Our quick thoughts on Saturday's results:
John Wall didn't have one of his best offensive performances of the year against Vanderbilt on Saturday night, but the freshman made big plays on both ends of the floor when it mattered most. His two free throws with 20 seconds left and subsequent block on a John Jenkins three-point attempt that would have given the Commodores a late lead, helped Kentucky pull out a hard-fought 58-56 win in Nashville. After Wall's block, Vandy had one final chance to tie or win the game with 2.5 seconds left, but they couldn't convert. A.J. Ogilvy caught a long Laettner-esque inbounds pass from Darshawn McClellan, but his runner in the lane hit off the side of the rim as the final buzzer sounded. The victory was Kentucky's first at Vandy since 2005 and it capped a huge week the 2nd-ranked Wildcats, who won a pair of difficult road games and further solidified their spot behind Kansas on the 1 line. The loss is obviously a brutal one for Vandy because of how close they came to winning at the end (their 2-for-20 shooting from three ultimately killed them), but bracket-wise, it will only knock them down to a 5 seed at worst next week. With the schedule they have left, they'll probably be right around the 5 line heading into the SEC tourney.
Not to take anything away from Wall's block, but how does Vandy settle for a three on that possession, trailing by just one? Ogilvy has to touch the ball there - he's a 73% free throw shooter and DeMarcus Cousins was playing super-aggressive defense all night.
Purdue has been playing like a 1 seed for a couple of weeks now, and on Monday that's where the Boilermakers will finally be (sorry, 'Nova fans). Their 75-65 win over Illinois in West Lafayette on Saturday was their ninth straight victory overall and it moved them, for the moment, into a first place tie with Michigan State atop the Big Ten. Robbie Hummel led the way for the Boilers with 22 points and 12 rebounds, and Keaton Grant chipped in with a season-high 15 points off the bench. Demetri McCamey scored just six points for Illinois, but his 16 assists tied a school record and were the fourth most in Big Ten history. The Illini, who were an 8 seed in our bracket this week, dropped to 9-5 in conference and 17-10 overall with the loss. Those 10 losses are a bit troubling considering they still have four games to play (at Michigan, vs. Minnesota, at Ohio State, Wisconsin), but their wins are good enough to keep them no worse than a 10 seed next week.
The biggest game of BracketBuster weekend lived up to the hype for a half, but Butler blew the doors off Siena over the final 20 minutes in a convincing 70-53 win at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Shelvin Mack scored 23 points in the win for the Bulldogs, who extended the nation's longest winning streak to 17 games and solidified themselves as a solid 5 seed in our Field of 65. The road loss is certainly excusable for Siena, but it also puts them a position where they will have to win the MAAC tourney to get a bid. The Saints' RPI (31 going into the game) is solid, but they still have no wins over tournament teams and their best win RPI-wise is Northeastern (59). We still think Siena will be dancing in the end because the MAAC tourney is in their home arena, but after Saturday's result, that's the only chance they have of getting in.
Georgia Tech's suffered some pretty tough losses on the road in conference this season, but none were more heart-breaking than what happened in College Park on Saturday. After Derrick Favors gave the Yellow Jackets a one point lead on a put-back with three seconds left, Maryland's Cliff Tucker hit a tough, hand-in-face three at the buzzer to give the Terps a wild 76-74 win at the Comcast Center. (If you haven't seen the highlights, Greivis Vasquez hit a half-court shot after Favors gave Tech the lead, but it was waived off because Gary Williams had already called a timeout to set the final play). The win was Maryland's third this week and it moved them to 9-3 in the ACC and probably up to a 7 seed in our bracket next week. The Yellow Jackets, meanwhile, are now an ugly 6-7 in conference and 1-6 in ACC road games. With a road game at Clemson still left on their schedule, they are staring at a potential 8-8 finish in conference. If that's how they end up, they're going to need two wins in the ACC tourney to get a bid. Looking short-term, the Jackets are probably going to be a 10 or 11 seed in our bracket on Monday and will be the lowest seeded ACC team in the field.
Remember when we insisted that the A-10 was going to be a four-bid league (only to cave and eventually add a fifth bid)? Well, that might be what the league is back to in our next bracket, thanks to Charlotte's 81-67 home loss to Xavier on Saturday. It was the 49ers' third straight loss and second straight at home, and it dropped them to fifth place in the A-10 at 8-4. Charlotte still has a road game left at URI and a home game left against Richmond, which means that they run the risk of finishing 10-6 in conference (which won't be enough for a bid.) They'll need to get to 11-5 to be at-large worthy heading into the A-10 tourney. Xavier, meanwhile, will likely move back up to the 6 line next week as a result of their 2-0 week. If the Musketeers win both of their games next week (they play at Saint Louis and home against Richmond) they would have to be looked at as the front-runner to win the A-10 regular season title.
