The countdown to Selection Sunday for the 2023 NCAA Tournament will hit seven weeks on Sunday, and conference races across the country are starting to take shape. But the sport's hierarchy at the top remains a muddy picture, and that was evident again Saturday as a pair of top-five teams suffered defeats early in the day.
No. 5 UCLA took its first Pac-12 loss on the road against No. 11 Arizona as the Bruins went cold offensively in a 58-52 loss to the Wildcats, and No. 2 Kansas received a stunning beatdown at home from No. 14 TCU. Kansas' 83-60 loss to the Horned Frogs continued a terrible week for the Jayhawks that has coincided with an excellent week for Kansas State.
The No. 13 Wildcats beat Kansas 83-82 in overtime on Tuesday and followed up with a 68-58 win at Texas Tech on Saturday that has led to a seismic shift on the No. 1 seed line in CBS Sports Bracketology Expert Jerry Palm's projected NCAA Tournament field.
Despite the loss at Kansas State earlier in the week, the Jayhawks entered the day as a projected No. 1 seed. But after losing at home to TCU for the first time in program history, the Jayhawks will drop to a projected No. 2 seed, according to Palm.
Replacing them on the No. 1 line? You guessed it. Kansas State. The Wildcats are set to join Purdue, Houston and Alabama as No. 1 seeds in Monday's updated NCAA Tournament projected bracket, according to Palm. There is a long way to go in the 2022-23 season, but Saturday showed how consequential the on-court results are at this point in the season. Let's take a look at some of the biggest winners and biggest losers from the day's action.
Winner: Kentucky keeps improving
Don't look now, but next Saturday's game between Kentucky and No. 2 Kansas could turn out to be a compelling matchup after all. After their stunning home loss to South Carolina on Jan. 10, the Wildcats have now strung together three straight wins following Saturday's 76-67 victory over Texas A&M. The Aggies (13-6, 5-1 SEC) entered on a seven-game winning streak but were pummeled on the offensive glass by UK (13-6, 4-3), which outscored A&M 16-2 in second-chance points. Antonio Reeves led the Wildcats with 23 points as coach John Calipari continued to deploy lineups that minimize the usage of point guard Sahvir Wheeler.
With the Jayhawks suddenly on afollowing a blowout home loss to No. 14 TCU on Saturday, next weekend's SEC/Big 12 Challenge game between UK and KU is shaping up as a compelling matchup. The reigning national champion Jayhawks look unexpectedly vulnerable, and Kentucky has officially returned to life.
Loser: Kansas falls flat at Phog Allen Fieldhouse
No. 2 Kansas has its third losing streak in conference play of the last decade (!) after falling Saturday at home 83-60 to No. 14 TCU. The loss to the Horned Frogs was its second this week after falling on the road at No. 13 Kansas State. Kansas this season twice fell behind by double figures at home in league play before twice digging its way out of the hole and into the lead and eventually to a win. But TCU stepped on the pedal early with a double-digit lead halfway into the first half and it never dropped to single digits after that.
"The way they chewed gum, the way they tied their shoes. Everything they did was perfect today," said KU coach Bill Self. "They played great. They're so fast, they're so athletic off the bench. We got a ton of good looks in the first half, but over the course of time, you have to be able to defend someone and stop someone. We couldn't do that today. It was a beatdown."
Winner: Kansas State takes top spot in Big 12 standings
Texas Tech gave Kansas State a good fight inside the Octagon of Doom but the No. 13 Wildcats' big week that started with a home win over rival Kansas culminated with a 68-58 win over the Red Raiders to improve to 6-1 in Big 12 play. With KU falling to TCU and Iowa State blowing a lead late on the road at Oklahoma State, it moved K-State into a one-game lead in the league standings and in sole possession of the No. 1 spot. After being picked to finish last in the league in the preseason, first-year coach Jerome Tang has his Wildcats in a position almost no one thought they'd be in weeks into January with a realistic shot at landing a No. 1 seed.
Loser: Texas Tech is a wreck
After blowing an eight-point lead in the second half and losing 68-58 at Kansas State, Texas Tech is 10-9 (0-7 Big 12). The Red Raiders' only wins against power conference teams are against Georgetown and Louisville, who are a combined 7-34. The Red Raiders have yet to notch a Quad 1 or Quad 2 victory and have established themselves as the clear bottom feeders in the Big 12. Kansas State held the Red Raiders to a season-worst 32.4% shooting. That figure was just 27.5% in the second half as the Wildcats outscored TTU 31-13 over the game's final 13 minutes.
Loser: UCLA goes ice cold on the road
No. 11 UCLA entered Saturday's game at No. 5 Arizona with a two-game lead in the Pac-12 standings and the chance to take a stranglehold on the conference race. But the Bruins went ice cold in a 58-52 loss to the Wildcats as they shot a season-worst 31.3% from the floor. UCLA's scoring output also marked its lowest of the season as the Bruins (17-3, 8-1 Pac-12) suffered their first loss since Nov. 20. The Bruins' 4 of 20 mark from 3-point range was particularly difficult to overcome. Though UCLA beat Arizona 18-8 on the offensive glass, the Bruins turned those second chances into just nine points. Arizona could not afford a loss if it wanted to stay afloat in the league title race, and the Wildcats overcame 17 turnovers and a near-collapse in the final minutes to pick up a huge win.
