March Madness: 18 takeaways from the first Saturday of the month in college basketball
The first Saturday in March did what it always does: provide more clarity as the conference tournaments continue through the final week.
Onto the impact of the results:
UCLA winning at USC: The Bruins were a team in the field in my bubble breakdown. But if you were a doubter, then you shouldn’t be now. The Bruins have road wins at Arizona and USC and a neutral over Kentucky. The Bruins took out USC, Washington and Utah at home. That should be enough to squeeze in the field.
Notre Dame losing at Virginia: This result was expected. Now the Irish must prove with Bonzie Colson that they can win two to three games in the ACC tournament. Virginia’s Kyle Guy injured his knee in the game in the first half but did return in the second. Virginia coach Tony Bennett said after the game he was hopeful Guy would be fine for the ACC tournament.
Michigan State losing to Michigan: The Spartans’ claim on a No. 1 seed may have vanished with the loss to the Wolverines. Michigan State still needs to be sharper defensively. The week off actually may help this team reset. They won 13 in a row, but they could use some time to decompress.
Xavier winning the outright Big East title: The Musketeers did so without beating Villanova. But it’s their title, regardless. This was a huge program event for Chris Mack’s crew. This was also significant for the Big East, which needs more than one elite team.
Marvin Bagley scores 21 for Duke over UNC: Bagley III showed his dominance in this game and the reason he can be such a tough matchup. The Blue Devils will likely be a two seed in the NCAA tournament — and when Duke is on, few teams would want to try and defend the Blue Devils.
Penn State losing to Purdue: The Nittany Lions have the chops and the scorer in Tony Carr to win a first-round NCAA tournament game. But now its less likely they get an invite. Penn State coach Pat Chambers said he’s coaching an NCAA tournament team. But the resume may say otherwise. He will have to sweat out the week waiting his team’s fate.
Oklahoma State sweeping Kansas: The Cowboys could be hard to keep out of the field after that feat. Kansas may have put its No. 1 seed on hold, with the committee waiting to see how the Jayhawks do in the Big 12 tournament.
Auburn shares SEC title: The Tigers’ win over South Carolina gave Bruce Pearl the conference championship (shared with Tennessee) and Auburn one of the most unlikely major conference champs. Auburn should celebrate a remarkable season filled with injuries and distractions.
Syracuse beat Clemson: The home win isn’t going to get the Orange in yet, but a loss could have meant an ACC tournament title was the only ticket. Now the Orange pick up another quality win heading into Brooklyn.
Texas beat West Virginia in OT without Mo Bamba: That’s the kind of result that should get the selection committee’s attention. This showed the Longhorns are a team worthy of a bid.
Middle Tennessee State lost at home to Marshall: If the Blue Raiders don’t win the CUSA automatic berth and then get denied as an at-large they can point to this loss as the reason. Pressure is on now to win the league AQ.
Deandre Ayton’s 26 and 20 against Cal: Those numbers by the Arizona freshman have to make him one of the favorites for national player of the year. When he’s scoring and grabbing boards like that, he’s nearly unstoppable.
Florida’s handling of Kentucky: The Gators have pulled off a bookend of a season, they look like a Sweet 16 team. Let’s see if the middle part of the year when they were pedestrian is gone for good.
Mississippi State losing at LSU and Washington losing at home to Oregon: These losses may have eliminated the Bulldogs and Huskies from the at-large pool.
MARCH MADNESS SHOP
Louisville’s loss at NC State: Another indication that the Cards may have to win two games in the ACC tournament to be considered.
St. Bonaventure keeps winning: The Bonnies won at Saint Louis, a win that isn’t going move the meter much but would have been a disaster if they had lost. I still have the Bonnies in.
Murray State beat Belmont for the OVC title: The Racers can hoop and Jonathan Stark is their stud, averaging 21 a game. Murray, as has been its history, will be a tough out in the NCAAs.