#17 Tennessee 74, #2 Kentucky 65
It was just one of those days for Kentucky, as they shot 2-for-22 behind the arc and bricked their way to their second loss of the season. You have to give Tennessee credit for not allowing any easy baskets inside. They got called for their share of fouls, and Kentucky stayed in this game with four more free throws made than Tennessee attempted, but they also successfully encouraged Kentucky to keep firing up three pointers that just were not going in. I am also impressed with the fact that Bruce Pearl has continued to use his bench (he gave ten players extended time today, with only two players getting more than 26 minutes on the floor) despite the fact that the roster seems short of enough scholarship players. He's had no problem going with walk-ons that he feels confident can handle the game and keep the tempo and pressure up on opponents. This marks the second win of the season for Tennessee over a Top Two team, to go with a take down of #1 ranked Kansas back in early January. Tennessee is still only 9-5 with this win, and for the time being is still ranked fourth in the SEC East standings, but they probably have the second best resume in the SEC. Vanderbilt has avoided some of the mediocre losses that Tennessee has, as they've managed to pull out a lot of close games over the middle-and-lower teams in the SEC, but Tennessee has bigger wins. Vandy is 9-4 against the RPI Top 100, compared to 9-6 for Tennessee, but they still have no wins against the RPI Top 10. This win pushes Tennessee up to a 4 or 5 seed for the time being, with the potential to realistically move as high as a 3 seed with a strong finish. As for Kentucky, all losses are good learning experiences for young teams, and we'll see how they learn from this one. Despite media huffing and puffing, this was no big upset. Both Sagarin and Pomeroy rated Kentucky as only the seventh best team in the country coming into this one, and Sagarin gave the slight edge in this game to Tennessee while Pomeroy gave the slight edge to Kentucky (due to Sagarin rating Tennessee higher than Pomeroy). This was basically a pick'em game. Kentucky remains a strong favorite for a 1 seed. I still think that Kansas is the clear #1 team in the nation, and that Kentucky is the second most likely team to grab a 1 seed, despite the fact that they're obviously not one of the two best teams in the country (due to a combination of a weak schedule, some lucky close wins, and the media hype around John Wall and John Calipari). They would have to lose at least one more time before Selection Sunday to have any chance of not getting a 1 seed.
#23 Texas A&M 74, #21 Texas 58
With Texas A&M coming off a tough loss and Texas coming off their biggest win in almost a month, it was no surprise to see Texas A&M take care of business on their home floor. Donald Sloan will get the attention on Sportscenter because of his 19 points, but the key to this win Bryan Davis, who had seven offensive rebounds against a huge Texas frontline to lead A&M to the surprising rebounding advantage in this game. Davis has probably been the key behind this entire Texas A&M hot stretch, where they've won 6 of their last 8 games. During that stretch Davis is averaging 10.4 rebounds per game, including 5.3 on the offensive end. He's already up to 7th in the conference in rebounding per game, and among those playing more than 25 minutes per game is third in the conference in offensive rebounding efficiency, behind only the much better known Cole Aldrich and Ekpe Udoh. This win should lock up the NCAA Tournament for an Aggies team that was a bubble team just a month ago. They are 9-5 in the Big 12 with an 8-8 record against the RPI Top 100 and zero bad losses. They'd be a 4-6 seed if the season ended now. As for Texas, this is not a bad loss, but it's a missed opportunity. And more importantly, they don't know the status of J'Covan Brown, who had a nasty fall at the end of the game. It looked like he just slammed his head and had a stinger, but you never want to project how quickly a guy will be back when he's taken off the floor on a stabilizing stretcher. Texas is already in trouble at the point guard position with Dogus Balbay gone for the season, and you saw the ball handling problems here with more turnovers as a team than assists. If J'Covan Brown has to be out for any kind of time then the team is really going to have a problem. Jai Lucas is a capable point guard who can eat minutes there, but he's nowhere near the all around athlete and player that Brown is, and who would be the backup? Neither Justin Mason or Avery Bradley is anything but a scoring guard. But as I said, unless something happened that wasn't apparent on television, I wouldn't expect Brown to miss any more time. The next Texas game (at home vs Oklahoma) should be an easy one anyway. Their next true test will be the regular season finale at Baylor next Saturday.
#7 West Virginia 74, Cincinnati 68
Cincy opened up a 13 point first half lead here, but West Virginia started to chip away late in the first half and the Mountaineers victory just started feeling inevitable. West Virginia certainly played with more energy here, and it felt like they just could jump higher and run faster than anybody Cincy had. It was a particularly disappointing performance from Yancy Gates, who had that glazed look that he gets when he's mailing in games, and which is so frustrating to watch when you consider the raw talent that he has. Unless the boxscore I'm looking at has a typo, Gates played this entire game without a single rebound, despite being the largest player on the floor. That's unbelievable. This loss is devastating to Cincy's at-large chances, which were already starting to get a bit dim. I've been waiting all season for Yancy Gates to take this team on his back, and it hasn't happened, and it's hard to see him doing it now. The Bearcats are now 7-9 in the Big East with a brutal final two regular season games (vs Villanova, at Georgetown). Needless to say, they've got to at least split those two games to keep their realistic at-large hopes alive. As for West Virginia, they've had a lot of slow starts and fast finishes lately, but it hasn't hurt them too much. They remain 11-5 in Big East play, in a tie for third place. They play an almost identical schedule to Cincy to close the season (at Villanova, vs Georgetown), so while they could end up 11-7, they could also still potentially make a run at a 1 seed if they can win out and then win the Big East tournament. A more likely finish, of course, is a 2 or a 3 seed.