You'll Remember These Outcomes in March
Kansas 81, Kansas State 79 and Cornell 86, Harvard 50
About three weeks ago, Cornell picked up arguably its best win of the season...by losing to the then top ranked Kansas Jayhawks. After holding the lead for most of that game, the Big Red eventually faltered, falling victim to Sherron Collins' vicious clutch moves in the paint.
Saturday, both teams once again crossed paths, but this time on two very different courts. In the Little Apple, Manhattan, Kansas, the Jayhawks entered the Octagon of Doom needing a victory to secure the top ranking and reaffirm themselves as the team to beat in March.
In tiny, quaint (and unbelievably cold) Ithaca, New York, Cornell hosted Harvard in tiny 4,000 seat Newman Arena. The Big Red needed a victory in arguably one of the most important games in the Ivy League in decades to further show the NCAA Selection Committee that Cornell is one of the top 65 teams in the country.
Both games tipped at 7:00 PM EST, but it was clear both games would produce drastically different results.
Kansas and Kansas State went back and forth with the lead rarely growing above five points for either squad.
Cornell and Harvard's hyped matchup didn't live up to the billing. The Big Red shut down star guard Jeremy Lin in the first half and Jeff "Seven" Foote electrified a boisterous student body with several early dunks and lay-ups.
At half, Lin had as many points as turnovers (four) and the Crimson trailed by 14. In Manhattan, the game was much closer. The Jayhawks led by one.
The second halves of each game were much of the same. Kansas and Kansas State would go to overtime where Kansas showed the tenacity to win it all. In front of the loudest crowd Sherron Collins said he's ever played in front of, Kansas squeaked out an overtime victory.
While the Jayhawks showed they can win a national title, Cornell was just demonstrating why they belong with the big boys. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim has talked about Cornell as being a team that is as good as a five or six seed in the NCAA Tournament.
For more reaction to Cornell-Harvard read my column from Ithaca.
Top 10 Teams Fall
One preseason title contender is no longer looking like a national championship threat. Another team that made us believe they could win a title with its non-conference performance is also no longer looking like a contender. Those two teams are Texas and Duke, who both fell over the weekend to Baylor and Georgetown respectively.
The Longhorns just don't make great decisions with the basketball in their 80-77 loss and couldn't score against Baylor's long zone (which shouldn't come as a surprise). Texas couldn't shut down the Bears' offense in overtime even with Scott Drew's best offensive weapon, LaceDarius Dunn, on the bench with five fouls.
While Texas is probably still a top 10 team, Duke doesn't look it belongs anywhere near the top 15. The Blue Devils had absolutely no idea how to stop Georgetown's deadly efficient offense or how to find quality shots. The Hoyas shot an astounding 71.7 percent in a game Georgetown led by as many as 23 points.
South Florida Success?
Stan Heath's seat was getting pretty hot this season as the Bulls have yet to produce significant victories under his helm. That ended this weekend. After already winning two consecutive games against Providence and Seton Hall, the Bulls hosted 15th ranked Pittsburgh.
Dominique Jones exploded again for 37 points (that's 111 points combined in the last three victories) and South Florida controlled the second half. For the first time, USF looks like a team that could finish potentially .500 in the league. The Bulls should only get better as improving forward Augustus Gilchrist will eventually return from a foot injury.
National Powers won't be Dancing in March
We already know UCLA and Indiana are done in terms of NCAA Tournament hopes. Now, UConn, UNC, and Louisville are in equal danger. The Huskies have eight losses after suffering two more against Providence and Marquette since their victory over Texas.
Louisville is in the same boat after the Cardinals couldn't close out a signature victory against West Virginia.
North Carolina continues to lose on the road and at home as the Tar Heels couldn't beat a team projected to finish near the bottom of the league at home. Virginia thumped the Tar Heels in the second half to send UNC to its eighth loss. Spotting a trend yet?
Barring complete turnarounds in their seasons, those three teams likely won't make the NCAA Tournament after all three were one seeds in last year's NCAA Tournament.
For 30 minutes against Santa Clara, Gonzaga's defense looked terrible. That shouldn't come as a surprise as the Zags have historically been all offense and little defense. In that game, the defense buckled down and came away with a victory.
The same cannot be said for Saturday. San Francisco scored more than a point per possession in its 81-77 overtime victory, leaving us to wonder how good is Gonzaga?
The Zags have a variety of solid non-conference wins, but a blowout loss to Duke and another loss to Wake Forest no longer look like quality losses. The defense is once again an issue as Gonzaga ranks just 93rd in defensive efficiency and the offense isn't always there to bail it out.
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