This is when college basketball shines — when things shouldn’t happen, but do. Saturday had a batch of them, and as often, no better place to start than the ACC.
That's the league with six teams rated in the top 15 of the Associated Press poll for the first time ever, and two different teams rated No. 1 at the same time — Duke with AP, Virginia with the coaches. Vote hogs.
The rare headlines just keep on coming. And just look at Saturday.
1. Roy Williams is not supposed to be blown away in his own Dean Dome. Louisville is not supposed to lose to picked-for-last Pittsburgh, and three days later charge into Chapel Hill and crush the Tar Heels by 21 points. North Carolina is not supposed to be averaging 94 points at home, and then struggle to get to 62 against the Cardinals.
That all happened. It was the worst home loss in Williams’ Carolina career, and when asked later about any particular issues facing his team, he decided, “Basketball is a big concern right now.”
2. Duke is not supposed to win at Florida State as the No. 1 ranked team. Not according to history, anyway. The last three times the Blue Devils went into Tallahassee No. 1, they came out with a loss, and why not again, with Zion Williamson and his Richter scale-rattling dunks out the second half with an eye injury?
But RJ Barrett helped hold back the Seminoles and Cam Reddish saved the day with a shot at 0.8 seconds, and that was that. You could mark surviving really hard ACC road game off the Duke to-do list. “They rose to a different occasion, an occasion that we haven’t been in yet this year,” Mike Krzyzewski said. So Krzyzewski will get to be No. 1 again for the 122nd week, and if you want to know why that’s significant, the record is 121 weeks. Shared by some guy named John Wooden.
3. Nobody is supposed to be able to get away with one road win after another in the minefield of the ACC, but at the moment, Virginia can. The 63-43 win at Clemson was the latest Cavaliers tour-de-defense; the Tigers shot only 25.9 percent and started out 1-for-16. “It’s not easy, or everybody would be doing it,” leading scorer Kyle Guy told the Virginia website about the road streak.
The Cavaliers’ road magic will be fully tested Saturday when they go to Duke, for No. 1 vs. No. 1. But before that on Tuesday, Virginia hosts Virginia Tech. It’s statement week for the Cavaliers.
4. Notre Dame is not supposed to be able to win any ACC game with only a half dozen scholarship players in uniform because of injury and sickness. But the Iron Irish Six pushed past Boston College 69-66. One of them was Prentiss Hubb, and a freshman shooting 59 percent in free throws so far in his young career is not supposed to be the guy you want at the line with the game in the balance. But he calmly buried two with 2.6 seconds left to put the Irish in front.
“All six are happy about their playing time today,” coach Mike Brey joked.
5. North Carolina State is not supposed to get only 32 points from its starting lineup and win. But the Wolfpack took care of Pittsburgh 86-80, because its top three scorers in the game came off the bench. North Carolina State’s reserves outscored Pitt’s 54-9. Last week against North Carolina, the margin was 43-9. For the season, the Wolfpack bench is putting up 37 points a game.
The word you might be searching for is depth.
6. The vaunted Syracuse zone is not supposed to be shredded, especially at home. The Orange went into the weekend 14th in the nation in field goal defense, but Georgia Tech shot 59.5 percent and that was way too much to handle, especially with Syracuse hitting only 31.6. Therefore, a 73-59 thumping.
Not much time for Jim Boeheim to fix anything. Syracuse will be at Duke Monday night.
Not that Saturday’s surprises were combined to one conference.
7. An Ole Miss team picked to finish dead flat last in the SEC is not supposed to be 13-2 now and tied for the league lead. But there the Rebels are, after rolling into Starkville and whipping Mississippi State 81-77, which followed an upset of Auburn. That makes two consecutive wins over ranked opponents for Mississippi for the first time since 2002-2003, and you can put Kermit Davis on the short list for SEC coach of year.
He didn’t much like the three technical fouls his players accumulated at Mississippi State, though. “We’ll get that one fixed,” he said.
