Team of the Week: BYU
Brigham Young ended the week as a No. 1 seed in Joe Lunardi's bracket. The reason is the Cougars knocked off Colorado State at home and then completed a season sweep by beating San Diego State on Saturday at a rocking Viejas Arena.
More teams that impressed us
• Atlantic Sun -- Belmont (19-1)
• Big South -- Coastal Carolina (16-2)
• Colonial -- George Mason (16-2)
• Horizon -- Milwaukee (13-5, split title with Butler and Cleveland State)
• MAAC -- Fairfield (15-3)
• Missouri Valley -- Missouri State (15-3)
• Northeast -- Long Island (16-2)
• Ohio Valley -- Murray State (14-4)
• Patriot -- Bucknell (13-1)
• Southern -- Charleston (14-4 in South, split with Wofford) / Western Carolina (12-6 in North, split with Chattanooga)
• Summit -- Oakland (17-1)
• Sun Belt -- Florida Atlantic (13-3 in East) / Arkansas State (11-5 in West, split with Louisiana-Lafayette)
• West Coast -- Saint Mary's (11-3, split title with Gonzaga)
-- Andy Katz
Player of the Week: Alec Burks, Colorado
Burks has been on the radar of NBA scouts all season long because he can score (19.7 ppg) and change a game. Well, now he might be able to add something else to his scout sheet: lifting his team into the NCAA tournament.If Colorado knocks off Iowa State in Ames and then beats Nebraska at home, the Buffaloes should be in line for an NCAA tournament at-large berth. A lot of the credit goes to Burks. The Buffs found themselves down 22 to Texas at one point Saturday, but then Burks scored 24 of his 33 in the second half, including 11 in a game-changing 14-0 run. He also had 10 boards and four assists in the 91-89 win. There were a ton of great performances this past week, but very few players can say they almost single-handedly saved their team's season.
-- Andy Katz
More performances that wowed us
Marcus Morris, Kansas: As the Jayhawks cruised past the Oklahoma schools, Morris totaled 50 points on the week and shot 70 percent (16-23) from the field. He even made 4-of-7 from beyond the arc.Andrew Gonzalez, Houston Baptist: In the program's best win since returning to Division I, a 70-68 victory over a decent Middle Tennessee team, Gonzalez led the previously 3-22 Huskies with 36 points and seven rebounds.
-- Brett Edgerton
Observations from the week that was
• Assessing Florida State and Georgetown will be a tough chore for the selection committee. FSU doesn't have its best player in Chris Singleton (fractured right ankle) for the foreseeable future. The Seminoles beat Wake Forest and Miami, but lost at Maryland without Singleton. So how will the committee judge Florida State? The résumé likely will put the Noles in the field, but they should be seeded much lower based on the personnel that will play in the tournament. Meanwhile, Georgetown is without arguably its most important player in guard Chris Wright. He broke a bone in his non-shooting left hand and the Hoyas are convinced he will return by the NCAA tournament. But they lost at home against Syracuse without him and were horrendous against Cincinnati after he went down early in the game. Georgetown has one game remaining (at Cincinnati) and then it's on to the Big East tournament. Going 0-2 before Selection Sunday would not be advisable.
• Jimmer Fredette is the clear front-runner for national player of the year. Duke's Nolan Smith and Ohio State's Jared Sullinger can certainly end the season with higher-profile performances, but Fredette made quite a statement over the weekend. He played as complete a game in a hostile environment as any of the aforementioned have personally played in this season. Fredette was targeted throughout the game by the passionate SDSU fans as well as the Aztecs' defense. Yet he played with four fouls, made 3s, scored 25 points and tied a season high with nine assists in a convincing road win at San Diego State.Fredette has handled himself at such a high level throughout the course of this season. He has been the focus for every opposing defense, yet has answered every opportunity and has put BYU in position to be a No. 1 seed. I'm not sure either of the aforementioned players or Connecticut's Kemba Walker have to deal with the personal shots and vitriol that Fredette has to deal with on the road. If he wins this honor, it would be a testament to a player who worked his tail off throughout his career to become a star.
For more of Katz's observations, see the complete post in the Nation blog.
• All Xavier does is win. The Musketeers haven't gotten a ton of national acclaim this season, primarily because they looked barely mediocre for much of the nonconference season. Once A-10 play began, though, Xavier has resembled the program we've come to know over the past five seasons, the one with three consecutive Sweet 16 appearances. Xavier has lost but one game in conference play, a weird, out-of-character performance at Charlotte. After Sunday's win at Dayton, it is now 13-1 in the league and has proven for the third straight year that it's never wise to doubt Xavier's eventual tourney readiness no matter the level of turnover in the program. Thanks in large part to the brilliant guard play of Tu Holloway -- like Jordan Crawford, yet another Kelvin Sampson/IU recruit who landed a few hundred miles east in Cincinnati -- second-year coach Chris Mack has picked up right where his predecessors Thad Matta and Sean Miller left off. There's no reason to doubt these Musketeers. Ever.
