As the college basketball season wears on, we're getting a picture on who will be in the NCAA Tournament and conference races are finally producing clarity. Seton Hall has a stranglehold on the Big East after taking a three-game lead over Villanova on Saturday. Maryland, which won on the road over Illinois on Friday, has an edge in the Big Ten after Michigan State again took an L on Saturday -- its third straight. Dayton strutted past Saint Louis to remain undefeated in the A-10. And Louisville used a win over Virginia to keep its grip on the ACC.
Elsewhere across the landscape, the Big 12 is as unpredictable as ever with Kansas and Baylor refusing to lose. The Pac-12 is a jumbled mess. And then there's the SEC, where -- get this -- we now have a three-way tie atop the league standings with Kentucky, Auburn and LSU.
OK, forget what I said about clarity. College basketball's redeeming quality this season is, instead, parity. And there's plenty of it to go around with a month left in the regular season. Because based on the way this season has unfolded, chaos may be the only predictable outcome in the sport.
Here's just a sampling of proof to that point from Saturday as we recap the day with winners and losers.
Loser: West Virginia slips a seed line
Saturday started with a taste of Selection Sunday as the NCAA selection committee gave a sneak peek to how they will go about building this year's NCAA Tournament bracket by revealing their . Problem was, as expected, that order may not have lasted very long. The biggest loser from the bunch was West Virginia, the No. 8 overall seed. Shortly after the NCAA released their top 16 seeds, the Mountaineers went out and fell to Oklahoma 69-59 and, according to CBS Sports Bracketology expert Jerry Palm, fell from a No. 2 seed to a No. 3 seed.
Winner: Good day for Gonzaga
Gonzaga made the NCAA Tournament selection committee look smart for giving it the No. 3 overall seed in Saturday's early bracket reveal by thrashing Saint Mary's, its top WCC competition, on the road. Gonzaga improved to 5-1 in Quadrant 1 game with the victory. The Bulldogs bested fellow mid-major San Diego State for the No. 3 spot behind Baylor and Kansas in the committee's early reveal. That's important, because if it holds up until Selection Sunday, it would mean that Gonzaga — not San Diego State — would be in position to play the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament in the West Regional site of Los Angeles.
Loser: Florida falls to Ole Miss
The Gators entered Saturday as one of Palm's last four in the NCAA Tournament field but were throttled 68-51 at Ole Miss and are now a dismal 3-4 in Quadrant 2 games. Florida's 51 points tied its lowest output of the season. A combined record of 5-9 in Quadrant 1 and 2 games does not exactly scream NCAA Tournament-bound.
Loser: Michigan State falls to Michigan
Preseason No. 1 Michigan State hasn't looked worthy of that moniker since its first game. Saturday's game against Michigan provided further indication of that. The No. 16 Spartans fell to the Wolverines 77-68 on Saturday, their third straight loss and fifth in eight games. They're now 0-3 in February and trending decidedly in the wrong direction.
"Our start was poor, middle was really good, our end was poor and Michigan played good," Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo said Saturday summing up his team's latest blunder. "Some guys hit some shots that weren't supposed to. And I thought we missed some layups that you're supposed to make."
Michigan State faces a talented Illinois team on the road Tuesday, one of four road trips in its final seven regular season games.
Winner: Syracuse wins on late bucket
It was far from the most-dramatic finish in the ACC on Saturday. Duke took that title with its overtime win over North Carolina. But the Orange (14-9, 7-5) snapped a two-game losing streak with a thrilling finish against Wake Forest. Freshman center Jesse Edwards tapped a rebound to freshman guard Brycen Goodine, who scored with 1.5 seconds left to lift Syracuse to a 75-73 victory over the Deon Deacons. Syracuse is on the bubble to make the NCAA Tournament and avoided what would have been a costly Quadrant 3 loss with some clutch play in the final seconds.
Winner: Bill Self's rapid win rate
Self has already been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame. He's won a national championship. He's won more conference titles than most coaches have players in their rotation. These days, it's about padding an already elite resume.
And pad he did Saturday with a 60-46 win trampling of TCU to notch win No. 700 in his career. He's the second-youngest coach to get to the milestone at 57 years, 1 month and 12 days old, trailing only Bob Knight, who got there at 56 years, 4 months and 12 days. That marks the sixth-fastest rise to 700 in NCAA history, outpacing none other than Phog Allen -- the namesake for Kansas' historic basketball fieldhouse.
Loser: Indiana loses in front of Knight
On a day that should've been a celebration for Indiana with Purdue. Ouch. It's Indiana's fourth consecutive loss -- an unfortunate slide for a team suddenly flirting with the dreaded NCAA Tournament bubble watch. Conversely, Purdue captured its third straight win and forced Knight to mouth at halftime what appeared to be two simple words:, IU fans were instead bolting for the exits early in what became a 74-62 home loss to
Winner: Another gem for Auburn's Pearl
If you're a college basketball team with a double-digit lead on Auburn ...
Yeah, double-digit leads on Auburn are not good. In fact, that may be where Pearl's Tigers want you. Because for the third time in four games on Saturday, Auburn overcame a double-digit second-half deficit to win, this time a 91-90 thriller over LSU. Pearl's Tigers are now tied atop the SEC with Kentucky and LSU.
Loser: LSU's loosening grip on the SEC
LSU's impressive 17-4 start -- and 8-0 mark in the SEC -- looked tremendous on paper. But the Tigers had their detractors. They hadn't defeated a ranked team entering the week and had struggled away from Baton Rouge, playing with close margins. Those margins have thinned. After starting the week unbeaten in SEC play and atop the league standings, the Tigers are now in a three-way tie with UK and Auburn with their second straight loss -- both on the road -- coming Saturday. Four of their next eight are on the road, and yes, they still haven't notched a ranked win. But good news, LSU faithful: none of the upcoming road games are against ranked opponents, and Kentucky, Georgia, Missouri and Texas A&M all have to make the trip to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where the Tigers have lost just once all season.
Winner: Seton Hall snaps skid vs. Villanova
Before Saturday, Seton Hall had gone 17 games -- dating back to 1994 -- since it last won at Villanova. But in further evidence that these aren't your grandpa's Pirates, Seton Hall snapped the skid, winning 70-64 in an outcome that gives it a cushy three-game lead in the Big East.
Seton Hall just won at Villanova for the first time in 26 YEARS.— Matt Norlander (@MattNorlander) February 8, 2020
And by virtue of this win — and handing Nova a third straight L — the Pirates will almost certainly win the Big East this season.
That would be only the third regular-season conference title in Pirates history.
Now for the first time since 1994, Seton Hall has a big monkey off its back -- and is in position to win its first regular season conference title since 1993.
Loser: Memphis falls again
Palm projected Memphis as one of the last four in the NCAA Tournament field as play began Saturday. Then, the Tigers suffered a crushing 75-73 Quadrant 3 loss at home to South Florida. Adding insult to injury, Memphis also lost two big men and played without a third. Star freshman Precious Achiuwa and redshirt sophomore Lance Thomas both left the game with injuries late in the second half and did not return. The Tigers (17-6, 6-4 AAC) were already playing without freshman center Malcom Dandridge, who missed the game with an injury. There was no indication Saturday that the injuries to any of the three were serious. But the trio's issues added to the Tigers' collective misery in a season that began with high hopes.