A packed Saturday did not disappoint as the vast majority of the tournament locks and bubble teams were in action. It is hard to pick exactly which was the best game of the day. Cinci won a major game at Memphis to open the day, but little did we know the upsets to come. SMU proved it may be a major force in the American conference, defeating UConn. Virginia got a huge win at Florida State. LSU somehow lost at home to Rhode Island. In what most people may consider the upset of the day, Duke lost at Notre Dame, but Duke has had warning signs all day. As far as a most surprising upset, I'd go with Kansas State over Oklahoma State. KSU isn't bad, don't get me wrong, but I penciled in OK State as #1 in the Big 12. Now we'll wait to see if the Kansas Jayhawks are still the top dog in Sunday's game against San Diego State.
Cincinnati 69, @Memphis 53: This was one of the more surprising results of the day. Memphis has been a strong team until this point of the year with very good efficiency numbers, and losses all to good teams. Cincinnati has been no slouch either, but it already lost its only true road game at New Mexico as well as the Crosstown Shootout. Today's win proved that UC's wins over Pitt and SMU were not flukes. With Louisville giving who knows what kind of effort each game, it is not completely impossible that the Bearcats could find themselves at the top of the American standings at the end of the year.
Memphis adds another good loss to its resume, but the pure margin of victory and the fact that this was a home game should trouble fans of the Tigers. Cincinnati simply manhandled Memphis at the FedExForum, causing a massive amount of problems on the perimeter in causing turnovers and holding Memphis to 2/17 from three. Memphis has a lot of questions to answer before its next game at Louisville on Thursday.
@SMU 74, Connecticut 65: If there was any question whether Larry Brown's SMU could hang in the American, those questions should be dispelled by now. SMU had a solid non-conference season, winning all but games against good competition and winning every home game. I don't know that SMU is going to be competing for the conference title, but within this new AAC, SMU could find itself in third behind Louisville and Cinci, ahead of Memphis and ahead of UConn. Such would be a massive upgrade for SMU, who finished 5-11, second worst, in Conference USA last year.
UConn is now a team looking for answers. Yes, the Huskies are 11-3, but they've lost three of their last five, including a home loss to Stanford and a loss at a bad Houston team. With Maryland and Indiana underperforming this year, the only great win remains a home win over Florida, which is quickly losing its shine. UConn next has a game with a Harvard team that is probably better, and two of its next three conference games are to Memphis and Louisville. UConn fans may need to start crossing their fingers that the American can find someway to get five bids to the tournament.
@Xavier 79, Butler 68: Meanwhile, in the Big East, everyone is trying to figure out who will finish third behind Villanova and Creighton. Xavier has made a strong push to prove that its that team, and knocking Butler further down is a major step. XU has a pile of good wins and only one questionable loss (to USC in the Bahamas). Butler doesn't really have a loss that bad, but even its wins against decent teams were massive struggles, and following a Thursday game against DePaul, Butler's schedule is quite difficult throughout the rest of January. Butler may be playing itself out of the tournament unless it can figure out how to win a couple of these games against good teams.
@Kansas State 74, Oklahoma State 71: No matter what ESPN tries to tell you, this was the upset of the day. I think Kansas State is probably better than they had been given credit for up until this point of the season, but it is still rather shocking. What we saw was what happens when Marcus Smart is forced to sit on the bench for significant minutes, this time with foul trouble from a boneheaded technical. We'll only ever evaluate the Cowboys without Smart if he ends up injured at the end of the season, but KSU created the blueprint for taking down Oklahoma State.
Unfortunately for Kansas State, there is still work left to be done to overcome early season losses to Northern Colorado and Charlotte. Yes, wins over Gonzaga and OK State help, but Kansas State will need to figure out how to keep this winning streak going. The Wildcats next head to TCU for what should be an easy win before going to play at Kansas. Win, and KSU should find itself easily in the tournament. Lose, and the Wildcats will continue to sit squarely on the bubble.
@Notre Dame 79, Duke 77: Duke probably should have won, yes, but Notre Dame is not a bad team, and the game was played in South Bend. This highlights how much we should probably ignore preseason records since teams simply do not leave the comfy confines of home enough to know how they can fare when they are away from their home arena. Before today, Duke played zero---yes, zero---games on another team's home floor. We should not be surprised that the Blue Devils lost because we really had no idea what would happen. Duke has some nice wins over Michigan (at home) and UCLA (at MSG), but it has nothing else on its resume to speak of. Duke needs to win its upcoming games at Clemson and at Miami FL to prove that it deserves a good seed. Otherwise, it will find itself struggling to get one of those Top 4 seeds.
Notre Dame is a more interesting case still. Home losses to Indiana State and North Dakota State are quite damaging, but the Irish nearly beat Iowa and Ohio State, and it now has this win over Duke. Notre Dame will be playing an ACC schedule for the first time, but other than a game at Syracuse, every game is at least winnable, which is all you can ask for. Capitalize, and ND will find itself dancing in March.
Virginia 62, @Florida State 50: I thought this was one of the stranger results of the day, not because FSU is so much better than UVA but more because the Cavs have not been very impressive. Its last game before today was a 35-point loss at a Tennessee team that isn't great. Prior to today, UVA's best win was by 3 points over SMU in Texas. Beyond that, there was nothing worth mentioning. What won the game for UVA today was ball control---the Cavs only had 6 turnovers against an excellent FSU defense. FSU's defense will need to figure out its issues from today though---the Seminoles have an extremely difficult January schedule, one in which it isn't impossible that FSU ends the month 0-8 in the ACC. I think that's unlikely, but FSU needs to figure out what is wrong fast.
