St. John's v Seton Hall
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Thursday of conference tournament week delivered bubble battles, Duke drama and more as the countdown to Selection Sunday continued with a heavy dose of single-elimination intrigue. By day's end, some teams had suffered crushing losses for their NCAA Tournament hopes, while others continued building momentum in the 11th hour before the bracket is revealed on Sunday.

Among the biggest winners of the packed day was St. John's, which continued a late-season surge by crushing Seton Hall 91-72 in a Big East Tournament showdown at Madison Square Garden that carried major bubble implications. It was just a few weeks ago that St. John's coach Rick Pitino was publicly lamenting the physical shortcomings of his players. Now, the Red Storm have won six straight and will head into a semifinal matchup with No. 1 seed UConn on Friday with confidence. 

Speaking of confidence, Houston sure seems to have plenty of it. Playing in its first-ever Big 12 Tournament game, the Cougars led 16-0 on TCU and held the Horned Frogs scoreless to start the contest on their way to a 60-45 victory.

Among the day's biggest losers was Duke, which will be entering the NCAA Tournament on a two-game losing streak after an abrupt exit from the ACC Tournament.

Let's take a full tour of the winners and losers from one of the busiest days of the year in college basketball.

Winner: Kim English wills Friars to huge win

Providence was on the brink of crumbling in the first half vs. Creighton in the Big East Tournament quarterfinals. Then, it blew things open late for a huge 78-73 win. The Friars went on a 23-6 run sparked by a technical foul on coach Kim English, who apparently lit a fire under his team in the process. It helped ignite Providence for an unlikely win that now puts it squarely back into the NCAA Tournament picture. -- Kyle Boone

Loser: TCU trucked by top-seeded Houston

The unstoppable force that is Houston basketball has a habit of trucking everyone and everything in its wake, and TCU just happened to be next in the Big 12 Tournament. No. 1 Houston dismantled TCU in a 60-45 win after racing out to a 16-0 start, holding the Horned Frogs to their fewest points in more than three years as the top-seeded Cougars advanced into the semifinals Friday to face No. 4 seed Texas Tech

"The shooting, the missed layups ... they wore us down," said TCU coach Jamie Dixon. "Certainly wasn't our night." -- Boone

Winner: Michigan State gets desperately needed win

Michigan State had dropped four of its last five games entering the Big Ten Tournament, falling into bubble territory in Jerry Palm's Bracketology. While still projected as a No. 9 seed for the Big Dance entering their game against Minnesota, the Spartans couldn't afford a loss if they wanted to feel good about extending their streak of 25 straight NCAA Tournament appearances. Against that backdrop, Michigan State delivered with an excellent second half, pulling out a 77-67 victory against the No. 9 seed Golden Gophers. The No. 8 seed Spartans will take on top-seeded Purdue in Friday's quarterfinals. Minnesota led 34-32 at the break, but A.J. Hoggard scored 13 of his 17 in the second half as the Spartans shot 62.1% from the floor. -- David Cobb

Loser: Top-seeded Toledo tumbles

The MAC Tournament began with a bang as No. 8 seed Kent State knocked off No. 1 seed Toledo 67-59 in the first game of the event. The Rockets beat the Golden Flashes by margins of 14 and 15 points during the regular season, but the third time was a charm for Kent State, which got 26 points from Voncameron Davis while pulling the upset. Only the top eight MAC teams qualify for the league tournament, and with little separating them in the standings, the bracket seemed prime for chaos. It didn't take long for that chaos to begin. -- Cobb

Winner: Mississippi State goes hard in second half

Mississippi State entered its SEC Tournament opener as a projected No. 10 seed in Jerry Palm's Bracketology but planted on the bubble. The Bulldogs looked destined for an ugly exit while shooting just 29.2% from the floor and trailing by seven at halftime. But the second half was a different story as Mississippi State scored 48 points and took command for a 70-60 victory. With a quarterfinal date against No. 1 seed Tennessee up next, the Bulldogs will have another chance to impress the selection committee. -- Cobb

Winner: Shorthanded Marquette outlasts Nova

It took an overtime period to do it but No. 3 seed Marquette took down No. 6 seed Villanova in the Big East Tournament quarterfinals 71-65 moving one step closer to defending its championship from last season. The Golden Eagles are still without leading assist man Tyler Kolek, but they got huge performances from Kam Jones (18 points), Stevie Mitchell (15 points) and David Joplin (14 points) in his absence. Marquette moves to the semifinals where it will face No. 7 seed Providence after the Friars upset No. 2 seed Creighton earlier in the day. -- Boone

Loser: Richmond bows out early

Richmond joined the contingent of No. 1 seeds to be upset early in their conference tournaments as it fell 66-61 against No. 9 seed St. Joseph's in the Atlantic 10 Tournament. The Spiders needed to cut down nets in order to reach the NCAA Tournament but will now have to hope for an NIT bid instead. -- Cobb

Winner: Murray-Boyles shining for South Carolina

South Carolina freshman forward Collin Murray-Boyles missed the first seven games of the season due to a bout with mononucleosis and didn't enter the starting lineup until mid-January. But, over the last 11 games, he's taken his game to incredible heights, averaging 16.7 points and 8.1 rebounds over that span. In the Gamecocks' 80-66 win over Arkansas in the second round of the SEC Tournament, he put up a game-high 24 and also chipped in seven rebounds and four steals. – Cobb

Loser: Wake Forest falls in a bubble battle

Wake Forest entered Thursday's ACC Tournament quarterfinal game against Pitt considered one of the "Next Four Out" of the projected NCAA Tournament field in Jerry Palm's Bracketology. The Demon Deacons rallied from a 19-point deficit in the second half and cut the margin to 65-62 with under five minutes remaining. But the Panthers closed strong for an 81-69 victory that could prove consequential on Selection Sunday. Pitt was regarded as one of the "First Four Out" of the projected field before the win and will get another chance to build its case against No. 1 seed North Carolina in Saturday's semifinals. -- Cobb

Winner: Oregon keeps its season alive

Oregon will have more work to do the rest of the week to win the Pac-12 Tournament, but it kept its season going with a 68-66 win over UCLA. The Ducks are in a position where they have to run the table to reach the NCAA Tournament because they're so far outside the bubble. Pending an invitation to the NIT, this could go down as UCLA's final basketball game as a member of the Pac-12. -- Cameron Salerno

Loser: Down goes Duke

Duke lost its ACC Tournament opener for the first time since 2013 as the No. 2 seed Blue Devils fell 74-69 against No. 10 seed NC State. The Wolfpack have rattled off three straight ACC Tournament victories and are just two games away from securing an automatic bid to the Big Dance. The Blue Devils will arrive at Selection Sunday on their first two-game losing streak since falling to Arkansas on Nov. 29 and to Georgia Tech on Dec. 2 -- Cobb

Winner: St. John's marches past Seton Hall

St. John's lost twice to Seton Hall in the regular season but made the most important game count with a 91-72 beatdown of the Pirates in the Big East Tournament quarterfinals. The Johnnies extended their winning streak to six and advanced to the Big East Tournament semifinals for the first time since 2000. -- Boone

Winner: Ohio State's surge under Jake Diebler continues

Ohio State is 6-1 under interim coach Jake Diebler after beating Iowa 90-78 in the Big Ten Tournament. The Buckeyes have played their way onto the NCAA Tournament bubble and will have the chance to make a serious statement to the selection committee in a quarterfinal game against Illinois on Friday. Might Diebler be playing his way into consideration for the full-time job? It seems like a long shot, but the Buckeyes are on the cusp of doing something spectacular under his direction after they appeared left for dead at 14-11 (4-10 Big Ten) when Chris Holtmann was fired on Feb. 14. -- Cobb