#22 Illinois 71, #18 Michigan State 62
This was a little bit of a weird game. With Michigan State struggling so badly, and Illinois playing so much better at home than on the road, I expected Illinois to win this game fairly easily. In fact, they had a lot of trouble here. Delvon Roe was a beast inside, collecting as many offensive rebounds (7) as the entire Illinois team. Michigan State earned 10 more possessions during the game. But the Illini hit more of their shots (including 47% behind the arc) and ended up hanging onto a 6-10 point lead for almost the entire game. This win pushes Illinois to 4-2 and into third place in the Big Ten, but they still haven't proven that they can win on the road. They have Ohio State coming to town on Saturday, but I'll be almost as concerned with a road game at Indiana the following Thursday. And after that the Illini still have to head to Ohio State, Michigan State, Purdue and Minnesota. Michigan State also is a relatively unproven 4-2 Big Ten team. They also have struggled on the road, and two of their wins have come in overtime. They will next play Purdue on Saturday night.
Tennessee 59, Georgia 57
Don't ask Georgia fans about this one... weeks from now they'll still be telling you that Brian Williams went over the back just before his game-winning shot at the buzzer. And honestly, he probably did. But referees always swallow their whistles at the buzzer, so I don't have a huge problem with the no-call. Georgia did do a good job of forcing this game into their style and deliberate tempo but they couldn't pull out the win. This is a huge win for Tennessee, and they do seem to finally be getting used to Bruce Pearl not being on the bench. The Vols have won two straight now after losing their first two games without Pearl. They now step out-of-conference for a road game at UConn on Saturday afternoon before coming home for LSU. Tennessee has been so unpredictable all season that I'm not going to pretend that I have any idea what is going to happen in that UConn game, and I certainly wouldn't be shocked if the Vols pull the upset. Tennessee is 5-1 against the RPI Top 50, including 3-0 against the RPI Top 25, but they also have a bunch of bad losses (Charlotte, Charleston, USC, Oakland and Arkansas) and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is still right around 50th. The big wins outweigh the big losses and Tennessee would be in the Field of 68 if the season ended now, but only barely. Georgia is now 13-4, but they are still looking for a second big win to go with their upset of Kentucky. This loss will drop their Sagarin ELO_CHESS to around 30th, but neither Sagarin or Pomeroy rate them as even a Top 60 team. So while they would be in the Field of 68 if the season ended now, I agree with the computers that the Bulldogs will end up just narrowly outside the final field. They have home games coming up against Mississippi State and Florida, and then head on the road to a Kentucky team that will be looking for revenge.
Nebraska 79, Colorado 67
This was a reality check not just for the Colorado program, but also for the national media that has gotten way too excited about this Colorado team. Yes, the Buffaloes did have three straight really nice wins (vs Missouri, at Kansas State, vs Oklahoma State), but there have been many examples of teams going on short hot streaks and then cooling right back off. And let's keep in mind that before those three games this team did absolutely nothing. Their best wins were over Colorado State and Indiana, and they lost to San Francisco and Harvard. They are 5-5 against the RPI Top 200 and this loss will drop their Sagarin ELO_CHESS out of the Top 50. Those three wins were the best three game stretch this program has gone on in years, and this has been a very successful season, but the national media needs to realize that it will still be a big uphill battle for Colorado to make the Big Dance. There's a good chance that an 8-8 Big 12 record won't be good enough for an at-large bid for Colorado, which means that they need to go 6-6 in the rest of the way (to get to 9-7). Looking at their remaining schedule I'd say that 9-7 is unlikely. They need to take care of business at Oklahoma on Saturday because after that things get tough in a hurry, beginning with a game against Kansas, and then one on the road at Baylor. Nebraska isn't getting the hype that Colorado is because they didn't have a big three game winning streak like the Buffaloes had, but both Sagarin and Pomeroy believe that they're actually a much better team. The Cornhuskers only have one loss to a team outside the RPI Top 30 (Davidson), but they've failed to close the deal against elite teams and have zero wins against the RPI Top 70. Even after this win their Sagarin ELO_CHESS will still only be around 75th. They will play at Texas Tech on Saturday and then will have a week to prepare for a home game against Texas A&M. The Cornhuskers probably need to win both games to claw their way all the way to the bubble.