Rob Dauster

Creighton's Cole Huff (13) and Toby Hegner, left, guard Xavier's Jalen Reynolds (1) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

No. 5 Xavier stumbles at Creighton, lose 70-54

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Mo Watson went for a career-high 32 points, seven boards and five assists as Creighton jumped out to an early 21-4 lead and never looked back, beating No. 5 Xavier, 70-54, in Omaha on Tuesday night.

 

It was a massive win for the Bluejays, who still have an outside shot at earning an at-large bid this season. (We wrote all about that here.)

As well as Creighton played, the bigger story here may actually be Xavier, who lost for just the third time this season; they had been the only top ten team with just two losses to their name.

The issue for the Musketeers tonight was two-fold, but they both are a symptom of what could be an issue down the road for this team: Xavier doesn’t really have a true point guard.

They certainly didn’t have anyone to stop Watson. By the second half, they had essentially asked Reynolds, who was playing the middle of their 1-3-1 zone to matchup with Watson. It was weird but was actually somewhat effective.

The Musketeers also started out ice cold from the floor, missing 11 of their first 13 shots, and those misses led to leak outs from Bluejays, who got layups and open threes in transition to build that 17 point lead. Once Xavier got behind, it turned into scramble mode for Xavier. They forced shots early in the clock and didn’t start pounding the ball into the paint until it was too late. What they needed was someone to be able to settle things, to ensure that offensive would get initiated and sets would get executed when they were able to get the lead down to single digits.

That 1-for-19 shooting performance from beyond the arc certainly didn’t help matters, and neither did the fact that they got just nine field goals all game from players not named James Farr or Jalen Reynolds. The most frustrating part for head coach Chris Mack? They had good shots. It wasn’t like Creighton took away everything that Xavier wanted to do.

The kids just had one of those nights where nothing went down.

Those happen.

And when you combine them with a total inability to contain the opposing team’s point guard, what you get is a 16 point loss on the road against a team that was desperate to get a good win.

No. 18 Purdue survives No. 8 Michigan State in overtime thriller

Purdue center A.J. Hammons (20), center, celibates with forward Vince Edwards (12) and forward Jacquil Taylor (23) following an NCAA college basketball game in West Lafayette, Ind., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. Purdue defeated Michigan State 82-81 in overtime. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
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Rapheal Davis hit a free throw with five seconds left and after missing the second, A.J. Hammons grabbed the offensive rebound and killed the clock as No. 18 Purdue survived No. 8 Michigan State in overtime, 82-81, in Mackey Arena.

It was a fitting way for the game to end, as Davis finished with a career-high 24 points, scoring 19 and hitting all five of his threes in the first half as the Boilermakers opened up a lead that, at one point, ballooned to 18 points. Hammons chipped in with 19 points, 13 boards (seven offensive), eight blocks and three assists, doing the majority of his damage in the second half.

Purdue needed this win for a number of reasons, not the least of which is seeding. This is easily Purdue’s best win of the season, depending on how you value beating Florida on a neutral court and winning at Pitt. Not only will it behoove them on Selection Sunday, but with how crowded the middle of the Big Ten is, this could be a valuable tie-breaker for the Big Ten tournament seeding.

Case in point: the Boilermakers are currently all alone in fourth place in the Big Ten standings. Michigan State is all alone … in seventh. It would be the other way around had the Spartans won.

But more than that, Purdue just needed a big win. Entering Tuesday night, the Boilermakers lost basically every big game they’ve played this season. There was that disappointing effort against Butler in the Crossroads Classic. There was the 19-point lead they blew at home against Iowa. They lost the rematch with Iowa two weeks later. They gave away a late lead against Maryland over the weekend.

Maybe I’m reading too much into it. Maybe, to Purdue, the ACC/Big Ten Challenge game at Pitt and the Hall of Fame Classic matchup with Florida mattered just as much to them. Maybe it’s just a coincidence that the games that drew the most national attention all ended up in a disappointing performance — or, more accurately, a disappointing finish — from the Boilermakers.

