We’re in the heart of conference play and there’s no time to waste. Let’s hop right into it.
1. Duke sweeps Virginia
Duke began Saturday by hearing its name called as the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament selection committee’s annual February bracket preview show. The Blue Devils then improved the likelihood that they’ll hold that same distinction when Selection Sunday rolls around in a month by toppling No. 3 Virginia for a second time this season.
Duke’s second triumph over the Cavaliers, an 81-71 triumph in Charlottesville, was even more impressive than the first. The Devils seized control early, stunning UVA with an outside attack that saw them connect on 7 of their first 8 three-point attempts. Virginia recovered to make things somewhat interesting, but the final outcome never seemed in doubt.
All told, Duke drilled 13 of 21 three-pointers, got 74 of its 81 points from its four freshmen starters, and ended UVA’s 13-game home winning streak. The Devils are the only team in the country to beat the Cavaliers and the only team to score more than 71 points against Tony Bennett’s vaunted pack line defense, a feat they’ve accomplished twice.
John Paul Jones Arena isn’t typically a hub for celebrity fans, but both LeBron James and Rajon Rondo were in the building on Saturday. With all due respect to Jack Salt, the attention of the NBA stars was on one of the guys wearing black.
He did not disappoint.
My goodness, Zion. pic.twitter.com/vtM63TCCFG— Dime (@DimeUPROXX) February 10, 2019
In addition to that absurd highlight, Zion Williamson finished his night with 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting, five assists, five rebounds, three blocks and three steals.
Maybe now the young man will finally start getting some national attention.
2. Speaking of attention, we need to start talking about Houston
There are just three teams in the country that have only one loss, and two of them have received significantly more attention than the third. Tennessee has been the No. 1 team in America for a month and Nevada hasn’t spent a day this season ranked outside the top 10.
It’s time to start talking about 23-1 Houston as a potential top 2 seed and a viable threat to play its way to the Final Four. The Cougars didn’t play an overly difficult non-conference schedule — LSU looks like their only win over a team that should earn an at-large bid to the Big Dance — but the ease with which they’ve traversed a good (not great) American Athletic Conference demands some respect.
Houston’s most recent triumph, a 65-58 win over No. 25 Cincinnati, may have been its most impressive. Kelvin Sampson’s team seized control of a back-and-forth affair by holding the Bearcats scoreless over the final 6:11 of Sunday’s showdown at the Hofheinz Pavilion.
At 10-1 (their lone loss of the season coming on the road to Temple), the Coogs now control their own destiny in the AAC race. Cincinnati will have a shot at home redemption when the two teams meet in the regular season finale for both on March 10.
3. The best finish of the 2018-19 season went down on Saturday
There hasn’t been a better end to a game this season than the one we saw between Missouri State and Illinois State.
HE CALLED GAME FROM HALF COURT! #SCtop10 pic.twitter.com/xKQQbgSrRI— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 10, 2019
The game wasn’t without significance either. Had Illinois State held on, they would have been alone in second place in the Missouri Valley Conference standings, just one game behind first-place Loyola-Chicago. Instead, Illinois State, Missouri State and Drake are now locked in a three-way tie for second, a full two games behind Sister Jean’s boys.
4. Weekend’s biggest winner: Marquette
The Golden Eagles bounced back from a disappointing 1-point home loss to St. John’s with a 66-65 win over Villanova that both handed the Wildcats their first Big East loss and kept alive Marquette’s chances of winning the conference’s regular season title.
Marquette’s NCAA tournament resume was already solid thanks mostly to non-conference wins over Kansas State, Wisconsin and Buffalo. But with the rest of the Big East currently under .500 in league play, Villanova represents the Golden Eagles’ lone opportunity to notch a conference win (or two) that will really shine on Selection Sunday. Markus Howard’s 38 points — and some solid team defense in the game’s closing seconds — made sure Marquette locked the quality dub away for safekeeping.
5. Biggest loser: Indiana
The Hoosiers have a bundle of high-quality victories (Michigan State, Marquette, Louisville) and they spent much of the first two months of the season ranked in the top 25, but it now seems far more likely than not that Romeo Langford and company aren’t going to hear their name called on Selection Sunday.
