Winners and losers: Big day for Ohio State, Duke, but not for slumping Wichita State

After moving on from Thad Matta and bringing in Chris Holtmann this offseason, Ohio State's long-term outlook was promising. The Buckeyes program is top-10 when firing on all cylinders, and it has the resources to be among the elite in the country. But no one — and I mean, no one — thought Holtmann could turn the program around as quickly as he has this season.

The stunning rise continued Saturday. With an impressive 67-49 win over Minnesota on Saturday, the Buckeyes improved to 17-4 on the season. And just as basically nobody projected in the preseason, they are tied for first place in the league standings with Purdue, and among our biggest winners in the sport from a wild Saturday.

Winner: Ohio State

The Buckeyes are 8-0 in Big Ten play after romping Minnesota 67-49 on Saturday. With the win, they have now surpassed their win total in conference play from last season ... with 10 games still left on the regular season schedule.

Three very winnable home games are upcoming on the schedule that could send the Bucks to 11-0 in league play, theoretically. And their next game against a ranked opponent -- at Purdue on Feb. 7 -- might be what ultimately decides the league. Win or lose though, what Holtmann's done is nothing short of phenomenal.

Loser: Clemson

So here's the deal: Clemson beat an overall solid Notre Dame team 67-58 on Saturday. And yet after losing out in the Zion Williamson race -- one in which the Tigers were expected to win -- they are now major losers. Literally everyone expected him to stay in state. But somehow, someway, Duke -- college basketball's bluest blood -- won out.

I hate to pile on, Clemson fans. But this is a program-changing talent. One that was all but certainly going to your school. And now he's going to another conference foe and likely to be a force on one of the most stacked Duke teams ever in 2018.

That's a tough pill to swallow.

Winner: Auburn

If it's one thing I've learned this season, it's that betting against Bruce Pearl is not a wise decision.

The Tigers -- a team I pegged would go 4-14 in SEC play -- officially made me look like a doofus on Saturday by beating Georgia 79-65 and notching their fifth conference win to improve to 5-1 and 17-2 overall. So now they are a half game back of Florida in the standings, and on pace with the Gators to tie for first in the final standings, according to KenPom.

Take my advice: Don't bet against Bruce Pearl! This Auburn team is for real.

Loser: Kentucky

Late-game officiating has benefited Kentucky once this season in a curious no-call against Texas A&M. But against Florida on Saturday, that was certainly not the case.

Late in the game, refs curiously no-called a P.J. Washington shot attempt under the basket. Free throws would have tied the game up. But instead, UK took the ball out and couldn't convert a bucket, giving the Cats a painful 66-64 loss in the final seconds.

Any way you slice that replay up, it's a foul. So it's difficult to watch if you're a Kentucky fan, especially knowing that a pair of made free throws ultimately was the difference in the game.

Loser: Oklahoma

Kansas State bested Oklahoma on Tuesday to hand them their second road conference loss of the season, and the Sooners' skid continued on Saturday. In an 83-81 overtime thriller, OU fell victim to in-state foe Oklahoma State in round two of the Bedlam series, despite a 48-point outburst from national player of the year frontrunner Trae Young.

The skid for OU couldn't have come at a worse time, either. Win both games this week, and OU's 6-1 and standing atop the league standings alongside Kansas. But lose both as OU did, and a potential 6-1 is suddently 4-3 in conference play -- good for third in the standings behind Kansas and West Virginia.

Lon Kruger's team is not out of the race yet, but they put themselves in a bad spot  on Saturday. Which makes Tuesday's matchup against Kansas in Norman, Oklahoma a near must-win.

Winner: Purdue

All Purdue knows how to do is win. The Boilermakers snagged their 15th consecutive win on Saturday with an 87-64 shellacking of Iowa, improving to 8-0 in Big Ten play in the process.

Chris Holtmann is rightfully getting praise for what he's accomplished in Columbus, Ohio, but how about Matt Painter? Despite losing Caleb Swanigan to the NBA, Boiler Ball has continued to chug along at an elite pace. They are a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance if it were to be played tomorrow according to the latest bracket by Jerry Palm, and with no ranked battles until Feb. 7 against Ohio State, chances are they will remain a projected No. 1 seed.

