One night after Stanford was blatantly robbed of a possible Pac-10 title share by a foul call so bad that even the UCLA players admit they got lucky, highly questionable refereeing struck again in the lower-profile, yet in some sense higher-stakes, setting of the Atlantic Sun quarterfinals.
Unlike NCAA-bound UCLA and Stanford, A-Sun semifinalists Belmont and East Tennessee State were fighting to extend their respective seasons — win or go home — when, with 19.4 seconds left and ETSU holding a 1-point lead and the ball, an official took it upon himself to completely change the course of the game by calling a technical foul on ETSU player Kenyona Swader, who appeared to lose his temper slightly after being fouled by a Belmont player. Belmont hit both technical free throws to take the lead, and ultimately won the game.
The TV announcers on Comcast Sports Southeast mostly defended the call, with the analyst repeating several times that Swader “swung an elbow.” But his elbow made no contact with anyone, and it didn’t even look like he’s intentionally doing anything aggressive with it. I don’t know what he said, of course, but unless it was about the ugliest, most egregious thing anyone’s ever said in the history of college basketball, I’m not convinced that it justifies calling a game-deciding “T.” All in all, to me, it looked like a very weak call, and one that’s pretty ridiculous to make in that situation. But judge for yourself:
Good grief. Let the players, not the refs, determine who wins and loses. Is that so much to ask?
Mike Tran took his first jury verdict yesterday, and it was a very good one. Almost every count was 12-0 for the defense. Sitting second chair, Mike’s been in trial virtually every day since he got sworn in (by his trial judge) in November. A lot of civil litigators go an entire career without ever taking a case that long and complex to trial, much less defensing it. I think he had fun, too. He’s only a three-month lawyer and he already has half a dozen really good war stories — and a huge victory in a trial where the other side’s two lawyers had more than 50 years of experience between them. The case won’t make the L.A. Times, but it’ll probably be in the Daily Journal’s Verdicts & Settlements in a few weeks.
#2-seed Jacksonville beat #6 Gardner-Webb in the Atlantic Sun semifinals tonight, ending any thought of an unlikely trip to the NCAA Tournament for the RPI #192-ranked team that stunned Kentucky at Rupp Arena earlier this season.
Jacksonville will play the winner of the ongoing Belmont-East Tennessee State game. I’ve been half-watching it with the sound down on the local Comcast Sports network, and it’s been insanely entertaining, particularly in the first half, when very little defense was being played and both teams were raining 3s. For example:
That ridiculously long-range ETSU three-pointer, with tons of time left on the shot clock, reminds me of what Ruth Riley used to do for the Notre Dame women’s team, back in the day. Amazing range, to be able to effortlessly swish a shot from that distance.
Speaking of amazing shots, here’s the video of that Bucknell miracle shot to beat Navy the other night:
Sabres fans, note the Rick Jeanneret reference at the end of the clip!
Meanwhile, in today’s big(-ish) Championship Week upset so far, #6 Valparaiso beat #3 Wright State in the Horizon League quarters.
In a sure sign of the changing "seasons" here on the Irish Trojan’s Blog — the lull before the Pennsylvania Primary and the approach of Selection Sunday means that, inevitably, politics will increasingly take a back seat to basketball this month — I’ve updated and expanded my College Basketball blogroll, and bumped it up above the Politics blogroll.
As I did with the Politics blogroll, I’d like to ask for your suggestions. Fellow hoops fans: what sites am I missing? Which ones should I take out? I haven’t really been reading basketball blogs very much this season, so I don’t know what’s the new hotness in the CBB blogosphere. Any thoughts will be much appreciated!
And never fear, fellow political junkies. I’ll still blog about politics. :) Just maybe not quite as much… but I think there’ll be plenty of time for USC/ND/Gonzaga-rooting and Hillary-bashing!
Although the Pac-10 regular-season title was decided in UCLA’s controversial overtime escape against Stanford across town, USC’s overtime win over Cal was arguably more important. Both the Bruins and Cardinal are, obviously, mortal locks for the Big Dance, and were just fighting over NCAA seeding and Pac-10 bragging rights. But the Trojans have been trying to get off the bubble and into the "lock" category for weeks, and last night’s win probably did it.
With the win, USC clinched at least fourth place in the Pac-10, and will finish no worse than 10-8 in what’s widely regarded as the best conference in the country. (Put another way, they’re 8-8 in the Pac-9. Sorry, Oregon State.) Andy Glockner’s most recent Bubble Watch said USC "probably only need[s] one win [in this weekend’s homestand against the Bay Area teams] to feel very good about their chances." Well, they got their one win. w00t!
Admittedly, it would be better if they can avoid losing to Stanford and then following it up with a first-round Pac-10 tourney loss, which would leave them at 19-12 overall, with that season-opening loss to Mercer preventing them from reaching 20 wins. But even then, it’s hard to imagine the committee leaving home the fourth-place team in the Pac-10, especially given USC’s quality wins (and two very impressive near-wins against Top 5 teams), and particularly in this "weak bubble" year. Joe Lunardi currently has the Trojans as a #7 seed, and I very much doubt that two losses to quality teams (Stanford and probably Arizona State) would drop them from that perch all the way out of the tournament.
