In what has been a fairly tame basketball season thus far, last weekend and this past week have been full of upsets. Villanova, Duke, UVA, and Purdue were all top 5 teams that fell victim to upsets over that span of time. The AP rankings have since changed, and will likely change again as a result of even more recent upsets. In addition to immediately affecting the top 25 rankings, these losses will likely influence the seeds for the NCAA Tournament. Each of the upsets also exposed weaknesses that these powerhouses will need to focus on as the season winds down.
‘Nova shockingly dropped two games over the past week, one to Big East bottom dweller St. John’s and the other to unranked Providence. The loss to St. John’s came as the bigger shock, and perhaps the biggest upset of college hoops this season. Not only was St. John’s last in the Big East standings, but they did not have a single Big East win and somehow managed to defeat beat ‘Nova on the road. This loss appeared to be an outlier for the Wildcats, especially since they shot a dismal 24.2% from 3 and still only lost by four points. However, later in the week Villanova fell to Providence. The Wildcats had an even worse night from 3, this time shooting 15% from behind the arc. Despite ‘Nova’s recent struggles from deep, it likely will not be a factor going into the Big East and NCAA tournaments. Villanova is shooting an impressive 40% from 3 on the year, and their hot shooting should continue moving forward. Expect ‘Nova to be a one seed in the NCAA Tournament, and look for them to make another championship run.
The Blue Devils dropped two straight games last week, the first to St. John’s and then to in-state rival UNC. St. John’s beat Duke 81-77, in what was St. Johns first win after a 11-game losing streak. St. John’s out-shot Duke from 3 and had seven fewer turnovers. In the UNC game, Duke won the shooting percentage battle, but was out-rebounded 44-38 and had 6 more turnovers than UNC. This appears to be Duke’s biggest problem. In each of the games that the Blue Devils lost, they also lost the turnover battle, typically by a large margin. Duke has lost three of their last six games and don’t look to be the dominant team they were earlier in the season. In order for them to make noise in the ACC tournament and the NCAA tournament, they will have to cut down on their turnovers.
The Cavaliers have been one of the surprises of the 2017-2018 season. After a fairly disappointing year in 2016 and the loss of star point guard London Perrantes, no one expected UVA to be as good as they have been thus far. Before UVA’s overtime loss to unranked rival Virginia Tech, the Cavs had won 15 straight games, including victories over #12 UNC, #18 Clemson, and #4 Duke. However, their luck ran out against Tech in a 61-60 heartbreaker. UVA looked to have sealed the game, up four points with 30 seconds left in overtime, but the Cavs missed key free throws, allowing Tech to shrink the lead to one. UVA had a one-and-one opportunity to put them up by three, but they missed the first free throw and Tech secured the rebound. The Wahoos then allowed VT to go coast-to-coast, and surrendered an offensive rebound and put-back on the final possession of the game. Considering this was UVA’s first loss since their December 5th loss to West Virginia, the Wahoos will be just fine moving forward. They should win the ACC tournament and finally advance past the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament.
The Boilermakers had won 19 straight games until their loss to #14 Ohio State. Purdue appeared to control the pace throughout much of the game, taking a 14 point lead during the second half. However, the Buckeyes continued to chip away at the lead and battled back, cutting the lead to one with two minutes left to play. Then, much like UVA’s loss to Virginia Tech, Purdue surrendered a tip-in with three seconds left, sealing the game for Ohio State and snapping Purdue’s win streak. The Boilermakers went on to lose to #4 Michigan State and unranked Wisconsin later in the week. The Michigan State loss should not be considered much of an upset. Michigan State had a better overall record than Purdue and an identical conference record. The teams were evenly matched throughout; ultimately the game was decided by who had the ball on the final possession, and the outstanding play of Michigan State’s Miles Bridges. Bridges not only dropped a team high 20 points, but he did it on 64.2% shooting from the field and hit the game winning three with 2.7 seconds left. Then, to add insult to injury, the Boilermakers dropped their third game in a row, this time to a Wisconsin team with a losing record. The difference in this game was Purdue’s 13 turnovers and their inability to close out tight games. Again, they led in the second half, but were unable to hang on for the win. Purdue was finally able to close out a tight game in their win over Penn State, ending their losing streak and narrowly avoiding another upset. Look for Purdue to right the ship, battling Michigan State for the Big 10 championship and making a push in the NCAA tournament.