Bet against Boiler Ball at your own peril. This team is for real, and as my colleague Reid Forgrave wrote recently, one of a handful that should be considered a legitimate threat to win the national title.

Loser: Wichita State

The Shockers' switch from the MVC to the American Athletic Conference went off without a hitch early. After jumping out to a 5-0 league record and burying all but one of their opponents by double digits, it seemed as if no team had the capability to slow Wichita State.

But perhaps that conclusion was a bit premature. Wichita State lost its second consecutive league game on Saturday, this time 73-59 to Houston, which dropped them to second in the league standings behind a perfect 6-0 Cincinnati. The schedule suggests a bounce-back to true form is inevitable, if not likely, but struggles despite a full roster suggests more might be coming against top-shelf competition.

Winner: Ted Valentine

TV Teddy, better known as referee Ted Valentine, made the news on Saturday. But unlike last time when he was criticized for turning his back on Tar Heels guard Joel Berry, this time it was a positive newsworthy moment.

Ahead of UNC's tilt against Georgia Tech, Valentine buried the hatchet with Berry after that Jan. 4 run-in and apologized with a handshake and an embrace. Even better news: there was no officiating controversy in UNC's 80-66 win over Georgia Tech.

That's a win for everyone (except for Ga. Tech), but especially a win for the persona known as TV Teddy.

Loser: Texas Tech

The Red Raiders started hot in league play but have faded just as Oklahoma has. In a 70-52 lackluster showing against Iowa State on Saturday, Texas Tech suffered its second consecutive loss to move to 4-3 in conference play including three losses in its last four games.

Texas Tech has arguably the best win of any Big 12 team after topping KU in Lawrence, but a fade into third place in the standings with losses to two middling conference teams might spell doom for its chances of spoiling KU's Big 12 title streak.

Winner: Villanova

While all the once-hot teams have begun faltering in league play, Villanova remains as consistent as ever. The top-ranked Wildcats won 81-61 over UConn in an out-of-conference road rout, and it was never all that close.

It's hard to imagine a pair of teams going more opposite directions too. UConn won the national title in 2014, and has since wilted into a middle tier program in the American. Villanova, meanwhile, won the national title in 2016 and has emerged as a national power under Jay Wright. There was no harsher reminder for Huskies fans than the lopsided result on Saturday.

Winner: Oklahoma State

Oklahoma State was picked to finish last in the Big 12 this season. It is now 3-4 in conference play, 13-6 overall, and boasts an impressive win over Trae Young's Sooners after surviving overtime on Saturday.

The Cowboys have a brutal stretch upcoming against Texas Tech, TCU, Kansas and Baylor. And if projections hold true, the Cowboys will win just one more game for the remainder of the regular season. But credit where credit is due: Mike Boynton has been superb in leading the Pokes this season to the outskirts of the bubble conversation. That certainly wasn't a likely scenario coming into the season.

Loser: Stanford

Stanford's turnaround in Pac-12 play has been remarkable.

Just a month ago, the Cardinal looked left for dead after an atrocious non-league showing that featured losses to Eastern Washington, Portland State, and Long Beach State. And yet somehow, Stanford's once-dead NCAA Tournament hopes, albeit still basically dead, were put on life support after going 5-1 in Pac-12 play.

But with a chance to take the outright lead in the conference standings against Arizona on Saturday, Stanford couldn't quite get it done and fell 73-71 after a late shot rimmed out.

Winner: Duke

The Blue Devils throttled Pitt 81-54 in a decisive win that wasn't even close. The biggest win for Duke on Saturday, though came off the floor.

In a stunning decision, five-star prospect Zion Williamson, the No. 3 recruit in 2018, made his college decision and spurned in-state options South Carolina and Clemson, among others, by committing to Duke. So with Williamson in the fold, Duke has commitment from the top 3 players in the Class of 2018, and four of the top 10 overall prospects overall.


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