The top four teams in the nation lost last week elevating Duke to the number one slot in what was a fantastic week of college basketball, maybe the best week of the entire season. In the process, it made things a little more jumbled for the NCAA selection committee with two weeks to go. A team like Alabama is making things interesting for itself by winning eight of its last nine - covering seven in a row -- but might still be on the outside looking in.
One of the most impressive resurgences on the year added another chapter over the weekend with St. John’s making the coaches poll at No. 25. The Red Storm’s win over then No. 4 Pitt, a team that had won 14 of its last 15 games in the tough Big East, sent a message to the basketball world that the Johnnies are indeed for real. They don’t have any quality road wins, but man, they can beat just about anyone at the Garden.
St. John’s is regarded as having the toughest schedule and have used those tough contests to take them to where it is now, which is a team no one will want to face in the tournament. The Johnnies have big conference wins against Georgetown, Notre Dame, Connecticut, West Virginia and Pitt and also are one of only two teams to have knocked off No. 1 ranked Duke.
Leading the charge for Steve Lavin’s team has been senior guard Dwight Hardy, who has come up big in each of its impressive wins. He leads the team with 17.2 point per game, up seven points from his junior season. The kids have all bought into Lavin’s energetic coaching style and it’s all paying off. Look for St. John’s to keep the momentum going with a good showing in the Big East tournament, played in Madison Square Garden where it is 7-1 this year. I also think the Johnnies are going to make a run to the Sweet 16 in March.
St. John’s will start its week off Wednesday at home against a suddenly dangerous DePaul squad which ended its 12-game losing skid with a big road win at Providence. They followed that up with a 77-75 overtime home loss to Villanova, making it five straight covers for the Blue Demons.
The Team with perhaps the best of week was Purdue who are rolling along just fine without Robbie Hummel. They beat two top-10 teams last week with home wins against Wisconsin and Ohio State. E’Twaun Moore’s 38 points Sunday against the Buckeyes helped Purdue to their fourth straight cover while also coming with one game of Ohio State for the Big Ten regular season title. If they can win out for their remaining four games, they’ll have a No. 2 seed wrapped up. Three of their games are on the road with a big one at Michigna State who are fighting for their lives to avoid the NIT.
Wild Cats are Back
Just when we had Kansas State as a bubble team last week after losing to Colorado, it went off and beat No. 1 Kansas and then made quick work of Oklahoma in a 15-point win. After scoring only 12 points at Colorado, seven points below his season average, Jacob Pullen poured in a career-high 38 in the upset over Kansas and then had 27 against the Sooners. Pullen had vowed that he wouldn’t play in the NIT if that’s where they were headed, but now has finally done something about it on the court.
Kansas State can solidify its current status as a team destined for the Big Dance with a road win at Nebraska and a win at home against Missouri this week. The following week the Wildcats play at Texas and at home game against Iowa State. Those are three pretty tough games and Pullen will have to create some more magic to take at least two of them.
Oklahoma State has been in a meltdown mode that has made some bettors happy by betting against them. The Cowboys have gone 3-8 in their last 11 games straight up and are 1-7 ATS in their last eight, including two straight weeks of not covering.
Texas Tech has gone 1-4 in its last five games, but has covered the spread in its last four with three of those games having spreads of 13-points or higher. The Red Raiders play Colorado on Wednesday and then have a matchup with Oklahoma State on Saturday where they put their ATS streaks against each other.
No. 1 Seed at Stake Saturday
The game of the week has BYU playing at San Diego State where the Aztecs will try to avenge their 71-58 loss January 26 in Provo. The Aztecs haven’t lost since that game and should they win, and they will, it might wrap up a No. 1 seed for the NCAA’s. Despite not having the east coast support on their side when it comes to voting, as was no more evident last week when two teams who lost remained higher ranked, they still have the RPI numbers in their favor. They are currently No. 2 in the RPI’s, just below Kansas, and just above BYU. I’ll take San Diego State to win by eight points.