College basketball winners, losers, scores: Duke, Kentucky take big steps but AAC refs, last two unbeatens have bad day
There are no more undefeateds and there is no explanation as another AAC coach got tossed
Saturday was not a good day for unbeaten teams or for much of the top 10 for that matter. Four of the nation's teams ranked in the top 10 fell, with three of those coming in upset fashion, headlined by No. 2 Michigan and No. 4 Virginia. It was a wacky day overall that will surely affect the top 25 rankings come Monday.
There was a stunner in Wisconsin as the 64-54 to throw a wrench in the tightening Big Ten race. It continued with mayhem in the Big 12 when West Virginia, which hadn't won since Dec. 30, rose to the occasion to produce an equally jaw-dropping result, downing No. 7 Kansas 65-64.
Elsewhere, No. 4 Virginia fell at No. 1 Duke, NC State kept its up and down start in ACC play on track with a bounce-back win over Notre Dame, No. 13 North Carolina improved to 4-1 in the ACC with a win over Miami, and No. 3 Tennessee survived a scare -- and John Petty's 30 point heat check -- to maintain its perfect mark in the SEC.
Let's recap the day with some of the biggest winners and losers from a wild Saturday.
Duke had itself quite a week. It lost to Syracuse in OT on Monday, lost point guard Tre Jones indefinitely to a shoulder injury, and lost momentum from its nine-game win streak that was snapped in the process, all in the lead-up to Saturday's showdown against No. 4 Virginia.
And the Blue Devils responded as you would expect a team of their ilk to do so: With a 72-70 victory over the Cavaliers. It's the first loss of the season for Virginia, dropping it to 16-1 on the season and 4-1 in the ACC.
Winning over Virginia is impressive from any angle you examine it, but for Duke to do so without Jones -- its best perimeter defender -- it says a lot about how much mettle the team has. Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett combined for 57 points and 14 rebounds, the only Duke players, to reach double figures, and took it up a level they weren't at five days ago. This was the best team in college basketball flexing its muscles and proving it is for real.
Loser: AAC officials
AAC officials have been handing out ejections like Oprah handing out free prizes. You get an ejection! And you get an ejection! And hey, you too!
It's fair to say it's been a rough 10-day stretch all around for the zebras in the AAC. Here's how it has gone, with Saturday providing another speed bump in Wichita State's game with Cincinnati.
- Jan. 9: Houston's Kelvin Sampson gets technical for removing tie; UH loses first game of season
- Jan. 15: Cincinnati's Mick Cronin ejected
- Jan. 16: Tulsa's Frank Haith, UConn's Dan Hurley ejected
- Jan. 19: Wichita State's Gregg Marshall given technical on quick whistle
Marshall didn't mince his words expressing his frustration with the officiating after the game, and he's not alone. Cronin earlier this week called for the suspension of the refs who tossed him, culminating with an official statement from the league office that the situation -- at least in the case of UConn-Tulsa -- could have been "worked through better."
Whether every coach who received a technical/was ejected deserved the punishment or not is one discussion, but when one-third of the league's coaches have been booted mid-game in less than a week's span, there's something amiss. (Marshall, I'd argue, was toeing the line, but that wasn't the case in the other instances.)
Winner: 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers
Somewhere, maybe on a farm in Ohio or a ranch in Indiana -- or wherever Bob Knight lives nowadays -- the grizzled Hall of Fame coach surely cracked a smile in the slightest seeing the only two undefeated teams in college basketball take their first Ls of the season. For more than 40 years now, Knight's laid claim to being the last coach to take a team to a title without losing -- and that record will continue for yet another year. Long live the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers!
Loser: Current Indiana Hoosiers
Consecutive road losses to Michigan and Maryland were expected. A non-competitive loss three days later to Nebraska at home was a bit of a surprise. But Indiana's woes went quickly to whoas! on Saturday after not only falling to the Purdue Boilermakers, but getting absolutely thumped 70-55. Indiana is going nowhere fast. The only win in 2019 it has on its resume is a close one over Illinois, a team headed for the basement of the Big Ten this season.
There is no more ideal way to snap a two-game losing skid, as Wisconsin did Saturday, than by breaking the longest winning streak in college basketball. That's what the Badgers did Saturday at home by ousting the Wolverines 64-54 in decisive fashion.
After a two-game skid and four losses in five games coming into the game vs. the Wolverines, this win could put Wisconsin back on a collision course towards an NCAA Tournament berth. If it does, you can tip your cap towards senior big man Ethan Happ, who feasted offensively on a Michigan defense that rated inside the top five coming into the day. Happ had 26 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and two steals.
