In the last full Saturday of regular season college hoops, we had three top ten teams lose, four teams seemingly play their way off of the bubble and Michigan State show the world that they are, in fact, back.
Here is everything you need to know.
1. MICHIGAN STATE IS BACK
The No. 24 Spartans went into College Park and put together the best, most through and most dominant performance we’ve seen from them this season in a 78-66 win over No. 9 Maryland.
Is Michigan State back?
RELATED: Bubble Watch | Bracketology | Conference Tournaments
2. VIRGINIA MIGHT BE BACK, TOO
The Cavaliers got 15 points, nine boards and 10 blocks from Jay Huff to put together their best win of the season, a 52-50 triumph over No. 6 Duke in Charlottesville on Saturday afternoon.
And for me, this is the crown jewel of what has been the best coaching job of Tony Bennett’s career. Look, this Virginia team is not all that talented. Their point guard, Kihei Clark, is the size of Baby Yoda. They play two bigs together that weigh a combined 197 pounds in Mamadi Diakite and Huff. Their shooters can not shoot. They are trying to piece together a rotation that includes the likes of Kody Stattman and Casey Morsell, neither of whom are ready to contribute on a stage like this.
Yet, here we are on March 1st, and Virginia is sitting one game out of first place in the ACC regular season standings. They are 21-7 on the season. They are 11-5 in the league. They have won six in a row and nine of their last ten. They were leading with under four minutes left in all five of the games that they lost in league play.
Virginia has no business being this good.
But it looks like they are.
3. PROVIDENCE PROBABLY PUNCHED THEIR TICKET TO THE DANCE
The Friars have completely turned their season around. On Saturday, they went into the Wells Fargo Center and beat No. 12 Villanova. It is the sixth win in the last eight games for Providence, but that’s not the most impressive part of this run. In the month of February, the Friars have beaten five teams that were ranked at the time, the other five teams in the Big East that are going to the NCAA tournament: In addition to today’s win at Villanova, they beat Marquette, Seton Hall and Creighton at home and won at Butler.
For a team that suffered through four hideous losses before conference play kicked off, it’s a remarkable turnaround.
4. WEST VIRGINIA AND TEXAS TECH PERFECTED BIG 12 BID COLLUSION
West Virginia and Texas Tech are both pretty comfortably in the NCAA tournament at this point. Both teams squared off with the Big 12’s two bubble teams — Oklahoma and Texas — this week. And both teams lost twice.
What does this mean?
Oklahoma looks like they are tournament bound. Texas has some more ground to make up, but they are more likely than not heading to the NCAA tournament as well. This is excellent work from the Mountaineers and the Red Raiders. Instead of being a four-bid league, the Big 12 looks like they are going to get six teams into the dance.
Bid collusion at its finest.
5. DID SHAKA SMART SAVE HIS JOB?
This is far more interesting than anything that has to do with this season for the Longhorns.
It’s hard not to laugh at the irony here. Shaka Smart went into Lubbock and got a win to put himself in a great position to get into the NCAA tournament while coaching against the guy, Chris Beard, that everyone is speculating will be the coach to replace him in Austin.
Texas is one of the best jobs in college basketball. It is the flagship program in a talent-rich state at a school where the athletic department has more money than they know what to do with while simultaneously caring very little about basketball. Oh, and Austin is a fun place to live, too. If Texas were to open, it would be the job that might actually make the coaching carousel get weird this spring. If it doesn’t open, you have to start wondering just how many changes are going to be made.
I like Shaka Smart. I don’t want to see him get fired. I also don’t think that he is the right fit for that job. Seeing how this plays out over the course of the next month is going to be fascinating.
6. MYLES POWELL RUINED MARKUS HOWARD’S SENIOR NIGHT
Markus Howard had 37 points and 12-for-20 shooting, but it wasn’t enough. Myles Powell had 28 points and Sandro Mamukelashvili added 26 as No. 13 Seton Hall went into Milwaukee and picked off Marquette, 88-79.
7. BAYLOR AND FLORIDA STATE LOST
The Bears got picked off by TCU. That is not a good loss, but it is something that we should have seen coming. Florida State fell at Clemson, who has now beaten Duke, Louisville and Florida State and won at North Carolina. That’s quite a season.
8. KENTUCKY WON THE SEC
Immanuel Quickley had 18 points and 12 boards as No. 8 Kentucky beat No. 15 Auburn as the Wildcats won the outright SEC regular season title. This is one of John Calipari’s best coaching jobs.
9. SEAN MILLER GETS EJECTED, UCLA WINS
UCLA is all alone in first place in the Pac-12 after beating Arizona on Saturday. The Bruins have won 11 of their last 13 games, including sweeps of Arizona and Colorado this month. What’s more fun is that Sean Miller got ejected while going up against his archnemesis, Mick Cronin. The Pac-12 is weird, man.
10. IS DOKE’S ANKLE OK?
Udoka Azubuike, the most important player in college basketball this season, hurt his ankle in Saturday’s win at Kansas State that included exactly zero chairs being thrown. He returned to the game after he hurt it the first time, but after tweaking it again, he hit the bench for good. The staff doesn’t seem too worried about it, but that is definitely something to monitor.