Winner: Xavier deploys nuclear offense
If not for a 52.9% free-throw shooting mark, No. 8 Xavier would have reached triple digits in a 95-82 win over Georgetown as Zach Freemantle tied a career-high with 30 points. Colby Jones added 20 for the Musketeers, who shot better from 3-point range (8 of 14) than they did at the charity stripe (9 of 17). Ultimately, it was an offensively dominant showing from a Xavier squad that improved to 16-4 (8-1 Big East) while remaining atop the league standings. As for Georgetown? Well, this marked the Hoyas' 29th straight Big East loss. Even a career-high 37 points from Primo Spears wasn't enough for embattled coach Patrick Ewing's squad. Of Georgetown's nine Big East losses, seven have now come by double digits.
Winner: Arkansas rights the ship
On the heels of back-to-back Elite Eight appearances, Arkansas started this season 11-1 and rose into the top-10 of the AP poll. It seemed the Razorbacks were destined to make another deep run in March. But the arrival of SEC play has been unkind to the No. 25 Hogs, who entered Saturday's game against Ole Miss having lost four straight and five of their last six. As it turned out, a visit from the lowly Rebels is exactly what Arkansas needed. Four players scored between 13 and 17 points, and the Hogs forced 17 turnovers in a 69-57 win. Injuries to five-star freshman guard Nick Smith and sophomore big man Trevon Brazile have altered the calculus for Arkansas' success. But the Razorbacks are still talented, and Saturday's double-digit league victory suggested this season may be salvageable.
Loser: UCF suffers brutal bubble loss
UCF entered the day as one of the "First 4 Out" of the projected NCAA Tournament field, according to CBS Sports Bracketology Expert Jerry Palm. That's likely to change after the Knights suffered an 85-72 loss at South Florida. The Bulls entered just 8-11 (1-5 AAC) but got a career-high 33 points from 5-foot-9 guard Tyler Harris to pick up their biggest win of the season. Harris hit 6 of 14 attempts from 3-point range and made all 13 of his free throws while also dishing out seven assists and grabbing six rebounds. It goes down as UCF's first Quadrant 3 loss of the season and puts some pressure on the Knights to pull an upset when No. 1 Houston comes to town Wednesday. Good luck with that, UCF.
Winner: Duke gets Jeremy Roach back
Roach returned to the lineup as Duke's starting point guard after missing three games due to a toe injury, and he played a pivotal role in the Blue Devils' 68-66 win over No. 17 Miami. Roach finished with 14 points and four assists while making 6 of 10 shots. The injury has been plaguing Roach for most of the season, and he was particularly ineffective in the two games before his absence. Against the 'Canes, he looked more like himself as Duke improved to 14-5 (5-3 ACC). With a healthy Roach, the Blue Devils may just have a shot at hanging around in the ACC title race.
Winner: Charleston extends winning streak to 20
No. 18 Charleston extended its winning streak to 20 games with an 87-61 dismantling of Northeastern. The Cougars (21-1, 9-0 CAA) are the first team in the country to reach 21 victories and have not lost since a 102-86 defeat at North Carolina on Nov. 11. Ten different players scored for Charleston on Saturday as the Cougars racked up 47 bench points.
Loser: Iowa State blows big lead
It's hard to blow a 16-point lead in a game that only features a combined 120 points, but that's what No. 12 Iowa State did in its 61-59 loss at Oklahoma State. The Cyclones led 27-11 with 8:05 left in the first half and still held a 12-point lead three minutes into the second half. But it was all Cowboys from there as OSU shot 61.1% from the floor in the second half. Avery Anderson scored 14 of his game-high 18 points after the break to key the rally. Oklahoma State did not claim its first lead until 3:09 remained. But it's not about who leads for longer. It's about who leads at the end, and that was the Cowboys.
Loser: Boise State has beef with New Mexico baseball team
Circle Feb. 22 on your calendars, because that's when New Mexico and Boise State will meet next following the Lobos' dramatic 81-79 overtime win against the Broncos on Friday. If the Broncos' fan base has a good memory, they will likely turn out in force following the halftime debacle that Broncos coach Leon Rice described here. From Rice's account, it sounds like a minor miracle that a fight did not break out between the New Mexico baseball team and the Boise State basketball team as the Broncos navigated the arena at halftime.
Winner: Sensabaugh ignites Ohio State
NBA scouts surely had an interest in a showdown between Iowa and Ohio State as NBA Draft prospects Kris Murray and Brice Sensabaugh met for the first time in a battle of two offensively gifted wings. Sensabaugh and the Buckeyes won the matchup as the 6-foot-6 freshman tank poured in 27 points on 10 of 12 shooting to lead Ohio State to a 93-77 win. The win was desperately needed for coach Chris Holtmann's squad, which entered on a five-game losing streak. All five of those losses came by single digits, three of them were by a single possession and one of them came in overtime. Ultimately, the Buckeyes had a lot of frustration to work out, and they appeared to do just that while putting an end to the Hawkeyes' four-game winning streak. Murray scored 22 points on 9 of 19 shooting to lead Iowa, but Sensabaugh stole the show with a perfect 6-of-6 shooting performance in the second half, which included a pair of 3-point makes.
