Duke is too good to pick against in the NCAA Tournament

Well, here it is. The NCAA Tournament bracket that you’ve all been waiting for. No. 1 seeds are Duke, Gonzaga, Virginia and North Carolina. The No. 2s include Michigan State, Michigan, Tennessee and Kentucky.

Texas teams

(3) Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. (14) Northern Kentucky Norse — Midwest Regional, at Tulsa, Okla., Friday, 12:30 p.m., TNT.

(3) Houston Cougars vs. (14) Georgia State Panthers — West Regional, at Tulsa, Okla., Friday, 6:20 p.m., TBS

(9) Baylor Bears vs. (8) Syracuse Orange — Thursday, at Salt Lake City, Thursday, 8:57 p.m., truTV

(15) Abilene Christian Wildcats vs. (2) Kentucky Wildcats — Thursday, at Jacksonville, Fla., 7:10 p.m., CBS

(16) Prairie View A&M Panthers vs. (16) Fairleigh Dickinson (round of 68) — Tuesday, at Dayton, Ohio, 7:40 p.m., truTV.

Bracket buster

Keep an eye on the Ja Morant-led Murray State Racers, seeded 12th in the West, who are good enough to spring an upset against No. 5 Marquette in the first round. I also like the West’s third-seeded Texas Tech Red Raiders’ chances to go deep in the bracket.

Final Four projection

Duke in the East, Texas Tech in the West, Virginia in the South and North Carolina in the Midwest. I really like the Houston Cougars, but they’d need to get through Kentucky in the Sweet 16, and I don’t think that will happen. Kentucky has a chance against North Carolina in the Elite Eight, but the Tar Heels have too much firepower.

Who will win?

Duke over Texas Tech in one semifinal. North Carolina over Virginia in the other. Duke over North Carolina for the title.

Local athletes

Duke forward Justin Robinson (San Antonio Christian), Gonzaga guard Jeremy Jones (East Central), Minnesota forward Jordan Murphy (Brennan) and Colgate guard Jordan Burns (Marshall). Baylor forward Tristan Clark (Wagner) is injured.

Texas Tech’s Kevin McCullar (Wagner) is a redshirt. Prairie View A&M guard Tyler Singleton played previously at the University of the Incarnate Word.

Area colleges

Texas State (24-9) hosts Florida International (19-13) Saturday at 6 p.m. in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.

UTSA (17-15) and UIW (6-25) will not play in the postseason.

As many as seven teams from Texas could land NCAA bids

The 11th-ranked University of Houston Cougars and the UT Arlington Mavericks on Sunday will try to join two other programs in the state of Texas as automatic qualifiers in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Prairie View A&M and Abilene Christian qualified Saturday with victories in their respective conference tournament finals.

For Prairie View, it will be the school’s first NCAA appearance in 21 years. Abilene Christian has never made the Division I national tournament.

When the bracket is revealed later today, three Texas-based Big 12 squads likely will make the field.

Texas Tech and Baylor are considered locks, while TCU is probably in, as well, according to bracket projection analysts.

UT Arlington, under first-year coach Chris Ogden, plays Georgia State today in New Orleans for the Sun Belt Conference’s automatic bid.

The Mavericks will not make the NCAA field unless they win, meaning that they have much more riding on their game today than the Cougars.

The Cougars, regular-season champions in the American Athletic Conference, are expected to make the Big Dance as an at-large entry even if they lose today.

Houston is playing in Memphis against 24th-ranked Cincinnati.

Saturday’s highlights

Prairie View rallied from a 13-point, first-half deficit to stun the Texas Southern Tigers, 92-86, in the Southwestern Athletic Conference title game at Birmingham, Ala. Both the Panthers and Tigers shot 55 percent in the second half. Guard Gary Blackston had 17 points and six steals for Prairie View. The Panthers secured the school’s second NCAA bid and its first since 1998.

