What a day in College Basketball. While we’ve gotten a taste of what Conference play looks like, Saturday was the first day where there was a full slate of College Basketball and frankly, it exceeded the hype. We had a day where two “Blue Bloods” dropped games that they probably weren’t supposed to, with Duke losing to unranked Miami, while Kansas lost to Texas Tech. San Diego State got in on the action by ending Colorado State’s perfect record, Seton Hall and UConn played one of the games of the year, while the rest of the day had plenty of other key results to dive into, so let’s dive into the daily roundup for Saturday’s games.
Miami pulls off the upset, beating Duke in Cameron Indoor
There is no other place to begin with Duke losing, the Coach K farewell tour continued on during a Saturday night against Miami, a team unbeaten in ACC play. Duke was a 15 point favorite, so this game was expected to be somewhat of a blowout, but this sure delivered. The Hurricanes got off to a strong 14-6 start before Duke settled in and began to play at their pace, Duke had even gotten the lead up to as much as 8, but Miami found a way to chip into and tie the score at 32 going into the break. Duke had the lead with 12 minutes left, before a 13-2 run by Miami put the Hurricanes up by 6. Duke had chipped into the lead, but to Miami’s credit, they kept responding and led by one. From there Charlie Moore made a terrific pass, with Jordan Miller putting the ball in to give Miami a 3 point lead, but Duke responded. Mark Williams’ dunk cut the lead to one, Paolo Banchero made a defensive stop, then scored to put Duke up one, followed by Banchero getting a steal and dunking to put Duke up 3. From there Miami had the perfect four-point possession, with Charlie Moore scoring, getting fouled, then missing the free throw. Jordan Miller’s offensive rebound kept the possession alive and Kam McGusty drove and finished around the rim to give Miami the lead. Duke had three opportunities to win the game, with Trevor Keels missing a jumper down 1, then Wendell Moore and Trevor Keels missing threes that would’ve given Duke the win, but both missed, and Miami held on for the 76-74 victory.
This win obviously means a lot for Miami and will go a long way towards them making the NCAA Tournament. The Hurricanes were able to crack the code by way of matching Duke’s offense. Charlie Moore was fantastic, scoring 18 points to lead the Hurricanes. Jordan Miller had 17 while making so many key plays, Kam McGusty had 14, plus the go-ahead shot, and Isaiah Wong had 15. The quartet of guards all produced for this Miami team and that is how they were able to withstand Duke’s runs. This Blue Devils team was still able to score on the inside, Banchero had his 20, Mark Williams had his 12, but Miami was able to keep that inside duo from taking too much advantage on the interior. Miami is now 13-3, while coming into the game sub-90th in the NET had kept them from being taken too seriously, this win is a major validation. The Hurricanes aren’t an NCAA Tournament lock by any means, but should they continue to roll in the ACC play, they should be able to find themselves a bid. Duke’s loss isn’t going to hurt them that badly when all is said and done, yes it is a home loss, which is bad and takes them out of first place in the ACC, they still should be in a position to get a one seed so long as they continue to take care of business and ultimately this loss could help them come March Madness.
Red Raiders defense key as Texas Tech beats Kansas
This isn’t a Miami over Duke level upset, but Texas Tech’s win over Kansas was one of the bigger upsets of the day, especially given they did so without Terrence Shannon Jr. This was a game that Texas Tech seemingly had control of for most of the game, and they prevailed with the victory. I noticed two things in this game, most importantly is that Texas Tech was the tougher team and it wasn’t really even close. Texas Tech outrebounded Kansas 33-24, won the turnover battle, and just forced Kansas into a lot of difficult shots, something not easy to do. Secondly, they had maybe the best defensive game plan that I can remember any team ever having. Bill Self is known for the trick plays, backdoor lobs, and offensive sets to get easy points, but Mark Adams’ team was able to read those trick plays and oftentimes force turnovers off of them, which is hard to do.
Bryson Williams was certainly the most important player in the game because he was able to be a reliable scoring threat from the low-post, scoring 22 points, while Clarence Nadolny had 17 points himself. The Red Raiders are now 11-3 with quality wins over Tennessee and Kansas, the Red Raiders are seemingly the same program as they were prior to Chris Beard leaving. The defense is going to defend their butts off, they are going to out-tough teams and there’s just enough offense for them to win against good teams.
