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Bubble Banter: Did Virginia Tech just lock-up their NCAA tournament bid?

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As we will do every day throughout the rest of the season, here is a look at how college basketball’s bubble teams fared on Saturday.

It’s worth reminding you here that the way winning are labeled have changed this season. Instead of looking at all top 50 wins equally, the selection committee will be using criteria that breaks wins down into four quadrants, using the RPI:

  • Quadrant 1: Home vs. 1-30, Neutral vs. 1-50, Road vs. 1-75
  • Quadrant 2: Home vs. 31-75, Neutral vs. 51-100, Road vs. 76-135
  • Quadrant 3: Home vs. 76-160, Neutral vs. 101-200, Road vs. 136-240
  • Quadrant 4: Home vs. 161 plus, Neutral vs. 201 plus, Road vs. 240 plus

The latest NBC Sports Bracketology can be found here.

WINNERS

VIRGINIA TECH (RPI: 71, KenPom: 42, NBC seed: 10): The Hokies landed the best win that you can possibly land on Saturday, going into John Paul Jones Arena and knocking off Virginia, No. 2 in the country and No. 1 in the RPI. And with that, the Hokies will no longer be on the bubble when we do this again next week. Not only do they now have four Quadrant 1 wins and an 8-6 record against the top two Quadrants, they now have two top ten wins and of their six remaining games, three more are against top ten teams and a fourth is against a top 25 opponent. Put another way, those losses are not necessarily going to hurt their profile. It’s too early to call Virginia Tech a lock for the tournament, not when they have a Quadrant 3 loss and a non-conference SOS of 312, but it is not too early to say they’ll be dancing so long as they don’t do anything dumb the rest of the way.

OKLAHOMA STATE (RPI: 107, KenPom: 71, NBC seed: Out): For the second time this season, Oklahoma State went on the road and knocked off one of the best teams in the Big 12. On Saturday, it was West Virginia that the Cowboys picked off. The Pokes are just 15-10 on the season, but they are 4-7 against Quadrant 1 with just one loss outside the top two Quadrants. That was against Baylor at home. Frankly, the Pokes still have work to do, but a top ten road win and a top 25 road win keep them in the mix, and “in the mix” is far more than anyone expected out of OSU this season.

MISSOURI (RPI: 25, KenPom: 38, NBC seed: 9): The Tigers are slowly but surely playing themselves into a place where they won’t have to sweat it out on Selection Sunday. On Saturday, they blew a 12-point lead in the final 90 seconds and ended up having to head to overtime, but Kevin Puryear hit a huge three and Jordan Geist drew a critical charge as the Tigers got a win over Mississippi State. The Tigers are 5-6 against Quadrant 1 opponents and now 9-7 in Quadrant 1 and 3 games. Their only Quadrant 3 loss came on a neutral against Illinois in the Bragging Rights game.

BAYLOR (RPI: 62, KenPom: 40, NBC seed: Out): A win over Kansas at home means that we probably should talk about the Bears. They are now just 2-8 against Quadrant 1 foes with no losses to teams outside the top two Quadrants. Every game they play the rest of the way would be a Quadrant 1 win: at Texas, Texas Tech, West Virginia, at TCU, Oklahoma, at Kansas State. This thing is doable for the Fighting Scott Drews.

ARKANSAS (RPI: 35, KenPom: 44, NBC seed: 10): Arkansas did what they needed to do on Saturday, beating Vanderbilt at home. Now they need to go out and get a win at Ole Miss this week, because the end of their season is a killer: Texas A&M, Kentucky, at Alabama, Auburn, at Missouri. That’s five Quadrant 1 games.

TCU (RPI: 25, KenPom: 22, NBC seed: 10): TCU snapped a two-game losing streak and added another Quadrant 2 win to their name on Saturday night as they picked off Texas at home. The Horned Frogs are just 3-7 against Quadrant 1 foes, but they are now 4-1 against Quadrant 2 and do not have a loss beyond that.

