Get the Athlon Sports Newsletter
Ryan Kelly emerges, Luke Hancock steals the spotlight against Syracuse and more
Welcome to March.
College basketball’s best month has arrived, and, boy, did it deliver immediate dividends.
The first full slate of games in March brought a classic individual performance — one for the ages, Mike Krzyzewski called it — and one of the best games of the season. And that was just Duke’s win over Miami. Earlier on Saturday, we also had one of the March staples of the unlikely hero when Luke Hancock upstaged guys like Michael Carter-Willaims, Peyton Siva and Russ Smith.
Related: Who is the nation's top point guard?
Meanwhile, Oklahoma came within two free throws of a record. Doug McDermott returned to form. And Ole Miss continued to court the NIT. In short, an eventful weekend. In all likelihood, the first of five wild Saturdays in March.
Here’s a look at the key numbers from the first weekend of March:
1.13. Points per minute for Ryan Kelly after a 13-game layoff
Good luck trying to find a way to overestimate Ryan Kelly’s 36 points in 32 minutes against Miami. The Duke forward missed 13 games due to an ankle injury but returned to score a career high in the 79-76 win over Miami. Beyond the raw numbers, the per-minute average for Duke's wildcard player is equally important. Kelly averaged 1.13 points per minute against Miami. Before his injury, Kelly averaged 0.47 points per minute this season. On Saturday, the senior scored 16 of Duke’s first 28 points against the Hurricanes. By that point, he already exceeded the 13.8 points per game he averaged prior to his injury. Again, the minutes were almost as impressive as his scoring: Kelly exceeded the 32-minute mark only eight times in the last two seasons.
1 of 18. Peyton Siva’s line from the field against Syracuse this season
Peyton Siva is one of the top point guards in the country, but not against Syracuse. On Saturday, Siva missed all nine of his shots from the field, eight of which were from three-point range in Louisville's 58-53 win over Syracuse. Earlier this season, Siva went 1 of 9 from the field against the Orange, including 1 of 7 from three-point range in a 70-68 loss on Jan. 19. Siva failed to reach the free throw line in both games. Lucky for Louisville...
6 of 7. Luke Hancock’s line from three-point range against Syracuse this season
The George Mason transfer was the hero of Louisville's win over Syracuse on Saturday by hitting 4 of 5 shots from the field, all from beyond the arc. Hancock, who started the season in a 4-for-29 slump from three-point range, was the hero in the Cardinals’ win over the Orange with his three-point shooting and a critical steal late in the game. In the first meeting with Syracuse, he scored seven points on 2-of-2 three-point shooting.
12. Margin of victory in Florida’s closest win of the season
Florida hasn’t had to sweat much at home this season — so much so that a 12-point win in the O’Connell Center qualifies as its closest victory of the season. The Gators defeated Alabama 64-52, but they were tied with 7:47 to go and trailed by as much as eight in the second half. Should Florida be encouraged it battled back in the second half or does it reinforce the Gators don’t have a great record in close games late? Florida is 0-5 in games decided by 11 points or less.
41. Season-high scoring by Creighton’s Doug McDermott
A week ago, we noted McDermott’s struggles, relatively speaking. The Creighton forward averaged 16.7 points per game during a six-game span from Feb. 6-23. This week, the old McDermott returned. The junior scored 32 points against Bradley on Wednesday. He topped that with a season-high 41 points against Wichita State in what could be his final home game if he leaves for the NBA Draft. Creighton had been sliding down mock brackets, but the Bluejays’ 91-79 win over the Shockers clinched a Missouri Valley regular season title. His 41-point outburst (on 15-of-18 shooting) was his sixth 30-point game of the season. And McDermott’s not padding his stats, either. Four of those 30-point games have come against Tournament hopefuls Wisconsin, Cal, Akron and Wichita State.
34 for 34. Oklahoma from the free throw line against Iowa State
The Sooners tied a Division I record with a perfect performance from the foul line, making all 34 free throw attempts in the 86-69 win over Iowa State. Only two other teams have gone 34 for 34 from the line. No team has a perfect mark in a game with 35 or more free throw attempts.
17. VCU steals against Butler
Even for VCU, this got out of hand. The Rams forced 23 turnovers in Saturday’s 85-52 rout of Butler, 17 of those takeaways came from a VCU steal. To put this in perspective, Butler opponents are averaging six steals per game. VCU guard Darius Theus nearly matched that on his own with five.
27. Seasons since Bob Huggins had a losing conference record
West Virginia lost 91-65 to Kansas, which isn’t a surprise given the Mountaineers’ struggles this year. The loss is notable by moving West Virginia to 6-10 in the league to seal a losing Big 12 season. The losing conference record will be the first for a Bob Huggins-coached team since his first as a Division I head coach when Akron went 6-8 in the Ohio Valley in 1984-85. Since then, Huggins has led four different schools to winning records in six leagues: Akron in the OVC, Cincinnati in the Metro, Great Midwest and Conference USA, Kansas State in the Big 12 and West Virginia in the Big East.
10.4. Points per game for Cal’s Allen Crabbe since “the shove”
Cal is surging with its seven-game winning streak to put it within a game in the loss column of the Pac-12 regular season title. The Pac-12 scoring leader, though, is not. Crabbe is averaging 10.4 points per game in four games since the shove that earned Cal coach Mike Montgomery a reprimand from the conference. After the game, Montgomery noted the shove “worked” as Crabbe scored 23 points in the game against USC. Crabbe was averaging 19.8 points per game on Feb. 17, but he scored only eight in Saturday’s 62-46 win over Colorado to drop his scoring average to 18.8 per game.
8 of 36. Marshall Henderson from the field in Ole Miss’ losses to South Carolina and Mississippi State
If Ole Miss misses the NCAA Tournament, the culprit almost certainly will be bad losses to South Carolina on Feb. 20 and Mississippi State on Saturday. Marshall Henderson struggled in the two games. Though he scored 16 points against Mississippi State and 11 against South Carolina, he was woefully inefficient. Henderson was a combined 8 of 36 in these two resume-killing losses. He went 4 of 19, including 3 of 18 from three-point range against Mississippi State and 4 of 17 from the field and 3 of 11 from beyond the arc against South Carolina.