Well, we're in crunch time now, eh? All that cushion, all that certainty, all that "should be in" stuff that the Gophers built up with those good wins over UNC and West Virginia is now gone and we are into do or die time. It shouldn't be too much of an issue, because the next four aren't exactly going against world beaters: Michigan State and Michigan at home, at Northwestern, and then back home against Penn State. Win three - and they should win three - and they'll be 9-9, which, when combined with their non-conference wins and computer numbers would probably get them in. Win all four, which is possible, and they're guaranteed in. But win just 2, and you'll need a nice run in the B10 tournament. Any less than that, and then turn out the lights - but not at Williams, because we'll be seeing a home game or two for the prestigious NIT. Really, it's in the teams' hands and in their control. Win the games you're supposed to win and you're in. That's it. Simple, really. Practically guaranteed. The Gophers would never let me down.
WHO WAS AWESOME
1. Purdue Boilermakers. I think beating the two best teams in your conference qualifies as having a pretty awesome week, and they certainly made their case that they, not Wisconsin, should be considered the second best team in the Big Ten. Really, though, it doesn't get much more impressive than beating two top 10 ranked teams and conference foes at that, even if they were at home. E'Twaun Moore had some big-time struggles in mid-season but he's hit his stride big time, hitting for at least 19 in his last four games, capping it off with a career high 38 against Ohio State on Sunday, a game in which he hit 13 of 18 shots and basically dominated the #1 team in the country or whatever they were ranked. This is a whole different team when he's on (JaJuan Johnson is always on) and they pretty emphatically answered the question, "Who has Purdue really beaten?" Big Ten actually looking pretty good for possibly three Sweet 16 teams. But probably zero.
2. Jake Pullen. There's little doubt who picked up the biggest win of the week, even if it was way back on Monday night and already feels like it happened a long time ago. K-State was basically drifting aimlessly, having taken their preseason top 10 (top 5?) ranking and basically pissed it away thanks to complacency and a crazy amount of turnovers, but there's never been any doubt they were talented. Thanks to Pullen, who scored 38 in that big win over Kansas and followed up with 27 more in a blowout win over Oklahoma, they may be making a late push towards an NCAA bid. ESPN's bracketology had them as a 10 seed after they beat the Jayhawks, with some late success - like a home win over Mizzou - they could end up a 6 or so seed. Talk about a dangerous 6 seed, wow.
3. The Colonial Athletic Conference. There were four big winners in Bracket Busters: George Mason, Virginia Commonwealth, Old Dominion, and Utah State. All four of those teams picked up a quality win, which means each of them moved that much closer to grabbed an at-large bid. Notice anything three of those teams have in common? Yep, GMU, VCU, and ODU are all members of the CAA, and they TCB ASAP FYI, and can probably now RSVP for NCAA MM, although if either of them go FUBAR and lose to an inferior opponent they'll probably drop to the wrong side of the bubble, but right now it's actually looking fairly likely that the CAA will end up with three bids. That's awesome.
4. Cincinnati Bearcats. You know how it seems like the Big Ten teams who are right on the edge of getting a bid seem to just play like garbage (Illinois, Minnesota, Northwestern)? Teams from the Big East apparently don't subscribe to that style of perpetual disappointment, and Cincy is the latest team from that conference to go from outside the bubble to inside with a very nice week. First they beat Louisville at home, and in convincing fashion, and then they followed it up by winning a very tough trap game @ Providence, going into overtime before blowing the Friars out by 12. That moves them to 8-6 now in conference play, and that's big because their last four games are all very tough (@G-Town, UCONN, @ Marquette, G-Town). This sets them up where they only need to win one of the four to get in. Still not easy by any means, but if they can't win at least one of those four they don't really deserve it anyway.
5. NBA All-Star Game. I'm just kidding, I'm not retarded enough to watch that crap.
5. Tu Holloway. Even though it's pretty retarded to change your name from Terrell to Tu I love this guy anyway. He notched a triple-double on Saturday in a surprisingly competitive game against Fordham, tallying 26 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists. And he did it with zero turnovers and 8-11 shooting from the floor. That's ridiculous. That has to be one of the most efficient games of all-time. I assume there is someway to look that up, but I'm drunk and tired and I'm not going to do it. Somebody do it for me. That's what the comments are for. Let's assume our lists is 1. That Bill Walton game, 2. That christian laettner game, and 3. Holloway's triple-double. What else?