NEBRASKA (RPI: 55, KenPom: 56, NBC seed: Next four out): The Huskers did what they needed to do: they won. If Tim Miles wants a real chance of getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, the cannot lose until they win at least one, if not two Quadrant 1 games in the Big Ten tournament. They have not won one yet this season and will not play another one during the regular season. Beating Rutgers does not help them.

ST. BONAVENTURE (RPI: 47, KenPom: 69, NBC seed: Next four out): The Bonnies handled their business against Richmond on Saturday evening, although the only reason that win helps them is because it doesn’t hurt them. The Bonnies are 3-2 in Quadrant 1 games but they also have two Quadrant 3 losses. I think they need to win out, but I think they have a shot to make up the ground if they do. They only play one top 100 team the rest of the year, but that is Rhode Island (5) at home.

MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE (RPI: 28, KenPom: 45, NBC seed: 11): It’s simple with Middle Tennessee: They cannot lose a game unless it is to Western Kentucky in the Conference USA tournament if they want a real chance at being an at-large team. On Saturday, they beat North Texas (193).

TEMPLE (RPI: 38, KenPom: 88, NBC seed: Next four out): The Owls are still in the mix because they have some unbelievable wins — Auburn, Clemson, Wichita State — but they also have four Quadrant 3 losses. That’s not good, and that’s why they had to beat South Florida (290) on the road today. They did. I think Temple needs to go at least 4-1 down the stretch to get a bid.

LOSERS

PROVIDENCE (RPI: 47, KenPom: 73, NBC seed: 10): The Friars have six Quadrant 1 wins this season, which, in theory, should mean that they can handle taking some bad losses. But just how many can they survive? On Saturday, they suffered their third Quadrant 3 loss of the year, getting absolutely pummeled at home by DePaul. They’ve also lost at UMass and at home to Minnesota; there should be an asterisk for the Minnesota game, as the Gophers fell off a cliff thanks to injuries and off-the-court scandal. The Friars are still in a good spot, but they have more work to do than they did 24 hours ago. Their remaining schedule: Villanova, at Butler, Seton Hall, at Georgetown, at Xavier, St. John’s. They probably need at least three of those, but four would make life a lot less stressful.

WASHINGTON (RPI: 38, KenPom: 99, NBC seed: 10): It was a disastrous road trip this week for Washington. They lost at Oregon by 25 points on Thursday night and followed that up by losing in overtime at Oregon State on a Stevie Thompson buzzer-beater. That’s problematic for Washington. They have five Quadrant 1 wins, but they also now have a pair of Quadrant 3 losses. What’s worse is that they play no more Quadrant 1 games, and only three of their remaining six games come against Quadrant 2 opponents.

USC (RPI: 48, KenPom: 46, NBC seed: First four out): USC is in a much more difficult spot than many might imagine. As of today, they are probably not an NCAA tournament team. A home loss to Princeton (204) just keeps looking worse and worse, while the only two Quadrant 1 wins to their name came against mid-major foes — Middle Tennessee State and New Mexico State. I have a feeling that giving away a win at Arizona State on Thursday night is going to end up hurting this team more than people think.

MARQUETTE (RPI: 60, KenPom: 49, NBC seed: First four out): Marquette dropped to 14-11 on the season losing at St. John’s on Saturday. The Golden Eagles have now lost five of their last six games and sit at 3-9 against Quadrant 1 teams; believe it or not, after starting Big East play with 11 straight losses, St. John’s is now a Quadrant 1 loss. So this isn’t the killer for Marquette you might think it is, but the Golden Eagles certainly need to start stacking some wins and quick.

BOISE STATE (RPI: 34, KenPom: 48, NBC seed: First four out): Boise State is in trouble after losing at Utah State on Saturday night. They don’t have a Quadrant 1 win and have just five Quadrant 2 wins. The good news? Beating Boise means that Utah State is now a Quadrant 2 loss (130), so I still think winning out — which would include beating Nevada at home — might be enough.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (RPI: 56, KenPom: 61, NBC seed: Next four out): The Bulldogs had their four-game winning streak snapped at Missouri in a tough way. After coming back from 12 down in the final 90 seconds, Mississippi State was whistled for an offensive foul on a would-be game-winning three that went in. As a result, they still have just two Quadrant 1 wins and a non-conference SOS in the 300s.

