Terps get much-needed lift with Duke upset; more hoops
One sizable upset and a number of other meaningful results. This Saturday wasn't the same kind of crazy we've seen in past weeks, but there were still a lot of talking points. Here's the best of what happened after dinnertime. If you missed the afternoon action, catch up on it here.
Maryland 83, No. 2 Duke 81
The Terrapins claimed a potentially season-saving win thanks to two free throws by freshman Seth Allen in the final seconds. Maryland wasted a late 10-point lead, but won despite committing 26 turnovers. Shooting 60 percent from the field was a nice offset. Alex Len outplayed Mason Plumlee, finishing with 19 points (on 6-for-8 shooting), nine rebounds and three blocks. Seth Curry had a game-high 25 for Duke.
Quick takeaways: It was a game Maryland had to have if they wanted any reasonable chance at an at-large bid, and the Terps grabbed it in dramatic fashion. Afterward, Mark Turgeon emotionally detailed the heckling his family had recently received over the Terrapins' thus-far-disappointing campaign. The Terps are far from in the clear though, especially with four of their final six league games on the road. Home wins over the Blue Devils and NC State look nice, but Maryland's poor nonconference schedule likely means more than that will be required a month from now for admission.
As for Duke, @JohnGasaway posed an interesting thought on Twitter. Paraphrasing, "If you can beat No. 1 while turning the ball over on 33 percent of your possessions, are you really No. 1?" It's a cutesy question in this season without a true "No. 1 team", but it also starts to dig at the relative weakness Duke has shown since losing Ryan Kelly to injury. The Blue Devils had won six in a row before Saturday after losing two of their first three post-injury, but the last three games (including this loss) have not been particularly impressive. If Kelly doesn't come back and/or if Duke's not any better than this when he does return, the committee will have an interesting quandary on its hands. Is *this* version of Duke worthy of a No. 1 seed? They have three more solid ACC tests -- at Virginia, home vs. Miami and at UNC.
No. 5 Gonzaga 71, San Francisco 61
The Zags finally get out of their personal house of WCC road horrors with a win. Kelly Olynyk continues his push for first-team All-America honors with 26 points and nine rebounds. Elias Harris was a big secondary contributor with 17 and 13 as the Zags' frontcourt wore out yet another opponent.
Quick takeaways: Olynyk is having one of the least-hyped terrific seasons in recent memory. It's hard to think he won't be a first-team All-American if things stay the way they are through the final month of the season. His efficiency is a huge reason the Zags can play inside-out with such effectiveness. This isn't a vintage year in the West Coast Conference, but the league's still pretty good. As you continue to watch Gonzaga handle its business -- and the way it handles its business -- and then look around the larger national landscape, it's really starting to feel like this could be the Zags' year to finally put it together in the NCAAs and make a serious Final Four run.
No. 6 Syracuse 76, Seton Hall 65
The Orange bounced back from a loss by handling the Pirates on the road. Brandon Triche led the way with 29 points, six rebounds and five assists. C.J. Fair chipped in with a double-double.
Quick takeaways: Syracuse doesn't need monster games like this every night from Triche, but some middle-ground consistency would go a long way toward solidifying the Orange's chances of a deep March run. Even with James Southerland back, the Orange are still light on perimeter shooting, and Triche is the main culprit, having shot 2-of-23 from 3-point range in the four games prior to Saturday. This was his first game shooting above 50 percent from the field since the win at Louisville on Jan. 19. As a senior, and a good player, he should be more consistent than this. The Orange need him to be.
No. 10 Kansas State 81, Baylor 61
Bruce Weber's guys continue to share the lead in the Big 12 after a thorough performance against the win-needy Bears. The Wildcats made 11 threes and won the turnover battle 19-6. Angel Rodriguez had a big double-double with 22 points and 10 assists.
Quick takeaways: The Wildcats still have trips to Baylor and Oklahoma State late, but they're in pretty good position to claim at least a share of the league title. One of the other tri-leaders will fall a game behind after Kansas visits Oklahoma State on Wednesday. K-State has three home games left against the bottom part of the league, as well. The Kansas City regional remains well within their grasp.
No. 19 New Mexico 60, Boise State 50
The Lobos stay a half-game ahead of Colorado State and now everything is set for a massive showdown at Colorado State next Saturday. Cameron Bairstow continues to make the most of his move into the starting lineup, leading the Lobos with 16 points. Hugh Greenwood, one of the heroes of my Twitter feed (#HughMeBaby), fouled out in 19 minutes. I appreciate him saving his energy for when I'll see him in person next weekend at Moby Arena.
Quick takeaways: The Lobos get a huge schedule break, not having a midweek game this week while Colorado State plays at UNLV on Wednesday ahead of the showdown in Fort Collins. The winner of that game will be in extremely good shape to get at least a share of the league title and almost certain protected-seed status in the NCAA tournament. Should be a fantastic game and environment next week.
Other meaningful results:
-- UNLV edged San Diego State for a win they somewhat needed to solidify their profile. The win also hands the Aztecs a fifth league loss, meaning it's now clearly a two-horse race for the league title. UNLV, San Diego State and Air Force will be jousting for the 3-5 seeds in Vegas, presumably. Maybe Boise can still nose into that mix, too.
-- Harvard handled Princeton at home to take a one-game lead in the loss column on the Tigers. The rematch in Princeton, which likely will decide the Ivy champ and auto bid, is on March 1.
-- No. 8 Michigan State handled a road trip to Nebraska and enters its upcoming four-game gauntlet still tied for first with Indiana. Coincidentally (and awesomely for us), the two teams meet Tuesday in East Lansing.
-- Missouri wasted a late lead and lost at Arkansas in the Mike Anderson Bowl. Twitter consensus (I didn't see the game) was that the Tigers were, uhmm, inconvenienced by the refereeing late. As they continue to fade, the question is starting to become: What happens if Florida wins the auto bid? #1BidSEC??? #CouldItBe?
-- Arizona State blew a late six-point lead in regulation, but won at Colorado at the buzzer in overtime on an Evan Gordon driving layup. It's a huge win for the Sun Devils' NCAA hopes and another step backwards for the Buffaloes in their ongoing quest for consistency. This was the nightcap on my personal Saturday double-dip. It was a very poorly officiated game that Arizona State handled better than Colorado overall.
-- No. 22 Memphis took another step toward an unbeaten C-USA campaign by winning at Marshall. They should be feeling better and better about their NCAA positioning, despite a lack of really good wins.
-- Shout out to my guys down at Houston Baptist. The Huskies have won six in a row now after winning at regional nemesis Texas-Pan American.