Five Things: NCAA Tournament Bids And Wichita’s Perfection
By Andrew Kahn
Not all conference tournaments are created equal. In the one-big leagues, the intensity is far greater than in the power conferences—it’s truly win or go home. Three such schools have already won their league tournament and another qualified by winning the regular season. In the major conferences, Florida completed an undefeated regular season in the SEC and Cincinnati and Louisville tied atop the American. Oh, and there’s this other team that hasn’t lost yet.
Harvard was the first school to punch its ticket to the Big Dance when it beat Yale on Friday night. Harvard lost just one game in the Ivy and is 26-4 overall. On Saturday, Eastern Kentucky beat Belmont, the top seed in the Ohio Valley and an NCAA Tournament regular, to earn the league’s automatic bid. Two more teams qualified on Sunday: Coastal Carolina won the Big South to earn its first bid since 1993, becoming the fourth schools coach Cliff Ellis has brought to the Tournament (South Alabama, Clemson, and Auburn are the others), and Mercer beat last year’s Cinderella, Florida Gulf Coast, to win the Atlantic Sun. Mercer did it on FGCU’s home court, which was only fitting since FGCU won on Mercer’s last year.
Wichita runs the table
For the first time since UNLV in 1991, a team will enter the NCAA Tournament without a loss. Wichita State is 34-0 after ripping through the Missouri Valley tournament, which culminated with a 83-69 win over Indiana State. The Shockers are all but assured of a 1 seed, but in a sport dominated by a single tournament, they’ll have to prove themselves all over again.
Big comeback for Aztecs
San Diego State won the regular season Mountain West title in thrilling fashion Saturday. Down 16 with 12 minutes to play against New Mexico, the Aztecs went on a 19-1 run and won 51-48, denying the Lobos a chance to celebrate on SDSU’s home floor. New Mexico was confounded by the Aztecs’ 1-3-1 zone defense during the deciding run. San Diego State senior point guard Xavier Thames led all scorers with 23 points.
Wiggins scores 41 in loss
Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins scored a career-high 41 points on just 18 shots against West Virginia on Saturday, but the Jayhawks still lost 92-86. Kansas cut a 25-point second half deficit to four in the final minute. Wiggins shot 12 of 18 from the field and 15 of 19 from the line. He had 14 straight points for KU in the second half, including a sequence where he hit a three, stole the ensuing inbounds and threw down a vicious dunk. He may have proved he was worthy of a top pick in the NBA draft, but the immediate winner was Bob Huggins. The West Virginia coach earned a reported $25,000 bonus for beating Kansas in the regular season, as stipulated by a clause in his contract.
Parker reaches career high, too
Wiggins was not the only freshman to dominate on Saturday. Duke’s Jabari Parker scored a career high 30 against North Carolina in what was probably his last game at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Like Wiggins, he was very efficient, hitting 10 of 17 from the field and 8 of 9 from the stripe. He also pulled down 11 rebounds to help his case for national Freshman of the Year.
Andrew Kahn is a contributor to CBS Local Sports who also writes for Newsday and The Wall Street Journal. He writes about college basketball and other sports at AndrewJKahn.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn
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