UCLA (RPI: 50, KenPom: 49, NBC seed: Last four in): The Bruins were playing with house money on Saturday after they picked off Arizona in Tucson on Saturday, and it looked like it. Arizona State was in control throughout as the Bruins dropped to 2-4 against Quadrant 1 opponents. The big issue right now for UCLA is that four of their eight losses come outside Quadrant 1 — including one Quadrant 3 loss — but the good news is that their last three games are all Quadrant 1 games: at Utah, at Colorado, at USC.

KANSAS STATE (RPI: 65, KenPom: 57, NBC seed: 11): Losing to Texas Tech, the current leaders in the Big 12 title race, is hardly a bad loss. But where this might end up costing the Wildcats is that this was their last chance to land a Quadrant 1 win at home. Their remaining three home games: Baylor, Texas and Oklahoma State. If they can’t win at Oklahoma or at TCU, then K-State will be heading into Selection Sunday with four Quadrant 1 wins, a Quadrant 3 loss and a non-conference SOS in the 320s.

BUTLER (RPI: 34, KenPom: 21, NBC seed: 9): Butler is sitting in a pretty good spot right now. All nine of their losses are to Quadrant 1 opponents, but they have just a 3-9 record in Quadrant 1 games after blowing a 13-point lead at Villanova on Saturday. If Butler goes 2-3 down the stretch, they should probably be in with room to spare.

N.C. STATE (RPI: 71, KenPom: 60, NBC seed: Play-in game): Like Butler, where N.C. State really hurt themselves was opportunity cost. They had a chance to land a marquee win against North Carolina and just could not get enough stops down the stretch. The Wolfpack have a number of great wins (at North Carolina, Duke, Clemson, Arizona) but are in a bit of a tough spot because of three Quadrant 3 losses and a less-than-stellar non-conference SOS. Four wins down the stretch should get the job done.

Bubble Banter: There will be some NCAA tournament bids determined today

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As we will do every day throughout the rest of the season, here is a look at how college basketball’s bubble teams fared on Saturday.

It’s worth reminding you here that the way winning are labeled have changed this season. Instead of looking at all top 50 wins equally, the selection committee will be using criteria that breaks wins down into four quadrants, using the RPI:

  • Quadrant 1: Home vs. 1-30, Neutral vs. 1-50, Road vs. 1-75
  • Quadrant 2: Home vs. 31-75, Neutral vs. 51-100, Road vs. 76-135
  • Quadrant 3: Home vs. 76-160, Neutral vs. 101-200, Road vs. 136-240
  • Quadrant 4: Home vs. 161 plus, Neutral vs. 201 plus, Road vs. 240 plus

The latest NBC Sports Bracketology can be found here.

WINNERS

FLORIDA (RPI: 63, KenPom: 32, NBC seed: 9): Florida landed a massive win on Saturday night, picking off Auburn at home. They now have eight Quadrant 1 wins, including Gonzaga and Cincinnati on neutral courts, Texas A&M and Kentucky on the road and, now, Auburn at home. With two Quadrant 1 games left, I think the Gators are just about a lock.

LOUISVILLE (RPI: 39, KenPom: 32, NBC seed: Next four out): The Cardinals landed a big, big win on Saturday afternoon as they went into Virginia Tech and picked up a win. It’s their third Quadrant 1 win and the 19-10 Cards now have a 5-10 record against the top two Quadrants. I still think Louisville needs to win at least two more games. Next week, they play Virginia at home and at N.C. State before the ACC tournament commences.

TEXAS (RPI: 51, KenPom: 43, NBC seed: Play-in game): Texas landed a massive win on Saturday at home against Oklahoma State for one, simple reason: Losing to the Pokes would have been a disaster. Texas is 5-9 against Quadrant 1 opponents and they have eight wins against the top two quadrants with no bad losses. But they are 17-12 on the season and 7-9 in the Big 12 with games left at Kansas and at home against West Virginia. They could not afford to add a Quadrant 3 loss to their profile. As it stands, I think they are in if they beat West Virginia and win their first game in the Big 12 tournament.

