A look at some of the early winners and losers from BracketBusters weekend. We'll update this following the rest of Saturday night's slate.
Winner: Murray State
Had Murray State lost to Saint Mary's on Saturday and in the OVC tournament in March, there are some who have suggested it might not have heard its names called on Selection Sunday. The Racers no longer have to worry about that, however, thanks to a surprisingly one-sided, 65-49 win over the Gaels. With a 26-1 record validated by wins over Saint Mary's, Southern Mississippi, Memphis and Dayton, Murray State is an NCAA tournament lock with hope of a favorable seed. The Racers can maybe play their way into a No. 6 seed if they can avenge their lone regular season loss against Tennessee State on Thursday, beat Tennessee Tech next Saturday and win the OVC tournament.
[ Related: Murray State eliminates doubt with dominating win ]
Loser: Long Beach State
It looks like Long Beach State may have to win the Big West tournament to secure its bid to March Madness. A heart-pounding 81-79 loss at Creighton likely left the 49ers a noteworthy win short of an at-large bid despite their undefeated Big West record and wins over Pittsburgh and Xavier during grueling non-league schedule. What will haunt Long Beach State about Saturday night's game is squandering both a late lead and the potential tie-breaking possession in the final minute. Instead of putting the ball in the hands of point guard Casper Ware, the 49ers posted up forward T.J. Robinson, who lost the ball out of bounds to pave the way for Creighton to win in the final second.
Still reeling from a three-game losing streak earlier this month, Creighton needed to beat Long Beach State to regain momentum heading into March and to avoid seeing its NCAA tournament seeding take another hit. The Bluejays got it done thanks to an efficient 36 points from star Doug McDermott and a clutch play in the final seconds from point guard Antoine Young. With the game tied and the clock ticking down, Young penetrated the Long Beach State defense, pulled up from seven feet when he encountered resistance and sank the go-ahead fallaway jumper with three tenths of a second left. The result was a satisfying victory, albeit one that continues to raise concerns about Creighton's suspect defense and sudden outside shooting woes.
If Binghamton was going to avoid being the only Division I team to go winless this season, Saturday's BracketBusters game against Big South bottom feeder Radford was probably the best chance for a win. The Bearcats rallied from a 16-point second-half deficit to close within three in the final minute but lost for the 26th time this season, falling 64-59 to a Highlanders team that has lost 23 times itself this season. The good news for Binghamton is two of its final three games this season are at home, but the odds of a victory remain slim. Vermont, Albany and New Hampshire won their respective first meetings with the Bearcats by a combined 41 points.
Winner: Wichita State
Although Wichita State didn't draw the caliber of opponent it hoped to in BracketBusters, the Shockers made the most of their trip to Southern Conference power Davidson. They broke open a tight game early in the second half and rolled to a 91-74 win, remaining in good position to earn a No. 4 or 5 seed in the NCAA tournament. Balanced scoring has been one of Wichita State's strengths, but guard Joe Ragland carried the Shockers on Saturday. The 6-foot sharpshooter sank 11 of 14 shots, including a trio of threes, finishing with a game-high 30 points.
Loser: Saint Mary's
February has not been kind to Saint Mary's in recent years. Three years ago, a Patrick Mills broken hand kept the Gaels out of the NCAA tournament. Last season, it was a three-game losing streak to San Diego, Utah State and Gonzaga that derailed their at-large hopes. And this February, the Gaels again are coughing and wheezing down the stretch. A 65-49 loss at Murray State won't knock Saint Mary's out of the NCAA tournament, but it certainly wasn't a positive omen. The Gaels have now lost three of four and have health issues too, with Matthew Dellavedova hobbled by a gimpy ankle and guard Steven Holt out with a knee injury.
Since its RPI is still hovering in the 80s and it's lacking non-league wins of note, Drexel needed not just to win at Cleveland State but to send a message to the selection committee that it should be considered for an at-large in spite of those flaws. The Dragons certainly accomplished that Saturday morning at Cleveland State, opening a 19-3 lead and extending it to as many as 29 in the second half en route to a easy 69-49 victory. Granted Cleveland State was without top defender D'Aundray Brown for the third straight game, but this was a road win that provided validation for Drexel's 14-2 CAA record. The Dragons also benefited from fellow CAA contenders VCU, George Mason and Old Dominion winning their BracketBusters games, providing a much-needed boost to the perception of the league.
Loser: Cleveland State
It was only two weeks ago Cleveland State was on the fringes of the at-large picture. Now the reeling Vikings have lost four in a row culminating a 69-49 throttling at the hands of CAA co-leader Drexel. The trigger for the free fall is the absence of defensive stopper D'Aundray Kane (groin), but that's not the only reason Cleveland State is struggling. The Vikings simply had virtually no success against Drexel's stingy defense, shooting a mere 27 percent from the field. Whereas Cleveland State appeared all but assured of a top-two finish in the Horizon League and a bye to the conference tourney semifinals, the Vikings now may have to win their final three games against Green Bay, Detroit and Wright State to feel confident in that.
Winner: Loyola Marymount
Even though LMU's 61-53 victory over Horizon leader Valparaiso won't propel the Lions into the at-large conversation, it does exemplify why they'll be extremely dangerous in the WCC tournament next month. Point guard Anthony Ireland scored 18 points and LMU led from start to finish on Friday night, humbling a Crusaders team that can clinch the Horizon League title with one victory in its final two games. Early losses to Columbia, North Texas and Morgan State decimated LMU's RPI, but the Lions now have wins over Saint Mary's, Saint Louis, BYU and UCLA in addition to Valpo. LMU can finish 12-4 in the WCC if it beats Santa Clara and San Diego next week.
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- Murray State
- NCAA tournament
- Cleveland State