|Iowa's sweep of Wisconsin is something that makes it season, regardless of how it ends. (AP)|
By Matt Norlander
Here’s everything you need to know about Thursday night’s games …
Game of the Night: Duke and Florida State has become the not-a-true-rivalry-but-as-good-as-o
ne series of note in college basketball the past five years … if you feel me there. The two clashed again Thursday night, and again it was a game worth watching for two hours. Duke gets the 74-66 win, avenges its last-second loss in Cameron at the beat of the Snaer drum and now people are talking like Duke’s a Final Four team? I’m pretty sure that was the case even before this, but let the Blue Devils hype build on up. The sport and the tournament are better when K’s team is carrying more on its shoulders.
What stands out for me: Andre Dawkins coming off the bench for 22 points. Duke’s always got those players, the ones who have 22-point games in them — you just don’t know when they’re coming. It’s all part of the weaponry. The chase for the one seed that’s developed among four teams looks more interesting by the day.
Florida State was on the verge of leading the ACC five days ago. Now it’s a game behind UNC and Duke and will not take the league title. Seminoles still don't feel like a second-weekend tournament team to me, but they'll certainly not get blown out whenever they go down.
Win to brag about: For the first time in program history, Saint Mary's takes a share of its conference title in consecutive seasons. The Gaels made it boring quickly in Portlandia, finishing with a 70-43 victory. SMC on track for a five seed if it wins the WCC tourney?
Loss to hide from: Colorado was so Pac-12 tonight, falling 74-50, at home, to Stanford. Colorado didn't stand a chance at an at-large anyway, but I think Tad Boyle thought his team was better than a performance like this. Next season, I guarantee the Buffs won't lose a home game by 24 to anyone.
Player who deserves improper benefits: Iowa's Matt Gatens has put up back-to-back performances that should get him some nice things from men with cash. We only say that in jest on the blog, but seriously, these kinds of performances earned you hundred-dollar handshakes back in the old days. Gatens put up a career-best 30 against Indiana Sunday. Thursday night, it was 33 points in Iowa's 67-66 win over Wisconsin. Between his last game and this one, he hit 11 straight 3s at one point. You want more Gatens stats? I give you more Gatens stats.
-- He's the first Big Ten player to score more than 30 against two teams in the AP Top 25 since 1996-97.
-- He became the fourth Big Ten player in the last 10 seasons to score more than 30 points in back-to-back games versus conference opponents.
-- His 33 points are the most scored by a Wisconsin opponent since Stephen Curry won over a nation in the 2008 NCAA tournament.
After the game, fans put the players on their shoulders, as you can see above.
Another player who deserves improper benefits: Senior Ken Horton led all scorers in D-I Thursday night. He put up 39 for the Blue Devils of Central Connecticut State. Horton's year has gone under the radar and it stands to reason one of the truly most valuable seniors in college basketball won't get his moment in the NCAAs.
Player who does not deserve improper benefits: Kyle Kuric went 0-fer, missing 11 shots for Louisville. No turnovers, though! Rick Pitino isn't really happy with anything after tonight, however.
Numbers don’t lie
- 13. Belmont killed Kenne! Kennesaw State went down 90-50, and in the process 13 Bruins scored.
- 17. That’s how many years it’s been since Iowa swept Wisconsin in the regular season.
- 115. There is no more dominant numbers-don't-lie number than putting up 115 against a D-I school. But that's what New Mexico State did against Hawaii. The Aggies won 115-73, had seven players score in double figures, and Daniel Mullings got himself a trip-dub. Twenty-eight points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. Five steals, to boot.
Three other games of note:
- BYU wasn't ready for Gonzaga in Spokane. Good on the Zags to keep their chances at sharing the WCC title with SMC alive, but this tells me more about BYU. The Cougars are, in my mind, one of the two or three most perplexing bubble teams out there. I feel like it should be in if the tournament started tomorrow, but at the same time, I need at minimum at WCC title-game appearance to justify that.
- Murray State didn't take too kindly to its sole loss of the season, so it went into Tennessee State and won by nearly 20.
- Alabama chips off a nice road win at Arkansas to keep its bubble hopes stable and look decent heading into the weekend.
- The UNC Greensboro story has turned out to be a terrific one. By nature of Elon's 66-45 loss to Davidson, Greensboro clinched the North division of the SoCon. It was a 2-14 team that fired its coach, and Wes Miller, the interim, has led the team to this. He'll get the head coaching job -- he should have it already -- once the season's over.
- There were other clinchings in conferences tonight. Belmont (A-Sun) and Davidson (SoCon) took their overall league regular-season titles. LIU-Brooklyn (NEC) and Bucknell (Patriot) also earned, at minimum, shares of their leagues.
- In there, oh-there-it-is department, Arizona's Josiah Turner turned it on to the tune of 15 points, six assists and not-a-one turnover in the Wildcats' 70-54 win over USC.
- In that Arizona game, U of A didn't have a first-half free throw. The game was in Tucson, so that is a noteworthy aberration. Good night, good evening and good weekend.