After the wild doubleheader that took place at UD Arena on Tuesday night college basketball fans were due for a letdown. That's exactly what happened on Wednesday as Vermont and USF won their games in comfortable fashion, paring the field down to 64 teams.
(12) CALIFORNIA vs. (12) SOUTH FLORIDA: MIDWEST
Time: 9:10 p.m., Wednesday
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.
There's the perception that the trip to Tallahassee has been a nightmare for #4 Duke (23-4, 10-2) in recent years, but while it is a tough trip the Blue Devils hadn't lost there since 2006 before their 66-61 loss last January. On the line tonight is a share of first place (with North Carolina), a position few expected #16 Florida State (19-7, 10-2) to be in as they were struggling in November and December.
With hopes of not only remaining a factor in the ACC race but also notching their first win at #5 Duke since 1995, NC State was more than motivated for Thursday night's battle. And they played that way out of the gates, scoring the first eight points of the game and leading by as many as 19 points in the first half. But while the Wolfpack would continue to control play in the early portion of the second half, the foul trouble that developed for Mark Gottfried's team in the first half began to take its toll.
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.