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The Morning Dish – Friday, March 13, 2015

March 13, 2015 The Morning Dish No Comments

Texas was so close. So, so close.

A chance to make a convincing argument for the Longhorns’ inclusion in the NCAA Tournament was right there. They had Iowa State down for almost literally the entire game. They led by 16 points in the first half and by 10 points for almost the entire second half. They still led by 10 with 3:35 left.

Somehow, Texas still lost. The team that has looked the part but lost to good teams time and again did it once more, falling to the second-seeded Cyclones 69-67 in the Big 12 Tournament quarterfinals as Iowa State scored the final 12 points of the game, capped by Monte Morris hitting a jumper at the buzzer.

The talk over the next couple days is going to be about if the Longhorns deserve an NCAA Tournament bid. Most are still going to include them in their mock brackets. Undoubtedly, the “eye test” is going to play a big (the entire?) part of that.

When it comes to what it has accomplished this year, the hard truth is Texas flat-out does not deserve a bid. Period. All one should need to know is this: the Longhorns are 3-12 against RPI top 50 teams.

That they have played 15 top 50 teams is more than admirable, and undoubtedly deserves consideration. At some point, a team still has to win a reasonable share of those games. That’s exactly what we ask of SWAC and MEAC teams that barnstorm the country in November and December against ridiculously tough schedules, and that’s the standard that must be applied here.

The Longhorns have had 15 chances to prove they can beat NCAA Tournament-level competition with even a semblance of regularity. Instead, they’ve proven that they will lose to those teams 80% of the time. The losses have been small (five by five points or less) and big (five by double figures, including two by 20+ points), home (four times) and away (seven), but they have been consistent. If this was Texas Southern we were talking about, their at-large candidacy would get a chortle, followed by a quick dismissal.

The selection committee can include Texas if it wants, but if it does it better do so knowing that any team that loses 80% of its games against top 50 teams isn’t making a run in the NCAA Tournament. An entire season’s worth of results says as much, and there is no reason whatsoever to expect a different team overnight. It’s harsh, but it’s the cold, hard truth.

