis seems inevitable.
Kentucky at Vanderbilt (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET): The Wildcats have reached the toughest part of their road schedule -- at Vandy, at Mississippi State and at Florida before the end of the regular season. The Commodores certainly have the talent, experience and some beef to deal with Kentucky. But can they finish against UK, or any elite team? Vandy isn’t going to win the SEC. But this is a huge confidence game for the NCAAs.
Xavier at Temple (ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET): The Musketeers have been erratic. Temple hasn’t always been healthy. The Owls appear to be the front-runners in the A-10 -- at least at this point -- but X can upstage Temple with a victory in Philadelphia. This could be a decisive win for the Owls in their quest to win the league outright.
Is Saturday’s showdown against No. 5 Florida State in Tallahassee the biggest nonconference game since Bob Stoops arrived at Oklahoma?
Jake Trotter of SoonerNation believes it's the biggest nonconference game for the Sooners in almost 25 years and one of the five biggest in program history.
Here's a snippet:
"It's great for college football," Stoops said. "It's great exposure. Everyone is going to talk about your program for a week leading up to the game. Fans love it -- we'll have a bunch going down there. These are exciting weekends for people."
Stoops has been in plenty of big games at OU. Four national championship appearances. Eight Big 12 title games. Top 10 tilts against Texas, Nebraska, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Missouri.
But Stoops never has coached in a nonconference game the magnitude of this one.
For more of this story, click here.
Texas A&M (46-19) is one win from its first College World Series appearance since 1999. Game 2 of the best-of-3 super regional against Florida State (45-18) will be Sunday.
Gilmartin (12-2), a first-round pick of the Atlanta Braves, had seven strikeouts through six innings but ran into trouble in the seventh. Wood's hit put Texas A&M up 3-2, and Kenny Jackson and Tyler Naquin later had RBI hits in the inning.
Texas A&M's Ross Stripling (14-2), a ninth-round pick of the Colorado Rockies, scattered seven hits but had eight strikeouts in seven innings.
Jayce Boyd had a solo home run and Mike McGee had a sacrifice fly for the Seminoles.
CHICAGO -- You can be forgiven if this game wasn't your cup of tea. You can understand why the average fan saw "No. 7 Texas A&M versus No. 10 Florida State" in the Southeast region of their bracket and said, "yeah, no thanks." Anyone who focused their remote control on Arizona's thrilling, last-second win over Memphis Friday afternoon had plenty of reason to do so.
Just don't expect Florida State -- losers of their previous two first-round NCAA tournament games -- to care.
"I mean, I can't express how much excitement I feel because I know we have another game," Florida State forward Chris Singleton said. "I mean, I'm trying to -- I'm not trying to stay right here and just have this be my glory point of the year. I'm trying to go past Notre Dame. I'm trying to go all the way as far as we can."
No matter how ugly Florida State's 57-50 win over Texas A&M may have been, no matter how many viewers sarcastically begged for mercy, no matter how many snarky comments came through the Twitter wire -- and there were plenty -- when ugliness is a winning strategy, you don't let the haters get you down.
Texas A&M didn't score a point for the first seven and a half minutes of the game. The Aggies finished the first half with just two two-point field goals. Their final shooting tally came out to 16-of-51 on the evening, good for 31.4 percent overall.
Yet, unbelievably, A&M led the game at halftime. The Aggies had chances to win the game down the stretch. Florida State pulled away late, but only in so far as a 10-point difference in this game -- which featured a mere 57 possessions -- was roughly equivalent to 20 points in an a game of even average speed.
This is nothing new for the Seminoles, of course. Leonard Hamilton's team has been among the best defensive units in the nation in the past two seasons, but they rarely pair that defensive prowess with buckets on the other end. This year's group entered the tournament ranked No. 2 in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency according to Ken Pomeroy; the offense, on the other hand, ranked No. 157. If the Seminoles were even an average ACC team on offense -- they might not have faced the challenge of entering the tournament as a No. 10-seed in Chicago this week.
"It's been like that all year," guard Derwin Kitchen said. "Our offense struggled big-time all year long. We basically keep ourselves in the game with our defense."
