News, Notes, and Highlighted Games: Wednesday, Feb 22nd

NEWS AND NOTES

-For Chad Sherwood’s UTR Game of the Day, which has first place implications in the SoCon – CLICK HERE

-For Jon Teitel’s latest article where he focuses on college basketball legend Frosty Cox – CLICK HERE

-For my brilliant and ingenious ramblings about how the top Under the Radar teams deserve more credit than what they are being given – CLICK HERE

-Clemson.  Oh dear lord.  Ever since January Clemson has been the kind of team that makes you fall to your knees and look up at the sky yelling ‘WHY??!!’  They did it again last night.  They almost won a big game against a tournament caliber team, but ended up not winning.  Clemson is 3-11 in their last 14 games.  During that stretch they’ve lost in overtime to North Carolina, a close game at Notre Dame, by 4 to Virginia who is still a possible protected seed, by 1 to Virginia Tech, by 1 to Syracuse via a last second shot, by 2 to Duke via a missed attempt in the final possession, by 6 at Miami after having a lead late in the game, and last night again by a point at Virginia Tech who hit a shot in the final.  I cannot help but stare in amazement at all those close losses to solid Tournament teams.  It’s crazy to lose even two or three games like that.  They’ve lost EIGHT!!!

-Northwestern isn’t to the stage of failing the physical just yet, but they are to the stage of needing to go on a diet and exercise before it’s too late.  They lost last rather badly night to Illinois, who is not a tournament team.  It’s the second time they’ve lost to them.  They’re just 2-4 in their last six games, and one of those wins was a very close game against Rutgers!  At home!  Now, the good news is the two Illinois losses are really the only ones they have to teams that are outside the field, so their paper is still fine, at least for the moment.  But, they haven’t been playing well.  Had it not been for the win at Wisconsin we’d really be sounding the alarm on them.  Their last three games are at Indiana, Michigan, and Purdue.  If they play like they have for the past couple of weeks (minus the Wisky game) they’ll lose all three of them and then they will be in trouble.

-Florida continues to look impressive despite being down a man.  They ran away from South Carolina last night to put yet another impressive win on their resume.

-Baylor, Kentucky, and Purdue all took care of business, although they all made it a lot more exciting than we thought it would be.

 

HIGHLIGHTED GAMES

-VANDERBILT AT TENNESSEE (SEC).  Tennessee is still right on the fringe of the bubble despite performing sluggishly lately, and believe it or not if Vanderbilt can thunder down the stretch, and by that I basically mean winning three of their last four and then playing their way into the SEC semis, they may be sitting on the bubble themselves.

-MICHIGAN AT RUTGERS (Big Ten).  It may not feel this way, but this is actually a very big game for Michigan.  They only have one true road win up until now, and if they are unable to win this game on the road, then that is a clear inability to beat even bad teams on the road, and I can’t imagine the committee would think too highly of that.

-DUKE AT SYRACUSE (ACC).  Duke is a solid protected seed who still has a path to a #1 seed if they’re able to win out.  Syracuse appears to be solidly in the field, but can’t exactly begin to skate through the season yet.

-PITTSBURGH AT WAKE FOREST (ACC).  Both teams are outside the bubble (regardless of what Chad says about Pitt in his personal bracket), and both have a ton of work to do just to land within range of the field.  It’s not completely out of reach for either team, but it’s getting there.

-TCU AT KANSAS (Big Twelve).  We’ve been projecting TCU in, but in order to feel completely safe I think they need to do something other than just hold serve at home.  Winning this game is shooting for the moon, but if they do it they’ll go from maybe being in to almost assuredly being in.  Kansas has been on pace to be a #1 seed all year long and that should continue after today.

-SOUTHERN ILLINOIS AT ILLINOIS STATE (Missouri Valley).  Illinois State is squarely on the bubble and needs to pretty much win out to have a realistic shot of being selected.

-SAINT LOUIS AT VCU (Atlantic Ten).  VCU just needs to hold serve.  Losing this game, which is a virtual buy game, would be the complete opposite of holding serve.  In fact it would be like dropping the wedding cake on a mafia boss during his daughter’s wedding.

-ALBANY AT VERMONT (America East).  Vermont has a very slim shot at an at-large bid, but our Survival Board is still considering them due them being very close to running the table in conference.

-NEW HAMPSHIRE AT UMASS LOWELL (America East).  The Team of the People!!!  They are trying to wrap up a home conference tournament game in the quarterfinals and need a strong finish.

