When Georgetown lost 63-48 at home vs. Creighton and fell to 5-10 overall on Feb. 9, it looked as if the only good case for coach Patrick Ewing to keep his job for a fifth season might be the solid five-man recruiting class he’s assembled in the 2021 cycle. The Hoyas appeared to be lost on the court, as they had often during the early years of Ewing’s tenure.
But after what Georgetown did on Friday night in a 66-58 Big East Tournament semifinal win over Seton Hall, there is finally an on-court accomplishment for Ewing to tout. The No. 9 seed Hoyas are headed to the Big East Tournament title game for the first time in a decade with their former star center leading the way on the sideline.
That recruiting class — ranked No. 10 nationally right now by 247Sports — is still coming, and now there is some tangible progress to pair with the group. Winning Saturday’s final is the only way Georgetown (12-12) will qualify for the NCAA Tournament, but even if the Hoyas falter, the late-season turnaround that Ewing has engineered must be held in high regard.
Unlike last season when the Hoyas lost seven in a row to close the year, this team is surging at the right time, and that makes Georgetown and Ewing one of the obvious winners from Friday in college basketball.
Spoiler: Ewing wasn’t the sport’s only big-name coach to lead a No. 9 seed to within a game of qualifying for the NCAA Tournament as we draw closer to Selection Sunday.
Winner: Rick Pitino and Iona
It looks like there might be a Pitino in this year’s NCAA Tournament after all. While Richard Pitino’s Minnesota squad faltered down the stretch to fall out of contention for an at-large bid in the Big Ten Tournament, his father’s first team at Iona is on the cusp of earning automatic qualification. The No. 9 seed Gaels won their third game of the week by knocking off No. 5 seed Niagara in Friday’s semifinals to reach Saturday’s title game. If Iona wins, Pitino will join Lon Kruger and Tubby Smith as one of only three coaches to ever lead five programs to the NCAA Tournament.
Beware, however, that the Gaels probably shouldn’t have been the No. 9 seed after going 6-3 in league play during the regular season. They only landed that poor seed because the MAAC seeded its tournament by total number of victories instead of winning percentage. — Cobb
In a normal year, Virginia and Kansas would have no reason to worry about whether they’ll be playing in the NCAA Tournament. Both teams have had solid seasons making them plenty worthy of receiving at-large bids to the Big Dance. Instead, though, both programs will be waiting on pins and needles for the results of COVID-19 and contact tracing measures after they were eliminated from their conference tournaments on Friday as each had a player test positive.
Their issues with COVID-19 cast a pall over two of the most compelling conference tournaments, and reminded everyone that the virus will be a force to be reckoned with during the NCAA Tournament. — Cobb
Winner: Arkansas stays hot, advances in SEC tourney
Arkansas won its 12th (!) consecutive game over an SEC opponent on Friday in ousting Missouri 70-64. Very few teams have been as hot or lethal as they’ve been over the last two months, and this was a picturesque example of just how balanced this team can be. Check this: freshman star Moses Moody — the team’s leading scorer — only notched five points in the win. But J.D. Notae, who is averaging fewer than 13 points per game and was dealing with an illness, picked up the slack to score 27 off the bench.
“He played phenomenal,” said Arkansas coach Eric Musselman of Notae. “He threw up at one point, then he did it again at halftime. Didn’t know if he was going to come out and play in the second half. I think it was some food, to be honest with you.”
This is a dangerous roster coached by Musselman that’s gaining confidence by the day and improving its seed line with swiftness in the process. They entered the day a 3 seed in Jerry Palm’s Bracketology and can’t seem to stop themselves from winning. If there’s a team that’s not getting its proper due as a true and legitimate title contender, it’s Arkansas. — Boone
Loser: Blueblood dominance in the ACC tourney
Duke was forced to duck out of the ACC Tournament because a player tested positive and North Carolina bowed out Friday with a 69-66 loss to Florida State. That means Saturday’s ACC Tournament title game will be the first since 1996 in which neither Duke nor North Carolina will be featured. 1996! The year “Macarena” ended the year No. 1 on the Billboard Top 100. Make ya feel old? — Boone
Winner: Iowa pulls off the Badgers three-peat
Iowa grabbed the broom and started sweeping late Friday night when it knocked off Wisconsin in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals 62-57. It was the third win for the Hawkeyes over Wisconsin on the season, but easily the most important as it kept Iowa alive for a tournament title and marked the team’s eighth win in nine outings. — Boone
Winner: Cade Cunningham, Cowboys keep cruising
Oklahoma State won its eighth game in its last nine outings on Friday when it stunned No. 2 Baylor — the top-seeded team in the Big 12 Tournament — with an 83-74 win. It was a continuation of dominance for the Cowboys and for freshman superstar Cade Cunningham, who led the way with 25 points and carried his team down the stretch. OSU entered the day a projected No. 3 seed in CBS Sports Bracketology Expert Jerry Palm’s bracket, but a win over a projected No. 1 seed in Baylor and perhaps another one Saturday in the title game against Texas has this team on an ascension as rapid as any team in the sport right now. — Boone
There’s been a celebratory feeling around Wichita State basketball in recent weeks. The Shockers closed the regular season strong to earn the top seed in the AAC Tournament and removed the interim tag from coach Isaac Brown as a reward for the job he’s done leading the team this season following the resignation of Gregg Marshall.