Abilene Christian routed New Orleans 77-60 at Katy for the Southland Conference crown behind Jaren Lewis, who had 20 points, six rebounds and three steals. The Wildcats moved from NCAA Division II to Division I six years ago. Under terms of the transition, they were ineligible to play in the SLC tournament for the first four years.

Conference USA

Regular-season champion Old Dominion earned the NCAA automatic bid with a 62-56 victory over former San Antonio prep standout Charles Bassey and the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.

UAB rallies to oust UTSA from C-USA tournament, 85-76

The UTSA Roadrunners wanted to play all weekend in Frisco, if they could.

And, for most of the first half Thursday night, it looked as if they might have the right mojo to make a strong run in the Conference USA basketball tournament.

The UAB Blazers had other ideas.

Guard Zack Bryant produced 24 points, seven rebounds and five assists as the fifth-seeded Blazers, down by seven at intermission, rallied to eliminate the No. 4 Roadrunners, 85-76, in the tournament quarterfinals.

Steve Henson. Old Dominion beat UTSA 65-64 on Thursday night in a Conference USA game at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA coach Steve Henson – File photo by Joe Alexander

Coming on strong late in the game played at The Star in Frisco, the Blazers shot 50 percent from the field and hit six three-point shots in the second half.

As a result, UAB will advance to take on the top-seeded Old Dominion Monarchs in Friday’s semifinals.

Jhivvan Jackson led the Roadrunners with 35 points on 9 of 24 shooting from the field. Keaton Wallace shot 5 of 14 from the floor and finished with 12 points.

Jackson left the game for a few minutes early in the second half after turning his ankle. It was a key sequence for the Roadrunners, who lost the lead and never recovered.

UAB held UTSA to 11 of 33 shooting from the floor after intermission.

First-half recap

Jackson came out firing in his first C-USA tournament game.

The 6-foot guard from Puerto Rico scored 21 points in the first half as the Roadrunners built a 42-35 lead.

Trailing by 12 points early and by 11 on a few more occasions, the Blazers rallied with a Tyreek Scott-Grayson-fueled 6-0 run in the last few minutes.

Scott-Grayson hit two shots in the run. UTSA answered with a Giovanni De Nicolao layup with 29 seconds to account for the final points in the half.

Records

UAB 20-13
UTSA 17-15

Coming up

It’s possible that UTSA could get a bid to either the College Basketball Invitational or the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament. But UTSA coach Steve Henson didn’t say for certain that the team would play again this season. As for the Blazers, they’ll face the Monarchs in Friday’s C-USA semifinals. Old Dominion escaped Louisiana Tech, 57-56, on a three in the final seconds by point guard Ahmad Caver.

Notable

UTSA was limited at the outset with Nick Allen trying to play on a fractured toe. But things got worse as the game went on, with Atem Bior getting in early foul trouble and then Byron Frohnen and Adrian Rodriguez suffering minor injuries in the second half. Taking advantage in the paint, UAB outrebounded UTSA, 42-30, including 17-9 on the offensive glass.

Quotable

“They just exerted their will and just crushed us on the glass (in) both halves. Drove it at us. Drove it at us. Drove it at us. And they mixed in some threes … Just overpowered us. You know, rebounding, driving at us and getting to the free-throw line … They dictated everything in the secod half in terms of physicality.’ — UTSA coach Steve Henson

Jackson, Wallace named to all-Conference USA squads

UTSA sophomores Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace both have been named to all-Conference USA teams, with Jackson taking home first-team honors.

Wallace was listed as a second-team selection.

Old Dominion swept the top honors with guard guard B.J. Stith getting player of the year and Jeff Jones coach of the year.

The C-USA tournament opens Wednesday in Frisco.

For the first time in six years in the conference, UTSA has earned a first-round tournament bye, and, as a No. 4 seed, will open play Thursday at 6:30 p.m. against either UAB or Middle Tennessee.

