#12 Michigan State 58, #3 Ohio State 48
This was a tremendous defensive battle, but Michigan State's defense was better. What the Spartans did to shut down Ohio State's offense was incredible. They kept Jared Sullinger out of the paint, and swarmed him whenever he touched the ball. He finished with 17 points, but it came on 5-for-15 shooting, took 8 offensive rebounds, and came with 10 turnovers along the way. As a team, Ohio State only had a 28.3 eFG%, their worst shooting performance since a 70-43 loss to Texas A&M on November 23rd, 2007. It was also the second worst shooting performance by any Big Ten team in conference play this season. Obviously, not many teams will be able to replicate what Michigan State did, but it's something that the Buckeyes will have to figure out in the video room.
Ohio State is going to drop from #3 in the polls, but in my opinion they're still the best team in the country. They're being punished by the pollsters because their conference is so tough and because they've played a tough schedule, a problem that Kansas suffers from as well. Neither Syracuse or Kentucky has a team in their conference as good as Michigan State. But unless Ohio State wins at Michigan State on March 4th, their path to the Big Ten title will get dicey, and that means that their 1 seed in March is at risk. They might have to win the Big Ten tournament to lock it up. Their next game will be Tuesday at Minnesota.
Michigan State essentially is leading the Big Ten standings. They're tied with Ohio State, but have the road victory and will have a great chance to complete the sweep on Senior Night in East Lansing. But their remaining schedule will be difficult, so they have a long way to go to a conference title. They will play Wisconsin at home on Thursday, where the Badgers will try to avenge that crazy overtime defeat at the Kohl Center. Michigan State also has road games at Indiana, Purdue and Minnesota to come.
Princeton 70, #21 Harvard 61
Jadwin Gym continues to be a house of horrors for Harvard. It's their 23rd straight loss on Princeton's campus. They hit only 5-for-18 behind the arc, and even had foul shooting fail them in the clutch. It looked like they were going to pull even with a little under five minutes to go, but they missed three of four free throws during a two possession stretch (straddling a pair of free throws made by Princeton's Ian Hummer). Also, despite their length and athleticism in the front line, Harvard struggled with post defense, allowing Ian Hummer and Brendan Connolly to combine for 31 points on 11-for-24 shooting.
Of course, this loss isn't quite the disaster that was last year's heartbreaking loss to Princeton in the Ivy League playoff. Harvard is still very much in control of the Ivy League. They are a game clear of Yale and Penn, and have already beaten both of those teams on the road. Tiebreakers don't matter in the Ivy League, but unless Harvard loses a home game they're going to earn the Ivy's auto bid. Their next game will be Friday night against Brown.
This win pushes Princeton up to 4-3 in Ivy League play, and 13-10 overall. They'll be at home against next weekend, taking on Columbia and Cornell.
LSU 67, Alabama 58
The story of this game was off the court. Anthony Grant suspended four players, including three starters, for breaking unspecified rules. Tony Mitchell, Trevor Releford, JaMychal Green and Andrew Steele are all off the team indefinitely. Mitchell, Releford and Green are probably the three best players on Alabama. And because we don't know what those players did, it's impossible to know how long they'll be gone, or if they'll even play again this year. And considering the fact that Alabama entered this game already very close to the bubble, these suspensions could end up knocking them out of the Tournament altogether.
With their established stars out, pressure fell on Alabama's 2011 recruiting class, and the freshmen did play well. Rodney Cooper nearly doubled his career high with 28 points on 10-for-19 shooting, along with 5 steals. But the reality is that Alabama's offense wasn't even particularly good before the suspensions. They've won because of their defense, and losing JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell has a huge impact on that. They gave up 1.06 PPP to LSU here. The only other team to score more than 1.06 PPP on Alabama in SEC play was Kentucky, which should give a sense of what has happened to Bama's defense with the suspensions.
Alabama is now only 5-5 in SEC play, with wins over Wichita State and Purdue, along with a bad loss to South Carolina. They are 8-7 against the RPI Top 100, but their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is going to fall close to 40th after this loss. Unless they go 4-2 or better down the stretch, they're going to have work to do in the SEC tournament to earn an at-large bid. Their next game will be on Tuesday against Florida, and you can bet that the #1 topic on radio in Tuscaloosa will be the status of the suspended players for the Florida game.
LSU already has more conference wins than they had all of last season. They're up to 4-6, and up to 14-10 overall. It's been a really nice season for them. Their next game will be Tuesday against Mississippi State.