The most important number of the college basketball weekend was five. As in five teams to clinch NCAA Tournament bids.
Two of the automatic bids went to regular season champions — Creighton in the Missouri Valley and Belmont in the Ohio Valley — who needed every second to win their conference title games. Harvard also clinched its NCAA Tournament bid as the Crimson defeated Cornell and Princeton lost to Brown to hand Harvard the Ivy title and its second consecutive Tourney trip.
Elsewhere, two teams came from obscurity to claim bids. Florida Gulf Coast, in only its second season eligible for the postseason, won the Atlantic Sun tournament, defeating Mercer on its home court. And Liberty rendered its lackluster Big South season moot by winning four in a row to reach the NCAA Tournament despite 20 losses.
March is indeed bringing us Madness as buzzer beaters were a highlight all weekend as were some notable numbers good (for Saint Louis and Pittsburgh) and bad (for Florida and Syracuse).
Here’s a look at the key numbers from the weekend in college basketball:
5. Median margin of victory in 18 games between the Big Ten’s top five
The Big Ten wrapped up a regular season where it seemed to have the best game of the week every week since mid-January. That’s not an exaggeration. Five teams finished with two games of Indiana’s outright title at 14-4. In the 18 games between Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin, the median margin of victory was five points. On Sunday, the Big Ten season ended the way it had been played for most of the season with a one-point win and an Indiana victory in a key game with the Hoosiers’ 72-71 win at Michigan. By defeating the Wolverines, Indiana finished 5-2 against the other top five teams in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers were the only team among the top five with a winning record against the other four. Michigan State and Ohio State each went 4-4, Wisconsin went 3-3 and Michigan went 2-5.
1,224. Games Jim Boehiem coached before his team failed to score 40 points
The final Big East regular season game between Georgetown-Syracuse produced some history, but not the kind Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim wanted. A Boeheim-coached team failed to score 40 points for the first time in his 912-win career as Georgetown won 61-39. His team’s lowest scoring performance waited until its 1,225th career game. Other notable numbers from Georgetown’s win:
♦ Otto Porter, who accounts for 28.3 percent of Georgetown’s scoring in Big East games, scored 10 of the Hoyas’ 61 points against Syracuse (16.4 percent) Saturday. Porter scored 33 of the Hoyas’ 57 points in the first meeting with rival Syracuse.
♦ Syracuse scored a grand total of 84 points on Georgetown this season.
♦ Syracuse had four assists Saturday against Georgetown. The Orange average 14.6 assists per game.
19.7. Points per game for Seth Curry in ACC road games
Duke’s Seth Curry hit his first seven shots on the way to 20 points in a 69-53 win over North Carolina in Chapel Hill to continue his hot play away from Cameron Indoor Stadium. Curry is averaging 19.7 points per game in ACC road games, compared to 15.8 points at home. That road average for the senior guard includes a scoreless game at Miami on Jan. 23. The game against the Hurricanes must have left an impression on Curry. Since being shut out in Coral Gables, Curry has averaged 22.1 points in seven road games.
72.4. Possessions per game for UCLA, most since 2004-05
UCLA clinched the outright Pac-12 title Saturday, so this seems a good time to highlight the adjustments Ben Howland has made. Of course, the freshman class of Shabazz Muhammad, Ryan Anderson and Jordan Adams has been key to UCLA’s 13-5 season in the conference. But Howland also turned up the tempo in a major departure from the previous eight seasons. UCLA averaged 72.4 possessions per game in 2012-13 to rank in the top 30 nationally. To put that in perspective: UCLA averages four more possessions per game more this year than any season since 2004-05. During the Bruins’ run of three consecutive Final Fours under Howland, UCLA was one of the slowest-paced teams in the country, topping out at 66.7 possession per game.
UCLA possessions per game under Ben Howland
*reached the Final Four
7:36. Length of Florida’s field goal drought against Kentucky
Kentucky boosted its NCAA Tournament hopes by defeating Florida 61-57 Saturday. The Gators did their part to help by failing to hit a field goal in the final 7:36. In Florida’s final 14 possessions, the Gators had no points and five turnovers. Kentucky was also allergic to the basket late, too, failing to convert a field goal in the final 4:48. Florida also dropped to 0-6 in games decided by 11 points or less.
56. Years since Saint Louis last won an outright conference title
Few programs battled more adversity this season than Saint Louis. Coach Rick Majerus stepped down for health reasons in August before he died on in Dec. 1. Under interim coach Jim Crews, Saint Louis won its first outright conference title since 1956-57 and first regular season title of any kind since sharing the Missouri Valley crown in 1970-71. Saint Louis played in six conferences (MVC, Metro, Midwestern, Great Midwest, Conference USA) before winning the Atlantic 10 this season at 13-5.
2. Teams from Kansas sharing the Big 12 title
Kansas and Kansas State both finished the season 14-4 in the Big 12, setting up an interesting duo for a shared regular season title. Kansas has won at least a share of the last nine Big 12 titles while Kansas State has not won a conference title of any kind since winning the Big 8 in 1977.
20. Losses for Big South champion Liberty
Liberty became the most unlikely NCAA Tournament team in five years when the 15-20 Flames defeated Big South No. 1 seed Charleston Southern 87-76 in the conference tournament. Liberty is the second 20-loss team to reach the field, joining Coppin State (16-20) in 2008. How unlikely was this run by Liberty? The Flames started the season 1-10 and didn’t defeat a Division I team until Dec. 31. Liberty hadn’t won consecutive conference games all year until it went 4-0 in the Big South Tournament.
71.7. Pittsburgh’s shooting percentage against DePaul, a Big East record
Pittsburgh wrapped up its final season in the Big East and the final season of this iteration of the league by setting a record. The Panthers hit 33 of 46 shots from the field in an 81-66 win over DePaul on Saturday for a 71.7 shooting percentage. The performance from the floor beat the Big East record of 71.4 percent held by Syracuse against DePaul in 2011 and Boston College against Georgetown in 1982.
41 of 47. Temple’s Khalif Wyatt from the free throw line in the last four games
Opponents would be well-advised to keep Temple’s Khalif Wyatt off the free throw line, but that’s easier said than done. Wyatt is 41 of 47 (87.2 percent) from the free throw line in the last four games. That includes a 13 of 16 performance in a critical 84-76 win over VCU on Sunday.