This game was no different, but it did differ from FSU's recent efforts in one obvious way. Friday marked the return of leading scorer and hyper-athletic defender Singleton from a broken foot that had sidelined him for two months. Hamilton was said he was nervous to play Singleton for fear of jeopardizing his NBA draft chances this summer.
"I realize that he has an opportunity to play at the highest level, and I didn't want to do anything to jeopardize that," Hamilton said. "But he convinced me that he was fine, that he really wanted to play, and he'd worked so hard and been so aggressive with his rehab, doubling up on his rehabs. ...
"He felt comfortable," Hamilton said. "I just was a little anxious, and I guess that's the mother hen in me."
Singleton said he felt in "pretty good" condition, that his only concern was whether his foot would "hold up" in his first game back. It did, and even in limited minutes, Singleton made major contributions, including a huge 3-pointer with 6:49 left in the second half. The 3 gave FSU a 45-40 late lead, and A&M never threatened to overtake the Seminoles again.
Whether Singleton's foot will withstand a second game in three days remains to be seen. What is clear is that FSU's next matchup will put the win-ugly theorem to the test. The Seminoles will face No. 2 seed Notre Dame -- owners of the nation's third-most efficient offense -- in the round of 32 Sunday. Can FSU's defense stand up?
"Florida State can guard guys," Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon said. "They can flat out guard. And I know Notre Dame can shoot it at all five positions.
"Should be a heck of a game," Turgeon said. "Should be a heck of a game."
A heck of a game? Maybe. Pretty? Definitely not. This year, in this tournament, that's just the way Florida State likes it.
Check, check, check and check.
Florida State entered the Friday afternoon's game with the second-stingiest defense in the country. Texas A&M arrived in Chicago with its slow pace and rebound-reliant attack in tow. Yep: This was always going to be a grinder.
In the end, Florida State's defense was enough. The Seminoles held A&M to 50 points in 57 possessions and advanced to the third round of the NCAA tournament with a 57-50 victory.
Turning point: As tempting as it is to call Texas A&M's first basket of the day the turning point -- it came after nearly eight minutes of basketball, after all -- the real game-changer happened with 4:49 remaining in the second half, when FSU guard Derwin Kitchen drove to the rim, converted despite a foul, and sank his free throw to give the Seminoles an eight-point lead.
Key stat: Florida State is almost always going to keep its opponents from scoring in bunches. The question for the Seminoles is always whether or not they can score enough to get the win. FSU wasn't pretty Thursday, but it did shoot the ball well enough as a team (with a 51.2 effective field goal percentage) to score just under a point per possession on the day. That was plenty to outpace A&M, which went 16-of-51 from the field.
Key player: FSU forward Chris Singleton returned from injury for the first time since Feb. 19, but his minutes were limited. Instead, this honor goes to Kitchen, who offered the day's most efficient offensive performance and made the key drive down the stretch to push the Seminoles out in front of A&M for good.
Miscellany: For the first eight minutes of the game, it looked like the Seminoles and Aggies were determined to top Penn State and Wisconsin for sheer offensive ugliness. This game wasn't that bad, but the Aggies did open the first half with almost eight minutes of scoreless basketball. The score at half -- 26-23 A&M -- came thanks to the teams' combined 15-of-49 shooting from the field. In that span, A&M made exactly two 2-point field goals. It wasn't pretty, but that's the way FSU likes it.
What's next: The Aggies will end their surprising (if eventually disappointing) season at 24-9. The Seminoles will advance to the round of 32, where a matchup with the offensively efficient Notre Dame Fighting Irish. "Clash of styles" is the appropriate cliche here.
TCU was down to its final six outs and trailing by four when it found some late-inning magic to beat Florida State, 11-7, in an elimination game at the College World Series on Wednesday.
Powered by Matt Curry's grand slam, the Horned Frogs rallied for eight runs in the eighth to sink the Seminoles. Where did the sudden power surge come from?
According to ESPN.com's Brian Bennett, you can credit the rally turtle. Bennett writes that a drawing in the dirt of a turtle became TCU's good-luck charm. Read the story here.
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