Tuesday night saw a full night of close games and conference battles. A key conference race shifted thanks to a top-five team falling while the bubble was another point of interest. And two top-five teams received scares from unranked opponents at home before rallying to win.
No. 20 Virginia Tech outlasts No. 2 Duke
The only matchup between ranked teams on Tuesday night saw a battle in the ACC as the Hokies held off a late charge from the Blue Devils for a 77-72 home win. While the Hokies earned a critical win for its NCAA tournament cause, the loss is a bigger deal to Duke, as they fall out of a three-way tie with Virginia and North Carolina for the lead in the ACC.
Perhaps most concerning for Duke, however, was its poor defensive effort, as the Blue Devils haven’t been nearly the same on that end without superstar freshman Zion Williamson. I looked more into Duke’s defense without Williamson as the Blue Devils need to get the Player of the Year frontrunner back on the floor as quickly as possible.
Freshmen help Kentucky, North Carolina rally from halftime deficits to win
For a little while, it looked like Tuesday would boil over into full-blown chaos as No. 4 Kentucky and No. 5 North Carolina both found themselves trailing at halftime to unranked teams at home.
Freshmen bailed both top-five teams out though as Tyler Herro and Coby White had huge nights.
The Wildcats were able to climb back against Arkansas as Herro went for 29 points on a blistering 9-for-10 shooting and 5-for-6 shooting from three-point range. He also provided the night’s swaggiest moment while trash-talking a Razorback at the free-throw line.
North Carolina survived a blistering first-half shooting performance from Syracuse as the Tar Heels stayed tied atop the ACC with a close win. Coby White went for 34 points as he started going bananas during the start of the second half. While White didn’t proclaim himself to be a bucket like Herro did, he was 9-for-14 from the floor and 6-for-11 from three-point range in the win.
Ohio State, Alabama among teams to earns big bubble wins
The bubble had a few teams in action on Tuesday as Ohio State and Alabama had the most notable wins among the group.
Earning an impressive 20-point win (for now a Q1 win), the Buckeyes might have cemented themselves into the field with the way they handled Iowa. Justin Ahrens had a monster night with 29 points to lead five double-figure scorers for Ohio State as the Buckeyes can feel safe if they can knock off Purdue or Wisconsin among their final three regular-season games.
Alabama picked up its finest true road win of the season as they dispatched South Carolina in the SEC. The Crimson Tide aren’t quite as strong as Ohio State when it comes to bubble standing, but Alabama will get a couple of valuable opportunities to earn great wins down the stretch with home games against LSU and Auburn.
The bubble’s biggest loser on Tuesday was Butler, as the Bulldogs might have just played themselves out of the Field of 68 with an overtime home Big East loss to Providence.
CBT’s Rob Dauster has a full Tuesday bubble recap here.