While Notre Dame and Duke were putting on a terrific game, one that should confirm both as deserving top 10 teams right now, Wednesday was not a good night for a couple Atlantic Coast Conference teams at home, and it could be one that comes back to haunt those teams on Selection Sunday in just under 6 1/2 weeks.
First: the good. Notre Dame rallied to defeat Duke 77-73 in South Bend, outscoring the Blue Devils 22-8 over the final 10:37. No 54-50 slugfest here; this was what a high-level game should look like (and note to NCAA rule makers: it didn’t need a 30-second shot clock to achieve it). Jerian Grant scored 23 points, while Jahlil Okafor ensured the Player of the Year hype won’t die down anytime soon with 22 points and 17 rebounds.
Outside of that dandy, North Carolina State and Miami (Fla.) both looked like they had a chance for confidence-building wins against teams at the bottom of the conference. It didn’t work out that way. The Wolfpack fell way behind early and couldn’t catch up in a 68-57 loss to Clemson. In south Florida, Georgia Tech blew out Miami (Fla.) 70-50, adding another ugly loss to the Hurricanes’ Dow Jones-like resume.
It’s still maybe just a hair early to talk too much about the “bubble.” At the least, it’s definitely too early for the knee-jerk reactions that dominate late February and early March, where every win or loss puts clinches a berth or puts a team “out” for good.
Still, these are not good results at all for either losing team. N.C. State came into the night 1-7 against the RPI top 50. Wins over the likes of Tennessee, Boise State and Louisiana Tech gave the Wolfpack some valuable head-to-head trump cards with fellow likely fence sitters, though all three of them were at home. With no real bad losses, that 1-7 mark could’ve been a little bit easier to overlook. Now at 13-9, it’s a profile that at this point does little to suggest that the win over Duke was anything more than a one-off upset.
Despite their #23 ranking this week, the Hurricanes are nowhere near a lock for the NCAAs, either. Miami entered the night with just two RPI top 50 wins, the same number of sub-100 losses they have after getting housed by Georgia Tech, which was previously winless in the ACC. The Hurricanes have more wiggle room than the Wolfpack thanks to seven road/neutral wins, but the impression of getting hammered by Wisconsin-Green Bay, Eastern Kentucky and now Georgia Tech is not a good one. And with six road games left and home games against Louisville and North Carolina, this is a team with work to do.
- A pair of SEC teams rallied to avoid damaging losses, as LSU fought back to top South Carolina 79-73 and Mississippi edged Mississippi State 79-73. The Tigers continue to look like an NCAA Tournament squad.
- In a series that is still one of the best rivalries in college basketball, Purdue downed Indiana 83-67. Rapheal Davis scored 19, while with his free throw made with just over a minute left, Bryson Davis messed up a potential double straight flush of sorts for the Boilermakers, who had individuals score three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, and 11 (twice) points.
- Louisville held off Boston College 81-72 behind 28 points from Chris Jones. Hoopville’s Phil Kasiecki was there.
- Both of the ranked MVC teams won, with Wichita State beating Loyola (Ill.) 58-47 and Northern Iowa grinding out a 59-52 win at Southern Illinois. The two teams meet Saturday in Cedar Falls in one that should be a lot of fun.
- Like AAC mate Tulsa, SMU just keeps piling up the wins. The Mustangs defeated South Florida 63-52 to improve to 17-4. Also, for those who insist on grading teams via an eye test, they should like what they saw of Temple in a convincing 86-62 win at Central Florida.
- Seton Hall got a much-needed 80-70 win at Marquette. The starting five combined for all 80 points for the Pirates. Also in the Big East, Creighton got its first win while St. John’s is in trouble after falling to the Bluejays 77-74.
- Washington’s first game without Robert Upshaw was not promising, as Stanford blew out the Huskies 84-74 in a game that wasn’t that close. While not good for Washington, the Cardinal looked really good on the road. Also in the Pac-12, Arizona State put a damper on Oregon State’s recent excellence, taming the Beavers 73-55.
- Ugly blowout: Oklahoma pummeled Texas Tech 81-36. How are the Sooners only 13-7 this year? Also in the Big 12, Kansas wasn’t necessarily impressive, but was victorious like it usually is in edging TCU 64-61.
- Rhode Island won the battle of Rams, as Gilvydas Biruta’s tip-in at the buzzer game URI a 64-63 win at Fordham.
- A pair of the old guard are now atop the CAA. William & Mary didn’t need a shorter shot clock to hit the century mark in a 100-79 win over Hofstra. All it took was terrific 64.8% shooting. UNC-Wilmington also is tied for the top at 7-2 after an 82-65 win over Elon. Meanwhile, Northeastern dropped out of tie for first after getting ambushed by the terrific Damion Lee, who scored 33 in Drexel’s 65-60 win over the Huskies.
- Albany now has a fat lead in the America East after Evan Singletary hit a three-pointer with :01.5 left for a 47-44 win at Vermont, putting the Great Danes two games up on their nearest competition in the league.
- Bucknell is now alone in first in the Patriot League after a stunning 68-62 win over Lehigh. The Bison trailed 50-34 with nine minutes left but finished the game on a 34-12 run.
DePaul at Providence (2 p.m. EST, FS1) Some early afternoon hoops for you, a game rescheduled from earlier this week, and an important one for both teams.
Maryland at Ohio State (7 p.m. EST, ESPN) The Buckeyes need to make some hay and got off to a good start Sunday against Indiana. A win here would be huge as well.
Western Kentucky at Louisiana Tech (7 p.m. EST, CBSSN), UAB at Texas-El Paso (9 p.m. EST, CBSSN) CBS Sports Network doubles up on Conference USA tonight. Big one in opener features the only undefeated team in league-WKU-against the preseason favorite and squad just one game behind the Hilltoppers. The second game has the thoroughly surprising Blazers (6-1 in C-USA) against a UTEP team coming off a bad loss to Marshall.
Connecticut at Cincinnati (8 p.m. EST, ESPN2) Still feel like the Huskies have a run in them this season. This would be a good place to get that started.
Utah at UCLA (10 p.m. EST, ESPN2) Is this the Bruins’ last stand?
Tennessee-Chattanooga at Mercer The Mocs are tied with Wofford for first in the SoCon, while the Bears are just a game behind both.
Have a great Thursday.