Madness comes early as the mighty fall

Thankfully, it's too early for your brackets to be doomed. There will be plenty of time for that later, if Tuesday night was any indication.

A bit of March Madness invaded January as three of the top four teams in the Associated Press top 25 took to the road in conference play, and all three returned home with a loss. That included No. 1 Villanova, which watched as Marquette fans poured out of the stands onto the floor after witnessing the 74-72 upset in Milwaukee.

It's only the second time in the past 20 seasons three of the top four teams lost on the same day, and the first since Jan. 21, 2012, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Either No. 2 Kansas or No. 4 Kentucky will take a two-game losing streak into next week as the two are set to meet Saturday in Lexington.

It all started at West Virginia, where the Mountaineers have become so accustomed to beating Kansas at home -- they're 4-1 against the Jayhawks in Morgantown since joining the Big 12 five years ago -- that the students didn't feel the need to storm the court.

No. 18 West Virginia, which also beat then-No. 1 Baylor 89-68 on Jan. 10, handed the Jayhawks an 85-69 defeat spearheaded by its defense. But the Mountaineers didn't lure KU into a fluky turnover-fest it could easily correct in the rematch. They dogged Kansas in the half court.

Frank Mason III, who is in the conversation for national player of the year, finally got to 15 points but needed 6-of-16 shooting to get there. It marked only the second time this season the senior did not attempt a free throw.

The hero for the Mountaineers was Esa Ahmad, who smashed his previous career high of 19 points with 27 on Tuesday against Kansas.

From there it moved to Marquette, where the Golden Eagles faced a Nova squad that beat them 93-81 on Jan. 7. And if ever a score was not an indication of the game, the Wildcats led by 30 with about six minutes left in the second half.

When Nova jumped out 37-20 and led by 15 at halftime Tuesday, it seemed like more of the same. The Wildcats would find out, however, that this was a different Marquette team.

The Eagles shot 69.6 percent from the field in the second half. Marquette led Villanova for all of 22 seconds in the game, and it didn't even take that lead until 46 seconds remained.

Katin Reinhardt came off the bench to lead the Eagles with 19 points, including the winning free throws with 11.6 seconds left.

Joe Lunardi had Marquette bringing up the rear among the last four teams in the tournament in his latest Bracketology. That probably will change now that the Eagles have now put together consecutive wins over ranked opponents, including a 102-94 victory against then-No. 7 Creighton.

Tennessee was the last stop, where Kentucky literally got caught slipping in its 82-80 loss.

With the Wildcats trailing by three after the final media timeout, Malik Monk's traveling violation with 3 minutes, 12 seconds left was caused when he fell on a wet spot on the floor, presumably caused in the Wildcats' team huddle.

Monk's turnover did not cost them the game, but it was one empty possession for Kentucky in a one-possession game.

The Volunteers are not in Lunardi's projections as a tournament outfit. But they aren't a bad team. Five of their nine losses this season have come to ranked teams, including 69-65 in overtime to No. 10 Oregon, and 73-71 to No. 9 North Carolina, which needed a blocked shot on its final possession.

Senior guard Robert Hubbs III earned the right to sing "Rocky Top" the loudest after his game-high-tying 25 points.

And the biggest winner on the night? Besides college basketball fans?

Mark Few and the No. 3 Gonzaga Bulldogs.

The Bulldogs don't play until Thursday, when they face San Diego at home (9 p.m. ET, ESPN3). They're in position to take over the No. 1 ranking for the first time since the 2012-13 season, when they held it for the final three weeks including going into the NCAA tournament.

Gonzaga (20-0) might back into the top spot, but it is by no means a fraud. The Bulldogs upgraded their athleticism with Washington transfer Nigel Williams-Goss, Johnathan Williams and California transfer Jordan Mathews. They get solid post play from 7-foot-1 center Przemek Karnowski. They're deep and experienced.

The Zags' résumé includes victories over then-No. 21 Iowa State, current No. 25 Florida and current No. 7 Arizona, which was without Allonzo Trier at the time.

If Gonzaga does get voted No. 1 on Monday -- which would mark the sixth time this season the poll has a new top team -- that top spot might not change hands again. The Zags are the only unbeaten left in college basketball, and their toughest two games -- at BYU and at No. 21 Saint Mary’s -- might be the only two games remaining they aren't favored to win.

Then again, Tuesday night should teach us a thing about assuming favorites will win. That's why it's called madness.