Here's a look at a few notable contests from an eventful Tuesday in college hoops:
Kansas State 78, No. 3 Missouri 68: [RECAP | BOX] This was supposed to be a chance for Missouri to avenge a 16-point loss it suffered in Manhattan back in January. Instead, for the second straight season, Frank Martin's team is using a late-season run to vault itself off the bubble and into a position to grab a top-six seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Rodney McGruder led the Wildcats with 24 points and Thomas Gibson came off the bench to add 13 as Kansas State completed its sweep of Missouri. After beating Baylor on the road on Saturday, the Wildcats are no longer in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament and could end up as a trendy pick to make a run in the Big Dance. The Wildcats were simply too much in the paint for a smaller Missouri team to handle, leading by as many as 16 points. Missouri made a run in the second half, cutting that lead to three on a Kim English triple late in the second half, but McGruder answered with a 3-pointer of his own and the Tigers never really threatened again.
As well as Kansas State played, this game wasn't all about the Wildcats. Missouri simply picked the wrong night to play poorly. It got manhandled inside, which wouldn't have been a huge problem if its own perimeter defense wasn't so bad. Kansas State routinely penetrated off the dribble, which opened up passing lanes for perimeter jumpers and dump-offs to the big guys inside. On the offensive end of the floor, Phil Pressey played one of his worst games of the season. He committed six of Missouri's 10 turnovers and took a number of ill-advised treys off the dribble. Those mental mistakes killed the Tiger's momentum on a number of different occasions.
The biggest storyline to come out of this game will be whether or not Missouri is as good as its record indicates. The Tigers are good, but at this level, matchups make the battle, and Kansas State simply matched up well with the Tigers. The Wildcats are bigger and more aggressive, and when Missouri's threes weren't dropping and the perimeter defense was as soft as it was tonight, the Tigers were susceptible.
The downside? Missouri's trip to Lawrence to face Kansas on Saturday will no longer be for sole possession of first place in the Big 12.
Seton Hall 73, No. 9 Georgetown55:[RECAP | BOX] This was a win that Seton Hall absolutely needed to have. In Andy Glockner's latest Bracket Watch, the Pirates were slotted as a 13-seed, and while he has them missing the two play-in games, their low-seed as an at-large bid makes it quite clear that this team was in serious danger of missing out on the NCAA Tournament if they couldn't land a win over the Hoyas.
Seton Hall is now 8-8 in Big East play. So long as they avoid stumbling in their last two games -- a home date with in-state rival Rutgers and a trip to Chicago to take on DePaul -- the Pirates should feel pretty comfortable about their chances of making the dance. When you beat a team as good as Georgetown as solidly as Seton Hall did on Tuesday night, it's difficult to assign credit to one performance. That said, Jordan Theodore gave the Pirates precisely what they needed on this night. He finished with 29 points and five assists, making a number of big shots as the Pirates used a second-half surge to turn a seven-point halftime lead into a blowout win.
This isn't necessarily a bad loss for Georgetown. Seton Hall is a good basketball team and very tough at home, a dangerous combination when you face a team playing for its tournament life. It doesn't help matters when your starters shoot a combined 10-28 from the floor. The Hoyas have become known for strong starts and poor finishes, but I'll chalk this game up to a having a bad night at the wrong time.
No. 1 Kentucky 73, Mississippi State 64:[RECAP | BOX] Tonight we got a glimpse of just what Kentucky is capable of. The Wildcats were absolutely dominated by a talented-but-enigmatic Mississippi State team on the road in the first half. They were beaten to every lose ball, were torched by one of the most underrated point guards in the country in Dee Bost and were beaten up physically by a team with the horses inside to do so.
The second half was a different story. Kentucky can be absolutely relentless on the defensive end of the floor, and it showed in the second half as the 'Cats slowly started to chip away at the Mississippi State lead. After an injury to Rodney Hood allowed Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to switch onto Bost, Mississippi State's offense completely bogged down. Kentucky got a couple of big threes from Doron Lamb and Darius Miller and started coming up with second chance points and loose balls, and the rest is history.
I've said it all season long: Kentucky is susceptible to teams that can beat them up in the paint, but when they play their best game, they are going to be a very, very difficult team to beat. Tonight proved that correct.
No. 7 North Carolina 86, NC State 74:[RECAP | BOX] On February 16th, NC State was sitting a game out of first place in the ACC standings and held a 20-point second half lead on Duke in Cameron Indoor. The Wolfpack blew that lead and followed it up with an ugly, 14-point loss to Florida State at home. Tuesday night would be their last chance to land a marquee win, and the Wolfpack frittered that away as well. Mark Gottfried's club still has a chance to get to 10 ACC wins, but when the best wins on your resume are against Texas and Miami, 10 ACC wins probably won't be enough to earn a bid, even with a weak bubble. Barring a run in the ACC Tournament, the Wolfpack -- whose last three league games are against Clemson, Miami and Virginia Tech -- appear finished.