After seemingly finding himself against Oklahoma State earlier in the week, David McCormack again struggled to the tune of 4 total points. Remy Martin also did not start and was limited to just 13 minutes, as he deals with an ongoing knee injury. Simply put, Kansas needs those two for this team to win a title. Ochai Agbaji is still a First-Team All-American, his 24 points were big in keeping this a game, while Jalen Wilson scoring 20 was a welcome sight, but it wasn’t enough with a lack of production elsewhere. I still will say that Kansas has the highest ceiling of any Big 12 team if their pieces can ever figure it out, but thus far that has not been the case.
Kadary Richmond-led Pirates get thrilling win against UConn
What a game this was, the undeniably best way to potentially start the first major Saturday of Conference play was with an incredible Big East showcase. Having not played since December 21st, UConn could have shown up rusty but instead they had a great team performance. Adama Sanogo was dominating inside and UConn was rolling, leading 54-45 early in the second half, then Kadary Richmond happened. The 6’6 jumbo combo guard, who had been somewhat average offensively, just went to work. Richmond was scoring inside, running people over, bodying people in the post and he even drilled a three, all of which was part of him scoring 17 straight Seton Hall points. Somehow despite Richmond’s run UConn was able to keep up with the Pirates.
Down the stretch, both offenses looked gassed and in the end, the game that deserved overtime, got it with the teams tied at 77. Seton Hall got off to a good start in the five-minute period, but Tyler Polley and Tyrese Martin’s threes kept UConn down only one. That’s when both teams went to their stars. First Adama Sanogo hit a post-up turnaround to give the Huskies the 87-86 lead, but Seton Hall responded with Kadary Richmond going to the rim and scoring the go-ahead basket. UConn’s final possession was a disaster and after free throws, the Pirates won 90-87. This was an incredible game, both teams looked the part of being legitimate contenders for the league title, despite both teams now having two losses. Seton Hall
San Diego State hands Colorado State first loss in dominant fashion
Coming into this game, Colorado State was 11-0 and while not having any signature wins, the Rams were considered one of the premier non-Power Conference teams. Saturday would provide the Rams with a humbling blow, as not only did they take their first loss of the season, but they did so losing by 30. The first half was close throughout, while San Diego State had the halftime lead, it was only 36-32 and Colorado State seemed to be right in the game. The second was anything but close though, the Aztecs started on an 11-2 run and extended the lead from there. Even when Colorado State scored, San Diego State had an answer for every basket, it was a totally complete performance by San Diego State. Colorado State’s last bucket was with 5:23 left with the Rams down 65-49, from there San Diego State finished on a 14-0 run just to finish the game off the right way.
This is as good of a performance as you could want for San Diego State, Matt Bradley did what you expected when he came into San Diego State, he dropped 26 points and was big in the win, while four other Aztecs also crossed the double-figures threshold. The Aztecs now sit at 10-3 on the season, while they had been lacking a high-caliber win to this point, this is the win they needed to prove themselves on a national stage. While losing by 30 is never ideal, I think I’m inclined to throw this result out. Coming into earlier this week, they had not played in four weeks and they looked out of it against Air Force, simply put Colorado State was not ready for this game and it came at the exact wrong time. I still would pick Colorado State to win the Mountain West but right now they just ran out of gas and weren’t ready for this game. They will need to get their feet under them Wednesday as they play Utah State, but for now, this Rams team drops to just 11-1.
LSU takes care of Tennessee at home
In the second Top-25 matchup of the day and the least notable one, LSU took care of business against Tennessee, winning 79-67. The Tigers got out and running in the first half and took a seven-point lead into the locker room leading 42-35. Santiago Vescovi made a three to start the second half, but LSU responded with a 20-4 run to take a 20-point lead. Tennessee slowly chipped into the lead, but never got within five, as Brandon Murray’s layup and Tari Eason’s dunk essentially put the game away for LSU as they cruised to a 79-67 victory. Tari Eason continues to be one of the great transfer breakouts of the season, scoring 24 points, along with 12 rebounds, while Darius Days had 15. All was not sunshine and rainbows for LSU, as they did lose Xavier Pinson to a leg injury, which will be evaluated at a different point. LSU now is 14-1 on the season and while leading up to this week the schedule wasn’t great, sweeping Kentucky and Tennessee is a great way to prove legitimacy, which is exactly what LSU did this week.
