Player of the Week: Derrick Williams, Arizona
Williams should be a first-team All-American and the Pac-10 Player of the Year after his performance this past week. He also should start looking at some dates in June because if he keeps up this play, he's going to be one of the first three names called at the NBA draft.
-- Andy Katz
More performances that wowed us
E'Twaun Moore, Purdue: Moore scored exactly half of his team's points in a 76-63 win over second-ranked Ohio State, pouring in a career-high 38 on 13-of-18 shooting (7-of-10 from beyond the arc). He also dished out five assists and become just the fifth Boilermaker to ever reach 2,000 career points -- 19 of which came in a win over Wisconsin earlier in the week.Jacob Pullen, Kansas State: Moore wasn't the only player to post 38 against a marquee opponent this week. K-State's senior guard also achieved the feat in a win over No. 1 Kansas, a win the Wildcats desperately needed. He followed it up with 27 points in a victory over Oklahoma. Those are Pullen's two highest-scoring performances of the season and they couldn't have come at a better time. He totaled eight assists and seven steals and was 8-of-12 from 3. Denzel Bowles, James Madison: In a 72-61 win at Towson, the 6-10 senior forward scored a career-high 40 points on 14-of-20 shooting. In each half, he scored 20 and was 7-of-10 from the field. Adrian Oliver, San Jose State: You might not know it, but Oliver is the nation's third-leading scorer (23.9 ppg). In a victory over Montana State, the senior guard posted his second straight 30-point game -- scoring 35 and grabbing 10 boards. Austin Kenon, VMI: In a win over second-place Liberty, Kenon connected on 8-of-16 3-pointers, scoring a career-high 39 points and adding eight rebounds and four steals.
-- Brett Edgerton
Team of the Week: Purdue
Two wins over top-10 teams? Yeah, that'll get you Team of the Week. The Boilermakers have a legitimate shot to win the Big Ten regular-season title after knocking off Ohio State on Sunday. Let that sink in for a moment.
More teams that impressed us
-- Andy Katz
Observations from the week that was
• If you're looking for a team that could find a way to contend for a possible at-large berth, check out Michigan. The Wolverines have top-50 wins over Harvard (yes, the Crimson are No. 43) and at Michigan State, and they won road games at Clemson, Penn State and Iowa (Michigan State couldn't beat either of the latter two on the road). The Wolverines have one bad loss, by 17 at Indiana. But they have a favorable schedule down the stretch after beating Iowa on the road Saturday. Michigan hosts Wisconsin, goes to struggling Minnesota and finishes at home with a chance to sweep Michigan State. At the very least, Michigan could go into the Big Ten tournament needing one more quality win to secure a possible bid if it wins its two remaining home games.
• We debated coach of the year on the site a few weeks ago, and I pushed for Connecticut's Jim Calhoun as the selection for taking a team picked 10th in the Big East that won all 12 nonconference games with an All-American candidate in guard Kemba Walker and a cast of freshmen. One thing hasn't changed a few weeks later -- the national coach of the year probably should come from the Big East. Any list of finalists should include Calhoun, Steve Lavin (St. John's), Mike Brey (Notre Dame) and Rick Pitino (Louisville). I still see tremendous value in looking at Texas' Rick Barnes for the honor, and I understand any and all love bestowed upon San Diego State's Steve Fisher, BYU's Dave Rose and Duke's Mike Krzyzewski. But all were expected to be near the top of their respective conferences. And none are having to deal with a gauntlet that is the Big East.
For more of Katz's observations, see the complete post in the Nation blog.
• Let's call the whole No. 1 debate off. Thanks to Purdue's collective toughness and E'Twaun Moore's singular brilliance, Ohio State lost for the second time in eight days Sunday. But the Buckeyes weren't the only likely No. 1 seed to lose this week, or even this weekend. On Saturday, Texas fell at Nebraska and Pittsburgh fell at St. John's ... all of which was preceded by Kansas' loss at Kansas State on Big Monday. In other words, the best four teams in the nation -- or what we thought were the best four teams in the nation -- all lost this week.
• The Missouri Valley Conference is a one-bid league. We learned this Friday and Saturday, when the MVC went 3-7 in some crucial (and some not-so-crucial) BracketBusters matchups. Losers included the MVC's top six teams -- one-time at-large hopefuls such as Wichita State, Missouri State and Northern Iowa were all among the losers. Those losses at the top -- especially for the Shockers and Bears -- will almost certainly doom the Missouri Valley to one-bid status when the committee sits down to select and seed the field in March.
For more of Brennan's observations, see the complete post in the Nation blog.
What's On Tap
7 p.m.: Syracuse at Villanova (ESPN)
9 p.m.: Oklahoma State at Kansas (ESPN)
7 p.m.: Illinois at Ohio State (ESPN)
9 p.m.: Tennessee at Vanderbilt (ESPN)
9 p.m.: Michigan State at Minnesota (BTN)
6:30 p.m.: Wisconsin at Michigan (BTN)
7 p.m.: Temple at Duke (ESPN)
8 p.m.: Colorado State at BYU (the Mtn.)
