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Saturday Notes – February 27, 2016

February 28, 2016 Columns, Your Phil of Hoops No Comments
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A number of conference regular seasons are now over, with Saturday providing the last hurrah. More will follow on Sunday, and conference tournaments begin this week. And to put it simply, this Saturday was like so many other days of the season to date in that for every result that might provide further clarity, there was another that provided less.

And all the same, there were many great games and finishes to the standings. Some ended in ties atop the conference, while others came down to the final game and had ties elsewhere near the top of the standings (the CAA had a two-way tie for first and a three-way tie for third place). College basketball fans have arguably never had it better. We have every reason to expect that Championship Week will be full of great games and some unexpected results along the way.

With that, here’s our final installment of notes from Saturday games for the season.

Kansas 67, Texas Tech 58: 12 straight Big 12 regular season titles. Just amazing consistency, through so many great players at other schools in the conference. Nothing more needs to be said.

Virginia 79, North Carolina 74: A great bounce-back win for the Cavaliers puts them right in the mix in the ACC with a week to go and games with Clemson (road) and Louisville (home) still to play.

Miami 73, Louisville 65: A great bounce-back week for Miami after getting pounded at North Carolina a week ago. The Hurricanes are right there with Virginia among underrated teams nationally.

Purdue 83, Maryland 79: As good as the Terrapins potentially are and as much as the Boilermakers have appeared to come down to earth a big in Big Ten play, Purdue is just a game behind Maryland after this win in West Lafayette.

Rhode Island 75, Dayton 66: The Rams haven’t had quite the season they hoped for and that many – this writer included – expected. An injury to their best player on opening night helps. But give them credit for going into Dayton and knocking off the only lock NCAA Tournament team in the Atlantic 10.

VCU 69, George Washington 65: It’s going to be tough for the Colonials now in terms of getting an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. They could have used this one.

St. Bonaventure 85, UMass 83: Put this in the “a win is a win” category as the Bonnies barely avoid a loss they can ill afford.

Texas 76, Oklahoma 63: Buddy Hield had 33 points, but in the second half, the Sooners got nothing going as Texas pulled even with Oklahoma in the Big 12 at 10-6 – something once unthinkable.

Stanford 79, UCLA 70: UCLA is now guaranteed to finish below .500 in the Pac-12, and while that doesn’t automatically eliminate a team from the NCAA Tournament, it does mean they have probably lost too many games – and UCLA has lost 14 of them. It’s a tournament championship or the NIT/CBI awaits.

Vanderbilt 74, Kentucky 62: The Commodores appear to be peaking at the right time, and after looking like an underachiever for a lot of the season (although with injuries playing a role), they now look like they will do enough to reach the NCAA Tournament.

LSU 96, Florida 91: Antonio Blakeney has a big game (32 points) and LSU wins. That, and some defense earlier in the season, might have changed the Tigers’ current station in life. But if they’re going to do something they haven’t done all season – win more than three in a row to try to snag an NCAA Tournament bid after all – it had to start here.

Providence 87, DePaul 66: Providence needed this one to get back on track and avoid a bad loss, something they haven’t always been able to do with the Blue Demons in recent years.

Butler 90, Georgetown 87 (OT): The Hoyas have been a close call for the bubble for a while now, but if you haven’t taken them off, do it now – and keep the Bulldogs on, though barely.

Florida State 77, Notre Dame 56: The Seminoles snap a five-game losing streak in impressive fashion. If only they had turned a couple of those games into victories, we might still be talking about a bubble team.

Utah 70, Arizona 64: The Utes quietly slide into sole possession of second place in the Pac-12 for the time being, even in the loss column with Cal a game back of Oregon.

Boise State 66, San Diego State 63: If the Mountain West wasn’t already assured of being a one-bid league, this clinches it. The Aztecs have had a great run through the conference, but they didn’t have much room for error left even though this isn’t a bad loss.

Mississippi State 68, South Carolina 58: Give Ben Howland credit. His team has competed all along and picked up a few nice wins along the way, showing the potential they have as what he and his staff do in Starkville takes hold.

Gonzaga 71, Brigham Young 68: The Bulldogs pull it out in Provo despite giving the Cougars chances late, setting up the conference tournament next weekend.

Northern Iowa 54, Evansville 52: The Panthers haven’t been as good as they were the last couple of seasons, but they look like a solid sleeper entering the conference tournament. If you’re looking for a dark horse to potentially make a run, this is it.

Lehigh 82, Army 72: Bucknell is the regular season champion, but Lehigh will enter the Patriot League Tournament as the hottest team by far, with this being their ninth straight win.

UNCW 74, Towson 68: In two seasons at the helm, Kevin Keatts has brought this program back to prominence with another tie for the top spot. Hofstra gets the nod in the conference tournament by way of a tiebreaker, but the job Keatts did with a lot of newcomers is tremendous.

Yale 76, Dartmouth 71 (OT): With Princeton winning as well, it’s a two-horse race between the Bulldogs and Tigers, though the Bulldogs needed overtime to pull theirs out.

Weber State 60, Montana 54: With a week to go, Weber State is in the driver’s seat in the Big Sky as they’re up by a game after pulling this one out at home.

Vermont 76, Stony Brook 62: The Seawolves already clinched the regular season title, but a convincing home loss isn’t a good way to close the regular season. Give Ernie Duncan (23 points) and Vermont credit for going on the road to get this done.

Hawaii 89, Cal State Northridge 78: Behind a big game from Stefan Jankovic (28 points), Hawaii stays on top in the Big West.

Fairleigh Dickinson 81, Central Connecticut 75: This game is relatively inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, but worth noting as it marks the end of CCSU head coach Howie Dickenman’s fine 20-year run at the school as he heads off into retirement. He won three conference championships along the way. A classy gesture came as Dickenman addressed the crowd, and FDU head coach Greg Herenda and his team came onto the court with a banner that said “RESPECT” for the retiring coach.

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