The last Saturday before conference tournaments begin is in the books. It was a full day, with important games right off the bat and all the way to the end. There was one game that was a showdown of top teams in a conference and another that many thought would be one before the season but lost a lot of its luster. Four of the top teams were in matchups in the American Athletic Conference, meaning the top of the conference was at stake.
The best month of basketball is upon us and it had quite a beginning on Saturday. With that, here are notes from some of the day’s games.
Wichita State 68, Missouri State 45: The Shockers are the first team ever to win 31 regular season games, and they cap a tremendous run with this blowout.
Virginia 75, Syracuse 56: If anyone picked Virginia to be the ACC regular season champion, congratulations. However, I’m not sure anyone did. They’ve had a tremendous season and may now come out from under the radar after this convincing win.
Oklahoma State 72, Kansas 65: Marcus Smart is a great example of overcoming adversity, scoring 20 of his 21 points in the second half to key a big win for the Cowboys. The Jayhawks have something bigger than the game to worry about: Joel Embiid’s health.
Connecticut 51, Cincinnati 45: A double-double from Shabazz Napier (18 points, 11 rebounds) leads the Huskies in this slugfest.
Memphis 72, Louisville 66: Louisville could have moved ahead of Cincinnati after the Bearcats lost earlier in the day, but Memphis dashed those hopes by beating the Cardinals for the second time.
VCU 67, Saint Louis 56: All of a sudden, Saint Louis has lost two in a row, but give VCU credit as they did what they needed to in order to win.
South Carolina 72, Kentucky 67: There will be much talk about Kentucky coming out of this, but let’s give South Carolina credit and also look at this as a signature win to help Frank Martin’s rebuilding effort. He’ll probably never have as much talent as Kentucky, but once he has more talent and experience the Gamecocks could be pretty good.
Xavier 75, Creighton 69: The Musketeers had a bit of a mid-season slump a few weeks back, but they have put it together again as evidenced by this win.
Illinois 53, Michigan State 46: The Illini have been competitive all season, but haven’t broken through for wins often. Winning one in East Lansing, even against a Michigan State team that has been in a funk, is still big for them.
Saint Joseph’s 83, St. Bonaventure 74: Saint Joseph’s is becoming a more interesting team every week as far as their NCAA Tournament potential is concerned. They are 11-3 in the Atlantic 10.
Dayton 86, UMass 79: Dayton could now become an interesting NCAA Tournament possibility after this win. They will probably need to make a run in the Atlantic 10 Tournament, but that doesn’t seem like such a far-fetched notion now.
Arkansas 87, Georgia 75: The Razorbacks are starting to put it together, perhaps with a confidence boost from beating Kentucky a second time a few nights earlier.
Oklahoma 77, Texas 65: With this, the Sooners draw even with the Longhorns at 10-6 in Big 12 play.
Baylor 59, Texas Tech 49: The Bears still have a good deal of work to do, but at 7-9 they still have a chance to reach .500 in Big 12 play.
Oregon 78, USC 63: The Ducks had been in a funk, but they have managed to get to 8-8 in Pac-12 play after sweeping the Los Angeles trip.
Tennessee 76, Vanderbilt 38: There’s shutting a team down, and there’s this. The Volunteers held Vanderbilt to 22.4 percent shooting and forced 14 turnovers.
Arizona State 78, California 60: Quiet as it’s been kept, the Sun Devils are now 10-6 in the Pac-12, and they go a game ahead of the Golden Bears in the standings with a week to go.
Brigham Young 78, San Diego 70: The Cougars go to 13-5 in West Coast Conference play and will be a team to watch in the conference tournament.
Delaware 89, College of Charleston 86: Behind Devon Saddler, the Blue Hens stave off a big game from the Cougars’ Adjehi Baru and win the CAA regular season title for the first time.
Boston University 68, Holy Cross 64: The Terriers wrap up the regular season title in the Patriot League and clinch an NIT bid, although they certainly want more.
Belmont 76, Jacksonville 53: Belmont heads into the OVC Tournament with a 14-2 mark and on a roll. The Bruins lost a good deal from last season’s team but just keep winning. Add in Murray State’s double overtime loss and the Bruins clinch the automatic NIT bid by virtue of being regular season champions.
Florida Gulf Coast 92, Northern Kentucky 72: A year after they were the big story in the NCAA Tournament, Florida Gulf Coast goes 14-4 in the Atlantic Sun to tie Mercer for the regular season title.