North Dakota State 67, South Dakota State 73, Summit League Tournament
Two iconic Great Plains mammals, the Bison and the Jackrabbits, tangled in Sioux Falls, S.D., in the final game of the Summit League tourney. South Dakota State’s Nate Wolters, a high-scoring guard and Wooden Award finalist, led the ‘Rabbits to the NCAA Tournament with his 27-point, six-rebound, six-assist, four-steal performance on Tuesday night. He was a pure playmaker out there, hitting long jumpers, bounding to the rim, finding his teammates with creative passes. It will be SDSU’s second-straight appearance at the Big Dance.
South Dakota State shot nearly 48 percent from the field and 91 percent from the free throw stripe. In addition to Wolters’s brilliance, Jackrabbits forward Jordan Dykstra dropped in 18 points and grabbed seven boards. Forward Tony Fiegan added 12 points.
Guard Taylor Braun scored a team-high 23 points for the Bison in a close losing effort.
Watch out for SDSU at the NCAA Tourney—balanced, scrappy, and with a star player on a hot streak, the Jackrabbits could pull off an unlikely upset.
Other Tuesday notables
Princeton 71, Penn 58
Wyoming 85, Nevada 81
No. 15 New Mexico 59, Wyoming 46, Mountain West Tournament
Ah, Wyoming… so promising early in the season, but a rough downward tumble in MWC play. New Mexico sleepwalked through this one and still beat the Cowboys by 13 points; the Lobos never trailed in the ballgame. Tony Snell scored 15 points for New Mexico, which advanced to the semifinals and will face San Diego State on Friday.
So this is how it ends for the ‘Pokes—with a tough loss and ride off into the Las Vegas sunset.
Arizona State 89, Stanford 88 (OT), Pac-12 Tournament
The Sun Devils bested Stanford in a tight first-round ballgame on Wednesday. ASU freshman Jahii Carson, among the most talented players in the conference, scored 34 points—five in OT—to push the Devils into the second round. A tight game for all 40 minutes and beyond, ASU tied the score at 79 when Aaron Bright converted a four-point play with 38 seconds remaining in regulation. Carson was terrific in the extra session as the Sun Devils outscored the Cardinal 10-9.
Other Wednesday notables:
No. 19 Syracuse 75, Seton Hall 63
UNLV 72, Air Force 56
Colorado 74, Oregon State 68
No. 24 Notre Dame 73, No. 12 Marquette 65, Big East Tournament
Marquette enjoyed a solid Big East campaign and finished in a three-way tie for first place, but Notre Dame, dressed in ridiculous fluorescent green uniforms, didn’t care about the regular season. The Irish downed the Golden Eagles by eight points at Madison Square Garden, battling through a second half that saw 13 lead changes altogether, the AP noted. Pat Connaughton scored 18 points for the Irish, including six three-pointers. Jerian Grant added 17.
Notre Dame advanced to its fourth-straight Big East semifinal. It plays Louisville on Friday; the talented Cardinals knocked the Irish out of the Big East tourney last year and the year before. No. 4 Louisville advanced with a 74-55 win over Villanova.
No. 19 Syracuse 62, No. 17 Pittsburgh 59, Big East Tournament
The Orange held off Pitt at Madison Square Garden and advanced to Friday’s semifinals. Syracuse went bonkers from behind the arc, hitting 12-19 three-point shots (60 percent). Forward James Sutherland was responsible for six of those three’s, en route to his game-high 20 points. This was the final Big East meeting between Syracuse and Pitt—both schools are headed for the ACC next year.
UCLA 80, Arizona State 75, Pac-12 Tournament
At one point in Thursday’s quarterfinal matchup, UCLA was down by 15 points and playing some awful basketball. But the Bruins woke up, clawed back into the game with a 17-4 run in the second half and took down Arizona State. Freshman Shabazz Muhammad finished with 16 points (12 in the second half) and helped turn the tide for UCLA. Hyper-athletic and very polished for a freshman, Muhammad stepped up when his team needed him.
Guard Larry Drew II dropped in 20 points for UCLA, while Travis Wear scored 15. Another scintillating frosh, ASU guard Jahii Carson, scored 21 points for the Sun Devils. Teammate Jordan Bachynski had 22 points and six rebounds. UCLA, my pick to win the Pac-12 tourney, runs into No. 18 Arizona on Friday. C’mon Bruins… make me look good.
Charlotte 68, Richmond 63, Atlantic 10 Tournament
We had a wacky finish to this early-round matchup. With just under five seconds left in the game, Richmond had a 63-60 lead. Game in hand, right? Wrong. What ensued was just plain loony: three technical fouls, eight free throws and a head coach ejected. At the end of it, Charlotte won by five points and advanced to the next round. You can read all about it right here.
Other Thursday notables
No. 6 Michigan 83, Penn State 66
No. 14 Oklahoma State 74, Baylor 72
No. 18 Arizona 79, Colorado 69
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Olivier Hanlan, Boston College—This energetic Canadian freshman scored 41 points versus Georgia Tech on Thursday, shooting 14-18 from the field, 8-10 from behind the arc and 5-6 from the charity stripe. “Efficient” is not a strong enough word. Moreover, Hanlan’s outburst led the Eagles to an 84-64 waxing of the Yellow Jackets, and BC is moving on to the ACC tournament quarterfinals. The 41-point effort is the most points ever scored by a freshman in the ACC tourney. Well done, Olivier.
GAMES I’LL BE WATCHING
Holy cow, where to begin? There’s all sorts of conference tournaments happening this weekend, so find a TV and enjoy the ride. (Note: All of these games are happening Friday… turn on that TV as soon as you read this).
No. 24 Notre Dame vs No. 4 Louisville, Big East Tournament, Friday, 9:00 EST
Can the Irish finally beat these guys in the Big East tourney?
No. 19 Syracuse vs No. 5 Georgetown, Big East Tournament, Friday, 7:00 EST
A fitting end to an old rivalry. RIP, Big East as we’ve known it.
No. 8 Michigan State vs Iowa, Big Ten Tournament, Friday, 8:55 EST
I can’t believe it, but my beloved Hawkeyes could sneak into the Big Dance with a win over MSU. Unlikely, but I’ll be watching closely. Let’s go Hawks.
No. 18 Arizona vs No. 21 UCLA, Pac-12 Tournament, Friday, 9:00 EST
Two talented teams go to work in Las Vegas. Shabazz Muhammad will likely do something real special.
In the spirit of the season, here’s a list of teams that have already clinched a spot in the NCAA Tournament (you can thank ESPN for this handy-dandy compilation):
South Dakota State, Summit League
Creighton, Missouri Valley Conference
Belmont, Ohio Valley Conference
Bucknell, Patriot League
Gonzaga, West Coast Conference
Harvard, Ivy League
Western Kentucky, Sun Belt Conference
Valparaiso, Horizon League
LIU Brooklyn, Northeast Conference
Liberty, Big South Conference
Iona, Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference
James Madison, Colonial Athletic Conference
Florida Gulf Coast, Atlantic Sun Conference
Davidson, Southern Conference