Duke, Ohio State, and Kansas.
No matter where you look, the general consensus seems to be that these three teams — in this order — are the three best teams in the country. And on Sunday, all three of these teams came close to being knocked from the ranks of the undefeated.
Duke hung on against rival Maryland on Sunday night 70-64. The Terps got a big night from Jordan Williams, who finished with 23 points and 13 boards, and after a 7-0 run to start the second half, Maryland was up 38-32. But Duke responded, led by Seth Curry and Tyler Thornton, with a 14-2 run to take a 46-40 lead and never allowed Maryland to tie the game. The closest they would get was 55-54, but Kyle Singler, who had 25 points and 10 boards, hit a three that sparked an 8-2 spurt as Maryland was never able to get within one possession the rest of the way. The Terps focused on slowing down Nolan Smith, who finished with 18 points on 5-18 shooting, but also added eight assists and seven boards.
Ohio State hung on to beat Minnesota at home 67-64 despite blowing a big second half lead. The Buckeyes were up 55-37 with nine minutes left after David Lighty hit back-to-back threes, but Minnesota responded with a 12-1 run. The Buckeyes would push the lead back to eleven with just 3:40 left on the clock, but Minnesota wasn’t ready to go away. The Gophers scored eight of the next nine points, and after Al Nolen scored five straight, Minnesota was down 67-64 with just 44 seconds left. They fouled Dallas Lauderdale, a 33% FT shooter, and he missed both. After Minnesota missed two shots around the rim, Austin Hollins had a game-tying three pointer miss at the buzzer.
Kansas had probably the most exhilarating game of the three, knocking off the Wolverines 67-60 on the road. The Jayhawks never trailed in this one, taking a 13 point lead in the second half despite shooting 36% from the floor and 4-24 from three. Michigan was ever worse, shooting 33% and 4-28 from deep, but the Wolverines still managed to come all the way back and tie the game on a Darius Morris turnaround jumper in the final minute. Zack Novak hit a three to open the overtime, but Kansas would respond as the Morrii would combine to score the next eight points. The Jayhawks were never really threatened after that.
With the number of upsets that happened on Saturday and the three triple-overtime games we had this weekend, I think it is safe to say that college basketball’s conference season is officially underway.