Here are 10 key reflections from Saturday’s games.
1. Virginia can win the national title: The Cavaliers' 65-63 win over Duke is the kind of win that can be transformative for this team. Coach Tony Bennett said on our NCAA.com/Turner sports podcast March Madness 365 this week that the Cavs have maybe the best chemistry he has had at Virginia. It showed down the stretch in this game. The home wins over North Carolina and Clemson were noteworthy but a road win — in the only meeting with Duke — at Cameron pushes Virginia into the category of potential title teams. This is the consummate team. No need for NBA-level stars. Team.
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2. Texas A&M isn’t going to make the NCAA tournament: Aggies coach Billy Kennedy said on the podcast last week that he still had hope that they would make a run at an NCAA berth and possibly a Final Four. But the Aggies were outclassed at Phog Allen by Kansas. The Aggies still have opportunities in the SEC, but they haven’t shown they are tournament worthy since New Year’s weekend.
3. Don’t dismiss Kentucky: The Wildcats’ win at West Virginia and Kevin Knox’s 34 points is a clear indication that Kentucky can still be just fine in March. The Wildcats may not win the SEC, but Duke has done well in the tournament without having to win the ACC regular season or tournament title. All John Calipari needs to be concerned about is having this team ready for a run in the NCAAs.
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4. NC State is going to make the NCAA tournament: The Wolfpack picked up their fourth quadrant 1 win by winning at North Carolina on Saturday. The Wolfpack have wins over Duke on the road, Arizona on a neutral court and home wins over North Carolina and Clemson. Barring a collapse, Kevin Keatts is going to get this team across the finish line.
5. Avery Johnson is doing a fantastic job coaching: Alabama has had to deal with a slew of injuries this season, play a brutally tough schedule, and yet the Tide are likely going to be in the NCAA tournament and could win a game or two. Alabama’s performance over Oklahoma was yet another signature win for a team that is starting to rack them up when the games matter most. He’s also turning Tuscaloosa into a tougher venue.
6. Pat Chambers had the best week of his Penn State tenure: The Nittany Lions' road win at Ohio State was followed up by a home win over Rutgers. The latter may not be a headliner, but it avoided an un-Penn State like occurrence. The Nittany Lions actually followed up a season-changing road win by beating a team they were supposed to at home. Penn State still has a mountain to climb to get a bid, but the Nittany Lions now have hope all due to a Tony Carr banked 3-pointer and a Rutgers win that keeps momentum going. The win over Rutgers means Penn State will have 15 or more wins for five-straight seasons for the first time ever, according to the school.
7. TCU is in jeopardy of not getting a bid if it can’t win on the road: The Horned Frogs (15-6) lost at Vanderbilt 81-78. That’s the fourth straight road loss after opening the Big 12 road slate with a win at Baylor. TCU started the season 12-0 and owns two significant wins over SMU and Nevada. The home win over West Virginia will continue to have shelf life. The team sheet looks good now with an RPI of 17 and three quadrant 1 wins and three wins in quadrant 2. But the Horned Frogs must get back on track on the road and it won’t be easy with road games remaining at Oklahoma State, Kansas, West Virginia, Iowa State and Texas Tech. The loss of Jaylen Fisher was a massive hit.
8. Florida State picked up a win that will have major significance: The Seminoles desperately needed another quadrant 1 win and got it by outlasting rival Miami in overtime 103-94. The Seminoles' two other quadrant 1 wins were over North Carolina and at Florida. The Seminoles own two wins in quadrant 2 by beating Virginia Tech on the road and Syracuse at home. Florida State needed to create some separation among teams in its sphere and beating Miami at home is a step in that direction.
9. Bruce Pearl is the coach of the year in the SEC right now and a national coach of the year candidate: Auburn was left for dead in the preseason with suspensions to Austin Wiley and Daniel Purifoy. But the Tigers are now 19-2 and 8-1 in the SEC after the 95-70 win over LSU. The Tigers are an entertaining watch and play with such freedom that Pearl has them as a team that shows little fear when it gets down. Pearl has thrived amid chaos before and he’s doing it again.
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10. Remember how Rhode Island beat Duquesne: This may not seem like a significant deal, but most teams that go deep into March or April have that one game that they shouldn’t have won and yet do in dramatic fashion. That occurred for the Rams Saturday. URI was outplayed for much of the game by Keith Dambrot’s upstart Dukes. But Stanford Robinson buried a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer at the Ryan Center. This game, and the way in which it played out, will have a lasting effect on the Rams. They will benefit for how they found a way to win to remain undefeated in the A-10.