Sometimes, being ranked first in the polls isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. For a second consecutive weekend, Purdue wore the big target on the road and had to watch another happy student section celebrate at the Boilermakers’ expense.
Last week it was archrival Indiana, and this time it was Northwestern that engineered the court-storming. Wildcats guard Chase Audige scored 10 points in the final four minutes to lead the late rally to stun the nation’s top-ranked team.
The Super Bowl Sunday triumph in Evanston, Illinois, also provided a huge boost to Northwestern’s postseason credentials with Selection Sunday now just four short weeks away. A team with just one previous tournament berth that came in 2017, the Wildcats are comfortably in the field as they sit tied for second with Indiana in the Big Ten.
All of this season’s success comes after they were picked 13th in the conference’s preseason media poll.
Here are some of the other winners and losers from the weekend in men’s college basketball.
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With arguably the biggest shot of the weekend, Gholston’s long-range heave at the buzzer gave Missouri a much-needed 86-85 win at Tennessee. That big shot provided the Tigers with the top-tier road win that had been missing from their resume moving them, for now at least, to the good side of the bubble.
The Crimson Tide weren’t at their best on Saturday, struggling to make three-point shots and to impose their preferred fast pace. Yet they still found a way to win at archrival Auburn, thanks in large part to a 16-point outing from reserve guard Rylan Griffen, to keep their SEC record unblemished and move a step closer to securing their first No. 1 seed in the tournament
The Bruins completed a weekend sweep with a 70-63 win at Oregon. They now find themselves two games clear in the Pac-12 standings thanks to Arizona’s stunning loss at Stanford.
The Longhorns retained first place in the Big 12 in convincing fashion with a home 94-60 romp over West Virginia. Sir’Jabari Rice finished with 24 points, knocking down four of Texas’ 10 made 3-pointers that cooled off the Mountaineers, who had won four of five.
The Bluejays protected their home court, winning a 56-53 defensive slog with Connecticut for their eighth consecutive win. In addition to improving their seeding for the NCAA field, Creighton is now just one half game behind Marquette in the Big East.
The Zags took down BYU 88-81 Saturday night to pull back to within a game of Saint Mary’s in the West Coast Conference. The Gaels, meanwhile, bounced back from Thursday night’s loss to Loyola Marymount to win at Portland. The coming showdown between the top two schools in the WCC in two weeks likely will decide the top seed in the conference tournament.
With some of the Fighting Illini’s victories losing value through no fault of their own, they were in need of another quality win. They got it Saturday courtesy of a 69-60 home triumph against Rutgers. Coleman Hawkins provided a big lift with 18 points for Illinois, which now heads on the road to Penn State and Indiana this week.
Just a couple games over .500 not long ago, the Cowboys have rattled off five wins in succession. On Saturday they handed Iowa State its first home loss of the season in a 64-56 victory. Oklahoma State is now squarely in the NCAA field and could only need a few more league victories to confirm its spot.
The Tar Heels got two things they desperately needed on Saturday, a win against Clemson and a strong shooting performance from Caleb Love. The streaky guard drained six treys as UNC blew past the Tigers, indicating this team might still be capable of a late-season surge.
Aside from Alabama, there are just two other teams remaining in Division I unbeaten in conference play. The Eagles stayed perfect in the Big Sky and ran their winning streak to 15 with a 73-66 victory at Idaho.
Another set of Eagles, these being Golden, are the third squad still unscathed in conference. They downed Western Illinois 82-73 to stay clean in the Summit League. Max Abmas – yes, he’s still there – poured in 29 for ORU.
The Bulldogs blew out Columbia for their sixth win in a row and pulled into a first-place tie in the Ivy League with Princeton. The Tigers dropped an 83-76 decision at Dartmouth.
The Catamounts defeated Massachusetts-Lowell for their seventh consecutive win and now hold a two-game lead in the America East Conference.
The Eagles salvaged a split on their road trip with Saturday’s 65-59 win at Southeast Missouri State. That victory creates a bit of separation for Morehead State, now two games up in the wild Ohio Valley Conference that was in a six-way tie for first just three weeks ago.
The officials in the Virginia-Duke game
The Blue Devils aren’t likely to elicit much sympathy among the ACC’s other fanbases when an official’s call doesn’t go their way. But the complete hash made of the situation by the crew in Charlottesville when a last-second foul was whistled then deemed to have occurred after time expired, overshadowed the result of the game. The ACC was forced to admit afterwards that Duke’s Kyle Filipowski should have been awarded two free throws with the game tied. Virginia went on to prevail in overtime, but when the officiating dominates the discussion, that’s never good for the league or the sport.
The Volunteers were victimized by a buzzer-beater for a second consecutive outing, having lost earlier in the week at Vanderbilt. They’re not even remotely close to sliding toward bubble territory, but their failure to close out those games makes it fair to question their staying power in March. That’s not an ideal situation to be in with Alabama coming to Knoxville Wednesday night.
Even if the Wildcats are able to squeak into the tournament – a prospect that seems less likely in the wake of Saturday’s loss at Georgia – they won’t be regarded as a serious threat to hang another championship banner.
Unlike UCLA, the Trojans’ road swing through Oregon was not nearly as successful. USC’s Thursday night loss to the Ducks was followed by an even more damaging setback at Oregon State Saturday.
Big East contenders
It was a rough couple of days for a pair of conference front-runners. Xavier took the first hit Friday night via a loss to Butler, then Providence suffered a damaging loss Saturday to St. John’s.
Big Ten bubble teams
If Michigan and Wisconsin don’t see their names on the bracket next month, this disappointing weekend’s results will loom large. The Wolverines missed ample opportunities to steal a win at home against Indiana that might have reversed their waning fortunes, and the Badgers suffered an ugly overtime loss at Nebraska, their fifth setback in seven games.
Friday night’s loss at Air Force was the third in a row for the Lobos and was clearly the most costly. They need to find answers quickly in the final month. After starting 14-0, Richard Pitino’s team has gone 5-6 since the start of 2023.