Our quick thoughts on Wednesday's results:
Even with its awful history against North Carolina, Clemson had to feel pretty good about its chances to knock off the Tar Heels going into Wednesday night's game at Littlejohn. Not even the biggest of dreamers could have predicted this, though. Led by Trevor Booker and Demontez Stitt, the Tigers flat-out dominated Carolina, leading by as many as 25 in the first half and eventually rolling to an 83-64 win. It was the Tigers' first win in six years over the Tar Heels, who are now an eye-popping 1-5 away from home this season. The win is obviously huge for Clemson's resume - if the Tigers can avoid a letdown and win at N.C. State this weekend, they'll be near the top of the 4 line next week. The Heels, on the other hand, will continue to slide in the opposite direction. If they beat Georgia Tech on Saturday, they could hang on to a 5 seed. If not, they'll likely be on the 6 line.
We'll give the Clemson court rush a solid B+. We love the fact that it came from both sides and that it was very orange, but it took just a liiiittle bit too long for the whole court to be covered. All in all, though, a job well done. (In case anyone was wondering, we're cool with Clemson rushing, even though it wasn't that big of an upset and the Tigers were actually favored by three points. As down as they may be, Carolina is still Carolina, they're the defending national champs, and they've absolutely owned Clemson over the years. Let the kids celebrate.)
Texas' first game as the number one team in the country wasn't an easy one, but it still ended just like every other Longhorns' game has so far this season. Avery Bradley (the best freshman no one ever talks about) scored 24 points and Damion James added 23 points and 14 rebounds as Texas recovered from a shaky first half to beat Iowa State 90-83 in Ames. Next up for the Longhorns is a home game against Texas A&M on Saturday, which kicks off a five-game stretch against tourney-quality teams (A&M, at Kansas State, at UConn, Texas Tech, Baylor). We have a funny feeling they won't be undefeated when the Red Raiders come to town.
UConn is now officially on the bubble. It was upstart Pitt that got the best of the Huskies Wednesday night, handing them their first home loss of the season. Maybe this loss will finally convince fellow bracketologists that the Huskies don’t belong on the 4/5 line. UConn could actually find themselves on the wrong side of the bubble come next week if they aren’t able to pick up their first road win of the season this weekend against Michigan. Pitt, on the other hand, will only continue to climb up the bracket and could really be considered the favorite in the Big East race. Their 4-0 start has included three impressive road wins, they don’t have to play Syracuse again, and they get Villanova at home.
The only team falling faster in the bracket than UConn may be Cincinnati. Dwight Hardy was able to make two steals and four free throws in the final 10 seconds to help St. John's steal one from the Bearcats at the Garden. Cincinnati has now dropped three in a row in conference as they return home to take on Notre Dame this weekend in what amounts to an elimination game for next week’s bracket. The win was the first one in Big East play for St. John’s as they try to stay relevant after they dropped their first three conference games.
Just when we started to believe in Miami, they went out and got absolutely embarrassed at Virginia Tech. The Hokies led by double digits after five minutes and by as many as 35 in the first half. It’s easily Virginia Tech’s best win on the year and another win at Florida State this weekend will land them in next week’s bracket. The Hokies will need to win at least nine games in conference to go dancing since they have no good OOC wins to speak of and a fairly easy ACC schedule (they only face Duke, Wake Forest, and Clemson once).
Speaking of the ACC, that's not a typo at the top of the league standings. Virginia is the lone remaining unbeaten in conference after knocking off Georgia Tech 82-75 at home Wednesday night. The Cavaliers have now won seven in a row overall, and have beaten two tournament teams in the process (GT and UAB). Georgia Tech, meanwhile, looked nothing like the team that upset Duke its last time out. They shot an abysmal 3-for-11 from the line against Virginia and managed just six field goals in the last nine-plus minutes of the game. They’re now staring at a potential 0-2 week with a game at Chapel Hill looming on Saturday.
Wisconsin fared just fine in its first game without Jon Leuer. The 13th-ranked Badgers won at Northwestern 60-50, holding the Wildcats to just 23 points in the second half. Trevon Hughes and Jason Bohanon combined for 34 points in Leuer’s absence to lead the Badgers, who improved to 4-1 in conference with the win. The loss dropped Northwestern to 1-3 in the Big Ten and temporarily off the Last Four Out line. They now face a real must-win game at home against Purdue this weekend. Another loss and they can say goodbye to their spot on the bubble.
We hammered Texas Tech in our bracket this week, dropping them from the 6 line to the 12 line after they lost at Oklahoma State. As is turns out, we were being way too nice. The Red Raiders are out of the bracket altogether now, after losing 94-89 in overtime to Missouri at home Wednesday. Texas Tech actually rallied from eight down with 1:10 to play to force OT, but in OT, they missed three huge free throws, including two by Nick Okorie with 21 seconds left and the Red Raiders trailing by one. For the game, Texas Tech shot 17-of-31 from the line.
Vanderbilt passed the first of two tough road tests this week, winning 65-64 at Auburn Wednesday night. The Commodores rallied from a seven-point halftime deficit and sealed the win on a Jeffery Taylor free throw with six seconds left. Alabama had a chance to win on the game's final possession, but Alabama's Anthony Brock couldn't connect on a tough shot in traffic. The win is Vandy's seventh in a row, and if they win at South Carolina on Saturday, they will likely find themselves on the 7 line next week.
Xavier's now won 25 straight A-10 home games after beating Charlotte 86-74 on Wednesday night. If the Musketeers can make it 26 straight with a win at home over Dayton this weekend, they'll move to 4-0 in conference and they'll have an outside chance to sneak into next week's bracket. Xavier would be safely in had they just picked up one more quality OOC win earlier in the season. None of their five losses are bad, but their only real quality win (Cincinnati) doesn't look nearly as good as it once did.
Of note: Kansas won at Nebraska; Michigan State beat Minnesota at home; Syracuse won at Rutgers; Duke beat Boston College at home; West Virginia won at South Florida; Mississippi won at Georgia; Richmond beat UMass in OT at home; Rhode Island beat St. Joe’s at home; Temple won at Penn; Dayton won at Fordham; Wichita State won at Indiana State; UNLV beat San Diego State at home; BYU won at Air Force; New Mexico beat Utah at home.