The College Basketball Closer is written by the gang at Storming the Floor.
Philadelphia sports fans are very used to failure at this point. Going 25 years between championships tends to do that to a fan. Still, the college basketball scene in the City of Brotherly Love, home to the historic Big 5, has managed to remain somewhat successful over the years. While none of five have reached the Final Four since Nova's miracle run in 1985 (Historians claim this to be the last remnant of a championship to reach the greater Philadelphia area), Saint Joseph's, Nova and Temple have all reached the Elite Eight in the past decade.
But it looks as if the curse of William Penn may have finally struck the college hoops scene, as Philly may be shut out of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1977. As of today, Saint Joseph's, Villanova and Temple all appear to be on the wrong side of the bubble, and recent tourney staple Penn has been eliminated from the Ivy race, swept by long-dormant Cornell.
Barring finals runs in the Big East tournament by Nova and Atlantic 10 tournament by SJU and Temple, it looks like Philly soul will be left out of the dance for the first time in 30 years. Which is going to make for a very dull March, even if someone busts out Green Man.
And let's not even talk about Balls State.
Shakespeare Couldn't Have Written a Better Ending. Ohio State 80-Purdue 77. Wow. Really bad night for Purdue in Columbus. Kramer and Hummel combined to shoot 1-8 from behind the arc, and tallied only 11 points. The only positive that came out of this game was that freshmen E'Twaun Moore and Scott Martin picked up the scoring load, which could come in handy come tournament time. Ohio State's Othello Hunter (56% from the stripe over the course of the season) hit the clutch freebies in OT to keep bubble hope alive for the Buckeyes.
The Objective is to Get OFF the Bubble... Ole Miss 81-Arkansas 72. I can't remember another year in which so many gut-check games were frittered away in the last two weeks of the season. Arkansas was in excellent position to climb permanently into the brackets after beating Vanderbilt, then they drop this stinker in Oxford to a previously flailing Ole Miss team. Rebs Center Dwayne Curtis went for 23 and 11.
We're Too Tired to Eat the Free Tacos. Tennessee-Martin 101-Samford 94 (3OT). Lester Hudson, a scoring phenom who may or may not understand long division, lived to fight another day after this Ohio Valley tournament slugfest.
Shoulda Made A Left Turn at Albuquerque. New Mexico 59-UNLV 45. J.R. Giddens had some 'splodin' to do, and he concussed all over Lon Kruger's Runnin' Rebs. The Kansas transfer had 17 points, 15 rebounds, and 5 assists as he moved his team within a whisker of second place in the Mountain West.
The NIT Has Become So Commercial. In other news, if you're just dying to watch some third-rate basketball in March, you're in luck. Fox Sports Net has announced that they will be carrying the inaugural College Basketball Invitational, otherwise known as "Sixteen teams so bad they didn't even make the NIT." I can't wait to see Frank Caliendo planted in the audience at the Grambling State-Florida International game.
Tonight's Big Game
Mississippi State (20-8) at Vanderbilt (24-5). This game features one of my favorite players from this season - Jarvis Varnado. The Bulldog sophomore has put up the blue-collar points/rebounds/blocks triple-double once this season, and is always a threat to double an opponent up in any of those three categories. That said, this game is played in ultra-funky Memorial Gym, where Tennessee lost the No. 1 ranking just about one week ago.