The day started with No. 4 Wichita State losing by as many as fifteen to unranked Evansville. Evansville put together a magical 11 minute run that, as writer C.J. Moore put it, had them playing basketball reminiscent of the legendary 1985 Villanova team. Sadly, as I mentioned, the run lasted about 11 minutes before Wichita State snapped back to life and regained control of the game to preserve their undefeated record, cruising to a well-deserved 14 point victory. Although Wichita faced little resistance in the end, the other two undefeated teams, Syracuse and Arizona, would have much more of a struggle.
Arizona had the toughest time of all. Arizona, trailing California at the half by nine points, would take the lead twice in the final minutes and would surely have won the game if not for Justin Cobbs’ intervention. Cobbs tied the game twice, first with an off balance runner in the lane and later with a pair of clutch free throws. As Arizona’s Johnson came back down the court and missed what would have been a shot at the lead, California snatched the rebound, and, naturally, the ball found its way to Cobbs. Taking time off the clock, standing by the logo, Cobbs called a screen, dribbled out to the wing, pulled up for a step back jumper, and watched it fall into the basket as he himself fell to the ground, all with .9 seconds left on the clock. Moments later, the buzzer sounded, leaving only two undefeated teams left in the nation, with Syracuse yet to play.
Syracuse was matched up against Duke, a game that lived up to its billing. There were tons of matchups to explore, including that of the two winningest coaches in NCAA Division I history: coach Jim Boeheim and coach Mike Krzyzewski. It also included its fair share of on-court matchups. C.J. Fair would go up against the lead ACC 3-point shooter, Andre Dawkins. Jabari Parker, a player who has been projected to go as the number one NBA draft pick, would go up against Tyler Ennis, a point guard who is talented in his own right. The game would be tied at 78 after regulation, and Duke would be forced to play small after seeing Jabari Parker and Amile Jefferson foul out during regulation. This situation was rather obviously slanted in Syracuse’s favor. With the downsize, Jerami Grant was able to slam home three dunks in overtime, with Fair and Ennis leading Syracuse to victory with some timely free throws.
What made this day so great was not that the games were so close, but it was that they were competitive. With only two undefeated teams remaining and the rosters of the top 25 ranked teams replete with talent, there is still no telling what surprise are still in store. The parity among these ranked teams, and even with some of the teams that didn’t make into the rankings, has made the game more interesting while bolstering the talent pool from which the NBA will eventually draw. It has become apparent that, because of days like this, the talent throughout NCAA men’s basketball is at a much higher level than before. This manifests itself in the victories that unranked teams, such as Cal, have claimed over giants such as Arizona. NCAA basketball has become much more diversified in terms of how spread out the talent is throughout the association.