Everything that happens from now on happens with “less than a month to go until Selection Sunday,” and this weekend helped set a perfect stage for the regular season’s final weeks.
Here’s everything you need to know about what went down on Saturday and Sunday.
1. Kentucky obliterated top-ranked Tennessee
The showcase game of the weekend took place Saturday night in Lexington, where No. 5 Kentucky led by as many as 24 and blasted No. 1 Tennessee, 86-69.
In a tilt loaded with players who are front-runners for both SEC and national honors, no one was a bigger star than Kentucky forward P.J. Washington. The sophomore was virtually unstoppable in the paint, connecting on 9 of his 12 field goal attempts and finishing with a game-high 23 points.
The biggest difference for Washington this go-round against Tennessee as opposed to last season was the presence of front court teammate Reid Travis. The brawnier Travis drew the defensive assignment of national Player of the Year candidate Grant Williams — who scored 16 points but attempted just four field goals — allowing Washington to conserve more energy and focus for the offensive end. In the two games against Tennessee last season where Washington was forced to deal with Williams on both ends of the floor, he scored a total of nine points and didn’t make a single shot from the field.
Much has been made of the fact that this was Tennessee’s first game against a ranked opponent since knocking off Gonzaga on Dec. 9. Whether or not that was a factor in Saturday night’s lopsided final score is impossible to know, but the Volunteers will have plenty of opportunities to confirm or dispel the notion in the coming weeks. They’ll head to Baton Rouge next Saturday to face an LSU team that’s now tied with them atop the SEC standings at 11-1, and then host the return game against Kentucky the Saturday after that.
For Kentucky, the victory not only puts the Wildcats within striking distance of both UT and LSU in the SEC regular season championship race, but strengthens their case to be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. The regular season series between the Cats and the Vols takes on even more significance when you remember that the pair could be fighting for geographical preference on Selection Sunday in a year where Columbus is hosting first and second round games and Louisville will host a regional final.
2. A UK student hit the halfcourt shot on “College GameDay” and went f bomb crazy
Shoutout to Kentucky student McKinley Webb for banging home this shot for $19,000 and then reacting exactly like you’d expect a college student to react in that situation.
Kentucky student hits a halfcourt shot on College GameDay and celebrates like college kids celebrate.— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) February 16, 2019
“Let’s #%$&ing go!” pic.twitter.com/uuiEOJ341j
Webb apologized on Twitter minutes later.
I’m sorry for my language but I just got a bag— mckinley webb (@mwebb1998) February 16, 2019
All good, my man.
3. Michigan State may have lost Nick Ward for a long time
No. 11 Michigan State outscored Ohio State 37-13 in the second half on their way to a breezy 62-44 win over the Buckeyes on Sunday afternoon. The bigger story was on the Spartan bench, where big man Nick Ward spent most of the game nursing an apparent hand injury.
Hours after the game, Michigan State sent out a release announcing that Ward had sustained a hairline fracture of his left hand toward the end of the first half and that there’s no timetable for his return. The release added that “it is hoped he will return before the end of the season.”
The news would be brutal for Tom Izzo’s club under any circumstances, but it’s especially crushing when taking into account that the team was just coming to terms with being without Josh Langford for the rest of the season. The standout junior guard was averaging 15.0 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists before suffering a left foot injury. On Jan. 31 it was announced that he would be out for the rest of 2018-19.
Averaging 15.4 points and 6.7 rebounds per game, Ward had finally morphed into the consistently reliable inside force Spartan fans had been waiting to see for the past two seasons. Without him, Izzo will likely turn to sophomore Xavier Tillman (8.4 ppg/6.9 rpg) to step into the role of starting center, and will also ask starting senior forward Kenny Goins (7.2 ppg, 8.9 rpg) to shoulder a healthy chunk of the offensive load Ward is leaving behind.
The timing couldn’t be worse for Michigan State, which is tied with Michigan atop the Big Ten standings and plays the first of two showcase games against the Wolverines this Sunday.
4. “It” almost happened to Louisville again
Playing just four days after its historic collapse against Duke — the Cardinals became the first team in NCAA history to blow a 23-point lead with less than 10 minutes to play in regulation ... just in case you spent the past week watching zero college basketball but decided to check out this post for fun — Louisville nearly lost at home to Clemson in a manner that would have arguably been even more soul-crushing.