-DEPAUL AT GEORGETOWN (Big East).  Georgetown is way outside looking in, but if they’re able to win their last four games and end up 9-9 in Big East play the committee will give them a serious look.

-XAVIER AT SETON HALL (Big East).  Xavier is relatively safe for getting in on the first ballot, but they are in a bit of a tailspin with three straight losses and they have another tough game tonight against a Seton Hall team that is still squarely on the bubble and could really use another notable win on their resume.

-TEXAS A&M AT ARKANSAS (SEC).  This is a game Arkansas should win.  They need to hold serve the rest of the way, which means wining at home against non-tournament teams.

-MINNESOTA AT MARYLAND (Big Ten).  Both teams will most likely get in on the first ballot, and are now just playing to improve their resumes.  Maryland is still in the hunt for a first place finish.

-LOUISVILLE AT NORTH CAROLINA (ACC).  Both teams appear to be solid protected seeds, and while UNC has a clearer path to a #1 seed, Louisville has one as well.  If they’re able to pick up this win on the road and stay in the hunt for a first place finish then their path will suddenly be just as clear as UNC’s.

-OREGON AT CALIFORNIA (Pac Twelve).  Oregon appears to be heading for the #2 line if they hold serve, and Cal is still on the bubble.  They need road wins in addition to needing big wins, but this would still really help out the Golden Bears.

-OKLAHOMA STATE AT KANSAS STATE (Big Twelve).  Oklahoma State has won nine of their last ten and are playing as well as anyone in the nation right now.  Well, maybe not as well as Gonzaga, Villanova, or Kansas, but they’re playing about as well as anyone else.  They’re smoking hot right now and take on a K State team that is inside the bubble, but could use a win to shore things up and to help assure the ground does not fall out from beneath them.  K State is just 2-6 in their last eight games.

-BUTLER AT VILLANOVA (Big East).  Butler is great.  They have great wins.  They have a great profile because of those great wins.  They have a really good team that in all likelihood will end up as a protected seed.  Nova has a great team, and Nova is at home.  It’s a very very very tall order for Butler.  This will be a harder game to win than any they play during the NCAA Tournament.  If they do play a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, it won’t be on that team’s home court.

-PROVIDENCE AT CREIGHTON (Big East).  This is a huge game for Providence.  Many, including us, are starting to look at them as a fringe bubble team.  They haven’t been the best team away from home, but if they’re able to pick up this win, on the road, against a quality Creighton team then it greatly enhances the complexion of their profile and they’ll be looking a lot more like an NCAA Tournament team.  Creighton is still trying to string together wins since losing Mo Watson for the season.

Under the Radar Game of the Day: Furman at East Tennessee State

Furman at East Tennessee State, 7:00 PM Eastern, espn3

For Jon Teitel’s interview about Colorado legend Frosty Cox, CLICK HERE.

For David Griggs’ Puppet Rambling about the top Under the Radar programs, get a very strong drink and then CLICK HERE.

With less than a week left in the regular season, the Southern Conference championship and battle for the top seed in the conference tournament may be decided in Johnson City, Tennessee tonight as the East Tennessee State Buccaneers and Furman Paladins will be matching up in our Under the Radar Game of the Day.  The two teams enter play tonight tied in the loss column, with Furman sitting at 13-3 (20-9 overall) and ETSU half a game back at 12-3 (22-6 overall).  Furman has one game left after tonight (home vs Wofford) while the Bucs have to travel to Western Carolina and UNC-Greensboro (the Spartans are only a game behind at 11-4 right now) to end the season.  A road win by the Paladins tonight could be all they need to clinch the SoCon title, while a loss would put ETSU in the driver’s seat pending their result Monday night in Greensboro.

Tonight’s game is the second matchup of these two teams this season.  The first one was won by Furman in Greenville 75-62 back on January 19.  Kris Acox led the way for Furman in that game with 19 points and 8 rebounds.  TJ Cromer was the top scorer for ETSU with 20, while Desonta Bradford pulled down 12 rebounds.  Tonight’s game has a chance to be a great one, as ETSU enters play having won 8 of their last 9 games while Furman had a 10 game winning streak snapped over the weekend by Greensboro.  The winner will be in solid position for the top spot in the conference tournament and a chance to take the league’s automatic bid.  For Furman, a dance ticket would be their first since 1980!

Puppet Ramblings: Five Very Good Under the Radar Resumes

I don’t editorialize all that often, but when I do, it is awesome!!