The bigger question is what the Trojans’ Pac-10 tournament seed will be, which has major implications for my bet with Mike Tran. As you’ll recall, Mike and I made a high-stakes bet on who would win the season series between USC and UCLA — if it’s the Bruins, I have to rename my NCAA pool after UCLA; if it’s the Trojans, he has to humiliate himself in front of Tommy Trojan and photograph it for posterity — and because the teams split during the regular season, a possible matchup in the Pac-10 tournament would be the decisive rubber match.
UCLA will be the #1 seed. USC and Washington State are tied for third at 10-7 in conference play right now, but the Cougars own the head-to-head tiebreaker, having swept the Trojans. That means the Trojans will be the #4 seed unless they beat Stanford and Wazzu cougs it against Washington in the teams’ respective Saturday finales. In that scenario, USC would be the #3 seed. Obviously, the big difference is that USC being the #4 seed would make a semifinal matchup with UCLA highly likely — the Bruins would simply need to beat the #8 or #9 team, probably Washington or Cal, and USC would simply need to beat the #5 team, probably Arizona State — whereas USC being a #3 seed would increase the chances that one or both teams would get knocked off before they can meet in the title game (thus causing the bet to be a wash).
Gardner-Webb — the team that shocked Kentucky at Rupp Arena back in early November, then went 14-15 for the rest of the season and finished sixth in the Atlantic Sun conference — is suddenly two victories away from the Big Dance after upsetting #3-seed Stetson in the quarterfinals of the A-Sun tourney yesterday.
The Runnin’ Bulldogs will play #2 Jacksonville in the semifinals tonight, and if they win that one, they’d face either #1 Belmont or #4 East Tennessee State in the championship game on ESPN2 tomorrow night at 7:00 PM. All games are at Nashville’s Allen Arena, home floor of Lipscomb (whom ETSU eliminated yesterday).
You have to think the ESPN powers-that-be are rooting for Gardner-Webb to
reach the title game. They’ve probably got more name recognition than
any team in the history of the Atlantic Sun, thanks to their win over
Kentucky. And a possible Cinderella run to the Big Dance by
the Wildcat conquerors would be quite a storyline — and would probably boost ratings
for that game — especially with Kentucky now an improbable bubble contender! It would be like if Appalachian State had somehow been invited to a minor bowl game or something.
Anyway, the rest of yesterday’s Championship Week action
went according to form. That’s bad news for Central Connecticut State
and Quinnipiac, the #6 and #5 seeds in the NEC, who gave us such a memorable March Madness-ish moment in late February, but who both lost
yesterday in the conference quarterfinals, thus joining Yale on the
list of Connecticut Division I men’s basketball teams whose seasons are
over. (Still alive: UConn, obviously; Sacred Heart, which beat CCSU and
advances to the NEC semis; Hartford, the #2 seed in the America East;
and Fairfield, the #5 seed in the MAAC. Both the Hawks and the Stags
begin conference tournament play on Saturday; Sacred Heart’s semifinal
The lack of upsets yesterday is good news, however, for the Big South conference, which saw its two best teams, #1 UNC Asheville and #2 Winthrop, advance to Saturday morning’s title game. Winthrop, as my fellow Domers will recall, knocked off Notre Dame
in a 6-11 game last year. However, despite the lack of upsets in the
conference tourney, it doesn’t look like this year’s Big South champ
will get such a good seed. Joe Lunardi has UNC Asheville as one of the teams in the play-in game, and Winthrop’s RPI
is basically the game (#132 rather than #135), so it’s pretty likely
the winner will be a #16 seed, barring a rash of upsets in other
low-major conferences. (E.g., teams like RPI #192 Gardner-Webb making it to the Dance.)
So, what’s on top today? Well, there’s first-round action in the CAA
(the 8-9, 7-10, 6-11, and 5-12 games), MAAC (8-9 and 7-10), America
East (8-9), Southern (8-9, 7-10 and 6-11), and the double-byed WCC (5-8, 6-7). There’s also the two quarterfinals of the similarly double-byed
Horizon League tourney, the Tennessee-dominated semifinals in the Ohio
Valley (#1 Austin Peay vs. #4 UT Martin, #2 Murray State vs. #6
Tennessee State — all of those schools except Murray State are in the
Volunteer State), the aforementioned Atlantic Sun semis (with both
Belmont and ETSU also representin’ Tennessee). And, last but not least,
the quarterfinals of Arch Madness — the Missouri Valley Conference tourney.
HUGE crowd at the WDVX Blue Plate Special today for the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra's string quartet and, in the show's second half, renouned Cape Breton Island fiddler Natalie MacMaster. So cool.
Although this move prevents any possibility of the Michael Barone scenario, in which Puerto Rico could have been effectively a winner-take-all victory for Hillary Clinton (a scenario that I think wouldn’t have happened anyway), it’s nevertheless good news for Hillary in two ways: