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Posted at 8:30 AM ET, 02/10/2011

NCAA tournament 2011: Nolan Smith, Duke rally to beat North Carolina

By Eric Prisbell

What mattered Wednesday:

1) Georgetown 64, Syracuse 56: Hoyas Coach John Thompson III finally gets a win in the Carrier Dome. And now you can make the case his Hoyas are the second-best team in the Big East. Georgetown is closing in on a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament and, if the season ended today, likely would be headed to Charlotte for the first round. Four Georgetown players finished in double figures. The Hoyas registered assists on 20 of their 24 baskets. Not too many teams playing better right now.

2) Duke 79, North Carolina 73: The Blue Devils rallied from 16 down to top their bitter rival. But what I take away from this one is that the Tar Heels are legit, are improving and will be a tough out next month. Nolan Smith, who scored 22 of his career-high 34 points in the second half, should be getting more attention in the national player of the year race.

3) Rutgers 77, Villanova 76: The Scarlet Knights were bound to claim an upset. They had played well in recent losses to Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and St. John's. Jonathan Mitchell's four-point play with eight-tenths of a second remaining gave Rutgers an improbable comeback victory over the Wildcats, who led by 10 points with just under three minutes to play.

What to watch for Thursday:

1) Penn State at Michigan State: Both teams have 10 overall losses and both are desperate for a victory. This is basically the last stand for the enigmatic Spartans. Count out Tom Izzo at your own peril, but it's getting a little late for the Spartans. Neither team would be in the NCAA tournament field if the season ended today.

2) Connecticut at St. John's: U-Conn. guard Jeremy Lamb has played well while Kemba Walker has battled through a shooting slump; he is shooting 31.8 percent in his last six games. The Red Storm, dominated at the free throw line in a loss at UCLA, has a handful of impressive victories but it is in danger of collecting its 10th overall loss before mid-February.

3) California at Washington: A three-game road trip was one giant loss for the Huskies, the Pac-10 preseason favorite that suddenly finds itself on the verge of the bubble. Arizona is now the team to beat in the league. Washington allowed an average of 79 points in the three losses and needs to tighten up its defense in a significant way.

By Eric Prisbell  | February 10, 2011; 8:30 AM ET
 
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Next: NCAA tournament 2011: Michigan State, Penn State prepare for bubble buster

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