Our quick thoughts on Saturday's results:
We were at Gampel Pavilion on Saturday to witness UConn's stunning 88-74 win over Texas. Like everyone else in the building, we couldn't believe that the Calhoun-less Huskies were still hanging around after a 16-turnover first half. But Jerome Dyson, who scored a career-high 32, Stanley Robinson, Kemba Walker, and seldom-used Donnell Beverly refused to let the game get out of hand, and each of them made huge plays in UConn's 15-0 run that took the Huskies from down eight to up seven with 12 minutes to play. (How Rick Barnes didn't call a single timeout during that run is beyond us.) Walker's rainbow three-pointer with 6:21 left, as the shot clock was winding down, all but ensured a victory for the Huskies, who amazingly have still never lost to a non-conference opponent in Gampel in the regular season.
As a result, UConn will jump back into the field this week and likely fall somewhere in the 7-8 range. The Huskies at worst should go 3-1 in their next Big East games, which means they won't be dropping back out of the bracket anytime soon. Texas, meanwhile, will make the rare fall from top overall seed to the 2 line with their two-loss week. Villanova will move up to the 1 line to replace them, and Kentucky will be the top overall seed.
The UConn student section deserves an A for its persistence, but their court rush ended up C-level at best. About 40 security guards did a good job of holding back the sea of students from both ends, making the rush very slow to develop. Eventually, though, the students pushed their way through to celebrate at mid-court (a crowd-surfing Jonathan the Husky Dog was a nice touch, too). A note to the UConn security staff: isn't it more dangerous to forcefully hold back 2,000 bum-rushing students than to just let them go? We certainly think so.
The Big Ten bubble is getting more and more confusing. Minnesota could have really secured the bracket win a win at home over Michigan State on Saturday, but the Gophers faded down the stretch and lost 65-64. The Spartans battled back from a 13-point second half deficit and took their first lead of the game on a Kalin Lucas three with 1:27 to go. Minnesota had the ball last, but Russell Westbrook missed a runner in the lane and Blake Hoffarber's tip-in attempt rimmed out. Elsewhere in the Big Ten, Illinois lost at Northwestern in what was essentially a play-in game for this week's bracket. As much as we still don't like the Wildcats, they might find a way to sneak into this week's bracket. Minnesota and Illinois will be on the outside looking in.
Saturday was a bad day for the last two teams in our field. Wichita State, after its impressive win at home against Northern Iowa earlier in the week, lost a real head-scratcher at Drake, 78-64. As much as we still like Wichita's chances to maybe win the MVC tourney or even win the regular season conference title, their 6-3 mark in the Valley is tough to ignore right now. Their status is going to be one of the toughest decisions for us to make Sunday night. The other Last Four In casualty was Virginia, who not-so-unexpectedly lost at Wake Forest. We had to hold our noses when we put the Cavaliers in last week, hoping that they might be able to pull the upset against the Demon Deacons, but their convincing loss in Winston-Salem now makes them a real tough sell to stay in the field.
There has officially been a changing of the guard in the Colonial, and it looks like it's going to cost William & Mary a spot in next week's bracket. The Tribe capped an 0-2 week by losing at home to Old Dominion on Saturday, dropping them to 6-3 in conference and a full two games behind ODU, George Mason, and Northeastern. Even with W&M's impressive OOC resume, two games in the standings (in the 12th-rated conference) is a lot to overlook at this point in the year. They also have games at ODU and at VCU left, which means they very well could finish with 5-6 conference losses. That's not going to get them an at-large. The best at-large candidate in the Colonial right now is ODU - the Monarchs have that huge win at Georgetown in their back pocket, they have a 35 RPI, and they have a great chance given their remaining schedule to win the Colonial regular season title. That alone might get them an at-large. We will give some consideration to a two-bid Colonial for Monday's bracket, but if it ends up that way, ODU will be the automatic and someone else (maybe W&M) will be a bid-stealer.
Just when the Pac-10 looked like it might be worthy of two bids, the conference's top two teams went out and laid some serious eggs. Arizona State got destroyed at home against Arizona and Washington finished up a pathetic 0-2 week by losing by 26 at USC, meaning that once again, the Pac-10 will be a one-bid league come Monday. That one team (we can't believe we're writing this) is going to be Cal, who nipped Oregon State at home Saturday to move to 5-2 in conference.
Oklahoma State slipped all the way off our Last Eight Out list last week by losing a pair of road games, but they may have leaped their way back in this week after Saturday's stunning win at Kansas State. James Anderson scored 30 points to lead the way for the Cowboys, who beat a Top 10 team on the road for the first time in 52 years. Oklahoma State's resume is still far from solid (this is their only win over a team currently in the field), but we love the fact that it came on the road in a league where no one wins on the road. We also like that Oklahoma State has Texas A&M and Texas coming in over the next eight days, which gives them two more really good chances to pad their resume.
The A-10 might be a three bid league again on Monday. Richmond was able to eek out a win at George Washington, but their loss at home to Charlotte earlier is the week is still troubling and might cost them a spot in the field. Rhode Island, meanwhile, saw its resume get a boost thanks to Oklahoma State's win, but then the Rams lost at Xavier. The loss will keep URI on its familiar spot on the Last Four Out list this week. If a fourth A-10 team does make it in this week, it could be Charlotte. The 49ers are now a half-game ahead of Richmond in conference, they have a head-to-head road win over the Spiders, and they play Temple at home this Wednesday.
If Florida ends up making the tournament, they'll have Chandler Parsons to thank. The junior forward, whose 75-footer at the buzzer beat N.C. State earlier this month, was a last-second hero again for the Gators again on Saturday, hitting a three at the horn to beat South Carolina, 58-56. Devan Downey (who scored 36) had just hit a runner to put the Gamecocks up one with 5.1 seconds left, but Parsons took the ensuing inbounds, set his feet, and drilled a three from the left wing as time expired. The win will likely keep Florida, who some people still have way out for some reason, on the 8 line next week.
Of note: West Virginia picked up a huge win for themselves and for the Big East, beating Ohio State 71-65 in Morgantown; Duke finally won a true game, beating Clemson 60-47 at Littlejohn; Tennessee lost at Georgia; Villanova won at St. John's; Syracuse beat Marquette at home; Georgetown beat Rutgers at home; Kansas won at Iowa State; Texas A&M beat Colorado at home; Baylor beat UMass at home; Missouri beat Nebraska at home; Kentucky beat Arkansas at home; Mississippi won at LSU; Mississippi State lost at Alabama; Vanderbilt beat Auburn at home; Virginia Tech beat BC at home; Maryland beat N.C. State at home; Purdue beat Michigan at home; Temple won at Fordham; New Mexico beat Colorado State at home; UNLV won at TCU; BYU won at SDSU; Butler won at Illinois-Chicago; UAB won at Marshall; Tulsa beat Rice at home.