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Did Jawanza Poland cost South Florida a trip to the NCAA Tournament?

Jawanza Poland

South Florida’s Jawanza Poland leaves the court after an NCAA college basketball game against Notre Dame in the quarterfinals of the Big East Conference tournament in New York, Thursday, March 8, 2012. Notre Dame won 57-53. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)


Tony Wroten may have a challenger for the biggest gag of the day.

Up by one with just over 30 seconds left in an ugly quarterfinal game against Notre Dame, South Florida’s Jawanza Poland found himself alone at the basket as the Irish saw their press break down. Poland made the correct decision -- instead of waiting for Notre Dame to foul him, he went up for a layup to give the Bulls that would have given the Bulls a three-point lead. Only it didn’t go quite as planned.

Poland’s took a couple of awkward steps going towards the rim and didn’t get the kind of explosion he usually does. As a result, he missed the layup, but not in the way you usually miss a layup. The ball never made it up to the glass. Instead, it just sort of rolled along the back of the rim and off the other side.

Luckily, in the fight for the loose ball, Poland was fouled with 30 seconds left. Unluckily, he clanged the front-end of a one-and-one, and in his effort to try and get the ball back, he fouled Pat Connaughton of Notre Dame with just four seconds left. Connaughton hit just one of the two free throws, but it was enough to force overtime, where the Bulls would eventually lose 57-53.

To make matters worse, the loss may end up being the deciding factor when it comes to whether or not South Florida earns an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. USF is lacking the kind of wins that would lock up an at-large berth. There is no question that beating Notre Dame would have helped; it probably would have locked up a spot considering how bad the bubble teams have been this week.

Instead, Poland and the rest of his team will be forced to sweat out Selection Sunday.

I’m not going to mock Poland or Wroten here. We may be watching these kids play a sport, but they are still kids at the end of the day.

It doesn’t feel good to see a kid have the worst day of his basketball career -- possibly costing his team a trip to the NCAA Tournament -- on national television.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.