Winners and losers: Arizona loses in more ways than one; Virginia, Kansas clinch
Arizona's had a rough 24 hours, but Kansas and Virginia had big days on the court
Entering Saturday, all eyes and ears were on the University of Arizona and its men's basketball program. Because on Friday night, an explosive report from ESPN alleged its head coach, Sean Miller, was heard on an FBI wiretap discussing a $100,000 payment to bribe a five-star player to commit to the program.
Arizona provided some clarity on the situation by announcing Ayton, the five-star player in question, would play on Saturday night vs. Oregon. And boy did he ever, as he finished with 28 points and 18 rebounds vs. the Ducks in a 98-93 OT loss.
Miller, however, didn't coach the team in a decision the program described earlier in the day as one that was best for both parties. In any case, Miller's undeniably in hot water, and Arizona's had a rough 24 hours that got worse after losing a game that could've allowed them to clinch the Pac-12. That why the Wildcats and their coach are the biggest loser to top our recap from Saturday.
Loser: Arizona coach Sean Miller
The only good news Saturday for the Wildcats is that DeAndre Ayton played like a mad man on Saturday night vs. Oregon, which means he's likely going to play for the foreseeable future. But Arizona losing its coach Sean Miller for Saturday and, potentially, longer, is a massive blow. It's hard to imagine this team facing this much adversity in one day and coming out better for it.
Oh, and in the midst of the madness, four-star power forward commitment Shareef O'Neal announced he was backing away from his previous pledge to the Wildcats.
Virginia was picked to finish sixth in the preseason ACC media poll, but on Saturday the Cavaliers clinched an outright ACC regular season title by embarrassing Pitt 66-37.
It's Virginia's third outright ACC title in the last five years. Not bad for a team that entered the season unranked, but now sits at No. 1 in the AP poll and is the projected No. 1 national seed in Jerry Palm's latest Bracketology.
A bubble team no more. TCU, which entered Saturday with some work to do to push itself comfortably off the bubble conversation, knocked off Baylor 82-72. It is the eighth win within the Big 12 for the Horned Frogs, and one that likely doubles as an unofficial punched NCAA Tournament ticket.
If that holds (the Horned Frogs entered Saturday as a No. 6 seed in Bracketology), it will be the first time since 1998 TCU makes it to the Big Dance. A remarkable turnaround in the second year of the promising Jamie Dixon era..
Any year in which Maryland misses the NCAA Tournament -- which is likely to be the case, barring a miraculous Big Ten tournament run -- is one in which Maryland should be considered a loser. Even taking into account Justin Jackson's injury earlier this season that derailed any preseason expectations, it's hard to term the Terps anything else.
Michigan demoralized and destroyed Maryland by 24 points on its home floor in the regular season finale on Saturday, so much so that fans on hand rained down boos. On senior day. Just one day after former player, Diamond Stone, was accused of accepting a $14,303 loan from ASM Sports agency.
But hey, at least Maryland fans have this cute, clapping dog.
Winner: Texas' bubble hopes
Texas' ticket isn't yet punched, but in a critical bubble vs. bubble matchup Saturday (Oklahoma State vs. Texas), the Horns squeaked by and did just enough to clinch a 65-64 decision. And even more impressive: they did the majority of the work without Mo Bamba, who exited mid-game with a toe injury.
Texas entered the day with work to do, so this one will go a long ways in helping its cause. A win over Kansas or West Virginia over the next week would, presumably, put them comfortably into the field.
Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good, right? Well Florida's KeVaughn Allen had his cake and ate it too with this unbelievable full-court shot at the buzzer of the first half.
The Gators, one of the big-name bubble teams to watch going into Saturday, secured an ever-important 72-66 win over Auburn to put an end to the three game losing streak it carried into the day. The win should go a long ways towards their bubble hopes, but they aren't out of the woods just yet. Up next to end the season is a trip to Alabama and a regular season finale vs. the surging Kentucky Wildcats.
Missouri was chugging along at a frenetic pace into the NCAA Tournament picture, before a two-game skid to LSU and Ole Miss got in the way. And things got worse on Saturday, as a 88-66 loss to Kentucky on the road made it three-straight, sending the Tigers into uncomfortable bubble territory.
That four-game losing skid to kick off the month of February feels like ages ago, don't ya think, Big Blue Nation?