Seasons can turn on a dime. A close loss as opposed to a win makes a world of difference on paper. And we're seeing just how high the small things can add up for Miami, which dropped to 9-8 overall and 1-4 in ACC play on Saturday in an 85-76 loss to North Carolina.
The Hurricanes' first three losses of the season came by two, three and four points, respectively, and things haven't gotten much better after their 5-0 start crumbled to 5-4. They've won only once in 2019 -- at home against Wake Forest -- and have now dropped four of their last five.
And things don't appear to be getting easier.
Miami travels to Syracuse on Thursday, faces Florida State three days later, then gets Virginia Tech and Virginia that same week. It's possible, maybe even likely, we're in the midst of seeing the Hurricanes season dissipate right in front of our eyes.
Loser: Big 12 parity
Kansas losing to West Virginia in inexplicable fashion paved the way for Texas Tech to extend its lead atop the Big 12. The Red Raiders did not oblige. Instead, they suffered their worst loss of the season, a 73-62 defeat at Baylor. It's Texas Tech's second consecutive loss, dropping it to 15-3 after a 15-1 start. Lo and behold, on a day in which Kansas couldn't catch a break on the hardwood, it caught one off it to remain tied atop the Big 12 standings. You can take KU winning the league for the 14th consecutive season to the bank.
Winner: Idle Maryland
The pecking order in the Big Ten may need reassessment after Saturday's developments. Maryland, which didn't even play Saturday, appears to be among the biggest winners within the league.
The Terps won 75-61 on the road over Ohio State on Friday night, and were able to enjoy it on Saturday as Wisconsin's win put them in a true tie for second place within the league. It makes Monday's Michigan State vs. Maryland game, which already had tons of intrigue, all the more appealing. A Spartans win puts them in the catbird seat to win the league, but a Maryland win would officially mark the moment we take this team serious as a contender.
Alabama really looked like it was about to do the thing! After trailing 44-32 at half, the Tide came all the way back -- and even led in the closing minutes -- before falling victim to the relentless Volunteers. John Petty was fabulous, as he scored 30 points -- 20 of which came in the second half -- but players not named John Petty shot just 14-of-41 from the floor and 4-of-16 from 3. Donta Hall was excellent overall, too, finishing with 16 points. The blowout win-turned-comeback-win gives Tennessee a 12-game winning streak dating back to Nov. 28 -- its longest in program history dating back to 1977.
What goes up, must come down, they said.
The only real loser here is viewers, who were robbed of Ian Eagle belting out, "OH, IT'S A WEDGIE!" a staple of Eagle's repertoire when a ball gets wedged between the rim and the backboard.
In a tough road environment against a talented Auburn team, with a player like Bryce Brown going absolutely off, Kentucky survived an 82-80 thriller to improve to 14-3 on the season and 4-1 in SEC play. The Wildcats still have a ways to go on both ends of the court, but this could be an inflection point with UK's young stars -- Ashton Hagans, Keldon Johnson -- really coming into their own as leaders on defense and offense, respectively.
Auburn has had a good season. Not great, just good. And that's in large part a testament to how it has fared in its biggest games.
With the 82-80 loss to Kentucky on Saturday, the Tigers are 0-4 against their toughest opponents and are working up an oddball NCAA Tournament resume that leaves one in search for more. More wins against quality opponents. More wins against Quad 1 foes. More filler to prove it deserves a low single-digit seed come March. Thus far they have whiffed on their biggest opportunities.
Winner: West Virginia
As far as upsets go, there's not likely one we encounter this weekend that will top what West Virginia did to Kansas on Saturday.
The Mountaineers came into the game with zero conference wins. Zero! And yet, with poise down the stretch to score the final seven points -- including the game-winner -- they knocked off the top team in the league 65-64. Let the moonshine flow!
Winner: Murray State's Ja Morant
Murray State sophomore guard Ja Morant has made himself some money this season. Like, a boatload. He's gone from potential first-round draft status as a freshman, to top-ten-take-it-to-the-bank as a sophomore with his stellar season in which he's averaging 23.3 points, 10.6 assists and 6.1 rebounds.
On Saturday, he ho-hummed a 40-point, 10-assist outing in a win over SIU-Edwardsville, becoming the first Division I player ever to go 21-for-21 or better from the free throw line in the last 20 seasons. His future agent is going to be raking in the cash when he parlays his monstrous season into a top-3 draft selection in June.
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