Although the Tulsa men's basketball team couldn't pull it together to beat Cincinnati Wednesday night, the team still has a chance to take the conference title and secure an NCAA bid with a win over SMU on Sunday.
The team's poor defensive efforts and free throw shooting eventually led to its demise by the buzzer. The Golden Hurricane finished the game missing 9-13 from the line in the 56-47 loss. “On the free throw line, we missed opportunities," said TU head coach Frank Haith. He then went on to state how you have to score on every opportunity, such as free throws, when playing strong defensive teams.
If the Golden Hurricane would have secured a victory over the Bearcats, the team would have at least clinched a share of the American Athletic Conference title. “Coming on the road and beating them is huge, because they're a good team with good players,” stated Cincinnati coach Larry Davis. “We had to have this win if we wanted to have a real, real shot at playing in the tournament.”
As for the overall game, here's what Haith had to say: "[The] adjustments are continue to work and continue to practice. I thought we got some good looks, you know they blocked a couple of our shots, but we got shots around the basket and weren't able to put them in the hole. In a physical game like that, we've got to be more aggressive. We weren't aggressive enough to get to the free throw line. We got to be more aggressive."
With the loss, Tulsa is now back on the bubble when it comes to the team's chance of making the NCAA tournament. After Cincinnati's win, ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi took to Twitter to answer a tweet asking if the Bearcats where now in lock with their sixth top 50 RPI win; he replied, “Yes. Skyline!!” Apparently the win took Cincinnati off the NCAA bubble, but nothing is a sure deal until the selection committee picks them. If the Bearcats beat Memphis, it's more than likely that they'll have a secured bid.
With a win at SMU, Tulsa will have its greatest shot at entry, while a loss could possibly kill the team's chance. With that being said, Tulsa needs to be on its A-game during Sunday's matchup.
According to CBS Sports (bracketologists), Tulsa will be one of the last four in, and predicted to play Boise State (prediction not based on win/lose). NIT is the worst case scenario for Tulsa, and probably the most dreaded for its fans.
All everyone can do now is wait to see what happens.