Tennessee, Houston headline winners and losers from men's basketball weekend

Separation was the theme this weekend in men’s college basketball, as the leaders of the power conferences took care of business. As a result, most regular-season titles are all but wrapped up.

That hardly means there won’t be any madness in March though. A number of games weren’t decided until the closing minutes. One, in fact, came down to the final second. But in the end, the teams best positioned to be top regional seeds in the upcoming NCAA tournament enhanced their cases.

We’ll begin our rundown of winners and losers with the current No. 1 team that provided the most memorable finish of the weekend.



The Cougars got Oklahoma’s best shot in Norman, but Jamal Shead got the last one. His follow of his own miss with 0.4 seconds remaining gave Houston the 87-85 win, allowing the Cougars to retain the lead in the Big 12 and likely securing a second week atop the USA TODAY Sports Coaches Poll.


Tennessee guard Zakai Zeigler (5) reacts after making a three-point basket during the second half against Alabama, Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Tennessee guard Zakai Zeigler (5) reacts after making a three-point basket during the second half against Alabama, Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

At nearly the same time Saturday night, the Volunteers used a late surge to close out a huge road victory at Alabama, a significant result on a number of levels. For one thing, Tennessee showed it could win when Dalton Knecht isn’t having his best shooting day. It also gave the Vols a head-to-head sweep of the Crimson Tide, meaning one more win will lock up the top SEC tournament seed for Tennessee.


The Boilermakers were also pushed a bit by Michigan State, but in the end Zach Edey and Braden Smith made sure Purdue clinched at least a share of the Big Ten regular-season championship. The Boilermakers stay two games clear of Illinois with two to play in Champaign on Wednesday night.


This year’s Huskies can claim something the national championship squad of a year ago couldn’t, wrapping up the Big East regular-season title Sunday with a convincing triumph against Seton Hall. The 30-point demolition avenged a December loss to the Pirates and gave UConn its first outright Big East crown since 1999.


The Wildcats kept their names in the No.-1 seed conversation with an equally drama-free outing against Oregon on Saturday. Arizona maintains a one-game lead over Washington State in the Pac-12 and closes with a road swing against the Los Angeles schools.


The Bluejays put on another impressive shooting display against Marquette for their fans in Omaha, adding the Golden Eagles to their list of home victims that also includes Connecticut. There’s a good chance they’ll see Marquette again in a couple weeks in the Big East tournament semifinals, but however that one turns out they’re sure to be in the upper quadrant of the NCAA bracket.

North Carolina and Duke

Despite the occasional stumble, the Tar Heels and Blue Devils have distinguished themselves from the muddled Atlantic Coast Conference. UNC pulled away from N.C. State late while Duke throttled offense-challenged Virginia from the outset. Their rematch in Cameron Indoor Stadium next Saturday could determine the top seed in the ACC tournament, though both have double byes locked up.

South Florida

The newly-ranked Bulls were all business in a 76-61 victory at Charlotte that ran their winning streak to 14 and secured the outright regular-season title in the American Athletic Conference. They are now hoping not to be the subject of debate in the committee room in two weeks should they not claim the league’s automatic berth via the tournament.


The Spiders avenged an earlier loss to cross-town rival Virginia Commonwealth on Saturday to stay one game ahead of Loyola-Chicago in what has become a very interesting Atlantic 10 race. The Ramblers picked up a huge home victory against Dayton a night earlier – with Sister Jean in the house of course.

Indiana State

With ‘Arch Madness’ right around the corner, the Sycamores used a late surge to pull away from Murray State for an 89-76 win that earned them the Missouri Valley regular-season title and top seed in this week's tournament They needed the victory to stay a game clear of Drake, which had won its home finale over Bradley earlier on Sunday.



While it’s true that there are few easy wins in the Big 12, it’s looking like this year’s Jayhawks are not the elite unit their fans are accustomed to seeing. Saturday’s setback at Baylor was KU’s seventh league loss – their most since 1989, which was a season they were on probation after winning the NCAA tournament the previous year. A deep run in March Madness is hard to envision.


The Badgers entered February with a 16-4 record and appeared destined for a top 16 seed when the field was announced. But Saturday’s loss to Illinois was their seventh in nine games, and they’re running out of chances to regain their momentum before elimination season arrives.

Saint Mary’s

On its face, the Gaels’ loss to Gonzaga didn’t alter the big picture. Saint Mary's is still the West Coast Conference tournament top seed and will see its name as a high seed on Selection Sunday. But the way the Bulldogs did whatever they wanted against a Gaels’ squad that built its winning formula on its defense was troubling. They’ll undoubtedly see the Zags again, so they’ll have to figure out how to get points when they can’t get stops.


The Gators’ loss to South Carolina was by no means fatal, but it did damage their chances for a top-four spot and double bye in the SEC tournament. It also raised questions about where their points might come from when facing defense-first teams, which they’re sure to encounter in the Big Dance.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: College basketball winners, losers include Tennessee, Houston, Kansas