#6 Villanova 79, Mississippi 67
There's a reason why I always warn fans never to get too upset or worried by one performance in November. It was easy to get worried after that one point squeaker over George Mason, but all of those worries have melted away with solid victories over two good teams: Dayton and Ole Miss. Scottie Reynolds played like we know he's capable of for the first time of the season, and you can clearly see that Taylor King is finally getting comfortable in the offense. Even when he doesn't have big stats, he has an impact on games by attracting defenders and opening up the paint for Villanova's driving guards. If there's one worry I have about this team it's that they rely too much on players who drive to score, rather than driving to pass. They only had 8 assists and 22 turnovers as a team, and that's not a good combination for an elite squad. As for Ole Miss, this tournament probably goes down as a success, with double-digit victories over Indiana and Kansas State. Nobody will hold a loss to Villanova against them on Selection Sunday. They have a very easy schedule until late December, so we probably won't know much about this team until close to the end of 2009. But for the time being they have to be considered a serious contender to win the SEC West, which makes them a serious contender for an at-large Tournament bid.
#7 Purdue 85, Saint Joseph's 60
Purdue looks to have gotten a little bit of the rust off, as they absolutely slaughtered a good Saint Joe's team here. If I had to pick one thing I liked the most it was how well Robbie Hummel moved around the floor. His injuries last season had him often looking like a corpse on the floor, and his playing style (ceaseless movement without the ball on the offensive end) requires him to be mobile. If he can move like this all year long then he might be second only to Evan Turner in the Big Ten. And don't forget that Evan Turner might be the favorite to win National Player of the Year. Purdue did a great job of both rebounding and taking care of the ball, ending up with a remarkable 22 more shots from the field (and only 4 fewer shots from the line). The Boilermakers get Wake Forest on December 1st, but otherwise have a fairly easy out-of-conference schedule. It doesn't matter a whole lot, as Matt Painter just needed to put together whatever schedule he thinks puts his team in the best position to win the Big Ten. It's not like they need to collect out-of-conference scalps to put together an NCAA Tournament resume. As for St. Joe's, the margin of victory here isn't good, but they didn't have much of shot of beating this outstanding Purdue team. We'll see how they bounce back in their next game, November 30th at Rider. Rider is a pesky team, and the Hawks need to be careful not to let one mediocre performance snowball.