• Virginia Tech still isn't there yet. No one likes to be a party pooper -- I can only assume Hokies fans are still partying even as this post is being published, and why not? -- but it should be noted that Seth Greenberg's team, which basked Saturday in proclamations that its 64-60 win over Duke was a bid-sealer, still has to finish the season strong if it wants to get in the NCAA tournament. Virginia Tech's RPI is still a little shaky. Its only other top-50 win came over Florida State, which barely counts; the Seminoles have hovered in the mid-50s in the RPI for much of the season. The sweep at the hands of Virginia and the loss at Georgia Tech are definite black marks. Tech can't afford to slip up down the stretch, especially since its last two regular-season games come against fellow ACC bubble teams: a home contest versus Boston College and at Clemson.
For more of Brennan's observations, see the complete post in the Nation blog.
Week in quotes
• "To have Trapani make that last shot means so much to me, you have no idea. And I know it does to his family and to all those former players. ... You couldn't have written it any better."
-- UCLA coach Ben Howland on walk-on Tyler Trapani, the great-grandson of Hall of Fame coach John Wooden, making the final basket at Pauley Pavilion before it closes for renovations. • "As the leader of the Connecticut basketball program and an ambassador of the university, the buck stops with me. No qualifications, no exceptions. I fully acknowledge that we, as a staff, made mistakes and would like to apologize."
-- Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun in a statement after the NCAA suspended him for three Big East games next season for recruiting violations. • "BYU is Final Four good. And I don't know that our guys liked to hear that. And then I said, 'We are, too.'"
-- San Diego State coach Steve Fisher after a loss to BYU. • "The most protected dude I've seen since Michael Jordan."
-- USC coach Kevin O'Neill to reporters on Arizona forward Derrick Williams, who leads the nation in free throw attempts.
What's On Tap
7 p.m.: Villanova at Notre Dame (ESPN)
9 p.m.: Kansas State at Texas (ESPN)
7 p.m.: Illinois at Purdue (ESPN)
7 p.m.: Baylor at Oklahoma State (ESPN2)
7 p.m.: Alabama at Florida (ESPNU)
8 p.m.: Missouri at Nebraska (ESPN3)
9 p.m.: Vanderbilt at Kentucky (ESPN)
9 p.m.: Boston College at Virginia Tech (ESPNU)
9 p.m.: Ohio State at Penn State (BTN)
7 p.m.: North Carolina at Florida St. (ESPN)
7 p.m.: Connecticut at West Virginia (ESPN2)
8 p.m.: Cincinnati at Marquette (ESPN3)
9 p.m.: Clemson at Duke (ESPN)
9 p.m.: Texas A&M at Kansas (ESPN2)
10 p.m.: New Mexico at BYU (The Mtn.)
10 p.m.: Utah St. at New Mexico St. (ESPN2)
7 p.m.: Tennessee at South Carolina (ESPN)
7 p.m.: St. John's at Seton Hall (ESPN2)
9 p.m.: Wisconsin at Indiana (ESPN)
9 p.m.: UCLA at Washington (ESPN2)
Noon: Louisville at West Virginia (ESPN)
Noon: Virginia Tech at Clemson (ESPN2)
Noon: Kansas at Missouri (CBS)
1:30 p.m.: Georgia at Alabama (ESPN3)
2 p.m.: Notre Dame at Connecticut (ESPN)
2 p.m.: Michigan St. at Michigan (CBS)
2 p.m.: Georgetown at Cincinnati (ESPN3)
4 p.m.: Villanova at Pittsburgh (CBS)
4 p.m.: Big South final (ESPN2)
5:30 p.m.: UCLA at Washington St. (FSN)
6 p.m.: Florida at Vanderbilt (ESPN)
6 p.m.: Atlantic Sun final (ESPN2)
7 p.m.: Princeton at Harvard (ESPN3)
8 p.m.: Duke at North Carolina (CBS)
8 p.m.: Ohio Valley final (ESPN2)
9 p.m.: Texas at Baylor (ESPN)
9 p.m.: Nebraska at Colorado
12 p.m.: Kentucky at Tennessee (CBS)
4 p.m.: Wisconsin at Ohio State (CBS)
Katz on the week ahead
O'Neil: Three questions
• How do the Duke and Texas losses affect seeding?I rarely envy the people on the selection committee. It's impossible to make everyone happy, but usually at least the No. 1 seeds are fairly clear-cut. This season is basketball gibberish. Nothing is simple. If I were making my picks today, my 1-seeds would be Ohio State, Kansas, Pittsburgh and BYU. And yes, that would invite all of the anti-BYU, who-have-they-played sentiment and turn the NCAA tournament into a quasi-BCS debate. And yes, I know Pittsburgh just lost. But I have a hard time knocking a team for losing two games on the road in the Big East, both in nail-biting fashion. But of course no one is making their picks today, and a whole lot can happen between now and March 13. What if one of those four teams loses in its first conference tournament game and say, Duke and Texas win the ACC and Big 12 titles, respectively? The selection process is always ripe for criticism. This year I hope Gene Smith, the head of the committee, has a flak jacket.
