It was just one night in February. But to sense what this college basketball season has been about, in all its twists and turns, consider the snapshot of Tuesday night.In Ames, West Virginia, three days after being mashed in at Florida, upset Iowa State 81-76. The Cyclones were playing their fourth ranked opponent in 16 days, having reconfirmed Isaac Newton’s claim. What goes up (wins over Oklahoma and Kansas) must come down (losses to Texas A&M and the Mountaineers). West Virginia came to town with its second best rebounder suspended, but wiped out Iowa State on the boards anyway, 43-26. Cyclones star Georges Niang, perpetrator of the momentous victories over the top-5 Jayhawks and Sooners? Eight turnovers. It can be a cruel world out there in the Big 12.
In Ann Arbor, Michigan jumped to an 11-point lead over Indiana. The rest of the evening was a little less pleasant for the Wolverines. The Hoosiers put up 28 consecutive points and outscored Michigan by 38 over a 24-minute span to win 80-67. Since the humiliating 20-point pummeling at Duke in early December, which put the record at 5-3 and had the sky falling in Indiana, the Hoosiers are 14-1.
In Knoxville, Kentucky rolled to a 21-point lead over Tennessee. Yawwnnn. When’s the bus leave for the airport? But then the Wildcats were outscored 71-43 after that, and now, with six defeats, might join Duke on the list of unranked bluebloods.
"We’ve got to do some soul searching,’’ John Calipari said afterward, in a press conference that included these other gems.
About the Wildcats trying to defend without fouling . . . "We can’t.’’
About his players’ confidence now . . . "You’d have to ask them.’’
About how rare it is for his teams to blow a 21-point lead . . . "Historically, you may have to look back, but if my team’s been up 10, it’s like 100-2. I’m coaching a different kind of team.’’
By the way, the Final Four who gathered in Indianapolis last April – Duke, Wisconsin, Kentucky and Michigan State – have a combined 25 defeats.
In Norman, Buddy Hield scored 17 points, which by his recent standards, is a bedtime snack. But Oklahoma had six players in double figures, and rolled over TCU with 95 points. There are reason the 19-2 Sooners are No. 1. They have broken 85 points 11 times this season.
In Atlanta, Duke got past Georgia Tech 80-71; the first time in nearly nine years the Blue Devils took the floor as an unranked team, and the first time in nearly 21 seasons Mike Krzyzewski was not on the bench. He stayed home sick.
In Chicago, DePaul upset No. 11 Providence 77-70. The Blue Demons hadn’t beaten a team ranked so highly in more than nine years, and were 1-8 in the Big East. But something like that seems to be happening almost every night, somewhere.
In Athens, Georgia beat South Carolina 69-56. Remember when the Gamecocks were one of the last unbeaten teams standing at 15-0? They’re 4-3 since.
In Indianapolis, Butler topped Georgetown 87-76 with the considerable help of a 31-11 advantage at the free throw line. Forecast to be among the Big East contenders, the Hoyas are now 13-10, and one of the reasons might be the new emphasis on calling tighter fouls does not seem to agree with them. Georgetown’s opponents have shot 99 more free throws. The Hoyas have had 14 players foul out this season, the opposition none.
In Auburn, freshman Ben Simmons had his 16th double-double in his 22nd college game, as LSU breezed 80-68. The Tigers are 14-8, and nearly everyone fervently wants them to stay off the NCAA Tournament bubble, so March can include one big scoop of Simmons.
In Syracuse, the Orange got past Virginia Tech 68-60 in overtime, continuing their recovery that started when Jim Boeheim returned to the bench. Want to see one reason why those head coaches make the big bucks? Syracuse was 4-5 when Boeheim served his nine-game suspension, and is 12-3 with him active.
In Winston-Salem, Clemson turned back Wake Forest 76-62 to advance to 14-8 and 7-3 in the ACC. The Tigers, picked to finish 12th in the league, are currently in third, ahead of the likes of Virginia, Duke and Notre Dame, and need only go 4-4 the rest of the way have their most league wins since their Southern Conference days in 1952.
In San Diego, San Diego State escaped Colorado State 69-67, and barely kept one of the game’s most intriguing streaks alive. The Aztecs are 160-0 the last 160 times they have led with five minutes to play.
Close calls, upsets, unexpected troubles, inexplicable flip-flops, and even the biggest names not safe. One night in February. But the entire season, too.