The Cardinals led 55-47 with just 17 seconds to play when things went bonkers inside the KFC Yum! Center once again. Clemson’s Marcquise Reed hit a deep three to cut the lead to four. After the Tigers trapped U of L’s Dwayne Sutton and retained possession after a jump ball, Reed buried another ridiculous shot to trim the lead to one with 3.2 seconds to play.
That’s when this happened:
I can’t put this ending into words.— Dominique Yates (@RealDYates) February 16, 2019
Just watch pic.twitter.com/77DEu3bXSZ
Jordan Nwora’s inbounds pass — intended for a falling Sutton — wound up in the hands of Reed. Reed’s potential game-winner was blocked by a quick-reacting Nwora, and John Newman III’s putback attempt found nothing but iron. The final horn sounded and Cardinal fans, understandably, couldn’t find the energy to take their hands off the top of their heads and clap.
This marks the third straight game that Louisville has had a sizable lead in the final minutes of a game and wound up either losing or gifting their opponents an opportunity to win that they didn’t deserve. The trend is undoubtedly troubling, especially considering how likely it is that the Cardinals will be in a similar spot multiple times between now and the end of the season.
5. Chris Clemons joined the 3,000-point club
During Campbell’s 76-71 loss to Presbyterian College Saturday afternoon, Camels star Chris Clemons became just the ninth player in the history of Division-I men’s basketball to breach the 3,000-point mark for his college career. His 3,006 career points put him just one made three-pointer away from passing Hersey Hawkins and moving into 8th-place on the all-time scoring list.
Currently the nation’s leading scorer at 29.8 ppg, Clemons finished Saturday with a game-high 28 points. It marked the sixth straight game in which the senior has scored at least 23 points.
Following the weekend’s events, here’s how the list of Division-I’s top 10 all-time leading scorers currently stands:
1. Pete Maravich, LSU (1967-70) — 3,667 points
2. Freeman Williams, Portland State (1974-78) — 3,249 points
3. Lionel Simmons, La Salle (1986-90) — 3,217 points
4. Alphonso Ford, Mississippi Valley State (1989-93) — 3,165 points
5. Doug McDermott, Creighton (2010-14) — 3,150 points
6. Harry Kelly, Texas Southern (1979-83) — 3,066 points
7. Keydren Clark, Saint Peter’s (2002-06) — 3,058 points
8. Hersey Hawkins, Bradley (1984-88) — 3,008 points
9. Chris Clemons, Campbell (2015-present) — 3,006 points
10. Oscar Robertson, Cincinnati (1957-60) — 2,973 points
It should be noted that the 3,000-point club will almost certainly be expanding to 10 members before the end of the 2018-19 season.
South Dakota State senior star Mike Daum currently sits at No. 12 on the all-time scoring list with 2,943 career points. His 31-point effort in South Dakota State’s 78-77 win over North Dakota State moved him past Alfredrick Hughes on the all-time scoring list, and also moved him within nine points of passing former Kansas star/current Wake Forest head coach Danny Manning.
6. Speaking of that 1-point South Dakota State win ...
Here’s how it happened:
David Jenkins Jr.’s answered prayer kept the Jackrabbits atop the Summit League standings with an 11-2 mark. Rival North Dakota State dropped to 8-5 in league play.
7. But it might not have been the best finish of the weekend
It’s not difficult to argue that the distinction of “best finish” belongs to Iowa-Rutgers, which wrapped with a seemingly impossible bounce and a seemingly impossible bank in the span of four seconds.
You won't see an ending with crazier consecutive bounces. @IowaHoops gets the most important roll: The last one. pic.twitter.com/l2IlwZ2yUW— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) February 17, 2019
That was Joe Wieskamp banking in the game-winner from an impossible angle and lifting the 21st-ranked Hawkeyes to a 71-69 win. The shot also extended Iowa’s Big Ten winning streak to four games.
Iowa now sits two games behind Michigan and Michigan State in the league standings, but ends with a manageable six game stretch that doesn’t include the Wolverines, Spartans or 11-3 Purdue.
8. Kansas’ Big 12 regular season title streak is still very much alive
This should come as a surprise to absolutely no one, but the pieces certainly appear to be falling into place for Kansas to win at least a share of the Big 12 regular season title for a
736th 15th consecutive season.
First, the Jayhawks avenged an upset loss at West Virginia last month by smacking the Mountaineers, 78-53, for their third straight win on Saturday. Then KU got more help in the form of Iowa State upsetting league-leading Kansas State on the road by 14. The result means that Kansas, which is now just a half game behind K-State in the conference standings and hosts the Wildcats next Monday, is back to controlling its own destiny in the Big 12 regular season race. If the Jayhawks win out, they’re guaranteed to win at least a share of consecutive title No. 15.
