Usually Tuesday isn't a great night of basketball. Doesn't compare with Wednesday, and certainly doesn't compare with Saturday. But tonight was out of control with great games, including the tension of Tennessee/Kentucky and Tech/A&M ending within seconds of each other. Oh yeah, and I think Carolina/Va Tech played a good one in Chapel Hill. But first, let's finish up Monday's games:
Texas 83, #20 Oklahoma State 54
A huge second half by Texas should put to rest any talk of the Longhorns still being on the Bubble. Not only are they in, but they're getting a solid seed. The RPI is still fairly weak, but they should move back into the Top 25 soon enough. As for Okie State, this could hurt their hopes at a top seed. Right now, they're probably the fourth team out of the Big 12, a position that probably precludes them from a Top 5 seed. At 5-5 in the Big 12 they also have to win a few more games to assure a bid altogether. I can't see a sub-.500 team getting out of this conference.
Santa Clara 84, Gonzaga 73
A great game to watch, for those who stayed up late enough for it. The Zags home win streak ended because they just let the deficit get too large early on. Amazingly enough, Gonzaga is now second place in their conference, and they are potentially NIT-bound. The RPI has dropped out of the Top 60, but they have two big things going for them. First of all, name recognition - you just feel like Gonzaga should be in. Second of all, they picked up some really good out-of-conference wins (North Carolina, Texas, Washington). Plus, I think the Selection Committee will look past this loss if they can get Josh Heytvelt back by the Tournament. Remember that they won at Santa Clara when he was available.
Texas Tech 77, #6 Texas A&M 75
As I'm always pointing out, bad breaks even out in the long run. And after a slew of unlucky losses and bad bounces, Tech finally got a break in their direction. And after a few bad losses, their Tournament resume is looking a lot better than it did yesterday. The RPI jumped up almost a dozen spots to 34, and they've got solid wins over Arkansas and Kansas. Not to mention a season sweep of A&M. They have a strength of schedule of 7th in the nation, so I'd say that an 8-8 record in the Big 12 and a win in the conference Tourney should do it for them. I see that happening, and I see Bobby Knight back in the Tournament. On a side note, I hope some of my readers were fortunate enough to watch the duel between Jarrius Jackson and Acie Law. I recently accused Jackson of not stepping up to drag Tech to some victories, but he did that and more today. It was a lot more than that final shot - he was almost their entire offense throughout the second half. A great performance for a certain All-Big 12 player.
Iowa State 58, Oklahoma 51
Speaking of the big Texas Tech win, the biggest loser in all of that might be Oklahoma. They didn't do themselves any favors with this stumble, which has knocked the Sooners back to 8th in the Big 12. Oh, I know they're 5th in the official standings. But by all accounts there are seven teams that will get in the Tournament before they will. And with an RPI that has dipped to 73, you certainly can't get into the Tournament with numbers like that. Without any good out-of-conference wins or road wins to speak of, an 8-8 Oklahoma team will not be making the Tournament. They need a 9-7 just to be considered on Selection Sunday, and even that probably won't be enough. The lesson to learn here is that you have to schedule some good teams in November and December, and you have to beat one or two of them.
Tennessee 89, #18 Kentucky 85
A good win for the Vols that should take them off everyone's Bubble. A high-paced game that felt like a gigantic layup line, including another huge game for Chris Lofton. This team doesn't win too many games when he's not coming up big. Tennessee may be struggling on the road, but they've got the RPI up to 12th. This team now has three wins over the Top 25, and will surely give Florida all it can handle in Knoxville in a couple weeks. At 6-5 in the SEC now, an 8-8 record will make them a near-lock for a single-digit seed. Kentucky missed their 8th SEC win today, but they have an outstanding RPI despite the fact that they haven't beaten a ranked team yet. Either way, they're a near-lock for the Tournament as well.
#25 Virginia Tech 81, #4 North Carolina 80, OT
A season-high 33 points for Zabian Dowdell and an unprecedented sweep over the Tar Heels has Tech now a lock for the Tournament. Not only that, but they're now tied with the Heels (and Virginia) for second in the conference, only one game behind Boston College. Virginia Tech and Boston College leading the ACC? What is going on here? Anyway, the RPI is up to 20th, and they're an outstanding 9-4 against the RPI Top 100. No worries there. As for the Heels, not a huge reason to panic. They had several chances to win the game, but just couldn't hit the shots at the end. Those shots will fall in eventually. They just have too much talent for them not to.
Georgia Tech 63, Florida State 57
Obviously Tech decided they wanted to screw up the Bubble a little bit more. At 5-6 in the ACC, and with an RPI back inside the Top 50, the Yellow Jackets aren't done yet. Meanwhile, Florida State is struggling to define a good reason to put them in the Tournament. The 17-9 record? Pretty good. The RPI of 35? Not bad. The wins over Florida, Duke and Va Tech? Very nice. The 5-7 ACC record? Not so much. Their final four games are all winnable with no ranked teams left. But they really need to get three of them, because it's hard to rationalize giving a 7-9 team an at-large seed.