CIT Game of the Day – March 26

Yale at Columbia, 7:00 PM Eastern, watchcollegeinsider.com

The Ivy League — one of the oldest and longest existing conferences in the NCAA.  The Ivy has existed since before the NCAA and NIT tournaments began playing in the late 1930s.  And in all those years, never have two teams from the Ivy League matched up head-to-head in a postseason tournament.  Never, that is, until tonight.  Tonight the Yale Bulldogs take on the Columbia Lions in the quarterfinals of the CIT.

Yale enters tonight’s game at 17-13 overall.  The Bulldogs finished 9-5 in conference, good enough for second place behind Harvard.  Columbia, on the other hand, is 21-12 entering play tonight, one of the best season’s for the Lions in a very long time.  The Lions even have a shot, with a CIT championship, to set their team record for wins in a season — a record that stands at 23 set back in 1968.  Columbia was 8-6 in the Ivy League this year, tied with Princeton for third place.

This is the third meeting of the season between these two teams.  Yale won at home back in January, 69-59, but then lost at Columbia in late February, 62-46.  Tonight’s game is both the rubber match of the season for these two teams as well as a chance to advance to next week’s semifinals.  No matter which team wins though, Ivy League history will be made at Levien Gymnasium in New York City tonight.

Other action tonight in the CIT:
7:00 PM – VMI at Ohio University
10:00 PM – San Diego at Pacific

Puppet Ramblings About the NCAA Tournament

I HATE THE FIRST FOUR

-I don’t so much mind the tournament at 68 teams, but I would still much prefer it at 64. This is a championship, not a jamboree, and 64 teams are enough. Having said that, the logistics of the First Four are a nightmare. It’s very difficult to get teams and fans to Dayton on 48 hrs notice, and it’s even more difficult to get them to their next site immediately after that. To go from Albany to Dayton to Orlando is pretty taxing. Why not just put the games at the Round of 64/32 sites and play it the night before the round of 64?? I’d much rather play two games in two days at one site than two games in three days at two sites.

I would also like the idea of the First Four a lot more if strong consideration were given to good teams that are from one bid leagues. Green Bay, Louisiana Tech (or Southern Miss), Belmont and Toledo would have all been good teams for the First Four. I still think Green Bay and Belmont were better teams than NC State, Tennessee and Xavier. I know Tennessee is in the Sweet Sixteen, but they could win the national title and it won’t change my mind. Selections are based on what a team has done, not on what they might do.

 

STOP WHINING!!!

-Rick Pitino was complaining about how his team had to play Manhattan in the Round of 64, and was quoted as saying that the selection committee should show some common sense when pairing the teams. The reason he was upset was because his long time assistant Steve Massiello is now the head coach at Manhattan. I cannot, for the life of me, think of any reason at all that avoiding match ups between coaches who used to work together should be any sort of a priority.

When the two met in the round of 64, it was a hard fought game with a lot of fouls. Manhattan has really been putting out maximum effort, and it wasn’t until the final minute of the game that Louisville got control. Manhattan didn’t really kick it into gear until the middle of conference play, though. Had they played like that all the way back to November, they would have probably been higher than a #13 seed and not paired with Louisville.

 

UPSETS!!!

-I did not pick Dayton to beat Ohio State and Syracuse, but I am not surprised that they did it. I was about 60/40 in favor of Ohio State, and about 55/45 of Syracuse. Ohio State had gone through bouts where they struggled on offense, and Dayton had really played well down the stretch. Dayton had only been past the round of 64 twice since the field expanded to 64, so it was a feel good win for them, especially since it came against an Ohio State team who they would love to play regularly, but rarely do.

Syracuse has been going through a phase for the past month. It’s called “not playing good basketball.” And, against Dayton in the round of 32, they did not snap out of that phase. I thought the zone would give Dayton fits, and it did, but Syracuse’s offense was equally as unimpressive, and just as they did against Ohio State, Dayton ended up winning on a missed last second shot.

They’re on to the Sweet Sixteen to face a Stanford team, which looked good at times throughout the year, but never good enough to beat a team like Kansas. They took down a pretty good New Mexico team in the first round, and then followed it up with a win against a Kansas team who could not get anything going on offense. Not being at full strength certainly impacted the Jayhawks. They had to sweat out Eastern Kentucky and didn’t get control of that game until late.