Conference Tournament Wrap-Up: Going around the horn…

  • AAC: To no one’s surprise, tourney host and 6 seed Connecticut opened with a 69-43 win over South Florida. Also winning first round games were East Carolina (81-80 in overtime against Central Florida) and 10th-seeded Houston (66-60 over Tulane).
  • ACC: Top seed Virginia opened with an easy win over Florida State and-to the surprise of some-Duke blew out North Carolina State. North Carolina stopped Louisville 70-60 in the 4/5 game, while Notre Dame ran out to a huge lead, blew it, but then hung on to beat Miami 70-63. The Hurricanes now await their postseason fate.
  • Atlantic 10: First round play saw really no surprise results. Ninth-seeded La Salle scored the lone minor upset, defeating Massachusetts 76-69. No. 5 VCU got a challenge from Fordham before winning 63-57, while No. 6 George Washington (73-55 over Duquesne) and 7 seed St. Bonaventure (60-49 over St. Joseph’s) also move on.
  • Big East: The first two games were uneventful with top seed Villanova and 4 seed Providence advancing handily, but the night was far more interesting. No. 2 Georgetown needed a late rally to dump 10th-seeded Creighton 60-55, and sixth seed Xavier came back to defeat Butler 67-61 in overtime.
  • Big Sky: In the end, all four top seeds advanced, but it was very close to not being that way. No. 1 seed Montana needed two free throws with three seconds left in regulation just to get to overtime against 8 seed Weber State, but the Grizzlies took over in OT for a 78-71 win. No. 2 Eastern Washington, third seed Sacramento State and fourth-seeded Northern Arizona also all won.
  • Big Ten: Illinois needed to beat Michigan. Instead, the Fighting Illini got hammered 73-55. Not a good final impression at all. No. 13 seed Penn State surprised Iowa 67-58, Indiana took care of needed business against Northwestern 71-56, and Ohio State held off Minnesota 79-73.
  • Big 12: There were no upsets according to seed, though top seed Kansas got a tussle from TCU before advancing 64-59. Baylor outlasted West Virginia 80-70 in the 4/5 game, and No. 3 Oklahoma rallied in the second half for a 64-49 win over Oklahoma State.
  • Conference USA: Old Dominion could not afford a quarterfinal loss to Middle Tennessee State, but that’s exactly what happened as the No. 6 Blue Raiders pulled the surprise, 59-52. ODU might’ve had a shot at an at-large bid with a win or two here, but a bad loss likely dooms the Monarchs. Top seed Louisiana Tech held off determined Rice 70-64, UTEP handled Florida International and host UAB edged Western Kentucky 53-52.
  • Big West: Four very competitive quarterfinals in Anaheim all went down to the final minute in a very good day of games. In the end, the top three seeds-UC Davis, UC Santa Barbara and UC Irvine all won, while Hawaii pulled the light upset of No. 4 Long Beach State 79-72 for its 20th win. Benjy Taylor has done a fantastic job with the Rainbow Warriors all year.
  • MAC: Akron is the surprise team so far, at least according to seeds. The seventh-seeded Zips rallied to top 3 seed Kent State 53-51 to move to the semifinals. The fact is, the top eight teams in this tournament were incredibly equal, but a 7 seed in the semifinals is still a worthy story. Also, fourth seed Toledo moves on with a 78-67 win over No. 8 Eastern Michigan.
  • MEAC: In the quarterfinals, something of a surprise as 6 seed Hampton ended a really nice season by third-seeded Maryland-Eastern Shore with a 76-71 upset. Also, No. 5 Delaware State topped 4 seed Howard 65-60.
  • Mountain West: The top four seeds advanced. San Diego State got a challenge before putting away 7 seed and tourney host UNLV 67-64, while the 4/5 game was a good one where Wyoming nipped Utah State 67-65, possibly ending the career of USU coach Stew Morrill.
  • Pac-12: The top four seeds all won. Most notably, 3 seed Oregon scored 59 points in the second half to knock out Colorado 93-85, while Utah trailed No. 7 Stanford at halftime but then outscored the Cardinal 46-17 in the second half for an 80-56 win.
  • SEC: A really wild day may have left some league teams’ NCAA at-large hopes in tatters. First it was 5 seed Texas A&M blowing a sizable lead in losing to No. 13 Auburn 66-59. Later it was sixth-seeded Mississippi falling to 11 seed South Carolina 60-58 in a bizarre ending. Tennessee and Florida also won.
  • Southland: A pair of close second round games on Thursday saw No. 4 Northwestern State hold off fifth-seeded McNeese State 96-89 and No. 3 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi squeeze past 7 seed New Orleans 61-58.
  • Sun Belt: First round games saw No. 8 Texas State with a 68-62 upset of 5 seed Texas-Arlington, as well as No. 6 South Alabama edging seventh-seeded Arkansas-Little Rock 57-55.
  • SWAC: The two remaining quarterfinals saw No. 3 seed Southern over Alabama A&M 64-60 and fourth seed Prairie View A&M over Jackson State 62-56. Interesting note: Southern is ineligible for the NCAA Tournament.
  • WAC: Three quarterfinal games all saw the higher seeds win. The most notable result is 2 seed Missouri-Kansas City defeating Texas-Pan American 70-61, for the reason being that this was the final game ever for UT-Pan American. The school is being merged with UT-Brownsville and will become known as UT-Rio Grande Valley starting in the fall.

Side Dishes

  • East Tennessee State has fired coach Murry Bartow, multiple sources reported on Thursday. Bartow won 224 games in 12 seasons at the school, with five 20-win seasons and three trips to the NCAA Tournament. ETSU was 62-65 over the last four years. The next time someone in the middle of an anti-NCAA rant complains about coaches leaving for better jobs, this is Exhibit A for why they might do it. The schools have decided it is first and foremost a business of wins and losses. (For a list of all of this year’s coaching changes click here.)
  • From Wednesday, the Big East postseason honors saw Ryan Arcidiacono and Kris Dunn named co-league players of the year. Also, Nic Moore of SMU was named the American Athletic Conference Player of the Year.