But Purdue came very, very close to doing the exact same thing on Tuesday.

Because they were up by 18 points in the first half and, thanks to 27 points, 10 assists and eight boards from Denzel Valentine, Michigan State stormed back to take a late lead. In fact, Purdue scored the last four points of regulation just to get this game to overtime, and if Valentine had hit a tough, pull-up jumper at the buzzer, this would be a totally different column.

But Purdue survived, and it will be interesting to see how this will affect their confidence in big games moving forward.

As far as Michigan State is concerned, it was a bit worrisome how poorly Bryn Forbes and Eron Harris played. They combined to shoot 4-for-19 from the floor and 2-for-9 from three. Part of that can be attributed to Rapheal Davis and his ability to chase people off of screens, but that duo missed so open looks and, in Harris’ case, a pair of dunk attempts.

Sparty needs them to be better if they are going to reach their potential.

BUBBLE BANTER: Creighton’s huge win gets them back in the bubble discussion

Creighton's Maurice Watson Jr. (10) reacts after scoring during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Xavier in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. Creighton won 70-56. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
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The enormity of Tuesday night’s win for Creighton (KenPom: 39, RPI: 98) probably cannot be overstated.

Simply put, Creighton’s résumé entering the day was not close to strong enough for an at-large bid. They had just one top 50 win (at Seton Hall), a 3-8 record against the top 100, a non-conference strength of schedule in the 300s and a loss to Loyola (IL), who currently sits at 235th in the RPI. That’s not pretty. At all.

But the Bluejays are a perfect example of why the RPI is flawed. You see, the RPI doesn’t factor in margin of victory, and margin of victory matters. You lose to a team by 30, that team is probably way better than you. You lose to them on a shot at the buzzer, and that’s a totally different story everyone except for the RPI. That’s why KenPom’s rankings are a valuable tool, and KenPom has Creighton slotted in at 39th. That different is the result of four one-possession losses that the Jays have suffered, three of which came against RPI top 75 opponents … and one of which was against Loyola (IL).

In other words, Creighton is roughly four shots away from being on the right side of the bubble.

And after Tuesday, they’re far closer to the right side of the bubble than they were before. Xavier is a top ten RPI win, one that they can pin at the top of their profile. It certainly doesn’t mean their work is done, not by any stretch. I’d wager that Creighton needs, at the very least, five wins in their last six games and the Big East tournament to have a real shot on Selection Sunday. That’s what happen when you play a bad schedule and lose too many close games.

It won’t be easy — they still have to play at Marquette, at Butler, at Providence and at Xavier — but the chances are there.

WINNERS

  • No. 25 Wichita State (KenPom: 12, RPI 41): The Shockers did what they needed to do on Tuesday, blowing out a bad Drake team on the road. Wichita State is good, but given the lack of quality wins on their profile, I’m not sure they can afford two more losses.
  • Florida (KenPom: 28, RPI: 23): The Gators finished off their sweep of Ole Miss on Tuesday, picking up their seventh top 100 win of the season in the process. With just one sub-100 loss (at Tennessee, who may not be outside the top 100 by Selection Sunday) and terrific schedule numbers, the Gators likely just need to win the games their supposed to win to get a bid. In other words, they’re playing seeding more than they are for a bid.
  • Cincinnati (KenPom: 63, RPI: 31): The Bearcats beat UCF on Tuesday, a win that does nothing for them beyond guaranteeing they won’t lose to UCF. Cincinnati does have three top 50 wins, two of which came on the road, but a 4-6 record against the top 100 is not great. Like Creighton, Cincinnati’s KenPom numbers are far more impressive than their RPI numbers.

