Miami (Fl) 79, #6 Wake Forest 52
Those who aren't regular readers of this blog might be a bit confused by how I've moved Wake Forest around the BP65 this season. Back in April, when almost nobody else saw big things out of Wake Forest, I made them a pre-season 2 seed. When they jumped to #1 in the country a few weeks ago, I dropped them to a 3 seed. The reason for this, which seems like a contradiction, is that Wake Forest just had too much success too early. I knew they were stocked with pure, long athletic talent and that they were going to do special things this season, but they're also a very young squad. And I think they had too much success too early this season, and it got to their head. Watching this game, Wake Forest just looked like they expected Miami to roll over. Miami came out a bit lazy and Frank Haith did a great job of calling an early timeout to tear into them. From that point on, Miami just looked like they were playing at a higher speed. Wake Forest fans need to hope that the margin of the loss here will motivate the Demon Deacons players to get humble and hungry. They've got the ability to make a Final Four run, but only if they play harder and smarter. For Miami, this is a huge victory for their Tournament hopes. They move to 4-5 in the ACC and collect their first marquee win. With solid computer numbers (RPI of 43rd, Sagarin of 30th), an 8-8 finish will almost surely put the Hurricanes into the Tournament. The key will be their next two games, at Duke and at home against North Carolina. If they can split those two games then they're very likely to make the Tournament. If they lose both of them then it might be a bit of an uphill climb.
#20 Syracuse 74, West Virginia 61
A good performance by a shorthanded Syracuse team, with both Andy Rautins and Arinze Onuaku somewhat hobbled by injuries. But West Virginia really is a hit or miss team, and they just missed in this game. Nothing looked good for them. Syracuse moves to 6-4 in the Big East, and nearly has a Tournament spot locked up at this point. If they finish 10-8 then they'll be a lock. That statement is also true for West Virginia, but at 4-5 it's a little bit more of an uphill battle for the Mountaineers. That said, West Virginia is only 4-5 because they've had a really brutal schedule. It gets a lot easier on the back side, and 10-8 is still very much a possibility. I'd say that it's more likely for them to finish 9-9, but even a 9-9 West Virginia team probably makes the Tournament. They've got a great strength of schedule (Top Ten in difficulty, according to both Sagarin and the RPI), and they'll have excellent computer numbers no matter what happens.
#16 Villanova 94, Providence 91
Villanova looked very good in this one, and really should have won by more than they did. The final score only got close because Sharaud Curry played out of his mind during the final minute, and nearly pulled a fluke upset single-handedly. Here's a stat on how crazy the finish of the game was: between 38 seconds and 1 second remaining in the game, Villanova was 1-for-1 from the field and 6-for-6 from the free throw line and committed zero turnovers, yet their lead shrunk from seven points to one point. Either way, a win is a win, and as with Syracuse I think it's safe to say that Villanova is close to locking up that Tournament bid. They're up to 6-3 in the Big East, and 18-4 overall. Both Sagarin and Pomeroy rank them in the Top 20, and they're a solid 7-4 against the RPI Top 100. With a relatively easy schedule remaining (by Big East standards), it's hard to see Villanova finishing any worse than 10-8, and even 10-8 would lock them into a Tournament bid. Providence, meanwhile, is entering a danger zone. Their Big East record (6-4) is no longer that impressive, and they're now 4-8 against the RPI Top 100 with an RPI that has fallen out of the Top 60. They're going to have to finish 10-8 in the Big East to merit serious consideration on Selection Sunday, and even that might be difficult at this point.