The story of Saturday in college hoops was as much about the seven ranked teams falling as it was about the top-five teams that narrowly did not. As is becoming routine, No. 1 UConn and No. 2 Purdue made quick work of their respective conference foes without so much as breaking a sweat to avoid making headlines, but No. 3 North Carolina, No. 4 Kansas and No. 5 Houston all squeaked by with victories by a combined 11 points, highlighting just how narrow the margin for error is when competing for a league crown.
Some of the other top teams in the sport were not as fortunate to escape.
There was chaos aplenty in particular in the SEC, as No. 6 Tennessee got whooped on the road by unranked Texas A&M 85-69 and No. 17 Kentucky fell at home in a stunner to unranked Kentucky. Most surprising of all might have been No. 12 Auburn no-showing at Florida early in the afternoon, as the unranked Gators chomped up the Tigers to bits in an 81-65 win.
Speaking of roadkill, No. 10 Illinois, No. 11 Wisconsin and No. 13 Baylor also got tripped up away from home at Michigan State, Rutgers and Kansas, respectively. The Illini had Michigan State on the ropes late before letting Sparty off the hook, while Baylor nearly mounted a comeback late in Allen Fieldhouse. Alas. (Oh, and Wisconsin? I’ll spare ya the deets; just peek at the box score. Yeesh.)
As ever it was a day of entertainment across the sport, and we’ve got a recap of everything that went down both good and bad in the space below in our weekly Winners and Losers column.
Winner: Edey finally connects from deep
Purdue star big man Zach Edey is known for what he does in the post. The reigning national player of the year is averaging 23.1 points and is shooting 63.1% from the floor for the No. 2 team in the country and is tracking to win the award again.
And that was before one of the biggest shots of his career. OK, maybe not really, but it was a highlight Purdue fans savored during the 79-59 win over Indiana because Edey finally hit a 3-pointer, which marked the first shot from distance in his decorated career
“I’m the best shooter in the country,” Edey told reporters postgame. “Let’s just leave it at that.”
Loser: Kentucky’s skid turns ugly
Kentucky has never lost three consecutive games inside Rupp Arena under John Calipari. Check that: Kentucky had never lost three consecutive games inside Rupp Arena under John Calipari.. The No. 17 Wildcats’ 89-85 loss to Gonzaga on Saturday not only qualified as such, but also marked UK’s first three-game home losing skid since before Rupp was built. The last time it happened was all the way back in 1966 – 10 years prior to Rupp’s opening. Kentucky’s now lost three of its last four and four of its last six overall with three of those losses coming in front of their home fans, and it’s been due largely to ugly defense, inconsistent effort and poor coaching.
“[We gave up] 18 offensive rebounds, 50 points in the paint,” Calipari said . “We thought we could guard them one-on-one, we probably should have trapped more. … We broke down some, we took a bad shot when we were up five and ready to go … the kids kept fighting, but it’s just tough.”
Calls for Calipari’s job – however delusional – are sure to be even more noisy this week. A home tilt vs. Ole Miss could set UK back on track, but this team has serious issues and is quickly looking like things are off the rails and not returning anytime soon. — Boone
Loser: Tennessee runs into buzz saw vs. Texas A&M
Texas A&M entered the day ranked 359th nationally in 3-point percentage at 26.6%. But the Aggies surpassed their average of 6.5 long-range makes per game before halftime in an 85-69 win over No. 6 Tennessee. The Aggies finished 11 of 28 from 3-point range (39.3%), improving their record to 3-0 in league games when making 10 or more 3-pointers. Wade Taylor IV led the charge by making 5 of 7 from beyond the arc in the first half on his way to finishing with 25 points. Tyrece Radford added 27 as the A&M backcourt offered a glimpse of its elite potential.
The Aggies were expected to compete for the SEC title before starting 1-3 in league play and slipping onto the NCAA Tournament bubble. But after entering the weekend as one of the “Last 4 in,” according to Jerry Palm’s latest Bracketology.
Beating the Tigers gave UF a second Quad 1 win, and the fashion in which the Gators did it showed that se, Texas A&M (15-8, 6-4 SEC) is looking better and better. The win over Tennessee (17-6, 7-3) was Texas A&M’s fifth Quad 1 win and signaled that the Aggies may still compete for one of the top four spots in the league standings heading into the SEC Tournament. Tennessee was a No. 1 seed before losing to the Aggies, according to Palm, but that is in jeopardy after its performance vs. Texas A&M.
There’s not a team in the Pac-12 that has been more up and down than No. 8 Arizona this season. On one night, the Wildcats look like bona fide Final Four contenders, and the next night they can look like a team heading toward another early exit in the NCAA Tournament.
