Some of the best college basketball action on Saturday came in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. No. 1 Baylor's convincing 72-61 win at Florida helped the Big 12 salvage a 5-5 tie in the Big 12/SEC Challenge after the SEC took a late lead in the event thanks to No. 15 Kentucky's 76-74 overtime victory at No. 18 Texas Tech
The Bears entered as 2-point underdogs, despite their No. 1 ranking, but looked like the superior team throughout against a Florida squad that thrashed then-No. 4 Auburn just a week ago. Baylor's win kept the SEC from claiming its second victory in the last three years of the challenge.
After Saturday's results, the Big 12 is 4-1-2 all-time in the challenge. The conferences also tied in the 2016-17 iteration of the event. However, the case could be made that the Big 12 won this year's event due to the fact that it escaped with a 3-2 record in games involving ranked teams. No. 14 West Virginia crushed Missouri 74-51 and No. 3 Kansas slipped past Tennessee 74-68. No. 16 Auburn beat Iowa State 80-76 for the SEC's second win in game involving ranked teams.
But in a college basketball season of upheaval at the top of the rankings, Baylor showed once again that it could have staying power at the top. The Bears have won 15 straight games and are now 4-0 on the road.
Here are all the scores from the Big 12/SEC Challenge:
- No. 16 Auburn 80, Iowa State 76
- No. 14 West Virginia 74, Missouri 51
- LSU 69, Texas 67
- Oklahoma 63, Mississippi State 62
- Arkansas 78, TCU 67
- No. 3 Kansas 74, Tennessee 68
- Oklahoma State 73, Texas A&M 62
- Alabama 77, Kansas State 74
- No. 15 Kentucky 76, No. 18 Texas Tech 74 (OT)
- No. 1 Baylor 72, Florida 61
While it's difficult to say which conference earned bragging rights from those games, we did determine a few winners and losers from Saturday's college basketball action.
Winner: Roy Williams passes Dean Smith
For weeks now, Roy Williams has showed up to postgame press conferences with a new spin on why he, a Hall of Fame coach, deserves to be fired. He's even pleaded for athletic director Bubba Cunningham to pull the trigger. As UNC fell into a tailspin with five straight losses, he frequented the losers list of this weekly column, even. But dadgum, look at him now. He's back in the win column after snapping a five-game skid Saturday, defeating Miami 94-71. The victory was a monumental one, too. The W gets him to career win No. 880, which vaults him past mentor Dean Smith on the all-time wins list.
Carolina has 32 assists on 40 made baskets today. The 32 assists matches the most ever in the RW era at UNC.— Jones Angell (@JonesAngell) January 25, 2020
Loser: Providence's play down the stretch vs. Nova
Providence had every chance to snag a huge home win over No. 9 Villanova. Instead, in the final six minutes, it committed three turnovers, went 2 of 7 from the floor and allowed Villanova to still win despite holding it to just one made field goal in that same span. Here's leaked footage of Ed Cooley addressing his team following the game after porous shot selection, ill-timed fouls and bad decision-making did them in:
The Friars have now dropped three straight and four of their last five in Big East play after sitting at 3-0 in the league just a few weeks ago, with two of those losses coming by just four points.
Winner: Illinois is soaring
The hottest team in the Big Ten isn't preseason No. 1 Michigan State nor early-season darling Michigan nor the ever-talented Terps of Maryland. It's Illinois. Yes, the Illini are soaring right now, and they don't appear to be slowing soon, on Saturday over Michigan en route to their sixth consecutive win in Big Ten play. They now sit alone atop the league standings, and Brad Underwood has this thing rolling.
Winner: Bob Huggins' HOF candidacy
Bob Huggins' current title: Full-time West Virginia men's basketball coach, part-time stool-sitter.
Bob Huggins' future title: Hall of Famer.
It's only a matter of time before the grizzled Mountaineers coach will be inducted, and Saturday he hit a big career milestone that will look great on his resume when the Hall eventually considers his body of work: 876 career wins. The 71-54 win for WVU vaulted him past legendary Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp on the all-time wins list, and put him three away from tying Dean Smith. Current Wildcats coach John Calipari shared a congratulatory message to Huggins on the milestone -- with a friendly jab thrown in for good measure.
"Whoa. You know what this means? It means you can really coach," said Calipari. "But the other thing: you're really old! How old are you? Oh my gosh! I'm happy for you, my brother."
And your thoughts, Huggs?
Loser: Pantelis Xidias' head of hair
On Nov. 29, DePaul improved to 8-0 with a road win over Minnesota. It looked like a darkhorse Big East contender and a bonafide NCAA Tournament-caliber club. That prompted this tweet from DePaul bench legend Pantelis Xidias:
Xidias is a dancing maniac, a walk-on with swag. Here's his highlight reel:
Since that tweet, DePaul has dropped seven of its last 12, though, sliding further and further down the Big East chain of command. At 1-6 in the league following a 79-66 home loss to St. John's, DePaul's in jeopardy of missing the tournament. And worse? Xidias may be inching closer to the reality that a head-shaving seems to be in his future.
Winner: Rutgers' revival
Rutgers has been a member of the Big Ten since 2014. It wasn't until Saturday, when veteran Geo Baker drilled a top-of-the-key game-winner in avs. Nebraska, that it had swept a fellow Big Ten member in a home-and-home regular season series.
That nugget underscores the transformation of the Scarlet Knights under coach Steve Pikiell, who got his team ranked for the first time since 1991, is 6-3 in conference play and barreling towards the first NCAA Tournament appearance for the program in nearly 30 years.
Loser: Memphis' rough week
This week -- save for the week when James Wiseman was suspended or the week James Wiseman ejected from college altogether -- is bordering on Penny Hardaway's roughest in the short time since he took over the Memphis gig. Tuesday, the Tigers lost by 40 to Tulsa. Saturday, they lost 74-70 at home to SMU after blowing a double-digit second-half lead.
Winner: LSU winning the close ones
Will Wade's club deserves more love. And more love it will get after going to Austin, Texas, on Saturday and besting Shaka Smart's Texas Longhorns 69-67. Wade got the better of his former VCU boss to get his Tigers on a now-eight game winning streak that started nearly a month ago. Though the margins have been close, this team just keeps finding ways to win. The last six victories have come by a total of just 15 points.
Loser: Texas Southern's power problems
Texas Southern experienced a campus-wide power outage that forced the university to move its basketball game Saturday from on campus to the University of Houston inside the Fertitta Center, for both the men's and women's programs. Not an ideal situation for the SWAC-leading Tigers, who beat Mississippi Valley State 79-67.
Winner: Central Connecticut State gets first D-I win
Central Connecticut was the only team in college basketball with a winless mark against Division I opponents. Until Saturday. Wagner became the Blue Devils' No. 1 on the season, falling 86-76 on the road in what will undoubtedly be its worst loss of the season by a wide margin. Shouts to CCSU, now 2-20 on the season with a Division I win to go along with an 89-55 win over Connecticut College (D-III) earlier this season.
Loser: Liberty flames out
Liberty's 19-1 start to the season is up in flames after taking its second consecutive loss on Saturday -- this one a woeful 48-43 defeat in which the Flames were nearly held to single digits offensively in the final half. Liberty was favored by double digits. The loss puts it tied for second with Stetson in the Atlantic Sun standings and behind North Florida.