ST. BONAVENTURE (RPI: 26, KenPom: 69, NBC seed: 12): The Bonnies added another Quadrant 2 win to their résumé on Saturday as they went into Richmond and knocked off VCU. They are now 4-2 against Quadrant 1 — with a win over Rhode Island — also a season-opening loss to Niagara is weighing their chances down. I’ve said all along, they need to win out in the regular season and, ideally, lose to URI in the Atlantic 10 tournament if they want an at-large.

SAINT MARY’S  (RPI: 37, KenPom: 22, NBC seed: 11): I don’t think that the Gaels will be in real danger of missing the NCAA tournament unless they take a truly terrible loss in the WCC tournament, but I think it is pointing out just how flimsy their profile is. They’ve played just one Quadrant 1 game this season, their win at Gonzaga, and are just 3-2 against the top two Quadrants with two Quadrant 3 losses.

PROVIDENCE (RPI: 43, KenPom: 71, NBC seed: 10): The Friars avoided what could have been a disastrous loss by handing on to beat Georgetown in Washington D.C. on Saturday. The Friars had lost two in a row — at Butler and Seton Hall at home — and play at Xavier on Wednesday, meaning that they would be staring a four-game losing streak in the face had they lost at Georgetown. As it stands, Providence is 3-7 against Quadrant 1, which includes home wins over Xavier and Villanova, but they’ve also lost two Quadrant 3 and one Quadrant 4 games.

MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE (RPI: , KenPom: 43, NBC seed: 11): Middle Tennessee has had some good things happen to them in recent days. Belmont and Murray State have both climbed into the top 75 of the RPI, meaning that the Blue Raiders have gone from having one Quadrant 1 win to three Quadrant 1 wins. At the same time, Belmont is now 76th in the RPI. If they climb into the top 75, they will no longer be a Quadrant 3 loss for MTSU. These are the dangers of grouping. Regardless, the way I see it, MTSU has to win out and lose to either Western Kentucky or Old Dominion in the CUSA tournament if they want an at-large bid.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (RPI: 56, KenPom: 50, NBC seed: Next four out): The Bulldogs continue to creep closer to the bubble, but their biggest issue at this point is that they only have one win that can truly be looked at as a good win: at Texas A&M. MSU has a second Quadrant 1 win, but it is at South Carolina, who is 73rd in the RPI. They really need to beat Tennessee at home on Tuesday.

SETON HALL (RPI: 21, KenPom: 31, NBC seed: 8): Seton Hall stumbled their way onto the bubble by losing four straight to start February, but they’re rebounded with three straight wins. Surviving a postponed game at Providence might have been what put the Pirates in the Dance. I think they are a lock with one more win.

OKLAHOMA (RPI: 33, KenPom: 39, NBC seed: 10): The losing streak is over. The Sooners snapped a six-game skid by beating Kansas State at home. They are now 6-8 against Quadrant 1 and 9-11 against the top two Quadrants. I still think their margin for error is slim given that they still play Iowa State in the regular season, but for my money, they’re in with two more wins, including the Big 12 tournament, and right on the cut-line in with one more win.

TEXAS A&M (RPI: 25, KenPom: 31, NBC seed: 9): The Aggies snapped a three-game losing streak by going into Vanderbilt and getting a win. The biggest issue for the Aggies right now is that it is hard to project how the committee is going to value their roster. They’ve had more suspensions and injuries than anyone I can remember. I think it would behoove them to win out in the regular season. That would get them to 20-11 overall and 9-9 in the SEC.

USC (RPI: 29, KenPom: 51, NBC seed: First four out): USC has now won four straight games after sweeping the mountain schools this week. The loss to Princeton could be a killer for them — there are not many bubble teams with a Quadrant 4 loss to their name — but the Trojans were without two rotation players in that game. They are now 7-8 against the top two Quadrants. The biggest issue for USC at this point is that they just don’t have much in the way of quality wins. Beating Utah is just their second Quadrant 1 win because New Mexico State, who USC beat in the title game of the Diamond Head Classic, fell out of the top 50. A win over Middle Tennessee State on a neutral is their only other Quadrant 1 win.

