Ah, nothing like an unseasonably warm last Saturday in February to bring clarity to the college basketball season.
There will be a new No. 1 on Monday after Gonzaga's 79-71 loss to BYU, and No. 3 Kansas, No. 5 UCLA and No. 8 North Carolina all had weeks impressive enough to make a claim as the nation's best team.
The Jayhawks wrapped up their 13th straight Big 12 regular-season title, clinching it outright in Saturday's 77-67 win over Texas. The Tar Heels clinched the No. 1 seed in the ACC tournament and at least a share of Roy Williams' eighth league title in 13 seasons with their 85-67 win at Pittsburgh.
Then again, did Saturday's results just make things more confusing?
No. 10 Duke looked like a team that was coming together until it dropped a pair of road games this week, including Saturday's 55-50 loss at Miami. That losing streak could multiply with a home visit from No. 19 Florida State on Tuesday and the rematch at North Carolina on Saturday.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski sat guard Grayson Allen against the Hurricanes to help his ailing foot heal. Krzyzewski is hoping that sacrifice will pay off with a healthy Allen in the postseason.
No. 24 Maryland fell to 0-3 since playing Wisconsin for a possible share of first place with Purdue in the Big Ten standings. Iowa's 83-69 win over the Terrapins knocked them into a tie for third place with Minnesota.
The Blue Devils joined No. 9 Baylor and No. 14 Purdue among five teams in the Associated Press' Top 25 that lost to unranked teams Saturday. Instead of asking what's wrong with those contenders, it's better to examine what's right with their respective opponents. Miami, Iowa State and Michigan are getting hot at the right time.
Miami has won four straight and six of its last seven after knocking off Duke. The Canes' four-game winning streak includes consecutive wins over ranked teams, including their first win at No. 18 Virginia since Feb. 26, 2009.What's more impressive is that coach Jim Larranaga kept things together while suspending his second-leading scorer, Ja'Quan Newton, three games for violating team rules.The win keeps the Canes in the hunt for a double-bye given the top four seeds in the ACC standings tournament. They're currently locked in a tie for fifth place with Duke and a half-game behind Notre Dame and Louisville, who are tied for third place.
Iowa State has won five straight and six of its past seven games after its 72-69 win over Baylor. That span includes the Cyclones' 92-89 win at Kansas that snapped the Jayhawks' nation-leading 51-game home winning streak.
In the past seven games, senior Naz Mitrou-Long has increased his 3-point shooting to 49.1 percent (30 of 61) from 38 percent on the season.Iowa State is tied with West Virginia for second place in the Big 12, and that positioning behind Kansas will be settled when the Cyclones face the Mountaineers in Friday's season finale.
Michigan has now won five of its past six games after beating Purdue 82-70 in a game that wasn't as close as the final score made it seem. Senior guard Derrick Walton Jr. has been especially effective for the Wolverines now that he's assumed a larger role scoring. Over his last 10 games, Walton is averaging 17.9 points, which is well above his season average of 14.4 points.
No harm, no foul
In Joe Lunardi's updated Bracketology, he has TCU as the last team in his last four in. The Horned Frogs, losers of five straight games, had a chance to boost their NCAA tournament resume with their first win over a ranked team this season.
But with the score tied Saturday against No. 12 West Virginia, Jaylen Fisher was whistled for a foul with 4.8 seconds left. West Virginia guard Daxter Miles made one of two free throws for a 61-60 Mountaineers victory.
Northwestern, seeking its first NCAA tournament bid in the history of its program, had a chance to win at Indiana for the first time since 2014. But Thomas Bryant completed a 3-point play with 2.6 seconds left in the Hoosiers' 63-62 win. The Wildcats have now dropped five of their past seven, with tough games remaining against Michigan and Purdue.
In both cases, the contact made did not give the defensive player a clear advantage, nor did it impede the offensive players' ability to make moves. Hopefully this is not an indication of how things will be called in the postseason.
Imagine if North Carolina committed some inadvertent bump at midcourt and Villanova shot free throws to win last year's title game instead of Kris Jenkins delivering a shot for the ages?
Leave late-game situations up to the players to decide.