Late January college basketball games can be tricky, offering a snapshot of what teams will look like in March while showcasing others that are far from a finished product.
One loss might not seem huge now, but the NCAA tournament selection committee examines the full body of work, so any blemish midway through the conference season could be a major difference-maker on Selection Sunday.
Here’s a look at Saturday’s winners and losers:
Tennessee: The Volunteers (18-1, 11-0) have taken over the top spot in the coaches poll and looked the part in a convincing home win over West Virginia. This balanced Tennessee team does a lot of things well, ranking top-five in the nation in field-goal percentage, assist-to-turnover ratio and blocked shots per game. Saturday, guard Lamonte Turner had the hot hand with a team-best 23 points.
Virginia: The Cavaliers (18-1, 6-1) bounced back from their first loss of the season – last Saturday’s setback vs. Duke – by clobbering Wake Forest earlier in the week and crushing Notre Dame on the road Saturday. UVA’s nation-leading defense takes much of the credit, but against the Irish on Saturday, a balanced offensive attack steered the way, with De’Andre Hunter pacing five Virginia players in double-figures.
Iowa State: The Cyclones (15-5, 4-3) picked up a résumé-boosting non-conference victory by taking down a top-20 team in Ole Miss. There’s plenty of room to enhance or damage credentials in a rough Big 12 schedule, so beating an NCAA tournament-bound team on the road will pay off in the long run.
Marquette: The 11th-ranked Golden Eagles (18-3, 7-1) trailed Xavier by double-digits midway through the first half on Saturday before storming back for an 87-82 victory, keeping Marquette near the top of the Big East title race with Villanova. Markus Howard is having an All-America-caliber season, finishing with 31 points.
Duke: Even though the Blue Devils (17-2, 6-1) came out on top at home against Georgia Tech, pulling away 66-53, it wasn’t a pretty outing in point guard Tre Jones’ return. They trailed 29-27 at halftime and shot just 9.5 percent from beyond the arc as a team. While R.J. Barrett (24 points) and Zion Williamson (22 points) continue to carry the offensive load, the rest of the Duke roster isn’t exactly thriving. Fellow freshman star Cam Reddish shot 1-for-11 from the floor while the rest of the supporting cast combined for just 13 points.
Maryland: The Terrapins (16-5, 7-3) vaulted to No. 16 in the coaches poll and No. 13 in the Associated Press poll last week after seven consecutive Big Ten wins. This week they lost a road game to No. 5 Michigan State before falling to bottom-feeder Illinois, 78-67, on Saturday in New York. Mark Turgeon’s group turned the ball over 21 times against the Illini. The loss could haunt the Terps on Selection Sunday.
Kansas State: The Wildcats (15-5, 5-2) entered Saturday’s contest having won five games in a row, including a huge victory over No. 13 Texas Tech on Tuesday, jumping to the top of the Big 12 standings with Kansas. While K-State’s 65-53 road loss to Texas A&M won’t affect the team’s conference outlook, it certainly matters from an NCAA tournament-seeding perspective. The Aggies are a basement SEC team below .500 and won’t exactly bolster the Wildcats’ portfolio.