With 1:22 remaining VCU and George Mason were tied at 51 in a hotly-contested, defensive-minded affair. There were no easy shots to be found in the matchup of two of the three teams that entered Tuesday's action tied for first in the CAA. That's where the real fun began, with the Rams and Patriots combining to score 21 points in that final 1:22 to cap an outstanding matchup. The difference wasn't so much what one team did wrong but rather what one did right. Sherrod Wright.
After a 15-2 run gave Louisville a 51-46 lead with 3:38 remaining it seemed as if the Cardinals were well on their way to an eighth straight win over #2 Syracuse. In a contest that featured some ugly offense, a five-point margin seemed to be near insurmountable despite the Orange's many talented players. However a Brandon Triche jumper just 18 seconds later would start a 6-0 run, which ended with a C.J. Fair bucket with 2:11 to go to give Syracuse the 52-51 win.
Despite the fact that the distance between first and second place is just two games with five to go many have conceded the regular season crown to #2 Syracuse (25-1, 12-1), and rightfully so as the Orange have been head and shoulders above the rest of the conference. The race to observe has involved the other three double-bye slots, and #18 Louisville (20-5, 8-4) is a player in that regard. That makes Monday's game at the KFC Yum! Center an important one, with the Cardinals also in position to use the win to bolster their resume from an NCAA tournament seeding standpoint.
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.
Friday's schedule may be light but there's some good action to take in as direction of the Ivy and Metro Atlantic races will be determined. Iona (19-5, 11-2) and Loyola (MD) (18-5, 11-2) are tied for first place with two games separating them from the pack (Manhattan and Fairfield leading that group), and the winner would take a big step towards grabbing the regular season crown. What should viewers look forward to?
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.
Could there be a changing of the guard in the West Coast Conference? While that may be a tough question to ask given the sustained run of success that Gonzaga (18-4, 8-2) has enjoyed over the years, winning the last eleven WCC regular season titles, Saint Mary's (22-2, 11-0) would establish a three-game lead with four conference games remaining with a win in Spokane. Led by seniors Matthew Dellavedova (15.5 ppg, 6.4 apg) and Rob Jones (14.8 ppg, 10.7 rpg), the Gaels have already swept BYU and handed Gonzaga an 83-62 loss back on January 12th.
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