Tuesday featured a quality slate of games in college basketball, a deserved honor for a longtime television voice, and a near miss in the first attempt at a major milestone for another basketball lifer.
Early in the day, CBS Sports and Turner Sports announced that Bill Raftery and Grant Hill will join Jim Nantz on this year’s TV broadcasts for the Final Four. The pick of Raftery should be overwhelmingly popular and is a wise one after CBS suspended Greg Anthony from its Final Four coverage following his arrest and charges on solicitation.
There are a few who don’t enjoy Raftery’s colorful, phrase-filled style (see: “Onions!” of course) but not many. For the vast majority, he’s a guy who is impossible not to like because he so clearly enjoys the games he works and the people and “kids” (as he so often calls them) involved in them.
Raftery also has been with CBS for a long time-since 1983-and has been involved in college hoops since an excellent playing career at La Salle in the ’60s and a better coaching career than many know at Fairleigh Dickinson and, most notably, Seton Hall. So it would be absolutely justified if there was even the slightest aspect of career achievement to the choice, though it would hardly do justice to Raftery, who is still at the top of his game and is still a hoot to listen to. The only negative is that we won’t get to listen to Raftery and Verne Lundquist together in the tourney, the only thing that would’ve made this even more perfect.
In the evening, there was a chance for a milestone, as Philadelphia University head coach Herb Magee went after his 1,000th career win. His Rams hosted Wilmington (Del.) University but were surprised on their home court 72-70, meaning Magee has to wait until Saturday to try again at the mark.
Magee is looking to join Mike Krzyzewski as the only two coaches in NCAA men’s basketball history to reach 1,000 wins and as one of just four college men’s basketball coaches all time to reach that mark. Harry Statham of McKendree (Ill.), a former NAIA school reclassified to NCAA Division II in recent years, holds the all-time men’s mark with 1,086 wins and counting, while the great Danny Miles has 1,017 wins at NAIA Oregon Tech.
Well known as the “Shot Doctor,” Magee has coached at Division II Philadelphia U. (known for a long time as Philadelphia Textile) since 1967, making this his 47th year as head coach. He also played at the school, scoring more than 2,000 points and averaging 29.1 points per game one year. Among those on hand Tuesday night hoping to see him set the record were Villanova coach Jay Wright, La Salle coach John Giannini and former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell.
Against Wilmington on Tuesday, Magee went with an iron five lineup with all five starters playing 40 minutes, notable in its own self. Philadelphia led by seven with 6:45 to play but couldn’t hold on. The Rams will attempt again to get Magee his 1,000th win on Saturday against Post (Conn.) University.
- Kentucky received a good challenge but defeated Georgia 69-58. Both teams were missing players-Trey Lyles for UK, Marcus Thornton for UGA. Notable: the Bulldogs out-rebounded the Wildcats 36-24.
- Indiana hung with Wisconsin for a half. Then the already sweet-shooting Badgers took their numbers to yet another level, as they so often do at the Kohl Center. Result: Badgers 92, Hoosiers 78. IU was without leading scorer James Blackmon, Jr., who was out with an ankle injury.
- Oklahoma was on the brink of seeing its season fall apart a couple days ago, but the Sooners now have back-to-back huge wins after a convincing 71-52 win over West Virginia. OU looked so, so much better against WVU’s press than it did in their first meeting.
- Coming off an emotional and huge win over Wichita State on Saturday, Northern Iowa handled a road trip to Indiana State in A+ fashion, jumping on the Sycamores early and winning 61-51. Seth Tuttle was outstanding again: 15 points, seven rebounds, five assists.
- Reason No. 892 why margin of victory should never be included in a power rating formula: Butler led St. John’s by nine points with under five minutes to play in a frantic and heated game that was still very much in doubt. But the Johnnies bumbled down the stretch while the Bulldogs shined and pulled away to an 85-62 win. Butler may well be the best team in the Big East, or at least the best one not named Villanova.
- It was a bad night for several teams that figure to find themselves on the NCAA Tournament “bubble” for the next six weeks. North Carolina State fell behind by 21 at the half and its rally came up short in an 88-84 loss to Wake Forest. DePaul swept the season series against Seton Hall with a 75-62 win in Chicago. The Pirates got very little from anyone not named Sterling Gibbs or Isaiah Whitehead. And Miami (Fla.) lost again, falling at home to Louisville 63-55.
- Also some negative results for potential fence-sitting teams in the SEC: Mississippi State won at Tennessee 71-66, a loss the Vols just could not afford, and Florida was defeated by Vanderbilt 67-61, not a good follow up after the win over Arkansas on Saturday.
- Syracuse nearly suffered the same fate as those five teams, but the Cuse pulled out a 72-70 win over Virginia Tech on Michael Gbinije’s floater just before the buzzer, avoiding a really bad loss.
- Illinois State has staked its claim to third place in the MVC after a 77-51 blowout of Evansville. The Redbirds will be very dangerous come Arch Madness time.
- A big game in the Big South saw Radford win on the road at High Point 67-64 for its eighth straight victory. The Highlanders are playing up to the potential many saw in them before the season, and these two are now tied for the top spot in the league.
- Poor Central Arkansas scored 108 points on Tuesday-and lost. Northwestern State edged the Bears 110-108. Jalan West (28 points) and Zeek Woodley (26) outscored the UCA duo of Jordan Howard (27) and Mike Martin (23) in what was no doubt a wild and terrific game that included 24 three-pointers.
- Texas will face Oklahoma State on Wednesday without guard Javan Felix, who will be out with a concussion. Not good news for the Longhorns, who are now 1-7 against RPI top 50 teams and need to get this turned around quickly.
- Canisius has been a nice surprise in the MAAC, but the Golden Griffins (12-9 overall, 7-5 conference) are going to be without sophomore forward Phil Valenti for a while after a right ankle injury against Quinnipiac on Friday. Valenti will be on crutches for 2-4 weeks and then will have his recovery monitored. He is second on the team averaging 10.6 points for game and also averages 4.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists.
Ohio State at Purdue (6:30 p.m. EST, BTN) Tonight is a night for surprise NCAA Tournament contenders, headlined by the Boilermakers, who are following the formula for a bid: win most of your conference games at home, then grab a few road wins against the bottom of the league.
Providence at Georgetown (9 p.m. EST, CBSSN) Both are just behind Villanova near the top of the Big East. The Friars won the first one
Colorado State at Wyoming Huge game in the Mountain West, where the Cowboys are tied for the league lead with San Diego State while CSU sits a game back.
Texas A&M at Mississippi Two teams on a roll, but also both with large donuts in the NCAA tourney resumes right now, making this one crucial for both.
Bowling Green at Central Michigan Though not necessarily at-large candidates, two of the bigger surprises in the country.
Washington at Oregon (9 p.m. EST, ESPN2) The Pac-12 is still wide open for somebody to snatch an NCAA bid.
Enjoy your Wednesday.