With March just several days a way, teams all across the country are playing with a sense of urgency. Teams on the bubble, such as Arizona State and Indiana, are hoping to improve their resume. On the other hand, Kentucky and North Carolina are making a late push at getting a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance. Let’s recap what happened this past week:
Duke Has Up-and-Down Week
The first chapter of Duke/North Carolina was a bit of a letdown, to say the least. In the first 30 seconds of the game, Zion Williamson literally blew through his shoe, injuring his knee in the process. The Tar Heels’ high-powered offense was too much for Duke to handle without Williamson, who they lean on too much at times. Luke Maye dropped 30 points and 15 rebounds in the win, while Cam Johnson added 26 points as well. While losing to your rival is devastating, Duke fans were more concerned with their freshman phenom’s health.
After a nightmare of a game versus UNC, the Blue Devils traveled to Syracuse without the services of Williamson. The Orange actually led by five at the half, until R.J. Barrett and Alex O’Connell started knocking down shots. The duo combined for 50 of the 75 points, as Cam Reddish had a quiet night with five points. Over the Blue Devils’ last three games, two of those without Williamson, Barrett has averaged 28.7 points, 9.7 rebounds and 7 assists per game. Williamson remains day-to-day, but appears his injury will not hold him out for a long period of time. Heading into the final two weeks of the season, Virginia, Duke and North Carolina are all tied atop the ACC standings at 12-2.
Texas Tech Rolls Kansas, Big 12 Race Narrowing
In a game that will go along way in determining the Big 12 champion, Texas Tech blew out the Jayhawks by 29. Red Raiders’ Jarrett Culver put up 26 points and the team made a whopping 16 three-pointers in the blow out win. Kansas’ offense struggled mightily and their defense allowed the most points all season. With a few days in February left, Kansas State sits atop the Big 12 standings, as Texas Tech is one game behind in second place. The two teams split the season series this season, although the Red Raiders have a more favorable schedule down the stretch.
Villanova Suffers Third Straight Loss
Villanova is a team that has started to really struggle down the stretch. Earlier in the week, the Wildcats traveled to Washington, D.C. and allowed 85 points in a disappointing loss to Georgetown. Jessie Govan and Mac McClung had 21 points each as the Hoyas snapped a nine-game losing streak to the Wildcats.
On Sunday, Xavier trounced Villanova, handing them their third straight loss in the process. Their offense has struggled mightily, as they shot just 33% from the floor against the Musketeers. The loss makes it their fourth in five games, with the last two coming to NIT-bound teams. The Wildcats will look to get back on track Wednesday in a key Big East battle against Marquette.
Michigan Beats Michigan State in Big Ten Showdown
In yet another key conference battle, the Spartans went into Ann Arbor and beat the Wolverines. Tom Izzo was without both Nick Ward and obviously Josh Langford, but Cassius Winston put up 20 points and eight assists. Michigan’s Charles Matthews had an off day, as he was limited to four points on 1/8 from the floor. The win was Michigan State’s first win against a top 10 Michigan team on the road since 1986. It was a huge victory as the Spartans now have a one-game lead in the Big Ten standings, and took a big step in winning another Big Ten title. The two teams meet again on March 9 in East Lansing.
Other Notable Games/Performances:
- Chris Clemons drops 41 points, becomes the sixth all-time leading scorer in Division I history
- Louisville blows a 12-point lead to Virginia; lost three of last four games
- Florida gets huge resume win at LSU in OT
- LSU bounces back by beating Tennessee in key SEC showdown
- North Carolina has a great week by beating Duke, Florida State
Follow Taron Long on Twitter: @TaronAllDayLong