Winners and losers: Kentucky, Kansas fall while Xavier, Michigan surge
The Musketeers wrapped up an outright Big East regular season title on Saturday with a win over DePaul
The Xavier Musketeers began the season as the preseason No. 3 team in their own conference, but came out atop the regular season standings on Saturday with a 65-62 win over DePaul. It's their first outright regular season Big East title since joining the league five seasons ago.
No one pegged them as a conference contender, and yet by holding on to beat DePaul they firmed up their decent hold on a No. 1 seed as Selection Sunday nears. And it's why the Musketeers are the biggest winners from Saturday's action across the college hoops landscape.
The Musketeers, who joined the Big East just five seasons ago, won their first outright regular season conference title in their new league affiliation on Saturday by sneaking out a close 65-62 win over DePaul.
The accomplishment is impressive in its own regard. But to do so in a league that features projected No. 1 seed Villanova is absolutely remarkable. It snaps Nova's regular-season title streak at four (and simultaneously makes KU's streak of 14-straight in the Big 12 that more impressive.)
Winner: Marvin Bagley
The Blue Devils trailed by as many as 13 points in the second half to rival North Carolina, but frosh star Marvin Bagley III came alive in the stretch and helped Duke clinch an improbable double digit win. Pretty stunning, given the outlook Duke faced early in the second frame.
And how about Bagley? He played 33 minutes, scored 21 points and snagged 15 boards, and was the ultimate difference maker in a game determined on the glass. Big man has been solid all season, but he's really coming into his own at a perfect time for Duke.
Side note: Ken Jeong was fired up.
Kentucky fell back into its old habits against Florida on Saturday, and Cats coach John Calipari was none too pleased with the 80-67 outcome.
"We reverted today," he said after the fact. "Didn't pass the ball ... This hopefully wakes us up and we go. But, again, I told them, 'Learn from it. You're young. Competitive spirit. If you don't have a competitive spirit, you will not advance in this game."
The loss snapped Kentucky's four game winning streak and sends the young Wildcats into the postseason for the first time since 2013-2014 when, you guessed it, Florida handed UK an 84-65 loss going into the SEC tourney.
Winner: Florida's Chris Chiozza
There's no way to sugar coat this: Florida's had Kentucky's number of late. The Gators smacked the Wildcats 80-67 in Gainesville on Saturday and completed a season sweep of John Calipari's team, which entered the day on a four-game winning streak.
Meanwhile, senior Chris Chiozza set the all-time Florida assist record and helped the Gators improve to 3-1 against the Kentucky Wildcats over the last two seasons.
Loser: Michigan State
Michigan State's 13-game winning streak came to an unceremonious, unflattering end on Saturday at the hands of cross-state rival Michigan, 75-64. It's the second time this season the Wolverines have handed Sparty a double digit loss, and this one might be at the cost of a 1 seed for Tom Izzo's team.
Texas had the lead late in regulation and let WVU senior Jevon Carter go coast-to-coast to knot things up, which sent it to OT. But the Horns handled their business in the extra period, 87-79, to essentially lock up their standing on the right side of the dreaded bubble.
Winner: Oklahoma State
No team has ever swept Bill Self in Big 12 play since he took over the gig at Kansas.
The Cowboys followed up their 84-79 win over Kansas in Lawrence earlier this season with a resounding 82-64 win on their home floor Saturday, and now officially have one of the weirdest NCAA Tournament resumes in all the land. Wins over Kansas, West Virginia, Florida State, Texas Tech and Texas will carry plenty of weight come Selection Sunday. And check this: OSU now has six wins over AP Top 25 teams, including four vs. the top 10.
No. 14 Auburn clinched at least a share of the SEC regular season title on Saturday with a 79-70 win over South Carolina. It's the Tigers' first regular season title since 1999 -- and most impressive of all, they did it without the services of Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy.
As I mentioned previously, Bill Self had never been swept before in Big 12 play before today. But the Jayhawks look disheveled, disinterested, and uninspired against Oklahoma State in a 82-64 loss.
Maybe Bill Self was doing his alma mater a solid, because OSU's resume now looks pretty appealing when you look at the totality of its body of work. KU carries the 1 seed into Big 12 play but Saturday's lackluster showing is a bit concerning.
The Orange stopped the bleeding on Saturday and won ugly, 55-52, over Clemson to snap their three-game losing skid. Time will tell if it is enough to get them into the Big Dance, but a Quadrant 1 win in the regular season finale can't hurt their chances.
Loser: Notre Dame
Bonzie Colson's return for the Irish may have been too little, too late.
The stellar senior returned to form this week after a long injury hiatus, but Saturday with him in the lineup, Notre Dame fell short of upsetting No. 1 Virginia. It might ultimately be what lands them on the wrong side of the bubble, too. But if you're keeping track at home: ND is significantly better with Colson on the floor.
It will be interesting to see how the selection committee evaluates the Irish and whether Colson's injury factors into where they fall in the bubble conversation. A deep ACC Tournament run will be necessary to keeping the dream alive.
Michigan is headed back to the Big Ten Tournament title game for a second consecutive season, thanks to an all-around aces 75-64 win over Michigan State. The Wolverines aren't flashy, but they've got the goods to replicate a similar postseason run as last season led by seniors Duncan Robinson and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman. This might be John Beilein's best defensive team he's ever fielded.
Loser: North Carolina
The Tar Heels had a pretty cushy double digit lead over Duke on Saturday but fell apart at the seams down the stretch, letting Duke not only steal the lead but also win by 10.
So now instead of taking a decisive win over their rival into the ACC Tournament, the Tar Heels now will take a two-game losing streak into the postseason.
Winner: Murray State
The Murray State Racers, picked to finish third in the OVC preseason poll, are your first team officially locked into the NCAA Tournament field after topping preseason No. 1 Belmont on Saturday.
Baylor's bubble ... bursted?
The Bears fell 77-67 to Kansas State on Saturday -- their third loss in four games after a five-game winning streak -- and may have slid back to just outside the NCAA Tournament field. Rest assured, Baylor fans, you're still on the bubble. But this is a tough loss to swallow and recover from.
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