Evaluating major conference races as they hit the home stretch
Seven ranked teams lost on Saturday, including four top-10 teams, and three top-25 teams lost on Sunday. The top of the ACC standings was shaken up, Maryland lost its 19th consecutive road game against a ranked opponent and Kansas’s reign atop the Big 12 continued as the Jayhawks locked up at least a share of the regular-season title.
Here’s how the results of this weekend’s games impact the major conference races as the regular season winds down.
*Updated through the completion of Sunday’s games
Miami and North Carolina are neck-and-neck in a two-horse race to the finish. All four of the Tar Heels’ ACC losses have come in February, while the Hurricanes are 7–1 this month. The two teams are in first place with 12–4 conference records and two games remaining.
Four of the ACC’s top teams faced off on Saturday. No. 12 Miami came from behind to defeat No. 11 Louisville, 73-65, thanks to a 17–5 run to end the game, while No. 3 Virginia knocked off No. 7 North Carolina at home, 79–74. After a full slate of conference games, what does the top of the ACC standings look like?
Miami and UNC are tied for first with 12–4 conference records. Louisville and Virginia are one game back of the leaders, while Duke and Notre Dame are fifth at 10–6, after Notre Dame’s 77–56 loss at Florida State on Saturday and Duke’s loss to Pitt on Sunday.
On paper, Miami has an easier remaining schedule than North Carolina: at Notre Dame and at Virginia Tech, compared to the Heels’ games at home versus Syracuse and at Duke.
1. North Carolina (12–4)
1. Miami (12–4)
3. Virginia (11–5)
3. Louisville (11–5)
5. Duke (10–6)
5. Notre Dame (10–6)
The last time Kansas didn’t win at least a share of the Big 12 regular-season title, Shrek 2 was the top-grossing movie of the year and Usher’s “Yeah!” had the best year-long performance on the Billboard top 100 chart. That was in 2004 and with the Jayhawks’ 67–58 win over Texas Tech on Saturday, Kansas clinched at least a share of its 12th consecutive regular-season conference championship.
Kansas finishes the regular season on the road at Texas and at home against Iowa State. If the Jayhawks win at least one, they’ll win the conference outright and given their trajectory, they shouldn’t have a problem doing so. Kansas has won nine straight games, including four against top-20 teams and four on the road.
West Virginia is two games behind Kansas after a 70–56 win over Oklahoma State. Oklahoma fell on the road Saturday at Texas, 76–63, to drop three games back of Kansas in a tie for third place with the Longhorns and Baylor.
The rest of the Big 12 put up a valiant effort this year to end Kansas’s reign atop the conference but once again, the Big 12 runs through Lawrence.
1. Kansas (13–3)
2. West Virginia (11–5)
In the new Big East, Villanova is doing its best Kansas impression by dominating over a multi-year period. The Wildcats are 46–6 in conference play since the 2013–14 season and they’re on pace to win their third straight regular-season title.
Despite losing at Xavier on Wednesday, Villanova entered the weekend just a half-game ahead of the Musketeers in the Big East standings. With an 89–79 win at Marquette on Saturday though and Xavier’s upset loss to Seton Hall on Sunday, the Wildcats, who are 14–2 in conference play, are now 1.5 games ahead of Xavier with two regular-season games remaining. Villanova finishes the season with home games against DePaul and Georgetown, while Xavier hosts Creighton next weekend in its regular-season finale.
The Big East is Villanova’s conference to lose.
1. Villanova (14–2)
2. Xavier (13–4)
Indiana sits atop the Big Ten standings at 13–3 and, after Iowa’s loss at Ohio State on Sunday, has clinched at least a share of the regular-season Big Ten title. After Maryland’s 83–79 loss at Purdue on Saturday, the Hoosiers can win the regular-season title outright with a win at Iowa on Tuesday. The Hawkeyes (11–5 in the Big Ten) host Indiana and then traveling to Michigan.
The key for Indiana is returning to full health after recent injuries to Robert Johnson (ankle) and Troy Williams (thigh bruise). The Hoosiers are undefeated in Assembly Hall this season and 17–2 at home against ranked opponents in the past five seasons, so history is on Indiana’s side in its regular-season finale against Maryland, which is two games behind the Hoosiers.
The Terrapins could still win a share of the regular-season title if they win out and get help with losses by Indiana and Iowa. Maryland and Iowa are trending in the wrong direction, but the Hawkeyes and Terrapins have the talent to make a late push for first place.
The Hoosiers’ remaining games—at Iowa and home against Maryland—are against two of the four second-place teams in the Big Ten, but after this weekend, Indiana is in a great position to win the outright title.
1. Indiana (13–3)
2. Iowa (11–5)
2. Maryland (11–5)
2. Michigan State (11–5)
2. Wisconsin (11–5)
Utah picked up its first win against Arizona since the Utes joined the Pac-12 in 2011 and it couldn’t have come at a better time. No. 22 Utah, 12–5 in conference play, will now enjoy a week off before playing its regular-season finale against Colorado. With a six-game winning streak and 11 wins in its last 13 games, Utah is playing like the team to beat in the conference.
First-place Oregon (first place at 12–4 with a game in hand) swept Utah, defeated Washington on Sunday and will travel to UCLA and USC next week. The Ducks were swept on their last Pac-12 road trip to the state of California, but they still have the ability to win the conference outright.
1. Oregon (12–4)
2. Utah (12–5)
3. California (11–5)
4. Arizona (10–6)
The top of the SEC is filled with good-but-not-great teams who haven’t consistently lived up to their potential. It’s anyone’s guess as to who will finish atop the regular-season standings, with five teams separated by just one game. The two first-place teams, Texas A&M and Kentucky, still have to play a third-place team—Vanderbilt and LSU, respectively—while South Carolina’s remaining games are against two teams with a .500 record in conference.
Entering Saturday, the Wildcats were in sole possession of first place in the SEC with an 11–4 conference record. But despite Jamal Murray’s 33 points and nine rebounds, No. 16 Kentucky fell victim to a 74–62 upset and court storm at Vanderbilt. Texas A&M’s 84–69 win over Missouri knots the Aggies and Wildcats in a tie for first place with 11–5 SEC records.
South Carolina could’ve joined Kentucky and Texas A&M atop the standings, but the Gamecocks lost on the road to Mississippi State on Saturday. The Gamecocks have the easiest remaining schedule, while Texas A&M and Vanderbilt are arguably playing the best basketball of the bunch. Expect this race to end in a tie.
1. Texas A&M (11–5)
1. Kentucky (11–5)
3. South Carolina (10–6)
3. Vanderbilt (10–6)
3. LSU (10–6)