It’s only February, but the feeling of March Madness is already in the air.
Buzzer-beaters, huge upsets, overtime thrillers … and that was just last week in the world of Division I men’s basketball.
It is well-documented that the No. 1 team has lost for five consecutive weeks, but last week not only did top-ranked Indiana fall to Illinois 74-72 on Thursday, but three other top-five teams dropped games. All four losses by the nation’s elite were on the road to unranked squads.
On Tuesday, No. 2 Florida suffered its first loss in the Southeastern Conference, getting upended by Arkansas 80-69. The same night, No. 5 Kansas went down to hapless TCU 62-55, as the Horned Frogs earned their first victory in Big 12 play this season.
Fast-forward to Thursday, it was the Hoosiers’ turn to fall as Illnois’ Tyler Griffey sunk a buzzer-beating layup with 0.9 seconds remaining. Illinois had lost three consecutive games heading into the showdown with the Hoosiers.
No. 3 Michigan stepped up to the plate on Saturday, and took its punishment from Wisconsin’s Ben Brust, who hit a last-ditch, game-tying 3-pointer as time expired, sending the game to overtime, and helping the Badgers get the eventual 65-62 victory. Watch Highlights
No. 4 Duke staved off becoming the fifth top-five team to lose, narrowly edging upset-minded Boston College 62-61 on Sunday night.
It was not just the top five having some issues last week. There were eight losses among top-10 squads, and 14 teams in the top 25 went down at least once.
No. 11 Louisville fell the hard way as No. 25 Notre Dame rallied from an eight-point deficit, forcing an epic five-overtime battle that the Irish would finally win 104-101 on Saturday night. It was the longest regular season game in Big East Conference history. Watch Highlights
If that roller coaster ride wasn’t enough to peak a fan’s interest, then this little nugget should. Miami dominated North Carolina 87-61 on Saturday, improving to 10-0 in Atlantic Coast Conference play. The Hurricanes are the only team remaining of the power six conferences (ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Big East, Pac-12 and SEC) that is still undefeated in conference play.
But that is not the most interesting fact about the ‘Canes incredible run. With a 26-point victory against the Tar Heels, Miami became the first team to beat Duke and UNC by 25 points in the same season since the ACC formed in 1953. Sixty years!
Unexpected. Thrilling. Fun. If the NCAA tournament is half as exciting as the last week has been, college basketball fans will are in for one heck of a ride when the madness begins.
• The most intense rivalry in Division III basketball did not disappoint on Saturday as Hope College upended No. 13 Calvin 73-70 to avenge last month’s loss to the Knights and move within one game of first place in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association standings. Freshman Ben Gardner led the Flying Dutch with 16 points as they moved to 10-2 in MIAA action, one game behind league-leader Calvin. Hope has won six consecutive games entering the final week of the regular season. The Flying Dutch now lead 96-88 in the 93-year history of the series.
• The Cal State Fullerton women’s basketball team returned to the court against UC-Riverside on Saturday for the first time after losing assistant coach Monica Quan, who was shot and killed along with her fiance Keith Lawrence earlier in the week. The Titans wore long-sleeve orange shirts that read ”MO-tivation” on the front and ”it is the courage to continue that counts” in honor of Quan, who they referred to as Coach Mo. She was 28 years old, and played basketball at Long Beach State and Concordia in Irvine, Calif.
• The Iowa wrestling team clinched its fifth Big Ten dual title in the last six seasons with a 31-7 defeat of Nebraska on Sunday, concluding the conference dual season with a perfect 8-0 mark, while improving to 18-1 overall. The Hawkeyes won eight of 10 matches against the No. 13 Huskers, highlighted by Mike Evans upset of No. 2 Robert Kokesh at 174 pounds. Evans claimed a 9-6 decision against Kokesh for his third consecutive win against a top-10 foe while improving to 14-2 on the season.
• The No. 8 St. Cloud State men’s hockey team held on to first place in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association standings as the Saints upset No. 1 Minnesota 4-3 on Saturday to earn a series split. The Saints improved their league-leading point total to 31 as four different players scored in the victory, including Drew LeBlanc’s third-period tally that gave SCSU a 4-1 advantage.
• The No. 1 and No. 2 women’s gymnastics teams continue to top themselves weekly. Top-ranked Florida posted a 198.100 to defeat No. 5 Alabama on Friday – the second-best score in season history, and the nation’s top team mark this year. Senior Ashanée Dickerson posted a career-best 9.975 on the floor exercise to lead the Gators to a program-best score of 49.650 on the apparatus, matching the best score in school history in the event. The Gators have posted three of the nation’s top four team scores this season.
