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Mike Lopresti | NCAA.com | March 4, 2019

If February is any indication, we may be in for a lively March Madness

Virginia's Tony Bennett on moving on from painful UMBC upset
Well, hasn’t February been a lively page on the calendar? Look at all the things the month gave us, many of them teasers for the tournament to come.
 
Zion Williamson wearing perhaps the most infamous pair of Nikes in basketball shoe history.
 
The No. 1 ranking getting passed around like a plate of cookies, from Tennessee to Duke to Gonzaga.
Duke having to exercise damage control in a Zion-less world, while they light candles in Durham waiting for his return. In new shoes, preferably. RJ Barrett has had to score 84 of Duke’s 219 points the three games with Williamson away, with fellow freshmen Cam Reddish and Tre Jones shooting 30 percent.
 
Gonzaga steamrolling all its WCC opponents by an average of 28 points a game. The just off the Zags’ impressive stat assembly line: Brandon Clarke, second in the nation in field goal percentage, has blocked 90 shots. He’s only missed 91 himself.
 
Wofford in the top-25. First time ever. March Cinderella alert.
 
Michigan State getting a share of first place in the Big Ten with two of its top three scorers injured. Purdue getting a share, too, never mind All-American Carsen Edwards shooting 33.6 percent for the month, including the night he went 4-for-24 at Indiana.
 
Villanova, going from a 10-0 conference record — the best Big East start in two decades — to losing four league games in 16 days. But then beating league leader Marquette to stay in the race.
 
 
Houston, displaying no signs of slowing down, exiting the month as the last one-loss team in the country.
 
LSU standing for Last Seconds, Usually. The Tigers, picked to finish sixth in the SEC, moved into a share of the lead by beating Kentucky at the buzzer and Tennessee in overtime – the fifth OT league game they played this season, and the fourth they won. They managed to knock off the Vols despite leading scorer Tremont Waters being out with an injury and second leading scorer Naz Reid finishing with one point and missing all nine shots he took.
 
North Carolina charging up the rankings by winning 11 of 12 ACC games – its best league stretch in five years. Coby White becoming the first Tar Heel freshman in history to score 30 points in three games. Whenever you’re the first North Carolina freshman to accomplish a feat, you get to say you did something Michael Jordan didn’t do.
 
 
Kansas in third place in the Big 12, its chances of a 15th consecutive league season title down to the 11th hour.
 
Two players -- Campbell’s Chris Clemons and South Dakota State’s Mike Daum – reaching the 3000-point career line in the same month. Until then, only eight men had done it in Division I history.
 
Kentucky announcing its arrival as March-ready to all selection committee members, bracketologists and SEC opponents by drilling Tennessee 86-69, its biggest winning margin ever over a No. 1-ranked opponent.
Houston head coach Kelvin Sampson talks about the program's growth since its heartbreaking loss to Michigan
New Mexico State becoming the quietest 24-4 team in the country.
 
Virginia 25-0 against everybody in the world not named Duke.
 
Sam Houston State coming up with a novel way to clinch a share of the Southland season title – blowing a 25-point in the final 5:17 of regulation by getting outscored 30-5 by Houston Baptist, then winning 119-113 in double overtime. And doing it with both Josh Delaney and Cameron Delaney matching their career highs on the same night – 30 and 25. Which is kind of appropriate, since they’re twins.
 
 
Quinnipiac beating Siena 55-46. Wait a second, that was the final score between two players.  Quinnipiac graduate student Cameron Young scored 55, Siena freshman Jalen Pickett 46, in the High Noon duel of the season. As for the teams, Quinnipiac blew a 20-point lead in the second half, but won 107-100 in three overtimes. Young’s 55 were the most in a game for any Division I player this season, and the third most in the past 20 years.
 
Louisville leading top-25 opponents Duke, Virginia and Florida State by double digits – and losing to them all. That’s one way to go from ranked to a 2-6 February. The most painful, not to mention historical, was leading Duke by 23 points midway through the second half. Biggest comeback in Mike Krzyzewski’s era.
 
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North Carolina State scoring 24 points in a game against Virginia Tech, enduring the worst shooting day – 16.7 percent – the ACC had ever seen.
 
Penn going overtime in four of its first nine conference games, and losing three of them, finishing the month in sixth place in the Ivy League. This, the same team that beat Villanova, Miami and New Mexico in non-conference play.
 
Syracuse setting a record for on-campus basketball crowds when 35,642 showed up in the Carrier Dome to see the Orange lose to Duke.  
 
Pre-season Pac-12 favorite Oregon dropping to 10th place in the league.
 
Florida State going from a 1-4 start in the ACC to clinching a winning conference record. In the history of the league, 163 teams have started 1-4 or 0-5. The Seminoles are only the fourth to end up over .500.
 
Iowa playing five consecutive games that came down to the last minute – winning two of them in the last second. Then losing by 20 points at Ohio State.
Gonzaga moves to No. 1 in Andy Katz's new Power 36 rankings
Loyola Chicago, only 11 months removed from an amazing Final Four run, sharing the Missouri Valley Conference lead with Drake, who has been in one NCAA Tournament in 47 years.
 
 
Boston College overcoming Pittsburgh and a leaky roof to win 66-57. Two student managers had to continually wipe moisture off the floor near a foul line when play was at the other end.
 
Oklahoma State with a roster of eight scholarship players, a walk-on, and five guys who made the team during an in-season tryout, one of them the student manager. The Cowboys, short-handed because of suspensions, just had to play consecutive road games at both Big 12 co-leaders. They lost at Kansas State by 39 points. Four days later, they went into overtime at Texas Tech -- the same place Kansas had just visited and lost 91-62, its worst conference defeat since 2000 when Bill Self was coaching Tulsa.
 
So you can take your pick for the best symbol of a February with many plot twists. Oklahoma State’s roster, Boston College’s roof or Zion Williamson’s Nikes. All in all, a pretty good warm-up act for March.

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