Since the Cats snapped that streak, they've gone 3-0 with three consecutive double digit wins -- the latest, the aforementioned 88-66 shellacking of Missouri -- proof that they appear to be turning a corner and sprinting full-speed to the finish line.
Pittsburgh scored 7 points in the first half versus No. 1 Virginia. It took the Panthers 24 minutes to get into double digits.
That's really, really bad, even if the 66-37 final looks at least halfway respectable. Need I really say more?
Winner: Creighton's at-large hoops
As Villanova. And they proved victorious., the Bluejays had a lot at stake going into their tilt vs. Big East bully
It took overtime, but Creighton bested Nova 89-83 and improved its Quadrant 1 record to 3-7. It looks like Creighton will be dancing.
Marquette's lackluster resume -- at least before Saturday -- was mostly average. It had decent wins on its dossier, but no horrendous losses. But a 70-62 defeat at the hands of DePaul on Saturday will go down as horrendous, and at a time the Golden Eagles absolutely couldn't afford it.
It's hard to see them recovering from this loss back into any legitimate bubble conversation.
Do you remember last year when Michigan won five-straight -- including a Big Ten tournament title -- going into the NCAA Tournament? The Wolverines were one of the hottest teams in the country going into the postseason, and used that momentum to fuel a run that ended just shy of an Elite Eight appearance.
I think I'm ready to get on board with John Beilein's current team as much as I was with that one. The Wolverines thrashed Maryland on Saturday, improving to 24-7 overall and 13-5 in Big Ten play. They aren't super flashy, nor do they have any bonafide future NBA stars. But their seniors -- Duncan Robinson and Muhammad-Ali Abdul Abdur-Rahkman -- are catching fire just as last year's team did.
Mark it down now: Michigan will be playing in the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. And maybe longer.
Loser: Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State has made a habit of blowing second half leads, and Saturday was no exception. The Cowboys used a 17-2 run in the second half to build a 10-point lead over Texas on the road, but they fumbled it away in the stretch and with it, their NCAA Tournament hopes.
Barring a surprise run to beat Iowa State and Kansas in the final regular season stretch, along with a nice run in the Big 12 tournament, the Pokes are likely NIT-bound thanks to a loss versus a Texas team that might've used them to land on the right side of the bubble conversation.
Winner: UNC Asheville
Even before UNC Asheville stepped foot on the floor for its Saturday night showdown vs. Gardner Webb, the Bulldogs had already won the Big South outright. That's because Winthrop, which was neck-and-neck with UNC Asheville in the conference race, lost to Charleston Southern earlier in the day.
So the pressure for UNC Asheville on Saturday evening was off. (Which, turns out was a good thing. The Bulldogs lost 72-61 to Gardner Webb.) It's the second consecutive regular season crown for the Bulldogs.
Winner: Bill Self
With a 74-72 win over Texas Tech, Kansas, to almost no one's surprise, clinched at least a share of its fourteenth consecutive Big 12 regular season title. And once again an insane Bill Self stat lives on:
Of course it's worth mentioning it wouldn't have been possible if not for a herculean 26-point outburst from Devonte' Graham, or an all-around aces showing from Svi Mykhailiuk. But nonetheless, Self deserves all the praise coming his way. It is now the longest conference title streak in D-I history.
Even more impressive: he's still fit enough to hold that hardware high!
Syracuse and Duke looked astoundingly bad in their Saturday evening tilt inside Cameron Indoor Stadium. Neither team could hit the broad side of a barn (Duke missed its first 15 3-point attempts, and Syracuse missed its first 12 from beyond the arc ), but the Blue Devils came out on top thanks to a stellar return game from Marvin Bagley, who had 19 points and 7 rebounds after missing the last four games.
Consider it a missed opportunity for the Orange. A win on the road over Duke could've been the topper they needed for their postseason resume, but now it's back to the drawing board. With two remaining ACC regular season games, Cuse could use both to bounce back into the postseason mix.
Gonzaga, fresh off an NCAA championship runner-up finish, was picked to finish second in the league it has dominated for years.
On Saturday the Zags clinched an outright WCC regular season title, their sixth straight finish atop the conference standings.
Winner: Trae Young
After a tumultuous month that saw his team suffer a six-game losing streak, Trae Young and the Sooners finally got back in the win column Saturday with an 86-77 win over Kansas State. And Young, who has struggled mightily in his own right during the recent skid, got back on track with a 28 point, 7 assist showing.
He hasn't missed a game all season, but his performance had him confident enough to declare that he was, in fact, back.
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