Maryland went into their game at Duke on Saturday with the ability to move ahead of the Blue Devils in the loss column with two games in hand. Well, the Blue Devils made sure to beat those thoughts out of the Terrapins on Mike Krzyzewski's 1,000th game as Duke head coach, jumping out to a 22-8 lead on their way to the 77-56 victory. Jon Scheyer led all scorers with 22 points but he's essentially a known quantity for Duke at this point. The surprising (and somewhat dominant) performance came from the tallest man on the roster.
As we get closer to March the games that take precedence are those with NCAA Tournament hopes on the line, and there will be no shortage of such contests on Saturday. Connecticut kicks things off in what's essentially an elimination game between the Huskies, who welcome back head coach Jim Calhoun, and Cincinnati at the XL Center. A pair of Lance Stephenson free throws decided the first meeting but neither he nor Deonta Vaughn has played well of late.
Control of the Pac-10 race was on the line in Berkeley Thursday night with Lorenzo Romar's Washington Huskies needing to shake their road woes in order to declare themselves a factor. But all they did was show exactly why they're currently a longshot to make the NCAA Tournament, failing to defend in the first half as California got whatever they wanted in building a 48-34 halftime lead on the way to a 93-81 triumph.
How many bids will come out of the Pac-10 this year? There's a distinct possibility of the conference receiving just one bid to the NCAA Tournament given the unimpressive resumes of its primary contenders. And that essentially means the entire league with ten teams separated by just two games in the standings. However, the winner of Thursday's matchup between California and Washington in Berkeley will go a long way towards deciding who's got the inside track for the automatic bid.
While UConn/Syracuse and Duke/North Carolina have been given the ESPN stage on Wednesday night neither one is the biggest game of the night. For that honor, look out west where UNLV hosts New Mexico in a game matching two of the three teams tied for first place in the Mountain West. The Lobos have won seven straight since losing 74-62 to the Runnin' Rebels back on January 9th, and in addition to the revenge angle Steve Alford's team needs the win to avoid losing out on an important tiebreaker.
Injuries can be the great equalizer in sports, turning a race that looks to be all but over into a contested sprint to the finish line. Michigan State can attest to that, with point guard Kalin Lucas (ankle) going down against Wisconsin and being unable to play at Illinois in a second consecutive loss on Saturday night. Tuesday's matchup is in East Lansing but none easier, especially if Lucas is unable to go.
Jay Wright's Wildcats didn't look their best on Saturday afternoon, falling behind big early on their way to a 103-90 loss at Georgetown. But something changed between that loss at Monday night, with youngsters playing with poise and the Wildcats taking better care of the basketball, and the end result was an 82-75 win over West Virginia to move into a tie for first place in the Big East. In the first half nine different players scored for Villanova with senior Scottie Reynolds being limited by the defense of Devin Ebanks.
A pair of games between ranked teams take center stage on Monday night, with Villanova's trip to Morgantown preceding Kansas taking on Texas in Austin. Jay Wright's team will look to bounce back from their disappointing showing at Georgetown on Saturday and they're going to need to hit the glass with a vengeance in order to beat the Mountaineers. West Virginia averages 15.6 offensive rebounds per game, good for third in the Big East. Of the 795 rebounding opportunities on Mountaineer shots Bob Huggins' team grabs the board 43.3% of the time, tops in the conference.
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