All-Conference USA basketball
First team
Jon Elmore, Marshall, Sr., G, 6-3, 185, Charleston, West Virginia
Ahmad Caver, Old Dominion, Sr., G, 6-2, 170, Atlanta, Georgia
B.J. Stith, Old Dominion, Sr., G, 6-5, 215, Lawrenceville, Virginia
Jhivvan Jackson, UTSA, So., G, 6-0, 160, Bayamรณn, Puerto Rico
Charles Bassey, WKU, Fr., C, 6-11, 245, Lagos, Nigeria

Second team
Jon Davis, Charlotte, Sr., G, 6-2, 200, Upper Marlboro, Maryland
Brian Beard Sr., FIU, Jr., G, 5-10, 180, Rancho Cucamonga, California
Cortez Edwards, Southern Miss, Sr., G, 6-2, 180, Kissimmee, Florida
Tyree Griffin, Southern Miss, R-Sr., G, 5-10, 175, New Orleans, Louisiana
Keaton Wallace, UTSA, So., G, 6-3, 175, Richardson, Texas

Third team
Anthony Adger, Florida Atlantic, Sr., G, 6-1, 170, Anderson, South Carolina
C.J. Burks, Marshall, Jr., G, 6-4, 195, Martinsburg, West Virginia
Antonio Green, Middle Tennessee, R-Jr., G, 6-2, 190, Tupelo, Mississippi
Ryan Woolridge, North Texas, Jr., G, 6-3, 175, Mansfield, Texas
Zack Bryant, UAB, So., G, 6-2, 183, Hastings, Florida
Taveion Hollingsworth, WKU, So., G, 6-2, 165, Lexington, Kentucky

All-freshman team
Taevion Kinsey, Marshall, Fr., G, 6-5, 177, Columbus, Ohio
Umoja Gibson, North Texas, R-Fr., G, 6-1, 160, Waco, Texas
Chris Mullins, Rice, Fr., G, 6-3, 170, Grand Prairie, Texas
Efe Odigie, UTEP, Fr., F, 6-9, 280, Houston, Texas
Charles Bassey, WKU, Fr., C, 6-11, 245, Lagos, Nigeria

All-defensive team
Brian Beard Sr., FIU, Jr., G, 5-10, 180, Rancho Cucamonga, California Osasumwen Osaghae, FIU, Jr., F, 6-7, 250, Miami, Florida
Xavier Green, Old Dominion, So., G, 6-6, 200, Williamsburg, Virginia
Cortez Edwards, Southern Miss, Sr., G, 6-2, 180, Kissimmee, Florida
Charles Bassey, WKU, Fr., C, 6-11, 245, Lagos, Nigeria

UTSA to open tournament against either UAB or Middle Tennessee

The UTSA Roadrunners will open play in the C-USA Basketball Championships on Thursday night in Frisco against either the UAB Blazers or the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders, according to the bracket released Saturday night.

The C-USA will host its event Wednesday through Saturday at The Star in Frisco, with the winner advancing to the NCAA Tournament.

Top-seeded Old Dominion, No. 2 Western Kentucky, No. 3 Southern Miss and No. 4 UTSA all will get byes through Wednesday’s first round.

In Thursday’s quarterfinals in the top half of the bracket, Old Dominion will meet either eighth-seeded Louisiana Tech or No. 9 Florida Atlantic, and UTSA will matchup against the No. 5 Blazers or the 12-seeded Blue Raiders.

If the highest seeds win, Old Dominion and UTSA would play in the semifinals Friday at 12:30 p.m.. The championship game is set for 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

Southern Miss routs UTSA, 81-48, in regular-season finale

The Southern Miss Golden Eagles knocked down 16 three pointers Saturday and blew out the UTSA Roadrunners 81-48 in the regular-season finale for both teams.

Playing at home in Reed Green Coliseum at Hattiesburg, Southern Miss held UTSA to 28.8 percent shooting in handing the Roadrunners their worst loss of the season.

Next stop for the Roadrunners is the Conference USA tournament in Frisco.

As the No. 4 seed, UTSA will get a first-round bye and will open play next Thursday at 6:30 p.m at The Ford Center.

