Leave it to a football school to hijack BracketBuster weekend.
Nebraska’s 70-67 win over No. 3 Texas went down as the day’s biggest surprise – the Longhorns hadn’t lost a Big 12 game and were seven-point favorites – which is saying something given two other Top 10 teams lost and two other Top 25 teams had close calls vs. the worst teams in their conferences.
So yeah, there’s a lot to cover in this Saturday’s 10 Takeaways.
The day’s best game also featured the day’s best play – and perhaps the nation’s best player. Derrick Williams saved Arizona with a last-second emphatic block on Washington’s Darnell Gant, giving the Wildcats an 87-86 win. My words won’t do the block justice, so click here to watch. Williams finished with 26 points and 11 boards as Arizona (23-4, 12-2 in Pac-10 play) maintained their league lead on UCLA. Added bonus? ‘Zona plays UCLA next weekend.
Worthy of a 1?
Texas lost. So did Pitt. That means all four top seeds in Dave Ommen’s latest NCAA tournament projections have fallen in the last week. The Longhorns (23-4, 11-1) could be seen as the weakest of those four. Rob Dauster says one loss shouldn’t derail the ‘Horns from that spot, but it does open things up for San Diego State or Duke.
Red Storm rising
One of those upsets came courtesy of Steve Lavin’s St. John’s squad, which handed Pitt just its second Big East loss. You’ll hear rumblings that Dwight Hardy’s game-winning shot shouldn’t have counted because he appeared to be of bounds, but the point’s moot. Also moot? Any talk about the Johnnies wrapping up an NCAA tournament bid. Um, hello? St. John’s (17-9, 9-5) has now beaten five Top 10 teams. That’s nuts.
Coming on the heels of VCU’s impressive win Friday at Wichita State, the CAA watched conference leader George Mason win its 13th straight – the longest streak in D-I – at Northern Iowa. The Patriots (23-5, 14-2) rallied from seven down with just over 13 minutes left in a game that didn’t really showcase just how good the Patriots can be. Meanwhile, the CAA can earn another solid win if ODU beats Cleveland State on Sunday.
No league came off worse on BracketBuster weekend than the Missouri Valley. The league’s three top teams lost (Missouri State, Northern Iowa and Wichita State on Friday night) and four of the other seven teams in action also lost. Much to MVC fans’ dismay, this isn’t a mutli-bid league in March.
WAC-y second half
Utah State needed an impressive road win to boost its NCAA tournament case, and did just that by clamping down on St. Mary’s shooters in a 75-65 win. It was the first RPI Top 100 win for the Aggies (25-3, 12-1), who outscored the Gaels by 19 in the second half. On the road. The Gaels? They’ll need to win the WCC tournament.
Bubble, bubble, bubble
It’s that time of year when roughly 30 teams affect their NCAA tournament status with their weekend play. That’s clearly too many to recap here, so I’ll let Rob Dauster do the work. But I will say this – Michigan State is trying to ruin some 5 seed’s first-round game.
It took South Carolina more than six minutes to score vs. Kentucky and didn’t even break double digits until 11 minutes had passed in a 90-59 loss. It was even worse for Boston College’s trip to Chapel Hill. The Eagles went scoreless until 12:15 was left in the first half. Yet, unlike the Gamecocks, B.C. actually played defense and took North Carolina down to the wire in a 48-46 loss.
Xavier was in the middle of a terrible performance against A-10 cellar dweller Fordham when point guard Tu Holloway decided to save the day (per usual). The Junior turned in a triple-double (26 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists) as the Musketeers (20-6, 11-1) won their fifth straight, 79-72. It should set off a few alarm bells, too. The Rams haven’t won an A-10 game, while Xavier maintained a 1-game lead over Temple for first. Meanwhile, I feel a little bad for Duquesne.
Insane stats of the day
Syracuse played 45 minutes in its 84-80 win over Rutgers – and shot 47 free throws. New Mexico’s Drew Gordon grabbed 23 rebounds vs. Utah, D-I’s highest total this season. That’s an easy transition to Morehead State rebounding fiend Kenneth Faried, who became the modern era’s all-time rebounding leader. Nice work, ‘Nard.
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