In the end, Connecticut showed why they are who they are with two pre-season Wooden Award candidates in their starting five (Barbara Turner and Ann Strother). But give DePaul credit for staying even (literally – it was a one-point game) with the Huskies for 30 minutes. Then the fateful run took place, which pushed the lead out to a working margin of 10-12, and DePaul couldn't get all the way back, eventually losing by nine.
If you take a gander over at the UConn board, the Demons earned a huge measure of respect from their faithful – a couple even suggesting that DePaul could win the BIG EAST Tournament. That would be a tough task in Hartford, but it was clear on Saturday night that the Demons weren't intimidated, which can often be half the battle.
In other good news, the men's team didn't lose over the weekend, either, picking up half a game in the standings over seven teams. I'll take good news where I can get it there.
Finally, this off-topic update: Brett Favre had another interview where he didn't say anything definitively but was "leaning strongly" toward retirement. Good grief – he sent five SportsCenter personalities hyperventilating with this statement. Just stop it already until he makes a decision. What are the odds that ESPN is going to run a 24-hour marathon of Brett's appearance in "There's Something About Mary" when he does actually retire? And Peter King from cnnsi.com won't be able to stomach a latte for a whole week, he'll be so broken up.
As of this morning, DePaul's RPI (according to kenpom.com) is 68.
BIG EAST Scores
Pittsburgh 77, Marquette 71. A game effort by the Golden Gold (14-6, 5-3, RPI: 31) on the road, but in the end, the Wannstedts (17-1, 6-1, RPI: 6) were just a bit too tough to overcome.
Georgetown 76, Cincinnati 57. The Bearcats' (13-7, 3-4, RPI: 20) NCAA Tournament chances might be best summarized by a Simon & Garfunkel song: "Slip Slidin' Away". The RPI rank is still there, but five losses in six games, including four of them by ten points or more, does not look good. Georgetown (14-4, 5-2, RPI: 29) brings a four-game winning streak to the Allstate Arena Tuesday night.
Rutgers 75, Louisville 66. Louisville (14-6, 2-5, RPI: 65) in the NIT?
Seton Hall 68, Syracuse 61. Four losses in a row for the Orange (15-6, 3-4, RPI: 32)? Who'd have thought that? Give Seton Hall (12-6, 3-3, RPI: 39) the nod for showing up and posting an upset.
Villanova 72, Notre Dame 70. I know many take delight when Notre Dame (10-8, 1-6, RPI: 99) struggles, but how much more gut-wrenching can a conference season be? The Irish have lost their six games by a combined 22 points, including their last three by a combined seven points. Villanova (15-2, 6-1, RPI: 3) just keeps on keeping on.
West Virginia 66, St. John's 61. The Pittsnogles (14-4, 6-0, RPI: 33) remain undefeated in conference, not falling into the pit that befell Louisville and Pitt last week. St. John's (10-8, 3-4, RPI: 103) played well – just not well enough.
Connecticut 76, Providence 62. I'm only mentioning this game because it's in conference. Otherwise, it has no relevance to the NCAA Tournament or your daily lives.
ACC Scores of Bubble Relevance
Duke 82, Virginia 63. Even though I think Virginia (10-7, 4-3, RPI: 60) is on the far outskirts of the bubble, teams with lesser credentials have popped up on the Report, so I'll mention them. They're going to have to do some work down the stretch to stay here, though.
North Carolina 86, Arizona 69. This one certainly helps the Tar Heels' NCAA chances (12-5, 3-3, RPI: 37), but I still believe they'll need to finish 9-7 in the ACC to be absolutely sure about inclusion.
North Carolina State 94, Clemson 85 (2 OT). The Tigers (13-6, 3-4, RPI: 66) miss a chance to score a huge victory and fall back into the non-descript middle of the ACC. North Carolina State (16-4, 5-2, RPI: 30) reverses some of the damage done by their loss to Seton Hall earlier in the week.
Miami (FL) 84, Florida State 79. Perhaps a preview of a second-round NIT match-up? Both teams are mired in the middle of the pack in the ACC without a good RPI rank to save either (Miami: 12-8, 4-3, RPI: 71; Florida State: 12-5, 3-4, RPI: 94).
Big Ten Scores of Bubble Relevance
Michigan 85, Wisconsin 76. I might be saying this slightly prematurely, but I believe this does it. The Big 10 now has seven teams in the Top 20 of the RPI, with the Wolverines (15-3, 5-2, RPI: 17) joining the party after this win, so I see no one on the bubble. As such, since this section will lay dormant because I have no commentary, please feel free to send your own material to populate this section: recipes, fishing recommendations, haikus, letters to Dan McGrath, etc.
SEC Scores of Bubble Relevance
Florida 81, Vanderbilt 58. The Commodores (12-5, 3-3, RPI: 48 ) really have some rough sledding down the stretch. If they can get over .500 in conference by the end of the year, they will have earned it and likely an NCAA berth. This game was not a good start.
Kentucky 78, Arkansas 76. And the Wildcats (14-6, 4-2, RPI: 35) have steadied themselves with four consecutive wins. Arkansas (14-6, 3-4, RPI: 58 ) just can't seem to get that big win which would push them from one side of the bubble to the other.
Alabama 65, Mississippi State 59. The Crimson Tide (11-7, 4-2, RPI: 54) have now moved to second place in the weaker division, the West. Their fate is in their own hands, as in their last ten games, they don't repeat an opponent. Essentially, they'll be playing a round robin to see if they're good enough for NCAA inclusion.