WASHINGTON (RPI: 51, KenPom: 96, NBC seed: Last four in): Washington avoided disaster by beating Cal on Saturday. They’ll need to do the same next week against Oregon State and Oregon. If they can do that, the Huskies will have a shot. They are 3-3 against Quadrant 1 opponents but they also have two Quadrant 3 losses to their name. That win over Kansas in Kansas City looks better and better.

MIAMI (RPI: 28, KenPom: 39, NBC seed: 8): The Hurricanes overcame a late deficit to knock off Boston College at home, which is big considering that Miami had been sliding of slide. Before this week, they had lost three straight games and are now 20-8 on the season. They are 4-4 against Quadrant 1 with a Quadrant 3 loss, and it is worth noting that they don’t really have any great wins: Middle Tennessee on a neutral, at N.C. State, at Virginia Tech, at Notre Dame. I think they’re closer to the bubble than you might think.

TCU (RPI: 20, KenPom: 21, NBC seed: 9): The Horned Frogs have just about punched their ticket. A win over Baylor today was yet another good win. They now have four Quadrant 1 and four Quadrant 2 wins without a single loss outside the top two Quadrants. If they lose out it will be interesting, so I would say they need one more win to lock up a bid.

LOSERS

VIRGINIA TECH (RPI: 56, KenPom: 35, NBC seed: 9): Virginia Tech is still in a pretty good spot, but they certainly didn’t help themselves by losing at home against Louisville. The good thing for the Hokies is that they are 4-6 against Quadrant 1 with the single-best win in college basketball this season — a win at Virginia. But a non-conference SOS in the 320s and a Quadrant 3 loss puts them in a more difficult position than you would think. If they beat Duke at home or win at Miami next week, they’ll be fine no matter what happens in the ACC tournament. If they lose both, then it gets interesting.

LSU (RPI: 75, KenPom: 63, NBC seed: Play-in game): The Tigers had their two-game winning streak snapped at Georgia on Saturday. On the one hand, that’s a Quadrant 1 loss. It doesn’t exactly hurt them. On the other hand, for a team that is already on the margins — they are 16-12 overall and 7-9 in the SEC with a Quadrant 3 loss — any quality win they can add is important. I think they need to win at least three more games to really feel comfortable.

BAYLOR (RPI: 58, KenPom: 38, NBC seed: Play-in game): The Bears lost their second straight game on Saturday, falling to 16-12 overall and 7-9 in the Big 12. They are in a tough spot now. They have four Quadrant 1 wins but they are just 4-10 in those Quadrant 1 games. All 12 of their losses, however, are “good” losses, and they still play Oklahoma at home and Kansas State on the road before the Big 12 tournament. I don’t think they can get a big with 14 losses, so I think they need to win two more during the regular season and maybe another one in the Big 12 tournament.

KANSAS STATE (RPI: 55, KenPom: 47, NBC seed: 10): Losing at Oklahoma isn’t a killer for Kansas State by any stretch. They are now 20-9 on the season, with a 3-8 mark against Quadrant 1 and six Quadrant 2 wins. The big issue they have is that there is that home loss to Tulsa — that’s a Quadrant 3 loss, but Tulsa is 79th in the RPI and if they make it into the top 75 it will be Quadrant 2 — as well as a non-conference SOS that’s in the 310s. Throw in an RPI in the 50s, and the Wildcats need to at least split down the stretch to really feel confident.

UTAH (RPI: 49, KenPom: 59, NBC seed: First four out): Utah had a chance to play their way into the conversation if they had won out during the regular season and maybe won a game or two in the Pac-12 tournament. I guess there is still a chance, but for my money, the Utes should plan on winning the automatic bid for the Pac-12 if they want to go dancing.

