Has there ever been a Saturday like it in college basketball? No.
The top six ranked teams beaten. Also No. 9. Never happened before in the history of the Associated Press poll.
Gonzaga’s remarkable conference winning streak gone.
Twenty-four games decided in regulation by one possession, and nine more in overtime. It wasn’t just in the top-10 that tumult reigned.
Florida State won its sixth one-point game this season. Oklahoma State played its third overtime game in eight days. In two conferences, teams fighting for the league lead were beaten by teams trying to stay out of the cellar.
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Tom Izzo was nearly moved to tears by his Michigan State’s last-second escape against Purdue. Ed Cooley’s joy was almost beyond words as Providence clinched its first regular season Big East title after 43 years of trying. “Today is the highest of highs with respect with where we’re trying to go,” Cooley said. Except for some, it was also the lowest of the lows. Imagine Tony Bennett’s shock after Virginia’s NCAA Tournament at-large bid chances were possibly gutted by a Florida State 30-footer at the buzzer.
“A night you’ll never forget,” Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett said. He was talking about his team’s sacking of No. 1 Gonzaga, but that was accurate for lots of places.
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Saint Mary’s would lead by 16 points and win by 10 over a No. 1 Gonzaga team that came in with 34 consecutive WCC victories, 33 of them by double digits. The normally breathtaking Gonzaga offense produced only 36.7 percent shooting, 57 points and four assists. The renowned ringleaders, Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren, combined for 12 points. It was only the third time in seven years Gonzaga had been held under 60. Saint Mary’s is responsible for all three. The Gaels can occasionally be Kryptonite to the Supermen from Spokane.
Two days after a sleepy 17-point loss at home to unranked Arizona State, Colorado would bury No. 2 Arizona in the second half 47-26 and win 79-63. That matched the highest-ranked opponent Colorado had ever beaten, and the other was 30 years ago. “It’s hard to write a script that’s better than this,” coach Tad Boyle said.
Tennessee would mash No. 3 Auburn 54-31 in rebounding, hold the Tigers to no field goals for more than eight minutes in the second half and push past the Tigers 67-62. Just as they had taken care of No. 4 Kentucky 11 days earlier. Rick Barnes is 4-0 against top-5 opponents in Knoxville. “I don’t have the answer,” Bruce Pearl said of what happened to Auburn, who has now lost three consecutive road games.
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Michigan State would stop its freefall — five losses in six games — by beating No. 4 Purdue 68-65 on Tyson Walker’s shot at 1.4 seconds. “We needed to win a game and we needed to win a game the way we won,” said Izzo. He knows the calendar. He knows what he has been relentlessly demanding from his team and how time is running out to find it. That’s why Saturday made him so emotional. “I don’t really care if they like me right now,” he said. “I know what it takes to be what we’ve got to be, and today we did some of those things.” As for Purdue, this is what happens when the outside shooting goes south — 1-for-9 in 3-pointers — and there are too many turnovers. A lesson for March. Or is it a warning?
Baylor would trail by 13 early but blow past No. 5 Kansas 80-70. That makes the Bears a rather astonishing 10-1 against top-10 opponents the past two seasons. The exception was a 24-point loss at Kansas early this month. Their rivalry had a 34-point swing in three weeks.
Arkansas would remain one of the nation’s most torrid teams, surviving 17 lead changes to outlast No. 6 Kentucky 75-73. After starting 0-3 in SEC play, the Razorbacks have won 13 of their past 14 games, going 4-0 against ranked conference teams. Another big dose of Oscar Tshiebwe — 30 points, 18 rebounds — was not enough to save the Wildcats, who have suddenly developed a couple of worrisome glitches. Kentucky has fallen behind by 10-plus points four games in a row, and is 1-5 against ranked teams outside Rupp Arena.
TCU would force 20 turnovers, limit No. 9 Texas Tech to three offensive rebounds and beat the Red Raiders 69-66. Texas Tech has knocked off seven ranked teams, but nobody goes unbloodied forever in today’s Big 12.
Wisconsin, picked to finish 10th in the Big Ten in a pre-season media poll, would move within a game of clinching the league’s regular-season title by doing what Purdue, Illinois, Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan and Iowa could not — win at Rutgers.
Duke would lead by 30 and plow over Syracuse 97-72 in the last regular-season meeting between Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Boeheim, who have 2,192 victories between them. The victory kept Duke on course to win its first ACC regular-season title since — can this be true? — 2010.
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Murray State, trying to go 28-2, would have to rally from 12 points down in the last 6:38 to barely get by Southwest Missouri State, who came into the game 13-16. A flagrant foul led to a six-point possession and helped send the Racers to the 70-68 win.
Liberty would outlast Kennesaw State 100-93 in overtime because the nation’s second leading scorer, Darius McGhee, would put up 16 of his 47 points in the extra period.
Iowa State, not long ago fading with a four-game losing streak, would win its fourth consecutive Big 12 game, 74-73 over Kansas State. That made 20 victories for the Cyclones. This time last year, they were 2-22.
Oklahoma would edge out Oklahoma State 66-62, the third overtime game in eight days for the Cowboys, who lost two of them.
Dayton, 12-3 in the Atlantic 10, would blow a 15-point lead and lose 62-60 to La Salle, who came in 2-13 with five consecutive defeats.
New Mexico State, leading the WAC at 13-2 and 23-4, would go down in the final seconds to Chicago State, 2-13 and 6-22.
California would shut down Stanford 53-39, the fewest points the Bears had allowed in a conference game in 37 years.
South Florida would beat Cincinnati at the buzzer with — isn’t this a blast from the past — a hook shot.
Loyola Chicago, with a chance to win a Missouri Valley Conference title in its final year in the league, would instead lose 102-96 in overtime at Northern Iowa, giving the home team the championship.
Charleston would lead Drexel for 39 minutes and 41 seconds, by as many as 16, but lose on a dunk with 1.7 seconds left.
UNC Asheville would outlast Presbyterian 98-96 in the first triple overtime in school history. The Bulldogs were saved in the second overtime when Coty Jude hit two free throws with two seconds left. Before that, he had shot only 18 all season.
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And finally, Virginia would live a nightmare. Armaan Franklin scored what for all the world looked like a dramatic winning basket for the Cavaliers to put them ahead of Florida State 63-61 with 0.4 seconds showing. Then officials looked at replay and reset the clock to 1.0 second. Then Harrison Prieto — a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in meteorology — threw a pass three-quarters the length of the floor to Matthew Cleveland, who turned, heaved and swished it. “A tough way to go out,” Franklin said.
The 64-63 loss put Virginia at 17-12 and in imminent danger of falling off the NCAA Tournament bubble. Florida State is 15-13 with six one-point wins, five of them in the ACC.
When the demolition derby finally ceased, it was hard to tell what the fallout might be. Would a loss cost Gonzaga the No. 1 spot? Replaced by... whom? Nearly everyone standing right behind the Zags lost, too. Is Duke, the lone top-10 survivor of the carnage, headed for a No. 1 seed? Are Auburn and Purdue and Kentucky slipping? Is Baylor charging?
The main message: Nobody — nobody — seemed safe this weekend. Except Duke. “It’s kind of life in late February and early March, especially on the road,” Mark Few said after Gonzaga’s loss. Indeed, all seven top-10 victims were in hostile arenas Saturday.
So February went out like a lion. Now here’s March, and the neutral locations of the conference and NCAA tournaments. That should be safer for the big fish, right? Right?