Thanks to its ability to make timely shots (what a concept!), No. 20 Duke (20-6, 9-4) was able to escape Chapel Hill with a narrow 74-73 win over fifth-ranked North Carolina (21-5, 10-3). And that was despite the continued absence of Amile Jefferson and a first half injury to Matt Jones decimating the Blue Devils' roster. Brice Johnson tried to do it all for the Tar Heels, scoring 29 and pulling down 19 rebounds, but the ACC Player of the Year contender couldn't do it alone. Duke was paced by Grayson Allen's 23 and Brandon Ingram's 20.
The Tar Heels next host No. 11 Miami (21-4, 10-3) on Saturday with first place on the line. The Hurricanes had no trouble with visiting Virginia Tech (13-13, 5-8), prevailing 65-49 thanks to four starters hitting double figures.
Syracuse's (18-9, 8-6) trip to No. 18 Louisville (20-6, 9-4) started promisingly enough, with the Orange largely dominating the first 15 or so minutes. But the Orange didn't take advantage of the Cardinals' early struggles on offense, and they paid dearly for the remaining 25, especially on the inside (Chinanu Onuaku scored 13 and grabbed 15 boards, for example), as this was just one of the dunks thrown down on the night.
It's like Louisville found a "if you make the other team cry they have to let you play in the tournament" loophole pic.twitter.com/m4kMWmXva4— Mike Rutherford (@CardChronicle) February 18, 2016
Louisville prevailed 72-58, and Syracuse must get back on track against Pittsburgh Panthers at home on Saturday.
Clemson (16-10, 9-5) avoided disaster in Greenville, as the Tigers trailed Boston College (7-19, 0-13) at halftime 34-31 before turning it on in the second half to claim a 65-54 "necessary evil" victory. Jaron Blossomgame, as usual, led the hosts with 23 and 8 boards.
Florida State (16-10, 6-8) was not so lucky. The Seminoles followed up their understandable losses to Syracuse and Miami with a third, less forgivable one—an 86-80 setback to Georgia Tech (14-12, 4-9) at home. Marcus Georges-Hunt and Adam Smith combined for 52 backcourt points for the Yellow Jackets in the win. FSU's final three games—at Duke and then Notre Dame and Syracuse back in Tallahassee—now loom very large indeed.
No. 1 Villanova (23-3, 12-1 Big East) won its 14th consecutive Big 5 game and third consecutive outright crown by handing Temple (16-9, 10-3 American) a costly loss for its at-large candidacy, 83-67 at the Liacouras Center. The Owls next have to travel to Houston and fellow bubble squad Tulsa, on a brutal Sunday-Tuesday trip.
Texas Tech (16-9, 6-7) was perhaps the biggest bubble winner of the night. The Red Raiders knocked off their third ranked opponent in succession, slipping past third-ranked Oklahoma (20-5, 8-5) 65-63. Aaron Ross led the Red Raiders off the bench with 17, while Jordan Woodard scored 25 for the Sooners, who've dropped two in a row and three of four.
The Red Raiders need to be careful, however, as their next game is a potential trap—Saturday at Oklahoma State. Tech needed overtime to defeat them in Lubbock back on February 3rd.
Myles Davis recorded an 11 point, 12 rebound, 12 assist triple-double to help push No. 8 Xavier (23-3, 11-3) past No. 23 Providence (19-8, 7-7) by an 85-74. The Friars have now lost five of their last seven games, while the Musketeers are now 6-1 against the RPI Top 50. Kris Dunn scored 23, grabbed 11 boards, and provided six assists in a losing effort.
Seton Hall (18-7, 8-5) basically put the final nail in Georgetown's (14-13, 7-7) coffin, dropping the Hoyas 72-64 in the Nation's Capital. Jessie Govan scored 27 in a losing effort for the Hoyas, while Isaiah Whitehead led the Pirates with 22.
It might be time to be a bit worried about fourth-ranked Iowa (20-6, 11-3). Their 79-75 loss at Penn State (13-13, 4-9) is their second in their last three, and the Hawkeyes didn't look all that convincing against Minnesota at home on Sunday. Fran McCaffrey's team gets a week to recover before Wisconsin visits Carver-Hawkeye, however.
Iowa is again tied for first with No. 22 Indiana (21-6, 11-3), a half-game up on Maryland, as the Hoosiers routed Nebraska (14-13, 6-8) 80-64 in Bloomington. Troy Williams led the Hoosiers, who next host archrival Purdue on Saturday night, with 18.
Arizona State (14-13, 4-10) traveled down I-10 to Tucson and heads back to Tempe with a beating. No. 12 Arizona (22-5, 10-4) crushed the Sun Devils 99-61, thanks to Allonzo Trier's first 20-point game since his return from a hand injury.
USC (19-7, 8-5) trailed Colorado (19-8, 8-6) by eight at the halftime interval and 15 at one point in the second half, but rallied to defeat the Buffaloes 79-72. The Trojans, led by Jordan McLaughlin's 25, are a perfect 15-0 at home this season. They also snapped a short two-game losing streak. Might Colorado rue their fold on Selection Sunday? Probably only if they also lose at struggling UCLA on Saturday.
The night's other big bubble winner was Alabama (16-9, 7-6). The Crimson Tide showed incredible poise in picking up a 76-69 win at LSU (16-10, 9-4). Retin Obasohan added another great performance to his SEC Player of the Year nomination mixtape, scoring 35, while Riley Norris was following loose balls all over the court, coralling 16 boards. Craig Victor II scored 21 for the Bayou Bengals and Ben Simmons added 20, but it wasn't enough.
There's now a three-way tie at the top of the league, as Saint Joseph's (22-4, 11-2) took down No. 15 Dayton (21-4, 11-2) 79-70, thanks to a balanced effort that saw five players score at least 10 (with Shavar Newkirk adding 8). The Hawks are now 3-3 against the RPI Top 50 (with Princeton counting for now) with two tricky road games coming up. VCU, Saint Joe's, and Dayton are all 11-2 with five games to play in the race for the top seed in Brooklyn.
George Washington (19-7, 8-5) picked up an 81-74 win at Duquesne (15-11, 5-8) that won't help their NCAA candidacy, but it certainly didn't hurt it, since the Colonials had dropped their previous two. St. Bonaventure (17-7, 9-4) wasn't so lucky, falling 71-64 at La Salle (6-18, 2-11), who had only won one A 10 game before last night, against Dayton!
Stony Brook (22-5, 13-1) still leads the America East race by two games, but the dream of a perfect conference season is over. The Seawolves were dominated by Albany (22-7, 11-3) at SEFCU Arena, 82-70.
New Mexico (16-10, 9-4) solidified its hold on second place in the Mountain West with a 15-point comeback at Boise State (17-10, 8-6). The Lobos scored 19 of the game's final 21 points to claim an 80-78 home win.