• The Clarkson women’s hockey team moved into a tie for first place in the ECAC Hockey standings after defeating Rensselaer and Union on the road during the weekend. Junior Vanessa Gagnon netted a game-winning goal against Union with just 13 seconds remaining in regulation to lift Clarkson to a 3-2 win Saturday. The Golden Knights improved to 23-7 on the season, just one win shy of tying the program record for victories in a season. With four games left on the regular season schedule, Clarkson is tied with Cornell with 30 points in the ECAC Hockey standings, while Harvard trails by one with 29. However, the Crimson has two games in hand on both teams.
• Florida State sprinters freshman Marvin Bracy and junior Dentarius Locke finished one-two at the final of the 60-meter dash with two of the fastest times this season at the Tyson Invitational in Fayetteville, Ark., on Friday. Bracy won the race in a school-record mark of 6.54 seconds – the fastest collegiate time this year, while Locke placed second with a 6.56 time. Bracy’s mark is the fourth-fastest in the world the season, and tied for the best in the nation with 2012 Olympian Mike Rogers. Locke’s time ranks sixth in the world and third in the nation.
|THE DIGIT||THE 4-1-1|
|0||No. 2 Worcester Polytechic Institute entered the weekend as the lone remaining unbeaten in Division III men’s basketball, but the Engineers hit a bump in the road on Sunday, suffering a 66-60 loss to Springfield College to drop to 22-1 on the season. The Engineers had won 24 consecutive games dating back to last season’s ECAC Championship.|
|11||Newberry 125-pound wrestler Jeff Vesta’s pin of UNC Pembroke’s Jake Smith helped the Wolves to a 19-16 victory on Thursday while the Division II leader in falls added to his total. Vesta’s pin was his 11th of a Division II opponent this season, and 14th pin overall. He has pins in eight of his last 10 matches.|
|21||The No. 1 Wartburg wrestling squad won its 21st consecutive Iowa Conference title with a 33-3 dual meet victory against Coe on Saturday. It is the longest conference championship streak in Division III history. The Knights finished the dual season with a 19-0 record – the third time in program history Wartburg has posted an undefeated record.|
|100||Oklahoma senior pitcher Keilani Ricketts tossed back-to-back no-hitters against a pair of nationally-ranked squads during the weekend en route to earning her 100th career win. Ricketts, a left-hander from San Jose, Calif., opened the season with a 6-0 win against No. 21 Stanford on Friday, and followed it up a 12-0 victory against No. 5 Oregon in five innings. She struck out 24 batters in the two games.|
|500||Simpson head women’s basketball coach Brian Niemuth collected his 500th career win as the Storm blew past Loras 75-62 on Saturday. The Storm improved to 22-1 overall, and 12-0 in the Iowa Conference, while Niemuth’s career record moved to 500-194. He is the 20th coach in NCAA Division III history to reach the milestone.|
|899||Rutgers head coach C. Vivian Stringer earned career victory No. 899 with the Scarlet Knights’ 55-46 defeat of Cincinnati on Saturday. She needs just one victory to become the fourth member of the prestigious 900-win club in Division I women’s basketball. Former coaches Pat Summit and Jody Conradt, along with current North Carolina head coach Sylvia Hatchell are already members. Hatchell earned her 900th victory with an 80-52 defeat of Boston College on Thursday.|
• The Arkansas-Fort Smith baseball team notched a series victory versus No. 1 St. Mary’s (Texas) in Division II Heartland Conference action during the weekend. A 7-6 defeat of the Rattlers on Saturday gave the Diamond Lions’ first series win against a No. 1 opponent since joining NCAA Division II in 2009. UAFS won two contests in the three-game series. St. Mary’s was the unanimous preseason favorite to win the Heartland Conference title.
• The No. 7 Adrian men’s hockey team stretched its nation-leading unbeaten streak to 13 games with a 6-5 victory against Concordia on Saturday. Justin Basso netted the game-winning goal in the third period for the Bulldogs. Adrian improved to 19-1-3 on the season, and boasts of the fewest losses of any Division III team.
• The No. 10 Cal State Northridge men’s volleyball team claimed a pair of top-10 upsets last week, downing No. 8 USC 3-1 on Wednesday and following it up with a five-set win against No. 5 Pepperdine on Friday. Senior opposite hitter John Baker tallied a career-best 22 kills against the Trojans, and then bettered his career-high with 24 kills against the Waves. He also has tallied five aces in the last two matches.
• Gustavus Adolphus senior Lindsey Hjelm became just the 11th player in the school’s history to collect 100 career points as she contributed two goals and two assists in the No. 2 Gusties’ 6-1 defeat of Saint Mary’s in Division III women’s hockey on Saturday. The captain has scored 44 goals with 57 assists for 101 points during her career. Gustavus improved to 20-0-1 on the season.
Follow Amy Farnum on Twitter: @NCAA_Amy