Kansas is currently starting four freshmen, the Jayhawks don’t have a reliable post presence, Udoka Azubuike is done for the year, Silvio De Sousa isn’t eligible until 2020-21, LaGerald Vick is back home and still nobody knows why, the team’s second-leading scorer over the past month was redshirting when the calendar flipped to 2019, its freshmen guards have been inconsistent all season, Bill Self’s fake hair controversy won’t go away; and yet, this may happen for a 15th straight year.
What is dead may never die.
9. Two MAAC players combined to score 101 points in one game
Quinnipiac senior guard Cameron Young set a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference record by scoring 55 points in the Bobcats’ 107-100 triple overtime win over Siena on Sunday. The point total was the highest in Division-I this season, and the third-highest of the last 20 years. Young is also the first player in at least 20 years to post a double-double of at least 55 points and at least 10 rebounds.
Young’s performance overshadowed a 46-point effort from Siena freshman Jalen Pickett. The two players combined to go 13-of-21 from beyond the arc and 30-of-37 from the free-throw line.
10. Florida State dunked on Georgia Tech late, and a Yellow Jacket fan was NOT having it
This is the fan video of the year:
Classic Leonard Hamilton and FSU: Classless bunch of lowlifes. This is going to come back to you and when the tables are turned you're not going to like it #collegebasketball #collegehoops #bigten #big10 #acc #duke #georgiatech #fsu #louisville #cardinals #clemson pic.twitter.com/iAoYo7AAX6— SPORTS SAVANT (@iStayWinning247) February 16, 2019
First of all, the hashtags. Yes.
Secondly, this is legitimately the worst moment in Leonard Hamilton’s 32-year career as a head coach to be taking a run at his credentials. Florida State’s blowout of GT was its seventh win in a row, and the ‘Noles are playing as well as just about anyone in the country. Also, Hamilton made a regional final for the first time last season, and came within a couple of shots of upsetting Michigan and crashing the Final Four.
Finally, I’m in awe of the fact that there’s still a Georgia Tech fan invested enough in the 2018-19 season to; A) Get so worked up over something like this, and B) Take the time to create a video to share those feelings with the world.
We can mock the hashtags and the overall message, but let’s also be sure to give the guy a f—ing medal when we’re done. He’s earned it.
11. St. John’s erased a 19-point lead to stun Villanova
Sunday’s most significant result came from inside Madison Square Garden, where St. John’s rallied from as many as 19 down to deal No. 13 Villanova a 71-65 defeat.
The rally got jumpstarted in the closing moments of the first half, when LJ Figueroa’s 70-foot heave just before the buzzer cut the Nova lead to 11 and immediately shifted momentum back to the home team for the first time since the opening tip.
JUSTIN SIMON WITH THE HEAVE! It goes in and the Johnnies enter the locker room within 11! #SJUBB pic.twitter.com/zAOTryc8BG— St. John's BBall (@StJohnsBBall) February 17, 2019
“We were screaming the whole way into the locker room,’’ said St. John’s guard Mustapha Heron after the game.
A 20-5 St. John’s run in the middle of the second half spearheaded by Figueroa, Heron and Shamorie Ponds (and a Jay Wright technical) proved to be the game’s most crucial stretch. It also led to a win that solidified the Johnnies’ NCAA tournament resume, and a defeat that dropped Villanova even with Marquette in the Big East loss column. St. John’s and Seton Hall, both at 7-6, are now then only two teams in the conference besides the Wildcats and Golden Eagles with league records above .500.
12. Duke will be the new No. 1 team in the country come Monday
Which would be a bigger deal if a majority of the country didn’t already think that Duke was the No. 1 team in the country and had been for a while.
Zion Williamson scored 32 points on 12-of-16 shooting as the Blue Devils coasted to a 94-78 win over NC State Saturday afternoon that moved them to 23-2 overall and 11-1 in the ACC. Coach K and company have now won 18 of their last 19 home games against the Wolfpack.
And since Zion was mentioned and this is a college basketball write-up, I am contractually obligated to post at least one dunk video.
Potential 2019 No. 1 pick Zion Williamson putting on a show here in warmups. pic.twitter.com/x0i127vKGF— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) February 16, 2019
I don’t make the rules.