But the Shockers nearly suffered a shocking loss in the AAC Tournament quarterfinals on Friday. They trailed No. 9 seed South Florida 41-32 at halftime before rallying for a 68-67 win. A loss would have been a crushing blow for their hopes of an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, and this team may still not be in the clear. Wichita State needs to win its semifinal game against No. 5 seed Cincinnati on Saturday, because even that would be considered a bad loss in the watered down AAC. If the Shockers can eek out one more victory, perhaps they will finally be able to exhale and appreciate what’s been a season of renewal. — Cobb
Loser: Seton Hall’s at-large hopes take huge hit
An already-shaky at-large resume for Seton Hall took a hit Friday when it fell 66-58 to Patrick Ewing’s Georgetown Hoyas. The Pirates (14-13) might be kissing their NCAA Tournament hopes goodbye with that one. They dropped five of their last six games with only one win over bubbly St. John’s in the last three weeks. After entering the day needing quality wins and still on the outside looking in of Jerry Palm’s tourney projections, this stumble might cost them a chance to go dancing. — Boone
Winner: Alabama looks lethal
So, if Alabama wins the SEC Tournament, can it steal the fourth No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament? It’s a topic worth considering since the Crimson Tide looked absolutely lethal in an SEC Tournament quarterfinal shellacking of Mississippi State on Friday. The 85-48 romp over the No. 9 seed Bulldogs offered a perfect display of the hard-nosed defense and 3-point marksmanship that carried Alabama to the SEC’s regular-season title. If it carries them to an SEC Tournament title as well, you’ll be able to make a compelling case for the Crimson Tide to be on the top seed line. — Cobb
Loser: Big Ten sportsmanship
Apparently, there was some lingering bad blood between Michigan and Maryland from the their two regular season meetings. Whatever the beef was, it spilled over in a major way during the Wolverines’ 79-66 Big Ten Tournament quarterfinal victory. Michigan coach Juwan Howard received two technical fouls and had to be restrained from stepping toward Turgeon during the middle of the second half. Turgeon also got T’d up, and the ordeal seemed to benefit Maryland at first. But after a brief 5-0 run for the Terrapins, Michigan surged down the stretch for its third victory in the series this season. — Cobb
Winner: Ohio State looks like itself again
After losing four straight games to end the regular season and then struggling to get past a reeling Minnesota team in the second round of Thursday’s Big Ten Tournament, Ohio State finally started to look like itself again on Friday. The No. 4 seed Buckeyes outlasted No. 5 seed Purdue 87-78 in overtime despite losing starting forward Kyle Young to injury early in the second half after he exploded for 18 points in the first half. The resiliency continued in overtime after leading scorer E.J. Liddell fouled out for the Buckeyes. This team was once on the projected No. 1 seed line in Palm’s Bracketology and fell to the No. 2 seed line during their late-season struggles. The Purdue win should help stabilize things, however. — Cobb
Loser: Jackson State’s tournament dreams get dashed
March can be just as cruel as it is cool, and no team learned firsthand the agony of defeat and the truth of that statement than Jackson State, which fell 84-81 in overtime to Texas Southern in the SWAC semifinals. The Tigers went a perfect 11-0 in SWAC regular season play and last took a loss on Dec. 20, 2020, but the stunning stumble dashed their NCAA Tournament hopes after a brilliant season. Texas Southern will face the winner of Grambling State and Prairie View A&M for the league’s automatic bid on Saturday. — Boone
Winner: Florida State staves off pesky UNC team
In its third ACC Tournament semifinals appearance in four seasons, Florida State successfully advanced to the title game on Friday by defeating North Carolina 69-66. The Seminoles, a 4 seed in Jerry Palm’s Bracketology, held off a Tar Heels team that exploded in the second half to outscore them 42-34 behind Balso Koprivica’s 17-point, 11-rebound outing. They face Georgia Tech on Saturday with a chance to win their second ACC Tournament championship. — Boone