There weren't many games to learn much from Monday. But two contests in particular were especially instructive ...
* Iowa State. It's a shame for Cyclones fans that they can't get an NCAA tournament game on their home floor. Iowa State (16-6, 6-3 Big 12) continues to be stellar in Ames, rapping Oklahoma 83-64 to improve to 13-0 at Hilton Coliseum.
The Cyclones will eventually need to do something of repute away from home, but at this rate they may well be safely into the field if they keep knocking off solid teams while avoiding foolish letdowns (beyond last month's loss at Texas Tech, which looks like an aberration at this point).
* Syracuse. The Orange's two-game losing streak --- which probably felt worse since Syracuse was a fortnight removed from its last victory --- is over. The 63-47 defeat of Notre Dame at the Carrier Dome puts the Orange a half-game ahead of Marquette atop the Big East standings, and it also serves as a reminder Jim Boeheim's team can rely on defense to get things done.
The Orange (19-3, 7-2) could still use James Southerland, who missed his seventh straight game because of an eligibility issue. But they seem a bit steadier after Monday's triumph.
* Pittsburgh. Nice work by the Panthers in holding Seton Hall to a season-low 46 points. It isn't a profile-defining triumph for Pittsburgh (19-5, 7-4 Big East) in any way, but it does give Tray Woodall and friends six victories in their last seven outings. The Panthers are trending upward.
* Notre Dame. The Irish have matching 63-47 losses to Georgetown and Syracuse after a loss at the Orange, and the latest stumble isn't the sort of thing that will hurt perception. Lots of teams go to the Dome and lose.
The greater issue is Notre Dame got held to less than 65 points for the fourth time in the last month. The Irish lost all four of those games, and it's not difficult to envision them getting locked down when it matters most next month.
* Oklahoma. Not so long ago, the Sooners were 12-3 and seemed like one of the quality turnaround stories in the sport. They've since dropped four of six, and while they've done nothing particularly costly on its own (getting swept by Kansas State, losing at Kansas, falling at Iowa State), the cumulative effect pushes Oklahoma further and further down the at-large board.
There's no danger in Norman, at least not yet, but results like Monday's pummeling at Iowa State do work to narrow the Sooners' margin of error when the likes of Texas Christian and Texas Tech cycle back onto the schedule later in league play.
--- Patrick Stevens