With just five weeks until Selection Sunday each win could mean the difference between being on the bubble or being firmly in or out of the NCAA Tournament.
While most ranked teams will make the tournament, wins like Missouri’s in a Top-2 SEC matchup against Alabama, 68-65, have a major impact on the seeding that could pave the way for success or failure in March.
All the winners and losers Saturday:
Missouri: The No. 17 Tigers survived a 21-2 stretch from No. 7 and SEC leader Alabama to secure their third win over a ranked opponent this season. The Tigers (13-3, 6-3) have now won three close games in a row thanks to one of the best defenses in the SEC and an offense led by Dru Smith. Smith finished with 16 points, eight rebounds and four assists against Alabama, which had its 10-game SEC winning streak snapped.
Seton Hall: The Pirates (11-8, 8-5) got a boost to their NCAA Tournament hopes with an 80-73 victory against Connecticut and former Seton Hall player turned coach Dan Hurley. Seton Hall came in as the last team in the 68-team tournament, according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi. The Big East, like most conferences, is a mess with teams trading wins weekly. These teams will face one another on March 3 with tournament implications at the forefront once again.
Tigers forward Mitchell Smith celebrates after blocking a critical shot in the last few seconds against the Crimson Tide. (Photo: Denny Medley, USA TODAY Sports)
Alabama: The Crimson Tide’s perfect conference record is no more. A late 21-2 push was not enough as Alabama (15-5, 10-1) shot its second-worst mark from the field with 33% and third-worst from the free throw line with 57%. After a hot start to the season, the Crimson Tide have lost two of their last three with both losses being underscored by a reliance on 3-pointers and poor free throw shooting.
Connecticut: The slugfest that is in the middle of the Big East claimed its latest victim Saturday in the Huskies (8-4, 5-4). A loss to Seton Hall makes the Huskies’ goal of making the NCAA Tournament that much more difficult. How quickly UConn’s leading scorer James Bouknight, out since mid-January, returns from elbow surgery could be the difference for the Huskies.
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