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Top Teams Continue To Stumble On Road, Muddy Tournament Picture

The list of teams that look truly dominant, or even truly tournament-worthy, continues to dwindle with every road loss that piles on.

Robert Mayer

Another Saturday down, and the picture just keeps getting less clear. There was a lot of action and most of us here at MMM were elsewhere than in front of our televisions, so we would be buried if we tried to review everything that happened.

That being said, it was another hot mess. Bucknell, Lehigh, Northeastern, and Florida Gulf Coast all lost games they had no business losing, but are still just fine in terms of conference standing going forward. Creighton came this close to blowing a nine point lead in the last four minutes on the road against Evansville, and several others are in more of a bind today than when they woke up yesterday. Lets hit some highlights shall we

This one is a little different. You know the Aggies had to win here, and both squads are strong. New Mexico State didn't ruin their season with this loss, but they made the road to the top of the conference that much harder with a performance that showed what happens when your big three can't produce and you don't really have any other established options.

Dan Mullins and Bandja Sy struggled the entire first half, shooting a combined 3-for-14 from the field including misses on eight of their last nine en route to a combined 8-for-27 performance on the night. That weak showing made young Sim Bhullar's eight points, eight rebounds and two blocks a little less valuable - during the times that he wasn't in foul trouble.

Bhullar picked up his second foul with 10:24 still to play in the first half, and then two quick fouls with about four minutes to play in the game, meant that Sim spent the most crucial points of this game unable to defend USU'a Jarred Shaw, a low post presence that has come into his own of late, who finished with 24 points and eight rebounds.

Again, New Mexico State isn't doomed, but those upcoming games against Denver and Louisiana Tech just became much more crucial.

Oh Isaiah Canaan, where did your shot go?

Eleven minutes into the game, Canaan was 2-for-4 from the field. No big deal. Unfortunately, he finished the night 5-for-20 overall, in a game that the Racers led for the first 5 1/2 minutes, and then led for a total of one minute the rest of the way.

The leading scorer in the OVC has now shot 29.6% from the field over his last three games and 33% over his last seven, during which time the Racers have gone 4-3. After shooting worse than 42% from the field only four times in his first 18 games, Canaan has only cracked 35% once in that seven game span, and the Racers are now 5-5 in games where he doesn't reach 40%.

The OVC West is a weak mess, so the Racers still have a three game lead, but Isaiah needs to get his shot straight before Murray State fully becomes a team that has to get the auto-bid to be in the tournament.

This one was a damn shame. Valparaiso could have sealed the deal with this one, and given themselves a three game lead on the Titans with only two conference games remaining. Instead they are a hair's width ahead and with a tougher remaining schedule than Detroit.

The Crusader offense was clicking, with a 50% performance from the field and eleven threes, resulting in Kevin Van Wijk and Ryan Broekhoff finishing fourth and fifth in scoring with 10 points each.

Unfortunately, they weren't really stopping Detroit either. Nick Minnerath, Jason Calliste and Ray McCallum each got theirs, as McCallum finished the night with 19 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, three steals, two blocks, and a partridge in a pear tree on 40% shooting - and most of those numbers (points, rebounds, FG%) weren't even the second best on his team.

When neither team is being stopped defensively, a great way to lose by ten is to attempt 10 free throws while your opponent makes 16.

Last but not least, the game we already told you about.

Did the Leathernecks improve their offensive efficiency? Yes. A tidy 50% from the field as a team - a mark only one starter fell short of - was nice to see.

But we also talked about stopping Nate Wolters - who finished the game with 28 points, three rebounds, six assists, and three steals while shooting 63% from the field.

Then there's that pesky free throw thing. Western Illinois finished the first half 0-1 from the line, so that wasn't too bad. But when Ceola Clark made his pair of free throws with just over three minutes left in the game, it gave the Leathernecks three makes in eleven attempts from the free throw line. Not good.

The Jackrabbits now only need a season-ending home win against a very beatable Nebraska-Omaha squad now that Western Illinois' atrocious free throw shooting paved the way.