Our quick thoughts on Wednesday's results:
Let the "six A-10 bids" debate continue. Wednesday's results did nothing but fuel that argument, as Dayton blew out Charlotte at home (thanks to Chris Wright's 30 points) and Richmond won at Rhode Island. We are still holding firm on our belief that the A-10 will get a max of five bids on Selection Sunday, which means we will have to look ahead and figure out what five teams we like week-to-week. While the Flyers can make a very good case to be in if the season ended today, it's important to keep in mind that they still have four road games left, including a ginormous one at Richmond on March 4th. The Spiders, meanwhile, are now tied for first in the A-10, and there's a good chance with their upcoming schedule that they'll be 11-2 in conference when they play at Xavier on Feb. 28. That game, and their regular season finale at Charlotte, could end up deciding the A-10 title.
Clemson needed a win in the worst way, and they picked up a big one against Florida State at home on Wednesday night. The Tigers, who had lost four of five to fall all the way to a 10 seed in our latest bracket, beat the 'Noles 77-67 at Littlejohn to even their conference record at 5-5. With Miami and Virginia coming in over the next week and a half, Clemson should be in good shape to hang on to their at-large bid. The same can't be said for Florida State, which is now back on it all-too-familiar home on the bubble. The 'Noles need to beat BC at home to stay on Saturday to stay in the bracket next week, and if they stay in, they might be the worst-seeded ACC team. After Saturday's game, FSU heads to Virginia for an absolute must-win game against the Cavaliers. Their final four games are very tricky (at UNC, Clemson, Wake, at Miami) which means that, once again, FSU will be one of the most discussed teams on this site in February and March.
Florida State isn't the only team from the Sunshine State that now resides on the bubble: Florida is right there alongside them after a 77-71 loss at South Carolina on Wednesday night. The Gators shot 10-of-23 from the line and missed 10 FT's in the second half to blow a seven-point second half lead against the Gamecocks. They're now 17-7 overall, 6-4 in the SEC, and have even a slimmer magrin for error as they head into a very difficult last seven games. The Gators face Xavier at home on Saturday, and then (after a home date with Auburn) play five tough SEC games to end the year (at Mississippi, Tennessee, at Georgia, Vanderbilt, at Kentucky). A win over the Muskeeters will keep them safely in the field, but a loss could land them on the Next Four In list next week.
We think that both UConn and UNC will make return trips to the Final Four...just not the one being held in Indianapolis. Both teams have the talent to reach the Final Four that will be held at Madison Square Garden in the unfamiliar NIT. The Huskies squandered a great opportunity to get back on the bubble Wednesday night as they lost to Syracuse by five at the Carrier Dome. They can lay some blame on the refs for the loss, as John Cahill awarded Jim Boeheim a questionable timeout (on an ill-timed Scoop Jardine drive to the hoop) that saved a Syracuse possession in a tie game with under a minute to go. With the loss, UConn drops to 4-7 in conference play and it's virtually impossible to see them going even .500 with what they have left. The Tar Heels hung tough against Duke, but still ended up losing by double digits in the end. Like UConn, the Tar Heels would of had plenty of work to do even if they won against the Blue Devils. Their bigger concern at this point is whether or not they will be able to stay out of last place in the ACC.
UNLV got all the headlines over the past couple of days for its home win over BYU, but New Mexico showed once again on Wednesday night that they are the class of the Mountain West. The Lobos led by as many as 18 points in the second half and beat the Rebels 76-66 in Vegas, avenging a home loss to UNLV back on Jan. 9. The Rebels trailed by double digits for most of the game, then cut it to two with 3:39 to play before the Lobos pulled away again. The win moved New Mexico into sole possession of first place in the MWC, a half game ahead of BYU and a game better than UNLV. If they can survive a road game at Utah on Saturday, they'll be back on the four line next week. UNLV will drop one line if they win at SDSU on Saturday, and 2-3 lines if they lose.
It's because of nights like this that Northwestern has never made the tournament. The Wildcats, who were coming off back-to-back wins that got them within a game of .500 in conference, lost by 13 at Iowa (by 13 at Iowa!). Northwestern managed just 22 points in the first half against a Hawkeye team that allows the third-most points per game in the Big Ten. At 5-7, Northwestern's going to need to win out if they want an at-large. Not even the biggest Wildcat fans would bet on that happening.
Of note: Georgia Tech lost 64-62 at Miami buzzer-beater by James Dews; Virginia Tech won at N.C. State; Ohio State won at Indiana; Baylor survived a scare at Nebraska; Missouri beat Iowa State at home; Northern Iowa won at Drake (to clinch at least a share of the MVC title); UTEP won at SMU; Northeastern beat Georgia State at home; Old Dominion won at James Madison.