Evansville 65, #15 Creighton 57
This isn't the first time that Evansville has thrown a wrench into the Missouri Valley's hopes of multiple bids. They also beat Missouri State and Northern Iowa earlier this season. Of course, Creighton is on another level from UNI or Missouri State, and this result required some incredibly fluky shooting from them. Creighton is, I think it's fair to say, the best shooting team in the nation. Their 58.5 eFG% leads the nation by far (Missouri is second at 57.1%, and they get many more of their baskets off layups than Creighton does). Not only was their 44.2 eFG% here their worst shooting of the season, but they hit a shocking 18.2% of their threes (previous low: 29.4% against UAB). Their 0.90 PPP were also a season low. You want to know what brings these stats all together? Not only is Evansville allowing 1.03 PPP in conference play (only one team - Bradley - is allowing more than 1.04 PPP), but their 54.4 eFG% against for the season is 324th in the nation. In other words, this game was a total fluke, and there's no reason to try to draw any conclusions beyond that.
Of course, fluke or not, Creighton has to deal with this loss on their resume. They are still 21-4 overall and 5-3 against the RPI Top 100, but they lack a lot of big wins. San Diego State, Wichita State and Northwestern are their three best wins. It's nothing to sneeze at, but I just don't understand the hype for Creighton as a 2 or 3 seed. To me, they're most likely in the 6-7 seed range, with the ability to move up to a 4 or 5 if they peak down the stretch. This loss isn't going to help. Their toughest game the rest of the way will be coming up on Saturday against Wichita State. A win will put them in the driver's seat for the #1 seed in Arch Madness. A loss will probably drop them to the 2 seed.
Evansville moves back to .500 - they're now 7-7 in conference play and 12-12 overall. It's worth nothing that they're only a half game out of third place in the conference. I wouldn't bet on it, but it would be pretty shocking result if they can make it happen. Their next game will be Sunday at Drake.
Oklahoma State 69, Iowa State 67
Iowa State has entered a new phase of their season. The month of January was about getting on a roll and building up the hopes of what this team could achieve. That crested with the huge win over Kansas that put them on the map with casual fans and the mainstream media, which hadn't paid attention to them in years. But now? Now they're a target, and now they have to go on the road and win games that they're "supposed" to win, and that's not easy in a conference like the Big 12 where absolutely no game is a gimme (other than games against Texas Tech). Over the past week they had to go on the road to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, and I think a split is about right for that.
Le'Bryan Nash was the star for Oklahoma State, scoring 18 points on 6-for-10 shooting, including the basket that put the Cowboys ahead with 4.7 seconds to go. And then it was his block of a Chris Allen shot that sealed the victory. All season, OSU has struggled to succeed when Nash isn't at his best. In conference play they are 5-1 when he scores 15+, and 0-5 when he doesn't.
Iowa State still has a buffer between them and the bubble. They're 7-4 in the Big 12 with wins over Kansas, Texas and Kansas State, along with iffy losses to Drake, Oklahoma State and Northern Iowa. Their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is 40th. If they finish 4-3 or better down the stretch then they'll lock up an NCAA Tournament. A 3-4 finish along with a win in the Big 12 tournament will do the same. Anything less and they'll need a little bit of help. They will play Texas A&M on Saturday, but their schedule will be pretty rough down the stretch. They have to face Baylor twice, and also will head on the road to play Missouri and Kansas State.
Oklahoma State moves to a respectable 5-6 in conference play, but now it's time to head on the road to face Kansas (Saturday) and Missouri (next Wednesday). I wouldn't give them much of a chance in either game.
#2 Syracuse 64, #11 Georgetown 61, OT
A brutal loss for a Georgetown team that missed so many opportunities to win this game. One that stands out clearly was the fact that out of a timeout with 50 seconds to go they took their time getting a shot, giving Syracuse a chance for the final shot before overtime instead of playing for a 2-for-1. In overtime it was Kris Joseph hitting the game-winning three-pointer. If a few lucky bounces had gone their way, Georgetown could have had a huge win and injected themselves back into the Big East title race.
Meanwhile, Jim Boeheim passed Dean Smith with his 880th win, which puts in perspective just how different the modern era is from the past. The increase in games played, and the way that coaches will stick it out into their 70s (Boeheim is only 67, but there are no indications that he's retiring anytime soon). I remember when Dean Smith passed Adolph Rupp, and how big of a moment that was. The greatest coach of the 1950s and 1960s being passed by the greatest coach of the 1980s and 1990s. But now? As great of a coach as Boeheim is, 50 years from now he won't be considered on the Dean Smith level. Coach K could end up with 200 more wins than Dean Smith did. Of the top ten coaches in terms of Division I wins, only Dean Smith and Adolph Rupp did not coach into the 21st century. Boeheim is on pace to pass Bob Knight for second on the all-time list next season. Obviously Boeheim won't pass Coach K unless he unexpectedly leaves Duke.
With this win, Syracuse basically locks up at least a share of the Big East title and the 1 seed in the Big East tournament. If they can win the Big East tournament then they'll lock up a 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Even if they come up short in the Big East tournament, a 1 seed will still very much be a possibility, depending on what happens in the ACC between now and Selection Sunday. Syracuse will play next on Saturday at home against a reeling UConn team.
This loss ends any chances Georgetown had of a share of the Big East title. They are now 8-4 in conference play, which actually drops them to fourth in the standings. They're still 6-2 against the RPI Top 50 with a Sagarin ELO_CHESS inside the Top 20. I think they'd be looking at a 3 or 4 seed if the season ended now, and can potentially move up to a 2 if they have a really good finish to their season. Their next game will be Sunday against St. John's.