With games at #13 San Diego State and against #11 UNLV this week, Steve Alford's New Mexico Lobos had a great opportunity to not only take control of the Mountain West but also make a statement nationally.
After a 15-2 run gave Louisville a 51-46 lead with 3:38 remaining it seemed as if the Cardinals were well on their way to an eighth straight win over #2 Syracuse. In a contest that featured some ugly offense, a five-point margin seemed to be near insurmountable despite the Orange's many talented players. However a Brandon Triche jumper just 18 seconds later would start a 6-0 run, which ended with a C.J. Fair bucket with 2:11 to go to give Syracuse the 52-51 win.
Despite the fact that the distance between first and second place is just two games with five to go many have conceded the regular season crown to #2 Syracuse (25-1, 12-1), and rightfully so as the Orange have been head and shoulders above the rest of the conference. The race to observe has involved the other three double-bye slots, and #18 Louisville (20-5, 8-4) is a player in that regard. That makes Monday's game at the KFC Yum! Center an important one, with the Cardinals also in position to use the win to bolster their resume from an NCAA tournament seeding standpoint.
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.
The matchup between the two best teams in the SEC was expected to be a competitive affair, one that would challenge John Calipari's squad and show how much of a national title contender they really are. The answer was an emphatic one, as Kentucky controlled the game on both ends of the floor in a 78-58 win that didn't seem all that close in the second half.
Quite a bit was made of the team meeting called by UConn forward Alex Oriakhi on Friday, and how it may have sparked a revival of the reigning national champions. But maybe that should have been another red flag, given the first couple of paragraphs in the Hartford Courant recapping the Huskies' 69-46 win over Seton Hall.