For the final time this season, Friday night had a light slate with the Ivy League taking center stage along with the MAC, MAAC and Horizon League. At this time next week, we’ll be talking about conference tournaments as the best month of basketball beckons. For now, though, we can focus on a thinning race and one that was finally locked up on Friday night.
The featured matchup on the evening was a showdown between Columbia and host Princeton at Jadwin Gym. Just one game separated Yale and these two teams entering the night, with Columbia being a game back in the loss column and Princeton a game back in the win column. In a game with plenty of offense, Princeton had more of it, as Columbia shot over 53 percent from the field but allowed Princeton to shoot over 63 percent, including 13-24 from long range, as the Tigers beat the Lions 88-83.
The Tigers were led by the duo of Steven Cook (23 points, six rebounds) and Henry Caruso (21 points), while Spencer Weisz (16 points, seven assists) continues to be an excellent glue guy. Cook and Caruso each shot 8-11 from the field and combined to go 5-10 from deep; Weisz was 4-7 from behind the arc, doing what he has always done.
With Yale taking care of Harvard at home, Columbia is not out of it, but they no longer control their own destiny. They are two games back in the loss column and are done with Princeton while hosting Yale in the regular season finale next weekend. It is essentially a two-horse race between Yale and Princeton, who appear on a collision course for a one-game playoff. The teams already split with each other, with the home team winning both games, and they remain even in the loss column. If you’re trying to handicap the chances of either team losing another game, the chances are about even. Princeton hosts Cornell, goes to Harvard and Dartmouth next weekend, and hosts arch-rival Penn. Yale hosts Dartmouth on Saturday and then goes to Cornell and Columbia next weekend.
In the MAAC, Monmouth finally wrapped up the top seed in the conference tournament with a 79-58 win over Rider. The Hawks could have done this a bit sooner, but after pulling out some close calls they were beaten convincingly by Iona last Friday, and the Gaels kept pace with an 86-73 win at Manhattan on Friday night. They haven’t clinched it outright yet, but have the tiebreakers to carry the top spot regardless. More importantly, they need to keep winning to have any shot at an at-large bid should they lose in the conference tournament, preferably the MAAC championship game.
The ACC reprimanded Duke guard Grayson Allen on Friday for conduct in Wednesday night’s win over Florida State, but does that really mean anything? Allen tried to trip Florida State guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes in the waning moments of the game, and officials reviewed the play but puzzlingly called no foul on Allen, who earlier this season tried to trip a Louisville player. It would be one thing if Allen were a first-time offender, but he isn’t, so the lack of a suspension is surprising. Related to that, ESPN.com reported that Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski called Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton and apologized, with Hamilton saying “It’s over” at that point. This is among the subjects Ted Sarandis and I talk about in the latest edition of Talking Hoops with Ted Sarandis.
With the job that interim head coach Greg Gard has done, it’s possible that Wisconsin could give him the job without the interim tag after this season, especially if he gets them into the NCAA Tournament. However, the school posted the job opening on the school’s human resources Web site on Friday all the same. The posting notes that applications are sought through March 3, with an anticipated start date of March 8, which, interestingly, is one day before the Big Ten Tournament gets going. Those who are curious as to what one looks like can find it right here.
Speaking of coaches, there was bigger news for Monmouth before they won to wrap up the MAAC’s top seed. Earlier in the day, head coach King Rice signed a new contract that keeps him in the job through the 2020-21 season. Rice took over in 2011 and has brought the program to prominence in a new conference, and while the contract goes five more years, it’s certainly possible that he’ll get a bigger job before then with the work he has done.
The Pac-12 reprimanded Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar on Friday for comments he made regarding a non-call at the end of the Huskies’ last-second loss at Oregon State on Wednesday night. Beaver guard Stephen Thompson appeared to travel before getting off the game-winning shot, and Romar made note of that in addition to the clock appearing to not start as soon as Thompson caught the inbound pass, which was the bigger issue since a travel call or non-call is non-reviewable.
Baylor‘s Rico Gathers is a big man, and he has used his body well to be a presence inside, especially on the glass. After this season, however, his future appears to be on the gridiron, as he plans to set up a football pro day after the basketball season is over. Gathers, who is married and has a young son, won’t be the first player with his body type to attempt to make the NFL as a tight end, and a few have done very well with that, most notably Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates, while Jacksonville Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis was a good player in high school on the hardwood as well and could have played Division I basketball if he were so inclined.
An interesting thing to watch will be a survey about the time demands on student-athletes that was distributed to all Division I schools earlier this week. Athletes in every sport will be asked to provide feedback on the survey, formulated by the Power 5 conferences, the NCAA Division I council and the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). Questions in the survey surround topics such as time between a game and practice, reducing the number of games in a season, rest hours after travel or lengthening a season’s timeline while not changing the number of games. Results are due on March 21, 2016, and the Division I council will meet in April after the results are sent to them.
A number of conferences wrap up their regular season this weekend, including on Saturday, so we have a big day of games ahead.
- ACC play features great matchups with Louisville at Miami and North Carolina at Virginia.
- In the Atlantic 10, Rhode Island heads to Dayton, with the two teams playing a dandy not that long ago in South Kingston. Also, George Washington hosts VCU in a game with bubble implications, arguably an elimination game of sorts.
- Big 12 action starts with red-hot Texas Tech traveling to Kansas in a game that might end their run, as tough as the Jayhawks are to beat at Allen Fieldhouse. Oklahoma goes to Texas in another notable matchup.
- The Big East slate starts with a key bubble game as Georgetown hosts Butler, then Providence hosts a DePaul team that beat them earlier in the month and has handed them losses at crucial times in recent years.
- The final regular season day of Big South competition features UNC Asheville hosting Coastal Carolina in a matchup of two teams going for the top spot.
- Later in the evening, first place in the Big Sky is on the line as Weber State hosts Montana.
- In the Big Ten, Maryland heads to Purdue for a tough matchup.
- The CAA regular season title comes down to Hofstra, who hosts College of Charleston, and UNCW, who hosts Towson. Both teams are tied atop the conference at 13-4. Also, third place is on the line as James Madison hosts slumping William & Mary, with the Tribe being a game up.
- In Ivy League play, the top two teams both have games they should win at home as Princeton hosts Cornell and Yale hosts Dartmouth.
- Some seeding is on the line for the Missouri Valley Conference tournament, and while the top seed isn’t, the matchup of the day features champion Wichita State hosting Illinois State, who is tied with Evansville for second. Evansville doesn’t have an easy draw, either, as they host Northern Iowa.
- In the Mountain West, San Diego State hosts Boise State in a great matchup that unfortunately won’t impact the top of the conference or NCAA at-large chances like many thought it would before the season. Later, Fresno State visits New Mexico in an intriguing matchup.
- In the Pac-12, Utah hosts Arizona, then UCLA goes to Stanford for a game they can’t afford to lose.
- Bucknell has the inside track on the Patriot League regular season title with a one-game lead over red-hot Lehigh. The Bison are at slumping Navy, while Lehigh takes their eight-game winning streak to Army.
- SEC action features Georgia hosting Ole Miss, Vanderbilt hosting Kentucky in a big opportunity for the Commodores, a rivalry matchup with Auburn at Alabama, and LSU hosting Florida in a game that the Tigers basically must win to keep at-large hopes alive.
- In a West Coast Conference showdown, Brigham Young hosts a Gonzaga team that needs all the wins they can get, although a win in this game probably still means they need to win the conference tournament.