Gonzaga in position to crack top five, at least
Wisconsin’s tying half-court heave went in, of course. Then Kansas lost again. And in case you were asleep late Saturday night, Notre Dame rallied past Louisville in five overtimes.
March Madness is weeks away, but February Frenzy is already in full swing.
Six more Top 25 teams went down Saturday, including two of the top five. When the next Associated Press poll comes out today, it likely will have a new No. 1 for the sixth straight week – marking the second-longest such streak since the first rankings in 1949.
Fourth-ranked Duke overcame early and late deficits to beat Boston College 62-61 on Sunday night, but seventh-ranked Arizona lost 77-69 to California and Illinois made 11 3-pointers in a 57-53 victory at No.18 Minnesota. That made it six top-10 teams and 14 in the Top 25 overall with at least one loss since the poll came out last Monday.
Among the Top 10 only Duke, Gonzaga, Miami and Syracuse won two games. No. 6 Gonzaga rolled over Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount, two afterthoughts in the West Coast Conference this season. No. 8 Miami had 20-point wins over Boston College and North Carolina to remain undefeated in the Atlantic Coast Conference. No. 9 Syracuse breezed past Notre Dame and St. John’s.
Duke, Gonzaga and Miami could easily jump into the top three or four. And who’s to say Gonzaga isn’t primed to be the next upset victim? The Bulldogs play at rival Saint Mary’s on Thursday.
“Nothing about today was easy,” Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski said after defeating Boston College. “These are games anybody can lose, and throughout the country everybody is losing them. Our guys found a way to win against a team that was also deserving to win, so that’s a real good thing.”
For top schools, it’s been a rocky run. According to STATS, Top 25 teams lost to unranked teams 36 times from Jan. 17 to Feb. 6, the most in at least 17 years.
Top-ranked Indiana, No. 2 Florida and No. 3 Michigan each have dropped a game in the past week. The Hoosiers fell 74-72 at Illinois on Thursday and the Gators trailed by as many as 27 during the second half of an 80-69 loss at Arkansas last Tuesday night.
“It’s a crazy season, man. It is a crazy, crazy season,” Illini forward Tyler Griffey said. “It just goes to show you anybody can beat anybody on any given night. TCU beating Kansas, us beating Indiana: It’s an unbelievable year, but that’s what makes it exciting. That’s what makes it so much fun to play.”
Michigan was leading Wisconsin 60-57 on Saturday when Ben Brust got a perfect inbound pass from Mike Bruesewitz, took one dribble across halfcourt and connected for the tying 3-pointer as time expired in regulation. Brust added another big 3-pointer in overtime to lead the Badgers to a 65-62 victory.
“It was awesome, something I’ll remember forever, and I’m sure a lot of people will,” Brust said.
The Wolverines will need to forget this one in a hurry. They face rival Michigan State in East Lansing on Tuesday night.
The fifth-ranked Jayhawks also are looking at a quick turnaround after a 72-66 loss at Oklahoma on Saturday made it a three-game slide for the storied program for the first time in eight years. They host No. 13 Kansas State today.
“It hasn’t been a good week for us by any stretch, but let’s be real,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “We were ranked No. 2 in the country seven days ago, and you don’t go from being a good team to a bad team overnight.
“We’ve had a couple of bad outings, but we’re still a good team.”
It turns out the losses by the Wolverines and Jayhawks were just a precursor to the thriller at Notre Dame, where the No. 25 Fighting Irish erased an eight-point deficit in the final 51 seconds of regulation and went on to a 104-101 victory over the 11th-ranked Cardinals.
“Unbelievable,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “I’m really proud of my team because many times we were down in the overtimes and kept fighting back. Everybody was part of it tonight. It’s one of those magical nights.”
It was the longest regular-season game in the history of the Big East. The previous record was a four-overtime game that happened 11 years ago to the day and also involved Notre Dame. The Irish beat Georgetown 116-111 in 4 OTs on Feb. 9, 2002.
It also marked the sixth time in the last eight meetings that a game between the Irish and the Cardinals went into overtime.
“It’s always overtime,” said Chane Behanan, who led Louisville with a career-high 30 points and 15 rebounds. “The strongest will survive. They were a great team tonight and made a lot of big shots.”
The current string of No. 1 swapping is the longest since 1994, when Arkansas, North Carolina, Kansas, UCLA and Duke alternated at the top seven straight weeks – the longest streak since Saint Louis debuted as No. 1 in the initial AP poll.
If the poll holds, the Blue Devils are poised to return to the top spot – whether they like it or not.
“It’s crazy to watch, but it’s very entertaining,” Duke guard Seth Curry said. “We’ve been the No. 1 team a few times this season. It’s not something we’re shooting for; we’re just trying to win games.”
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