College basketball scores, winners & losers: ACC tightens up after Florida State falls, Kansas controls Big 12

The first day of February saw eight top-25 teams fall to unranked opponents in one of the biggest shakeup Saturdays of the college basketball season. Fittingly, the final day of February has been nearly as frantic as favorites fell like flies and underdogs — with motivations to add to the regular season resume ahead of Selection Sunday in two weeks — accomplished exactly that on Saturday.

Among those who filled February’s final day with chaos: TCU, with its win over No. 2 Baylor; Clemson, with its win over No. 6 Florida State; and Providence and Texas with its wins over No. 12 Villanova and No. 22 Texas Tech, respectively. And that’s just a handful of outcomes that shook the sport.

More than anything, though, Saturday distilled otherwise-murky conference races across the country. Kansas grabbed the upper hand in the Big 12 at the expense of Baylor’s L. Kentucky clinched the SEC outright by side-swiping Auburn at home. And Seton Hall stole Marquette’s Senior Day show by taking out the Golden Eagles — solidifying themselves as the team to beat in the Big East. 

There were plenty of other winners and losers from the day that was, too. So let’s take a spin throughout the sport and sort out the rubble.

Winner: Kentucky’s continued SEC dominance

How’s this for dominance: Kentucky, with its 73-66 win over Auburn on Saturday, clinched its 49th SEC regular season championship. That’s more than the next eight SEC teams have won … combined. 

And John Calipari doesn’t put hardly any stock into the accomplishment.

“It’s not so much winning our league, or winning our league tournament,” he said after the game. “It is ‘what are we learning and preparing so when we walk into March, we’re ready like our teams historically have been?'”

Whatever this team is learning, it’s impressive. Kentucky has won eight-straight and 12 of its last 13. This team has cracked the SEC code. 

Winner: The Providence retro jerseys

I move for Providence to make its retro jerseys a staple in its regular rotation moving forward:

Not only are these jerseys the picture you’ll find next to the fire emoji in the Webster’s dictionary, Providence — and I cannot explain this — is borderline unstoppable when donning these bad boys. As Brendan McGair of the Pawtucket Times notes, the Friars are 5-1 when going retro, including an upset 58-54 win Saturday over No. 12 Villanova. It’s time to make these a nightly look. It’s like when players refuse to shave their beard on a winning streak — why switch to something else when you’ve got something working?

Loser: Evansville’s historic collapse

When Evansville did the unthinkable earlier this season, defeating Kentucky at Rupp Arena 67-64, it looked like the Purple Aces could emerge as the feel-good mid-major of the season. 

Then a month later, coach Walter McCarty was placed on leave. Then another month later, McCarty was fired. All the while, Evansville’s season was circling the drain and flushing towards disaster. Now there’s no doubt: it’s historically bad. According to Stats by STATS, Evansville became the first NCAA team ever to beat a No. 1-ranked AP team and go on to subsequently lose each of its conference games, falling 71-60 to Illinois State on Saturday to clinch an 0-18 mark in the Missouri Valley Conference.

Winner: Sportsmanship in the Sunflower Showdown

When Kansas and Kansas State met up earlier in the Big 12 slate, the game ended in an all-out brawl that resulted in multiple suspensions and a public reprimand from the league office. When the two met up Saturday, nearly every player made physical contact with the opposing team … as a sign of sportsmanship.

No. 1 Kansas went on to win 62-58, and despite how closely contested the game was, there were no flare-ups, no punches thrown. Given how the last game between KU and K-State ended, that in itself is a win.

Loser: Udoka Azubuike’s health

Kansas and its national championship hopes this season have always hinged on one massive caveat: Udoka Azubuike’s health. Since his season has been cut short due to injury twice during his Jayhawks career, Azubuike staying healthy has always been a question mark. And now it’s an even bigger one after he went down twice against K-State with what appeared to be a lower leg/foot injury.

Azubuike played just 20 minutes and was clearly hampered after going down early, however Coach Bill Self played off the severity of the injuries, saying Saturday he imagines “he’ll be fine.”

“The way he laid on the ground initially, you would have thought that amputation was a viable course of action,” joked Self. “But he came back and at least he gave us some minutes. I imagine he’ll be fine, but a big guy with a turned ankle like that probably is affected more than a guard.”

Loser: Florida State falls to Clemson

Things have been going so well for Florida State this month that it may have got caught with its hands in the cookie jar. The Seminoles fell 70-69 on the road to Clemson, once again evening up the ACC regular-season race and prying open the door — ever so slightly — for Louisville to enter the backdoor as a conference winner. With two games to go, both are 14-4 in the league standings. FSU may look back on this one and have some real regrets about not buckling down to take this one seriously.

Winner: UConn’s Bouknight has bunnies

I have but one word to offer up: WHAT?!?

UConn’s James Bouknight’s one of the most underrated freshmen in the sport and one of the most athletic in the AAC. Apparently all it took for America to discover him was one of the top five most athletic jams of the college basketball season.

Loser: Liberty’s chance at the ASUN

All Liberty had to do Saturday to clinch the regular season ASUN title outright was to beat Lipscomb — a team it beat by seven points last month — on the road as a nine-point favorite. Easier said than done.

The Flames were burned by Lipscomb 77-71, blowing their chance to take the league’s regular season title outright. They finish the season as ASUN co-champions with North Florida. 

There’s no shame in a co-conference title, but for as good as 27-4 looks on paper, its resume remains lacking. Entering postseason play, Liberty has zero Quadrant 1 wins, one Quadrant 2 win, and a combined 24 Quadrant 3 and 4 wins (20 of which are of the Quad 4 variety). Not an impressive body of work that could have been boosted with an outright conference crown.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *