We are exactly two weeks away from Selection Sunday. The best month of the year is upon us.
Here are five lessons we learned from another action-packed Saturday of hoops.
Tennessee point guard Jordan Bone is incredibly underrated
Tennessee beat Kentucky so emphatically that it probably would have won without Bone's best performance of the season, but he was stellar on Saturday. Bone scored 27 points and made all five of his 3-point attempts. He outplayed Ashton Hagans, and it wasn't even close.
FINAL STATS: TENNESSEE TOPS KENTUCKY
Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield get most of the publicity for the Volunteers. Both guys are awesome. But don't overlook Bone, who's one of the top point guards in the SEC. He's averaging 13.6 points and 6.1 assists on 48.2 percent shooting.
It's great to have a dominant frontcourt like Tennessee's, but you need great guard play to make a deep NCAA tournament run. It's a reason why the Volunteers bowed out early as a high seed in 2018. Bone has improved immensely since then, and he's a reason to be optimistic about Tennessee's March Madness hopes.
Kentucky can still win it all, but the Wildcats may have peaked
That may sound a bit hot take-y, but hear us out. Kentucky only lost once between Dec. 9 and Feb. 11 and beat teams like North Carolina, Louisville, Auburn, Mississippi State and Kansas in the process. The Wildcats are 4-2 since Feb. 12 with a home loss to LSU, an ugly loss at Tennessee and a squeaker of a home win over rebuilding Arkansas.
Kentucky is still absolutely national championship-level good. But if we're just talking about momentum, the Wildcats probably peaked around early February. Credit Tennessee's defense, but Kentucky only scored 10 points in the paint against the Volunteers. That's hard to believe when you have Reid Travis and P.J. Washington in the starting lineup. The offense has been hit-or-miss over the past few weeks.
Hagans was a two-way assassin during Kentucky's big run, but he's struggled lately. He's only scored 12 points in his last two games and hasn't been the defensive menace he was in January and February.
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The SEC tournament is incredibly important for Kentucky. If it regains its momentum there, it could still make it to Minneapolis. But the Wildcats haven't looked great as of late.
Indiana's NCAA tournament hopes are alive, somehow
The bubble isn't looking too hot this year, and while Indiana still might not be dancing come March, the Hoosiers have a shot. And that's remarkable considering where they've been this season.
Indiana endured a stretch of 12 losses in 13 Big Ten games and is 15-14 on the year. But the Hoosiers have now beat Michigan State twice, and wins over Marquette and Wisconsin are also highly impressive. Indiana lacks consistency, but it's shown the ability to beat great teams. All bubble squads are going to have their warts. We'll see what happens, but we know the Hoosiers are capable of doing damage.
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Indiana closes out the regular season with Illinois and Rutgers. Those should both be wins, but who knows with this group? It will be fascinating to see how Archie Miller's squad performs the rest of the way.
Kansas is going to need some help to extend its Big 12 title streak
Kansas won, but so did Kansas State and Texas Tech. The Jayhawks are a full game behind the Wildcats and Red Raiders in the Big 12.
Here's those teams' schedules the rest of the way.
|Texas Tech||vs. Texas, @Iowa State||12-4|
|Kansas State||@TCU, vs. Oklahoma||12-4|
|Kansas||@Oklahoma, vs. Baylor||11-5|
Kansas only needs to tie for the conference lead to extend the streak to 15. Texas Tech probably has the toughest remaining slate of these three, but it's also playing the best ball right now. The Jayhawks will need one or both of these teams to slip up and win out themselves.
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It's possible. Kansas has earned this incredible streak, obviously, but it's also gotten some good fortune over the years. We'll see if that continues.
UCF is for real
Kentucky vs. Tennessee was the marquee matchup of the day, but UCF earned the biggest win of anyone. The Knights beat Houston on its home court, dealing the Cougars their second loss of the season.
UCF was likely destined for the NCAA tournament bubble if it didn't win the AAC tournament. So, obviously, this win was huge for the Knights. UCF has another chance to earn a big win over Cincinnati on Thursday and has a scary front line.
Tacko Fall and Collin Smith combined for 34 points and 17 rebounds on Saturday. It's worth pointing out that UCF got a bit lucky, because Houston went 12-of-24 from the free-throw line. Make those at a normal clip, and we're still talking about the Cougars as a one-loss team. (Side note: Opponents are making just 64 percent of their foul shots against UCF on the year, the third-lowest mark on the country. Somebody find out what Knights players are saying to distract opposing shooters).
In seriousness, the Knights looked like a solid tournament team yesterday regardless. Fall gives the average college basketball viewer a unique reason to watch, and UCF is solid on both ends of the floor.