South Florida was a home win over St. John's away from a spot in our next bracket, and the Bulls went out and responded with one of their worst efforts of the year. St. John's led by 11 at the half and never let South Florida get closer than four in the second half en route to a stunning 74-58 win at the Sun Dome. Dominique James led the Bulls with 17 points, but he shot just 6-of-18 from the field, and as a team, South Florida hit just five of its 22 three-point attempts. With a game at Villanova looming on Wednesday, the best the Bulls can realistically hope for now is a 9-9 finish in conference, which mean will mean they'll need a deep, deep run in the Big East tourney to get a bid.
The biggest beneficiary of South Florida's loss might be UConn, which blew out Rutgers 76-58 at the RAC on Saturday. The Huskies improved to 6-8 in conference with their win over the Scarlet Knights, and with the schedule they have left, they might have the best chance now of any Big East bubble team to snag an at-large bid. South Florida already stubbed its toe, Cincinnati has a brutal schedule remaining, and Seton Hall and Notre Dame have played their way out of the mix. Beating West Virginia on Monday night at the XL Center is obviously a must for UConn, and then the Huskies would have to sweep their last three games (vs. Louisville, at Notre Dame, at South Florida) to like their chances heading into the Big East tourney. It won't be easy for UConn, especially given their road woes this season, but they are clearly in the driver's seat with four games to play. Who would have thought that after their blowout loss at home to the Bearcats last weekend?
Oklahoma State needed a two-win week to stay on the right side of the bubble, and that's exactly what they got on Saturday by upsetting Baylor 82-75 at home. James Anderson scored 31 points and added 12 rebounds in the win for the Cowboys, who moved to 7-5 in the Big XII with the win. The victory was key not only because it came over a ranked team in the Bears, but more importantly, it came at the beginning of a four-game stretch that Oklahoma State has coming up against ranked teams. The Cowboys play at Texas and at home against Kansas next week, and then finish up with games at Texas A&M and at home against Nebraska. If they win just two of those games, they'll be in great shape for a bid; if they go 1-3 (and if that one isn't Kansas), they'll probably have to win two games in the Big XII tourney to really like their chances on Selection Sunday.
Mississippi probably wasn't going to be in our next bracket even with a home win over Florida on Saturday, but the Gators made sure we didn't have anything to debate. Vernon Macklin scored 23 points and Erving Walker added 10, including some key free throws down the stretch, as Florida won 64-61 in Oxford. The Gators, who may be back to a single digit seed in our next bracket, improved 8-4 in conference with the victory. Mississippi has now lost five of six, and will land on the Next Eight Out list on Monday.
It certainly wasn't pretty, but Mississippi State's 60-59 win at LSU will probably be enough to keep them in our field next week. Phil Turner hit a three with 5.8 seconds left to save the Bulldogs, who trailed by two after a Tasmin Mitchell three-pointer with 14.7 seconds to go. At 7-5, Mississippi State has a pretty decent chance to finish 10-6 in the SEC West, which would be enough for a bid. If they finish 9-7, they would have to win two games in the SEC tourney to feel safe.
Cornell couldn't have hoped for a better 24 hours. The Big Red beat rival Harvard on the road Friday night, won at Dartmouth on the road on Saturday, and then moved into sole possession of first place in the Ivy as a result of Princeton's home loss to Brown. Cornell hosts Princeton this coming Friday, and with a win, they can all but wrap up the league title and the auto bid that comes with it.
Of note: Wake Forest lost at N.C. State; Kansas beat Colorado at home; Kansas State won at Oklahoma; Texas escaped with a 71-67 win at Texas Tech; Texas A&M won at Iowa State; Missouri won at Nebraska; West Virginia beat Seton Hall at home; Louisville won at DePaul; Tennessee won at South Carolina; Clemson beat Virginia at home; Gonzaga won at Pepperdine; New Mexico edged Air Force at home; BYU won at Wyoming; UNLV beat Colorado State at home; Temple won at St. Joseph's in OT; Richmond beat George Washington at home; Rhode Island beat Fordham at home; UTEP won at Tulsa; UAB beat Houston at home; Cal won at Oregon; San Diego State beat Utah at home; Minnesota beat Indiana at home.
Of note (BracketBuster edition): Utah State beat Wichita State at home; Louisiana Tech rallied late to win at Northeastern; Charleston won at George Mason; VCU beat Akron at home (a Colonial victory!); Murray State beat Morgan State at home; Kent State beat Western Carolina at home; Missouri State beat Nevada at home.