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.
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.
With the SEC making the move away from two divisions, games such as the one between Vanderbilt (13-4, 3-0) and Alabama (13-4, 2-1) take on added importance in the race for one of those four first-round byes in the SEC Tournament. And while both teams presently have the look of NCAA Tournament clubs, there's nothing wrong with picking up another resume-building result.
The matchup between Ohio State and Illinois was anticipated by many for the individual matchup between the Buckeyes' Jared Sullinger and Illinois' Meyers Leonard. Then there was the ceremony honoring Lou Henson, the all-time winningest coach in Illinois history. But few people expected Brandon Paul to end up being the center of attention, which is exactly what happened in the Fighting Illini's 79-74 win at Assembly Hall.
The matchup between #10 Florida and Rutgers on Thursday night was hyped up due to the return of Mike Rosario, who transferred from the New Jersey school following two seasons in New Brunswick. But his return was a subplot in what turned out to be one of the best games of the calendar year, with the focus by the end being Mike Rice's young guards. Eli Carter led the way with 31 points, seven rebounds and seven assists while Myles Mack knocked down some big shots late in regulation and during the overtime periods to lead Rutgers to the 85-83 double overtime victory.
It can be argued that Vanderbilt's trip to #13 Marquette is the big game of the day on Thursday, especially when considering a Commodore resume that could use some added bulk. But there's also the first-ever conference game as a member of the West Coast Conference for BYU (11-3), and they're jumping directly into the fire thanks to the league schedule-makers. Dave Rose's Cougars visit Saint Mary's (11-2) in the league opener for both teams, and there are some very good individual battles to keep track of in Moraga.
With the first matchup between Belmont and Middle Tennessee going to double overtime the rematch on Tuesday was expected to be just as tight. Sure enough the game didn't disappoint, with the Blue Raiders locking up the 65-62 win with a pair of blocked shots in the final 22 seconds. LaRon Dendy led the way for Middle Tennessee with 20 points, and the Blue Raiders haven't reached the ten-win mark in a season this fast since 1990-91.
In the days leading up to Indiana's game against#1 Kentucky at Assembly Hall there weren't too many people who thought that the Hoosiers could knock off the Wildcats. There were a few outside of the Indiana fan base who picked Tom Crean's team to win, but the majority of the predictions ranged anywhere from a close loss to a Kentucky blowout with IU's schedule to date being the main reason why.
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