Our quick thoughts on Wednesday's results:
Purdue isn't a 1 seed - yet - but they certainly looked the part on Wednesday night. Led by JuJuan Johnson's 24 points, the Boilermakers got out to an early double-digit lead and held off a late Ohio State rally to pick up a huge 60-57 win over Evan Turner and the red-hot Buckeyes in Columbus. The win is Purdue's fourth over a team ranked in the top 10 this season and their sixth Top 50 win overall. The Boilers have now won eight straight Big Ten games, and are now just a half game behind Michigan State for first place in conference. If they beat Illinois at home on Saturday and if Villanova loses at Pitt, they'll be the final 1 seed in Monday's bracket. Ohio State, meanwhile, will fall from their spot on the 2 line next week, and how far they fall will depend on how they fare in East Lansing on Sunday. If the Buckeyes beat the Spartans, it would create a pretty big logjam atop the Big Ten, with three teams potentially separated by just a half a game.
Maybe we shouldn't have added that fifth A-10 bid after all. Both Charlotte and Rhode Island suffered damaging (and potentially resume-killing) losses on Wednesday night, and as a result, both may be out of our next bracket on Monday. The 49ers blew a 10-point first half lead in an 83-77 home loss to lowly Duquesne, and Rhode Island became Saint Louis' second upset victim in the last five days, losing 62-57 on the road to the Bilikens. Both losses were bad, but Rhode Island's is definitely worse. The Rams have now lost three in a row, and at 7-5, they are alone in seventh place in the A-10 standings. Even if they win at home against Fordham on Saturday, it's hard to see them staying in the field next week. Charlotte very well could join URI on the outside of the bracket looking in, but the 49ers have one more chance to keep their bid - if they can find a way to beat Xavier at home on Saturday. If they lose, they'll be out, too. The biggest winner in this whole mess is Dayton - who will (finally) get into our field if they can just beat LaSalle at home on Thursday and Duquesne on the road on Sunday. (See, Flyer fans, we don't hate you after all.)
Saint Louis' win - their sixth in a row - makes them the most intriguing team in the A-10 right now. The Bilikens are now 8-3 in conference, and they still have home games with Xavier and Temple and a road game at Dayton left. If they could ever win out (they also have a road game at UMass on Sunday and a home game against Duquesne next Saturday), they would leap frog their way into the bracket heading into the A-10 tourney.
It was good night for a couple of teams hanging on or around our Last Four In list. Oklahoma State led by as many as 20 in the first half and hung on for a 69-64 win at Iowa State, and UAB overcame a surprisingly tough test from Southern Miss to beat the Golden Eagles 59-54 in Hattiesburg. Oklahoma State's win snapped a two-game road losing streak in conference and moved them to 6-5 in conference with a critical home game against Baylor looming on Saturday. The Cowboys would be in the field if we did a bracket today, but their remaining schedule (Baylor, at Texas, Kansas, at Texas A&M, Nebraska) leaves them little room for error down the road. The same can be said for UAB, who moved into sole possession of third place in C-USA with their win and Tulsa's home loss to Marshall. The Blazers face Houston at home on Saturday, and if they win, they'll remain in our bracket next week. If they lose, C-USA could very well be back to a one-bid league.
Louisville needed 10 extra minutes to do it, but the Cardinals also picked up a huge bubble win on Wednesday, beating Notre Dame (sans Luke Harangody) 91-89 in double overtime at Freedom Hall. Samardo Samuels was unstoppable inside for Louisville in the victory, scoring a career-high 36 points, hitting 16-of-19 free throws, and almost single-handedly fouling out four Irish players. Tim Abromaitis (29 points) did everything he could in Harangody's absence to keep ND in the game, but in the end, the shorthanded Irish couldn't pull the upset. Louisville's next game is at DePaul on Saturday, and then the Cardinals begin a season-defining four-game stretch to finish the year (vs. Georgetown, at UConn, at Marquette, vs. Syracuse). If they just split those games, they're in. Anything less, and they'll have to do some damage in the Big East tourney to get a bid.
It's been nearly impossible for teams to win on the road in the Big XII this season, and that trend continued Wednesday in Columbia. Kim English scored 18 points, including 11 in one key six-minute stretch in the second half, to lead Missouri to an 82-77 home win over Texas. The win improved the Tigers to 7-4 in conference and sent the skidding Longhorns to their sixth loss in their last nine games. If Missouri can win at Nebraska on Saturday, they'll likely be a 6 seed in our next bracket. Texas, who is now 6-5 in the Big XII, will need a win at Texas Tech on Saturday to avoid falling into the 8/9 game next week.
Northwestern has found plenty of creative ways to miss out on the NCAA tournament over the years. This year, they'll be on the outside looking in because they couldn't beat the two worst teams in the Big Ten. Exactly one week after the Wildcats suffered a crippling loss at lowly Iowa, their at-large hopes were officially dealt a knockout blow Wednesday night at the hands of Penn State (Penn State!), a team that was 0-12 in conference coming in. Not only did the Nittany Lions win by 11 in Evanston, they did so with their leading scorer, Talor Battle, scoring just 10 points on 2-of-8 shooting. The only hope Northwestern has now of getting an at-large (besides the tournament expanding to 96 teams tomorrow) is to win out and to win two games in the Big Ten tourney. Any takers on that bet?
UNLV's slide toward a double-digit seed continued on Wednesday night, as they lost 66-61 at Utah. It's the third straight loss for the Runnin' Rebels, who, at 7-5, are now a game behind San Diego State and alone in fourth place in the Mountain West. That normally wouldn't be a good place to be in a conference that figures to get three bids, but the Rebels' schedule is very easy from here on out. They play Colorado State at home on Saturday and then finish up with a home game against TCU, a game at Air Force, and a home game against Wyoming. They should win all of those games and be in good shape to grab a bid heading into the MWC tourney.
Of note: West Virginia won at Providence; Duke won at Miami; Maryland won at N.C. State; Florida State won at Virginia; Kansas State beat Nebraska at home; Tennessee beat Georgia at home; New Mexico beat Wyoming at home; BYU won at Colorado State; Temple won at St. Bonaventure; Xavier beat St. Joseph's at home; Richmond beat Fordham at home; Butler beat Illinois-Chicago at home; Utah State beat Louisiana Tech at home; Wichita State edged Evansville at home.