Villanova gets major leg up in Big East, Big 12 again in firm control by Kansas

Only a handful of upsets, but Valentine’s Day got off to a strong start in East Lansing.  ”I think you can literally start your own classics channel from the last few years of Ohio State versus Michigan State games,” Ohio State Head Coach Thad Matta said. ”The endings have been incredible.”

The last eight meetings had seven of those games decided by four points or less.  Almost on cue, Denzel Valentine hit a game-winning three point shot with 3.2 seconds left as Gang Green is still technically alive for an NCAA at-large berth.  With the 59-56 victory, MSU is 17-8 overall, 8-4 in Big Ten play while the Buckeyes dropped to 19-7 overall, 8-5 in conference play.

But the game of the day was at legendary Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.  The only problem was…Jimmy Chitwood was not in the building.

Villanova used a game high 31 points and 8 threes by Darrun Hilliard to open up a sizable 2 1/2 game cushion over gutsy Butler.  His last three was the game winner, 68-65.  Villanova has the second seed pretty much sewn up at this juncture of the season (23-2 overall, 10-2 in Big East play).

Kellen Dunham and Alex Barlow each led Butler in scoring with 19 apiece.

One school that will definitely be put Under the Microscope sometime this coming week is Oklahoma State.  Last year, it was the temper of Marcus Smart that got the Cowboys in brief trouble.

This year, it is the defense that is letting their opponents go on big time runs–10 point runs on two different occasions did them in at Fort Worth against the Horned Frogs of TCU.  Thanks to 52 percent shooting and holding OSU to just under 45 percent field goal shooting and 11 attempts to the free throw line (they made eight), while Texas Christian went 18 for 23 at the charity stripe.

Otherwise, most of the higher ranked teams won with only one scare…that involved once again Virginia.  The Cavaliers escaped an upset by Wake Forest at home 61-60.  They definitely have more than nine lives and that will definitely serve them well come tournament time.  Meanwhile, Kentucky continues to blow teams away–and today, it was hours after their coach John Calipari was part of the short list of 12 nominees to be possibly enshrined in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.  The announcement will be made on the morning of Monday, April 6 in Indianapolis with CBS Sports play-by-play announcer Jim Nantz leading the festivities on NBA TV and NBA.com.

Kentucky raced from a 19 to a 39 point lead in a span of 12 minutes to completely clobber South Carolina 77-43.  Willie Cauley-Stein led another balanced attack with 14 points and seven rebounds for the Cats.

Finally, of note…

Kansas overcame a 33-27 halftime deficit by scoring 47 points in the second half in toppling Baylor 74-64.  The Baylor Bears have lost all eleven times they have played at Allen Fieldhouse since the Big 12 Conference was created.

At Doug Collins Court on the campus of Illinois State, Wichita State again had another masterful performance from James VanFleet and Tekele Cotton in outdistancing a game Redbirds squad 68-62.  Ron Baker led the charge for Gregg Marshall’s team with 19 points while VanFleet tabulated 15, even though they shot only 18 of 49 for 36.7 percent.  The difference in the game was the rebounding, with the Shockers easily winning that battle 36-21.  Tekele Cotton led the charge in that category with a game-high 10 boards.

A semi-light schedule for Sunday, but some key games later in the afternoon worth taking a peak at:

Besides Illinois at Wisconsin (1 p.m. Eastern on CBS), there will be other key Big Ten battles…

Purdue hosts Nebraska (5:15 p.m. Eastern on BTN), followed by Minnesota at Indiana (7:30 p.m. Eastern).  Finally, in the Pac-12, Cal tries to keep their tournament hopes alive in Salt Lake City against Utah (8:30 p.m. Eastern on ESPNU).

Hope to see you then.

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