Saturday in college hoops is often a spectacle regardless of the calendar. But the Saturday before Selection Sunday? It's anarchy. Complete and total anarchy.
The festivities that unfolded gave us everything you could ask for on such a momentous occasion. A first-time dancer in Hartford. Rick Pitino's Iona Gaels punching their ticket. Heck, even Georgetown snuck into the field by beating -- no, crushing -- Creighton to secure the Big East's automatic berth. But for all the joy brought by those victories, there was also some sorrow.
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While Hoyas coach Patrick Ewing struck a big victory for the small fraternity of coaches leading the schools where they once starred as players, two of his colleagues in that realm had far worse days. Penny Hardaway's Memphis squad suffered its second crushing loss to Houston in the past six days, and Juwan Howard's Michigan squad got bounced from the Big Ten Tournament by rival Ohio State. Unlike Memphis, which will need a Selection Sunday miracle to make the field of 68, Michigan will be headed to the NCAA Tournament and may still be a No. 1 seed.
But losing to Ohio State wasn't the only thing troubling the Wolverines on Saturday. More on that in a second as we get into a complete rundown of the day's winners and losers.
Loser: Michigan has questions entering the Big Dance
Michigan played only two games in the Big Ten Tournament this week, but the Wolverines packed a lot into a short time, and Friday's news was more bad than good. The program announced versatile senior leader Isaiah Livers will be out indefinitely with a stress injury in his right foot on Saturday morning, and then the Wolverines dropped a 68-67 heartbreaker to Ohio State. That means the Wolverines will enter the NCAA Tournament having suffered three of their four losses over the past five games. Throw in the uncertain status of Livers, and Michigan seems a bit vulnerable entering the Big Dance. The senior is averaging 13.1 points, six rebounds and two assists while making 43.1% of his 3-point attempts, and if he's out for an extended period, it would be a devastating blow to the program's national title aspirations.
Winner: Rick Pitino's Iona Gaels are dancing
Louisville may enter Selection Sunday in a cold sweat in hopes that its name will be called by the selection committee, but its former coach, Rick Pitino, will not. Pitino and his Iona Gaels punched their ticket to the Big Dance on Saturday by ousting Fairfield in the MAAC title game to secure the league's automatic bid. He becomes the third coach in history to take five different teams to the NCAA Tournament during his career, joining Lon Kruger and Tubby Smith.
Winner: Illinois solidifies case as No. 1 seed
Illinois entered Saturday as the last No. 1 seed (and fourth overall team) in Jerry Palm's Bracketology. So its case as a top-seeded squad was undoubtedly strong. But besting Iowa 82-71 probably sealed it up for the selection committee. The Illini lead the nation in Quadrant 1 wins at 12, so win or lose Sunday against Ohio State, they should feel confident about their stellar body of work.
Loser: Tennessee misses chance to put away Tide
In the second half of the SEC semifinals on Saturday, Tennessee led top-seeded Alabama 48-33. Over the final 17 minutes of game time, however, the Vols went cold as Bama turned the heat up defensively. During that stretch, the Tide turned in a 40-20 run (!) to win 73-68. Not a bad loss for Tennessee on its face, but a brutal way to go down after being up by as many as 15 in the second half. Not the taste you want in your mouth entering the NCAA Tournament.
Winner: Patrick Ewing completes wild week
It was a rather eventful week for Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing, between calling out MSG security guards, questioning James Dolan for his operation and generally causing a stir for -- rightfully -- wondering aloud why in the universe he was being asked to show credentials inside MSG. But it ended on a fantastic note.
Ewing's Georgetown Hoyas secured the Big East's automatic bid to the Big Dance with a 73-48 shellacking of Creighton on Saturday night. The Hoyas did so as an 8 seed and trounced Marquette, Villanova and Seton Hall along the way. The Hoyas were picked to finish last -- yes, last! -- in the Big East in the preseason. Now they're dancing their way into the tourney. Just a fantastic, feel-good story all the way around, and a fitting way to end a wild week for Ewing.
Winner: Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann's mom
After Ohio State fell 73-68 to Illinois last Saturday to extend its losing streak to a season-long of four, Buckeyes coach Chris Holtmann got a tip from a most unlikely source on how to remedy the team's problems.
Did the advice take? Well, you be the judge. Ohio State has now won three straight since Holtmann's mother fired off the text. Now, after taking care of rival Michigan on Saturday, it is one win away from winning its first Big Ten tournament title since 2013.
Loser: AAC's bubble teams
Wichita State suffered a brutal 60-59 loss to Cincinnati in the AAC Tournament semifinals. The No. 1 seed Shockers had crept off of the bubble entering the day, according to Palm, but were just a projected No. 9 seed before the defeat. It's Wichita State's first Quad 3 loss of the season and will inspire at least some fear for the program on Sunday as the NCAA Tournament selection committee makes its final determinations of who is deserving of an at-large bid.
Memphis had a chance to pick up the slack for Wichita State in the AAC's other semifinal game, but the Tigers suffered their second heartbreaking to loss to Houston in a six-day span. After losing 67-64 on a buzzer-beater to the Cougars last Sunday, the Tigers got their hearts ripped out again in a gut-wrenching 76-74 defeat.
It sets up a massive Sunday for the AAC. If Cincinnati upsets Houston and the selection committee looks favorably upon Wichita State, the league could get three teams in the Big Dance. But if Houston wins the tournament title and the Shockers are left out of the field, it could end up as just a one-bid league.
Winner: Johnny Jones at Texas Southern
Pitino is getting a lot of attention, and rightfully so, but he wasn't the only former power conference coach to reach the Big Dance with a new squad on Saturday. Former LSU coach Johnny Jones is heading to the NCAA Tournament with Texas Southern. Now in his third season leading the program, Jones has a physical, veteran team that won 14 of its last 15 games to secure an automatic bid out of the SWAC. This is the third school Jones has taken to the NCAA Tournament (North Texas and LSU). This one is surely sweet for Jones, though, after an unceremonious ending to his LSU tenure following the 2016-17 season.
Winner: Hartford dancing for first time
Hartford appeared to be cycling down under coach John Gallagher when it finished 9-23 in 2016-17 for the program's third straight losing season. But the Hawks' faith in Gallagher paid off in a historic way on Saturday, when the program clinched its first NCAA Tournament appearance by knocking off UMass Lowell in the America East Tournament title game. This makes four straight winning seasons for the program now, and at just 43, Gallagher suddenly looks like one of the profession's rising stars in his 11th season.
"They were firing me four years ago," Gallagher said. "Rightfully so. Wasn't getting it done. And then we just buckled down. Maybe I need my back against the wall. Maybe that's just part of the Irish-Catholic in me."
Winner: Norfolk State dancing for second time ever
Norfolk State secured its second NCAA Tournament berth in program history at the Division I level on Saturday after defeating Morgan State 71-63. It was the fifth time (!) the Spartans faced the Bears on the season, and their fourth win in the series gave them the MEAC title and an automatic NCAA Tournament berth. The last time this team went dancing was 2012, when it stunned No. 2 seed Missouri in the first round as a No. 15 seed.
Winner: San Diego State gets it done
The Aztecs have not garnered nearly the amount of national acclaim this season that they did last season during a 26-0 start. But this group did something that last year's team couldn't on Saturday when it won the Mountain West Tournament title. This version of San Diego State won't get to 26 straight wins, but the Aztecs are at 13 straight right now, and with they are playing, the Aztecs look ready to extend that streak by at least a couple of games in the NCAA Tournament.