It wasn't pretty but USF found a way to get the job done, beating Cincinnati 46-45 to move to 11-5 in the Big East and 18-11 overall. Freshman point guard Anthony Collins made a pair of free throws with 3.4 seconds remaining to give the Bulls the win, and while it isn't a resume-building win the Bulls did the simplest thing a bubble team can do this time of the year: they won. Collins, who is going to be an outstanding point guard in the Big East as he gains experience, led USF with 14 points and five assists and Toarlyn Fitzpatrick added eight and ten rebounds.
In the game of the night Duke rode the hot shooting of Andre Dawkins and the playmaking of Austin Rivers to avenge an earlier loss to Florida State, winning 74-66 in Tallahassee.
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.
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.
Thursday was a big night for the Virginia Cavaliers as they were looking for their first win at Duke since 1995, and a victory over the sixth-ranked Blue Devils would raise their ceiling even higher.
The first Saturday of the new year proved to be far more exciting than anticipated, much to the detriment of ranked teams who took their show on the road. Removing #7 Missouri and #20 Marquette, who both lost on the road to ranked opponents (more on both of those games below), five ranked teams lost to unranked opponents with four of the losses coming on the road. The Big East provided the most intrigue, with #8 Connecticut and #9 Georgetown falling on the road while #10 Louisville lost in double overtime at home. So which of the three defeats is most concerning?
To understand the funk that Pittsburgh and Villanova are currently mired in, it may take this fact about the two teams they lost to on Thursday night. This is the first time as members of the Big East (since 2005-06 for both) that DePaul and USF have won conference games on the same night. Yes, allowing that to sink in underlines the gravity of the situation for both the Panthers and Wildcats, as both teams are in need of some answers at this point in time.