Tonight is our final Under the Radar Podcast of the season.  We will discuss each conference like we always do, go over the conference tournament formats for all 23 UTR leagues, probably make a prediction on the winner, and assess what each team has remaining.  By no means are we going away after that.  It’s just that conference tournaments begin this upcoming Monday, so every night beginning this Sunday we will be recording our Championship Week Video Notebooks.

We have closely followed these teams all year long, and we are quite familiar with them.  But even though we’ve closely followed them since literally the first day of the season, I now think even we are undervaluing them.  With the bubble being as weak as it is, I felt compelled to go back and look at these teams and see what kind of case could be made for them.  On the surface, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of merit there.  Just bloated records against predominantly sub NIT caliber teams.  But after looking at things a little more closely, I now believe these teams have won a significant number of games that were harder to win than what many other teams on the bubble have won.

To be more specific, if a team’s best wins are all at home against RPI top 50 teams who have losing records on the road, then I do not feel those games are any harder to win than going on the road to play a team that, while out of the RPI top 100, is still winning close to 80 percent of their home games.  So, while the five teams below do not have an abundance of wins against “top 50” teams, they have won games on the road that are just as hard to win, if not more so, than it is to win against a lot of top fifty teams at home.

So, take another look.  And, at least consider it.  And, let’s hope that the selection committee is looking at them a little more closely than even we were just a few days ago.

 

MIDDLE TENNESSEE (23-4)

RPI = 32 (good)
OOC RPI = 26 (good)
OOC SOS = 18 (very good)
True Road Record = 10-2.  7 of the wins came against teams with winning records at home.  Marshall, Western Kentucky, UTSA, Belmont, and Ole Miss are a combined 49-8 at home in games where they haven’t played Middle Tennessee.  (VERY VERY good)
Neutral Floor Record = 3-0, including a win over 22-5 UNC Wilmington (good)
Other Notes = 3 bad loss at Tennessee State, at UTEP, and at home to Georgia State, but the loss at UTEP came during a stretch where the Miners are 9-2 in their last 11 games, and it was at the buzzer.  They also have a loss at VCU, who has lost just one home game this year.
Conference Tournament = At a predetermined site in Birmingham, AL.  They could potentially have to face UAB in a virtual road game despite being the best team in the conference (crap deal)

The OOC RPI and SOS show that they scheduled exactly the way the committee says they should.  The wins on the road show that they’re capable of winning games that are hard to win.  Marshall, Western Kentucky, UTSA, Belmont, and Ole Miss aren’t considered “quality teams” by most, so they’re not going to get credit for quality wins for beating them.  But, if you look at it closely, you see that those teams win a lot of games at home.  I would argue that it’s harder to win at Belmont or Marshall than it is to beat top fifty teams such as Michigan and TCU at home.  Those two teams have won a combined total of three true road games.  So, we have a first place team with a top 40 RPI with five notable wins and a top 20 OOC schedule.  That beats the bubble.

 

TEXAS ARLINGTON (19-6)

RPI = 34 (good)
OOC RPI = 21 (very good)
OOC SOS = 58 (fair)
True Road Record = 10-6.  Includes a win at Saint Mary’s who’s only other home loss has come to Gonzaga, Texas who was at full strength at the time, and Georgia State and Georgia Southern who are a combined 16-3 at home when not playing Texas Arlington (very good).
Other Notes = 5 of the 6 losses were at Minnesota and at Arkansas who appear to be tournament teams, and Florida Gulf Coast, Texas State, and Troy who are a combined 23-10 at home.
Conference Tournament = Predetermined site in New Orleans.  The seeding is standard and there is no advantage for the first place team. (crap deal)

They are a first place team with a top forty RPI.  That almost always gets a team in.  They also have also have two tough road wins against Georgia Southern and Georgia State, and another against Saint Mary’s who is a solid tournament team.  If this team wins out they will have all the earmarks of an at-large team, and although they don’t have too many wins against the RPI top fifty, they’ve won games on the road that are harder to win than it is to win against a top fifty team at home with a losing road record.  This beats the bubble

 

UNC WILMINGTON (22-5)

RPI = 42 (fair)
OOC RPI = 30 (good)
OOC SOS = 109 (not so good)
True Road Record = 11-3.  6 of the 11 teams have winning records at home.  Western Michigan, Saint Bonaventure, Towson, and College of Charleston are a combined 38-8 at home when not playing UNCW (good)
Other Notes = Of the three road games they lost, William & Mary is unbeaten at home, Clemson is 9-4, and Elon is a modest 7-3.
Conference Tournament = Is being played at Charleston, who is the second best team in the conference and who has split with UNCW.  It’s possible they’ll have to win a virtual road game in the conference championship despite being the better team. (crap deal)

Like the previous teams, they lack quality wins, but they’ve won games that are difficult to win in the sense that they’ve won on the road against teams that play very well at home.  They do have two sub 100 RPI losses, but one of those was at William & Mary who is unbeaten at home, and the other was at Elon who is at least decent at home.

