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February 22, 2003 Columns No Comments

The Morning Dish – Saturday, February 22nd, 2003

by Phil Kasiecki

The day many mid-major fans have awaited has now arrived. Bracket Buster Saturday is upon us, with nine matchups on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNPlus. Unfortunately, the day has lost some of its luster, as this doesn’t appear to be a banner year for mid-major at-large contenders and a few teams that looked to have at-large chances lost key games recently.

The featured matchup is No. 16 Creighton hosting Fresno State. Fresno State needs the game more at this point, as the Bluejays appear to be in regardless, but the Bulldogs might still need to win the WAC tournament to make the NCAA Tournament.

Perhaps the best matchup of the day will be Wisconsin-Milwaukee at Southern Illinois. Both teams have realistic at-large hopes, but the loser will likely need to win its respective conference tournament to get in.

The only matchup that was set prior to a few weeks ago was Tulsa visiting Gonzaga. For a while, this matchup looked like it would be very attractive, especially when Tulsa was ranked in the polls early in the season. But the slumping Golden Hurricane don’t have any chance at an at-large bid now.

Hawaii has a big road test as it visits Kent State. But as it turns out, the Rainbows’ road struggles have surfaced again and have had a large hand in them having no chance at an at-large bid now. A win for Kent State helps their at-large chances, while a loss might knock them out of the running.

Detroit heads to Santa Barbara to take on UC-Santa Barbara, and Western Kentucky hosts Ball State in games whose postseason implications are likely no more than NIT-related.

Illinois-Chicago looks like a good NIT team if they don’t win the Horizon League tournament, and they host Bowling Green in this. A win may not help them much, but a loss certainly hurts their NIT chances.

Rounding out the slate are Illinois State at Marshall and Northern Iowa and Louisiana Tech.

Side Dishes

These Guys Are Good: Pennsylvania (16-5, 8-0 Ivy League) won its ninth straight game to remain undefeated in Ivy League play, putting on an offensive clinic in their 82-66 win at Harvard (11-11, 3-6) on Friday night. The Quakers made 16 of 31 three-point attempts, out-rebounded the Crimsom 33-34 and were 18-19 from the free throw line. Jeff Schiffner led the charge with 21 points on 7-12 shooting, including 7-10 on three-pointers. Lest one think Schiffner showed up just to shoot the ball, he also held the Crimson’s leading scorer, Brady Merchant, to just 5 points on 2-6 shooting. After the game, Harvard head coach Frank Sullivan said, “It’s as good a compilation of talent as you’re going to see in our league.”

Keeping Pace: Brown (13-10, 8-1 Ivy League) kept pace with the Quakers by knocking off Columbia, 83-70. In sending the Lions to their 13th straight defeat, the Bears got 22 points from Alai Nuualiitia and 21 from Earl Hunt. Princeton (12-9, 6-2) kept pace as well, beating Dartmouth by a score of 70-60 behind four double-digit scorers.

Latest to 20: Holy Cross (20-4, 10-1 Patriot League) became the latest team to reach the 20-win mark on the season with a 68-66 win over American. Brian Wilson, who had a game-high 24 points, hit a three-pointer with 26 seconds left for the win.

Tonight’s Menu:

• The day features a couple of big games among conference heavyweights. No. 3 Texas heads to Stillwater to take on No. 17 Oklahoma State in a battle among two of the top Big 12 teams, while No. 11 Xavier travels to Dayton to take on the Flyers in an Atlantic Ten showdown.

• The ACC slate features an important matchup between North Carolina State and No. 9 Duke in Durham. Also on tap is North Carolina, desperately needing a quality win, visiting No. 14 Maryland.

• The Pac Ten has three ranked teams in action, with No. 1 Arizona visiting in-state rival Arizona State in a key matchup, No. 19 California visiting USC, and No. 21 Stanford taking on UCLA at Pauley Pavilion.

• The Big East has an important game in Storrs, as St. John’s visits the No. 25 Connecticut Huskies.

• No. 4 Louisville visits Cincinnati in a very important game for the slumping Bearcats.

That’s all for now. Enjoy your Saturday full of great college basketball action!

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