Wisconsin didn't play Wednesday night, but the Badgers owned two of the biggest headlines. First, double-figure scorer Kobe King announced that he is leaving the program, two days after he missed the Badgers' loss to Iowa for personal reasons. Then Brad Davison was suspended one game by the Big Ten for his groin punch of Iowa's Connor McCaffery on Monday.
As for the on-court action: Top-ranked Baylor won, San Diego State remained undefeated, Louisville's Jordan Nwora went off for 37 points, Kentucky erased a 10-point second-half deficit to beat Vanderbilt, and LSU improved to 23-2 in its past 25 SEC game. We also have to keep an eye on the status of Marquette star Markus Howard -- the nation's leading scorer entering the night -- who left the Golden Eagles' double-overtime win over Xavier after taking a shot to the face midway through the second half.
Here were the big takeaways:
Three things from Wednesday
1. Texas Tech bounces back with victory over West Virginia
Chris Beard and the Red Raiders badly needed a win over West Virginia on Wednesday. They entered the day on a two-game losing streak, and a trip to Kansas loomed Saturday. Besides a December win over Louisville, their résumé was fairly barren, and 12-7 overall and 3-3 in the Big 12 wasn't all that attractive of a record.
After struggling to make shots against TCU and Kentucky, Texas Tech came out on fire Wednesday. The Red Raiders scored 89 points on West Virginia, which entered the day with the nation's No. 1 adjusted defensive efficiency and hadn't allowed more than 84 points all season. Tech went 11-for-17 from 3-point range as a team and got 69 points from the trio of Davide Moretti and freshmen Terrence Shannon Jr. and Jahmi'us Ramsey. Those three combined to shoot 10-for-14 from 3.
Texas Tech has had offensive issues this season, with no Keenan Evans or Jarrett Culver to take on the go-to-guy role. But Beard is going to rely heavily on the Moretti-Shannon-Ramsey triumvirate -- and on Wednesday, those three answered the bell.
2. Seton Hall gets another win -- and the return of a starter
Things looked dire for Seton Hall in early December. The Pirates lost starting forward Sandro Mamukelashvili, then fell by double-digits to Iowa State and Rutgers, then lost Myles Powell to a concussion. Seton Hall hasn't lost since, running its winning streak to 10 games after coming back to beat DePaul on Wednesday.
Powell had 24 points, including 18 in the second half, while Jared Rhoden continued his stellar month with 14 points and 11 rebounds. The Pirates held DePaul to two field goals in the final 10 minutes.
Seton Hall is looking like a potential Final Four contender. The Pirates are elite defensively, with Romaro Gill and Ike Obiagu protecting the rim and Quincy McKnight hounding opposing stars on the perimeter. They are the favorites to win the Big East regular-season championship and are squarely in the mix to be a 2-seed or better on Selection Sunday.
Kevin Willard's team received more good news on Wednesday: Mamukelashvili saw his first minutes since he fractured his right wrist on Dec. 8. He played just five minutes, but the fact that he's healthy enough to play is a huge boost. Mamukelashvili started every game last season and the first nine games of this season and was among the team's top scorers and rebounders.
3. East Tennessee State's loss limits mid-major at-large hopes
There are a lot of middling high-major résumés this season, and nearly every conference besides the Big Ten looks set for a handful of bids or fewer. Where will the rest of the at-large bids come from? One place to look could have been the mid-major conferences, but there aren't too many impressive profiles from those leagues. That group took another hit Wednesday, when East Tennessee State lost at home to Mercer by 16.
The Bucs had arguably the best résumé of any team from the one-bid conferences outside of San Diego State, and here was a path to an at-large bid for Steve Forbes' team if it lost in the Southern Conference tournament. The Bucs beat LSU on the road and UNC Greensboro on the road and could have racked up 25-plus wins.
After the most surprising scoreline of Wednesday's action, however, things look bleak for East Tennessee State's at-large hopes -- and, as a result, mid-major at-large hopes. The Bucs hadn't lost at home all season and had lost just three games. That all went out the window when Mercer shot 64.3% from the field and ETSU shot 13.6% from 3.
It's likely automatic bid or bust for East Tennessee State.
Three things for Thursday
1. Illinois looks to keep pace atop the Big Ten
Michigan State's blowout of Northwestern on Wednesday put the Spartans into first place in the Big Ten, a half-game ahead of Illinois. But the Fighting Illini can move back into a tie if they extend their winning streak to seven games on Thursday at home against Minnesota. Brad Underwood's team has completely turned things around in conference play, consistently racking up solid wins. Meanwhile, Minnesota needs a win for NCAA tournament purposes. The Golden Gophers were blown out at home by Michigan State last weekend, and a loss Thursday would drop them to 11-10 overall and 5-6 in the Big Ten. Twelve teams from the conference have legitimate NCAA tournament hopes, but the borderline .500 teams (Minnesota, Purdue) have to start boosting those overall records.
2. Can Washington get back on track?
Washington has been one of the bigger disappointments so far this season, losing seven of its past nine games and sitting at 2-6 in the Pac-12. The Huskies had high hopes entering the campaign, with five-star forwards Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels entering the program and Kentucky transfer Quade Green ready to play to start the season. It hasn't panned out. Green is academically ineligible, and a return trip to the NCAA tournament seems far away. But things can begin to turn around Thursday, when Arizona comes to town. Despite the 12-9 record, six of the Huskies' past seven losses have come by six points or fewer, so don't write them off yet. There will be elite freshmen all over the court Thursday, with Stewart and McDaniels on one side and Nico Mannion, Josh Green and Zeke Nnaji for Arizona.
3. Luka Garza vs. Jalen Smith
Two of the best big men in the country will square off in College Park. Garza won the first meeting between the two, going for 21 points and 13 rebounds, compared to Smith's 13 points and 5 rebounds, in an 18-point Iowa blowout win over Maryland. But Smith has turned it up since that game, averaging 22.5 points, 10.3 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in his past four games. Garza has established himself as a legitimate Wooden Award candidate over a similar stretch. During the Hawkeyes' five-game winning streak, he's putting up 26.0 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks. It's also a key game in the Big Ten standings. Maryland and Iowa are both 6-3 in the league.