A Saturday that began with the NCAA selection committee revealing its current top 16 seeds added a level of intrigue to some of the top games across the country. For the most part, those teams lived up to the billing of the lofty expectations that come with being named as a top seed.
No. 1 overall seed Villanova further solidified itself with a crucial road victory against No. 24 Xavier. Fellow No. 1s Kansas and Baylor both pulled off wins, too. The Jayhawks in more dramatic fashion than the others.
Across the rest of the country among the top 16 seeds, No. 7 Louisville secured a come-from-behind victory against Miami, No. 11 Florida won convincingly as did No. 12 Kentucky. In fact, the only top-16 seed to lose on Saturday [so far] is Butler, which fell to Providence.
In case you were busy watching the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, or raking your leaves in the backyard, or just simply didn't have enough televisions in your house to keep up, we have you covered with everything you need to know from Saturday's action. Who were the winners of the day, and who were the losers? Let's take a closer look.
Winner: Kentucky's defensive improvement
Ahead of Saturday's game against Alabama, the Wildcats had lost three of five, allowing an average of 82.6 points during that stretch. The blatant defensive slide forced head coach John Calipari to call a 3-hour practice that consisted of 90 percent defense on Wednesday -- and it appears improvements have been made.
Kentucky held the Crimson Tide to 20 points in the first 20 minutes and limited them to 21.4 percent shooting from the 3-point line. That's .795 points per possession -- a vast improvement from where this team has been recently.
Loser: Duke's focus after its UNC win
As a 12-point favorite over Clemson, the Blue Devils got back to looking less-than-stellar against bad teams, nearly choking away an 11-point halftime lead at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Duke won 64-62, but played timid in the second half and shot 42 percent from the floor.
Coming off a victory against North Carolina, Duke played like it was emotionally spent. Behind Luke Kennard's 25-point outing, it pulled out the victory after forcing a last-second Clemson turnover. But after just barely squeaking into the top 16 seeds earlier in the day, its performance didn't do much to dispel those who aren't sold on the Blue Devils.
Winner: West Virginia's Big 12 title hopes
The Big 12 race is still reasonably open after all three of the top teams (KU, Baylor and WVU) fell a week ago, and the Mountaineers did their part to stay in the discussion on Saturday, taking down a tough Kansas State team that beat WVU earlier this season. With an 8-4 Big 12 record (24-7 overall), Bob Huggins' team is quietly hanging around and still has Kansas and Baylor left on the conference slate. Monday's trip to Lawrence to face the Jayhawks will make or break the Mountaineers' chances at winning the league.
Loser: Texas Tech Red Raiders
Chris Beard's Red Raiders opened up Big 12 play with a promising 3-3 record with a huge victory against West Virginia mixed in. However, since then Texas Tech has gone 1-4 in league play, and is suddenly clawing for its NCAA Tournament life. It had No. 3 Kansas on the ropes in Lubbock today but, with 2.8 seconds left, KU's Josh Jackson drew a foul and hit a clinching free throw to break the hearts of the home crowd.
Victories against West Virginia, Kansas State and TCU are pluses for Texas Tech, but beating a top-five team like Kansas would have done wonders to bolster Tech's resume -- which is looking less and less impressive. Good news for Red Raiders fans: Baylor will come to Lubbock on Monday and they'll get another shot at a signature victory.
Winner: Florida's granny-shooting superstar
Son of former NBA player Rick Barry, Canyon Barry, has emerged as one of the best free-throw shooters in the country this season for Florida. Going granny-style like his pops, he's shooting 89.2 percent on the season and set a new Florida school record 39-straight makes with this one against Texas A&M:
Barry knocked down all four of his free-throw attempts against the Aggies and had 12 points in the Gators' 71-62 victory. He hasn't missed a free throw in nine games and counting.
Winner: Current No. 1 overall seed Villanova
The reigning national champion won twice Saturday -- first when the NCAA selection committee named the Wildcats the No. 1 overall seed, and then again in a big 73-57 road victory against Xavier.
Xavier had reeled off four straight ahead of Saturday and despite losing Edmond Sumner for the season, still looked every bit primed to challenge Villanova. The Musketeers are still contending for NCAA Tournament seeding, but Jay Wright's Villanova squad is 11-2, 2.5 games up in the conference standings and appears on its way to securing a Big East regular-season title.
Miami had Louisville on the ropes on the Cardinals' home floor, but couldn't capitalize on a seven-point halftime lead. Louisville point guard Quentin Snider returned to the floor after missing six games with a hip flexor injury, and he added 13 points -- including the game-clincher.
For Miami, it puts Jim Larranaga's team in a precarious situation. Miami could have used a victory to fuel a late-season surge in the ACC and into the postseason. Of its next six games, I think Miami needs to win at least four to feel secure on Selection Sunday. That will require winning on the road at either Virginia, Virginia Tech, or Florida State.
Winner: Oklahoma State
Brad Underwood's Cowboys squad cooled off on Wednesday in a loss to Baylor after previously winning five straight. But they bounced back Saturday with an 84-71 victory against Texas and improved to 5-7 in Big 12 play.
That's amazing, considering its 0-6 start in the league.
OSU has bounced back to the point Jerry Palm has the Cowboys as a firm No. 9 seed. Still, the margin for error is small for this team. The road victory against West Virginia last week is a little extra cushion, though.
Jim Boeheim's team is teetering ever so slightly on the wrong side of the tourney bubble. The Orange won five straight before Saturday capped by a one-point victory against Clemson this week. But they got a little too close to the fire against Pitt, and the Panthers burned them 80-75.
The next five games are going to be critical for Syracuse. Three more victories could send the Orange dancing, but that stretch includes two games against No. 4 Louisville and a home game against Duke. So if Syracuse can win its home games it will feel better on Selection Sunday, which is much easier said than done. Losing to a dreadful Pitt team could wind up haunting them.
Winner: St. John's
It's been a tumultuous season for the Red Storm. After taking losses to Delaware State and LIU-Brooklyn early in the season, Chris Mullin's team bounced back with victories against Syracuse and Butler less than a month later. Unfortunately, that has been the story of this team's season. Totally unpredictable, good in spurts, but overall inconsistent.
Good news: Saturday was a Good in Spurts day.
The Red Storm upset Seton Hall at home 78-70 and have a Wednesday matchup with Butler looming. An NCAA Tournament appearance is highly unlikely at this point, but that's a solid victory for a team whose season has been mostly dubious.
Loser: NC State
Since the victory against Duke, the Wolfpack have slumped as hard as anyone in the ACC. They went on the road Saturday and inexplicably lost by 30 points to Wake Forest for their fifth consecutive setback.
When asked about calls for his job, NC State head coach Mark Gottfried told Matt Norlander that he's "not paying attention to any of that." Adding: "I haven't had any discussions with anyone at NC State about that. I plan on being here for a long time."