LATE NIGHT SNACKS: Rough night for mid-major bubble hopefuls
GAME OF THE NIGHT: Belmont 85, Valparaiso 81
Evan Bradds finished with 26 points and 10 boards and Craig Bradshaw chipped in with 21 points of his own as the Bruins picked off a Valparaiso team that still had some slim hopes of earning an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament come Selection Sunday. There’s no shame in losing to Belmont in Nashville -- the Bruins won at Marquette on the season’s opening night, after all -- but Valpo’s non-conference schedule is now locked in at 10-3, the only noteworthy wins coming against Rhode Island, Oregon State and Indiana State. The Horizon League is going to be one of the toughest mid-major conferences in the country, with Oakland and Milwaukee both looking like they could be good enough to snag the regular season title from Valpo’s grip, but it’s not a league that will provide the Crusaders with many opportunities to strengthen their at-large profile.
Valpo may very well be the best mid-major team in the country, a veteran group with size that can really, really defend. They could, in theory, reach the Sweet 16, but to have a shot at doing so, it looks like they’re going to need to win the Horizon’s automatic bid.
Army 91, Monmouth 84: Monmouth couldn’t stop Tanner Plomb and Kyle Wilson, who combined for 48 points, and Army hit 11 threes as they knocked off the Hawks in West Point on Monday night. The loss hurt for a Monmouth team that has become a sensation this season. Not only have they won at UCLA, Georgetown and Rutgers and knocked off USC and Notre Dame in Orlando, but their bench has become one of the most entertaining stories in the sport. There was speculation that Monmouth might be able to play their way into the NCAA tournament with a strong showing in MAAC play, and while that’s still a possibility, I’m not sure they can afford more than one more regular season loss.
Cal 86, Davidson 60: The Golden Bears were a preseason top 15 team that saw their ranking plummet after back-to-back losses to San Diego State and Richmond. But last week’s one point, overtime loss at Virginia combined with tonight’s blowout win of Davidson is a sign this team is trending towards their preseason expectations.
Kahlil Felder, Oakland: 23 points, 13 assists, eight steals, five boards and a 101-93 win over Chicago State. Light work.
Alex Hamilton, Louisiana Tech: Hamilton finished with 23 points, 10 assists and seven boards in a win over Prairie View A&M. Tech is now 11-2 on the season.
Jack Gibbs and Brian Sullivan, Davidson: Gibbs, who entered Monday night averaging 26.5 points, was just 3-for-10 from the floor and finished with seven points and four turnovers in an 86-60 loss to Cal. Sullivan? He was 2-for-15 from the floor.
Penn: The Quakers were down 14-0 at the first TV timeout, 30-3 at one point in the first half and 39-11 at the break in a loss to No. 16 Villanova. Penn woke up in the second half, which is why the 77-57 loss doesn’t look as bad as things were 15 minutes into the game.
THE REST OF THE TOP 25
- Brice Johnson led the way with 16 points and 16 boards as No. 7 North Carolina knocked off UNC Greensboro 96-63 in Chapel Hill.
- Kelan Martin scored 19 points in 19 minutes off the bench as No. 9 Butler beat IUPUI in Hinkle Fieldhouse, 92-54.
- Brandon Ingram finished with 26 points and 11 boards to lead six players in double-figures as No. 15 Duke scored 70 first half points en route to a 105-66 win over Elon.
- No. 21 Utah dug themselves a 19-6 hole against College of Idaho before blowing out the non-Division I program.