8. The teams with the nation’s longest winning streaks are supposed to be heavyweight names such as Michigan and Virginia. But Hofstra? Yep.
The Pride made it 12 in a row, 74-71 over Elon. Boring, it ain’t. The past three Hofstra wins have been by three points each.
9. Texas Tech is not supposed to win in Austin. The Red Raiders hadn’t managed that since 1996, when it was a Southwestern Conference matchup. That league is long gone, but the Texas Tech defense isn’t, and the streak of futility at Texas ended 68-62.
10. Iowa State wasn’t supposed to celebrate whipping Kansas and rolling into the top-25 by losing the next two games. But the 58-57 home defeat by Kansas State followed the loss at Baylor, which had coach Steve Prohm wondering how his team had handled its flash of fame. “I think everybody jumped and ran with one game.”
11. Georgetown is not supposed to play more than 40 minutes every game. It just seems that way. The Hoyas’ double overtime win over Providence was their fourth game to go extra periods, and makes them 3-1. But then, the Big East is big on close games. Seton Hall’s 70-66 loss to Marquette was its ninth result to be decided by five points or fewer. The Pirates are 5-4.
Also in the Big East, DePaul was not supposed to go on the road and beat St. John's, even with Shamorie Ponds out. The Blue Demons had a 17-game losing streak against ranked teams. It’s also the first time in four years that DePaul – the consensus choice to take last in the Big East — has won back-to-back conference games. The progress is plain for the 10-5 Blue Demons.
12. Bob Huggins is not supposed to be in last place in any league. But West Virginia’s loss at home to Oklahoma State makes the Mountaineers 0-4 in the Big 12. They hadn’t started league play that way since they were in the Big East 23 years ago.
13. Arkansas is rarely supposed to lose at home. And almost never two in a row. That hadn’t happened in seven years, but it’s happened now, with the 94-88 overtime loss to LSU. Will Wade said he prepared his LSU team for the Razorbacks crowd by blasting out hog calls and loud music during practice last week.
That added to Arkansas’ notable close-loss blues. The Razorbacks are 10-5, and consider their five defeats: Texas tied them at the buzzer and beat them 73-71 in overtime. Western Kentucky edged in front 78-77 in the last 20 seconds, before Arkansas had two late chances to win. The Razorbacks led with two minutes to go but lost 69-65 to Georgia Tech. They came from 15 points behind to have two chances to tie in the final minute before losing 57-51 to Florida. Now overtime against LSU and its practice hog calls.
In a tough road atmosphere at Arkansas Saturday night, the Tigers improved to 12-3 and 2-0 in SEC play after hard fought, 94-88, overtime victory .— LSU Basketball (@LSUBasketball) January 13, 2019
LSU will head to Oxford for a Tuesday night matchup against Ole Miss at 8 p.m. CT on the SEC Network.
📄 https://t.co/QSADTNHNEo pic.twitter.com/j9UrgP8sgW
14. A guy shouldn’t have to put his team ahead three times in the final 40 seconds to win a game. But Southern Utah’s Dre Marin did against Northern Arizona. Martin hit a 3-pointer at the 39-second mark (Northern answered), then a layup with 18 seconds left (Northern answered), then a jumper at 1.5 seconds, which finally won it for the Thunderbirds 84-82. Of his 13 points, eight came in the last 40 seconds.
15. You’re not supposed to lose when the other team is down two points and has the ball out of bounds at the far end with 0.5 seconds left. But Rice did, when UTEP’s court-length pass went on one bounce to freshman Jordan Lathon, who quickly turned and fired from the baseline. Swish. To think, the Miners pulled that off and had 1.6 seconds less than Duke and Christian Laettner.
So odd doings were everywhere, but it’s hard to beat the ACC. And then there is this unprecedented sweep at the moment — Duke and Virginia No. 1 in men’s basketball, Notre Dame No. 1 in women’s basketball, Clemson No. 1 in football. What, no fencing?