Thursday night provides a big matchup in the Big Ten, as #8 Michigan State (20-5, 9-3) looks to remain tied for first place with a win over #17 Wisconsin (19-6, 8-4). Their first meeting, a 63-60 Michigan State win in overtime on January 3rd, ended with Ryan Evans' game-tying three being ruled to have come after time had expired, so the rematch in East Lansing will likely be just as competitive.
With first place on the line in Columbus the expectation was that #11 Michigan State and #3 Ohio State would play a tight, physical affair. And that's exactly what it was, with the visitors from East Lansing seeming to be the more comfortable of the two teams in the first half. Michigan State shot 46.9% from the field but the reason for their 35-25 lead at the half was their defense, as they limited Ohio State to 33.3% and forced eight turnovers.
As the streak grew longer, it seemed as if it became a foregone conclusion in the eyes of many that Murray State would simply run through the Ohio Valley Conference on their way to a Sears BracketBusters contest against Saint Mary's. Steve Prohm's head coaching career got off to a dream start, as the Racers won 23 straight games with Isaiah Canaan and Donte Poole leading the way. That run came to an end on Thursday night as the Racers fell 72-68 to a Tennessee State team that relied on balance to grab their eighth win in the last nine games.
Could there be a changing of the guard in the West Coast Conference? While that may be a tough question to ask given the sustained run of success that Gonzaga (18-4, 8-2) has enjoyed over the years, winning the last eleven WCC regular season titles, Saint Mary's (22-2, 11-0) would establish a three-game lead with four conference games remaining with a win in Spokane. Led by seniors Matthew Dellavedova (15.5 ppg, 6.4 apg) and Rob Jones (14.8 ppg, 10.7 rpg), the Gaels have already swept BYU and handed Gonzaga an 83-62 loss back on January 12th.
A week after being outclassed at home by first-place Saint Mary's there was no ignoring the importance of BYU's game against Gonzaga, especially if the Cougars were to remain alive in the race for second place in the WCC. Dave Rose's team responded as good teams should, taking control of the game with an 11-4 run to close out the first half on their way to an 83-73 victory. The frontcourt matchup proved to be the difference as BYU's duo of Noah Hartsock and Brandon Davies outplayed Elias Harris and Robert Sacre, with Hartsock's 24 points and 14 rebounds leading the way.
While they're likely a long shot to get back into contention for the WCC regular season title, Dave Rose's BYU (18-6, 6-3) need to make sure they at the very least finish no worse than fourth in the conference. With the setup for the WCC Tournament being what it is the top two seeds receive byes to the semifinals while the third and fourth seeds get a bye to the quarterfinals.
With the final month of the regular season on our door step, this is a good time to put together some all-conference teams. Enter CHN writer Jon Teitel, who not only picked his all-conference teams for each league but also provided a conference Player of the Year as well. Without further ado here are the all-conference teams, with the league POY in italics.
G Gerardo Suero (Albany)
G Darryl Partin (Boston University)
G Gerald McLemore (Maine)
F Chase Plummer (UMBC)
F Alasdair Fraser (Maine)
To say that there were some complaints about the "quality" of Saturday's schedule would be an understatement as many felt that the college basketball slate wouldn't provide much intrigue. But once again college basketball didn't disappoint the fans, with the big result being Iowa State's 72-64 win over #5 Kansas. The Cyclones won despite turning the ball over 19 times by getting to the foul line and controlling the boards. ISU attempted 34 free throws (making 25) to just sixteen for the Jayhawks (who made ten) in handing the visitors their first Big 12 loss.
NO. 20 SAINT MARY’S (20-2, 9-0 WCC) AT BYU (18-5, 6-2 WCC)
Time/TV: 9 p.m. ET (7 p.m. local)/ESPNU
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