Our quick thoughts on Thursday's results:
Georgetown came thisclose to pulling off the most improbable comeback of this college basketball season on Thursday night, before ultimately falling to Syracuse 75-71 at the Verizon Center. The Orange led by 23 with 12:37 left in the game, but then went ice cold from the field and allowed the Hoyas to mount a near-miraculous charge. Led by Chris Wright, Austin Freeman, and Greg Monroe (and against the cheering of Vice President Biden), the Hoyas cut the Syracuse lead to single digits with six minutes to play, and then got it down to one on a Monroe free throw with 1:10 remaining. But that's where the comeback ended. A Kris Joseph basket put the Orange back up three with 8.4 seconds left, and after a free throw by Georgetown's Jason Clark, Andy Rautins sealed the win for Syracuse with a pair of free throws of his own. Rautins finished with a game-high 26 points for the Orange, who guaranteed themselves a spot on the 1 line next week with the win. They don't play again until Tuesday at Providence. Georgetown's next game is at Louisville on Tuesday, and there's a chance they could take the floor for that game as a low 4 or high 5 seed. The Hoyas less-than-impressive 8-6 Big East record has them in sixth place in conference, a game behind West Virginia and Pitt and a half game behind Louisville.
Syracuse wasn't the only Big East team to come away with a big road win on Thursday night. Thanks to a key 14-5 run at the start of the second half, Pitt beat Marquette 58-51 at the Bradley Center to extend its win streak to four games and to improve to 9-4 in conference. The Panthers, who were playing their first game since their triple OT win over West Virginia last Friday, snapped a three game road losing streak in conference with the victory. They host Villanova this weekend, and if they can upset the Wildcats, they will be at the top of the 4 line at worst next week. Next up for Marquette is a huge bubble battle at Cincinnati on Saturday. If the Golden Eagles lose that game, a strong case could be made that they should be out of next week's field. Looking ahead, though, their final four games are all winnable (at St. John's, at Seton Hall, vs. Louisville, vs. Notre Dame), so we'll have to do some projecting of their schedule - and the schedules of the rest of the Big East bubble teams - as we hand out bids on Sunday night.
Mississippi's season-long stay in our bracket is officially over. The Rebels, who were clinging to a 13 seed in our latest field of 65, missed out on a golden opportunity to pick up a marquee win at home against Vanderbilt on Thursday night, blowing an 11-point first half lead in an 82-78 loss to the Commodores. It was Mississippi's fourth loss in its past five games, and it dropped them to 5-6 in conference and into third place in the SEC West. The Rebels still have no wins over tourney-caliber SEC teams, and even if they beat Florida at home this weekend, they'll be on the outside of the bracket looking in on Monday. A.J. Ogilvy had 27 points and eight rebounds in the win for Vandy, who welcomes 2nd-ranked Kentucky to Nashville this weekend. If the Commodores can upset the Wildcats (they're 13-0 at home this season), they'll be a 3 seed in our bracket next Monday.
Minnesota's at-large hopes appeared all but over after a road loss to Northwestern this past weekend, but they showed Thursday night that they can't be written off just yet. With their heads shaved in honor of teammate Paul Carter's sister - who was recently diagnosed with cancer - the Gophers played inspired ball and blew out Wisconsin 68-52 at Williams Arena. Blake Hoffarber scored 18 points and added nine rebounds to lead Minnesota, who improved to 6-7 in the Big Ten with the win. The Gophers still have a long way to go to get back in the bracket - they already have 10 losses and still have games left against Purdue at home and against Illinois on the road - but they are now ahead of Northwestern in the race for the Big Ten's sixth bid. Wisconsin, meanwhile, is now two games behind Michigan State for first place in conference with just four games remaining. The Badgers host Northwestern this weekend and then finish with games at Indiana, at home against Iowa, and at Illinois.
The silver lining for Wisconsin fans was that leading scorer Jon Leuer made his long-awaited return to the lineup against Minnesota, scoring four points on 2-of-12 shooting from the field. Leuer missed nine games with a broken wrist, and the Badgers went 6-3 without him.
For the second time in three weeks, Gonzaga got more than it could handle from a WCC opponent on the road. The Zags lost at San Francisco back on Jan. 30, and on Thursday night, they blew a double-digit first half lead and were upset 74-66 at Loyola Marymount. It was the first win for the Lions over a ranked team since the 1990 NCAA tournament, when they upset Alabama in the West Regional semis. Gonzaga led by three at the half, but made seven of their 27 field goal attempts in the second half to let Loyola back in the game. The loss will knock the Zags down a seed line next week, and even if they win out, there's a chance they might not get back to the 4 line that they were on to start the week.
Just when the Pac-10 looked like it might be a two-bid league, it reminded us just how pathetic it really is. Cal, who was in line for a potential at-large bid next week if it could just sweep the Oregon schools on the road, lost by 16 at Oregon State, and Washington, who would have been the front runner to be our automatic bid had we given the Pac-10 two bids, lost at home to USC. The Huskies had won five of their past six games coming in, but their loss to the Trojans (who, let's face it, may be the best team in the Pac-10) dropped them to 7-7 - and sixth place - in the Pac-10. The Bears fell to 9-5 thanks to their loss to the Beavers, and they're now just a half game up on Arizona State in conference. Whoever is in from the Pac-10 next week (it'll probably still be Cal) will be a 10 seed at best.
And finally, a big B101 fist bump goes out to Tim O'Shea and the Bryant Bulldogs, who snapped a 28-game losing streak and picked up their first victory of the season Thursday night, winning 53-51 at Wagner. Raphael Jordan hit two free throws with one second left to clinch the win for Bryant (1-26), which won for the first time since a 70-46 victory over NJIT on Feb. 17, 2009. The win moved the Bulldogs up two spots to No. 344 in the RPI, but they still aren't worthy of any at-large consideration just yet. They have no absolutely OOC resume to speak of, and they are a mediocre 0-26 against the RPI Top 330. They'll have to win at Mount St. Mary's on Saturday to get themselves back in the bubble discussion.
Of note: Florida beat Auburn at home; Dayton beat LaSalle at home; St. Mary's won at San Diego.