TMA: Wednesday proves wild on, off bubble

February, 24, 2011
2/24/11
9:30
AM ET
The Morning After is our semi-daily recap of the night's best basketball action. It feels good to be back.

No. 12 Wisconsin 53, Michigan 52: If you're a Michigan fan, this one hurts. Oh, it hurts. It hurts in more ways than any basketball game should hurt.

It hurts not only because Michigan lost another close game to a ranked team; the Wolverines have now lost six of their seven games against ranked teams by single digits and five of those games either by five points or less or in overtime (including losses to Kansas and Ohio State). It hurts not only because Michigan lost in the final minute -- albeit in slightly less heartbreaking fashion -- 54-52 at Illinois last week. It hurts not only because a win would have put this surprising, resurgent and well-coached team firmly on the bubble heading into the final 10 days of conference play.

No, this one hurts especially bad because it ended with -- get this -- a buzzer-beater. From 3. That banked in.

[+] EnlargeMichigan's Zack Novak
AP Photo/Tony DingZack Novak and the Michigan Wolverines have lost six of their seven games against ranked teams by single digits, including Wednesday's final-second heart breaker to Wisconsin.
The context doesn't matter. The bubble doesn't matter. Michigan's RPI and conference record don't matter. If a game ends on a banked 3 -- whether that game takes place in the Big Ten or your local rec league -- it is impossible to swallow. It feels like it shouldn't count. It's garbage. That's what you'd call it at the gym, because that's what it is. Garbage. It's no way to lose, that's for sure.

Fortunately for the Wolverines -- deep breaths, guys, deep breaths -- they still have potential bid-improving chances at Minnesota and at home vs. Michigan State left on its schedule. Yes, beating Wisconsin would have been nice, but it wouldn't have sealed anything. The Wolverines might still have needed those last two games; at the very least, they'd have needed one. So Michigan's situation remains relatively unchanged: Win and get in.

Positive spin or not, though, this one hurts. Man, does it have to hurt.

No. 9 Notre Dame 94, Providence 93: Meanwhile, off the bubble -- neither of these teams has to worry about making the tournament, albeit for very different reasons -- things got a little crazy in Providence last night. For one, look at that scoreline. Second, take a look at what Providence star Marshon Brooks did last night: 20-of-28 from the field, 6-of-10 from 3, 6-of-10 from the free throw line, 52 points. Yes, 52 points. Brooks scored as many points Wednesday as the aforementioned Wolverines did. And yes, pace factors in, but still. That is a crazy, crazy line. This is not the first time Brooks has done this, either. The guard scored 43 points on 17-of-28 shooting in an 83-81 loss at Georgetown Feb. 5, and he's scored less than 20 points in only three games (and only once during Big East play) this season. There's a reason Brooks is the second-highest scorer in the country (behind only The Jimmer, naturally).

Arkansas 77, No. 22 Kentucky 76: There are road woes -- losing to Alabama, Florida, Vanderbilt, and even Ole Miss -- and then there's this. Kentucky's loss at Arkansas doesn't just follow with this team's disconcerting trend of losing to SEC teams on the road; it accentuates it. Thanks to their inability to finish close games on the road, the young Wildcats are now 19-8 overall and a mere 7-6 in the SEC. Six of Kentucky's total losses have come by four points or less; its combined margin of defeat in those games is 13 points. No, the Wildcats aren't in any danger of missing the tournament. But this team's seed takes a hit -- in this case, a major hit -- every time they lose one of these games to an inferior opponent on the road.

Miami 73, Boston College 64: For as upset as Kentucky fans no doubt are today, Boston College fans (not to mention hundreds of other college hoops fan bases) would love to have the Wildcats' problems. The Eagles, for their part, entered this home game squarely on the bubble and in need of a strong finish to ensure an at-large tourney bid. Instead, they lost to mediocre Miami. They were behind 38-17 by halftime. That is, in the common parlance of our times, a bubble-buster. BC's remaining games -- at Virginia, at Virginia Tech, and vs. Wake Forest -- won't be enough to make a dent; this team needs help in the ACC tournament to keep hopes for this surprising, positive step of a season to be something more.

Everywhere else: So many of last night's games deserve a full breakdown, but there are only so many pixels in the world (OK, not true, but still). ... Kansas State won an ugly game -- highlighted by an all-around atrocious finish -- at Nebraska, a major missed opportunity for the long-shot Huskers. ... Maryland, on the other hand, got a bit of a bubble boost with a win over Florida State, while FSU did the thing it needs to most avoid right now (i.e., losing to marginal or mediocre ACC teams without Chris Singleton). ... UNLV went ahead and firmed up its at-large bid with a huge OT win at New Mexico. ... Colorado survived at Texas Tech, but there's still a long way to go. ... Colorado State was valiant in defeat at BYU -- The Jimmer dropped 34, natch -- and the Rams will probably have to win at San Diego State or make a run to the MWC finals to have a chance at a tourney berth now. ... Duke had no problems in its tourney tune-up vs. Temple in Durham. ... Baylor looked utterly dreadful at Missouri. ... And Cincinnati got a huge bid-sealing road win at Georgetown, which yours truly will be writing about -- along with Chris Wright's potentially devastating hand injury -- later this morning.

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