Arkansas 96, #4 Oklahoma 88
This has to be one of the biggest upsets of the season. Oklahoma has played a number of close games, and was due to lose a game, but you wouldn't have thought it would have come against an Arkansas team that is really in a serious rebuilding mode. Then again, maybe the rebuilding mode was completed when Marcus Monk came over from the football team, as they're 3-0 since the wide receiver re-joined the basketball team. Of course, Monk is still coming off the bench, and the real star was freshman Courtney Fortson, who nearly posted a triple-double with 12 points, 10 assists and 8 rebounds. Arkansas also played this game the right way, which was to push the tempo to take advantage of Oklahoma's guard play, which is their weakness. Blake Griffin is always going to get his stats (21 points and 13 rebounds here), but they kept him from taking over the game. Their aggressiveness really paid off in fouling out four members of the Oklahoma team, including both of the Griffin brothers. Basically what we learned is that Arkansas at their best is good enough to topple an elite team that is having an off day. With both Mississippi and Mississippi State falling apart, and Alabama and Auburn looking mediocre, Arkansas might be the second best team in the SEC West. But with a high probability of only one Tournament team out of the SEC West, second place won't be good enough.
Illinois 71, #11 Purdue 67, OT
This result itself isn't a huge surprise, as Illinois is a very tough team, and Purdue has not yet been playing like the 11th best team in the land. What's surprising, though, is that they did it without a very good performance from Demetri McCamey, who collected only 10 points and 3 assists. The addition of Alex Legion really helps, as he collected 12 points here in the first game that he has gotten major minutes in after joining the active roster after the winter semester ended. If it wasn't for a tough 2 point loss to a very good Clemson team, Illinois would be 14-0 with a lot of national attention. That one loss still keeps them below the national radar, but more wins like this will make it more difficult to hide. In my opinion, Illinois is good enough to finish as high as third place in the Big Ten, so they're definitely a team to watch for. As for Purdue, they obviously just had an awful shooting day, and their previous losses have come when getting into a lot of foul trouble, but too many excuses eventually turn into a trend. There is a huge difference between sneaking up on everybody (like they did last year), and dealing with huge expectations while they take every team's best shot (like they are this year). This is still a very good Purdue team, but I'm really doubting their chances at winning the Big Ten right now.
Houston 80, UMass 64
I bring up this game not because it represents another loss for UMass, who now drop to 5-7 and needed a lot more than a win over Houston to get back in the at-large discussion, but because it's worth discussing whether Houston should be part of the debate. They are 8-2 with a few quality victories (vs Western Kentucky, at Toledo and here against UMass), but their two losses are highly questionable (that season opening loss to Georgia Southern, plus a home loss against a mediocre Iowa State team). That all said, the computer rankings all tell us that Houston has underperformed, because their two losses were by a combined 6 points, and they have had some very big victories (this demolition over UMass being one of several large margins). So while the RPI has them way out of contention at 154th in the nation (and Sagarin's ELO_CHESS more or less agrees, putting them 99th), Pomeroy has them 50th, and the Sagarin PREDICTOR puts them 49th. In other words, their results so far do not a Tournament resume make. But they are arguably one of the 50 best teams in the nation, and could potentially get some good results later in the season. When trying to predict Tournament brackets this early in the season, it's the predictive numbers that matter more than the small sample size of wins and losses. So Houston still has a chance, but they absolutely have got to have a win over a struggling Mississippi State team on January 3rd, as well as at Arizona on the 24th. After that they need a very gaudy conference record, something like 13-3. Those two out-of-conference wins, along with a 13-3 conference record, would put them 24-5 and most likely in the Tournament. I wouldn't bet on them playing that well, of course, but don't give up on this team. They're better than their record.