Last night was a rough night for teams on the early bubble or with tepid NCAA Tournament hopes. Nearly every team that needed a resume-boosting win came up short last night, and a few experienced outright disasters. St. John’s, who was ranked as high as 15th, got blasted at Butler to fall to 14-8 and just 3-6 in conference play. Indiana took a resume hit, not in losing to Wisconsin, but by the way the were manhandled by the Badgers. Miami blew a golden opportunity to add a chip to their Duke win, but was instead routed on their home floor by Louisville. They join the massive glut of teams with seven or eight losses, a few decent wins, and a ton of question marks.
Easi;y the worst loss of the night was Florida dropping to Vanderbilt. The Commodores are one of the worst “BCS conference” teams in the country. Florida is now 12-10 and hoping for NIT glory. I can’t recall a more disappointing season for the Gators in the Billy Donovan era.
It seems simple because of the bevy of mock brackets available on a daily basis, but sorting through this year’s mess is no easy task. If you can tell Texas A&M from LSU from Georgia from St. John’s from Miami from Kansas State from Michigan, go ahead and make a compelling argument. In the meantime, it’s going to be utter chaos for the next six weeks, and I can’t wait.
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Today’s Free Pick:
Ohio State Buckeyes -2 at Purdue Boilermakers
You can add Purdue to the growing list I started above (along with Temple, Iowa, Nebraska, George Washington, Xavier, Providence, Seton Hall…..). The difference is, Purdue is pleased with where they sit currently. No one expected the Boilermakers to be real competitive in the Big Ten, but they enter tonight at 14-8 and 6-3 in conference play – good enough for a four-way tie for second place. They’ve exceeded all expectations already.
But things are going to get tough tonight. A lot of people wrote off Ohio State after a rough start to the season. Big mistake. They have one of the most deserving Wooden Award candidates in the nation in D’Angelo Russell. The electric freshman has carried them the last three weeks, elevating his play and elevating Ohio State into a legit Sweet Sixteen caliber team in the process. They have won three straight games including dominant wins over Indiana and Maryland. Yes, they are just 2-3 on the road this season, and the road is a tough place to play, but I think their talent level eclipses Purdue’s enough to make up for the short road trip to Mackey Arena.
As good as Purdue has been in conference, they haven’t had to play Ohio State, Wisconsin or Michigan State yet. They have good wins over middle-of-the-packers, but the one Top 20 team that came to Mackey, Maryland, had their way with them.
I like Ohio State tonight. They are defending like maniacs, and no one in the country can cover D’Angelo one-on-on right now – and as soon as you double, much like a younger Jerian Grant, he simply makes the right play. I think he’ll make enough tonight for the Buckeyes to deliver the latest bubble-deflating win.