It was another wild Saturday in college basketball, and since we know that you couldn’t sit in front of a TV and watch every game like we did, we have you covered.
Here are the ten things that you need to know after Saturday’s action.
1. XAVIER LANDED A CRITICAL WIN AT SETON HALL
Xavier jumped out to a 30-6 lead on No. 10 Seton Hall within the first 12 minutes on Saturday. What does this mean for Xavier’s bubble chances? Should we be overly concerned about Seton Hall now? I have all the answers, and they’re in this column.
2. CREIGHTON MADE A STATEMENT AT VILLANOVA
Denzel Mahoney scored 21 points off the bench while Ty-shon Alexander and Mitchell Ballock combined to shoot 9-for-13 from three as Creighton went into the Wells Fargo Center and jumped all over No. 10 Villanova, 76-61. They were up 31-14 before Villanova woke up and the Wildcats never got closer than three the rest of the way.
There’s a lot to digest from this game, the most important point being that Villanova missed on a golden opportunity to draw even with Seton Hall atop the Big East regular season standings. That is going to sting.
But the bigger story here is that Creighton proved just how dangerous they can be. Creighton has, historically, had quite a bit of success against Villanova because of the way that they want to play. The Bluejays can spread the floor and they can matchup with Villanova’s positionless style of play, and when their “bigs” — in this case, Mahoney — can win their matchup, the Bluejays become tough to beat.
This is proof of how dangerous they can be.
3. OH, AND BUTLER LOST, TOO
As if all of that wasn’t enough, No. 16 Butler — the third of three Big East ranked teams to play at home on Saturday — lost to Providence, 65-61. The Bulldogs have now lost four of their last six games and are now sitting three games out of first place in the Big East standings. Providence, on the other hand, is doing everything they can to try and play their way back onto the bubble. They still have quite a bit of work to do, but landing a road win against the best team in the conference is certainly a good place to start.
4. SAN DIEGO STATE IS STILL UNDEFEATED
In what was perhaps the toughest test that they are going to face the rest of the season, the No. 4 Aztecs erased a 10-point second half deficit thanks to a 24 point second half explosion from Matt Mitchell in an 80-68 win over Utah State at home.
There’s still a chance that SDSU can take an odd loss on the road to someone in the league, but there really is no one in the conference that should be able to do that. What that means is that we are staring at an undefeated SDSU team heading into the NCAA tournament, and I am so here for that storyline. This season is bereft of the kind of stories that will get a casual fan locked into college hoops, and the chance for someone to go undefeated certainly would qualify.
They’re barely halfway there, so it’s too early to take any of this too seriously, but if you’re asking me if 40-0 is possible, I absolutely think it’s less than a pipe dream. The Aztecs can really, really guard and they have two guys — Mitchell and Malachi Flynn — that can completely take a game over and win it on their own.
This is a fun, and very good, team.
5. WISCONSIN BEAT MICHIGAN STATE DESPITE MISSING TWO STARTING GUARDS
The Badgers had quite an eventful week. On Monday night, they blew a 12 point lead in the final seven minutes in a loss at Iowa. During that loss, starting guard Brad Davison was given a game-changing flagrant foul for hitting an Iowa player below the belt. Davison was eventually suspended for his conduct, and that suspension was announced by the Big Ten just hours after another starting guard, Kobe King, announced that he would be transferring out of the program.
Oh, and then on Saturday Wisconsin went out and beat up on No. 14 Michigan State in the Kohl Center.
That is quite the roller coaster ride.
Wisconsin needed this win for team morale if nothing else, but I’ll contend that Michigan State blew this game. Xavier Tillman finished 2-for-8 around the rim, and four of those misses were shots that he makes 90 percent of the time. And that doesn’t count the number of times that he dropped passes that would have been layups. The Spartans had Wisconsin’s lead down to three points twice during the second half. There was a three-minute stretch where the lead sat at 61-57 in the final minutes. As well as Wisconsin played early on, as impressive as it was that they built an 18-point lead, I left that game thinking Michigan State should have won.
6. AUBURN KNOCKED OFF KENTUCKY
Entering Saturday, this felt like it was going to be the battle to determine who the favorite to win the SEC would be, and while the Tigers left as the winner, it did not feel like much was settled.
Ashton Hagans and Nick Richards struggled. Auburn grabbed 17 offensive rebounds and got to the line 44 times. Auburn didn’t pull away until the final five minutes of the game. I’m not sure how anyone can walk away thinking either of those teams is definitively better than the other.
But you might be justified in thinking that neither of them are the best team in the SEC, because …
7. … LSU HAS NOW WON 10 STRAIGHT GAMES
You may not have noticed since they have been flying under the radar, but No. 22 LSU improved to 17-4 on Saturday by knocking off Ole Miss, 73-63. The Tigers improved to 8-0 in the SEC and have now won 10 straight games overall, and they are doing all of this as the reigning SEC regular season champions. All told, Will Wade’s club is 45-11 in the last two seasons combined with a 24-2 mark in the SEC, which is incredibly impressive. As much has been written about John Calipari, Bruce Pearl and Rick Barnes, it’s inarguable that Will Wade has been the best coach in that conference during this stretch.
And the reason I say that is because of everything else that he has had to deal with. LSU has been right in the middle of the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college athletics. There are reports that Wade was caught on a wire-tap discussing a “strong-ass offer” to land Javonte Smart, a player currently on LSU’s roster. He lost Naz Reid and Tremont Waters this summer. He had a player murdered before the start of last season.
The people in that program have been through more than they should have to deal with, and through it all they haven’t stopped winning.
It’s time we gave them their due for it.
8. TULSA TAKES CONTROL OF THE AAC TITLE RACE
In one of the most powerful and unforgettable moments of the college basketball season to date, Tulsa’s Elijah Joiner hit a buzzer-beating, game-winning three to cap off a 22-point, five-assist performance as the Golden Hurricane knocked off No. 23 Wichita State, 54-51. What made the moment so special was that it was the first time Joiner’s father had seen him play in person, and he broke down in tears after the game because of it.
That was the most important part of what happened in Tulsa on Saturday.
But strictly from a basketball perspective, the best part of the day for Tulsa came when Cincinnati erased a 12 point second half deficit to knock off No. 21 Houston, because it meant that the Golden Hurricane moved into sole possession of first place in the American. Frank Haith is working miracles.
9. COLE ANTHONY IS BACK, BUT UNC IS NOT
The North Carolina Tar Heels got their super star freshman point guard back from injury on Saturday.
He had a huge second half and scored 26 points at home against Boston College. The only problem? North Carolina happened to lose, 71-70, on a questionable foul call in the final minutes.
Looks like their hopes of getting onto the right side of the bubble have gone up in smoke.
10. STANFORD LANDS CRITICAL WON OVER No. 11 OREGON
The Cardinal were arguably the single biggest bubble winner on Saturday. We talk all about them, their resume and the resume of every other team in danger of missing the NCAA tournament right here.