Thanks to leap year, we got an extra day in February before the calendar turned to March. And if March is going to be anything like February, there will be plenty of madness ahead. After all, on Feb. 1 we saw eight top-25 teams fall to unranked opponents in one of the biggest shakeup Saturdays of the college basketball season.
The final day of February, the rare Feb. 29, was even wilder. Nine of the 17 ranked teams in action lost. Six of them fell to unranked foes, including three of the top seven. Meanwhile, No. 1 Kansas narrowly avoided an upset loss to Kansas State and No. 5 San Diego State needed a second-half rally to slip past Nevada.
Some conference crowns were clinched and some league races tightened, so let's take a spin throughout the sport and sort out the rubble with some winners and losers.
Winner: UCLA is alone in first place of the Pac-12
A UCLA team that was once 8-9 and 1-3 in the Pac-12 with home losses to Hofstra and Cal State Fullerton is now alone atop the Pac-12 standings after the Bruins completed the improbable rise on Saturday with their seventh straight win, a 69-64 victory over Arizona.
UCLA (19-11, 12-5 Pac-12) can clinch at least a share of the title by winning at cross-town rival USC next Saturday. The Bruins' top competition is No. 14 Oregon. The Ducks (22-7, 11-5) play Cal and Stanford to close the season.
Winner: Cassius Winston from deeeeep
In No. 24 Michigan State's 78-66 victory at No. 9 Maryland Spartans guard Cassius Winston deflated a raucous Terrapins crowd with his monster heave at the halftime buzzer that put MSU ahead 40-29. Winston finished with 20 points and the Spartans never looked back as they drew within a game of the Terrapins in the Big Ten standings entering the season's final week.
Winner: Kentucky's continued SEC dominance
How's this for dominance: Kentucky, with its 73-66 win over Auburn on Saturday, clinched its 49th SEC regular season championship. That's more than the next eight SEC teams have won … combined.
And John Calipari doesn't put hardly any stock into the accomplishment.
"It's not so much winning our league, or winning our league tournament," he said after the game. "It is 'what are we learning and preparing so when we walk into March, we're ready like our teams historically have been?'"
Whatever this team is learning, it's impressive. Kentucky has won eight-straight and 12 of its last 13. This team has cracked the SEC code.
Winner: The Providence retro jerseys
I move for Providence to make its retro jerseys a staple in its regular rotation moving forward:
Not only are these jerseys the picture you'll find next to the fire emoji in the Webster's dictionary, Providence -- and I cannot explain this -- is borderline unstoppable when donning these bad boys. As Brendan McGair of the Pawtucket Times notes, the Friars are 5-1 when going retro, including an upset 58-54 win Saturday over No. 12 Villanova. It's time to make these a nightly look. It's like when players refuse to shave their beard on a winning streak -- why switch to something else when you've got something working?
Loser: Evansville's historic collapse
When Evansville did the unthinkable earlier this season, defeating Kentucky at Rupp Arena 67-64, it looked like the Purple Aces could emerge as the feel-good mid-major of the season.
Then a month later, coach Walter McCarty was placed on leave. Then another month later, McCarty was fired. All the while, Evansville's season was circling the drain and flushing towards disaster. Now there's no doubt: it's historically bad. According to Stats by STATS, Evansville became the first NCAA team ever to beat a No. 1-ranked AP team and go on to subsequently lose each of its conference games, falling 71-60 to Illinois State on Saturday to clinch an 0-18 mark in the Missouri Valley Conference.
Winner: Sportsmanship in the Sunflower Showdown
When Kansas and Kansas State met up earlier in the Big 12 slate, the game ended in an all-out brawl that resulted in multiple suspensions and a public reprimand from the league office. When the two met up Saturday, nearly every player made physical contact with the opposing team … as a sign of sportsmanship.
No. 1 Kansas went on to win 62-58, and despite how closely contested the game was, there were no flare-ups, no punches thrown. Given how the last game between KU and K-State ended, that in itself is a win.
