By Andrew Kahn
Life is tough on the road. On Saturday, five teams ranked in the top 15 lost to unranked squads, all away from home. In a week when the No. 1 team went down (again), No. 2 Michigan won at Illinois on Sunday to move to 19-1 and presumably step into the top spot in the rankings.
Cats upset ’Cuse
For the second straight game, fans at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia rushed the court, as Villanova beat No. 3 Syracuse in overtime, 75-71. On Tuesday the Wildcats beat No. 5 Louisville. It was quite a week for Villanova, which was on a three-game losing streak and just 11-7 (2-3 in the Big East) before the consecutive upsets. Syracuse’s late-game execution was terrible. Not only did the Orange become the latest team to get burned by not fouling when leading by three in the closing seconds, they also lost their aggressiveness on offense in the final minutes. Syracuse led 61-55 and had possession with 3:20 left in regulation when it decided to start burning the clock. They didn’t score again and Ryan Arcidiacono’s three-pointer with three seconds left sent the game to overtime.
It was all good just a week ago
Syracuse was not the only top-5 team from the Big East to lose on Saturday, as No. 5 Louisville fell at Georgetown 53-51. The previous Saturday, Louisville was No. 1 in the country, but has since lost three straight. Like Syracuse, Louisville’s offense down the stretch was poor, as the Cardinals settled for contested jumpers. Senior guard Peyton Siva has been in a bad shooting slump during the losing streak; he was nonexistent on Saturday, going 0-2 from the field. The play of the game was Aaron Bowen’s tip-in for Georgetown, which broke a 50-50 tie and was the final field goal of the game. He came out of nowhere for an acrobatic put back of a teammate’s miss.
Minnesota loses fourth straight
It is a rule you don’t see come into play very often: On Saturday, Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan got to choose which Minnesota player would shoot free throws after the Gopher who was fouled was injured on the play. With 1.7 seconds left and Minnesota down two, Ryan was able to choose from one of the other four Minnesota players on the court at the time. He went with Rodney Williams, a 64% foul shooter this season and 56% shooter for his career, who made the first but missed the second to give Wisconsin a 45-44 victory.
La Salle’s surge
Villanova was not the only Philadelphia-area school with an impressive week on the hardwood. Three days after beating No. 9 Butler by one, La Salle won at No. 19 VCU on Saturday, 69-61. The Explorers moved to 4-2 in the Atlantic 10. VCU, meanwhile, has lost two in a row after winning 13 straight. Butler and VCU, schools that met in the Final Four two seasons ago, have made the A-10 much more exciting this season, but La Salle figures to be in the mix for the conference crown.
NIU’s offensive woes
This happened outside of the top-25, but it is worth noting for its record-setting futility. Northern Illinois scored just four points in the first half against Eastern Michigan on Saturday, the lowest in Division I in the shot clock era. While such a dreadful performance is never anticipated—NIU shot 1 for 31 from the field in the first half—the Huskies broke their own record, set earlier this season when they scored just five in the first half against Dayton. Much like in that game, Northern Illinois was much more competitive in the second half, getting outscored just 24-21 to lose 42-25.
Andrew Kahn is a contributor to CBS Local who has written for ESPN the Magazine and The Wall Street Journal. He writes about college basketball and other sports at http://andrewjkahn.com. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn.