Our quick thoughts on Saturday's results:
There was a very realistic chance coming into this week that Ohio State could wake up Sunday morning with five conference losses. As it turns out, the only five the Buckeyes may see next to their name in the near future is a five seed in our next bracket. That's because even with Evan Turner in foul trouble, Ohio State knocked off Wisconsin 60-51 in Columbus on Saturday, evening their record in the Big Ten at 3-3. It was the Buckeyes' second win over a ranked team in five days, and looking ahead, it puts them in great shape to make a move to the top of the Big Ten standings. Their next six conference games are all very winnable, and with Wisconsin banged up, it's possible that the two best teams in the league right now are Michigan State and the Buckeyes.
Elsewhere in the Big Ten, Northwestern actually won a game over a ranked opponent (current temperature in hell - 31 degrees), handing Purdue its third straight loss, 72-64 at Welsh-Ryan Arena. The win improved the Wildcats to 2-3 in conference and will make them one of the most difficult teams for us bracket-wise tomorrow night. It's easy to put Northwestern in and cite this win as the reason why, but we also have to consider that the Wildcats' only decent OOC win (Notre Dame) looks worse today than it did a week ago, and that three of Northwestern's next four games in conference are on the road. None of those three (at Ohio State, at Minnesota, at Michigan State) are going to be easy, and there's a good chance they lose them all. For Purdue, this loss likely means a drop to the end of the 2 line next week.
Texas probably thought being number one was going to be fun. Whoops. For the second straight game, the top-ranked Longhorns had to scratch and claw their way to a victory, this time fighting off a valiant effort from Texas A&M in Austin. Texas won 72-67 in overtime, but had to come back from a 9-point halftime deficit to do so. Damion James led the Texas rally, scoring seven of his 26 points in overtime and adding 12 rebounds in the win. What's the Longhorns' reward for escaping the week unbeaten? A ginormous showdown at Kansas State on Big Monday and a trip to Storrs to face a desperate UConn team on Saturday.
Syracuse survived a late charge by West Virginia and managed to pull out a huge road win in Morgantown. The Orange had a 10 point lead with just over a minute remaining, but had to hang for a 72-71 victory. Still, a win's a win, and this one on the road will land Syracuse on the 1 line on Monday. The Mountaineers, meanwhile, have certainly come back down to earth after their torrid start to the season. They have now dropped three out of five games and haven't been able to pull out any games in the closing minutes like they were earlier in the year. They oddly have two OOC games this week against Marshall and Ohio State. Hmm...When is the last time a team from a BCS conference played back-to-back OOC games in late January?
Pitt was able to do what WVU could not. They stormed back at the end of regulation and were able to defeat Louisville in overtime. Pitino took the loss particularly hard saying that it was the second worst of his career (the Laettner shot tops the list). The Panthers are one of the hottest team in the country and they extended their home win streak to 31 games. They will likely find themselves on the 3 line come Monday. Louisville, on the other hand squandered, yet another great opportunity to get themselves back into the bracket discussion.
One team that is actually hotter than Pitt is Tennessee. The Volunteers picked up their sixth straight win by taking down Mississippi in overtime. Wayne Chism led the charge for Tennessee once again, pouring in 26 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. The Rebels certainly didn't do themselves any favors by turning the ball over 21 times. Things are only going to get better for the short-handed Vols, too, as Bruce Pearl announced Saturday that Melvin Goins and Cameron Tatum would return from their suspensions this week.
Things are starting to get rough for North Carolina - now they're even losing home games. The Tar Heels were unable to come back from an early 20-point deficit and ended up losing to Georgia Tech, 73-71. Before Saturday, all of their previous losses had at least come away from Chapel Hill. Carolina has now dropped 3 of 4 and is sitting at 1-2 in the ACC. The Tar Heels will at least double their seed in Monday's bracket as a result (their wins over Michigan State and Ohio State seem like a long time ago.) If the Yellow Jackets could have managed to win their "easy" games they would be a top 5 seed. As it is, they'll be at worst a 7 next week.
Virginia's win at home against Miami may knock the Hurricanes to the wrong side of the bubble in our next bracket and - who saw this coming? - it may be enough to sneak the suddenly red-hot Cavaliers in the field as their replacement. Virginia capped a 2-0 week with a convincing 75-57 win at home over the 'Canes and extended their current win streak to seven games. At 3-0 in conference, Virginia will be every "season ending today" bracketologist's field on Monday. We won't automatically put them in because they are in first place in conference; instead, we'll analyze the rest of their ACC schedule to see if we can get them to 10-6. With their weak OOC resume (their best win was UAB), it's likely going to take more than 9-7 to get the Cavs a bid.
Xavier will likely find themselves back in the bracket after their home win over Dayton. The Musketeers stand alone at 4-0 in the A-10 and have a top 20 RPI, but are still by no means safely in the field. They played a brutal OOC schedule, but the only OOC win they have that is worth anything was at home over Cincinnati. It's very difficult to pick a pecking order between the top 5 teams in the A-10 bracket-wise. Temple is clearly at the top, but it gets very difficult to rank 2-5 between Dayton, Xavier, URI, and Richmond.
We'd like to thank Washington for making us look good this week. We stuck our neck out on the line a little bit this week with our inclusion of the Huskies and their 1-3 conference mark as the lone Pac-10 representative. The repaid us with blowout wins over Stanford on Thursday and Cal today. Quincy Poindexter lead the Huskies with 25 points in a game that was never in doubt after 10 minutes into the game. Now the question is whether or not the Huskies will be able to win on the road as they travel to take on the L.A. schools next week.
Notre Dame, on the other hand, made us look pretty bad, as they lost 60-58 at Cincinnati. The Irish were unable to capitalize on 32% shooting by the Bearcats and blew a 7-point halftime lead. Cincinnati fans who are still bitter over the Irish stealing away football coach Brian Kelly can at least take solace in the fact that they just knocked ND out of next week's bracket. The Bearcats were in desperate need of a victory after dropping their last two and likely saved themselves from dropping out of Monday's bracket.
It was not a good couple of days for mid-major teams with at-large aspirations. St. Mary's lost at home to Gonzaga Thursday night and then Wichita State fell 57-56 at Creighton on Saturday. Like the Gaels, the Shockers are going to be heavily discussed tomorrow night as we put together our bracket. There's a chance that both might end up on the outside looking in, but if one of the two makes it, it will probably be Wichita. The Shockers, who haven't lost at home all season, host Northern Iowa on Tuesday and we can definitely envision them pulling the upset.
Of note: Clemson won at N.C. State; Michigan State beat Illinois; Missouri fell at Oklahoma; Kansas destroyed Texas Tech; Baylor beat Oklahoma State; Rhode Island won at Fordham; Temple beat UMass; Kentucky beat Auburn; Vanderbilt won at South Carolina; Florida beat LSU; Mississippi State handled Georgia; UNLV lost at home to Utah; New Mexico won at Wyoming; Richmond topped LaSalle; Northern Iowa beat Indiana State; William & Mary beat Hofstra; St. Mary's beat Portland.