Second-half charge leads Oklahoma over Iowa State
In a battle between two of the Big 12’s Tournament teams, Iowa State went on the road to take on Oklahoma in a game that promised to be pretty good. The Cyclones took a four-point lead into the break and even opened up a double-digit lead before Oklahoma made their run. The Cyclones led by three entering the under-8 timeout but that’s where the Sooners took control. The Sooners went on a 19-2 run over the course of the next seven minutes and that pretty much sealed the deal. The Sooners continue to be one of the best defensive teams in the Big 12, holding a Top-25 team like Iowa State to just two points over a seven-minute stretch is extremely impressive. The Sooners defenders know how to defend without fouling, guard tightly and have enough offense to win games that way. Umoja Gibson and Tanner Groves continue to be a good 1-2 punch, while Goldwire, Harkless, and Hill are all making great defensive contributions. Add in freshman Bijan Cortes who is a 6’3 freshman that has brought stability to the point guard position in a reserve role. Iowa State now has lost two out of three but it is not time to give up or call them frauds at this point. Their two losses are to good/ great teams and the Big 12 is a gauntlet. Sure Iowa State isn’t a Top-10 team like they were at one point, but this is a Top-25 team and only needs to go around 6-12 in Big 12 play to secure an at-large bid.
Southeast Lousiana wins Southland Tip-Off Classic title
Given the fewer amount of teams than usual (mostly due to league departures), the Southland did a preseason Tournament, which was fun with the Championship game tipping off on Saturday between Southeast Louisiana and Nicholls State. Southeast Louisiana won the title game 77-72, while Ryan Burkhardt had a career-high 20 points to lead them to the win. This was a fun little event, sure it ultimately means nothing because only the auto-bid does, but I’m sure Southeast Louisiana doesn’t mind taking home the trophy.
Hogs drop fourth straight with loss at Texas A&M
Remember when it was a hot take to have Arkansas outside the Top-15 in the polls, I certainly do, as I was one who had them in the Top-15. Now the hot take would be having the Razorbacks anywhere near a projected Field of 68, as the Razorbacks are not even close to belonging in that conversation. The Razorbacks have now lost three straight and four of their last five, which is a major concern for this team. The bottom line comes down to this, they don’t play good enough defense to win these type of games and that’s what cost them here. They allowed Texas A&M to get comfortable on offense, allowing 56% shooting from the floor and allowing five Aggies to score in double figures. While Texas A&M isn’t a bad team, in fact they probably should start being in Tournament contention, this is not an offensive juggernaut by any means. The offense has been fine for Arkansas this season, but until they start guarding like they did last year, they will continue to lose games and miss the NCAA Tournament altogether.
BYU grinds out victory against Saint Mary’s
While the WCC contenders vs. Gonzaga is always the highest profile game, there may be no game quite like Saint Mary’s-BYU, who are two schools that do not like each other. This year, like many years, this game was about jockeying for positioning in the WCC, with both teams being in that Top-4, alongside Gonzaga and San Francisco. This night was all about BYU and their defense in particular, as they held the Gaels to 43 points, on 29% shooting from the field and 17% shooting from three, which might be BYU’s most impressive defensive performance of the season. It’s not like BYU was scoring either, they only shot 39% from the floor and 1-13 from three, Alex Barcello, the star of the team only had 8 points and went 0-5 from three, but the Cougars were able to win this game on the defensive side of the ball, which is impressive. BYU will get into the NCAA Tournament minus a major changing of trajectory, but what is most important for them is being in a position to either win the WCC if Gonzaga falls, or getting the two seed in the WCC Tournament for them to automatically advance to the WCC semifinals. Saint Mary’s on the other hand probably needs to go on a little bit of a win streak, they don’t have any bad losses, but to date their only quality wins are Notre Dame and at Utah State, so there’s just not enough meat on the bone from a resume perspective.