Conference USA
Group 1 standings

Old Dominion 13-5, 23-8
Western Kentucky 11-7, 18-13
Southern Miss 11-7, 19-11
UTSA 11-7, 17-14
UAB 10-8, 18-13

Saturday’s scores

Southern Miss 81, UTSA 48
UAB 64, Old Dominion 50

Notable

Southern Miss held UTSA’s high-scoring duo of Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace to a combined 12 points. Wallace scored seven points and Jackson five. The Eagles limited Wallace to 2 of 14 shooting and Jackson to 2 of 15.

Quotable

“Keaton and Jhivvan’s shots were straight-on. Most of ’em straight on, and short. Some of ’em good shots. Some of ’em not. They totally distort what we’re trying to do offensively every time. (Southern Miss coach) Doc (Sadler) does a great job with their switching. Switching and double teaming. You got to be able to find the open guy. They make you make plays.” — UTSA coach Steve Henson.

UTSA edges Western Kentucky, 81-76, in overtime

Jhivvan Jackson scored nine of his game-high 29 points in overtime Wednesday night, lifting the UTSA Roadrunners past Western Kentucky 81-76.

Jhivvan Jackson. UTSA came back from 18 points down to beat Old Dominion 74-73 Saturday at the UTSA Convocation Center.

UTSA guard Jhivvan Jackson (File photo by Joe Alexander)

In the game played at Bowling Green, Kentucky, UTSA survived amidst 12 ties and nine lead changes, taking over second place in Conference USA and clinching a bye in next week’s conference tournament.

For the Roadrunners, Giovanni De Nicolao scored a surprising 17 on 7 of 10 shooting, while Keaton Wallace added 13.

Jackson, the leading scorer in Conference USA, hit 8 of 22 from the field and 4 of 10 from three.

Charles Bassey, a 6-foot-11 center who played two seasons at St. Anthony in San Antonio, led the Hilltoppers with 21 points. He also added 11 rebounds and 2 blocked shots.

UTSA will close out C-USA regular-season competition Saturday on the road against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles.

The C-USA will hold its tournament March 13-16 in Frisco.

Conference USA
Group 1 standings

Old Dominion 13-4, 23-7
UTSA 11-6, 17-13
Western Kentucky 11-7, 18-13
Southern Miss 10-7, 18-11
UAB 9-8, 17-13

Wednesday’s scores

UTSA 81, Western Kentucky 76, overtime
Southern Miss 59, Old Dominion 52

Notable

UTSA played shorthanded in the post against Western Kentucky. Starting forward Nick Allen, who has an injured toe on his right foot, didn’t play. In addition, Atem Bior fouled out and Adrian Rodriguez went to the bench in the second half with a bloody nose.

Quotable

‘The theme of the game was toughness. I thought our guys fought like crazy. I looked over and we’ve got guys jamming blood-sticks up their nose. (Trainer) Josh (Modica) was working on Adrian (Rodriguez), and Jhivvan needed some tape on his shoulder and Gio was cleaning his own bloody knee. We fought like crazy. I can’t say enough about those guys.’ – UTSA coach Steve Henson told the team’s radio broadcast.

Notable

With 20 seconds left in regulation, Jackson hit a long three to put UTSA up by one. Western Kentucky’s Lamonte Bearden had a chance to win it but missed the first of two free throws with six seconds left. Jackson, a 6-foot sophomore, scored nine of UTSA’s 13 points in overtime.

Quotable

‘We just got to give credit to Gio (De Nicolao) in the first half and our bigs. Our bigs played great (against Charles) Bassey. He’s tough to defend. We tried to limit the passes inside, just by really bothering the passes. We did that, and down t he stretch, we just got some stops.’ — UTSA guard Jhivvan Jackson.

. .

Texas Tech routs Texas, 70-51, to stoke Big 12 title hopes

The eighth-ranked Texas Tech Red Raiders will win at least a share of their first Big 12 basketball title if they can beat Iowa State on the road Saturday.

Can they do it?

