#19 Michigan State 65, Northwestern 62
Michigan State has really struggled with Northwestern over the past couple of years, and this game was no different. They were sloppy and tentative in this game, committing 14 turnovers and only getting 5 free throws. And the result might have been flipped if John Shurna isn't still suffering from that ankle injury he suffered a week or two ago. Shurna played 39 minutes in this game, but he wasn't anywhere near himself, shooting 1-for-11 from the field. I do give Michigan State's defense credit for clamping down on Shurna, though, and they also shut down Drew Crawford and Michael Thompson (combined 10-for-29 shooting, 5 assists, 5 turnovers). Northwestern runs that quasi-Princeton offense, but they still need one of those three players to attract extra attention from the defense to open things up for their offensive cuts. As much trouble as the Spartans have had lately, they're now 2-0 in Big Ten with a fairly easy game coming up on Saturday at Penn State. After that they'll play at home against Wisconsin, a team that matches up well with Michigan State and has given them a lot of trouble the past few years. This is a difficult loss for Northwestern because it knocks them to 0-2, and later tonight they'll play at Illinois with John Shurna still not at 100%. They will likely have to get to 10-8 in the Big Ten to make the Tournament, so they'll be putting the pressure on if they fall to 0-3 tonight.
UW-Milwaukee 76, Butler 52
Butler had finally been turning their season around after a slow start, but UW-Milwaukee just played tremendously in this game. I hadn't seen this type of play from Milwaukee since Rob Jeter was working with Bruce Pearl's players five years ago. They were particularly dominant inside, where Milwaukee's starters hit 17-for-21 from the field and they got Matt Howard into bad foul trouble (okay, I guess everybody gets Matt Howard into foul trouble). Obviously Butler needs to just shake this game off, but this loss will be stuck on their resume. Milwaukee's RPI is up to 113th, but it is likely to stay outside the Top 100 all season, giving Butler a second bad loss (Evansville is another likely RPI 100+ loss). Butler does have wins over Florida State and Washington State and their RPI is still 22nd, but their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is 56th, so they would be out of the Tournament if the season ended now. There's almost no margin of error left for Butler - I think they can afford maybe one more conference loss in the regular season if they're going to be able to get an at-large bid with a loss in the Horizon League tournament (they'll be more likely to get away with two more regular season losses if one comes against Cleveland State). Suddenly their game tomorrow against Cleveland State is huge. If Cleveland State pulls the road upset, do they suddenly become the favorites to win the Horizon? Both Sagarin and Pomeroy project Butler as slightly better (about one point better - adding in four points for homecourt advantage means that Butler should be favored by five tomorrow), but a road victory for Cleveland State could flip that.
Auburn 65, Florida State 60
This is a disastrous loss for Florida State, and another embarrassing result for the ACC. Even by SEC West standards, Auburn is horrible. Sagarin still rates Auburn, even after this win, as the 280th best team in the nation - by far the worst rating for any team from a BCS conference. This game exposed Florida State's flaw, which is that they are completely and utterly dependent on their defense shutting opponents down. To be fair, they usually do that. Pomeroy only rates them the 6th most efficient defense in the nation after this result, but I expect them to be back up to 1st in the nation by the end of the year (they finished #1 in the nation last year as well). But other than Chris Singleton their offense stinks, so they're never going to score a lot of points. And as good as a defense is, an opponent can always get hot behind the arc. Auburn got hot in this one, hitting 8-for-19 on threes. Once FSU falls behind by a little bit it's just so hard for them to crawl back into games. And it's why this year, like the past few years, will be such a grind for the Seminoles just to make the Tournament. FSU finishes up with a 10-4 non-conference record, with a win over Baylor, and just this one bad loss. The Selection Committee will overlook one bad loss if it comes with big wins, but I don't think Baylor qualifies. Unless FSU knocks off Duke this season, I think they're going to have to get to at least 9-7 in ACC play to make the Tournament. They're 1-0 with a home win against Clemson and a Saturday game at Virginia Tech. On Wednesday they'll get their one shot at Duke, and it will come at home. It will be a huge opportunity for the Seminoles to get the bad taste of this loss out of their mouth. As for Auburn, this will be the highlight of their season. They'll win a couple of games in SEC play just because almost every Division I program would win at least a few games if given ten shots against the SEC West, but they will finish well under .500 overall.