-Mercer over Duke is another one that I didn’t actually pick, but didn’t shock me as much as it probably did a lot of people. Duke isn’t the best defensive team, and Mercer had a ton of experience. What was shocking is that Duke dominated the offensive glass, but still wasn’t able to win the game. Mercer’s win matched them up against Tennessee, who they played and beat in the first round of the NIT last year, and who I thought they’d beat again. In fact, I was more surprised at how poorly Mercer played against Tennessee than I was with their upset over Duke.

-Coastal Carolina stayed with Virginia for about 32 minutes, but couldn’t get over the top. Eastern Kentucky stayed with Kansas even longer, but ended up coming up short. It was still two really good performances by teams that I did not think would do well at all.

-The upset that completely blew me away was SFA over VCU. Even had VCU won the game and not fouled a three point shooter while up by four, I still would have been very surprised with SFA’s effort. I know they had a gaudy record, but I had seen them several times and had not been impressed. I was very impressed with how they played against a very good VCU team. They didn’t put up much of a fight against UCLA, but the fact that they were even able to stay with and beat VCU was the thing that happened over the weekend that I least expected.

 

OTHER TIDBITS

-New Mexico’s streak of never making the Sweet Sixteen since the field expanded to 64…..continues.

-I thought Kentucky played their best game of the year against Wichita State, but I still thought Wichita was going to win. There are two camps when it comes to Wichita State. Some say that their bracket wasn’t fair because it was too stacked, and others say that they were never good enough to be a #1 seed, and the loss to Kentucky proved it. I think they’re both wrong. The Midwest bracket is strong because the teams in the Midwest are strong. It was done because it didn’t make any sense to ship Louisville, or Kentucky, or Michigan, to any place other than Indianapolis. Besides, if a bracket is tough, then the #1 seed is supposed to be the reason it’s tough.

And yes, they did lose, but they were a good team. No one is saying Duke didn’t deserve their #3 seed, or that Nova didn’t deserve their #2 seed, or that Syracuse didn’t deserve they’re #3 seed. Seeding is based on what teams have done coming into the tournament and not a predictor of what they’ll do once it starts. Good seeded teams do occasionally lose.

-Tim Miles, who I think is one of the best coaches in the country, was ejected in Nebraska’s Round of 64 game against Baylor. He earned his second technical trying to point out that the shot clock wasn’t working….and it wasn’t. The referee thought he was arguing a call, and ejected him. These officials are supposed to be the best. I’m a little less than impressed with a crew that messes up the shot clock, doesn’t notice it, and then kicks the guy out who merely attempted to point that out, ESPECIALLY, if that person is Tim Miles. The correct response would have been to apologize to Miles, ask him how much time he would like put back on the clock, and then comply with his request.

-Baylor followed up their thrashing of Nebraska with a thrashing of Creighton. Scott Drew is not welcome any place in Nebraska. Many critics are very hard on Scott Drew, and I understand why, but a win later this week against a Wisconsin team they match up very well against would send them to their third Elite Eight in five years.

-Louisville and Kentucky will square off in the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years. It’s always a highly emotional game, and a win for Louisville is the only way they’ll get over the loss in the Final Four two years ago. There are seven other Sweet Sixteen games, but I don’t think anyone in the state of Kentucky is even aware of them.

-In 2007, Thad Matta’s Ohio State Buckeyes knocked out Sean Miller’s Xavier team in overtime after hitting a last second shot to force overtime. In 2013, Ohio State knocked off Sean Miller’s Arizona team on a last second shot in the Sweet Sixteen. This year, Ohio State missed a last second shot that would have knocked out Archie Miller’s Dayton team. I guess Thad Matta likes Archie more than Sean.

-Podcast coming later this week. Enjoy the games!!