Today’s Menu:

  • AAC: Quarterfinal games include top seed SMU against what could be a dangerous East Carolina team, 4 seed Temple likely needing a win over Memphis, second-seeded Tulsa against Houston and what should be a feisty 3/6 game between Cincinnati and UConn.
  • ACC: The semifinals should be everything one could ask for. Top seed Virginia goes against No. 5 North Carolina, while Duke goes against Notre Dame.
  • Atlantic 10: Quarterfinal play includes a treat of a 4/5 game with Richmond against VCU. Top seed Davidson could get a challenge from No. 9 La Salle, second seed Dayton faces St. Bonaventure and the 3/6 game is a good one with Rhode Island and George Washington.
  • Big East: Suddenly, Xavier looks like a possible finalist in this tourney. The Musketeers face Georgetown in a semifinal, with two wins over the Hoyas this year already in their back pocket. Villanova and Providence meet in the first semi.
  • Big Sky: Two excellent semifinals see Montana against Northern Arizona and Eastern Washington against Sacramento State in a 2/3 matchup.
  • Big Ten: Quarterfinal play includes surprising Penn State against No. 4 Purdue, Michigan against top seed Wisconsin, Maryland and Indiana in a 2/7 game and Ohio State meeting Michigan State.
  • Big 12: The top four seeds remain. Kansas meets Baylor in the first semifinal, while Iowa State and Oklahoma meet in the second.
  • Big West: Two quality semifinals will have top seed UC Davis against Hawaii and a terrific 2/3 game with UC Santa Barbara against UC Irvine.
  • Conference USA: Semifinal play has Middle Tennessee State as the party crasher. Six seed MTSU takes on UTEP, while top seed Louisiana Tech has a tough challenge against host school UAB.
  • MAC: Semifinal play includes top seed Central Michigan opening against Toledo. The Chippewas won both regular season meetings. Also, 2 seed Buffalo faces Akron.
  • MEAC: Semifinals include top seed North Carolina Central facing a very dangerous 5 seed in Delaware State. Also, longtime Virginia rivals Norfolk State and Hampton meet again in the other semi.
  • Mountain West: Two really good semifinals. Top seed Boise State gets No. 4 Wyoming and a 2/3 game includes San Diego State against Colorado State.
  • Pac-12: UCLA gets its chance to lock up a bid when it faces top seed Arizona. The other semifinal matches Oregon and Utah. The Ducks have a chance yet to get a really nice seed in the NCAA tourney.
  • Southland: Semifinal games will see top seed Stephen F. Austin against Northwestern State and No. 2 Sam Houston State versus Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. Like Murray State, SFA is a team that will have an at-large case if it loses in this tourney. Unlike the Racers, they still have a chance between now and Sunday to make that a moot point.
  • SEC: The only real “bubble” team left in this tourney already is LSU, which gets Auburn in a battle of Tigers. Kentucky opens against No. 8 Florida, while third-seeded Georgia gets surprising South Carolina.
  • Sun Belt: Quarterfinal games have defending champion and fourth seed Louisiana-Lafayette against Texas State and No. 3 Louisiana-Monroe against South Alabama.
  • SWAC: Texas Southern and Alabama State look to continue their collision course to a title game matchup, though both will have stiff challenges in the semifinals. TSU faces a Prairie View team that has made it to the final the past two years, while Alabama State takes on Southern.
  • WAC: The WAC is truly New Mexico State and everyone else this year, but Cal State-Bakersfield will get a shot at the Aggies in a semifinal on Friday. The other semi matches Missouri-Kansas City against Seattle.

Enjoy your Friday and the first of three huge days of hoops.

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