 

ILLINOIS STATE (22-5)

RPI = 33 (good)
OOC RPI = 87 (bad)
OOC SOS = 119 (bad)
True Road Record = 8-4.  4 of the teams have winning records at home.  Evansville and Loyola Chicago are a combined 20-5 at home when not playing Illinois State, and two of the other five losses are to Wichita State. (fair)
Conference Tournament = Predetermined site in Saint Louis (I guess fair)
Other Notes = -All five losses were away from home, and four were to teams with winning home records.  They also have a home win against Wichita State.

Of the five teams on this list, this is the team that we at Hoops HD have been giving the most love to, and although I definitely think they are worthy of consideration and comparable to other teams on the bubble who have really just won at home against top fifty teams that are bad on the road, I don’t like them as much as Middle Tennessee, or Texas Arlington, or UNC Wilmington.  While this team has a quality win and for the most part has avoided bad losses, the games they’ve won aren’t as hard to win as a lot of the games that Middle Tennessee, UT Arlington, and UNC Wilmington have won.  I still like them, though.

 

MONMOUTH (24-5)

RPI = 46 (fair)
OOC RPI = 35 (good)
OOC SOS = 119 (bad)
True Road Record = 11-4.  Three of the losses were at South Carolina, North Carolina, and Syracuse.  Only 5 teams have winning records at home, but Memphis and Siena are a combined 22-5 at home when not playing Monmouth (good)
Conference Tournament = Clinched first place in the Metro Atlantic, but the tournament is being hosted by Siena and they could have to play a virtual road game in the semifinals. (crap deal)

This isn’t the strongest profile, but it doesn’t smell any worse than some of the bubble teams from power conferences who’s best wins came at home against top fifty teams with losing road records.  They do have two bad losses to Rider and Saint Peter’s, but both were on the road, and also beat both of those teams, and they completely dominated the league which demonstrates they can beat anyone in it

Tourney anniversary: HoopsHD celebrates the 75th anniversary of Frosty Cox

As we prepare to commence the 2017 NCAA tourney we will take the next few weeks to reflect on some of the most significant anniversaries of players/coaches from tourneys past.  We begin with Colorado coach Forrest “Frosty” Cox, who led the Buffaloes to the Final Four way back in 1942.  He grew up in Kansas where he became an All-American for the Jayhawks under Hall of Fame coach Phog Allen before later serving as his assistant coach.  He was hired as head coach at Colorado in 1936 and beat his former coach in the 1942 NCAA tourney en route to making the Final 4.  After spending the final 7 years of his coaching career at Montana, he passed away in 1962.  HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel got to chat with his son Frosty Cox, Jr. as well as Colorado SID Dave Plati about his conference domination and winning the 1940 NIT title. 

Cox was nicknamed “Frosty” and the “Mountain Fox”: who gave him the nicknames, and how did he like them? Frosty Cox Jr.: “Frosty” was a name he got at birth so it just went with the territory. I think the “Mountain Fox” came from 1 of the local sportswriters but he always went by Frosty.

He attended college at Kansas where he was an all-conference halfback on the football team and an All-American guard on the basketball team: how did he like playing for Hall of Fame coach Phog Allen? Dave Plati: I have heard that he tried to emulate Phog’s coaching style. He was very big on fundamentals, especially on defense. People always said that he was a tiger as a coach and had no patience after the teaching period was over, but he was a father figure to everyone off the court.

In 1935 became head coach at Colorado: how did he fit into the school’s coaching legacys? DP: We had 2 legendary coaches in the 2 seasons before him: Hank Iba and Earl “Dutch” Clark.

He won the Mountain States Conference title 5 times from 1937-1942: how was he able to be so dominant for such a long period of time? DP: We were considered the top program west of the Mississippi back then. He morphed us into that and we would go play in the NIT a lot. It was really rare for a coach back then to get a lot of players from out of state but he was able to expand the recruiting horizons and look at players from outside the state.

