by Jerry Palm
Thursday night, Marquette filled a big hole in its tournament resume when it won at Connecticut. That was Marquette's first quality road win of the season, and the first of top 100 RPI road wins they picked up on the evening.
The other came from UW Milwaukee, which won at Cleveland State and the impact was felt in other places as well. The biggest thing it did was make a jumble of the Horizon League standings, which is important because the top seed hosts the tourament. UWM knocked the Vikings back into a three-way tie with themselves and Butler, and assumed control of its down destiny for the top seed. It would have been a four-way tie, but Valparaiso was upset at home by Loyola.
Butler also got a boost, and not just in the conference race. UWM moved into the top 100 of the RPI (94th), taking two of the Bulldogs' 100+ RPI losses off the board. That is good because Butler had five of them before that game, and historically speaking, it's virtually impossible to get an at-large bid with that many bad losses. UWM may end up back below that line again at some point, but for now, their rise to the top of the league has erased a little bit of the problems with the Butler profile.
St. Mary's slide continued last night with a loss at home to Gonzaga. That forged a tie between the two for first place in the WCC. The Gaels win my RPI tiebreaker at the moment. During their three-game losing streak, they have fallen 25 spots in the RPI and out of the top 50. The team that affects the most is Utah State, which is lacking wins of any substantive quality, and having St. Mary's go into a slump devalues the Aggies' best win.
Michigan State continues to climb, aided by a win at Minnesota this week. The Gophers though are in the tank ever since the loss of Al Nolen. I still have them hanging on by a thread, but they may not make it. Minny has a couple of winnable games left, but you have to wonder what qualifies as "winnable" for them.
A banked three-point shot at the buzzer by Wisconsin's Josh Gasser gassed Michigan's spot in the bracket for now. Dayton moved in, and is in a First Four game, which is played on their home court. Yes, that's allowed.
I'll have more in the Bubble Watch later today.
See complete Bracketology coverage here.