It certainly didn't take long for the Top 25 to get back to business as usual, which, this season means knocking off the high and mighty. On Monday, the Wisconsin Badgers were crowned the #1 team in the nation (yes, I said before the poll came out that Florida should have remained #1). On Tuesday night, Wisconsin suffered the fate of many a road team - they were beaten by a fired-up Michigan State squad which denied every scoring opportunity and ran Wisconsin off the court.
Not to be outdone, Providence and UNLV scored upsets over ranked teams as well.
#1 Michigan St. 64 Wisconsin 55 - Wisconsin's Alando Tucker was 6-15 from the floor, scoring 16 points, but running mates Kammron Taylor and Brian Butch might have done better sitting this one out. Taylor was a pathetic 0-6 in 39 minutes and finished with just a pair of free throws for 2 points. Butch was 1-4 and 1-2 from the charity stripe for a measly 2 points.
Meanwhile, the Spartans were making March Madness noise a week early. Junior guard Drew Neitzel was unstoppable, filling it up with 28 points on 10-17 shooting including 6-11 3-pointers. The Spartans held Wisconsin to 36% shooting (19-52) and outrebounded them badly, 41-24. Obviously, the kids at Michigan State didn't think much of the Badgers' #1 ranking and suddenly, at 20-8 and 7-6 in the Big 10, look likely to get an invitation come March.
UNLV 60 #14 Air Force 50 - Come on now. The Falcons fell into a tie for second place with UNLV at 10-4, behind 10-2 BYU in the Mountain West. All three of these teams may get an invite, but only the winner of the conference tournament is guaranteed entry. Air Force shot just 30% as the host Rebels shut down their suspect offense.
It was the 4th time this season the Falcons have been held to 56 points or less - all losses - and they haven't played a ranked team this season. Top 25 material? Hardly. At least UNLV played some ranked teams and beat 2 of them in 4 tries. BYU, finally ranked this week at #21, may not be much better than the Falcons. The only ranked teams they've played are UCLA and Air Force, and while they beat the Falcons, the 82-69 loss to UCLA isn't very heartening.
My point is that the Mountain West should get just one invitation because whichever team emerges from this mediocre conference looks very much like a first round victim.
#19 Texas 80 Texas Tech 51 - Kevin Durant had an off night, scoring only 16 with just 8 rebounds, but 4 other Longhorns scored in double figures while the Red Raiders were hitting just 29% of their shots (20% on 3's). The win was one of the easier home games for the Longhorns who still have a shot at the Big 12 title. They play at Oklahoma on Saturday, but then close out the season hosting Texas A&M on Feb. 28 and at Kansas on March 3. The Longhorns trail A&M by 1/2 game and Kansas by 1 game.
Providence 64 #22 West Virginia 61 - The Providence Friars kept their Big Dance hopes alive by rallying at home to upset the Mountaineers. Sophomore guard
Weyinmi Efejuku (yeah, remember the name) dropped in 24 points, including 4-7 from beyond the arc while his teammates ruled the boards, holding a 41-33 rebound advantage over the hops-challenged Mountaineers.
Providence improved to 7-6 in Big East play and 17-9 overall. They're floating on the NCAA bubble right now, but may be finding their best stride at the right time. Their last three losses have all been on the road, by 7 to Marquette, by 4 at Pitt and by 3 at Notre Dame. If they win 2 of their final 3 conference games and make some noise in the Big East tourney, a ticket to the dance could be in the offing.
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