In addition to basketball he was also a backfield coach for the football team: how did he like coaching future college football Hall of Famer/Supreme Court Justice Byron “Whizzer” White? DP: A lot of coaches back then would flip-flop as a head coach in 1 sport and an assistant coach in another sport.

In the 1st-ever NIT in 1938 he lost to Temple and NIT MVP Don Shields in the title game: where does that rank among the most devastating losses of his career? DP: I would imagine that there was some kind of vindication when they won it 2 years later so it did not sting as much. We had to travel by train back then so it was probably an adventure just getting to New York City! I have heard that the team was wiped out from all the travel.

In the 1940 NIT title game Bob Doll scored 15 PTS in a win over Duquesne: what did it mean to him to win a title? DP: I know that it was a big deal back here without any pro teams at the time. It was front page news when we won because it was pretty rare for a team from the West to head across the country and win a title. Our radio contract had not begun at that point so I wonder how long it took for the news to travel back here.

In the 1942 NCAA tourney All-American Leason McCloud scored 19 PTS in a 2-PT win over Kansas: what did it mean to him to beat his old coach or for McCloud to play his best against a team from his home state? DP: I have read that it was a big source of pride for him to beat Kansas in Kansas City. That might have been an even bigger win than the NIT title.

After leaving Colorado in 1950 and entering the cattle-raising business, he became head coach at Montana in 1955: what made him leave Boulder, and what made him get back into coaching? FCJ: He had an opportunity to go into the cattle business with my uncle in Kansas.  I think he just wanted a change after 15 years, but coaching always remained in his blood. Montana had an opening so he took it.

He passed away in 1962: when people look back at his career, how do you think he should be remembered the most? DP: We inducted him into our Hall of Fame a couple of years ago and the consensus was that it was about time. When you go back and examine his numbers and accomplishments you can see that he really put our program on the map and established our 1st sense of tradition. We were not on anyone’s radar until Byron White did his thing on the football field and Frosty helped keep Colorado as a national name.

News, Notes, and Highlighted Games: Tuesday, Feb 21st

NEWS AND NOTES

-For our latest Hoops HD Report, where we run through and analyze all the major conferences – CLICK HERE

-For Chad Sherwood’s UTR Game of the Day – CLICK HERE

-Virginia’s frustrations continue.  They’ve now lost six of eight, and although most of those aren’t even the least bit damaging, losing at home to a team that’s outside of the top 25 just isn’t something that a solid protected seed typically does.  On the flip side, it was a great win for Miami FL who continues to play better and better and who’s NCAA Tournament resume keeps getting stronger and stronger.

-UT Arlington picked up a win at Georgia Southern.  It was their 10th true road win of the year.  Some of those road wins include Texas (who while bad is still 10-5 at home, and the win occurred at a time when Texas still had their best player on the team), Saint Mary’s (who’s only other home loss was to Gonzaga), Georgia State (who’s 8-3 at home), and Georgia Southern (who is 8-2 at home).  That’s impressive.  Those teams aren’t tournament teams, but beating a top fifty team at home who has a losing record on the road really isn’t any harder to do than winning at Georgia Southern, or Georgia State, or certainly Saint Mary’s.  They also have a top 40 RPI and are in first place.  Outright first place teams with top forty RPIs generally get in no matter what.    Hmmm.  Another team to keep an eye on.  I just hope that the committee is.

-Iowa State picked up another nice road win at Texas Tech.  Texas Tech is still within reach of the NCAA Tournament, but after last night’s loss they’re really going to have to stretch in order to reach it.  Nothing against the Red Raiders, and I feel that Chris Beard has done a fantastic job in his first season, but given the choice I like UT Arlington better.

 

HIGHLIGHTED GAMES

-PURDUE AT PENN STATE (Big Ten).  Purdue is looking more and more like the best team in the Big Ten, and this is a good chance for them to add another road win to an already impressive profile.  If they hold serve they could end up as a protected seed.

-RHODE ISLAND AT LA SALLE (Atlantic Ten).  Rhody pretty much needs to win out and hope for the best, but they’re at-large chances aren’t entirely dead yet.  Just mostly dead.

-SOUTH CAROLINA AT FLORIDA (SEC).  South Carolina is still in relatively good shape, but they have hit ai bit of a tailspin.  Winning at Florida would certainly pull them out of it, but that’s much easier said than done.  The Gators’s profile indicates that they are on the fringe of a protected seed, but they need to prove they can win without Egbunu, so it’s a big game for them as well.

