Stony Brook is going to the NCAA Tournament.
At long last, the program that’s had the regular season titles, then so much heartache in the America East Tournament, is a winner.
And at long last, a few things can come to a stop, too.
A number of conference regular seasons are now over, with Saturday providing the last hurrah. More will follow on Sunday, and conference tournaments begin this week. And to put it simply, this Saturday was like so many other days of the season to date in that for every result that might provide further clarity, there was another that provided less.
And all the same, there were many great games and finishes to the standings. Some ended in ties atop the conference, while others came down to the final game and had ties elsewhere near the top of the standings (the CAA had a two-way tie for first and a three-way tie for third place). College basketball fans have arguably never had it better. We have every reason to expect that Championship Week will be full of great games and some unexpected results along the way.
Another Saturday full of consequential games is in the books. The bubble is very large this year, with so many teams seemingly in the discussion, and unlike other years where that has been the case, this time around it doesn’t represent a large drop-off from teams that are locks at this point for the NCAA Tournament – and to be honest, there aren’t many that you can solidly put in that category just yet, either, although that’s going to change by the time the conference tournaments roll around.
On Saturday, it seemed like for every bubble team that got a big win, there was at least one that lost a game they couldn’t afford to. In the one that doesn’t have a tournament, the top three teams in the Ivy League held serve, so they exit the weekend with one game separating the top three teams.
Another Saturday in the books, and one that had a number of big games and great endings. It also followed the script of the season, as we saw teams that appeared to be on the good side lose while teams on the bad side won, making things more interesting.
The day featured a highly anticipated rematch between Kansas and Oklahoma, but there was much more on tap. The most drama came in a big ACC battle, while the SEC continues to be interesting and a couple of Big Ten teams scored big wins. The CAA and Ivy League races got a bit clearer on Saturday, though there’s a lot left to play out with both.
This college basketball season has been quite the treat, and Saturday epitomized that. For the first time in ten years, the top two teams in the AP poll lost on the same day. This just further demonstrates that there are many teams who could hoist the national championship trophy in April.
It wasn’t a great day to be a favorite, as it wasn’t just Oklahoma and North Carolina that had setbacks. A few others lost, with some suffering a potentially critical blow as regards their NCAA Tournament at-large hopes. A few conference races also got more interesting.
The Big 12/SEC Challenge may have take center stage on Saturday, and although it produced some dandies and important results, it was hardly alone. Several mid-majors had showdowns of teams at the top of the standings in addition to all the high-major games that initially grab attention.
The Big 12/SEC Challenge figured to be a good slate of games, as entering the day the Big 12 had a slim 5-4 edge in matchups between schools of the two conferences this season. That comes as the Big 12 has been atop the conferences while the SEC’s overall non-conference showing left a little to be desired. For the third straight year, the Big 12 won, going 7-3 this time around.
As previously noted, a good number of games on Saturday were affected by a storm that hit much of the east coast. It’s not only college basketball that was affected; it hit Charlotte, site of the NFC Championship game on Sunday night, although it looked as though the game would go on as planned.
Still, Saturday was a busy day as usual, and it had a lot of noteworthy games. It started with one, as Oklahoma went into Waco and scored a convincing win over Baylor, and ended with a few dandies that came down to the wire out west.
Saturdays are busy days at this time of the year, and this one was no different. In looking over the entire landscape, the ACC seems to stand out this time around as it had several important games. One team stayed hot, another got a big road win, and still another got a road win to boost their surprising start.
But that was only part of it. A number of road wins stood out on the day, and one mid-major has a six-way tie at the top one third of the way through their schedule.
With that, here are some thoughts coming out of many of the day’s games.
Saturday gave us a number of games with results of note. We had close calls for a few top teams and a few teams get much-needed signature wins, while others are still seeking such a win. Conference races are taking shape early, and one major conference continues to show that fans should strap themselves in for a wild ride.
There is more than that, though. A mid-major that had a great non-conference run is already looking like at least as good a race as expected, though we’re only four games in.
January means conference play gets going, leaving non-conference play in the past. Nothing happens in a vacuum, however, and the ways teams played before conference opponents shapes them now. It also has a big role in their NCAA Tournament hopes, for some teams more than others.
Scheduling is certainly an art form and not a science, because one never knows just how good many teams will be. Still, many go into the season with some clear signature win opportunities, where a win would have shelf life all season. Others have very few and need to make the most of them, or might not have any. Quality wins not only help a team reach the NCAA Tournament, but more of them leaves room for error to cover up a bad loss or two.
Stony Brook is finally going to the NCAA Tournament, and the story of tragic endings – and all that goes with it – is a thing of the past.
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