When Notre Dame completed its greatest comeback, star Bonzie Colson pounded his chest and screamed: “We ain’t done!”
One day and one drubbing later, the question is: Well, what about now?
The Fighting Irish pulled off a 21-point comeback — the biggest in their history — to beat Virginia Tech 71-65 in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament on Wednesday night and make everybody reconsider their NCAA Tournament resume now that they’ve got their best player back.
Quickly, that changed. Even with its preseason All-American on the court, Notre Dame got crushed by No. 5 Duke 88-70 on Thursday night , leaving the Fighting Irish (20-14) to argue their case and hope that some of the other NCAA Tournament bubble teams get knocked off this weekend.
Notre Dame’s argument: It’s a different team now that it’s healthy for tournament time.
Colson missed 15 games with a broken foot, and Notre Dame lost nine of them. Matt Farrell also missed five games with an ankle injury, and two other players were hurt along the way. The NCAA Tournament selection committee takes into account when a team loses a star player close to tournament time. How much weight will it put on Notre Dame getting its best player back?
“I’m definitely going to go to church on Sunday morning,” Farrell said.
The loss to Duke was so lopsided in the second half that it won’t help with their argument, even though coach Mike Krzyzewski took up their case afterward.
“I hope they get in,” he said. “I think they can beat anybody. Mike (Brey) has that team together all year, forget it.”
On-the-bubble teams also got a shiver Thursday evening when top-seeded Middle Tennessee — No. 28 in the RPI — lost to Southern Mississippi 71-68 in overtime, creating the possibility that Conference USA would get two teams into the tournament.
ON THE RISE
Providence: The Friars went overtime for a 72-68 win over Creighton in the Big East quarterfinals, putting them in position for a fifth straight tournament appearance. Providence (20-12) is the only Big East team with wins over both Villanova and Xavier this season, contributing to its RPI of 40. The Friars get a rematch with the Musketeers on Friday and a chance to solidify their position.
Alabama: How about that scoop shot? Freshman Collin Sexton’s length-of-the-court drive and finger-roll layup at the buzzer provided a 71-70 win over Texas A&M that gave the Crimson Tide (18-14) some breathing room on the bubble. Now they get to face Auburn with a chance to continue making their case for their first tournament appearance since 2012.
UCLA: An 88-77 win over Stanford in the Pac-12 Tournament sent the Bruins (21-10) into the semifinals against Arizona and put them on solid footing.
Louisville: The Cardinals (20-13) had two chances to make their case and wasted both, leaving them in a tenuous spot. A week ago, they led No. 1 Virginia with less than a second left, but the Cavaliers pulled out an improbable 67-66 win. Their rematch in the ACC quarterfinals Thursday wasn’t close, as Virginia (29-2) surged ahead by 17 points in the first half and held on for a 75-58 win . Interim coach David Padgett — who took over when Rick Pitino was fired before the season — will look back on those two games as turning points.
Texas: The Longhorns had a chance to get into a comfort zone, but another slow start left them playing from way behind and they never caught up to Texas Tech, losing 73-69 despite Jacob Young’s career-best performance — 29 points on 11-of-17 shooting. Texas (19-14) is still in position to make the tournament, but the Longhorns will be watching results and looking over their shoulders the next few days.
Marquette: A 94-70 drubbing by Villanova most likely leaves the Golden Eagles (19-13) on the outside. Their RPI of 53 and lack of wins against top teams was working against them already. They’d played the Wildcats tough twice, losing by 10 and three points, but got taken apart in a game they sorely needed. The Golden Eagles lost seven of their last 13 games.
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