“That’s the plan,” Texas Tech guard Jarrett Culver told ESPN’s Holly Rowe after Monday night’s 70-51 home victory over the Texas Longhorns.

The Red Raiders won their eighth straight game with dominant defense, holding the Longhorns to 29.6 percent shooting.

Sharp-shooting guard Jase Febres couldn’t get many open looks and finished 1-for-10 from the field, underscoring Texas’ struggles against one of the best defensive teams in the nation.

On the other end, the Red Raiders patiently picked apart the Longhorns with 50 percent field goal accuracy.

Six different players hit at least one three-pointer for Tech, led by Davide Moretti’s 3 for 3.

Culver scored 16, Matt Mooney 15 and Moretti 11 for the Red Raiders, who are tied for first with the Kansas State Wildcats leading into the final weekend.

Kansas State beat TCU 64-52 in Fort Worth to keep pace in the race. Kansas State plays at home Saturday in its finale against Oklahoma.

Big 12 standings

Texas Tech 13-4, 25-5
Kansas State 13-4, 23-7
Kansas 11-5, 22-7
Baylor 10-6, 19-10
Iowa State 9-7, 20-9
Texas 8-9, 16-14
TCU 6-10, 18-11
Oklahoma 6-10, 18-11
West Virginia 3-13, 11-18
Oklahoma State 3-13, 10-19

No. 8 Texas Tech puts winning streak on line against Texas

The Big 12-title contending Texas Tech Red Raiders have moved up to eighth in the weekly Associated Press Top 25 leading into tonight’s game in Lubbock against Texas.

The Red Raiders have won seven straight, averaging 81 points per game during that stretch.

Last week, they kept the streak alive with victories over Oklahoma State and TCU.

Playing at home, Tech went to overtime last Wednesday to subdue Oklahoma State, 84-80.

On Saturday, the Red Raiders traveled to Fort Worth and blew out the Horned Frogs, 81-66.

Heading into the final week of the regular season, Tech and Kansas State (both 12-4) lead the Big 12 standings, with 14-time defending champion Kansas (11-5) trailing by one game.

Baylor (10-6) is fourth.

Notable

Former Jefferson High School star Rick Bullock is one of seven individuals set to be honored in Lubbock tonight as an inductee into the Texas Tech Athletics Ring of Honor.

Bullock is known in San Antonio for leading Jefferson to the 1972 state tournament championship game.

The 6-foot-7 center went on to play at Texas Tech, where he scored 2,118 points and pulled down 1,057 rebounds in his career.

Bullock led the Red Raiders to Southwest Conference titles in 1973 and again in 1976.

Texas Tech played in the NCAA Tournament both years. The 1976 team reached the Sweet 16.

Others set for induction are Marsha Sharp, Sheryl Swoopes, Andre Emmett, Dub Malaise, Carolyn Thompson and Jim Reid.

AP Top 25
1. Gonzaga 29-2 West Coast
2. Virginia 26-2 ACC
3. North Carolina 24-5 ACC
4. Duke 25-4 ACC
5. Tennessee 26-3 SEC
6. Kentucky 24-5 SEC
7. Michigan 26-4 Big Ten
8. Texas Tech 24-5 Big 12
9. Michigan State 23-6 Big Ten
10. LSU 24-5 SEC
11. Purdue 22-7 Big Ten
12. Houston 27-2 American
13. Kansas 22-7 Big 12
14. Florida State 23-6 ACC
15. Virginia Tech 22-6 ACC
16. Marquette 23-6 Big East
17. Nevada 26-3 Mountain West
18. Kansas State 22-7 Big 12
19. Buffalo 26-3 Mid-American
20. Cincinnati 25-4 American
21. Wisconsin 20-9 Big Ten
22. Wofford 26-4 Southern
23. Villanova 22-8 Big East
24. Maryland 21-9 ACC
25. UCF 22-6 American

UTSA wins home finale, boosts hopes for C-USA tourney bye

So many emotions were flowing on Sunday morning within the UTSA Roadrunners basketball program.