Big XII Scores of Bubble Relevance
Oklahoma 82, Texas 72. I admit, I was rooting for Texas to win this game just to keep the conference muddled. But Oklahoma (13-4, 4-2, RPI: 27) gets the big home win and likely has cemented itself as the second-best option for the Selection Committee from this conference.
Kansas 95, Iowa State 85. Is the sleeping giant that is Kansas (12-6, 4-2, RPI: 64) starting to awaken? The RPI rank needs a bit more work, but the record is starting to line up with the expectations of a Tournament team. Iowa State (12-7, 3-4, RPI: 57) continues to mystify me. They just can't get it together to put together a sustained run. The Cyclones haven't won two in a row in three weeks.
Colorado 79, Kansas State 75. How often is it that a 15-3 team in a major conference is completely anonymous? Welcome to the reality of Colorado Buffaloes (15-3, 5-2, RPI: 47) basketball this year. But what have they done to gain any notoriety? That's what happens when your non-conference schedule is where it is. Kansas State (12-5, 3-3, RPI: 51) isn't much better. They'll have a win at Kansas on which to hang their hats, but beyond that, their best win is…Missouri? The NIT may be able to populate one quarter of its bracket with the Big XII this year.
Pac-10 Scores of Bubble Relevance
California 55, Washington State 53. The Bears (12-6, 6-3, RPI: 72) only earn their way on here because they currently have a better conference record than Washington, who took their lumps in Northern California this weekend. They've got to get that RPI rank moving up for a more serious look. (Stanford doesn't get the same consideration yet because the RPI rank is way too high at 90.)
Missouri Valley Scores of Bubble Relevance
Creighton 57, Wichita State 55. Two teams in the RPI Top 30 (Wichita State: 16-5, 8-3, RPI: 23; Creighton: 14-5, 8-3, RPI: 26) tangle in Omaha in front of the biggest crowd ever to see a college basketball game in the state of Nebraska. Wichita State takes a 25-6 lead. Creighton fights back and hits the winning jumper at the buzzer. Just another ho-hum day in the Valley.
Bradley 79, Evansville 75 (OT). A road loss to a then 1-9 Purple Ace squad would have been a big problem for Bradley (12-7, 6-5, RPI: 55). But now they've pushed themselves above .500 in conference. Their next hurdle is getting themselves into the RPI Top 50.
Northern Iowa 51, Drake 49. Even though I believe Northern Iowa (17-3, 9-2, RPI: 13) is firmly entrenched in the NCAA field whether they win the Valley Tournament or not, I promised demonlove I would work in a Drake reference whenever I could for helping to score me a ticket to the DePaul-UConn women's game on Saturday. Now if only they could score 33 points in a half or game…
Southern Illinois 65, Illinois State 52. The Salukis (16-4, 9-2, RPI: 24) keep pace with Northern Iowa for the top spot in the conference. While no team has a particularly easy road to the end of the conference season, Southern is looking at this gauntlet after hosting Indiana State on Wednesday: @ Wichita State, vs. Missouri State, @ Creighton, @ Bradley, then the "Bracket Buster".
Missouri State 80, Indiana State 58. The Bears (13-6, 6-5, RPI: 41) know they have to keep pace with everyone when they face the lesser teams in the conference, and they do so convincingly on the road against the Sycamores.
Other Scores of Bubble Relevance
Bucknell 81, Navy 47. The Bison (15-3, 7-0, RPI: 34) continue to rip through the Patriot League. The only thing that appears to be standing in the way of a perfect conference season is a trip to Holy Cross. They're probably huge DePaul supporters right now, hoping DePaul can nudge its way back into the RPI Top 50.
Temple 91, Maryland 85. The Owls (11-7, 4-3, RPI: 38 ) do this every year. They don't win a lot, but they win enough, and when the wins are strategic enough, the Selection Committee considers them. In Temple's defense, they only have one home loss, and only one loss outside the Top 100.
UAB 87, Southern Miss 73. UAB (14-4, 5-1, RPI: 46) deserves better than this. Remember how their RPI rank actually went up after they lost to Memphis? Well, in combination with the results of the other teams that comprise their RPI, they lost 14 spots by beating Southern Miss at home. I'd explain how this was Exhibit "A" for leaving Conference Hee-Haw to Mike North, but he's too busy being ignorant of anything that doesn't feed his ego. Back to topic: UAB has six games remaining with teams whose RPI ranks are 200 or worse. Could their NCAA hopes really be riding on either winning vs. Memphis or the Conference USA Tournament?
George Mason 66, Old Dominion 47. Now the Colonial is sporting two teams in the RPI Top 40, both George Mason (15-5, 9-2, RPI: 36) and Old Dominion (15-6, 8-3, RPI: 40). It would be really hard to project either of these teams as an at-large, but if they met in the CAA championship game… Remember, ODU earned a #12-seed last year in the NCAAs for being conference champions, which is a slot that often goes to the last of the at-large teams.
Nevada 73, Hawaii 55. Okay, Nevada (14-5, 5-3, RPI: 53), you can be on here again after two straight conference wins. Best get hot down the stretch to stay here, though.
Xavier 60, Dayton 55. I believe a criterion for NCAA inclusion this year is, "Must not have lost to Dayton"…which really isn't a problem, since very few teams have lost to Dayton. Cincinnati has, and look where their season is going. Anyway, Xavier (13-4, 4-2, RPI: 50) stays in bubble contention with this win.
Interesting Non-Bubble Score
Saint Louis 64, Fordham 54. The Billikens do it again, alternating wins and losses for 19 straight games. Next up: a loss at Rhode Island.
Let's go, Demons.