I know it’s Sunday but I couldn’t tear myself away from the big screen long enough to blog about the phenomenal college basketball games that myself and the nation were seeing. Former ESPN analyst Steve Lavin and his Johnies couldn’t take down another top ten team, right? The Texas Longhorns – who were slated to take the nation’s top spot after the Kansas Jayhawks fell flat against K-State – wouldn’t get beat by Arkansas, would they? Even the hottest team in the country, the Irish of Notre Dame would run in to a buzz saw on the road against West Virginia. The truth is, you never know and that is what makes college basketball great, especially this time of year.
As it turns out, all of those unlikely scenarios played out to be true.
St. Johns shocked the nation again with a heart-stopping, come-from-behind thriller over No. 4 Pittsburgh that has the players thinking of joining the ranks of the ranked themselves. It’s been over a decade since St. John’s was in The Associated Press poll. The latest of the Red Storm’s five wins over teams regarded as the best in the country was awesome from the opening tip all the way down to the buzzer. Dwight Hardy’s underhanded flip with 1.2 seconds left Saturday gave the Red Storm a 60-59 victory, their fifth this season over a team that spent time in the top 10 – and all of them have been at Madison Square Garden which has become somewhat of a house of horrors for ranked teams this year.
Texas went on a 12-1 run, making seven of nine free throws and adding a pair of baskets. Alexis Wangmere’s free throws tied it 65-65 with 1:07 remaining. Brandon Richardson sank a pair of foul shots with 43.5 seconds remaining to put Nebraska back in front, and Drake Beranek made one of two with 24.7 seconds left. Texas’ J’Covan Brown made two of three free throws with 12.6 seconds remaining to cut the deficit to one, but his 3-point attempt at the buzzer fell short.
”There’s no question Nebraska deserves all the credit because they were a terrific team today, Doc Sadler is one of the great guys in this business, and it couldn’t have happened to a better guy. If this helps them to the NCAA tournament, then it would be great for him. The fans were great, and they definitely deserved to win the game.” Texas coach Rick Barnes
So now who is the nation’s top team?
West Virginia took command early in the second half and beat No. 8 Notre Dame 72-58 on Saturday, ending the Irish’s seven-game winning streak. The Mountaineers got a badly needed win against a ranked opponent to prop up their NCAA tournament hopes. West Virginia had been struggling since a 68-64 win over No. 11 Purdue on Jan. 16. The Irish were trying to match their best conference record through 14 conference games, set in 2000-01. They had beaten their three previous road opponents but shot just 35 percent (21 of 60) for the game. Notre Dame, trying to secure a double-bye in the conference tournament, returns to action Wednesday at Providence, then finishes the regular season at home again Seton Hall and No. 15 Villanova and on the road at No. 13 Connecticut.