Virginia put on another of its performances that is pure Virginia. Kansas put on another of its performances that is pure Kansas.
Two of college basketball’s signature programs right now were in vintage form Monday night in winning what were easily the two marquee games of the evening, even if one is more than a little fatigued from seeing ACC and Big 12 games seemingly round the clock on ESPN. In those games, Virginia shut down fourth-ranked Louisville 71-55, while third-ranked Kansas won at Kansas State 74-71, as top-5 teams went 1-1 on this night in early February.
The Cavaliers were efficient on offense and suffocating on defense in wrapping up a convincing sweep of the Cardinals this season. Virginia got 18 points from leader London Perrantes, but Isaiah Wilkins also pitched in 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Of course, UVA got some help in this one, facing an extremely depleted Louisville squad. The Cardinals were already without second-leading scorer Quentin Snider, out with an injury, and that was before third-leading scorer Deng Adel and heavy rotation center Mangok Mathiang both were suspended for the game for missing curfew. With only seven scholarship players in uniform, the Cardinals hung in for a half but withered in the final 20 minutes even as freshman V.J. King took on a scoring load with 24 points.
The other showcase game of the night, of course, was in the Sunflower State, where Kansas did what it does so often in the Big 12: find a way to win on the road.
The Jayhawks and Wildcats were tied with less than three minutes left when Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk hit a three-pointer, Frank Mason hit two free throws and Josh Jackson split a pair at the line. That was enough for KU, which stayed a step ahead to defeat the balanced and motivated Wildcats for the 64th(!) time in the teams’ last 71 meetings.
Talented as Kansas is, the Jayhawks can be had-it’s a team vulnerable to a tough conference foe stepping up its game and outplaying them, as shown from time to time the past few years in the Big 12. Yet Monday showed what we see time and again: in a close game down the stretch-Saturday at Iowa State notwithstanding-it’s almost impossible to pick against KU.
Even in this team’s current thin state-just seven players logged significant minutes Monday night, and that included Carlton Bragg, who returned from suspension-the Jayhawks have the talent, experience and know-how to win these games regularly, even as they just as regularly are receiving opponents’ best shots. The program is a machine, and it’s no wonder Kansas is well on its way to a 13th straight Big 12 title.
- Vermont continues to dominate the America East. The Catamounts won their 13th straight and are 11-0 in conference play after a 71-51 romp past Binghamton. Still not sure UVM’s streak is going to translate into NCAA Tournament success if it should get there, but this squad’s consistency is most certainly notable.
- Bucknell also continues to roll in the Patriot League. The Bison drained 13 three-pointers to win their seventh straight, defeating Holy Cross 82-68. Bucknell is three games ahead of its closest competition in the Patriot.
- Monmouth has quietly won 10 straight, the latest a narrow 74-69 escape at Rider. The Hawks lead Iona by 2 1/2 games in what is quickly becoming a two-team race in the MAAC; no one else is closer than four games.
- Also in the MAAC, Quinnipiac defeated Connecticut rival Fairfield 73-71 as Peter Kiss-one of our favorite players of the season-hit the game-winner with 1.9 seconds left.
- In a hotly contested Southern Conference race, don’t forget about Wofford. The Terriers upended East Tennessee State 79-76 and at 7-5 in the league aren’t far behind the strong pack of teams ahead of them. If feels like guard Eric Garcia has been at Wofford forever, and he scored 28 points in this one.
- Arkansas State, Georgia Southern and Georgia State continue to set the pace in the Sun Belt, and all three won on Monday. Arkansas State has now won seven straight after a 67-57 win over Coastal Carolina, Georgia State has won eight in a row following a 69-55 roll past Louisiana-Monroe, and early leader Georgia Southern has rebounded from its first two conference losses with two straight wins after edging Louisiana-Lafayette 74-70.
- North Carolina Central stayed in first in the MEAC, winning at Coppin State 86-77 behind Patrick Cole and Dejuan Graf combining for 52 points. Staying on the Eagles’ tails, though, is Norfolk State, which won 92-87 at run-and-gun Savannah State, which shot a putrid 11 of 58 from three-point range. Not sure what is more jaw-dropping: 58 attempts, the Tigers’ 19% shooting on them, or the fact Savannah State still almost won anyway.
- Hoopville’s Paul Borden checks in this morning too with a story on the upcoming Virginia Tech/Miami (Fla.) game, a game that, when all is said and done, could wind up being an elimination game for the NCAA Tournament next month.
- The night starts early with an East Coast Big Ten game with Maryland at Penn State (6 p.m. Eastern, Big Ten Network). Will be interesting to see how the Terps bounce back after that narrow loss to Purdue on Saturday, this has all the makings of a trap game.
- Mid-American Conference divisional leaders square off with East pacesetter Akron hosting West co-leader Ball State.
- A prime example of how awful the ‘bubble’ is this year, Georgia-a nice team with a resume that would normally scream borderline NIT-is hanging around in the discussion for the NCAAs, and now gets a big chance at home against Florida, which is flying high after dismantling Kentucky on Saturday (7 p.m., ESPN2).
- Notre Dame hosts Wake Forest, with the Fighting Irish trying to stop the bleeding from some recent struggles (7 p.m., ESPNews).
- Entertainment value will be high when Siena is at Iona. Interesting contrast: the Gaels are averaging 10 three-pointers per game; the Saints in their last game went without a made triple for the second game this year.
- Rhode Island keeps trying to make a postseason push when it visits neighboring rival Massachusetts (7 p.m., CBSSN).
- Ancient Ivy rivals Princeton and Pennsylvania square off for the first time this year, coming from opposite directions-the Tigers are the league’s only undefeated at 5-0, the Quakers the only without a win at 0-5.
- Old school Big East rivals Georgetown and Villanova meet in Philadelphia (7 p.m., FS1).
- Suddenly 7-4 in the ACC, Syracuse now hits the road to face what will undoubtedly be an angry Clemson team coming off a 48-point loss to Florida State on Sunday.
- In-state rivals Michigan State and Michigan meet for the second time in nine days, this one in Ann Arbor (9 p.m., ESPN).
- Iowa State follows up its win at Kansas with a trip to face young Texas (9 p.m., ESPN2).
- Texas Tech goes to TCU, with a solid win available for the taking for two teams that need to keep gathering them (9 p.m., ESPNews).
- Finally, Butler goes to up-and-down Marquette, which continues to test just how far an almost exclusively backcourt-dominated team can go (9 p.m., CBSSN).
Have a super Tuesday.