De’Angelo Harrison poured in 24 to help give St. John's a critical Big East victory. (Kathy Willens/AP)
A few weeks ago, neither of these teams looked like they would gain consideration for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. St. John’s had fallen to 0-5 in the Big East after losing to Providence in double overtime on January 16. A five-point loss to Villanova on January 27 dropped Georgetown to 3-6.
But the Johnnies had won seven of eight games heading into Sunday and Georgetown won four straight. Both are now at least on the tourney radar. Whether either of them will make the field is unclear.
St. John’s improved its chances by throttling Georgetown, 82-60, Sunday at Madison Square Garden. Guards De’Angelo Harrison and RySheed Jordan scored 24 points apiece and forward Orlando Sanchez added nine points and five rebounds off the bench. The Hoyas got a combined 28 points from guards D’Vauntes Smith Rivera and Markel Starks, but two of their starters, forwards Mikael Hopkins and Reggie Cameron, went scoreless.
The win keeps St. John’s in the mix, but it needs to minimize slip-ups over the next few weeks. The Johnnies have won just one game against a top-50 RPI opponent and didn’t do anything of note in the non-conference. St. John’s has an RPI of 51 and two losses to teams ranked outside the top 100. The Johnnies will need to keep winning to give themselves a chance on selection Sunday. Upcoming games at Villanova (February 22) and vs. Xavier (February 25) will be key.
Georgetown missed an opportunity to bolster its profile Sunday, but it still has some decent non-league wins (Kansas State, VCU, Michigan State) to hang its hat on and a few chances to improve its bubble standing before the end of the season. The Hoyas host Creighton on March 4 and close the season on the road at Villanova. The Hoyas have an RPI of 55 and a 3-5 record against top-50 teams.
That we’re even talking about these teams’ resumés is a surprise given how far removed they were from the tourney picture last month.
Temple 71, (23) SMU 64
The Mustangs are still on track to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1993, but Sunday’s loss at Temple won’t make their path any easier. Owls guard Dalton Pepper scored a game-high 24 points on 8-of-19 shooting and grabbed three rebounds. SMU has a few marquee wins to hang its hat on (UConn, Memphis, Cincinnati), though none of them came on the road. Sunday was one it should have gotten; Temple (7-17, 2-10 AAC) is tied with UCF for last place in the AAC. The Mustangs host Houston on Wednesday before taking on the Huskies in Storrs next Sunday.
(4) Wichita State 84, Evansville 68
In 2004, St. Joe’s went undefeated in the regular season with a 27-0 record. The Shockers got to 27-0 by beating Evansville Sunday, but they need four more wins to make it to Arch Madness unscathed. Sophomore guards Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet combined for 44 points on 15-of-27 shooting. VanVleet also dished out eight assists, while Baker swiped five steals. Ken Pomeroy now gives Gregg Marshall’s club a 76.8 percent chance of completing the season without a loss. The Shockers’ toughest remaining test could come at Bradley on February 25 (the probability that the Shockers win that game, according to Pomeroy, is 91 percent). The Braves are ranked 208th in KenPom’s team ratings.
Oregon 93, Oregon State 83
Oregon went 0-for-2 on its two road games last week against the Arizona schools and had lost eight of 10 entering Sunday’s tilt with in-state rival Oregon State. Guard Joseph Young scored 25 points on 8-of-15 shooting to power the Ducks to a 93-83 win. The Ducks will need to avoid bad losses over the next three weeks to put themselves in position to earn an at-large bid. They host Washington and Washington State this week before playing at UCLA and USC, then host Arizona and Arizona State to close the regular season.
Minnesota 54, Northwestern 48
These are games that teams with shaky at-large profiles like Minnesota need to win. The Gophers had already lost at home to the Wildcats
and easily could have been swept Sunday. Guard Deandre Mathieu
scored 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting to counter Northwestern’ guard JerShon Cobb
’s 23 on 8-of-13. The Gophers might be in the field if it were selected and seeded today, but they could use one more big win to shore up their resumé. Minnesota hosts Iowa on February 25, plays at Ohio State on February 22 and at Michigan on March 1. The Gophers need to take care of Illinois (February 19) and Penn State (March 8) at home.