Our quick thoughts on Wednesday's results:
South Florida is on the bubble.
(We'll give you a minute to let that sink in...)
That's right: South Florida, a team that until last week had not won back-to-back Big East games since joining the league, is officially bubbleicious after stunning Georgetown 72-64 in D.C. on Wednesday night. The Bulls trailed by nine at halftime, but shot 65 percent in the second half to pull off the upset. Dominique Jones (the Big East POY?) was the difference again for South Florida, scoring 22 of his 29 points in the second half. It was Jones' ninth straight game scoring 20 or more points, and over the last three weeks, he's raised his scoring average for the year to 22.1 ppg. The win moved USF to 15-7 overall and 5-5 in the Big East, and sets up a potential win-and-you're-in game for the Bulls at Notre Dame on Saturday. A victory against the Irish won't guarantee South Florida a bid on Monday, but it will definitely make it very hard for us to keep them out. Their schedule the rest of the way isn't that difficult, and their only real tough road games are at Villanova and at Marquette. Their other remaining games are at home against Cincinnati, St. John's, Providence, and UConn.
Virginia is just one win away from a spot in next week's bracket after beating N.C. State 59-47 at home Wednesday night. The win improved the Cavaliers to 5-2 in the ACC and, more importantly, set up a win-and-in game at home against Wake Forest on Saturday. A Virginia victory in that game would knock another ACC bubble team (Virginia Tech? Maryland?) out because the ACC is almost certainly going to max out at seven tourney bids.
Mississippi State’s road woes continued against Vanderbilt on Wednesday night, and the Bulldogs might find themselves on the wrong side of the bubble next week as a result. Their 75-72 loss to the Commodores was their third straight SEC road defeat, and it dropped them to a pedestrian 4-3 in conference with another road game at Florida looming this weekend. If we did a bracket tonight, Mississippi State wouldn’t be in it. Vandy, meanwhile, has now won 11 of 12 and will secure their spot on the 4 line next week if they can avoid a slip up at Georgia on Saturday. The Commodores return home next week and play four of their next five in Nashville, a stretch that includes games against Tennessee and Kentucky.
How often does a team miss 17 free throws and still manage to win on the road? In the Big XII no less? That’s the minor miracle that Texas A&M pulled off on Wednesday night, as the Aggies went 19-of-36 from the line but scraped out a 77-74 win over Missouri in Columbia. It was the first home loss of the season for the Tigers, who have now alternated wins and losses over their last six games. A&M was 0-3 on the road in conference coming into this one, and they hadn’t won a road game since a Nov. 16 victory at SMU. At 5-3, the Aggies are now tied with Kansas State for third in the Big XII. They’ll likely leap-frog Missouri and Baylor in the bracket next week if they can beat the Bears at home on Saturday.
It's a little early to start stamping Dance tickets, but Northern Iowa essentially punched theirs on Wednesday night. They held off Wichita State 59-56 at home to open up a three-game lead in the MVC. The discussion can now move from whether or not Panthers will be able to earn an at-large berth, to how high of a seed they can earn down the road. Wichita, on the other hand, now has some work to do. With the schedule they have left they should (and need to) win out to finish 14-4 in conference to be alive for a bid. Shocker fans also need to cheer hard for Utah State over the next couple of weeks. The two teams square off in a BracketBuster game on Feb. 20 and the Shockers need another quality win to add to their pretty thin resume.
The C-USA race is starting to get interesting. A week ago, it looked like UAB was going to run away with the regular season title. Since then, the Blazers have lost two in a row and have dropped out of first place. They fell at Memphis on Wednesday night, as the Tigers closed the game on a 19-8 run to win by 10 and to extend their home winning streak against UAB to 11 games. Even with this result, we still stand by our belief that C-USA will be a two-bid league in the end. UAB has wins over Cincinnati and Butler and we can't see them finishing any worse than 12-4 in conference with the schedule they have left. They are safely in the bracket at this point, but as we have seen over the past week, they're beatable. We think they will end up going down against a team like UTEP or Tulsa that will need the auto bid to make the tourney.
The loud popping noise coming out of Williamsburg on Wednesday night was William & Mary's at-large bubble officially bursting. The free-falling Tribe lost by 19 at Old Dominion - their fourth loss in their last five games - and as a result dropped into sole possession of fifth place in the Colonial at 7-5. Their only hope at going dancing now will be to win the conference tourney. (Don't cry too much, Tribe fans, Andy Glockner will still have you in next week.) The win moves ODU into a three-way tie for first in conference with Northeastern and George Mason, who laig an egg at Georgia State on Wednesday night. The Monarchs' next game is a tricky one this weekend at VCU, a place where they've lost five of the past six years.
Of note: Kansas held off Colorado in overtime (20 missed FTs by the Jayhawks kept the Buffaloes in the game); West Virginia took care of Pitt; Ohio State beat Penn State at home; Illinois won at Iowa; Marquette beat DePaul at home; Baylor beat Iowa State at home; Temple beat Duquesne at home; Xavier won at UMass; Charlotte beat George Washington at home; Richmond won at Saint Joseph's; UTEP beat Houston at home.