Colorado 91, #5 Texas 89
I warned you a few weeks ago that Texas was due for a couple of bone-headed losses. Rick Barnes teams always have a few of them. The loss to Nebraska wasn't that embarrassing, but this loss was. Colorado isn't a bad team by any means, but Texas led by 22 points at one point, and had an 18 point lead with 17:30 remaining. Over the next 13:30, Colorado went on a 40-11 run. That's not a typo: a 40-11 run. And what was amazing about that run wasn't that Texas went over 8 minutes without making a field goal, but that the defense that entered the day rated as the #1 defense in the nation by Pomeroy allowed 40 points in 13:30. And it was a complete defensive breakdown - not just some hot Colorado shooting. The Buffaloes did hit some clutch threes, but for the game they shot only 8-for-21 (compared to 11-for-23 for Texas, by the way). The Colorado comeback was powered by their guards attacking the basket - constantly beating Texas defenders off the dribble, and never having to face a well-placed help defender. Alec Burks shot 1-for-6 behind the arc, but was 9-for-15 on two-pointers and was 12-for-20 at the free throw line. As a team, Colorado hit 61.5% on two-point attempts and had 21 assists on 32 made baskets.
This loss is costly for Texas because of what happened today in San Diego, and the vastly increased probability that BYU will enter Selection Sunday 32-2, meaning that there's no guarantee that the Big 12 will earn a 1 seed. So Texas could win the Big 12 tournament and still end up with a 2 seed. They should beat Kansas State on Monday night, but then will face a tough battle at Baylor next Saturday. Colorado moves to 7-7 in Big 12 play and 5-6 against the RPI Top 50 with wins over Missouri, Texas, Colorado State and Kansas State (twice), along with losses to Oklahoma and San Francisco. Their RPI is only 74th, but their Sagarin ELO_CHESS should be up inside the Top 60 when the new numbers come out tomorrow morning, and they'll have more quality wins than most teams on the bubble. Colorado would still be bound for the NIT if the season ended now, but they have to at least be in the bubble discussion after this win. They play at Iowa State on Wednesday and then get Nebraska at home on Saturday. I think that to earn an at-large bid they've got to win both of those games and then win at least one game (and possibly two) in the Big 12 tournament. It's unlikely, but I don't think there's any Colorado fan that wouldn't have signed on preseason to having a plausible path to an at-large bid on March 1st.
UCLA 71, #10 Arizona 49
I know UCLA beat BYU earlier this season, but I think this was the best (and most important) win that UCLA has had in two years. UCLA was playing here for a chance to draw even in the Pac-10 title race and they did so in dominating fashion. UCLA actually had more assists (18) than Arizona had made baskets (17). Reeves Nelson (27 points on 10-for-13 shooting, 15 rebounds) completely outplayed Derrick Williams (15 points on 5-for-11 shooting, 7 rebounds). Arizona as a whole was held to a 35.2 eFG%, the first time they've been held below 40% all season long.
Arizona expected to be heading home from Los Angeles with a Pac-10 regular season title. Instead, they have to leave with two losses and the complete elimination of their two game lead. They are still the favorite to take the regular season, though, with just home games left against the two Oregon schools, while UCLA has to go on the road to play the two Washington schools. But these two losses may end up costing Arizona a 3 seed should they win the Pac-10 tournament. A 4 seed might be as high as they'll go now. Even if UCLA doesn't win the Pac-1o title, this win has strengthened their at-large resume. They've won 12 of their last 14 games and are 12-4 in the Pac-10 with wins over BYU, St. John's and Arizona, along with a bad loss to Montana. Their RPI is 38th and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS will be inside the Top 40 as well. Those two games at the Washington schools will be tough to end the season, but if they split those and then win a game in the Pac-10 tournament I don't see them missing out on the NCAA Tournament.
Mississippi 68, Alabama 63
Alabama fans can complain that the margin of error everybody has been giving their team isn't enough. But that's what they get for a non-conference performance that featured zero wins against the RPI Top 120, and four losses against teams outside the RPI Top 100 (St. Peter's, Providence, Iowa and Seton Hall). They've been rolling through the SEC West with their suffocating defense (best in the SEC in defensive efficiency and eFG% against), but their offense is poor, and it let them down in this game. They forced 12 steals but were absolutely inept in their half court offense.
Now, Alabama certainly is not out of at-large contention, but they've now got a road game at Florida followed by a home game against Georgia. Unless they sweep those two games they're going to have ground to make up in the SEC tournament. They might need to win three more games between the regular season and SEC tournament to earn an at-large bid, which won't be easy. Particularly since there's a decent chance that their first SEC tournament opponent will be Tennessee. Ole Miss moves to 6-8 in SEC play and 18-11 overall, and they're a decent 5-8 against the RPI Top 100, but their RPI is 72nd and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is closer to 80th. I won't say that it's impossible for them to get an at-large bid, but for all intents and purposes they've got to win the SEC tournament. They still have a chance at second place in the SEC West and a bye through to the SEC tournament quarterfinals. They will play at Auburn on Wednesday, and then at home against Arkansas next Saturday.