Villanova 75, #3 Syracuse 71, OT
It's been a crazy week in the Big East. Louisville lost twice and Syracuse went down as well. Villanova delivered two of those blows, taking down both of the Big East giants in consecutive games. Although after taking the lead early in this game, Villanova gave away the lead late. Brandon Triche played one of the best games of his career, scoring 23 points with 4 assists, and putting Syracuse on his back late. Though in the final two minutes and into overtime, everything ran through Michael Carter-Williams, who played one the worst games of his short career. Carter-Williams finished 4-for-17 from the field with 4 assists and 5 turnovers. In the final three minutes of regulation, he committed a pair of turnovers and missed the front end at the free throw line, allowing Villanova to come down for a final possession that was full of scrambling and ended with Ryan Arcidiacono hitting an off-balance three-pointer to send the game to overtime.
Arcidiacono honestly didn't have that great of a game overall. He finished with 10 points on 2-for-10 shooting with 2 assists. But it's pretty clear how his teammates and the crowd respond to his hustle and attitude, which is a breath of fresh air after the negative attitude that seemed to pervade the Villanova squad last season.
You can be pretty sure that Villanova is going to be in some bracket projections in the next few days. They have a pair of Top Ten wins now, and are a respectable 4-5 against the RPI Top 100, with a Sagarin ELO_SCORE that should move inside the Top 50. But at the same time, they have a bunch of bad losses (Columbia, Providence, La Salle, Alabama) and are still likely to be only around 60th in the Pomeroy and Sagarin PREDICTOR ratings when the new numbers come out tomorrow. In general, overreacting to two games and ignoring the previous 18 is a mistake. Villanova still has to do more to move into my bracket projection.
Villanova is 4-3 in Big East play, and will need to get to at least 10-8 to have a real shot for an at-large bid. They have a very tough game on Wednesday at Notre Dame, though after that they'll have easier games for a couple of weeks. Syracuse has a week to recover from this loss before a tough road game at Pittsburgh.
Georgetown 53, #5 Louisville 51
Peyton Siva will want to forget this game. He finished with 0 points, 2 assists, 3 turnovers and 4 fouls. Russ Smith wasn't a whole lot better, scoring just 12 points in 29 minutes off the bench. In the final four minutes of the game, Louisville scored all of 1 point. And while they didn't play terribly in the loss to Syracuse, the Cardinals have now scored 0.85 and 0.84 PPP in losses to Villanova and Georgetown, and they're suddenly tied with the likes of St. John's and Villanova at 4-3 in the Big East.
Louisville probably should never have been #1 in the country since they've never been the best team in the nation, but the panic that is going to surround them after these three straight losses is going to be a severe overreaction in the other direction. Louisville still has one of the two or three best defenses in the nation, and they have several explosive offensive players. The nature of Siva and Russ Smith is that they're inconsistent, and they're occasionally going to have stinkers like this. To relate them to a team I've talked about a lot this season, they're kind of a rich man's Cincinnati.
Louisville and Syracuse are still the clear two best teams in the Big East. I'm not sure which of those two is better, but I know that Louisville is not going to finish the season 10-8 or 11-7 in Big East play. They should be able to get to at least 13-5. You can be sure that they'll be looking to bounce back with a flourish on Monday night against Pittsburgh. Their next game after that will be the following Sunday, against Marquette.
For Georgetown, what stood out to me here was Markel Starks, who scored 17 points on 7-for-16 shooting. Otto Porter is the best player on Georgetown, but Starks has a unique ability to create his own offense. Porter is a better fit for the quasi-Princeton offense that JTIII runs, but this game looked more like a Rucker League game than an old fashioned Princeton game, and Starks was the best weapon Georgetown had in that environment.
Georgetown fans were in the dumps after that terrible loss to South Florida, but back-to-back wins over Notre Dame and Louisville has Georgetown back to 4-3 overall and 5-4 against the RPI Top 100. They certainly look like an NCAA Tournament team, and should stay there if they can get to 10-8. Next week will be a relatively soft week, with home games against Seton Hall and St. John's.
#1 Duke 84, Maryland 64
After the way Duke got embarrassed by Miami, you knew that the Blue Devils couldn't wait to take the floor again, and they took their frustrations out here against Maryland. They were very sharp, committing only 4 turnovers and hit 50% of their threes, while doing a good enough job of containing an aggressive offensive rebounding Maryland squad.
Mason Plumlee was the star, with 19 points on 9-for-12 shooting and 7 rebounds, along with yet another highlight reel dunk. At the same time, the breakout star for Duke was Rasheed Sulaimon, who hit 6-for-8 behind the arc and scored a career-high 25 points (his previous career high was 19 against Florida Gulf Coast). Ryan Kelly still looks to be pretty far away from coming back, so they need younger guys like Sulaimon and Amile Jefferson (11 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks) to step up and fill the void.
Maryland got another fairly invisible performance from Alex Len, who had 8 points on 2-for-10 shooting. He always has a few plays where he looks like a future NBA All-Star, but he's too inconsistent. If he can play at his best for 40 minutes then Maryland can beat just about anybody, but he so rarely actually does.
Maryland is 15-5 overall and 3-4 in the ACC, with a win over NC State and a bad loss to Florida State. Their Sagarin ELO_SCORE will remain inside the Top 50, though if the season ended now it's more likely than not that they'd be stuck in the NIT. To make the NCAA Tournament, they probably need to get to 10-8 in the ACC. At 9-9 they'll have work left to do in the ACC tournament. Their next game will be on Wednesday, at Florida State. Duke will be on the road next week, at Wake Forest on Wednesday and at Florida State on Saturday.