Arizona 84, #6 UCLA 72
UCLA is an incredibly talented team, but they just seem like a team that can't play to its potential for more than a few minutes at a time. Even the individual players are not living up to their potential. Darren Collison should be a Player of the Year candidate, and he shows it at times as he terrorizes teams with his quick hands and hot shooting, but he never does it for entire games. And UCLA should be a contender for a fourth straight Final Four, but instead they're wallowing in a three-way tie for second place in the fifth best conference in the nation. I expect the Bruins to bounce back with a vengeance at home against Washington on Thursday night, but if they lose there then things really start to get worrying. Ben Howland is a great coach at in game strategy, and this game only got so close because he coached the pants off of Russ Pennell, but he's struggling this year at getting his kids to play 40 minutes each night. As for Arizona, this win cannot be overestimated. They probably would have been in the Tournament if the season ended two days ago, but this win actually takes them off the bubble for the time being. They are now 8-5 in the Pac-10 with a very nice 6-5 record against the RPI Top 100. They have wins over Gonzaga, Washington and UCLA, with no bad losses. The RPI is 44th, Sagarin has them 39th and Pomeroy 36th. They've now got eight days until their next game, which will begin a key three game stretch. All three games will be on the road, against Arizona State, Washington State and Washington. They should at least split their final two games, meaning that two out of their next three will probably make them 11-7 in the Pac-10. With several quality wins and no bad losses, that is probably a Tournament resume.
#16 Kansas 85, Kansas State 74
This was a game of wild swings, as Kansas State actually led by 16, then Kansas took the lead and opened it up to double-digits. Kansas State got it back to a two point game before Kansas pulled away in the final minutes. This was an important win for Kansas to hang onto their position in the Big 12. Despite the 8-0 start in conference play, you had to figure they were going to lose at least one game this week with two very tough road games (Missouri and Kansas State). Escaping with a split means that they managed to tread water through this tough week, and they did not lose ground. In fact, with all the chaos in the Top 25 they might actually move up in the Top 25 a little bit. At 10-4 against the RPI Top 100, and with wins over Tennessee, Siena and Washington out of conference, Kansas is playing for seeding at this point. As for Kansas State, even this loss didn't drop them out of today's BP65. The computer numbers are weak because of back-to-back losses to Iowa and Oregon, but at 6-5 in the Big 12 they can still earn a Tournament win just because of enough overall wins. They've got to go 4-1 the rest of the way, I think, but they should be favored in all but one game (at Missouri). If they can upset Missouri then they'll be in really good shape, but even without that they've just got to take care of business in their other games.
Penn State 68, Minnesota 63
Penn State stays on the bubble with this solid home victory. They've got that win over Michigan State and have zero bad losses, but they're only 5-8 against the RPI Top 100. At 7-6 in the Big Ten they've got to get to at least 10-8 to make the Tournament. It's unlikely, but a lot more realistic now that they won this game over Minnesota. As for Minnesota, they've been dragged from the Top 20 all the way back to the bubble. Sagarin and Pomeroy predicted this a while back, as their overall stats were not as good as their record. They were due for some close losses, and this is one of several now. They are also only 7-6 in the Big Ten without any really big wins, but their overall resume is still better than Penn State's, and the computer numbers reflect that. They've also got a much more generous remaining schedule, and should manage to get to 10-8. At 10-8, I think one Big Ten tournament victory will probably earn Minnesota their first Tournament bid under Tubby Smith.