It was Senior Day, with veterans Nick Allen and Giovanni De Nicolao both set to play perhaps their last game at home.

On top of all that, the Roadrunners were hosting the dangerous UAB Blazers, with both teams bidding for a top-four finish in the regular season and a first-round bye in the Conference USA Tournament.

Adding even more drama, both Allen and Jhivvan Jackson were less than 100 percent physically. Through it all, the Roadrunners emerged with a 76-70 victory in front of 1,259 fans.

“I thought we fought really, really hard,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “Our defense was terrific … In the second half, (the Blazers) did knock down some three pointers. But overall our defense was great, our fight was great.

Steve Henson. Old Dominion beat UTSA 65-64 on Thursday night in a Conference USA game at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Coach Steve Henson’s UTSA Roadrunners won their home finale Sunday, improving to 16-13 on the season and 10-6 in Conference USA. – File photo by Joe Alexander

“Nick got hurt in practice yesterday and really couldn’t put his shoe on this morning.

“(He) fought like crazy and made some big plays down the stretch (with) offensive rebounds. (He’s) one of the physically toughest players I’ve ever been around. I’m so proud of him.”

Henson was equally impressed with Jackson, the leading scorer in Conference USA, who couldn’t practice the last few days with a left shoulder that he injured in Thursday night’s loss to Old Dominion.

The loss to ODU left UTSA looking at the possibility of an 0-2 record to open C-USA bonus play in the five-team Group 1, with two games yet to play on the road to complete the regular season.

After the season, Group 1 teams will be seeded into the C-USA postseason tournament, with the top four earning first-round byes. Now, after Jackson scored 27 points and Keaton Wallace added 22, the Roadrunners put themselves in good position to earn a bye.

It’s especially important for UTSA, a team that plays with a seven- or eight-man rotation.

“(A bye) is big for anybody,” Henson said. “You win the tournament and you go to the Big Dance (the NCAA Tournament). It’s a much bigger chore if you have to win four days in a row, rather than three. Any of those top four seeds have a big advantage by not having to play that first day.”

C-USA Standings
Group 1

x-Old Dominion 13-3, 23-6
Western Kentucky 11-6, 18-12
UTSA 10-6, 16-13
Southern Miss 9-7, 17-11
UAB 9-8, 17-13

x-clinched regular-season title and top seed in the tournament

Senior Day

Before the game, UTSA honored seniors Allen and Toby Van Ry. They also honored juniors De Nicolao and Mitar Stanocevic, who are graduating early. De Nicolao said afterward that it likely would be his last regular-season game at home for UTSA. He indicated he likely would play professionally next season in his native Italy. UTSA also celebrated the contributions of student manager Danny Soto.

Individuals

UAB — Lewis Sullivan 18 points and 9 rebounds. Zack Bryant, 15 points and 4 assists. Makhtar Gueye, 11 points and 8 rebounds. Jalen Perry, 11 points off the bench.

UTSA — Jhivvan Jackson, 27 points on 9 of 20 shooting. Also, 7 rebounds. Keaton Wallace 22 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists. Giovanni De Nicolao, 10 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists.

Key stat

The Roadrunners took charge of the game early, holding UAB to 35 percent shooting in the first half. They also cashed in on the other end, hitting 53.6 percent, including 6 of 12 from three.

Coming up

UTSA finishes the regular season with road games Wednesday at Western Kentucky and Saturday at Southern Miss.

Notable

UTSA is shooting for its first NCAA tournament berth since 2011. The only way to get there is to win the C-USA tournament, which is scheduled March 13-16 in Frisco.

If the Roadrunners come up short of the Big Dance, Henson said a possibility exists that they could play in the postseason in one of the other events — the NIT, the CBI or the CIT.

Jackson and Wallace buried three-point baskets in the last minute of the first half as UTSA assumed a 36-26 intermission lead against the UAB Blazers.

At a pivotal moment in the season, the Roadrunners came out with energy and took control of the game almost immediately.

They shot 53.6 percent in the first half, with Jackson and Wallace combining for 23 points.