Conference play is almost here, so the games are starting to get better. Saturday saw a number of great matchups and results every bit as noteworthy to go with them. Some were more noteworthy because of the margin than the bottom line result.
The day began inauspiciously enough with the news about Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin and his health. We extend our get well wishes to Cronin, and after hearing that hoped the day would get better. It did, though not for his team, as the day was full of good games. Included were a couple of games that took a bit long to decide – as in, three overtimes.
With that, here’s a look at some notes from the day’s games.
Kentucky 83, UCLA 44: This game probably says more about UCLA than it does Kentucky. The Wildcats are good, but are they 39 points better than UCLA? The inexperienced Bruins got blitzed badly.
Louisville 76, Western Kentucky 67: Terry Rozier scored 32 points, but there’s a big question looming: will Montrezl Harrell play next Saturday against Kentucky? That might be more important than the fact that they won this game. They have one game between now and the arch-rival.
Villanova 82, Syracuse 77 (OT): A classic Big East battle, even if Syracuse is now in the ACC. It’s great that they play this game, and Villanova keeps the Orange looking for their first big win by rallying from being down 15. Syracuse won’t have a quality win before ACC play.
Washington 69, Oklahoma 67: Robert Upshaw continues to be a difference-maker, but Nigel Williams-Goss is an important year older and better as well, and having Jernard Jarreau back also helps. It adds up to a 10-0 start now for Washington.
Utah 59, UNLV 46: There’s every reason to believe Utah is en route to living up to its billing as a program back on the rise and likely to reach the NCAA Tournament. They have no bad losses, and this is their latest quality win to cap off a nice night for the Pac-12 in Las Vegas.
North Carolina 82, Ohio State 74: North Carolina gets a good win in Chicago, but how good is it for them? That’s up for debate, because we also don’t know how good Ohio State is right now.
VCU 68, Cincinnati 47: VCU basically blitzed Cincinnati more with three-pointers than turnovers from their press, as they were 15-31 from long range against a Bearcats team that didn’t have much energy without Mick Cronin on the bench.
SMU 62, Michigan 51: SMU finally gets a significant win, although at some point it may be the case that this win isn’t so big after all. Michigan is 6-5 and reeling as Big Ten play approaches.
Texas Southern 71, Michigan State 64 (OT): There’s no question Michigan State doesn’t deserve to be ranked, and that was probably the case before this stunner. But give Texas Southern a lot of credit for the way they thoroughly out-played the Spartans in overtime to take this one.
Providence 85, UMass 65: Providence continues to show that they can overcome adversity, which is big for a young team. Although the loss at Kentucky set them back a bit, since the losses at Boston College and against Brown at home they have played very well.
Indiana 82, Butler 73: There have been plenty of questions surrounding this Indiana team, but after this big win in the opener of the Crossroads Classic, the Hoosiers are 9-2. They seem to be in a good place now.
Notre Dame 94, Purdue 63: It’s hard to believe Purdue led early on and was very much in this game early in the second half. Notre Dame closed out the back half of the Crossroads Classic in a big way.
Northern Iowa 56, Iowa 44: With this, Iowa goes 1-4 in their big non-conference games, winning only at North Carolina. That means they’re going to need some big wins in Big Ten play, because the only non-conference game left is against North Florida.
Brigham Young 79, Stanford 77: Stanford battled gamely all night long, including one last rally in the final minutes, but it wasn’t enough as Brigham Young holds on. The Cardinal will benefit from this game later on.
Pittsburgh 81, Oakland 77 (OT): Oakland did what Greg Kampe-coached teams do: they gave the Panthers all they could handle and more. About all you can say is that the Panthers survived.
West Virginia 83, NC State 69: With just two games left in the non-conference slate, both of which they should win (at home against Wofford and Virginia Tech), West Virginia looks like they will enter Big 12 play with a 12-1 mark, losing only a squeaker to LSU.
Illinois 62, Missouri 59: A great rivalry game like this deserved the ending it got, with a buzzer-beater. Illinois continues a good non-conference run; the question is if it will lead to a good showing in Big Ten play now.
Auburn 89, Xavier 88 (2 OT): How good this Xavier team is remains to be seen. But this is big for Bruce Pearl in his first season as he tries to establish the Tigers.
Lehigh 84, Arizona State 81 (3 OT): One of the big thrillers of the day, this could give Lehigh a big boost as Brett Reed tries to get his team ready for Patriot League play. Kahron Ross had a huge game for the Mountain Hawks, especially in the extra sessions, finishing with 15 points and 14 assists.
Dayton 78, Boston University 62: The Flyers haven’t been as impressive as expected, and just had to dismiss two players, but they’re quietly 8-2 after this home win.
Davidson 80, College of Charleston 68: Davidson moves to 9-1 after beating its old Southern Conference rival. The Wildcats should be a confident team when Atlantic 10 play begins.
Northwestern 67, Western Michigan 61: The Wildcats are 7-4 after beating a good Western Michigan team, and they are getting better.
Eastern Michigan 77, Missouri State 65: Keep Eastern Michigan in mind when talking about MAC contenders. They are now 9-2 after this road win.
USC Upstate 53, Mississippi State 51: Another win over a power conference school for USC Upstate as they improve to 9-4 and look more and more like a serious challenger to Florida Gulf Coast in the Atlantic Sun.
Incarnate Word 110, UMKC 104 (3 OT): It took a while to decide this one – three overtimes. Incarnate Word is quietly 8-1, with the only loss coming at UTEP, after Denzel Livingston had the big game with 30 points and 11 rebounds.