After a wild Bracket Buster Saturday, some mid majors proved that they have upset potential in the tournament. The College Court is here to recap the games for you and tell you which teams are true contenders in being Cinderellas in March.
Murray St. 65, St. Mary’s 51: What was expected to be the best game of the bracket busters actually turned into a blowout. Matthew Dellavedova was the only Gael to score in double figures, as he got 17 points on a bum ankle. Meanwhile, the Racers picked up the signature win they needed behind five three pointers by Isaiah Canaan.
For Murray St., I’m now convinced that they are for real and can do some damage in the tournament. At first I was iffy because they had not beaten anyone, but I can tell that the players on this team can certainly contend with some of the bigger schools in the nation. Andy Katz said that Canaan has Kemba Walker-like ability, and while that may be a stretch, he is certainly one of the best point guards in the nation. As for the Gaels, I’m not too high on them. I don’t think they’re going to win the West Coast Conference and they’ll probably get a low seed, so don’t be shocked if St. Mary’s makes an early exit.
Drexel 69, Cleveland St. 49: The Dragons wiped the floor with the host Vikings as we saw an incredibly hot team beat one that’s slumping. Damion Lee led Drexel with 18 points while Trevon Hamon’s 23 points for Cleveland St. was the only bright spot for the Vikings. Drexel has now won 21 of 22 games while Cleveland St. has lost four in a row.
At this point, Cleveland St. is very much still in the Horizon League race, but with Valparaiso in the lead and Detroit and Butler right on their tails, I don’t expect them to come out of that conference. As for Drexel, they still need to fend off George Mason and VCU, but if they can get into the tournament, they’ll be one of the hottest teams in the nation and one nobody wants to face.
Wichita St. 91, Davidson 74: You can read my full recap of this game in the archive of our site, but I’ll give a quick recap here. Davidson played the Shockers close for the first half, but they shot lights out in the second behind 30 points from Joe Ragland. The Wildcats did look impressive however, especially the inside-outside presence of Jake Cohen (25 points).
I think Wichita St. is the best mid major team in the country. They are incredibly balanced and have multiple prolific scorers. Expect a deep run in March. Davidson isn’t too shabby either. They showed some promising signs against the Shockers and they did beat Kansas earlier this season, so watch out for them in the dance.
South Dakota St. 86, Buffalo 65: The nation got a treat as Nate Wolters was on national television, scoring 22 points, grabbing six rebounds, and dishing out eight assists as the Jack Rabbits dominated the Bulls. Mitchell Watt led Buffalo with 15 points.
There isn’t a very good chance that Buffalo makes it to the Dance. They have to contend with Akron, Kent St., and Ohio in the MAC. However, South Dakota St has a shot. They will need to beat Oral Roberts and win the Summit League tournament, but if they do the world will get to see Wolters in postseason play.
Oral Roberts 67, Akron 61: The Golden Eagles fended off the feisty Zips to pick up a big nonconference win. Dominique Morrison had 16 points and 12 rebounds for Oral Roberts. The key for the Golden Eagles was holding Akron’s Zeke Marshall to only one rebound.
Right now, both of these teams lead their conferences, but face tough challengers. Oral Roberts may have an easier route because all they really have to worry about it South Dakota St. For the Zips, they must go through Ohio, Kent St., and Buffalo. If Marshall plays the way he did yesterday, they won’t win the conference tournament.
New Mexico St. 71, Drake 55: Ever since Drake was selected for Bracket Busters, they have been in a slump. Losers of six of their last nine, they are now six games back in a loaded Missouri Valley Conference. Wendell McKines led the way for New Mexico St. with 25 points and 12 rebounds. Drake struggled from the field, shooting only 34%.
Like I said, the Bulldogs are in the tough Missouri Valley Conference and barring a miracle, won’t be in the NCAA tournament. As for the Aggies, they have a tough road too. Unless they can knock off Nevada in the WAC conference tournament, they will be NIT bound.
Iona 90, Nevada 84: A back and forth game between two very talented mid majors saw the Gaels just edge out the Wolfpack at home. The balanced effort of Iona was a huge factor as they were led by Momo Jones with 18 points and Scott Machado with 15 assists. Five Gales scored in double figures. 49 combined points from Olek Czyz and Deonte Burton was not enough for Nevada.
Both of these teams should be in the tournament, but Iona is the one I expect to make the most noise. The Gaels will probably wind up with a 13 seed and could pull off an upset if they get the right matchup.
Ohio 81, UNC-Asheville 62: The Bobcats showed that they are still a contender in the MAC by defeating the Bulldogs of UNC-Asheville. Walter Offutt led Ohio with 19 points. The Bobcats did a good job of limiting UNC-Asheville’s Matt Dickey and J. P. Primm to a combined 4 of 19 shooting.
Ohio has a tough road in the MAC as I mentioned already, but it’s not a cakewalk for UNC-Asheville by any means. Coastal Carolina isn’t too far behind them, and the Chanticleers won’t forget how Dickey and the Bulldogs spoiled their season last year.
Creighton 81, Long Beach St. 79: What better way to end the night than a bracket buster buzzer beater. Talk about alliteration. Antoine Young’s buzzer beater led the Blue Jays to a come from behind victory over the 49ers. Doug McDermott was unstoppable with 36 points and 11 rebounds. 21 points from Casper Ware and 20 from T. J. Robinson were not enough as Creighton overcame a sloppy end game to pick up a huge win.
The win for Creighton showed that they are never out of a game and that McDermott can carry them for stretches. While they may rely on him too much, they need to be taken seriously in March. Long Beach St. needs to be taken seriously as well. Their battle-tested schedule will serve them well in the Big Dance.