MARQUETTE (RPI: 64, KenPom: 52, NBC seed: First four out): Marquette took their worst loss of the season on Saturday afternoon, going into Chicago and losing at DePaul, the first Quadrant 3 loss for the Golden Eagles. They are now 16-12 on the season and 7-9 in the Big East with just four Quadrant 1 wins. I don’t think the dream is dead yet, but the biggest issue Marquette currently faces is that they cannot help themselves without winning a game or two in the Big East tournament.

SMU (RPI: 94, KenPom: 75, NBC seed: Out): I’m only mentioning SMU here because I think it’s worth nothing that they’ve lost six of their last seven while Shake Milton has been out with a broken hand. At 16-13 overall and 6-10 in the American, it may not matter. But they did win by 23 points at Wichita State with him healthy. It’s at least worth being aware of.

Jevon Carter makes history as No. 21 WVU beats Iowa State 85-70

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Jevon Carter scored 24 points and made some history as No. 21 West Virginia pulled away for an 85-70 victory over Iowa State on Saturday.

With 15:59 left in the first half, Carter picked up his first assist of the game, setting up a 3-pointer by Esa Ahmad to become the first major-conference player in NCAA history to record more than 1,500 points, 500 rebounds, 500 assists and 300 steals in a career.

West Virginia (21-8, 10-6 Big 12) was held in check early by the short-handed Cyclones. Iowa State played only five starters and two reserves and led the Mountaineers by as much as four with 11 minutes left in the first half.

WVU clawed back to tie the game at 28 with 3:39 left, and then closed out the half on an 11-2 run to take a 39-30 halftime lead. The Mountaineers opened the second half with an 8-2 run, and the Cyclones never recovered.

Ahmad had 18 points and 11 rebounds for his second career double-double. Sagaba Konate added 14 points along with six blocks, and Daxter Miles scored 14 points.

Lindell Wigginton led Iowa State (13-15, 4-12) with 29 points. Terrence Lewis added 12 points and Cameron Lard grabbed 10 rebounds.

BIG PICTURE

Iowa State remains winless on the road in the Big 12 with one opportunity remaining, at Oklahoma on Mar. 2. The Cyclones will get Donovon Jackson back for their home game against Oklahoma State on Tuesday. Jackson missed Saturday’s game to attend his father’s funeral.

West Virginia has won three of its last four games and has a chance to earn the No. 2 seed in the Big 12 tournament.

Landale leads No. 22 Saint Mary’s past Santa Clara, 67-40

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MORAGA, Calif. — Jock Landale was more concerned about enhancing the postseason prospects for Saint Mary’s than he was about making a final appearance at McKeon Pavilion.

It could be another two weeks before the 22nd-ranked Gaels know their fate for certain, but they like their chances of getting into the NCAA Tournament after closing out the regular season with a third straight win.

Landale had 19 points and eight rebounds in his final home game, and No. 22 Saint Mary’s beat Santa Clara 67-40 on Saturday.

Emmett Naar added 12 points and Calvin Hermanson had 10 on Senior Day for Saint Mary’s (27-4, 16-2 West Coast Conference). Jordan Ford scored 13.

“We all did a really good job of blocking (Senior Day) out,” Landale said. “The way we looked at it was we don’t want to play another home game. We want to stay out of the NIT.”

The Gaels appeared in good shape thanks to a 19-game winning streak earlier this season, but their hopes dipped after back-to-back losses earlier this month.

That’s why coach Randy Bennett felt his team still needed to make a favorable impression on the selection committee.

“Absolutely,” Bennett said. “We were 27-5 after the conference tournament (two years ago) and we were watching. You just have to think like an optimist and work like a pessimist. That’s where we’re at.”

A matchup of the top two scorers in the WCC fizzled out quickly when Santa Clara’s KJ Feagin limped off the court with a sprained left ankle with 7:16 left in the first half. He did not return.

Landale had an uneven game in his final appearance at McKeon Pavilion. He missed five of his first nine shots and at times looked uncomfortable in the paint against 267-pound Santa Clara center Emmanuel Ndumanya before helping the Gaels pull away in the second half.

The conference’s top scorer and rebounder, Landale scored 10 points and had a pair of dunks in the second half, including one that put Saint Mary’s up 56-34.