• What are the best conference tourneys to watch this week?So many good games, so little time and so sorry for those of you who actually have to work this week. The conference tournaments begin, and while many folks prefer when the big boys of the power conferences take the court, I like this week better. Here there are no bubbles (or not many). Here there is only one ticket for the Big Dance and only one way to win it. Every single conference tourney is worth watching, because in this year of crazy results, anything can happen. But if you only have time to ignore work for a few, here are some recommendations: Horizon: You remember Butler, right? Yeah, well, the team everyone forget after a nothing-special season won its last seven to nab a 2-seed in the Horizon League tournament. The Bulldogs won't play until Saturday and could possibly have Cleveland State and Norris Cole in the semifinals, but if chalk holds, Butler would face Milwaukee for the title. The Panthers stunningly swept the Bulldogs this season and sort of came out of nowhere to grab the 1-seed and home-court advantage. Ohio Valley: There are four teams that could realistically win the OVC: Murray State, Morehead State, Austin Peay or Tennessee Tech. Murray topped Morehead in a title showdown on Thursday; Morehead has the nation's leading rebounder in Kenneth Faried; Austin Peay was the surprise toast of the league for awhile; and Tennessee Tech enters the postseason red-hot with five straight wins. Missouri Valley: It was only five years ago that the Valley received four bids to the NCAA tourney, but this sure looks like it'll be the fourth straight season with just one representative in the Dance. This league has been wide-open all season -- Missouri State sewed up the regular-season title with a win against Wichita State on the final weekend -- and there's no reason to think the conference tourney will be otherwise. And remember, Arch Madness is a favorite address for NCAA Cinderellas, so consider this advance bracket scouting. • So if the Big East is almost assured of 11 teams in the tournament, what's worth playing for? Seeding. Though history has proven that the double-bye can work against the teams that earn it, there aren't many coaches in the conference who wouldn't welcome a little bit of rest from the grueling conference tournament. The double-bye, with a vacation until Thursday's quarterfinal, remains much in play for a handful of teams. Pittsburgh, even with its loss to Louisville, is the only team guaranteed a two-day respite. After that nothing is settled. Not who has off until Thursday, not who has off until Wednesday. The Cardinals, now sitting in third and with the tiebreaker over St. John's, have put themselves in the driver's seat, while Cincinnati, with a loss to Connecticut, has put itself in a difficult spot. How wild is the Big East? All you need to know can be summed up simply: If the conference tourney started right now, Connecticut would be your No. 8 seed.
-- Dana O'Neil
O'Neil on early Champ Week
Places to be this week
Austin, Texas (Kansas St. at Texas): The Wildcats are headed in the right direction. Are the Longhorns going the other way? This game should give us some idea whether UT's recent road losses to inferior teams -- including Saturday's meltdown at Colorado, in which the Buffaloes scored 58 points in the second half against the nation's best defense en route to a 22-point comeback -- are mere blips in the course of a successful season or something more systemic and disconcerting.
