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.
As the streak grew longer, it seemed as if it became a foregone conclusion in the eyes of many that Murray State would simply run through the Ohio Valley Conference on their way to a Sears BracketBusters contest against Saint Mary's. Steve Prohm's head coaching career got off to a dream start, as the Racers won 23 straight games with Isaiah Canaan and Donte Poole leading the way. That run came to an end on Thursday night as the Racers fell 72-68 to a Tennessee State team that relied on balance to grab their eighth win in the last nine games.
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.
NO. 16 MISSISSIPPI STATE (17-4, 4-2 SEC) AT NO. 13 FLORIDA (16-4, 4-1 SEC)
Time/TV: 1:30 p.m./SEC Network, ESPN Full Court
With the announcement that starting center Fab Melo would miss Saturday's game due to an unresolved academic issue, the chances that top-ranked Syracuse would remain undefeated took a hit. But few would have thought that the Orange would have few (if any) answers in the paint as a result of his absence, and that's exactly what happened at Purcell Pavilion. Jack Cooley scored 17 points and grabbed ten rebounds and Notre Dame led by as many as 18 points on their way to the 67-58 win, the eighth in school history over a top-ranked opponent.
NO. 15 MISSISSIPPI STATE (15-4, 2-2 SEC) AT VANDERBILT (14-4, 4-0 SEC)
Time/TV: 7 p.m./ESPN2
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.
ALABAMA (13-3, 2-0 SEC) AT NO. 20 MISSISSIPPI STATE (13-3, 0-1 SEC)
Time/TV: 4 p.m./SEC Network
The first Saturday of the new year proved to be far more exciting than anticipated, much to the detriment of ranked teams who took their show on the road. Removing #7 Missouri and #20 Marquette, who both lost on the road to ranked opponents (more on both of those games below), five ranked teams lost to unranked opponents with four of the losses coming on the road. The Big East provided the most intrigue, with #8 Connecticut and #9 Georgetown falling on the road while #10 Louisville lost in double overtime at home. So which of the three defeats is most concerning?