Florida goes unbeaten in SEC play after dispatching Kentucky, more Saturday hoops
No. 1 Florida 84, No. 25 Kentucky 65: The Gators didn't really need to make a statement or prove anything on Saturday, but they did anyway by jumping out to a 21-point halftime lead over Kentucky. Even with students on Spring Break, the O'Connell Center was still rocking as Florida showed the timing and precision of a well-made Swiss watch. Age and experience only serve to be indicators of reliability for the Gators, who haven't lost since the beginning of December.
Contrast that with Kentucky, which is supremely talented but is still looking for answers. A big run in the second half got the game back in striking distance before Florida put its foot back down, but the inconsistency even within the course of a single game is troubling. While youth has served John Calipari well in the past, leaders aren't just born or conjured. Sometimes it takes a wealth of experience -- the type Florida and its veteran-heavy rotation has plenty of -- and Kentucky just doesn't have that. The Wildcats lost three out of four to end the regular season.
The fact the Wildcats have Julius Randle (16 points, 10 rebounds) and James Young (14 points) might be enough to get them out of the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, but it's hard to see this team doing much more than that. There are real problems here, and they aren't just cosmetic or surface level. This wouldn't please Big Blue Nation, which had 40-0 shirts printed up before the season.
For Florida, a No. 1 seed is all but assured at this point after going 18-0 in the SEC, regardless of what happens in the conference tournament. The Gators are balanced inside and out, and depending on how the bracket shakes out, Billy Donovan should have a good shot at his third NCAA Championship in the last nine years.
West Virginia 92, No. 8 Kansas 86: As Matt Norlander from CBS has pointed out, no team with eight or more losses has ever earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Kansas' chances to land a top seed in the field were slim even before this loss. But with Joel Embiid resting and the Mountaineers playing at their best on Senior Night, the door on any hopes at a No. 1 is now shut tight.
The lack of energy from guys not named Andrew Wiggins (41 points, eight rebounds, two assists, five steals, four blocks) over the course of the game is a bit of a concern, but that's one Bill Self should be able to address come Big 12 tournament time. Kansas still has elite playmakers, and with a healthy Embiid, could easily string together a few wins to get to Arlington.
West Virginia is probably still on the wrong side of the bubble as of now, but this win certainly makes its résumé a bit more enticing. The Mountaineers now have five wins over teams currently ranked in the KenPom top 50, but they'll need to do some damage in the conference tournament to make a stronger case.
No. 20 Memphis 67, No. 18 SMU 58: The Tigers bounced back from their loss to Cincinnati earlier in the week with an impressive win in their regular-season finale over SMU. Memphis overcame 18 turnovers by playing some solid defense; the Mustangs shot just 40 percent on the day. Memphis continues to be enigmatic, but the AAC tournament (the Tigers play UConn on Thursday) should be a good barometer of what sort of effort Josh Pastner is going to get out of his guys when the madness starts. Austin Nichols had 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting and added nine rebounds. No. 15 Cincinnati 70, Rutgers 66: Sean Kilpatrick dropped in a nifty finish to give Cincy the four-point lead with 16.9 seconds to play, effectively icing any shot the Scarlet Knights had at pulling the upset. Kilpatrick finished with 24 points and added yet another highlight day to his already impressive senior campaign. The player of the year debate in American Conference will be heated (and there's really no wrong answer among the favorites in this one), but Kilpatrick has certainly earned his accolades this season. The Bearcats earned at least a share of the AAC regular season title with the win.