8 p.m.: Kentucky at Arkansas (ESPN3)
9 p.m.: Baylor at Missouri (ESPN2)
9 p.m.: Kansas State at Nebraska (ESPNU)
9 p.m.: Cincinnati at Georgetown (ESPN3)
9 p.m.: Florida St. at Maryland (ACC Network)
7 p.m.: Marquette at Connecticut (ESPN)
7 p.m.: Georgia at Florida (ESPN2)
9 p.m.: West Virginia at Pittsburgh (ESPN)
7 p.m.: Morehead St. at Murray St. (ESPNU)
11 p.m.: Gonzaga at Saint Mary's (ESPN2)
Noon: Missouri at Kansas State (ESPN)
Noon: Syracuse at Georgetown (CBS)
1 p.m.: Wichita St. at Missouri St. (ESPN2)
2 p.m.: BYU at San Diego State (CBS)
2 p.m.: St. John's at Villanova (ESPN)
3 p.m.: Memphis at UTEP (ESPN2)
4 p.m.: Texas at Colorado (ESPN3)
4 p.m.: Arizona at UCLA (FSN)
4 p.m.: Florida at Kentucky (CBS)
9 p.m.: Duke at Virginia Tech (ESPN)
9 p.m.: Texas A&M at Baylor (ESPNU)
12 p.m.: UConn at Cincinnati (ESPNU)
1 p.m.: Purdue at Michigan St. (ESPN)
1 p.m.: Xavier at Dayton (ESPN2)
2 p.m.: Pittsburgh at Louisville (CBS)
6 p.m.: Northwestern at Wisconsin (BTN)
7:45 p.m.: Maryland at North Carolina (FSN)
10 p.m.: Washington St. at Washington (FSN)
Katz on the week ahead
O'Neil: Three questions
• So who are the 1-seeds again?The addendum question -- who is No. 1 this week? -- is interesting, but with Selection Sunday less than three weeks away, the bigger issue right now is who the No. 1 seeds are. What seemed like a clear-cut picture has gotten a little muddied after a week full of upsets. Kansas, Texas, Ohio State and Pittsburgh all lost this week, the first time since November 2003 that the top four teams fell in the same week. None of the defeats is entirely unforgivable -- no harm in losing on your rival's home court, as the Jayhawks did; no foul in becoming the fifth top-15 team to lose to a rising Red Storm; losing at Purdue certainly isn't a crime. OK, losing at Nebraska? Not great, but the Cornhuskers are better, so not completely unconscionable. And one loss does not a 2-seed make. But this isn't so obvious as before, and expect there to be a groundswell among fans of the presumed No. 2 seeds. Duke will get the most argument, particularly if the Blue Devils win out, but if San Diego State beats BYU on Saturday, the Aztecs might merit a look too.
• What's a good mid-major battle to keep an eye on this week?Check out the Ohio Valley on Thursday night when Murray State and Morehead State battle for first place on ESPNU (9 p.m. ET). Austin Peay got the BracketBusters television game (losing at Fairfield), but the Racers and Eagles are the class of the OVC at 12-4. Morehead won the first game between the two 75-65, but that was in December, a lifetime ago in the basketball cycle of life. These are two quality teams, the kind that are more than capable of knocking off a name-brand team come NCAA tournament time. Oh, and there's also a chance to see modern-day rebounding king Kenneth Faried. • Is it time to pay attention to Michigan State again? Maybe. Veteran Tom Izzo watchers (present company included) rarely give up the ship on Michigan State, though this season has challenged that general rule of thinking. But the Spartans are starting to show life -- beating Penn State and Illinois at home and playing tough on the road against Ohio State. More important, Kalin Lucas is starting to look like Kalin Lucas. The guard has played all season after suffering a ruptured Achilles, but he hasn't looked like himself for much of the season. With 25 points in 39 minutes on Saturday night, Lucas looked like Lucas and that could mean the Spartans may start looking like the Spartans again. It's still a huge leap of faith to imagine that Michigan State can, in the next few weeks, become the Final Four contender everyone expected at the beginning of the season, but the news of MSU's death may at least have been premature.
-- Dana O'Neil
O'Neil on Morehead St.-Murray St.
Places to be this week
Nashville, Tenn. (Tennessee at Vanderbilt): The Vols continue to take on water, but they are still a worthy NCAA team at the moment with their wins over Pitt, Villanova and Vanderbilt. But how many more losses can they sustain? The last time the two teams met, Vandy was up big and then let a critical game slip away late. Now one team is hot, the other is not and the Commodores are clearly in a good place for revenge.
Durham, N.C. (Temple at Duke): Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has a tendency of slipping in nonconference games against teams he might face again in March, or at least against familiar styles that might crop up during the NCAA tournament. Temple has all but wrapped up an at-large berth, and this should be a fun challenge for the Blue Devils in their quest for a No. 1 seed.
