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March 5, 2007

A look back: Last-minute moves

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Six spots in the NCAA Tournament field have been filled, and several teams are trying to improve their resumes in hopes of receiving an at-large bid.

For Georgia Tech and Villanova, freshmen have led the way during strong regular season finishes.

Rookies Javaris Crittenton and Thaddeus Young may have helped the Yellow Jackets seal a tournament bid with big wins over North Carolina and Boston College.

In the Big East, freshman point guard Scottie Reynolds scored 40 points in a win over Connecticut before leading the Wildcats to a victory over Syracuse.

Kansas is no stranger to March Madness, but the Jayhawks needed to get through Texas and Kevin Durant on Saturday to earn the Big 12 regular season title.

We'll examine the teams that made powerful statements this week - as well as the top individual performers - in A Look Back.


All Eyes On ...
Kansas (27-4, 14-2 Big 12)
The Good: Kansas may have sealed a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament this week after claiming the Big 12 regular season title with a 90-86 win over Texas on Saturday. Forward Julian Wright had 17 points, 13 rebounds and five assists in the win. He also had 18 points in a 67-65 win over Oklahoma last week. Guard Mario Chalmers has also played well of late. He scored 21 points against the Longhorns his fourth consecutive game with at least 17 points.
The Bad: Guard Sherron Collins, who contributed quality minutes as Kansas' sixth man, has slipped as a starter. He was 0-for-9 from the field and was scoreless in both games this week.
The Ugly: Kansas' inconsistency showed up in the 67-65 win over Oklahoma. After taking a 14-point halftime lead, the Jayhawks were outscored 46-34 in the second half.
Villanova (21-9, 9-7 Big East)
The Good: Villanova made a case for a higher seed in the NCAA Tournament with a pair of wins this week over Connecticut and Syracuse. Freshman point guard Scottie Reynolds was spectacular against the Huskies. The Herndon, Va., standout finished with a career-high 40 points in the 78-74 win. Reynolds added 22 points in a 78-75 win over Syracuse. Senior forward Curtis Sumpter has been almost as productive. He contributed double-doubles in both games.
The Bad: For all his scoring, Reynolds was hardly efficient this week. He was 18-for-44 from the field and had as many turnovers as assists (nine). Villanova also committed 31 fouls against Connecticut.
The Ugly: Despite the two big wins this week, Villanova struggled from the floor in both games. The Wildcats were a combined 18 of 60 (30 percent) from the field in the first half of each game.
Georgia Tech (20-10, 8-8 ACC)
The Good: Georgia Tech might have clinched an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament with key wins this week over North Carolina and Boston College. Freshmen Javaris Crittenton and Thaddeus Young carried the Yellow Jackets through the week. In the 87-84 win over North Carolina on Thursday, Crittenton had 13 points and 11 assists while Young added 25 points. Against Boston College, the Yellow Jackets had 38 points in the paint.
The Bad: Georgia Tech committed a season-high 28 fouls against North Carolina, but outrebounded the Tar Heels 35-29 in the process.
The Ugly: If the Yellow Jackets still have work to do in the conference tournament before earning a bid, it's because of losses at Wake Forest and at Miami earlier in the ACC schedule.

