Game of the Day: No. 1 Indiana 72. No. 4 Michigan State 68
Indiana made a statement Tuesday night with a win over a quality Michigan State team. The Hoosiers worked to break down the Spartans’ defense and, with another Player of the Year-type performance from Victor Oladipo, held their ground in the Big Ten on the road.
The Indiana defense took Michigan State point guard Keith Appling out of the game and forced the offensive pressure on Gary Harris and Adreian Payne. That was enough for grind out a win Tuesday. Cody Zeller continues to be consistent and finished with 17 points and five rebounds.
Missouri needed a win like this. The Tigers still haven’t had success away from home and have their fair share of flaws, but a resume-building win like this Tuesday night is what helps NCAA bubble teams fall on the right side of the fence, come Selection Sunday. Florida’s Kenny Boynton took a questionable three-pointer when the Gators trailed by just one, but a win is a win for Missouri.
Miami is perhaps most dangerous because it has proven that it can still win games, regardless of the pace at which the opponent tries to force it to play. If the Hurricanes are hot from the floor, they can reach into the 70s. If a team like Virginia or Clemson tries to slow the game down and grind it out, Miami can win anyway. That versatility in March is key.
Virginia Commonwealth and Butler have been in the spotlight for much of the season, but this Saint Louis team has now beaten both at home in dominating fashion. The biggest test will come on Friday when the Billikens travel on the road to meet Butler again with the top of the conference at stake.
1. Victor Oladipo, Indiana (19 points, 7-of-11 FG, 9 rebounds, 5 steals)
Oladipo continues to build his case for National Player of the Year as the do-it-all engine behind No. 1 Indiana’s attack. As important as Cody Zeller is, this Indiana team is not the elite team that it is without Oladipo in the lineup and producing as he has been.
2. T.J. Warren, NC State (31 points, 13 rebounds)
NC State needed this win at home to hold its ground in the ACC race. Warren’s dominating performance sparked a Wolfpack offensive attack that put up 84 points. The rest of the NC State regular season schedule is favorable, but that also means there is little room to slip up and lose ground.
3. Jordan McRae, Tennessee (34 points, 13-of-18 FG, 6 rebounds, 3 steals
Tennessee is likely an NIT team, but McRae’s performance in a win over LSU cannot go unnoticed. he was efficient from the floor and hot from behind the arc with 6-of-6 shooting from three.
More of Note: Tristan Carey, Longwood (40 points, 12 rebounds) | Olivier Hanlan, Boston College (26 points, 7 rebounds)
Appling’s recent struggles are likely because of a combination of things, including a heavy load of minutes and the absence of injured backup Travis Trice. Michigan State needs Appling back on track either scoring or distributing (or both) for the start of March.
2. Alex Len, Maryland (4 points, 1-of-5 FG, Fouled Out)
Len had foul troubles and was unable to get in a groove offensively against a Boston College team that Maryland needed to beat to keep its NCAA hopes alive. Without this win, Maryland can ultimately say goodbye to its NCAA tournament aspirations.
3. Desmar Jackson, Southern Illinois (5 points, 1-of-9 FG, 3 TOs)
Southern Illinois needed Jackson to contribute in order to beat one of the conference’s best teams, but Jackson had trouble finding his shooting stroke.