Saturday, March 13, 2010
Jayhawks Reach Big 12 Final; Big East, ACC, Mountain West Show Depth
A model of consistency, the Kansas Jayhawks have steamrolled to the best record in the nation at 31-2 (15-1) and, after knocking off #23 Texas A&M, 79-66, in their Big 12 semi-final, will face Kansas State in the championship game Saturday afternoon.
Senior guard Sherron Collins led the scoring for both teams, hoisting up 26 points on 9-for-19 shooting (3-5 3-pointers) and added six assists. The team leader, Collins' work ethic and unflappable style exemplifies the core of the Jayhawk system. This is a no-nonsense group that is neither flashy nor flamboyant. They just go out and get the job done, game after game.
On Saturday they will face their toughest oppenent in Kansas State. The Wildcats came within two points of beating the Jayhawks back in January, losing 81-79, but when the teams met again at Kansas on March 3, it was all Jayhawks in an 82-65 rout.
Regardless of the outcome of Saturday's Big 12 final, the Jayhawks will likely be awarded the top #1 seed in the NCAA tourney and play in the Midwest region. They will be the ultimate tough out in the upcoming tourney.
Notable: What to think of the various doings around the country's conference tournaments? Here's an angle that will be proven out in the upcoming NCAA tourney. Three conferences have produced various upsets, showing that they have real depth. The ACC, Big East and Mountain West have produced the best play, top to bottom. In the Mountain West, even though the top four seeds reached the semi-finals, both games were won by the unranked underdogs, setting up a #3 vs. #4 final as UNLV will face San Diego State. Along with BYU and New Mexico, all four teams should receive bids and all four should perform well in the national tourney.
The Big East final pits the #4 seed, West Virginia against #8 Georgetown. The Hoyas have stormed through the tourney, dropping South Florida, Syracuse and, on Friday, thumping a very solid Marquette squad, 80-57. The Mountaineers have just barely survived their two games, beating Cincinnati on a Da'Sean Butler buzzer-beater and holding off Notre Dame for a two-point win.
In the ACC, Duke has demonstrated that they are the class of the conference, but the rest of the league can scratch and claw with the best of them. Besides the Blue Devils, the remaining teams are Georgia Tech, NC State and Miami, the latter two having no hope of an NCAA invitation unless they win the tourney, while Tech has likely moved off the bubble and into the mix.
The SEC has produced no surprises, with Kentucky, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Mississippi St. reaching the semis, while in the Big 10, Minnesota surpried Michigan State in overtime in one upset and Illinois regrouped for a win over Wisconsin. Ohio State and Purdue are the other semi-finalists, as expected.
In the PAC-10, Washington kept its hopes alive with a 79-64 win over Stanford, setting up a final with Cal on Saturday. The Huskies and Golden Bears split a pair of home wins this season, so even a close loss by Washington should be enough to get them into the NCAAs.