| USA TODAY
With just five weeks until Selection Sunday each win could mean the difference between being on the bubble or being firmly in or out of the NCAA Tournament.
While most ranked teams will make the NCAA Tournament, wins like Missouri’s in a Top-2 SEC matchup against Alabama, 68-65, have a major impact on the seeding that could pave the way for success or failure in March.
All the winners and losers Saturday:
Missouri: The No. 17 Tigers survived a 21-2 stretch from No. 7 and SEC leader Alabama to secure their third win over a ranked opponent this season. The Tigers (13-3, 6-3) have now won three close games in a row thanks to one of the best defenses in the SEC and an offense led by Dru Smith. Smith finished with 16 points, eight rebounds and four assists against Alabama, which had its 10-game SEC winning streak snapped.
Oklahoma State: The No. 24 Cowboys, fresh off of a close loss on the road to TCU got a statement win; this time against No. 6 Texas, 75-67. Projected No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham struggled early, finishing with an inefficient 19 points, but the supporting cast for the Cowboys (12-5, 5-5) pushed them over the edge. Center Kalib Boone finished with 22 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks and guard Avery Anderson added 16 points and 10 rebounds. The Cowboys are projected as an 8-seed, according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, but could be a problem for teams come March.
Seton Hall: The Pirates (11-8, 8-5) got a boost to their NCAA Tournament hopes with an 80-73 victory against Connecticut and former Seton Hall player turned coach Dan Hurley. Seton Hall came in as the last team in the 68-team tournament, according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi. The Big East, like most conferences, is a mess with teams trading wins weekly. These teams will face one another on March 3 with tournament implications at the forefront once again.
Illinois: The No. 13 Fighting Illini rode a triple-double from guard Ayo Dosunmu and 23 points and 14 rebounds from center Kofi Cockburn en route to a 75-60 win vs. No. 20 Wisconsin. Dosunmu’s triple-double was the third in Illinois program history and first since Sergio McClain had 10 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists on Jan. 13, 2001, against Michigan. Dosunmu finished with 21 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists. Illinois (13-5, 9-3 Big 12) seems to be hitting its stride with Saturday’s win coming eight days after the Fighting Illini defeated No. 8 Iowa in Champaign, Ill.
West Virginia: The No. 18 Mountaineers got revenge for a December 22 loss at No. 22 Kansas with a 91-79 win in Morgantown, W.Va. thanks to career-highs from guards Miles McBride and Taz Sherman with 29 and 25 points, respectively. WVU shot efficiently from all three areas, hitting 50% from the field, 52% from three and 84% from the free throw line.
North Carolina: As college basketball shifts further and further towards 3-point shooting the Tar Heels (12-6, 7-4) have opted for a frontcourt of bruising defensive rebounders that are non-shooters. And Saturday against rival Duke, it worked in the 91-87 win. The frontcourt trio of Armando Bacot, Garrison Brooks and Day’Ron Sharpe totalled 29 points and 21 rebounds as they set the tone for the Tar Heels win at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium. Guard Caleb tallied 25 points and seven assists to lead a North Carolina team that shot 67% (10-for-15) from the 3-point line. Saturday’s game — the 253rd meeting in the series — lacked the usual hype, however, with each team struggling to build a case for an NCAA tournament bid. The last time these longtime rivals met when both teams were unranked was 1960 when UNC coach Roy Williams was nine and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski had just turned 13,
Southern California: The Trojans hammered rival UCLA, which entered Saturday night with the No. 21 ranking, 66-48. Even better? The victory tied USC with the Bruins atop the Pac-12 standings. – Jace Evans
Alabama: The Crimson Tide’s perfect conference record is no more. A late 21-2 push was not enough as Alabama (15-5, 10-1) shot its second-worst mark from the field with 33% and third-worst from the free throw line with 57%. After a hot start to the season, the Crimson Tide have lost two of their last three with both losses being underscored by a reliance on 3-pointers and poor free throw shooting.
Connecticut: The slugfest that is in the middle of the Big East claimed its latest victim Saturday in the Huskies (8-4, 5-4). A loss to Seton Hall makes the Huskies’ goal of making the NCAA Tournament that much more difficult. How quickly UConn’s leading scorer James Bouknight, out since mid-January, returns from elbow surgery could be the difference for the Huskies.
Kansas: The Jayhawks’ (12-7, 6-5) struggles continued — Kansas has now lost five of its last seven games — and are in danger of dropping out of the Top-25 for the first time since 2009. Kansas managed to trade baskets with the Mountaineers throughout the second half, but after being down 10 at half, Bill Self’s team didn’t have enough to overcome the deficit on the road at West Virginia.
Texas: The Longhorns (11-5, 5-4) dropped their third game in a row Saturday against Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Okla., 75-67. Texas forced the Cowboys to turn the ball over 22 times — racking up 18 steals — but couldn’t hold onto it themselves, turning it over 21 times in the double-overtime contest. The Longhorns were able to get 11 more shots than the Cowboys behind the forced turnovers and 22 offensive rebounds, but their inability to capitalize on the offensive end continued.
Duke: It’s becoming more apparent with each week that Duke’s (7-7, 5-5) only chance at the NCAA Tournament will be to win the ACC Tournament, beginning March 9. The Blue Devils dropped their second straight game after taking a 2-point loss to Miami on Monday. Duke had solid offensive performances from Jeremy Roach, Jalen Johnson and Wendel Moore Jr. who combined for 45 points. But as a team, Duke allowed UNC to shoot 53% from from the floor at Cameron Indoor Stadium — minus the usual Cameron Crazies — as gave up a season-high 91 points in the loss.