Kansas, Kentucky, Syracuse and … Georgetown?
If they weren't there already, the Hoyas forced themselves into the national championship discussion by pounding second-ranked Villanova 103-90 Saturday in snow-stuffed Washington D.C.
The victory came exactly one week after Georgetown's 89-77 annihilation of Duke, but this one was even more impressive. Austin Freeman scored 25 points and Jason Clark added a career-high 24 for a Hoyas squad that shot 56.3 percent from the field. Chris Wright made 6-of-7 3-point attempts
The Hoyas shook off a stunning upset at the hands of South Florida on Wednesday to bury the Wildcats with an early barrage. The Big East race just got a lot more interesting.
No. 8 Georgetown is now 17-5 overall and 7-4 in the conference. Villanova suffered its first conference loss and is now 20-2 and 9-1. Syracuse is 22-1, 9-1. West Virginia is 19-3, 8-2. All four teams have what it takes to get to the Final Four and, perhaps, win it all.
But that might be looking too far ahead – especially considering the intraconference battles ahead.
Pittsburgh and Louisville, with four losses each, could still be factors.
No other team, though, was as impressive as the Hoyas on Saturday.
Now, more winners and losers.
The Big Ten race – Illinois' victory over Michigan State has re-opened a conference chase that had been dominated by the Spartans. Michigan State is 9-2 after its second straight loss. Purdue, Ohio State, Illinois and Wisconsin all have three losses. Michigan State plays host to Purdue on Tuesday. The Illini? They got much-needed signature win to boost their NCAA tournament stock.
Northern Iowa – It wasn't pretty, but the Panthers defeated Southern Illinois 55-52 thanks to Adam Koch. He scored 11 straight points in the second half to help erase a 42-35 deficit with 6:09 remaining. At 12-1, Northern Iowa has a firm grasp on first place in the Missouri Valley. Second place Wichita State is 9-4.
Darington Hobson – The New Mexico standout made a pair of free throws with 2.7 seconds remaining to lift the Lobos to an 88-86 overtime victory over San Diego State. Hobson scored 29 points in a win that created a three-way tie for first place in the Mountain West. New Mexico, UNLV and BYU are all 7-2.
Arkansas – Courtney Fortson scored nine straight points in overtime to lead the Razorbacks to a 78-73 win over Auburn. John Pelphrey's squad has won its last four games and will be shooting for No. 5 when LSU visits Fayetteville on Wednesday.
Marquette's NCAA tournament hopes – The Golden Eagles' 82-79 win at Providence could go a long way toward helping them make the Big Dance. Marquette is now 6-5 in the Big East and probably needs to go at least 9-9 to earn a berth. Even better is that Marquette's next two games – against red-hot South Florida and Pittsburgh – are at home.
Pat Knight – The Texas Tech coach equaled last season's Big 12 win total when his Red Raiders knocked off Oklahoma State 81-74 in Lubbock. Knight's squad is 15-7 overall and 3-5 in conference play. Texas Tech went 3-13 in the Big 12 last year. Next up is a Tuesday road game at Oklahoma.
UNLV – Tre-Von Willis scored 33 points in an 88-74 win over BYU. UNLV is now 19-4 and has won five straight since a Jan. 16 loss to Utah.
Malcolm Delaney from the foul stripe – The Virginia Tech guard scored 30 points in the Hokies' 70-59 victory over Clemson. Two-thirds of those points came from the free-throw line, where he was 20-of-23.
Big second halves – Ole Miss trailed Alabama by 20 points at intermission before outscoring the Crimson Tide by 27 points after the break. West Virginia rallied from 16 points down for a 79-60 win over St. John's. The Mountaineers outscored the Red Storm by 30 points in the second half.
Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith from the stripe – Each Duke player hit two foul shots in the final 26 seconds to preserve the Blue Devils' 66-63 victory over Boston College. As a team Duke entered the game shooting 76.6 percent from the line. But Mike Krzyzewski's squad made just 15-of- 26 free- throw attempts against the Eagles.
Matt Doherty – The embattled SMU coach may have won back some fans when his team defeated Tulane 66-48. The Mustangs have won five of their last six games are 11-11 overall and 4-4 in Conference USA.
Bruce Weber and Tom Izzo – The coaches shared some laughs during a free-throw shooting contest before Illinois and Michigan State squared off in Champaign. Izzo won the battle, which ended with both men donating $50,000 to Coaches vs. Cancer.
Ishmael Smith – The Wake Forest guard hit a big shot to force overtime in the Demon Deacons' 64-61 overtime victory over Virginia. Smith finished with 15 points and five assists to keep Wake Forest in the ACC title race.
Kyle Singler – Less than 48 hours after making 8-of-10 10 3-point attempts against Georgia Tech, Duke's standout junior went just 4-of-14 from the field in a 66-63 win over a bad Boston College team. Duke is a Top 10-caliber team when Singler’s shots are falling and mediocre when they're not.
Colorado – Instead of gaining momentum from a strong performance in last week's overtime loss to No. 1 Kansas, the Buffaloes almost got run out of their own gym in an 84-66 loss to Missouri. The Buffaloes had 16 turnovers and shot just 35.7 percent from the field.
Xavier and BYU – Two of the top teams from non-Big Six conferences were absolutely annihilated in blowout losses to conference foes. Dayton beat Xavier 90-65 and UNLV beat BYU 88-74.
Norm Roberts – The St. John's coach didn't do much for his job security by coughing up a 16-point lead – at home – in a 79-60 loss to West Virginia. St. John's is now 12-10 overall and 2-8 in the Big East.
Mississippi State – The Bulldogs' 69-62 loss at Florida was their fourth setback in their last five games. All of the losses have been by seven points or less. Still, at 16-7 and 4-4, Mississippi State's chances of making the NCAA tournament appear to be dwindling.
Kalin Lucas' ankle – It's a shame that an injury to Michigan State's best player kept him of the Spartans' showdown at Illinois. You always want to see the best players in the best games.
Penn State and LSU – The Nittany Lions and Tigers are the only teams from Big Six conferences without a league win. LSU was obliterated by Kentucky, while Penn State suffered a gut-wrenching, 66-64 defeat when Minnesota's Lawrence Westbrook made a buzzer-beater.
Texas – The Longhorns' 80-71 loss at Oklahoma marked the fourth defeat over the last six games for Texas, which will probably be lacking some swagger when it takes the court against No. 1 Kansas Monday in Austin. The latest setback game against an Oklahoma team that has struggled all season. Still, even with Willie Warren scoring just three points, the Sooners managed to beat Rick Barnes’ squad, which went just 10-of-27 from the foul line. Dexter Pittman scored just eight points for Texas in 21 minutes. Pittman has two just double-figure scoring games over his last nine outings.
Arizona – Four days ago the Wildcats were tied with Cal for first place in the Pac-10 standings. Now they're one of five teams tied for second place at 6-5. Forty-eight hours after losing at Washington, Arizona was whipped at 78-60 at Washington State.
Illinois fans – They should know by now that it's bad etiquette to storm the court after you barely beat a five-loss team that's missing its top player.
Vanderbilt – Talk about a momentum-killer. The Commodores – whose only SEC loss was against Kentucky – suffered a 72-58 loss at SEC East bottom-feeder Georgia. Vanderbilt allowed the Bulldogs to shoot 53.2 percent. The Commodores entered the game having won 11 of their last 12.
- Michigan State