Loser: LSU keeps getting curb-stomped in SEC play
The punching bag of the SEC this season got smacked around once again Saturday night as No. 9 Tennessee did to LSU what almost everyone in SEC play the last month has done to LSU: win, and win big. The Vols won 67-49 to hand the Tigers their fifth straight conference loss as they fell to 1-5 in league play. Those five losses have come by an average of 17 points per game, which if extrapolated out for en entire season would rank 358th in the country. (For reference: there are 363 Div. I teams.)
Winner: Auburn doubles up on double-doubles
South Carolina freshman GG Jackson went for 30 points and eight rebounds at home Saturday, but it wasn't enough to take down No. 16 Auburn as the visiting Tigers and their balanced inside-out diet of scoring led them to an 81-66 road victory. Auburn got 27 points and 11 rebounds from Morehead State transfer Johni Broome and guard Wendell Green Jr. also produced a double-double with 16 points and 12 assists.
Loser: NC State has rough evening
NC State lost 80-69 at North Carolina, but the outcome became a secondary concern when the Wolfpack's star guard, Terquavion Smith, was taken from the court. Smith landed hard after he was fouled by UNC's Leaky Black while attempting a left-handed runner. Black was assessed a Flagrant 2 foul for the play and ejected. Smith remained on the floor for minutes as his team huddled around him in prayer. Smith has been key to a strong start for the Wolfpack (15-4, 5-4 ACC). But aside from the basketball implications, the moment was unsettling, even for the opposing fans inside UNC's Smith Center, who fell silent as Smith was evaluated and then gave him a standing ovation as he was carted off the court.
Winner: Tyson and Hall get it done for Clemson
No. 19 Clemson's 51-50 win over Virginia Tech was a clunker in which both teams shot below 40% from the floor while combining to make just 9 of 40 shots from 3-point range. But when it mattered most, Clemson forward Hunter Tyson came through with a silky jumper. Tyson drained a go-ahead 3-pointer from the top of the key with 10 seconds left, and the Tigers got a stop from there to stay atop the ACC standings. While Tyson was the crunch-time hero, Clemson also got another strong performance from PJ Hall. The junior center led the Tigers in scoring last season but has ceded that title to Tyson in 2022-23 while working his way back from offseason knee surgery. But after scoring a game-high 20 points against the Hokies, Hall has now reached the 20-point threshold in three straight games. Clemson was great before, but its candidacy for an ACC title has only been further legitimized by Hall's return to form.
Winner: Big season continues for Texas' Carr
Marcus Carr, a Texas guard, has always been productive — he averaged double figures in four seasons with three different schools prior to 2022-23 — but the sixth-year senior has taken his game to new heights in his final year of eligibility. Carr led the Longhorns with 23 points in a 69-61 win at West Virginia on Saturday and scored 19 of them in the second half. The former Pitt and Minnesota star joined Texas last season started 32 games but never looked capable of shouldering the team's lead scoring role. This year, he's doing it with excellence. Carr entered shooting career-best percentages of 45.1% from the floor and 40.9% from 3-point range. He hit 8 of 14 attempts against the Mountaineers while making 5 of 6 free-throw attempts over the final four minutes. The No. 7 Longhorns are now 16-3 (5-2 Big 12) and staying afloat quite nicely amid the firing of coach Chris Beard. Carr is much of the reason.
Loser: The rest of the SEC
With Texas A&M's loss to Kentucky and No. 4 Alabama's 85-64 win at Missouri, the Crimson Tide are officially the last unbeaten team in SEC play at 7-0 (17-2 overall). While the likelihood of Alabama going unbeaten in league play is minimal, it's becoming increasingly evident that it will take an incredible effort to knock off the Tide. Alabama has won all seven of its league tilts by double figures and dispatched Missouri by 21 even while shooting just 36.8% from the floor. Defense had a lot to do with it as the Tigers hit just 32.9% of their shots. Still it's remarkable that Alabama can win a game by more than 20 points on the road against a quality opponent while shooting at a relatively poor clip. A Feb. 15 game at No. 9 Tennessee may mark the only SEC game that Alabama isn't favored to win this season, and even that one isn't a guarantee. If the Crimson Tide keep dominating opponents like this, they could be favored against the Volunteers as well.
Winner: Long Beach State wins in miraculous fashion
Up 110-107 vs. Long Beach State, UC San Diego committed a foul with nine seconds left in the third overtime. LBSU's Tone Hunter made the first and missed the second. However, teammate AJ George corralled the rebound and tied the game with seven seconds left. Then, UC San Diego committed a turnover after the subsequent inbounds pass, leading to a go-ahead dunk from George with 2.6 seconds left. To summarize: Long Beach State won the game because of a 5-point swing in a span of less than seven seconds in the closing stretch of a triple-overtime game. If you are confused, just watch it.