Things are starting to come into focus as we head into the final days of February. At the same time, there’s so much more still to be determined. Conference championships, automatic bids, bubbles burst and all the seed talk is just around the corner. After this past weekend, we have teams rising and teams falling.
Here are some observations, and a few things to look forward to:
Miami will not run the table
Shane Larkin of the Hurricanes said it best.
“Who would have ever thought Wake Forest beating Miami at home would have been a court-rushing scene?” he said Saturday.
It is a bit strange when you think about it, but it had been four years since Demon Deacon fans had something that sizeable to celebrate at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Wake Forest hit Miami hard from the start, led 42-29 at halftime and eventually defeated the nation’s No. 2 team 80-65.
The whole storming the court thing has gotten out of hand this season, but I suppose you can’t blame Wake Forest fans, who are struggling through a 5-9 ACC season.
Miami’s 14-game winning streak ended, but the Hurricanes remain in control of the conference standings at 13-1. Duke is 10-3 and North Carolina 9-5. The Hurricanes have been the best story in college basketball this season and that doesn’t change with one loss.
It could drop Miami off the No. 1 seed line for the NCAA tournament, however. Miami’s game at Duke on March 2 looms larger and larger. No one would have thought that either -- back in November.
An emotional season for Jim Crews and Saint Louis is on the upswing headed into March.
Billikens take control
The Atlantic 10 upgraded itself with the addition of Butler and Virginia Commonwealth this season. No argument there. But Saint Louis clearly was not interested in being pushed around by the new kids on the block. How do we know? The Billikens proved that on the floor with victories over both last week -- three days apart.
They knocked off the Rams at home, 76-62, then traveled to Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis for a 65-61 win over Butler. It’s difficult to win at Hinkle, and the Billikens pulled off a sweep of Butler this season. Friday night’s win also gave Saint Louis sole possession of first place in the Atlantic 10 with a 10-2 conference record.
“To lose to a team twice, it hurts more than most,” Butler’s Roosevelt Jones said.
Saint Louis moved into the Scout.com power rankings last week and then responded to the challenge in style. The Billikens have lost five games this season, but three of those (Santa Clara, Kansas, Washington) came before December.
This is a resilient team that has played through the emotional resignation and then death of coach Rick Majerus. Coach Jim Crews has stepped up and done an absolutely remarkable job. The best moments may be ahead for the Billikens.
Bears heating up in Pac-12
California may not win the Pac-12 regular-season title, but who will want to play the Bears in the conference tournament? Cal has won seven of its last eight games to strengthen its NCAA tournament resume and move up in the conference standings.
Arizona and Oregon remain tied for first place in the Pac-12 at 11-4, followed by UCLA at 10-4. But Cal is in fourth place with a 10-5 mark, just one game behind the leaders with home games remaining against Utah, Colorado and Stanford to end the regular season.
Check out Ken Davis' latest college basketball power rankings at FOXSports.com.
Mike Montgomery’s team might head into the conference tournament on an eight-game winning streak, one that started with a 77-69 victory at Arizona. Allen Crabbe, the conference’s top scorer, had 31 points in that win over the Wildcats.
The Bears have even survived that highly publicized incident when Montgomery shoved Crabbe and questioned his willingness to play. Montgomery was reprimanded by the Pac-12. Without a doubt, the Bears are a developing story.
Bill Self close to milestone win
Wasn’t it just yesterday that everyone was asking, “What’s wrong with Kansas?”
The Jayhawks brought that talk on themselves with a three-game losing streak to Oklahoma State, TCU and Oklahoma. Now Kansas has rattled off four consecutive victories, including a double-overtime win at Oklahoma State and a 74-48 payback win over TCU at Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday.
“Obviously, they were upset. I don’t know for what,” TCU coach Trent Johnson joked.
So now the Jayhawks have appeared on at least one list of teams “peaking at the right time.” That may be true. Or perhaps it would be well advised to wait until late Monday night to judge that. Kansas (23-4, 11-3 Big 12) hits the road to play a good Iowa State (19-8, 9-5) team that is so difficult to beat at Hilton Coliseum in Ames. Kansas needs the win to keep pace with Kansas State in the conference standings.
After a three-game losing streak, Bill Self and Kansas are right back on track.
But there are historic overtones as well. Kansas coach Bill Self has 499 career victories and can join the 500 club in his 20th season. Roy Williams, the man Self replaced at Kansas when Williams left for North Carolina, was fastest to 500. Williams reached the milestone in his 19th season. Self is 292-57 in his 10th season at KU.
“We want that for him,” center Jeff Withey told the Lawrence Journal-World. “He’s done so much for us. It means a lot to us to be able to get that for him.”
The Jayhawks are closing in on a remarkable ninth consecutive Big 12 championship, but they’ve got to beat Iowa State first.
Hoyas, Huskies trending
Step back in time to October when the Big East coaches announced their preseason poll. Georgetown was picked fifth. Connecticut was picked ninth.
Now, back to today. Georgetown, after its impressive victory over Syracuse before 35,000 nostalgic fans in the Carrier Dome, is in sole possession of first place in the Big East at 11-3. Syracuse, Louisville and Marquette are tied at 10-4, followed by Notre Dame (10-5) and UConn (9-5).
Much was made of the dying rivalry between the Orange and the Hoyas, but next up for Georgetown is a game at UConn on Wednesday night. The Huskies and the Hoyas have each won seven Big East tournament titles, tied for the most ever in conference history. And since the Huskies are banned from postseason play this season, perhaps this game against Georgetown will serve as UConn’s Big East tournament game.
The Huskies, who already have a win over Syracuse this season, defeated Cincinnati and DePaul last week and need one more victory for a 20-win season. No one expected that type of success as Kevin Ollie took over for Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun with a team that lost Jeremy Lamb, Andre Drummond, Alex Oriakhi and Roscoe Smith.
Ollie and Georgetown coach John Thompson III both deserve consideration for Big East coach of the year honors. In addition, Otto Porter of the Hoyas and Shabazz Napier of the Huskies should be contenders for Big East player of the year.