Winners and losers: Kentucky, Duke, Kansas stumble; Oklahoma State, Clemson win big
College basketball's biggest bluebloods stumbled in an upset-filled Saturday
Saturday was a big day for non-blueblood programs battling some of college basketball's biggest powers.
It's the first time since Feb. 15, 1969, that Duke, Kansas and Kentucky all lost to unranked teams on the same day.
The Wildcats trailed for almost the entirety of the game on the road and once again reverted back to the Kentucky team we saw that struggled on-and-off in January. Credit Mizzou for its stellar defense that limited UK to 60 points on 31-percent shooting, but this result says more about Big Blue. Not only does the L come against an unranked team whose NCAA hopes are still a big question mark, but it's also the first time the Tigers have ever beaten Kentucky ... ever.
That's why Missouri is among the biggest winners from Saturday.
Winners: Oklahoma State
After dropping three of its last four Big 12 games and four of the last five overall going into Saturday, Oklahoma State stone-cold stunned Kansas, 84-79, handing the Jayhawks their third home loss of the season.
It's only the 13th time KU has lost at home under Hall of Fame coach Bill Self. So OSU appropriately celebrated the rare feat.
The Cowboys have made a habit of building big leads in league play before stumbling down the stretch, but they flipped the script at a time they desperately needed a breakthrough. The win gives them their fourth in conference play to bump them to 4-6 overall, and while their NCAA Tournament hopes are still grim, they boosted their resume ten-fold with a stellar road win so desperately needed to potentially propel them to a postseason berth.
Duke's enigmatic season continues.
The Blue Devils have proven they can win big, as evidenced by noteworthy wins over Florida, Michigan State, Miami and Florida State, among others. But they have also proven that on any given day, they're absolutely susceptible to fall to almost any team.
Saturday was proof of the latter, as Duke fell 81-77 to St. John's -- losers of 11-straight entering Saturday -- and it was no fluke. The Johnnies crushed Duke by 11 points in the second half and rode the wave of Shamorie Ponds' 33-point outburst to their biggest win to date under coach Chris Mullin. The loss hands Duke a dose of demoralization as it prepares for the biggest rivalry game of the season Thursday against North Carolina.
Brad Brownell is working his magic. Despite losing his second leading scorer Donte Grantham two weeks ago, Clemson continues to chug along at a level that suggests it is headed for a tiny number next to its name come tournament time.
Clemson's a projected 2 seed in Jerry Palm's latest Bracketology. A week ago that might've seemed farfetched given the loss of Grantham, but its surging down the stretch and has shown no signs of slowing as Marcquise Reed continues to lead the team in scoring and steals.
A win for Kentucky over Missouri on Saturday might have signaled a corner turned for John Calipari's youngest team ever. The Wildcats, who have struggled intermittently in January, entered the game as winners of three straight including an impressive come-from-behind road win over West Virginia. However, UK folded on the road to the Tigers after trailing for most of the game, bumping them to 6-4 in the SEC.
Kentucky's problems stem from a lack of go-to options on offense and no reliable, consistent scorer, and those issues reared their head in the worst way. Only one player -- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander -- scored in double figures on the day, and as a team, UK shot just 31.3 percent. So at a season crossroads, the young Wildcats took a step down the wrong path with a challenging schedule to close out the season with three currently ranked teams upcoming.
Winner: Texas A&M
A trendy pick to win the SEC, the Aggies have plunged toward the bottom of the league standings. Whether it be because of a lack of available players for large stretches of the season or simply not putting the pieces together, A&M has been an overall disappointment. So its win over South Carolina on Saturday -- its second straight conference win -- suggests a turnaround might be in the works for Billy Kennedy's team.
The Aggies' struggles still haven't torpedoed their NCAA Tournament hopes as they warranted an 11 seed in Jerry Palm's latest Bracketology, however a further slide could drop them out altogether. So after winning two straight, they appear to be rallying toward the postseason, which will absolutely boost the SEC's national profile if they continue to win.
It's hard to call Purdue -- winners of 18 consecutive games -- losers. Particularly after it snagged a road win on Saturday in the conference to keep its perfect 12-0 Big Ten record alive. But I have to do it.
Purdue's elite offense was limited on the road to just 78 points at Rutgers, and the Boilermakers, which have been an absolute machine since returning from the Battle 4 Atlantis, looked like an ordinary, flawed team against a team unlikely to make the NCAAs this season.
I'm not sounding the alarms on Purdue by any means. A win is a win and those are hard to get on the road in-conference, but Saturday's performance had shades of early season losses to Western Kentucky and Tennessee. Which isn't encouraging, because Purdue's been near invincible for two months and counting.
Winner: Steve Alford
Coach Steve Alford has weathered the losses to the NBA that included Ball, T.J. Leaf and Ike Anigbogu from last season, and has guided another young team in the direction of the Big Dance. A win over a streaking Southern Cal team on Saturday marked the Bruins' third consecutive win in league play and a 16-7 overall record.
Loser: Trae Young
We're at the point of the season where everything Trae Young does -- whether good or bad -- will be scrutinized and dissected on a granular level. Warranted or not, his performance on a nightly basis is noteworthy, and especially so for a top-15 team in the sport.
Young had a good day overall in OU's rivalry game vs. Texas on Saturday, finishing with 19 points and 14 assists. But he struggled to find the bottom of the night, finishing 7 of 22 shooting, and the Sooners fell to the Horns in Austin, Texas. If OU wins it despite Young's struggles, it might be a different story. But when he misses 15 shots - more than any other OU player even attempted - it's only fair to note that his woes were the catalyst to OU taking an L.
Winner: Big 12
A day of upsets in the Big 12 will inevitably shake up the rankings on Monday and, ultimately, the league's perception. But overall, a win for OSU over Kansas, or Texas over Oklahoma, are ultimately good for the league.
The upsets only further prove that the league is the strongest in the conference, and improves the conference's odds of potentially sending another team to the NCAA Tournament. Factor in West Virginia's win over Kansas State to end a three-game skid, and it's fair to say that the league had the best day of any other Power Six conference.
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