Arizona recorded an impressive win on the road by knocking off Colorado 99-79 for its fifth consecutive win. The Wildcats needed to win vs. the Buffaloes in order to stay atop of the conference standings because of Washington State’s win over Oregon earlier in the day. Arizona has the highest ceiling of any team in the Pac-12 and proved again vs. Colorado that it can win a tough game on the road.
Winner: Girard’s memorable return to Syracuse
Joe Girard scored 1,652 points in four seasons at Syracuse and ranks No. 3 in school history for made 3-pointers with 297. He was a staple of the program’s identity during the final four seasons of legendary coach Jim Boeheim’s tenure. But Girard was nevertheless booed by an audible faction of Syracuse fans in his return to the Carrier Dome. Now starting for Clemson in his final season of college basketball, Girard led all scorers with 18 points as the Tigers took down the Orange 77-68. The icing on the cake for Girard was that he reached 2,000 career points with a couple of late free throws as the Tigers followed up their win at North Carolina with another impressive road victory. — Cobb
Loser: Wisconsin is wilting quickly
What began as a forgivable two-game slide with an overtime loss at Nebraska and a hard-fought loss to Purdue has quickly deteriorated into a crisis for No. 11 Wisconsin. The Badgers have dropped four straight after losing 78-56 at Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights held Wisconsin to just 29% shooting in the second half and produced five double-figure scorers of its own. This time a week ago, Wisconsin looked like a Big Ten title contender as it prepped for its game with the Boilermakers. Now, the Badgers will be scrambling to claim one of the top four spots in the conference standings and the once-promising trajectory of a team slipping toward mediocrity. — Cobb
Winner: Alabama’s Sears joins elite company
Alabama guard Mark Sears scored 23 points in the No. 16 Crimson Tide’s 109-92 win at LSU and became the first player since Collin Sexton six years ago to score 20 or more points on 14 occasions in a season. Even Brandon Miller, who was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, didn’t reach 20 as often as Sears has done it for the Crimson Tide. Sears contributed four of Alabama’s whopping 18 made 3-pointers against the Tigers. Nine of them were part of a 60-point barrage in the second half as the Crimson Tide pulled away late to stay atop the SEC standings. — Cobb
Loser: Baylor squanders a chance at KU
Baylor had theas the No. 13 Bears traveled to face No. 4 Kansas. The Jayhawks, who are notoriously short on depth, were playing without perimeter star Kevin McCullar Jr., who has been nursing a knee injury. With reserve guard Nic Timberlake pressed into the starting lineup for the first time, KU managed to squeak out a 64-61 win. The Bears had two chances to attempt relatively open game-tying 3-pointers in the final 10 seconds. But both rimmed out as their chance at a special win slipped by. — Cobb
Winner: UConn hitting juggernaut status again
No. 1 UConn built a 10-point lead in the first six minutes and never let up in its 89-64 win at Georgetown. The Huskies led by 26 by late in the first half, and the Hoyas never got any closer than 20 in the second. Though the competition was weak, the systematic destruction of a Big East foe away from home was a performance reminiscent of how the Huskies steamrolled opponents in last year’s NCAA Tournament, winning every game by double-digits on a march to the national title. UConn (22-2, 12-1 Big East) has now won a national-best 12 straight games, and seven of the past eight have come by 9+ points. Alex Karaban led the way with 25 points against The Hoyas. — Cobb
Winner: Houston stays atop Big 12
Winning on the road in the Big 12 is what separates the pretenders from the contenders, and No. 5 Houston did just that against Cincinnati on Saturday, taking down the Bearcats in Cincinnati, 67-62. It wasn’t pretty – in fact it was rather ugly – but the Coogs out-uglied Cincy and pulled away late. (And in style, to boot.)
Houston with the win remained alone atop the Big 12 standings despite Iowa State and Kansas both winning to stay 0.5 and 1 games back of it, respectively. — Boone
Winner: UCLA stays hot in win over Cal
Mick Cronin just refuses to go away quietly. UCLA extended its win streak to five on Saturday with a 61-60 win on the road against Cal. The Bruins have won seven of their last eight games since losing by 46 points on the road to Utah on Jan. 11. UCLA moved up to third place in the Pac-12 standings thanks to a big shot in the final minute of regulation by star guard Dylan Andrews.
UCLA is still unlikely to make the NCAA Tournament unless it wins the Pac-12 Tournament, but it’s safe to say the program has responded in a big way since suffering one of the most embarrassing losses in program history in Salt Lake City last month.