LOSERS

  • Georgia (KenPom: 80, RPI: 64): The Bulldogs better hope that no selection committee members were watching on Tuesday as they were absolutely manhandled by Kentucky. Embarrassed. Georgia has just one top 75 win (South Carolina) and a 4-9 record against the top 100. The good news? A top ten non-conference strength of schedule gives Georgia some margin for error.
  • Pittsburgh (KenPom: 53, RPI: 41): The Panthers blew a chance to land a key road win on Tuesday night, losing by two at Miami. A win would have been huge for a team that still is trying to fill out the top of their profile. They do have four top 50 wins, three away from home, but they’re 5-6 against the top 100 and they’ve lost five of their last eight games. More than anything, this group needs to simply turn that trend around.

VIDEO: North Carolina head coach Roy Williams collapses on sideline

Roy Williams
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North Carolina head coach Roy Williams collapsed during the second half of No. 2 North Carolina’s visit to Boston College on Tuesday night:

Roy Williams has dealt with vertigo in the past; it’s not abnormal for him to collapse on the sideline during games, and given that his team is currently losing to Boston College, it’s understandable that he may have screamed himself dizzy.

He had to be helped off the floor:

It does appear that this isn’t something serious, according to a North Carolina release, that said Williams is “doing OK”.

VIDEO: Wild sequence helps No. 12 Miami survive Pitt at home

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Angel Rodriguez finished with 17 points and eight assists for No. 12 Miami, but it was lone offensive rebound of the night that earned the Hurricanes the win.

After center Tonye Jekiri missed two free throws allowing Pitt’s James Robinson a chance to tie the game with a three with 30 seconds left, Rodriguez was able to sneak in between three Panther players to tip-in a missed Davon Reed layup with 1.4 seconds left.

There was a bit of controversy on the final possession. Rodriguez, for some reason, tried to take a charge on Robinson when he caught the ball 70 feet from the rim. Pitt wasn’t in the bonus, so the no-call didn’t necessarily cost Pitt potentially game-tying free throws, but it could have given them another shot to draw up a play 30 feet further up the floor.

It also could have resulted in a foul being called as Robinson was shooting, which would have given Pitt three free throws.

That would have been bad.

But luckily for the Hurricanes, there was no whistle.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: A Big 12 and a Big Ten showdown

Denzel Valentine
(AP Photo/Al Goldis)
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GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 10 West Virginia at No. 6 Kansas, 7:00 p.m.

The last time these two teams got together, West Virginia actually knocked off Kansas in Morgantown. It was the third time in the last three seasons that WVU has beaten KU at home. So there’s some revenge at stake here. But there’s also the whole Big 12 title race, which West Virginia currently leads. If the Mountaineers win tonight, they’ll be up by two games on Kansas with the tie breaker and just seven games left to play. The Jayhawks regular season title streak could be over if that happens.

THIS ONE’S GOOD, TOO: No. 8 Michigan State at No. 18 Purdue, 7:00 p.m.

We think the Spartans are back to their early season form after wins over Maryland (at home), Northwestern, Rutgers and Michigan. If Michigan State really wants to prove something to the college basketball world, they will go into West Lafayette tonight and get a win. Denzel Valentine vs. Raphael Davis will be fun.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR

  1. Pitt will pay a visit to No. 12 Miami in a game the Panthers could really use a win in. Pitt hasn’t been the most consistent team in the country and without adding a few quality wins they could be looking at the bubble.
  2. Duquesne will be paying a visit to No. 19 Dayton, who moved into a tie for first place in the Atlantic 10 thanks to VCU’s loss on Saturday.
  3. Georgia is right there on the bubble, and they will have a chance to try and push themselves into a better spot when they play at No. 22 Kentucky tonight.
  4. Creighton probably has to win out to have a shot of making the NCAA tournament, and that includes tonight, when they host No. 5 Xavier.
  5. No. 7 Virginia will be hosting Virginia Tech, who picked off the Wahoos in Blacksburg earlier this year.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • No. 1 Villanova at DePaul, 8:30 p.m.
  • No. 25 Wichita State at Drake, 8:00 p.m.