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Night Court: Gonzaga and Duke to duke out No. 1 spot

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer

Gonzaga not only won another WCC title, it didn't lose a game in league play. (USATSI)

Here's everything you need to know from college basketball's last Saturday of full, regular-season games. Conference tournaments start in a couple of days, people. MARCH! And for all the bubble-heavy rundown, do check Poppin' Bubbles.

Game of the Night: Duke needs every bit of Ryan Kelly to get past Miami.

We knew the game would be so good, so we sent two of our own there to cover it. My brief thoughts are this:

1) That was seriously and legitimately and non-hyperbolic the 10th Game of the Year in college hoops this season. Good action, tempo, energy, the whole deal for 40 minutes.

2) Still maintain Miami's going to be a No. 3 seed that loses in the Sweet 16.

3) I do think Duke is a top-three team in terms of probability to win the title.

4) Ryan Kelly has now played his greatest game ever. It is all downhill from here.

5) Still no guarantee for Duke to be a No. 1 seed. What happens if UNC or NC State wins the ACC tournament, sort of out of nowhere?

What else we'll be talking about in the morning: Will Gonzaga be No. 1 as we wrap up the regular season?

Duke's win over Miami, combined with Kelly's return and great play, will sever the vote at the top of the polls to a certain extent. I think Gonzaga takes it, but it'll be fairly close.

The Bulldogs beat Portland to run the regular-season table in the WCC, winning 81-52 and completing what I think is the greatest regular-season run of Mark Few's career. This team can reach the Final Four. It has a few days off before it plays in the WCC semifinals. I think it wins both there and will be the No. 1 seed in the West. Hope to see you in Salt Lake City (where I'm going for the first weekend), Zags.

That's a good win: Was it Doug McDermott's last home game? If so, what a way to go out.

Creighton won 91-79 over Wichita State in a game that was probably the best of McDermott's career. The junior scored 41 points on 15-of-18 shooting. The team shot 70 percent from the floor. It was the offensive clinic that Creighton can put on here and there, but the thing is, this won't be a guarantee in the NCAAs. So when the shooting is 54 percent instead of 70, will the defense be reliable enough?

Most surprisingly? This is Creighton's first standalone Valley title in 12 years.

As for Wichita State ... I'd make the Valley title game if I were you, just to leave no doubt out there.

But that's a bad loss: Baylor fans can't help but feel apoplectic after blowing this.

OK, if I had the passion for Baylor basketball, I'd completely run down the, I don't know, nine things that had to break wrong in order for the ending to come to this. In short: a court-length-long pass never was touched, so K-State got the ball back, then the best Wildcat on the floor got totally free and sank the game-winner. 64-61.

Baylor is a 17-12 team that needs to get to 20 wins to have a shot at dancing.

Also quite bad: We cover Ole Miss' voodoo loss here.

The longest winning streak in the nation is over: Akron takes a loss at Buffalo.

An 81-67 final, and this is a deft Norlander Jinx, as I interviewed Akron's Keith Dambrot on Thursday. Will still have an Akron piece up on Monday in spite of the L. Louisiana Tech, which won again Saturday, now owns the longest streak in the country at 18.

Players with impact who are not named Ryan Kelly

  1. Derrick Marks put up 38 points for Boise State in beating Colorado State 78-65. Boise State's (20-8) going to make the Mountain West a five-bid league so long as it wins just one more nice one. And it has at least three tries to do it. CSU, on the other hand, is fine to get in, but the Rams have lost three of four. Not sure I like them as much as a Sweet 16 dark horse as I once did. Or do I?
  2. Kansas' Ben McLemore scored 36 points, a program freshman record, in the 91-65 win over WVU. McLemore will not drop out of the top three in this year's draft. Additionally, Jeff Withey had 14 points, 10 rebounds and nine blocks, which would have given him his second block-included triple-double this year.
  3. Tennessee's Jordan McRae had 35 points, yet the Vols ended their six-game winning streak by losing 78-68 to Georgia. It had been seven years since a Tennessee player scored so much in a game.
  4. More than 20 boards always gets you a mention. Congrats to Kennesaw State's Aaron Anderson for grabbing 22 on Saturday.
  5. Murphy Holloway's 22 points, 19 rebounds and five steals were in a losing cause in Ole Miss-Mississippi State. Truly a shame.
  6. Who gets 34 points and 16 rebounds? Stan Okoye, probably the player with more impact on a bad team, VMI, than anybody else. He's had two games with this many points and rebounds; no one else has.

Numbers to figure:

27: The years between 30-point losses in league play for Butler, which got smoked by VCU on Saturday afternoon. Butler's last such loss came when it shared a roof with Oral Roberts in the Horizon.