Loser: Auburn gets eviscerated by Florida
Entering the weekend, No. 12 Auburn had just four losses, all coming by six points or less. Meanwhile, all 19 of its victories had come by 11 points or more. Something unprecedented happened at Florida, as the Gators smacked Auburn 81-65, revealing an ugly side of the Tigers that we hadn’t seen this season. UF led by 29 in the second half before calling off the dogs and letting Auburn salvage a morsel of dignity. It was a critical Quad 1 win for Florida, which entered the day as a projected No. 11 seed for the NCAA Tournament in the latest Bracketology.
Second-year coach Todd Golden has his program moving in the right direction. It also showed that Auburn isn’t as trustworthy as previously believed. Winning on the road in the SEC is tough, and perhaps this was just a hangover performance following an emotional win over rival Alabama on Wednesday. But it will be hard to shake the memory of this beatdown when it comes to time to fill out a bracket after Selection Sunday. — Cobb
Winner: Sparty gets crucial win
Tom Izzo is inevitable. With Michigan State trailing by eight with 6:32 left, the Spartans finished the game on an 18-8 run to knock off No. 10 Illinois 88-80. Michigan State has reached the NCAA Tournament in 25 consecutive seasons under Izzo and this win is another step in the right direction of extending that streak. Michigan State came into the weekend on the bubble and adding another Quad 1 win to its resume is a positive development for Sparty. — Salerno
Loser: Oregon stumbles on bubble
Oregon entered the day as one of the “First 4 Out” in Jerry Palm’s Bracketology. Hosting a projected tournament team in Washington State gave the Ducks a chance to pick up a nice win at home. In fact, Oregon was a 3.5-point favorite as it sought to string together consecutive wins for the first time in roughly a month. But it wasn’t to be as the Ducks shot just 28.6% in the second half en route to a 62-56 loss. Washington State has won five straight. — Cobb
Stop me if you have heard this before in the last few weeks: Lamont Paris should win Coach of the Year. No. 15 South Carolina continued its improbable season with a 75-60 win over Vanderbilt for its seventh consecutive win. The Gamecocks are one of the stories of the year in college basketball. They were picked to finish last in most SEC polls and find themselves in a tie atop the conference standings with Alabama for first place with a 9-2 record. Pending a historic collapse to end the season, South Carolina is going to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2016-17 season. — Salerno
Loser: Oklahoma wins Bedlam, honors Toby Keith
There have been very few bright spots to write home about for Oklahoma State this season, and its 66-62 road loss to rival Oklahoma on the road was the latest in an increasingly hard-to-keep-track-of list. The loss – its ninth in its last 11 games – was particularly painful for OSU as it apparently failed to recognize the situation with the game in the balance, with Javon Small attacking the rim for a two-point shot with OSU trailing by three in the final few seconds. Small got his lunch money stolen as he bolted for the basket on top of it, and OU made a free throw in garbage time to go up two possessions and seal the win.
The win for OU came on a night when the school honored the late Toby Keith, an Oklahoma native who was a big fan of the Sooners, by donning pregame shirts with his name on it and selling drinks out of red solo cups at the concessions. — Boone
Winner: UNC survives road test at Miami
The kings of the ACC stayed the kings of the ACC on Saturday as No. 3 North Carolina survived a tough road test at Miami and outlasted the Hurricanes 75-72. UNC struggled early and trailed at the half but built a big second half and rallied to a double digit lead before holding off Miami down the stretch. The win kept Carolina in sole possession of first place in the ACC standings ahead of Virginia and rival Duke. — Boone
Winner: Warrick becomes NKU’s all-time leading scorer
Northern Kentucky star Marques Warrick passed Drew McDonald as the program’s all-time leading scorer, tallying 22 points in a win over Detroit Mercy and reaching 2,069 for his career. Warrick surpassed McDonald late in the game after hitting the 20-point threshold with a made foul shot. It marked his third consecutive 20-plus point outing, during which NKU has gone 2-1. Warrick’s 22 were his most in a game since Jan. 25 despite going 0-of-8 from 3-point range in the game. — Boone
St. John’s led by as many as 15 on the road at No. 7 Marquette and wound up losing 86-75 in what felt like a collapse but was really just a completely dominant second-half showing from the Golden Eagles. Marquette star Tyler Kolek powered the comeback win with 27 points, 13 assists and seven boards, slamming the door shut on what would have been a significant Quad 1 win for the Johnnies and their NCAA Tournament credentials. — Boone
Winner: Navy gets revenge on Army
Navy got revenge on Army with a 69-67 overtime win that came three weeks after the Black Knights won the first meeting. The rematch was a thriller as Josh Scovens lifted the Midshipmen to victory with three free throws that came with just over a second remaining in the extra period. — Cobb