#1 Ohio State 87, #12 Purdue 64
Purdue entered this game believed by most to be the second best team in the Big Ten. And they were absolutely destroyed here. Ohio State scored the first bucket about 15 seconds into the game and never gave up the lead again. They led by 20 at the half and by more than 30 at various points in the second half before relaxing down the stretch. Everything was clicking for them and they looked every bit like the best team in the nation. That said, I only urge caution because it's completely unrealistic to expect the Buckeyes to play like this every night. They're going to have a down game, and they're almost surely going to lose a game to somebody. Duke lost, Kansas loss, and Ohio State will likely lose. Let's recall that they started this month with a four game stretch against Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan and Penn State where they won the four games by an average of 3.75 points per game. Their most likely losses ahead? Obviously road games at Wisconsin and Purdue. Pomeroy gives them a 53% chance of winning the former, and 58% in the latter, and overall gives them an 11% chance of finishing the regular season undefeated. But no matter what, Ohio State is the overwhelming favorite to win the Big Ten and to earn a 1 seed in the Tournament. As for Purdue, it was always going to be a longshot winning a game in Columbus, particularly since they came in 0-2 in true road games against the RPI Top 50. The margin of victory will be disappointing, but they remain 6-2 and in second place in the Big Ten. They will play Minnesota on Saturday and then head to Madison to play Wisconsin on Tuesday. A win there would give them firm control of second place in the Big Ten, and would keep their realistic hopes alive for a share of the Big Ten regular season title.
#5 UConn 76, Marquette 68
A poor night from Kemba Walker kept Marquette in this one, and the Golden Eagles were actually up five with about 11 minutes remaining. But UConn got nice contributions from Jeremy Lamb (24 points on 9-for-14 shooting) and Roscoe Smith (11 points and 8 rebounds, including 5 offensive boards). This represents the best production that UConn has gotten out of this class of freshmen all season long. If Walker can have a hot shooting night while those two are producing and Alex Oriakhi is dominating the paint, UConn actually does have the potential to be a Top Ten team. Both their Sagarin PREDICTOR and Pomeroy ratings have moved inside the Top 20 now, and with all of the carnage atop the Big East they're actually back into a tie for second place in the conference at 5-2, only one game in the loss column behind Pittsburgh. They have a key stretch over the next week with a home game against Louisville on Saturday and then another one against Syracuse on Wednesday. For Marquette, this game reinforces the perception of many that they lack the ability to close out tight games. They have lost five of their last ten games, and all five losses have been by single digits and against quality teams. In fact, of their eight losses all season long, six have been by 5 points or less, and the other two have been 8 point losses. Their Sagarin PREDICTOR is now 28th, but their ELO_CHESS is only 40th. They are 3-8 against the RPI Top 100 with their only quality wins coming against Notre Dame and West Virginia. They have a team RPI of 66th. If the season ended now they'd be in the Field of 68, but only barely. At 4-4 in Big East play they've probably got to get to 9-9 to make the NCAA Tournament, including at least one more big win, and in addition to at least one win in the Big East tournament.
#19 Louisville 55, West Virginia 54
This is a heartbreaking loss for West Virginia. Playing on the road against a very good opponent they led most of the way, including an 11 point lead at halftime that rose as high as 12 in the second half. But West Virginia has a streaky offense, and they went ice cold over the last quarter of the game, including a 13 minute stretch without a field goal. West Virginia is still 4-3 in Big East play and 7-6 against the RPI Top 100, including victories over Vanderbilt, Georgetown and Purdue. Their RPI is 19th and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS will be around 25th. They should make the Tournament if they get to 9-9 in Big East play. Their next game will be on Saturday, on the road against Cincinnati, which will be a chance for a nice victory over another team that will be potentially battling for one of the final at-large spots in March. As for Louisville, despite a 5-2 Big East record (and 16-4 overall) their RPI and Sagarin ELO_CHESS are both outside the Top 30 right now. They are 7-4 against the RPI Top 100, but this is probably their best win. Their other RPI Top 50 wins were over St. John's, Butler and UNLV. But even with the lack of big wins they will still very likely be in the Tournament if they can finish 9-9 because of the tough road ahead (road games at UConn, Georgetown, Notre Dame, West Virginia and Cincinnati, plus home games against Pitt, Syracuse and UConn). The UConn and Georgetown road games are next, on Saturday and Monday, respectively.