We're a long way from January, when Purdue lost three straight in the Big Ten and was seemingly out of the conference race. The Boilers scored a huge road win in Columbus last night, holding off a second-half Ohio State rally to win 60-57 and keep themselves tied with Michigan State atop the standings, while Ohio State joins Illinois & Wisconsin at a game off the pace. And JaJuan Johnson is a long way from January too, when this site regularly pointed out that the Boilers couldn't win big unless this game-changer in the middle made a point of showing up to play regularly. Johnson established himself quicly last night and scored 24 points and grabbed 7 rebounds. When he's AWOL, Purdue is a decent well-coached team, but not all that different from at least 25-30 others. When he's in the flow of the game, Purdue is a national title threat. Last night he was in
the flow from the outset.
I tend to focus on conference championship races first, and NCAA bubble teams second here. That has the effect of overlooking teams having years strong enough to have the tournament locked up, but in a conference they don't have a chance to win. Kansas' blowing open of the Big 12 has put Kansas State in that category. The Wildcats aren't going to catch their in-state rival, trailing by three games, but they are still a Top 10 team. They won a barnburner with Nebraska last night. The Cornhuskers shot the lights out, but K-State got to the line 40 times and won the scoring battle there by a 32-17 count. Dominque Sutton was the primary force, scoring 21, eight of them at the charity stripe.
And in an honest-to-goodness bubble battle, Louisville got a monster win over Notre Dame in double overtime. The Fighting Irish had a game effort in Freedom Hall, getting rare production from their backcourt, as Ben Hansbrough
and Tory Jackson combined for 40 points. But Samardo Samuels had a huge night when his team needed it most, scoring 36 as the Cards survived 91-89.