CIT Game of the Day – March 24

Nebraska-Omaha at Murray State, 8:00 PM Eastern, watchcollegeinsider.com

The CIT is back in action tonight with the final Second Round game as the Mavericks of Nebraska-Omaha head to Kentucky to take on the Murray State Racers.  While the CIT does not normally announce its next round matchups until a round is complete, given that this game is being played two days after the completion of all other second round games, the quarterfinal matchups were released yesterday and the winner of this game will take on Towson later this week for a shot at the semifinals.

Omaha enters today’s game at 17-14 overall.  They were one of the surprises of the Summit League regular season, finishing in the middle of the pack.  However, due to being in their third of four transitional years up to the Division I level, they were ineligible for both the Summit League tournament and the conference’s automatic bid.  A chance to play in the CIT is, however, giving the program postseason experience as it moves towards eligibility in the 2015-16 season.

Murray State enters tonight’s game at 19-11 overall.  They finished 13-3 in the Ohio Valley Conference, winning the West Division.  The Racers fell in the OVC semifinals to eventual champion Eastern Kentucky.  While EKU came up short against Kansas in the first round of the NCAAs, this has still been and can continue to be a solid postseason for the OVC.  Belmont will be playing at Clemson Tuesday night in the quarterfinals of the NIT, and Murray State can advance to the CIT quarterfinals with a victory at home tonight.  However, to get that far, they will have to find a way to defeat a tough Omaha team first.

CIT Game of the Day – March 22

Wright State at Ohio University, 2:00 PM Eastern, watchcollegeinsider.com

On Thursday afternoon, the NCAA tournament got underway with Dayton’s one point win over Ohio State.  Today, another “Ohio” team, the Ohio University Bobcats, will be hosting another in-state rival from Dayton, the Wright State Raiders, in the second round of the CIT.

Wright State finished the regular season 20-14 following a loss on their home court to Milwaukee in the Horizon League championship game.  The Raiders were a bit of a disappointment this year, having been expected to contend for the regular season title, and then having their conference tournament run ended one game too soon as well.  They are trying yet again to redeem their year in the CIT, and have already defeated East Carolina to reach today’s game.

Ohio U at times this season looked like the best team in the MAC.  However, some late season stumbles dropped them all the way to fifth place overall, ending the year at 11-7 in league and 23-11 overall, including a MAC tournament quarterfinal loss.  The Bobcats are also trying to bounce back here in the CIT, and already have a two point victory over another in-state rival, Cleveland State, to show for their efforts.  Today’s winner will be the lone surviving team in the CIT from the state of Ohio and, should Dayton fall in the NCAAs today, will be the only team from the state of Ohio still playing.

Today’s other CIT action is:
IPFW at VMI, 1:00 PM
Yale at Holy Cross, 7:00 PM
Eastern Michigan at Columbia, 7:00 PM
San Diego at Sam Houston State, 7:00 PM
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi at Pacific, 9:00 PM

CIT Game of the Day – March 21

Towson at East Tennessee State, 7:00 PM Eastern, watchcollegeinsider.com

The CIT’s second round tips off tonight with a single game, the CAA’s Towson Tigers heading to Johnson City, Tennessee to take on the East Tennessee State Buccaneers, a team that is finishing its final campaign in the Atlantic Sun before returning to the Southern Conference next season.

Towson was 23-10 overall and 13-3 in conference this season, finishing in second place behind CAA tournament champion Delaware, though falling in the tournament semifinals to William & Mary.  Pat Skerry’s team has been one of the most amazing turnaround stories in athletics the past couple of years.  The Tigers, just two short years ago, went 1-31 on the season and won the HoopsHD Centenary Award for being the worst team in Division I.  Tonight they are looking for their second win in the CIT which would bring their total to 25 overall — a 24 game improvement over just two years ago.  While the NCAA tournament bid eluded the Tigers this year, the future continues to look amazingly bright for this program.

ETSU entered the CIT this season with an overall record of 18-15.  Their 10-8 conference mark was good enough for a fourth place tie in the A-Sun.  They also played in one of the most exciting conference tournament games this season, a double overtime quarterfinal win over Lipscomb, before losing to Florida Gulf Coast in the semifinals.  Continuing to win and advance through the CIT this season will certainly give this program momentum as it moves to the SoCon next year — and with a good number of their key players returning, there is no reason the Bucs will not be able to contend for an NCAA bid next year.