100: Oklahoma's free-throw percentage. It took many of them. I wrote about it.

100: Josh Pastner got win No. 100 in Memphis' 76-67 win over UCF.

Those who clinched regular-season titles on Saturday night:

  • Memphis takes C-USA outright with that win. The Tigers are still unbeaten in league play as well. It's the sixth time that Memphis has taken the regular-season title without sharing the honor with another team.
  • Belmont: the outright Ohio Valley champs, in their first year, after winning 78-71 over Jacksonville State. Remember, Belmont was the boss of the A-Sun in recent years before making the mild upgrade in leagues. They're good enough to pull off a Round of 64 upset. Kerron Johnson had a career-high 26 points.
  • As mentioned above, Creighton, for the first time since 2001 without a shared title.
  • Mercer, by virtue of its 77-65 win over Stetson wins the Atlantic Sun.
  • New Mexico, by virtue of Boise State over Colorado State, is the standalone Mountain West champs.
  • Western Illinois ties South Dakota State for the Summit League crown after beating South Dakota 61-59. Both teams are 13-3.
  • Valpo won the Horizon following a 75-56 over Green Bay.
  • Niagara won the MAAC with a 78-61 win over St. Peter's.
  • Davidson long ago wrapped up its regular-season league title in the SoCon, but it finished Saturday at 17-1 after beating Georgia Southern by 35. Wildcats can absolutely make a scare to the Sweet 16.

The only thing worth mentioning from Minnesota's clobbering of Penn State:

Notebook on all notable games:

-- I'm leaving all things Arizona-UCLA to Parrish, who's in L.A. to write on that game. The Bruins swept Zona this season and took control of second place in the Pac-12, though. UCLA won six of its last seven. Ben Howland played beer pong on Friday night, apparently.

-- We touched on Louisville beating Syracuse here. But what we haven't shared yet is this GIF. Ahhh, I'm still chuckling.

-- Arizona State took a bad loss; only Ole Miss' was worse Saturday. Jahii Carson missed what would've been a game-winner at the buzzer. Final: USC 57, ASU 56. The Sun Devils have lost five of their past seven, now need to make Pac-12 finals to get back in the convo. Carson had 23, ASU is 20-10, and now Herb Sendek's seat is warm yet again. You know how you sometimes do things and regret it as they happen? That was me dedicating about 40 minutes to watching this game.

-- Cincinnati over UConn 61-56 means the Bearcats avoid a bad loss and just have a little more seed insurance.

-- Marquette won 72-64 over Notre Dame, and this guy has such spirit. He feels this way because Marquette is now 21-7, 12-4 in the league and can still win the Big East. At Rutgers, at St. John's to close up the season.

-- Tennessee's 78-68 loss to Georgia is going to be the coffin's biggest nail when we look back two weeks from now.

-- Harvard fell 75-72 at Penn. Princeton hosted Dartmouth and won, putting the Tigers in first place in the Ivy. If Princeton wins out, it will be in the NCAAs. If it loses and Harvard doesn't lose again: one-game playoff!

-- Cal 62-46 over Colorado means Cal is totally ahead of the Buffs -- something I didn't expect to happen -- for tourney pecking order.

-- Temple 76-70 over URI was a close shave. The Owls might just be a good average team, if you know what I mean.

-- Towson beat Hofstra 67-64, completing an 18-game turnaround from last season, the largest in hoops history. More on this on Sunday.

-- Saint Mary's was flirting with an unnecessary home loss to Santa Clara but pulled away 80-67, keeping SMC in the field.

-- Maryland didn't get funny, won by 10 at Wake Forest. Win the games you should, and pull off a good win in the ACC tourney, and you'll be dancing, Terps.

-- By winning at Xavier, UMass is now 18-9 and stands a chance to sneak in the backdoor of the NCAAs. It will probably need an A-10 title-game showing to do it, but Minutemen aren't totally dead yet.

-- I can't see Alabama getting into the NCAAs. Somehow pulling off a win against Florida on Saturday would've gone a long way to that, but the Tide folded late and fell 64-52 on a day when Florida looked average. Florida has done a lot of looking average as of late, in fact.

-- Need a reminder or wakeup call to how close we are to March-type feelings? I know it's March already, but nothing brings that mood like league tourneys. The Patriot League bracket is four days away! Many leagues have their brackets set, in fact. Bracketsbracketsbracketsbrackets.


For more college basketball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnCBB on Twitter, like us on Facebook and subscribe to the thrice-a-week podcast on iTunes. You can follow Matt Norlander on Twitter here: @MattNorlander.

 
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