The Gaels struggled from the perimeter but made up for it in the backcourt. Naar, the Gaels’ career assist leader who has been nursing a sore left ankle for the past week, had only one against Santa Clara (11-19, 8-10) but repeatedly scored on drives through the lane.

Ford also gave the Broncos problems and provided the game’s signature moment when he flipped the ball off the glass and in with his left hand after driving past a pair of defenders.

“It gives us another look,” Naar said. “Jock is obviously the bulk of our scoring. If we can penetrate and get inside the key, different teams will do different things. Today they tried to make us finish and score.”

Henry Caruso had 14 points and seven rebounds for Santa Clara.

The Broncos, who lost to the Gaels 81-57 in January, struggled to get anything going without Feagin. Santa Clara went scoreless for nearly eight minutes in the first half and shot 23.5 percent for the game.

TIP-INS

Santa Clara: Feagin had four points on 2-of-7 shooting when he got hurt and appeared to get emotional on the bench after being examined by a team trainer. The junior guard had been averaging 23.5 points over the previous four games. Ndumanya also went down late in the second half after a hard fall on the court but walked off on his power.

Saint Mary’s: Hermanson went 2 for 2 on 3-pointers. The rest of the Gaels were a combined 1 of 8 beyond the arc.

AND STILL COUNTING

The Gaels are 106-25 over the past four seasons with Landale, Naar and Hermanson on the roster.

QUOTABLE

“That’s like a third punch, and we have to have it. Your first punch is Jock. The second punch is you’re shooting 3s. The third punch is you have to get penetration.” — Bennett on the play of Saint Mary’s guards.

VIDEO: Creighton gives Greg McDermott a heart attack celebrating win over No. 3 Villanova

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Creighton upset No. 3 Villanova on Saturday night.

Afterwards, they celebrated with head coach Greg McDermott and nearly stopped the man’s heart as they doused him with water to celebrate in the locker room:

No. 5 Duke holds Syracuse to 44 points as winning streak extends to five

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Marvin Bagley III returned to the Duke lineup on Saturday night and poured in a team-high 19 points in 31 minutes as the No. 6 Blue Devils knocked off Syracuse in Cameron Indoor, 60-44, despite shooting just 2-for-18 from three on the night.

Bagley looked healthy. He didn’t look too out of shape. He added seven boards and he made 8-of-9 field goals and, after a slow start, looked like the guy that we’ve become accustomed to seeing in a Duke uniform.

And that’s important.

As good as Duke has played in the last two weeks without Bagley, they are just not the same basketball team without him. He’s a freak, an alien, a talent unlike just about any other in the sport this season. But it is also key to note that the reason that Duke thrived without Bagley is that Grayson Allen took over the lead guard role and found a rhythm while the Blue Devils excelled playing exclusively a zone defense.

Which is why the most important takeaway from Saturday night is that Duke was awesome defensively. Again. Syracuse scored just 44 points, the fewest that Duke has allowed in an ACC game since giving up 40 points to Clemson in January of 2013, and notched just .657 points-per-possession. That is the best performance Duke has had defensively in this recent run of five games.

During this winning streak, the Blue Devils have allowed just 0.837 PPP, which would be the best in the country if they did it over the course of an entire season. For comparison’s sake, Virginia is second nationally in defensive PPP at 0.86.

Duke used Bagley as a wing in their 2-3 zone. They used him in lineups that included two other bigs — Carter and Bolden as well as Carter and DeLaurier. They played him at the top of their 1-2-2 three-quarter court press. He was active and engaged and a positive influence on that end of the floor; that hasn’t always been the case with him.

That’s another good sign.

As is the fact that Allen finished with six assists and just one turnover. He didn’t shoot the ball well — he was just 3-for-9 from the field and missed all six of his threes — but no one on Duke did. That might just be the result of playing Syracuse; the Orange are rated as college basketball’s 10th best defense on KenPom.

When Duke plays the way that they did on Saturday — the way that they have over the last two weeks — they are the best team in college basketball.