Tuesday’s night of college basketball had some really good conference games as ACC, Big 12 and SEC contests all came down to the wire. We saw some upsets go down in the Big 12 and the SEC, while the Big East saw a familiar team win a critical home game against a recent upstart.
1. Jarrett Culver lifts No. 8 Texas Tech past No. 23 Oklahoma in Big 12 play
Now that Kansas has lost Udoka Azubuike for the season and fallen at Iowa State, they look susceptible to potentially losing control of the Big 12. Texas Tech has taken advantage with a 3-0 start in league play after another close win over the Sooners, 66-59.
Player of the Year candidate Jarrett Culver took over the game down the stretch for the Red Raiders as he scored eight consecutive points during one stretch to finish with 23 points and 13 rebounds on an efficient 8-for-13 shooting and 7-for-7 performance from the line.
With the league’s best player in Culver, along with a defense that looks stifling, Texas Tech could have enough to be the leaders in the Big 12 race at this current moment. Although counting out Kansas would be really stupid, the Jayhawks still have to regroup from losing a huge piece for them while Texas Tech looks like they know how to win close games with a closer in Culver.
The Big 12 schedule won’t get much easier for the Red Raiders, as they travel to Texas before hosting Iowa State after that.
2. No. 12 North Carolina earns a road win at No. 15 North Carolina State
Perhaps the biggest game of the night was the ranked clash between ACC rivals North Carolina and North Carolina State. The Tar Heels earned a road win with a 90-82 final over the Wolfpack.
Jumping out to an early 12-0 lead, North Carolina never trailed in this contest as they put together an impressive start-to-finish effort. Luke Maye led the Tar Heels with 21 points while Coby White added 19 points as North Carolina won this with Cameron Johnson out and battling leg cramps for the final 12 minutes.
N.C. State deserves credit for battling back and tying this game twice in the second half, but they could never get over the hump to take a lead. Braxton Beverly led the Pack with 21 points as this loss snapped a seven-game winning streak.
2. Baylor takes down No. 20 Iowa State to add to the Big 12’s crazy night
While Texas Tech is unbeaten in the Big 12, Iowa State looked like a major threat coming off of a weekend in which they knocked off Kansas in convincing fashion. Baylor had other ideas when they led most of the game in a 73-70 win over Iowa State.
Makai Mason had 25 points to pace the Bears, who earned one of their most important wins of the season as a likely bubble team. Coming off of a close loss at TCU, this is the type of solid win that Baylor needed to stay in the NCAA tournament mix. They get another huge opportunity when they host Kansas on Jan. 12.
Iowa State only led by two points and just didn’t look like a Big 12 contender during a flat performance. While the Cyclones didn’t play poorly, their young players didn’t step up as they have at previous times this season as Marial Shayok paced them with 19 points.
The Cyclones are still going to be a dangerous Big 12 team, but Texas Tech is the top dog at the moment after Tuesday night’s results. The young Cyclones still have the talent to potentially win the league, but it is road games like this against fringe tournament teams like Baylor that they need to win to stay in that race.
4. Villanova maintains unbeaten Big East mark with win over No. 24 St. John’s
One of Tuesday’s most important games featured two top teams in the Big East. While some have written off Villanova after some early losses to Furman and Penn, the Wildcats remained unblemished in the league with a big 76-71 win over No. 24 St. John’s.
Eric Paschall finished with 25 points while Phil Booth had 23 points and six three-pointers — including the go-ahead look in the second half. The Wildcats are the sole undefeated team in the Big East as they’re off to a solid start in league play. Winning over St. John’s — a team many believe to be a major contender — is proof that Villanova should be taken seriously once again in the Big East race.
The Red Storm were paced by Shamorie Ponds’ 23 points, but Mustapha Heron struggled to a 3-for-11 night from the field to finish with eight points.
There is still a long way to go in the Big East race, and these two teams will play again on Feb. 17, as St. John’s will try to bounce back after a 2-2 start in league play.
5. South Carolina drops No. 14 Mississippi State for upset win
The SEC gave us one of the night’s notable upsets as the Gamecocks took down the Bulldogs with an 87-82 overtime win.
People weren’t sure what to make of Mississippi State’s season as they entered this game with a bloated record thanks to a pretty easy schedule. The Bulldogs deserve credit for some solid wins (Cincinnati, Clemson) and no terrible losses.
But a loss to a South Carolina team ranked in the 115s on KenPom likely isn’t going to be a realistic SEC contender against the likes of Auburn, Kentucky and Tennessee.
To South Carolina’s credit, they’re now 2-0 in league play as they hit the offensive glass and defend hard. Maik Kotsar played the best game of his Gamecock career with 25 points and nine rebounds as led five double-figure scorers for South Carolina.
Mississippi State will likely still find itself in fine position to make the NCAA tournament, but this is the type of loss that makes you question their ceiling for this season.