#7 Indiana 75, #13 Michigan State 70
Michigan State gets the loss in the standings here, and I don't think that they outplayed Indiana, but they looked really good and should be happy with this performance. What stood out more than anything was their front court, which has a ton of raw talent but hasn't lived up to expectations for most of this season. Adreian Payne showed his range, hitting 3-for-4 behind the arc. Derrick Nix had 4 offensive rebounds and 6 assists. Meanwhile, Branden Dawson was good all over the place, scoring 12 points (on 6-for-12 shooting), bringing down 3 offensive boards and forcing 4 steals.
In the final 5-6 minutes, though, it seemed like Indiana got all of the 50-50 calls from the refs. Keith Appling had a pretty soft foul out, the Derrick Nix travel seemed like a bad call (he was fouled before the travel), and then the charging call on Adreian Payne (which effectively iced the game) was iffy at best. But that is what home court advantage is. I'm sure the refs will have a different opinion on all of those calls on February 19th when Indiana comes to the Breslin Center.
This loss snapped Michigan State's six game winning streak, but doesn't change the fact that they're probably trending up more than any other Big Ten team. I don't think they can win the Big Ten, but they could finish as high as second. Obviously they'll need to win the Indiana rematch for that. Next week will be light for them, with only a home game against Illinois on Thursday.
Victor Oladipo had a monster game for Indiana (8-for-12 shooting, 7 rebounds, 6 steals), though a big development is the confidence of Yogi Ferrell (11 points on 4-for-9 shooting). Teams have been giving him the Rajon Rondo treatment and leaving him alone at the top of the key, knowing he had no confidence in his jumper, but he showed much more confidence here. That's a key development for Indiana since that sagging defender is often used to help deny Cody Zeller. Indiana remains firmly in the Big Ten title race, and will have an important battle next week. They will have to get past a road game at Purdue on Wednesday, but then will have a home game against Michigan on Saturday.
Air Force 57, Wyoming 48
After two consecutive games with 90+ points, Air Force's offense finally cooled off here against Wyoming. But Wyoming's offense has just been such a disaster since Luke Martinez was suspended. Wyoming has lost 4 of 7 games without him, and has now also failed to break 1 PPP in 6 of those 7 games. This game also featured their worst three-point shooting of the season (17.9%).
With this loss, Wyoming is now 15-4 overall, with an RPI that is 54th and wins over San Diego State and Colorado, along with just one real bad loss (Fresno State). You can probably make an argument that if the season ended now they'd still be an at-large team (though I'd argue against you). But they are trending downward, and are now 2-4 in Mountain West play despite actually having gone through a relatively soft part of their schedule. Things will just get tougher, and they'll have to play significantly better just to crawl back to 8-8 in conference play. And despite how good the Mountain West is this season, that's just not going to be enough. They're an NIT team unless things turn around.
Air Force moves up to 3-2 in Mountain West play with this win, with a Pomeroy rating that has slid all the way up to 88th. I don't think they can make a run at an at-large bid, but an 8-8 or 9-7 overall record is definitely within reach. Keep in mind that it's been six seasons since Air Force finished better than .500 in the Mountain West, and this season is probably the strongest that the league has ever been.
Wyoming's next game will be on Wednesday against New Mexico. Air Force will also play on Wednesday, against Fresno State.
Purdue 65, Iowa 62, OT
Purdue tried really hard to blow this game, it seemed. Their offense fell apart after they grabbed a 12 point lead with eight minutes to go. They hit only three shots from the field in those final eight minutes, though one was a driving layup by Ronnie Johnson out of a timeout with 33 seconds left to send the game to overtime. Purdue was lucky that Iowa completely botched the final possession of regulation, with Roy Devyn Marble taking the clock all the way down to four seconds and then going one-on-three and taking a terrible shot just before the buzzer.
In all, Purdue hit only 60% of their free throws, including several key misses late in the game and in overtime, though free throw shooting has been a big problem for them all season long. All of Purdue's top seven minutes-per-game players other than DJ Byrd are shooting 64% or worse at the line. Wisconsin's own free throw shooting woes mean that Purdue is only second worst at the line in the Big Ten, but it's still far and away the worst Matt Painter has ever had as a head coach. All in all, this is probably the sloppiest offense Painter has had at Purdue. But it's a very young team, so you have to assume that a guy like Ronnie Johnson will be a lot better in a year or two.
This loss drops Iowa to 2-5 in Big Ten play. They have wins over Wisconsin and Iowa State, along with bad losses to Virginia Tech and now Purdue. Their Sagarin ELO_SCORE will drop to near 50th when the new numbers come out tomorrow. It's a resume that puts them right on the fat part of the bubble. They need to get to at least 8-10 in Big Ten play to have a chance for an at-large, and probably need to get to 9-9 to have a good chance. They do get a little breather with a home game against Penn State on Thursday, but after that they go right back on the road to face Minnesota and Wisconsin.
As this game was finishing up, the Big Ten Network announcers tried to break down Purdue's resume and at-large chances. They concluded that at this point they're probably narrowly out of the Field of 68. That was, to say the least, a bit of an understatement. Purdue is 11-9 overall 6-8 against the RPI Top 200. They have wins over Illinois and Iowa, but also bad losses to Oregon State, Eastern Michigan and Xavier. Even if they go 10-8 in Big Ten play, as good as the league is, they'll still be an at-large long shot. And considering how tough their schedule gets in late February into March, even 9-9 is a bit of a stretch. They'll play Indiana on Wednesday, followed by a road game at Northwestern on Saturday.