Big 12 continues to make waves
Another day, another upset in the Big 12.
The toughest, deepest conference in America doesn’t take days or games off — which explains how No. 22 TCU fell to last-place Oklahoma, 74-60.
The Sooners, who have won just five conference games, deserve credit for not throwing in the towel this season. The reality is, if they somehow figured out a way to make the NCAA Tournament — maybe a crazy run through the conference tournament is what’s next for Oklahoma — they could win a game or two. The conference really is that good — just ask No. 11 Kansas State, which was also upset by West Virginia.
The talent and depth in the Big 12 also explains how and why No. 7 Texas beat No. 3 Kansas 75-59. With a win, Kansas probably would have been the favorite for the overall No. 1 seed.
But we’re here to talk about the winner, Texas. In a game the Longhorns led almost the entire way, Texas’ bench was the biggest winner Saturday, outscoring Kansas’ bench 32-8. The Longhorns’ 17 fast break points and 19 assists were also noteworthy in their regular season finale.
Texas leads this week’s roundup of college basketball’s winners and losers, but the Longhorns are far from the only team making noise — good and bad — during the last weekend of the regular season.
WINNERS Southeast Missouri State
One of the first auto bids was awarded in dramatic fashion Saturday night in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament championship. Leading by seven, 72-65 with 1:11 to play, Southeast Missouri State fell apart and chaos ensued. Tennessee Tech went on an 8-0 run, taking a 73-72 lead on a 3 with 10 seconds to go. Then Chris Harris of SEMO was fouled on a 3-point attempt with two seconds to play, and he calmly stepped to the line and hit all three free throws to take a 7573 lead. Tennessee Tech inbounded the ball, launching a baseball pass more than 75 feet to Diante Wood, who caught it, front pivoted and swished an 18-foot jumper to tie the game. In overtime, SEMO took back control, winning 89-82 and booking a ticket to the Big Dance for the first time in more than 20 years.
Good things happen for the Aggies when they hold opposing teams to less than 66 points, and that’s exactly what happened early Saturday when Texas A&M beat No. 2 Alabama 67-61. The final score is a little crazy when you consider the Aggies didn’t score a field goal in the final 4:17 — but going an almost-perfect 27-for-28 from the line throughout the game certainly helped seal the win. Texas A&M was in control most of the contest, led by Wade Taylor IV (28 points) and Tyrece Radford (21 points, seven rebounds). The win secures Texas A&M’s perfect record at home during conference play and locks up the Aggies as the No. 2 seed in next week’s SEC conference tournament
Having your bench outscore the other team’s bench 22-12 and dominating the paint 36-14 is a good way to secure a sweep for the season. That’s exactly what the Cyclones did with their 73-58 win at Baylor Saturday. Iowa State had a balanced scoring attack: three players finished with double figures, led by Jaren Holmes’ 16 points, seven rebounds and five assists. That’s a solid win for a team looking to move up on the NCAA Tournament seed line, which Iowa State could do with a nice run in the Big 12 conference tournament next week.
On the bubble just a few weeks ago, the Wildcats seem to have figured it out. They’ve won five of their last six, including Saturday’s 88-79 victory at Arkansas. That win locked up the No. 3 seed in the SEC tournament, which starts Wednesday. Maybe the program never hurting for NBA talent is getting ready for a deep postseason run.
San Jose State
San Jose State has become one of the feel-good stories of this college basketball season due to success that the program hasn’t experienced for a long time — and that was before Saturday. Trailing by 20 early in the second half, the Spartans recorded a comeback for the ages, forcing overtime before escaping with a 63-61 win at Air Force. The Spartans are the No. 5 seed heading into the Mountain West Conference Tournament. Don’t be surprised if Omari Moore (33 points in 39 minutes at Air Force) & Co. go on a little run in Vegas.
If there was any doubt, No. 4 UCLA established itself as the top team in the Pac-12, beating No. 9 Arizona 82-73 in Los Angeles. The Bruins built as much as a 14-point lead late in the second half, eventually cruising to the win (the game wasn’t as close as the final score indicates). But here’s the issue: Jaylen Clark, an important piece off the bench who came in averaging 6.7 points and 3.8 rebounds, got hurt. What exactly happened is unclear, but when he returned to the bench after a stint in the locker room he had a boot on his right foot and was on crutches. This is a potentially devastating loss for UCLA, which is still in contention for the No. 1 seed in the West Region.
A loss at Texas A&M won’t hurt the Tide’s seeding in the NCAA Tournament, but talk about ending the regular season on a whimper. Superstar freshman Brandon Miller fouled out with 1:59 to play and No. 2 Alabama trailing by two and the Tide couldn’t finish its comeback. In four years at Alabama, Tide coach Nate Oats has yet to beat Texas A&M. Will he get another shot in the conference tournament?
Letting opposing teams shoot 54% from the field is a good way to get beat by double-digits on your home floor. That’s exactly what happened to the No. 8 Bears, who lost 73-58 to Iowa State (on Senior Day, no less). Baylor got beat in nearly every facet of the game, including a 36-24 deficit on the boards. The Bears are still a legit threat to make the Final Four, and they’ll probably be happy if they don’t have to meet any conference opponents in the NCAAs.
It’s not so much that the Friars lost but more how they did it. For the second consecutive game — Wednesday against No. 17 Xavier and Saturday against unranked Seton Hall — Providence fell behind more than 20 points. And at home no less. Saturday was ugly, as Providence lost 82-58. Providence is not playing its best basketball of the season as we head into the most important stretch.