With first place on the line in Columbus the expectation was that #11 Michigan State and #3 Ohio State would play a tight, physical affair. And that's exactly what it was, with the visitors from East Lansing seeming to be the more comfortable of the two teams in the first half. Michigan State shot 46.9% from the field but the reason for their 35-25 lead at the half was their defense, as they limited Ohio State to 33.3% and forced eight turnovers.
Saturday is the day that many college basketball fans have been waiting for, with a number of important matchups on the slate. One of those games is #4 Missouri (22-2, 9-2) hosting #6 Baylor (21-3, 8-3) with the Bears looking to keep alive their fleeting hopes of winning the league title. Scott Drew's team is 0-3 in games against the two teams now ahead of them in the standings, most recently being whipped by Kansas in Waco.
There have been some thrilling comebacks in the history of the Duke/North Carolina rivalry, but surprisingly there haven't been many games that have been decided at the buzzer. Wednesday night's game in Chapel Hill wasn't a case of "down eight with 17 seconds to go" as it was in meetings in 1974 (UNC with the comeback and win) and 1995 (Duke with the comeback but UNC ended up winning), but with the Tar Heels up ten (80-70) with 3:35 remaining one would expect them to win.
Rivalry games bring more to the table when it comes to intensity, and that was definitely the case in the battle between #4 Missouri and #8 Kansas in Columbia on Saturday night. In a game that featured many momentum swings and neither team leading by more than eight points, it was Frank Haith's Tigers who landed the final blow. Kansas led 71-63 with 3:25 remaining but they would not score again, as Missouri finished the game on an 11-0 run to win 74-71.
To say that there were some complaints about the "quality" of Saturday's schedule would be an understatement as many felt that the college basketball slate wouldn't provide much intrigue. But once again college basketball didn't disappoint the fans, with the big result being Iowa State's 72-64 win over #5 Kansas. The Cyclones won despite turning the ball over 19 times by getting to the foul line and controlling the boards. ISU attempted 34 free throws (making 25) to just sixteen for the Jayhawks (who made ten) in handing the visitors their first Big 12 loss.
Following Shabazz Napier's game-tying three-pointer most coaches would choose to call a timeout to draw up a play, risking the chance of the defense aligning and taking away the primary scoring option. But with the man he wanted to take the final shot already in possession of the basketball, Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin decided against calling a timeout and as a result his Bearcats are now 5-1 in the Big East.
It looks as if the schedule-makers in the Mountain West wanted to spark some serious national conversation about the conference from the beginning of league play because the first full week of play will feature all three expected contenders facing each other. Wednesday's slate features #16 San Diego State (15-2, 1-0), fresh off of their two-point win over UNLV, visiting The Pit to take on a New Mexico (15-2, 1-0) squad that's quietly won thirteen in a row.
There weren't many opportunities to watch ranked teams play each other (there was just one, which is discussed below), but Saturday's slate provided many teams the chance to improve their resumes. Florida State and Northwestern took full advantage of their opportunities as they both knocked off Top 10 opponents at home, albeit in different ways.