Kameron Chatman didn't put the Michigan Wolverines in this season's NCAA Tournament, but his three to beat the buzzer and defeat the Big Ten Tournament's top seed, the Indiana Hoosiers, moved them closer.
While the victory bumped Michigan's RPI ranking to 55th, its odd profile, consisting of a 4-11 mark against the Top 100 (with all four wins coming over teams ranked 26th or better), no bad losses, and a 9-7 record away from Ann Arbor, needs another win.
So it's a good thing that John Beilein's team will face the Purdue Boilermakers in Saturday's first semifinal in Indianapolis. Not only is that a chance at another marquee win on a neutral floor, the pair split their season series. On the flip side, the Wolverines lost in West Lafayette by a 17-point spread on Jan. 7, and the Boilermakers are likely to have the crowd behind them.
But the drama in Indianapolis was nothing compared to what went down in the second game of the American Athletic Tournament quarterfinals—a bonkers quadruple-overtime game eventually won by the Connecticut Huskies over the Cincinnati Bearcats, 104-97. Even though I've considered the Huskies safer than most, they needed this one more than their rivals did, particularly after the Bearcats swept them in the regular season.
Now, both are in position to hear their names called on Sunday evening. UConn will next face the top-seeded Temple Owls, who aren't safe despite their regular season title, thanks to some lackluster performances in November and December. But Fran Dunphy's team should be fresher than the Huskies tomorrow afternoon, considering they handled the South Florida Bulls with ease, recording a 79-62 victory in the noon tip in Orlando.
On the flip side, the Florida Gators' NCAA hopes are over, as they couldn't get past Texas A&M in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals, falling 72-66. A 7-13 mark against the Top 100 (with just two Top 50 victories) and a disappointing 7-9 mark in road/neutral games isn't going to do it for a squad barely in the RPI Top 60, even if that team has the fourth-best non-conference schedule in Division I. Florida simply didn't take advantage of enough of its chances.
The George Washington Colonials also look NIT bound, thanks to their 86-80 loss to the Saint Joseph's Hawks in the Atlantic 10 Tournament quarterfinals. Mike Lonergan's team couldn't keep up its scorching first-half performance from the perimeter in the final 20 minutes.
Danger lurks in the SEC, however, as the LSU Tigers advanced to Saturday afternoon's semifinals by pulling away from the Tennessee Volunteers late. Considering the Bayou Bengals have already defeated Texas A&M once this season, they'll have a chance to move on to Sunday. If that happens, bubble teams and fans across America might want to stock up on antacids.
Here's how the picture near the cut line stands after the Friday afternoon sessions. There's been no change on the positive side of the ledger since this morning.
Note that the Bonnies and Rams both take the floor in Atlantic 10 play Friday evening.
All these four teams can do is hope.
The Golden Hurricane face a Memphis team they lost to on Feb. 28 in Orlando Friday evening. UConn's win is a slight boost to Syracuse and dings Michigan a bit.
The Buckeyes, who face Michigan State for the third time since March 23, can vault up the list by defeating the Spartans after going 0-2 against them in the regular season.
I'll be back with another update this evening.