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The Morning Dish – Saturday, February 21, 2015

February 21, 2015 The Morning Dish No Comments
hoopguy-cyan

In the SEC, one thing is a given: Kentucky is on top. The Wildcats are also the top team in the country, although the NCAA RPI interestingly has Kansas in front of them as of Monday (likely a reflection of the Big 12 being much stronger than the SEC). Beyond that, however, there is much still to be determined about the SEC, although that picture could get a little clearer soon.

A few of Saturday’s matchups involve teams that are stuck in the middle of the pack. After the Wildcats, you have Arkansas at 10-3; the Razorbacks beat Ole Miss last Saturday, with the Rebels being right behind them at 9-4 along with Texas A&M. Then you have five teams that are a game apart from one another and Mississippi State another game back.

The NCAA Tournament profiles of the teams are similarly divergent. Georgia, for example, has the third-highest RPI in the conference despite being 7-6 in the conference. Alabama, Florida and Tennessee are likely out at this point barring an SEC championship, yet both are among the 6-7 teams.

LSU is 7-6 and hosts Florida on Saturday. The Gators are right there, yet with 13 losses thus far, an at-large bid – which would come with at least 14 losses as it implies the Gators would lose at some point in the SEC Tournament – is almost certainly not happening. Georgia goes to Alabama, while 6-7 Tennessee travels to Oxford to take on Ole Miss. Mississippi State hosts Arkansas, and if the Bulldogs pull off the upset, the picture gets muddier.

While the picture right behind the Wildcats appears to be getting a little clearer, after that it’s far from clear. We’ll see if Saturday helps out in that regard.

Side Dishes

Iona moved closer to clinching the MAAC regular season title and the top seed in the conference tournament with a 72-68 win at Marist on Friday night. David Laury had another big game for the Gaels with 21 points and 18 rebounds to lead the way. The Gaels already swept second-place Rider, so a win over Monmouth on Sunday in New Rochelle would clinch the regular season title.

Harvard and Yale kept pace with each other atop the Ivy League on Friday night with convincing home wins. Harvard cruised past Penn 69-46 behind the senior duo of Wesley Saunders and Steve Moundou-Missi. Yale beat Cornell 62-51 behind double-doubles from Justin Sears (12 points and 12 rebounds) and Armani Cotton (10 points and 11 rebounds), and Javier Duren nearly joined them as he had 13 points with eight rebounds.

Cleveland State stayed right with Valparaiso in the Horizon League with a 66-61 overtime win at Green Bay. The two teams were tied entering the night, but it is the Vikings that have a showdown next Friday at home against the Crusaders, and that game could be for all the marbles.

Albany continued to run away from everyone else in America East, knocking off Hartford 70-64 behind a career-high 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists from Ray Sanders. The Great Danes are 13-1 in America East play.

Tennessee will go the rest of the season without forward Jabari McGhee, who is recovering from a foot injury he suffered in December. Head coach Donnie Tyndall said the plan is to redshirt the freshman and it doesn’t make sense to push him for just a few more games this season.

Aaron Cosby is transferring again, and that means the Illinois guard will head to his third school when he leaves after the season. Cosby started his career at Seton Hall and transferred after two seasons, and will earn his degree at Illinois, which means he will be eligible to play right away. Cosby has been serving a suspension since January 31 for violating team rules.

Tonight’s Menu

Over 130 games are on tap, and there are some good ones among them as a few conferences are a week away from the end of their regular season.

  • Early ACC action includes an old Big East matchup with Pittsburgh at Syracuse, and North Carolina tries to get back on track in hosting Georgia Tech. A little later, Louisville hosts Miami, then Duke hosts Clemson and hopes to have Jahlil Okafor hopes to play through an apparent left ankle injury.
  • In a key Atlantic 10 battle, UMass travels to Richmond to take on VCU.
  • Baylor hosts Kansas State in a survival battle in the Big 12 early on. A little later, Iowa State heads to Texas to take on the flagging Longhorns, who could really use a win over the Cyclones, and Oklahoma State hosts West Virginia.
  • Seton Hall heads across the river to take on a St. John’s team that had won three straight before Georgetown blew them out. Butler travels to take on Xavier later on.
  • Old rivals meet in the Pac-12 as California visits Stanford, then Arizona hosts UCLA.
  • The SEC has a few survival matchups, of sorts. Florida visits LSU in the afternoon, then Georgia heads to Alabama in the evening in matchups with teams right around .500 in SEC play.
  • First place isn’t on the line, but Gonzaga at Saint Mary’s is always a good game to watch and they battle at 10 p.m. Eastern.
  • In a key Conference USA battle, Old Dominion hosts Louisiana Tech. The Northeast Conference also has a key matchup with Bryant hosting Robert Morris.

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