-CLEMSON AT VIRGINIA TECH (ACC).  Clemson keeps playing well against good teams and coming up just short.  Their NCAA Tournament hopes aren’t entirely extinguished, but every game for the rest of the season will have a pivotal feel.  If they can win on the road against a Virginia Tech team that appears to be squarely in the field it will certainly help things.

-OKLAHOMA AT BAYLOR (Big Twelve).  Baylor is coming off a loss to Kansas that is more frustrating and heartbreaking than it is damaging.  They don’t want to overlook this Sooners team, but this is a good chance for them to rebound with a winnable game.

-MONMOUTH AT FAIRFIELD (Metro Atlantic).  I realize that no one is talking about Monmouth as if they were a bubble team, but as weak as the bubble is maybe we should be looking at some of the top teams from the UTR leagues.  They’re 23-5 with a top 50 RPI, ten true road wins (and could make it 11 tonight), and have not lost since January 2nd.  They’re still under consideration on our SURVIVAL BOARD.  They may not be selected, but it’d be nuts to not at least look at them.

-GEORGE MASON AT DAYTON (Atlantic Ten).  Dayton is inside the bubble and will likely stay there so long as they hold serve in games like this.  George Mason is one of the more improved teams in the conference, and although they’re not a tournament caliber team you can’t help but be impressed with what they’ve done and feel that their program is once again heading in the right direction.

-NORTHWESTERN AT ILLINOIS (Big Ten).  Northwestern lost the first meeting between these two in what was kind of a surprising result.  In fact outside of their big win at Wisconsin they have been struggling recently, but they’re still relatively safe for a bid.  Winning this game and adding another road win to their resume would certainly help, not to mention give them the bragging rights.

-NC STATE AT GEORGIA TECH (ACC).  Georgia Tech is squarely on the bubble so every game for them has a pivotal feel.  They certainly don’t want to lose at home to a non-tournament team.

-EVANSVILLE AT WICHITA STATE (Missouri Valley).  Wichita State doesn’t have much in the way of quality wins, but they’re in the rankings and their power ratings are strong.  If they win out through the regular season I can’t imagine them missing the NCAA Tournament.

-SAINT JOHN’S AT MARQUETTE (Big East).  Marquette can’t exactly skate to the NCAA Tournament, but as long as they hold serve they should be fine.  That obviously means beating the Johnnies at home.

-KENTUCKY AT MISSOURI (SEC).  No comment.

-INDIANA AT IOWA (Big Ten).  Indiana is in awful shape right now, but if they can string together a strong finish, which is much easier said than done but still possible, they still have a chance of making the field.  They’ve been awful on the road.  A win tonight would at least give them another road win.

Under the Radar Game of the Day: Wright State at Northern Kentucky

Wright State at Northern Kentucky, 7:00 PM Eastern, espn3

For our latest Hoops HD Report video podcast, CLICK HERE.

This is the time of the season that teams in the Under the Radar conferences are battling it out for regular season championships and top seeds in their league tournaments.  However, there are some equally compelling battles that can happen lower down in conference standings, as teams battle for seeding position.  One such battle is taking place in the Horizon League tonight as our Under the Radar Game of the Day focuses in on the game between Wright State and Northern Kentucky.  The visiting Wright State Raiders enter play tonight at 19-9 overall and 10-5 in conference play, tied with Green Bay for third place, one game behind Oakland.  They have won four straight games including a double overtime thriller at Cleveland State on Saturday.  Grant Benzinger had an impressive 26 points and 10 rebounds for the Raiders in the victory.

Northern Kentucky is only a game behind Wright State, sitting at 18-10 overall and 9-6 in Horizon League play.  The Norse are eligible for the Division I tournament for the first time ever this season after having completed their four year transition.  They had won 6 of 7 games before being upset at Youngstown State this past weekend.  Their wins during that stretch included an 83-79 win in Dayton over Wright State back on February 4.  Drew McDonald led the Norse in scoring with 20 points, but was only one of four NKU players in double-digits in that win.  A home win tonight will not only move the Norse into a tie with Wright State, but will also give them the tiebreaker edge in seeding for the conference tournament.  Although Valparaiso continues to lead the conference standings, the Crusaders have had enough missteps in conference play that the door may be open for either of the teams in tonight’s contest to sneak in and steal the Horison League tourney title and its automatic bid.