As we inch closer to March, the intensity is picking up in conference races and on the bubble. Monday night didn’t feature many heavyweight matchups — but it did feature a monster Big 12 game between in-state rivals while two teams also earned wins after weekend losses.
No. 15 Kansas stays in Big 12 race with win over No. 16 Kansas State
Monday night saw Kansas earn perhaps its biggest win of the season in taking down in-state rival Kansas State with a 64-49 home win.
The win puts Kansas within one game of Kansas State for the Big 12 lead with three games left for each team while Texas Tech is also now tied with the Wildcats in the loss column.
Dedric Lawson (18 points, 14 rebounds, five assists) continued to put up great production with his 17th double-double of the season while reserve forward Mitch Lightfoot also stepped up in a big way off the bench.
Kansas State saw its veteran team struggle to score during the biggest game of the season as head coach Bruce Weber made the controversial decision to bench senior forward Dean Wade in the first half after picking up a second foul.
I have more on this game here, as I examine Lightfoot’s impact, the struggling Kansas State vets and how this might also impact Kansas from an NCAA tournament seeding perspective.
Iowa State cruises past Oklahoma
While the Kansas win was the major takeaway of the night, the Big 12 had another important game featuring two teams vying for NCAA tournament bids. Iowa State pulled away in the second half to cruise past Oklahoma for a 78-61 win.
After losing three of their last four games, this was a crucial win for the Cyclones, as they were led by Marial Shayok (21 points) and Talen Horton-Tucker (18 points). Dropping to a No. 6 seed in the most recent NBC Sports bracketology, Iowa State has a chance to climb into a better seed if they continue to win, as this victory over Oklahoma is another Q2 win.
As for Oklahoma, they’re inching closer to the bubble as they sit as a No. 9 seed in our most recent projection. This was a vital chance for the Sooners to earn a Q1 win, but the loss drops them to 3-9 against such teams this season. There are still two more chances for the Sooners to earn great wins before the Big 12 Tournament (vs. Kansas, at Kansas State) but those opportunities are growing slimmer as the season wears on. At 5-10 in Big 12 play, Oklahoma could use some wins to help its own cause.
No. 18 Florida State rallies to beat Notre Dame
The ACC’s only game on Monday night featured Florida State rallying after a sluggish start to knock off Notre Dame. After looking flat in a weekend loss at North Carolina, the Seminoles started Monday’s home game in underwhelming fashion before stepping on the gas and pulling away.
Freshman Devin Vassell stepped up as the hero Florida State needed as he scored 13 points off the bench — going 3-for-3 from three-point range. Vassell had more points on Monday night than he had in 14 previous ACC games this season.
The Seminoles have had some sluggish stretches of play in recent games, but they’ll take this home win heading into two more at home against N.C. State and Virginia Tech.