(credit: William Mancebo/Getty Images)
By: Andrew Kahn
Hoops fans, rejoice: it’s March! The madness was evident this past weekend, as several highly-anticipated matchups — Duke-Miami & Michigan-Michigan State, just to name two — went down to the final possession. The first poll of the month may provide yet another new No. 1. With several conference tournaments set to begin, this wild season is about to kick into an extra gear.
Kelly takes over in return
Ryan Kelly hadn’t played since Jan. 8, missing 13 straight games with an injured foot. All four of Duke’s losses came during his absence. The power forward returned on Saturday night for a huge showdown with Miami and looked better than ever, scoring 36 points on 10 of 14 shooting (7 of 9 from deep) to lead the No. 5 Blue Devils to a 79-76 victory over No. 3 Miami. The Hurricanes got two decent looks at a three-pointer in their final possession, including Rion Brown’s three from the corner as time expired. It was a statement game for both teams: Miami proved it could play at a high level against a top team away from home while Duke showed that, with a healthy Kelly, it is among the nation’s best.
Burke’s steals seal victory
Twice in the final 30 seconds on Sunday, Michigan State had the ball with a chance to take the lead and potentially sweep the season series against Michigan. In both instances, Trey Burke came up with a steal. First he picked Keith Appling’s pocket with 26 seconds left and took it the other way for a dunk to break the tie; on the game’s final possession he stole a pass to give Michigan a 58-57 win. The No. 4 Wolverines and No. 9 Spartans are part of a four-way tie for second in the Big Ten at 11-5.
Gonzaga the new No. 1?
Later this afternoon, for the first time in school history, Gonzaga may be atop the national rankings. Two wins this week, including an 81-52 beatdown of Portland on Saturday, may move the No. 2 Bulldogs ahead of Indiana, which lost earlier in the week. The West Coast Conference isn’t the Big Ten, but Gonzaga’s dominance can’t be ignored. The Bulldogs’ average margin of victory is 17 points, behind only Indiana and Florida. Lately, their margins have been even bigger, leading many to project Gonzaga as a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Kansas State beats Baylor at buzzer
With Baylor set to take the ball out with just one second remaining in a tie game, the odds of Kansas State winning in regulation seemed astronomical. But Baylor’s inbounds pass went out of bounds without being touched, giving the Wildcats the ball under their own basket. Rodney McGruder cut to the three-point line and was wide open to receive the pass and bury a three as time expired to give No. 13 Kansas State a 64-61 victory on Saturday night.
VCU dominates Final Four rematch
VCU is tops in the country in forcing turnovers and getting steals; their “Havoc” defense was on full display on Saturday against No. 20 Butler: The Rams recorded a whopping 17 steals and forced 20 turnovers in an 84-52 home win. It was the first time these two schools, now members of the Atlantic 10, had played each other since the 2011 Final Four. VCU also drained 10 three-pointers; Troy Daniels had four of them and led all scorers with 20 points.
Andrew Kahn is a ontributor 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 firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn.