College basketball's final Saturday of the regular season provided a microcosm of why the sport will never get old. Buzzer-beating shots, small guys winning auto bids for the NCAA tournament, final runs of good wins for bubble teams.
Yet amid all the good, there was a lot of weird. And I know the precedent and weight behind this next statement, but I believe it. No Saturday this season gave us as many random/inexplicable/contradictory outcomes as what we just saw.
Let us count the ways, in no particular order. And I'm not even including Georgetown holding Syracuse to its lowest point total in 51 years.
1) Fresno State 61, UNLV 52. OK, there is an order. But only at the top. Because this loss is beyond miserable and easily the worst of the day. Fresno State's an 11-win team. It was a 10-win team entering its Saturday road game against UNLV. That's right, I said road game. UNLV, a team with arguably top-five talent in the nation, finishes 23-8 and three games behind New Mexico for the Mountain West title. It's hard to envision this team winning two games in the NCAAs, even if all that talent rounds together to win the MWC tourney next weekend.
2) Purdue 89, Minnesota 73. Um, huh-wut? The Golden Gophers, a top-20 team in the metrics, got handed their second straight bad loss. The fall to Nebraska a few days ago was worse, but this is still not good for Tubby Smith's job security. Minnesota's become notorious for late-season stumbling. Barring a big B1G tourney showing, it'll be double-digit-seeding for Minny.
3) Utah 72, Oregon 62. Good luck figuring out 23-8 Oregon. The Ducks dropped their final two road games of the year and have a mixed bag of OK losses and decent wins. To me, their DNA is in the seven-seed range, but the Pac-12 will give them false superiority if they manage to run the table. I doubt that will happen though. Again: Utah is awful. Oregon lost to this team.
4) Mississippi State 74, Auburn 71 (OT). Oh, I know Auburn's not that good at all. But do you realize Rick Ray's had, literally, one week of practice the entire year where he could run five-on-five? And MSU just lost its fourth player to a knee injury this past week. All sorts of credit to Ray to getting this team to nine wins this season. Five would've been an achievement.
5) Florida State 71, NC State 67. I'm not one who deals in the stock market, but my stab at what the Wolfpack's differential in value would've been back in November ($20/stock) to now ($1.25) is ... stark. Florida State's been as big a disappointment as just about any team this. NC State might be right alongside it, but at least Mark Gottfried is getting his team to The Dance.
6) Air Force 89, New Mexico 88. Chalk it up to having already long secured the MWC regular-season crown, but this effectively will cost UNM a No. 2 seed. Then again, if it wins out in the Mountain West tournament, it can get the No. 3 seed in the South -- so maybe that's better than fighting for a No. 2 and getting it in the West. (Dallas is closer to UNM than Los Angeles.)
7) Oregon State 64, Colorado 58. There weren't many bubble losers Saturday. That dearth of disappointment was refreshing to see because it's usually so rare. Yet if there was a big loser, Colorado was it. Unlike most felled teams on this list, Colorado took it on the chin in a bad way -- at home. The Buffaloes are probably still in, but winning one Pac-12 tourney game is near-mandatory at this point.
8) TCU 70, Oklahoma 67. Oklahoma's the tournament-worthy team nobody talks about -- so this will draw attention for all the wrong reasons. Yet Oklahoma couldn't have picked a better day to toss a stinkbomb out there.
9) Baylor 81, Kansas 58. Is this the loss -- in combination with the disappearing act at TCU earlier this season -- that costs Kansas a No. 1? I mean, Baylor didn't look like Baylor at all in this game. And Kansas didn't look like Kansas. Yet the Jayhawks backdoor into a shared regular-season title with K-State. My hunch: KU runs rampant through the Big 12 tourney and we'll all forget this game even happened one week from now.
10) Denver 78, Louisiana Tech 54. Hey, it's only weird because La. Tech was the bully of the WAC -- until two days ago. Then the two toughest road games of their schedule came up and Mike White's team folded like a fill-in-the-metaphor. This was a Bulldogs team that was averaging a double-digit winning margin over the rest of the league. But then New Mexico State and Denver beat it by a combined 42 points. Zuh?
And one final note, though it's not weird. Just really awesome. Bob Thomason coached his final regular-season game after 25 years with Pacific. His Tigers did him right, beating up on a better Long Beach State team 71-51. It's unlikely, but if Pacific managed to win the Big West title next weekend, there might not be a better send-off story than what that one could deliver.
Hey, why not, right? It's March. Let's keep gettin' weird.
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