Gainesville, Fla. (Alabama at Florida): This game has interesting SEC implications, as the winner will clinch at least a share of the overall SEC regular-season conference title. That would be nice for Alabama, but the Tide are no doubt more concerned with their NCAA tournament résumé, which still needs a lot of work after Saturday's loss at Ole Miss. Bama is notably short on marquee wins, which is exactly what it needs to overcome a horrible nonconference schedule and losses to St. Peter's and Iowa, among others. With this game and a season-closing home game versus Georgia, Alabama's berth could very well come down to the wire. State College, Pa. (Ohio State at Penn State): The past two weeks have seen a handful of bubble teams finally, mercifully, take their NCAA at-large chances by the scruff of the neck. Kansas State was first. Virginia Tech soon followed suit. Even Colorado and Nebraska have upset top teams (one team, actually: Texas fell to both) at home to keep their tournament futures alive. Can Penn State -- which nearly beat Ohio State in Columbus earlier this season -- do the same? Wednesday
Milwaukee (Cincinnati at Marquette): There isn't much bubble intrigue left in the Big East, but if there is any chance the conference won't get 11 teams in the tournament, it will be because one of these two squads falls short down the stretch. I'm not sure a loss would hurt either team all that much. Still, either one could use this win as an added profile boost -- the winner will be in excellent shape while the loser probably just holds steady. Thursday
Seattle (UCLA at Washington): After Arizona's back-to-back losses in Los Angeles -- the latest of which was Saturday's blowout in Pauley Pavilion -- the Bruins are now tied with the Wildcats at 12-4 atop the Pac-10. UCLA will have to win its last two games, including this one against the confusing Huskies, and hope Arizona falters at home versus either Oregon or Oregon State. In other words, a UCLA Pac-10 title, while possible, is also very unlikely. Hopefully the Bruins can take comfort in the knowledge that they will be back in the Dance this March all the same. Saturday Columbia, Mo. (Kansas at Missouri): In the bubble-dominated landscape, this game stands out. Why? Mercifully, it has nothing to do with the bubble. Yes, Kansas is playing for a No. 1 seed, so this game isn't entirely without tourney implications. But those implications pale in comparison to the real draw here, which is the pure, unbridled hatred shared by these two teams and fan bases. Missouri got smacked in Phog Allen earlier this season, but the Tigers are much, much better at home than on the road, and their fans will be ready to rise to the occasion. Must-see stuff, this. Ann Arbor, Mich. (Michigan St. at Michigan): On Sunday, the supposedly improving Spartans had a fantastic opportunity to bolster their tournament credentials with a marquee win over Purdue at home. Instead, they came out flat. Purdue rolled. Michigan, meanwhile, put itself in the bubble mix for the first time all season with Saturday's win at Minnesota. The question is: Can both of these teams get in? Is this game a win-or-go-home situation? If it is, it sets up perfectly: There's nothing either fan base -- especially the Wolverines faithful -- would like more than to see its squad leapfrog its hated in-state rival on the way to an NCAA tournament bid. Cambridge, Mass. (Princeton at Harvard): The Ivy League title chase -- not to mention a surprising Harvard team's shot of making the NCAA tournament -- is coming down to the wire. Why? Because Harvard's 70-69 loss to Yale on Saturday put the Crimson a game behind league leader Princeton in the standings, and because the Ivy is the only conference in the country that awards its bid to the regular-season champion (arguably a more representative way of awarding an automatic qualifier, but that's a debate for another time). So Harvard will need to win this one if it wants to win it outright or at least force a one-game playoff. Chapel Hill, N.C. (Duke at North Carolina): If neither of these teams lose the rest of the way in conference play -- Duke hosts Clemson and UNC goes to FSU on Wednesday -- then Saturday's season-closing battle in Chapel Hill will be more than another chapter in this storied rivalry's tradition. It will crown the ACC regular-season champion. Considering where both teams started this season -- with Duke looking like the dominant national title favorite and UNC a still-developing collection of talent -- few would have seen this sort of dramatic finish coming. Waco, Texas (Texas at Baylor): On Saturday, Baylor topped Texas A&M for the second time this season, which was just the sort of win the Bears needed to stay alive in the bubble chase. But Baylor's shaky résumé still needs work, and this might just be a must-win for the Bears if they plan to have any chance of earning a bubble spot before a last-ditch attempt during the Big 12 tournament. That's a tough ask of any team, but the Bears did test Texas in a 69-60 loss in Austin on Feb. 12, and they have the talent to compete with just about any team in the country. And "College GameDay" has meant good things for the home teams this season. So yes, there's a chance. Sunday
Knoxville, Tenn. (Kentucky at Tennessee): You'd think, given the impressive list of marquee wins on Tennessee's résumé, that the Volunteers would be a tourney lock by now. But this Tennessee team remains as inconsistent as ever. The Vols won at Vanderbilt this week. Great win, right? Then a few days later, Bruce Pearl's team lost at home to Mississippi State. Bad loss, huh? Can the Vols finally -- finally -- seal the deal on Sunday? Or can Kentucky finally find a way to beat a decent SEC opponent on the road? Columbus, Ohio (Wisconsin at Ohio State): Ohio State is still in the driver's seat in the Big Ten title chase, but the Buckeyes will have challenges in their last two games, including Tuesday's road trip to Penn State and this home finale with Wisconsin. They might have to win both to keep Purdue, which currently sits one game behind the Buckeyes in the Big Ten standings, from capturing its own share of the Big Ten title.
-- Eamonn Brennan
Leung on UCLA-Washington
Upset pick of the week
Missouri over Kansas, Saturday: OK, so maybe this isn't fair considering that Mizzou should probably be the favorite every time it plays at home. But based on rankings, this would certainly be a mild upset. Missouri desperately needs some momentum going into the Big 12 tournament and we've seen what beating KU has done for Kansas State. The Tigers can fluster Kansas on the perimeter if they get the fastest 40 minutes of basketball moving. Of course, to pull this off, they must rebound and get out on the break as quickly as possible. Losing to Mizzou may have some seed implications for Kansas, so the Jayhawks have plenty at stake, as well.
-- Andy Katz