In the afternoon in which we saw #3 North Carolina blow a 16-point lead and lose to Maryland, a couple of other ranked teams - notably Oklahoma and UCLA - were also going down in flames while Pitt, LSU, Memphis, Washington and Kansas continued to march toward Madness.
The #2 Sooners could be forgiven for their 73-68 loss at Texas, since their All-American, Blake Griffin, left the game just 11 minutes in with a concussion. But, even without Griffin, shouldn't the Sooners have been able to handle the Longhorns, a team which had lost four of their last six games?
Oklahoma allowed A.J. Abrams to get off for 23 points - 16 in the final 8 minutes - to pull off the upset, rivaling Maryland's win over the Tar Heels. The Longhorns (7-5, 18-8) look more like the 4th Big 12 team that will receive an invite to the Big Dance, despite beating a handicapped Sooners squad.
#20 UCLA gets no such free pass in the 82-81 home loss to gritty Washington State. The Cougars (14-13, 6-9) are not, in all likelihood, going to the NCAA tournament, and the Bruins' loss demonstrates how weak the PAC-10 is this season, where arguably the best team cannot knock down a double-digit underdog on their home court.
There's some possibility that the Bruins won't be ranked after Monday. Washington and Arizona St. already have better records than they do, and unranked Cal may move into UCLA's slot. More clarity will come after the result of Sunday night's Arizona-Arizona State tilt.
There were more than a fair share of winners on Saturday's smorgasbord. #4 Pitt (which may end up as #1 on Monday night) made quick work of DePaul, winning by a 80-61 margin.
The Panthers got 20 points and 18 boards from sophomore star DeJuan Blair, who should be getting more mention in the player of the year circles. He's averaging a double double (15.8 points and 13 boards), and his Panthers have lost just twice, both on the road, at Louisville and Villanova.
Pitt should get the #1 ranking this week and very possibly will be a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Getting back to the Big 12, #11 Missouri and #15 Kansas were both victors Saturday. Missouri got 16 points and 13 rebounds from Leo Lyons in a 66-53 romp at Colorado. The Tigers may be the most dangerous team in the Midwest, having won six straight while compiling a 10-2 conference record and a 23-4 mark overall.
The Tigers play at Kansas on March 1 and host Oklahoma March 4. Those games are enormous in significance.
Kansas improved to 11-1 in the conference and tied the Sooners in the standings, knocking off Nebraska, 70-53. As usual, the Jayhawks rode their two big horses for the win. Sherron Collins led the way with 22 points; Cole Aldrich tossed in 18 with 12 boards.
#5 Memphis topped UTEP, 70-63, for their 53rd straight Conference-USA win and 18th straight win, the longest win streak in the nation. Tyreke Evans scored 25 points to lead the Tigers. Memphis can clinch the C-USA title outright with a win at UAB Thursday night.
Bringing up the rear of the standings, #22 Washington bumped off USC, 60-51; #17 Gonzaga romped, 92-58, past Pepperdine; #25 Dayton dropped a road game at St. Louis, 57-49; and #23 LSU continued to impress in the SEC, winning their 8th straight, 79-72, over Auburn.
LSU (11-1, 23-4) clinched the SEC South division with the win, and are clearly heading to the NCAA tourney. The Tigers will likely be the only SEC South division representative. Kentucky, South Carolina and Florida - all in the North - look like the other probable bid recipients.
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