Rhode Island 74, @LSU 70: While OK State was the upset of the day, due to an elite team losing, LSU's home loss to Rhode Island was the most shocking. URI came in with blowout losses to SMU, Arizona (excusable), and Southern Miss, and close losses to George Mason, Providence, and Detroit (and an almost-loss to Div. II Metro State). LSU had been moving away from the bubble simply by not losing to bad teams, but this loss may knock LSU out of tomorrow's bracket. LSU's win over Butler is tarnished by the Bulldogs recent failings, and there are no wins to speak of on LSU's schedule beyond one over St. Joseph's. At least the SEC continues to be fairly weak, but at this point, LSU may need to go 11-7 to get an at-large bid.
Oklahoma 88, @Texas 85: This was probably the worst result that could have happened for the Big 12's chances to get both of these teams into the tournament. Both teams are on the bubble for failing to win any meaningful non-conference games. Oklahoma's loss to Louisiana Tech and Texas's loss to BYU hurt these squads enough that they now must get good wins. OU's win at Texas wasn't great, but it was necessary. UT's home loss is further damage to a schedule that has only 4 sure-fire wins the rest of the way. Should Texas fail to find a way to win games against teams like Kansas and Oklahoma State now, the Longhorns basketball team will be wishing for the type of success that got Mack Brown...err...retired...this year.
Dayton 83, @Ole Miss 80: I remain baffled while Andy Kennedy continues to allow Marshall Henderson to destroy his team. Is it so that the Rebs embattled "star" can continue to get weird Sportscenter anti-hero stories? Henderson wastes possessions that should belong to Jarvis Summers. If Summers were given the role he deserves in this offense, the Rebs would be better and might be on pace for an at-large bid. Instead, Henderson is allowed to play his team out of games that it should be able to win. Given the weak SEC, expect Ole Miss to be off the bubble for the rest of the season.
Dayton, however, is worth talking about. Yes, it lost to Illinois State, but that was a road game. Yes, it lost to USC in overtime at home, but Devin Oliver only played 24 minutes due to foul trouble. Dayton nearly beat Baylor in Maui, and has some decent wins (Gonzaga, Cal, Ole Miss). Dayton has been on the wrong side of the bubble for a while now, but fourth place in the Atlantic 10 may be good enough for an at-large berth this year.
Beyond the games I highlighted above, quite a bit happened in college basketball today, but it just so happens that most of what happened was expected. Let's take a look at the rest of the scores relevant to Selection Sunday.
@Ohio State 84, Nebraska 53
Pittsburgh 74, @NC State 62
@Georgetown 77, St. John's 60
Iowa State 73, @Texas Tech 62
@Arizona 71, Washington 62
@Syracuse 49, Miami FL 44
Michigan State 73, @Indiana 56
Princeton 80, @Liberty 74
Ohio 79, @UNC Asheville 70
@St. Joseph's 53, Denver 52
@Maryland 77, Georgia Tech 61
@Marquette 66, DePaul 56
@Tennessee 98, Tusculum 51
@Green Bay 85, Youngstown State 69
@Illinois 75, Penn State 55
@Florida 67, Richmond 58
Creighton 79, @Seton Hall 66
West Virginia 74, @TCU 69
Clemson 62, @Boston College 60
@Utah 80, Oregon State 69 - Utes bounce back after difficult Thursday loss to Ducks
@Mercer 62, USC Upstate 60 (OT)
@Missouri 69, Long Beach State 59
@Louisiana Tech 126, Longwood 52
@UL Monroe 103, Louisiana Lafayette 98 (2OT) - bad loss for Sun Belt favorite
@Alabama 64, Robert Morris 56
@Belmont 64, Tennessee Tech 62
@Saint Louis 75, Yale 55
Louisville 83, @Rutgers 76
@New Mexico 80, Colorado State 73
@Massachusetts 73, Miami OH 65
@UC Santa Barbara 81, Masters 52
@Stephen F. Austin 73, Sam Houston State 56
@Manhattan 83, Fairfield 57
@Gonzaga 86, Pacific 64
Harvard 69, @Rice 54
@Arkansas 104, @UTSA 71
Indiana State 81, @Evansville 62
@Bradley 68, Drake 57 - bad loss for previous MVC favorite
@North Dakota State 96, Mayville State 45
New Mexico State 84, @Grand Canyon 62
@Boise State 86, Fresno State 79
@BYU 87, San Diego 53
@Northern Colorado 91, Southern Utah 55
@Utah State 86, San Jose State 67
Air Force 75, @UNLV 67 - MWC continuing to look like only SDSU and UNM as at-larges
Saint Mary's 72, @Portland 63 - results like this necessary for SMC to get back at-large status
Although Sunday doesn't have quite the same slate as Saturday, there are a few huge games that will have a massive impact at the top of the bracket. The best matchup should be Oregon at Colorado. As Kansas knows, Colorado is an extremely difficult place to win, and the Ducks already had a harrowing escape once on this trip into the Rockies. Speaking of Kansas, they invite San Diego State to Allen Fieldhouse on Sunday for the co-marquee match of the day. SDSU's RPI will be killed by a weak Mountain West this year, so a win would be huge. San Diego State's defense might just be good enough to contain KU's O. And don't forget about Iowa at Wisconsin, as UW faces one of its most difficult home games of the season.
Northwestern at #9 Michigan
#16 Boston U at Lehigh
Northern Iowa at #3 Wichita State
Purdue at #10 Minnesota
USC at #7 UCLA
#4 San Diego State at #2 Kansas
#3 Oregon at #4 Colorado
Washington State at (LFI) #12 Arizona State
Providence at #2 Villanova
#6 Iowa at #1 Wisconsin
#5 North Carolina at Wake Forest