Michigan State's Tom Izzo: 'Worst performance by a team I coached since I have been at Michigan State'
This may be a down year for many conferences nationwide, but Wednesday night brought a thoroughly entertaining night of college basketball: upsets, high-profile matchups, last-second, game-winning shots. Wednesday night was a nice primer for what should be a wild NCAA tournament. The most eye-opening development to me continues to be the demise of Michigan State, which has gone from a national title favorite to a bubble team in a couple months. Anybody up for a Michigan State-UCLA play-in game in Dayton? Anyway, here's what stood out Wednesday, starting with the result that carries the most local interest:
1) Duke 80, Maryland 62: The Terrapins missed an opportunity -- their last opportunity of the regular season -- to score their first victory against a true quality opponent. Duke found its touch from three-point range. Maryland made its free throws but struggled from beyond the arc. The Terps face an uphill climb to an at-large NCAA tournament berth, but there is still a path to a bid, especially with the field of bubble teams so watered down. As I laid out Wednesday, the Terps need to avoid an attention-grabbing loss, namely to Wake Forest, Virginia or even North Carolina State -- all sub-100 RPI teams. And with just two remaining games against top 50 teams, they need to beat both Boston College and North Carolina on the road. A minimum of a 9-7 league record and likely two ACC tournament wins will be needed. As of today, Maryland owns just three victories against RPI top 100 teams: Penn State, Clemson and Charleston -- and two of those wins came by a total of three points. Worse, Maryland plays just five more regular season games against top 100 teams. By comparison, West Virginia still has eight games against top 25 RPI teams.
2) Iowa 72, Michigan State 52: A jaw-dropping result out of Iowa City last night. Iowa led, inexplicably, 41-20 at the half. The Spartans (12-9 vs. Division I teams, 5-5 in the Big Ten) are on the bubble. They have lost five of eight games, with the three wins coming in overtime at home. Check out the upcoming schedule: at Wisconsin, Penn State, at Ohio State, Illinois, at Minnesota, Purdue -- all top 50 teams. The Spartans are playing like they have no interest in being in this NCAA tournament. After the Iowa loss, Izzo acknowledged to reporters, "I think that was the worst performance by a team that I coached since I have been at Michigan State." He also said: "We're reeling. And just very disappointed in our leadership, and our upperclassmen have not taken the bull by the horns."
3) Syracuse 66, Connecticut 58: Jim Boeheim said this was a game his Orange "had to find a way to win." Syracuse had lost four straight and faced the prospect of the first five-game losing streak of Boeheim's long tenure. Make no mistake, his team did not play particularly well. But U-Conn.'s Kemba Walker did not get many good shots. He finished with a season-low eight points, making 3 of 14 shots from the floor.
4) San Diego State 56, Colorado State 54: This promised to be a tough road game for the Aztecs, and CSU is angling for an at-large bid. But point guard D.J. Gay, who is often overlooked because of SDS's strong front court, made an 18-foot fadeaway jumper with 1.8 seconds remaining. CSU made just 14 of 22 free throw attempts. A tough road win over an NCAA tournament bubble team should not be viewed as a negative, but it will be interesting to see how poll voters regard this outcome.
5) Brigham Young 69, Wyoming 62: The Cougars nearly stumbled on the road, but Jimmer Fredette converted a tough three-point play with 47 seconds remaining to give his team some breathing room. The Jimmer finished with 26 points.
6) George Mason 87, Hofstra 68: I think Mason is the best team in the CAA. The Patriots won their eighth straight game and remained undefeated at home this season. Hofstra's Charles Jenkins had 22 points on 8-of-20 shooting.
7) Virginia Tech 77, N.C. State 69: The Hokies did not blow a double-digit lead in this road game against a North Carolina school. A strong win for the Hokies, who are in the NCAA tournament field at the moment at 15-6 overall, 5-3 in the ACC. Malcolm Delaney scored 22 points. Are Sidney Lowe's days numbered?
8) Virginia 49, Clemson 47: This game was best viewed on a black-and-white television. It surely set basketball back several decades. While ugly - Clemson scored just 13 first-half points - it was also a big win for Tony Bennett's team, which improved to 3-5 in ACC play. A damaging loss for Clemson, which remains on the bubble but sinking.
I will have an updated list of bubble teams up within the hour.
| February 3, 2011; 8:34 AM ET
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