Kendall Marshall's performance deserves to be noted. He finished with 22 points and 13 assists while shooting 7-8 from the field and 4-5 from downtown. Oh, and he didn't commit a turnover. That ain't bad.
Colorado State 71, No. 18 New Mexico 63: [RECAP | BOX] The Lobos came into this game as arguably the hottest team in the country, having won their last seven games -- including two last week against UNLV and San Diego State -- by an average of 19.3 ppg. But Dorian Green went for 17 points and four assists and Pierce Hornung finished with 13 points and 15 boards, holding Drew Gordon in check, as the Rams picked up a huge win for their NCAA Tournament resume. Colorado State came into this game with a strong computer profile that lacked the wins to back it up. Now it has one. The work is far from finished, but this is a win that Tim Miles' team had to get.
No. 11 Michigan 67, Northwestern 55 OT:[RECAP | BOX] Here's a stat for you: Michigan attempted 56 field goals against Northwestern on Tuesday night, with 38 of them coming from beyond the arc. The Wolverines knocked down 14 of those threes. Two of them came at the end of regulation as John Beilein's club erased a four-point deficit in the final 90 seconds of the regulation. Three more of them came in the first three minutes of overtime as Michigan jumped out to a nine-point lead in the extra frame and never looked back. Trey Burke was once again terrific, leading the way with 19 points, six boards and four assists.
At this point, your heart has to break for the Wildcats. This loss drops them to 6-9 in Big Ten play and, for the time being, out of the tournament picture. They'll likely stay there unless they can land a win over Ohio State in Welsh-Ryan Arena next week. It's an incredibly tough loss for a team that has had their fair share of them this season. It's the second time they've lost to Michigan in overtime. They also have three more league losses by less than five points. If one or two of those games go the other way, Northwestern would be in decent position to earn its first berth in the NCAA Tournament. Instead, it looks like the Wildcats will be headed back to the NIT.
No. 8 Ohio State 83, Illinois 67:[RECAP | BOX] It feels weird saying this, but this game was never really as close as the final score indicates. The Buckeyes jumped out to a 28-8 lead midway through the first half and never looked back. I would say that the Illini are now officially out of the bubble picture, but given the way that they have played over the last two weeks, that much was probably true before tip-off. For those scoring at home, Illinois is a 43-point performance from Brandon Paul and a Draymond Green knee injury away from an 11-game losing streak.
Maryland 75, Miami FL 70:[RECAP | BOX] Maryland used a 10-0 run in the final two minutes of the game, taking advantage of two horrid turnovers by the Hurricanes in the span of about five seconds, to turn a 66-61 deficit into a 71-66 lead. James Padgett led the way with 16 points for the Terps, including a three-point play to give Maryland their final lead. The Canes have now lost three of their last four games. If it wasn't for the overtime win at Duke, Miami would be nowhere near the bubble.
Creighton 93, Evansville 92 OT:[RECAP | BOX] For the second time in the span of four days, Creighton overcame a double-digit second half deficit to win in thrilling fashion. Doug McDermott scored 10 of his 21 points in a 26-12 run that erased a 71-57 deficit and Gregory Echinique tipped in a miss as time expired to force overtime. Josh Jones hit a running jumper with 23 seconds left to give Creighton the lead in overtime while Colt Ryan, who had a career-high 43 points, missed a 25-footer at the buzzer that would have won the game.
Binghamton 57, Vermont 53: Binghamton became the last Division I team in the country to notch its first victory, taking a 35-25 lead at the half and surviving a late Catamount surge. This loss was devastating for UVM. Not only does Vermont fall a game behind Stony Brook atop the America East standing with one game left, but it likely cost itself a chance at home court advantage in the conference tournament title game next month.
Horizon League: Thanks to Cleveland State's 71-67 loss to Green Bay, Valpo would have officially become the Horizon League regular season champs even if they hadn't beaten Loyola (IL) 66-62 in overtime. But the team to watch in this league is, once again, Butler, who won its fifth straight game, this time knocking off Illinois-Chicago 69-44. Butler's defense is as strong as it has always been, but they seem to have ironed out some of the offensive kinks that plagued them earlier in the season.
No. 11 Florida 63, Auburn 47: Florida actually trailed this game 30-27 at the half before clamping down on the defensive end of the floor and pulling away late in the second half. The win isn't what was notable, however. Forward Will Yeguete, a defensive spark plug for the Gators, has a broken foot and will likely miss the rest of the season.
UMass 80, Xavier 73: After beating Dayton at home in overtime on Saturday, there was hope that Xavier was going to be able to get back on track. But UMass manhandled the Musketeers, getting 29 points and nine assists from Chaz Williams as they it a 25-6 run to take a 41-29 lead at the half and pushed the lead to as much as 20 in the second half.
Virginia 61, Virginia Tech 59: Mike Scott had 20 points and nine boards to lead the way for the Cavs, but it was defense that won this game. Virginia Tech went scoreless over an eight minute stretch in the second half as UVA went on a 12-0 "run."