Lincoln, Neb. (Kansas St. at Nebraska): Kansas State followed up its win over Kansas with a win over Oklahoma. Can Nebraska take a win over Texas and then add in a victory over Kansas State? If they do, the Huskers will show the consistency that was lacking earlier in the season and will have to be considered a viable at-large candidate.
Pittsburgh (West Virginia at Pitt): The Panthers were one Dwight Hardy heel away from being out of bounds and winning in Madison Square Garden against St. John's. West Virginia had a desperation win against Notre Dame. But the timing isn't great for the Mountaineers to come to the Pete against a ticked-off Pitt group.
Murray, Ky. (Morehead St. at Murray St.): Morehead State and Murray State are tied atop the Ohio Valley, with the Eagles having won nine straight and the Racers having won nine of their past 10. But there's also a chance that Austin Peay can slip in and grab the No. 2 seed and a bye to the semifinals under the new OVC format. That's why losing this game could put one of the teams in a precarious position.
Moraga, Calif. (Gonzaga at Saint Mary's): Gonzaga has a real shot to unseat Saint Mary's for the WCC title with the way the schedule breaks (may need help from Portland for the outright title). The Zags are playing much more soundly, while the Gaels have hit a surprising skid.
Springfield, Mo. (Wichita St. at Missouri St): Neither team has much of an at-large profile at this point, but the Missouri Valley regular-season title is on the line and that still means a lot. Plus, seeding is key for the Valley tournament in vying for the automatic berth.
San Diego (BYU at San Diego St.): This is the best, most interesting, most intriguing game left in the regular season. And will probably provide the greatest atmosphere as well. Expect the roof to be rocking at Viejas with Jimmer Fredette facing his toughest crowd all season, a group of SDSU fans salivating for revenge after the loss in Provo. With a win, the Aztecs would be a true contender for a 1-seed.
Los Angeles (Arizona at UCLA): While Arizona is playing well and looking like the Pac-10 champ, the Bruins still have two of the best nonconference wins in the Pac-10 (BYU and St. John's). And despite Sunday night's overtime loss at Cal, UCLA would still be within reach of a conference title with a home win over the Wildcats.
Lexington, Ky. (Florida at Kentucky): This game usually ends the regular season, but it has been moved up a week. The Gators are in position to lock up the SEC East title, while Kentucky is hopeful it can continue to be undefeated at home and stay in the chase for an SEC tournament bye.
Blacksburg, Va. (Duke at Virginia Tech): Virginia Tech hosts "GameDay" in what serves as its last huge chance to make a regular-season impression on the selection committee. Florida State knocked off Duke and the Seminoles are living off that win. Virginia Tech needs to do the same after getting swept by Virginia.
East Lansing, Mich. (Purdue at Michigan St.): As good as Purdue looked in knocking off Wisconsin and Ohio State, the Boilermakers are still vulnerable at a place like Michigan State. The Spartans need to continue to impress the committee with wins against teams locked in the field.
Cincinnati (UConn at Cincinnati): Cincinnati had a quality week and can tie up any doubts about its at-large candidacy with a home win over Connecticut. The Huskies are due, though, for another road win. This should be a good one.
-- Andy Katz
Leung on a big week out West
Upset pick of the week
Gonzaga at Saint Mary's, Thursday: The Gaels are on a slide that could take them right out of the NCAA tourney. Gonzaga has started to find its footing and has won at McKeon Pavilion plenty in the past. The Bulldogs are poised to grab the momentum from Saint Mary's after the Gaels lost at San Diego and then in BracketBusters to Utah State after blowing a nine-point halftime lead. Saint Mary's was the more aggressive and more opportune team in the first meeting, but look for Gonzaga to return the favor Thursday. If the Zags can do that, suddenly they would climb back into a first-place tie with Saint Mary's in a quest for yet another regular-season title.
-- Andy Katz
Week in quotes
• "I do not look at the brackets so I do not know what they are going to say in the meetings. They might think that this was a fluke, but you never know."
-- Kansas State guard Jacob Pullen after a win against top-ranked Kansas
• "For a coach to be fired with six weeks to go in the season is inexcusable. We talk to our players about commitment, not cutting and running, and yet when things go south a little bit, often our administrators say, 'What do we do to please our biggest donor or the perception standpoint?'"
-- San Diego State coach Steve Fisher on Wyoming's midseason firing of coach Heath Schroyer
• "If you take away who they are, they're just Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne."
-- Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin to the Associated Press after a win against Louisville
• "I don't care if we lose 20 games in a row this year; the program is in good shape and is going to be just fine."
-- LSU athletic director Joe Alleva to the New Orleans Times-Picayune
• "Dwight Hardy coming off that pick-and-roll and seemingly getting buried under the basket but emerging -- to see the ball get into the rim, it was pretty surreal. To see that shot beat the No. 4 team in the country was surreal."
-- St. John's coach Steve Lavin on Hardy's game-winning underhanded flip that beat Pittsburgh