1. Minnesota showed that they can play with anybody in the nation. The Gophers were in a must win situation last night in the Barn, and had to pick up a win to really solidify themselves as a lock in the NCAA Tournament. While watching the loss, I was extremely happy that no other team in America has a guy like Trevor Mbakwe. To describe his play in one word would be easier than trying to defend him, just ask Cody Zeller, the pre-season Player of the Year in the Big Ten. He was simply a man. Leading the way with 21 points and 12 rebounds, Mbakwe also was huge on Cody Zeller all night. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, Indiana can not beat very many teams when Cody Zeller becomes a non factor on offense and defense. Not only did Mbakwe have his way with the potential lottery pick, but he also was imposing on the defensive side of the ball, forcing Zeller into 2-9 shooting for only 9 points, 5 of which came from the free throw line. Indiana must quickly regroup, with a dangerous Iowa team coming into town this Saturday. After that it’s Ohio State then Michigan to end the year, and Indiana can win them all.
2. I told everybody to check out the Memphis-Xavier game last night, to try and get a good read on the Tigers. I think I have one. Memphis decided to give its naysayers all the ammunition they now need to plant Memphis with an 8 or a 9 seed in three weeks on Selection Sunday. Memphis was abysmal last night, going 6-18 from the free throw line. You won’t beat anybody with those kinds of numbers. In reality, Memphis should’ve won, had they just hit their free throws. They played well on the road in the second half to come back from a 13 point deficit, but the Tigers are now facing their worst enemy, themselves. Memphis can win out from here and possibly earn a 7 seed, but this is a team that has now missed two huge opportunities in last night’s loss to Xavier, and a December 15th loss to Louisville.
3. How about Tennessee? The Vols finally are putting it together and it’s only gotten more and more exciting to watch what they can do. After dismantling Kentucky by 30 last week, the Vols picked up their biggest win yet, a 64-58 victory over #8 Florida last night. Tennessee is quietly putting together a solid resume in a not spectacular SEC. UT now finds themselves at 17-10 and 9-6 in the SEC. They go runner-runner road games at Georgia and Arkansas before closing at home against a Missouri team that is 1-6 in SEC road games. Tennessee could jump Ole Miss before the SEC Tournament and earn the 4 seed. If I had to peg a dark horse candidate in that tournament, it’d be the Vols. For Florida, they must regroup once again, the Gators have a one game lead over Alabama now, and finish with the Tide, then Vandy, and then the big March 9th date in Rupp Arena. The SEC is gonna be quite fun to watch down the stretch.