Loser: Udoka Azubuike's health
Kansas and its national championship hopes this season have always hinged on one massive caveat: Udoka Azubuike's health. Since his season has been cut short due to injury twice during his Jayhawks career, Azubuike staying healthy has always been a question mark. And now it's an even bigger one after he went down twice against K-State with what appeared to be a lower leg/foot injury.
Azubuike played just 20 minutes and was clearly hampered after going down early, however Coach Bill Self played off the severity of the injuries, saying Saturday he imagines "he'll be fine."
"The way he laid on the ground initially, you would have thought that amputation was a viable course of action," joked Self. "But he came back and at least he gave us some minutes. I imagine he'll be fine, but a big guy with a turned ankle like that probably is affected more than a guard."
Loser: Florida State falls to Clemson
Things have been going so well for Florida State this month that it may have got caught with its hands in the cookie jar. The Seminoles fell 70-69 on the road to Clemson, once again evening up the ACC regular-season race and prying open the door -- ever so slightly -- for Louisville to enter the backdoor as a conference winner. With two games to go, both are 14-4 in the league standings. FSU may look back on this one and have some real regrets about not buckling down to take this one seriously.
Winner: UConn's Bouknight has bunnies
I have but one word to offer up: WHAT?!?
UConn's James Bouknight's one of the most underrated freshmen in the sport and one of the most athletic in the AAC. Apparently all it took for America to discover him was one of the top five most athletic jams of the college basketball season.
Winner: Colgate clinches Patriot League title
Matt Langel took over a Colgate program in 2011 that had been through six losing seasons in seven years. The Raiders endured six more sub .500 campaigns under Langel before going 43-25 over the last two seasons and making the NCAA Tournament last year. The program reached another milestone on Saturday with a 91-65 victory over Army as the win secured Colgate's first-ever outright Patriot League title.
Winner: East Tennessee State wins SoCon with Good finish
A dramatic 68-67 win over Western Carolina lifted the Bucs to an outright Southern Conference title and a school-record 27th victory. The win came courtesy of a Patrick Good 3-pointer with 7.5 seconds left. Good made seven 3-pointers in the second half.
Winner: Never forget Lamont Paris
The former Wisconsin assistant icoach s in his third season as the head coach at Chattanooga and just led the Mocs to a 10-8 record in Southern Conference play, matching their combined conference win total from the last two seasons. Chattanooga finished off the regular season on Saturday with a 74-72 victory over a UNC Greensboro team with NCAA Tournament aspirations.
Loser: Liberty's lost chance at the outright ASUN title
All Liberty had to do Saturday to clinch the regular season ASUN title outright was to beat Lipscomb -- a team it beat by seven points last month -- on the road as a nine-point favorite. Easier said than done.
The Flames were burned by Lipscomb 77-71, blowing their chance to take the league's regular season title outright. They finish the season as ASUN co-champions with North Florida.
There's no shame in a co-conference title, but for as good as 27-4 looks on paper, its resume remains lacking. Entering postseason play, Liberty has zero Quadrant 1 wins, one Quadrant 2 win, and a combined 24 Quadrant 3 and 4 wins (20 of which are of the Quad 4 variety). Not an impressive body of work that could have been boosted with an outright conference crown.
Winner: Stephen F. Austin sews up Southland
The Lumberjacks are best known for their early-season upset of Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium. It turns out they are a great team. Stephen F. Austin clinched the outright Southland Conference title with a 95-76 victory on Saturday against a Lamar squad that had won four straight.
Loser: Saint Francis (Pa.) slips up
The Red Flash would have won an outright Northeast Conference title by extending their winning streak to nine games on Saturday. But Robert Morris had other plans. The Colonials beat Saint Francis 78-68 to clinch a share of the conference title and the No. 1 seed in the upcoming conference tournament. Saint Francis will have to make peace with being the No. 2 seed. At the end of the day, Saint Francis is still a 20-win team for the first time since the 1990-91 season, which is also the last time it appeared in the NCAA Tournament.