Since the inception of the midseason Big 12/SEC Challenge in 2013-2014, the latter had never beaten the former. Before Saturday, the Big 12 was a combined 25-15 overall in the event. Only last year was it a favorable outcome, as the two conferences finished in a 5-5 stalemate.
The tide turned on Saturday though, as the SEC finished 6-4 overall in the event to win the Big 12/SEC Challenge. Although all signs pointed to a second consecutive 5-5 stalemate with West Virginia taking care of Kentucky in the first half on Saturday evening, Kentucky mounted a wild comeback to get the 83-76 win and seal the deal for the SEC 6-4. So for that reason, the SEC is the big winner from Saturday.
Thanks to unexpected wins from Alabama over No. 12 Oklahoma and from Kentucky over No. 7 West Virginia, the SEC can feel good about its standing in the college basketball hierarchy after taking down the Big 12 in impressive fashion.
Elsewhere in the challenge, Florida handled Baylor, Tennessee destroyed Iowa State on the Cyclones' home floor, and perhaps most surprising of all, Vanderbilt handed TCU an L. From top to bottom, it's a big win for the conference, especially considering the underdog matchups that swung the final outcome of the challenge.
And it should be noted that the SEC's best team, Auburn, wasn't selected to participate this year.
Here's the full scoreboard:
- No. 20 Florida 81, Baylor 60
- Alabama 80, No. 12 Oklahoma 73
- No. 22 Tennessee 68, Iowa State, 45
- Vanderbilt 81, TCU 78
- Arkansas 66, Oklahoma State 65
- Kentucky 83, No. 7 West Virginia 76
Big 12 (4)
- No. 14 Texas Tech 70, South Carolina 63
- Texas 85, Ole Miss 72
- Kansas State 56, Georgia 51
- No. 5 Kansas 79, Texas A&M 68
Baylor's NCAA Tournament profile is significantly lacking and its stumbles in Big 12 play this season have the Bears trending towards the NIT rather than the Big Dance. So Saturday's road tilt vs. No. 20 Florida was a potential turning point, for the good, for Scott Drew's team this season. Win and momentum is on your side on the downslope of league play.
Only it wasn't.
The Bears suffered a brutally lopsided 81-60 loss to the Gators, simultaneously blowing their best shot to notch a resume-booster as they enter the home stretch of the season. So now barring a borderline miraculous turnaround in league play, which seems likely out of reach given the way this team has played, it might be time to put Baylor on the afterburner when discussing the postseason.
Avery Johnson's team has been an enigma this season; Alabama rotated between wins and losses all through December and struggled in SEC play coming into January to the point that its postseason outlook appeared bleak. But my, oh my, what a quality win can do for the ol' resume!
The Crimson Tide, behind an 18-point effort from Collin Sexton, toppled No. 12 Oklahoma in Tuscaloosa, Alabama on Saturday 80-73 and got back on track to have new life and, potentially, a heap of positive momentum. Sexton clipped Trae Young to impress the numerous NBA scouts on hand, and did so by getting 18 on an efficient 8 of 14 shooting and adding a pair of assists. When Sexton's fire level is the way it was Saturday, Bama's going to continue to be a tough out. Perhaps this win will propel them to make a run in league play and into the postseason.
Loser: Iowa State
Tennessee vs. Iowa State was a game you should consider yourself fortunate you missed, if you didn't tune in.
Tennessee shot 38.7 percent from the floor, turned the ball over 13 times and still won 68-45 over the Cyclones. It's a testament to just how bad Iowa State played overall, shooting 33.3 percent from the floor and 4 of 17 from beyond the arc and only putting up 45 total points on their home floor. It goes down as ISU's worse home loss since January 23, 2010 when it got thumped by Kansas.
Virginia took it to No. 4 Duke — on Duke's floor — before hanging on to survive a late Duke run 65-63.
Guess what? UVA is 9-0 in ACC play with a three game lead in the league. It has, far and away, the most vaunted defense in the ACC and, perhaps, the country. And it has a stellar coach that continues to lead the program to new heights.
Virginia isn't flashy in any specific area of the game, but a 20-1 overall record kind of speaks for itself, doesn't it
Winner: Stanford Robinson
With the game knotted at 58-all, Jeff Dowtin found Robinson flaring to the corner for a 3-pointer as time expired, and Stanford called game by drilling it at the buzzer to give Rhode Island a 61-58 win.
The last time Duke played a team currently ranked in the Top 25 before Saturday was in November. So those who doubted Duke and its 18-2 record going into Saturday had every right to question the overall resume and the fact that the Blue Devils hadn't been pushed like other highly-ranked teams.
Saturday, though, was as good a chance as any to silence those naysayers. Against the No. 2 team in the country, Duke could have beat Virginia and edged closer to first place in the ACC standings. It could have made a statement that it could win against any team, no matter the style. But instead, the Blue Devils struggled with turnovers against UVA's pack line defense, hit on only 4 of 15 3-point attempts, and couldn't crack the Tony Bennett code that has been vexing to them for so long.
Winner: NC State
It's hard to find a bigger winner than NC State from Saturday.
The Wolfpack notched a massive 95-91 overtime win over No. 10 North Carolina on the road -- their first win over a top-10 UNC team since 2007 -- and significantly . With wins now over three top-10 wins this season alone, NC State played its way into the bubble conversation at minimum. Earlier wins over Arizona and Duke earlier this season are going to age like a fine wine.