Elsewhere ...
North Carolina (24-6, 11-5) and Virginia (20-9, 11-5) will be the only teams sharing the ACC regular season title after Virginia Tech lost to Clemson and Boston College lost to Georgia Tech. Along with Maryland, the Hokies and Eagles finished the season 10-6 in the ACC.
Purdue (20-10, 9-7 Big Ten) could make its return to the NCAA Tournament after hitting the 20-win mark with a 73-50 win over Northwestern on Saturday. After going 9-19 last season, second-year coach Matt Painter has led the Boilermakers to their best regular-season record since going 21-8 in 1999-2000. Senior night was kind to Purdue. The Boilermakers got 23 points from David Teague and 15 points and 10 rebounds from Carl Landry.
Will Washington (18-12, 8-10 Pac-10) be this year's Syracuse? The Orange were 7-9 in the Big East before winning the conference tournament to clinch an at-large bid. Washington is peaking a little earlier, but the Huskies have shown they might be a little better than their record indicates. Washington beat Pac-10 champion UCLA 61-51 on Saturday and USC 85-70 on Wednesday.
Arkansas (18-12, 7-9) will be a team to watch in the SEC Tournament after the Razorbacks became the first conference team to beat Vanderbilt in Nashville with an 82-67 win Saturday. The Razorbacks are now 4-2 against Top 25 teams this year.
After a lapse against Syracuse earlier in the week, Georgetown (23-6, 13-3 Big East) recovered with a 59-46 win over Connecticut on Saturday. The win assures the Hoyas of the top seed in the Big East tournament and snapped an 11-game losing streak to the Huskies dating back to 1997. With 18 points and 12 rebounds, Roy Hibbert had his first double-double since Feb. 10.
With a 52-50 win over Michigan State, Wisconsin (27-4, 13-3 Big Ten) ended a two-game losing streak which began after the Badgers received their first No. 1 ranking in school history. Despite being 6-for-27 from the field over the last three games, guard Kammron Taylor made his last shot count with a game-winning three-pointer in the final seconds against the Spartans.
Bubble teams breathed a sigh of relief when Winthrop (28-4, 14-0) won the Big South Tournament on Saturday with a hard-fought 84-81 win over VMI on Saturday.
Individual Spotlight
Texas A&M guard Acie Law secured his position as one of the top clutch players in the country this year by forcing both overtimes with 3-pointers in the 98-96 double-overtime loss to Texas. He finished with 33 points against the Longhorns and added 20 on Saturday in a 94-78 win over Missouri.
Florida forward Joakim Noah broke out of his slump just in time to help the Gators become the first SEC team to win six in a row over Kentucky. Noah had 18 points and 10 rebounds in the 85-72 win in Gainesville after he averaged only 8.2 points per game over the previous six.
Arizona forward Ivan Radenovic saved the Wildcats from an upset on the road at Stanford. Arizona built a 20-point lead in the first half but Stanford forced overtime before losing 85-80. Radenovic scored 37 points with nine rebounds and seven assists. He was 12 of 18 from the field and made all 11 of his free throws.
Massachusetts forward Stephane Lasme joined Cal's Jason Kidd and Drexel's Michael Anderson as the only players in NCAA history to record four triple-doubles in a season with 17 points, 10 rebounds and 10 blocks in a 102-63 win over La Salle on Thursday. He also had triple-doubles this year against St. Francis, Rhode Island and George Washington.
Even 40 points from JamesOn Curry couldn't stop Oklahoma State's slide. After starting the season 15-1, Oklahoma State (20-10, 6-9 Big 12) lost seven of its last nine following an 86-82 loss at Baylor. Curry's 40 points helped make up for the absence of leading scorer Mario Boggan, who was suspended after a head-butting incident Tuesday against Kansas State.
Florida State forward Al Thornton scored a career-high 45 points, also an ACC-high this season, in a 98-90 overtime win at Miami on Saturday. He was 16 of 24 from the field and made all 11 of his free throws against the Hurricanes.
Freshmen Spotlight
Villanova guard Scottie Reynolds scored a career-high 40 points in a 78-74 win over Connecticut on Wednesday and 22 in a 78-75 win over Syracuse on Saturday. The 40-point game was the most scored against the Huskies at Gampel Pavilion.
Texas forward Kevin Durant continued to make his case for national player of the year, scoring 30-plus points against Texas A&M and Kansas this week. He scored 30 points and added 16 rebounds in a 98-96 double-overtime win over the Aggies on Wednesday. Despite briefly leaving the game with an ankle injury against Kansas on Saturday, Durant scored 32 points and added nine rebounds and four steals in the 90-86 loss in Lawrence.
Oregon guard Tajuan Porter had one 3-pointer in Saturday's 66-64 win over Oregon State to tie the Pac-10 freshman record with 82 3-point field goals. UCLA's Jason Kapono also had 82 in 2000.

David Fox is a national college basketball writer for Rivals.com.





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