|TEXAS' ASCENDANCE HEADLINES WEEKLY DISH
February 16, 2011
Mike, SCS.com Staff Writer
As Ohio State suffered its first loss of the year at Wisconsin on Saturday, the debate opened up as to whom should be the four number one seeds come tournament time. Last week, the Weekly Dish took its first in-depth look at the bubble and this week, we’ll briefly revisit it. While conference play is more than halfway over, there are some teams that continue to see their stock rise as others can expect to be wearing road uniforms on the first day of the NCAA Tournament. Here is a look at this week’s risers and fallers:
Working Towards A #1 Seed
Texas has won 10 in a row; Until Saturday, Texas had not played a game decided by less than ten since its last loss, to Connecticut, back in early January. During the Longhorns win streak, Texas has notched a pair of victories over arch-rival Texas A&M by an average of 20.5 points-per-game. Texas also has a 13 point win over Missouri and handed Kansas its first loss of the year winning 74-63 at Lawrence. The Longhorns have won 16 of 17 overall and are one of just three schools that remain unbeaten in conference play.
The Panthers continue to lead the best conference in basketball. Pittsburgh still has not lost a true road game; the Panthers held on to win at Villanova 57-54 on Saturday night. Pitt also proved the depth of its team on Saturday as the Panthers went into a hostile environment and knocked off a top ten team without their leading scorer. Without Ashton Gibbs, Pittsburgh got 21 points from Brad Wanamaker and 15 from Nasir Robinson. Pittsburgh may very well be the defensive team in the country having allowed just three of its 25 opponents to break 70 points.
Playing Their Way In
After an 11-8 start, the Red Storm of St. John’s have become a force to be reckoned with in the Big East. St. John’s has won four of its last five and had another nice week. Having previously beat Georgetown, Notre Dame and Duke, the Red Storm recorded an impressive 89-72 win over Connecticut on Wednesday. On Sunday, St. John’s went without a field goal in the final nine minutes, but still managed to down fellow bubble team Cincinnati on the road. St. John’s is currently 15-9 with a 7-5 record in the Big East. The Red Storm still have DePaul, Seton Hall and South Florida on the schedule. A 10-8 finish in the Big East would almost guarantee St. John’s an at-large spot in the NCAA Tournament.
Xavier has recorded a pair of key road victories in the last week. Last Monday, the Musketeers hit clutch shots down the stretch to knock off Georgia in Athens 65-57. On Sunday, Xavier broke a first place tie in the Atlantic-10 conference by beating Duquesne 71-63. Guard Tu Holloway led the Musketeers with 20 points while teammate Dante Jackson poured in 19 points on seven-for-nine shooting in the victory. Xavier is currently in sole possession of first place in the A-10 and the final six games of the regular season come against the bottom six teams in the 14-team, Atlantic-10 conference.
Playing Their Way Out
Since beginning the year 8-0, the Northwestern Wildcats have dropped 10 of 16 and have lost five of their last six. Northwestern blew a huge opportunity to knock off then top-ranked Ohio State at home a few weeks ago and the Wildcats have not seemed to recover. Northwestern lost at Michigan last Tuesday and was blown out at Penn State on Sunday. Northwestern is 4-9 in Big Ten play, but should be favored in its next three games before closing the year with Wisconsin and Minnesota. Northwestern will likely have to win out in the regular season to avoid having to win the conference tournament in order to make the NCAA Tournament. Northwestern has never reached the NCAA Tournament.
After an 8-0 start in Atlantic-10 play, Duquesne dropped a pair of consecutive conference games. The Dukes followed their first conference loss last Saturday with a tough-fought home defeat at the hands of Xavier. Duquesne’s bubble appears on the verge of bursting. The Dukes were competitive in the non-conference, but their best win remains at home against Temple. Duquesne needs to play well in its final six regular season or it may have to win the conference tournament to reach the dance. Duquesne’s biggest remaining game will be the regular season finale at Richmond on March 5th.
On Saturday, the Badgers came from 15 down to defeat top-ranked and previously undefeated Ohio State. The victory was the fourth in a row for Wisconsin and the seventh in eight games. Wisconsin is currently 9-3 in the Big Ten and are undefeated at home this season. Four of Wisconsin’s final six games are on the road, but a better than .500 finish in their remaining game could give the Badgers a top four seed in the NCAA Tournament.
After a 1-4 start in Big East play, Georgetown has won eight straight games with each coming in conference play. Seven of the Hoyas’ last eight wins have come by less than ten points and four have come by five or fewer. Guard Austin Freeman is averaging nearly 20 points-per-game during the Hoyas’ winning streak. A 3-2 finish in its final five games would almost assure Georgetown a first round bye in the conference tournament.
After December losses to UCF and Jacksonville, Florida looked as though it was headed toward another Selection Sunday on the bubble. Since conference play began however, the Gators are 9-2 and winners of 12 of 14 overall. Florida has won its last three home games over Vanderbilt, Kentucky and Tennessee by a combined seven points. If the Gators have a weakness, it is their lack of depth. Florida will need the bench to step of as it will be without versatile forward Chandler Parsons for an indefinite period of time.
Through 18 games, Syracuse looked like a legitimate contender for a National Championship. Since an 18-0 start, the Orange have dropped six of their last nine despite winning at home against West Virginia on Monday night. Where the Orange have struggled is on the defensive end. Prior to its first loss, Syracuse had not allowed a single opponent to reach the 80-point-plateau. During its four-game-losing-streak following the hot start, Syracuse gave up an average of better than 80 points-per-game. The Orange finish the regular season with home games against Rutgers and DePaul sandwiched around road games at Villanova and Georgetown. Syracuse will likely need to go 4-0 to receive a first round bye in the Big East Tournament.
The Volunteers appeared to be back on track after a mid-season slide that saw Tennessee lose to the likes of Oakland, Charlotte, USC and the College of Charleston. In its last three games however, Tennessee has gone 0-3 including an overtime loss to Alabama and a heartbreaking road-loss at Florida on Saturday night. The Dish still has Tennessee in the tournament, but the Vols will need to finish strong and perhaps even make some noise in the SEC Tournament. Tennessee has impressive wins against Pittsburgh, Villanova and Vanderbilt, but it will need to finish with a strong overall record to avoid having to sweat on Selection Sunday.