#8 Marquette 71, #22 Notre Dame 64
Despite what I'm about to say about these two teams, I was actually surprised to see this result. While Marquette is clearly the better team, they are due for a reality check after this undefeated start to Big East play (currently 7-0). And Notre Dame has the feel of a desperate team, having slipped below .500 in the Big East and with a tough upcoming schedule. They had just had their huge home winning streak snapped, so they weren't going to lose two straight there, right? The fact that all of those factors were in play and Notre Dame still lost is making me really start to doubt whether this will be a Tournament team at all. They are now 3-5 in the Big East, with a road game at Pitt upcoming. They then head to Cincinnati and UCLA and follow that up with a home game against red-hot Louisville. At 11-7, that means this team could find themselves 11-11 with a 3-8 Big East record. They also have road games against Providence, West Virginia and UConn upcoming. I would say that 10-8 in the Big East is their best case scenario, and really they'll have to play well just to get to 9-9. They are 6-7 against the RPI Top 200, with an RPI of 80th, and how much better can Luke Harangody play? I think coaches have just figured this team out (read my explanation of this here). Things are looking bleak. On the other hand, a Marquette team expected to barely sneak into the Tournament has basically locked things up in January. They are 18-2, 7-0 in the Big East, and 8-2 against the RPI Top 100. The question is whether they can win the Big East, and I have to say that I don't think they will. They will have a gaudy record for some time, but the end of their schedule is just absolutely brutal (at Georgetown, UConn, at Louisville, at Pittsburgh, Syracuse). If everything falls right, they could get to 15-3 and earn a share of the Big East title, but it's more likely that they'll be 13-5 or 14-4. Still, a great season for Marquette, and they certainly have a good Tournament seed ahead of them.
Mississippi 85, Kentucky 80
Kentucky was due for a little setback. They are a pretty good team, but they were getting way too much hype in the national media. The media is really looking for somebody to hype in that conference, somebody to put on national television, and nobody is stepping up. Kentucky has probably played the best out of any SEC team over the past two or three weeks, but they still aren't that good. They are now 16-5 with a 5-1 SEC record, which looks very nice, but the 4-4 record against the RPI Top 100 is really suspect. Pomeroy puts them 23rd overall, but I think they're overrated because they have run up the score in their big wins. They have a lot of 20+ point wins over bad opponents. And while it's good that they take care of business against bad teams, that can cause a team to be overrated by some computer rankings. Kentucky is in good position for a Tournament bid, and is in the running for the important SEC East regular season title, currently tied for first with Florida at 5-1. But they have to treat the SEC like the Mountain West or the Atlantic Ten because, really, is there a big difference this season? There are very few quality losses. Ole Miss, meanwhile, is in a lot of trouble. They are 2-4 in the atrocious SEC West, and only 11-9 overall. The RPI is still 63rd, but both Sagarin and Pomeroy rate them much lower. They need to get to 10-6 in the SEC to even be seriously considered for a Tournament bid.
NC State 84, Miami (Fl) 81
A huge shot at the buzzer by freshman Julius Mays, but the result means more for the loser than the victor. The win tucks NC State's RPI back inside the Top 100, but that's not saying much. They're 2-4 in the ACC, with two games left each against UNC and Wake Forest, in addition to other tough games (like a road game at Miami to close the season). Hard to see this team finishing better than 7-9 in the ACC, and that won't even earn them consideration on Selection Sunday. Miami, on the other hand, is more than likely heading to the Tournament, but not if they keep playing like this. They have lost two straight games where they were favored and should have taken care of business, and have now slipped to 3-4 overall in conference play (currently 8th place). They are 5-6 against the RPI Top 100. Sagarin, Pomeroy and the RPI all put them about 40th in the nation, and they'd be in the Tournament if the season ended now, but they've got to get to 8-8 in conference play for me to be willing to say that on Selection Sunday. Their next two games will be very important, as they play at Maryland and then take on Wake Forest at home. Maryland is a team in a tailspin and should be very beatable. Meanwhile Wake Forest is overdue for a loss and could be vulnerable on the road.