Upset Saturday throws NCAA pecking order into further chaos

Baylor's Freddie Gillespie hangs on rim after dunking
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Ricky Dimon

NCAAB

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Since graduating from Davidson (The College That Stephen Curry Built), I have been writing about sports--just about any and all you can think of!--and coaching tennis in Atlanta, Ga. Beyond the four major sports, I am an avid tennis fan and cover the ATP Tour on a daily basis. If I'm not busy writing, you can generally find me on a tennis court or traveling the world wherever a sporting event takes me.

Parity has been the name of the game in recent seasons in NCAA college basketball. The 2019-20 campaign is no exception. We knew that even more going into the final day of action prior to the best month of the year. We know it even more now that the calendar has turned from February to March.

Feb. 29 obviously happens just once every four years, and a whole host of top teams wish it had never happened at all in 2020. Nine members of the top 25 lost. Three were guaranteed to lose, as there was a trio of ranked-vs.-ranked showdowns. For those counting…yes, that means six ranked squads fell to unranked opponents.

Baylor lost to TCU. Florida State lost to Clemson. Duke lost to Virginia. Villanova lost to Providence. West Virginia lost to Oklahoma. Texas Tech lost to Texas. In the all-top 25 showdowns, Auburn lost to Kentucky, Maryland lost to Michigan State, and Penn State lost to Iowa.

At least one more ranked team will fall this weekend, as No. 23 Ohio State hosts No. 19 Michigan on Sunday afternoon (check out our free college basketball expert picks). Creighton (at St. John’s), Houston (vs. Cincinnati), Louisville (vs. Cincinnati), and Colorado (at Stanford) are also putting their NCAA Tournament resume’s to the test.

Blue Devils feeling blue

Duke’s setback at Virginia could be especially problematic. The Blue Devils went into the week with a 23-4 record and ranked seventh in the country. They were firmly in the mix for a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance, even more so given San Diego State’s recent loss to UNLV and Baylor’s collapse at TCU (the Horned Frogs used a late 18-1 run to stun the Bears on Saturday). To say Duke did not capitalize on the opportunity would be a gross understatement.

Not only did head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s squad get beat by the Wahoos 52-50, but it also fell at Wake Forest in double-overtime via a 113-101 decision on Tuesday. Unless the Blue Devils win their last two regular-season games and then cut down the nets at the ACC Tournament, they have no chance at one of the top lines in the field of 68. Six losses are simply too many when San Diego State, Gonzaga, and Dayton have only two and Kansas and Baylor have just three.

Bear down

Thanks in part to Duke’s struggles, the Bears should remain in line for a No. 1 seed (they were No. 1 in the South Region in Joe Lunardi’s most recent bracketology) despite their 75-72 loss to TCU. But second-ranked Baylor cannot waste any time picking up the pieces and getting back in gear. It wraps up the regular season against Texas Tech and West Virginia this coming week—both in the top 25. If the Bears lose at least one of those contests and then fail to win the Big 12 tournament, they could be in trouble depending on the outcomes of other conference tournaments.

The bottom line is there isn’t a dominant team in college basketball. There isn’t a dominant conference, either (even though the Big 12 could end up getting two No. 1 seeds). March is here…and it’s going to be mad.

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