The latest blow for Indiana came via a hard to watch Sunday afternoon home loss at the hands of Ohio State. The Hoosiers shot a dismal 39.6 percent from the field in a 55-52 defeat. It’s the first time since 2010-11 that Indiana, now juts 4-9 in the Big Ten, has lost four consecutive games at home.
6. Bill Walton bit into a lit cupcake on live television
The headline is pretty self-explanatory here.
Bill Walton is out here taking bites out of very lit cupcakes. pic.twitter.com/hOU0KlkQmE— Kyle Boone (@Kyle__Boone) February 10, 2019
My man knows the only way to keep Pac-12 basketball interesting in 2018-19.
7. On second thought ...
Walton biting into an active flame wasn’t the only head the Pac-12 provided this weekend.
Check out Colorado head coach Tad Boyle’s reaction after his team’s 69-65 road triumph over USC.
I think Tad Boyle was a little fired up for this win @prooney07 @BrianHowell33 #GoBuffs pic.twitter.com/HaudyYo1y1— Brandon Boles (@BrandonBoles) February 10, 2019
If you’re thinking that’s a bit much for a 4-point win over a lightly-regarded 13-11 team in mid-February and that there has to be more of a story here, you’re not wrong.
The rift here between Boyle and USC head coach Andy Enfield dates back to last year. In Jan. 2018, Boyle — who has long been an outspoken critic of rule-breaking in the college game — was asked if wins over Arizona and USC provided any “extra satisfaction” since those schools were caught up in the FBI’s probe into the sport.
“Hell yes there’s extra satisfaction,” Boyle said. “I’ve got great respect for Sean, helluva coach. I’ve got great respect for Andy Enfield. But to answer your question: Hell. Yes.”
The comments apparently didn’t sit well with Enfield, who days later called an “F You timeout” with just 21 seconds to go in a 70-58 USC win over Colorado. When asked about the timeout after the game, Enfield replied that he “just had some things to say my team.” That set the stage for Saturday’s theatrics.
USC and Colorado will meet again in Boulder on March 9.
8. TCU breaks streak with upset of Iowa State
TCU’s 92-83 upset of No. 17 Iowa State on Saturday broke a streak of 47 consecutive losses for the Horned Frogs in road games against ranked opponents. Heading into the game, TCU was just 1-84 all-time in road games against teams ranked in the AP top 25, easily the worst mark of any power conference program.
The one top 25 road win for TCU before Saturday? A Jan. 19, 1998 triumph over No. 24 Hawai’i.
9. Tom Crean trashed his players
Georgia lost its fourth consecutive game and fell to 1-9 in the SEC on Saturday thanks to an 80-64 home loss at the hands of Ole Miss.
After the game, Tom Crean made sure to let all Bulldog fans know that the dismal record is entirely on him ... because he decided to keep players around who are really bad at basketball.
What an interesting quote from Tom Crean after today’s game: pic.twitter.com/IFMBZr0FoP— Seth Emerson (@SethWEmerson) February 9, 2019
It’s hard to see these comments having a “rally the troops” effect as we head into the final month of the season. If anything, it’s probably more likely now that Georgia players lie down on the court during the middle of a game as a form of protest than it is they win the SEC tournament. Both are entertaining options though.
10. Gonzaga is trying to make the rest of the WCC just quit
It’s nothing new for Gonzaga to be running over the rest of the West Coast Conference at this point in the season, but the Zags are taking WCC domination to the extreme in 2019.
Gonzaga’s latest victim was arch-rival Saint Mary’s, whom they handled with embarrassing ease in a 94-46 nationally televised blowout Saturday night. It was the largest margin of victory in the series since a 54-point Bulldog win in 2001.
The lopsided final wasn’t anything new for Gonzaga, which has won its first 10 WCC games by an average of 31.1 points per game. The Zags’ +311 scoring margin is the largest conference scoring margin of any team through 10 league games since at least 1998. Their current average margin of victory would also obliterate 26.2 average mov record they set in the WCC just two seasons ago.
So, yeah, Gonzaga’s really good again. That’s the overall point here.