1. St. Mary's Gaels. If there was an award for most effective killing of your at-large chances in a single week, St. Mary's would stand an awful good chance at winning that award this year, and possibly even for the entire decade. They started the week in "almost certainly in" status, lost to a terrible, terrible, terrible San Diego team which knocked them to "probably out" status, and then blew there big chance to jump back in, losing at home to Utah State. With Gonzaga so down this year it's difficult for the Gaels to get quality wins and as of right now their early season win over St. John's is the only real impressive win on their resume. If they can close with home wins over Gonzaga and Portland, two of the better teams in the league, they would end up at 14-2 in WCC play. I would guess if they can then at least get to the final in the conference tournament that would probably get them in, but man, did they ever plummet down the S-curve.
2. Virginia Tech Hokies. Oopsies. Honestly, as frustrating as it is to be a Gopher fan - and it's damn frustrating let me tell you what - being a Hokie fan would be a nightmare. Two straight years of being just barely on the wrong side of the bubble due to softer than Ralph Sampson non-conference scheduling, followed this year by a much better schedule which resulted in losing nearly every meaningful non-conf game and now probably losing one too many conference games they really couldn't afford to lose after dropping a game to Virginia on Saturday. That gives the Hokies five conference losses: Virginia, Georgia Tech, BC, UNC, and Virginia - yes, they were swept by Virginia. Take those two losses plus the GT loss and they're going to need to basically be perfect from here on. Hopefully not though because their coach is a douche.
3. Missouri Valley Conference. If the MVC wasn't already a one-bid league, it certainly is now as Bracket Busters was not kind to teams from the Valley. Or, more accurately, teams from the Valley just plain sucked. Northern Iowa, who needed a win to have a shot at a bid, lost to George Mason (at home). Wichita State, who needed a win to have a shot at a bid, lost to VCU (at home). Missouri State, who needed a win to have a shot at a bid, lost to Valpo. Actually, nine MVC teams played in Bracket Busters this weekend and they managed just three total wins, none of which came from teams with post-season aspirations outside of a possible NIT berth. Just a terrible showing overall. This feels more like something the Twins would do. Somehow.
4. Duquesne Dukes. Oh Duquesne you're breaking my heart. A surprisingly hot start in Atlantic 10 play had the Dukes at 8-0 and atop conference play, but even more exciting they were looking like a fringe bubble candidate for an at-large bid. It would be their first appearance since 1977 and behind a potent offense and a stingy defense they looked legit. Of course, they did nothing in non-conference play so their margin of error was small, and it's now non-existent after they lost to American's most hated team, the Dayton Flyers, a game they led by six late before letting the evil Flyers go on a 10-0 run. That's now the Dukes third loss in four games with Xavier being the only loss that didn't hurt. Now Duquesne will need to win the A-10 tournament to make a bid. I'm sure that will happen.
5. Baylor Bears. Well that ought to do it. Although you could definitely argue that Michigan State or Kansas State are the most disappointing teams this season they are both still alive for an NCAA Tournament berth. The same can't be said for Baylor anymore, who completely what can only be described as a four-month long dump on their own shoes by losing by 9 to Texas Tech. AT HOME. That's Texas Tech, record 12-15, Big 12 record 4-8, and RPI 139. That's unforgivable. Although that actually might not even be Baylor's worst loss this year, because they also dropped games to Oklahoma (12-13 (4-8), #132) and Iowa State (14-13 (1-11), #147. Any one of those losses would be enough to cast a pretty big shadow on their chances in March. Combine the three, and they're cooked. Looks like I was right that their 30-1 number to win the championship was way off. Just turns out I was wrong in the wrong direction.
I didn't have room for him here because too many teams shit the bed this week, but I also want to point out that Durrell Summers shot all of 1-8 this entire week (two games), mainly because in their game against Ohio State he was so bad he only played 16 minutes and in the game against Illinois he shot 1-7. He should probably just quit and transfer. I hear Ames is quite nice.
Want to know what else sucks? When you think you put down on Aaron Baddeley to win the Northern Trust Open at 66-1, and you think you meant to because you specifically checked each book you have an account at to find the best odds. And then you watch the tournament all week and see he's in contention, and then when he's up 2 with just 2 holes to go and you pretty much have the win in the bag you go to check on what the exact amount you're about to win is and it turns out someway, somehow that bet isn't there and you can't blame anybody but yourself because you know damn well you were drinking Wednesday night and probably completely spaced on hitting "confirm" that final time.