Kentucky crushed without Noel, OSU streaking, more hoops
In the midst of a personal doubleheader in the Centennial State, a relatively quiet afternoon around the nation unfolded. Nonetheless, there were some impactful results that continue to shape what we'll see come the middle of March. Here's the best of what happened so far, and why it matters:
A dreadful week for Kentucky concluded in spectacularly awful fashion, as the Wildcats were crushed in Knoxville in their first game after losing Nerlens Noel for the season. The Volunteers jumped out to a 35-12 lead and never looked back.
The Rams staved off the Falcons in a pulsating in-state showdown and remain tied in the loss column with New Mexico for the Mountain West lead. In a typically balanced effort, all five Rams starters were in double digits, led by standout lead guard Dorian Green who had 22. That was (barely) enough to offset a career-high 45 points from Air Force's Michael Lyons, who went 17-for-25 from the field.
The Falcons really needed this home win to go with the San Diego State and UNLV wins as they started to build an at-large profile. They still get New Mexico at home, but will have to do some work on the road now to be truly viable.
The Golden Eagles ran their home winning streak to 23 with a nice win over surging Pitt, reclaiming a share of first place in the Big East in the process. Vander Blue had an ultra-efficient 19 points and six rebounds for the winners, who led by 13 at the half and were comfortable on the way to the finish line.
The Tar Heels withstood early searing-hot Virginia shooting and roped in a very crucial home win for their at-large hopes. P.J. Hairston was huge, ripping six triples on his way to a game-high 29 points. Joe Harris poured in 27 for Virginia on 10-for-13 shooting.
The Bluejays escaped with a three-point win to end a three-game losing streak that was starting to edge them toward bubble nervousness. Doug McDermott had 21 and 10 for the Bluejays and Evansville star Colt Ryan finished just 3-for-18 from the field, although he had 10 assists.
Other notable results:
-- Both Bucknell and Lehigh were upset in the Patriot League, which means the two remain tied for first place and Lehigh, with the home game against the Bison remaining (and having won at Bucknell) remains in best position for the 1-seed and home-court advantage in the conference tournament.
-- Indiana State lost again in the Missouri Valley, making their at-large hopes even thinner. Arch Madness is going to be one of the most crucial tournaments to watch for bubble stuff.
-- La Salle won again in the Atlantic 10 and remains "that team not enough people are talking about" in terms of an at-large from that conference. The Explorers may be Philadelphia's best hope to keep its "at least one team in the NCAAs every year" streak going.
-- Dayton beat Xavier, making both fan bases miserable.