TOP 25 REWIND: Shared titles abound in power conferences
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — A full regular-season schedule didn’t provide a clear answer as to who is the best team in the majority of the power conferences.
No. 2 Virginia and No. 3 North Carolina ended up sharing the Atlantic Coast Conference’s regular-season championship. No. 9 Michigan State and No. 11 Purdue split the Big Ten. And in the Big 12, No. 8 Texas Tech and No. 18 Kansas State finished atop the league standings to end No. 13 Kansas’ run at the top.
Of the five power conferences, only No. 10 LSU in the Southeastern Conference and Washington in the Pac-12 ended up winning their league races outright.
That was a departure from the previous three years, which had seen the power conferences generally end the regular season with only one team at the top. In each of the past three years, only one of those five leagues ended up with a shared championship.
And that could make it a bit tougher to predict which team ends up earning their conference’s automatic NCAA Tournament bid by winning the league tournament in the week ahead.
CAVS AND HEELS
The Cavaliers (28-2, 16-2 ACC) clinched the top seed in the ACC Tournament by beating Louisville on Saturday afternoon, while the Tar Heels (26-5, 16-2) ended up as the No. 2 seed after earning their first regular-season sweep of No. 4 Duke in a decade later that evening.
And now, either Virginia or UNC has won the ACC regular-season crown for six straight seasons. In that span, the Cavaliers have won three outright titles (2014, 2015 and 2018) while the Tar Heels have won two (2016 and 2017).
This year’s title marks the first shared regular-season title in the ACC since Duke and Maryland (now in the Big Ten) split it in 2010.
Speaking of Duke, the Blue Devils (26-5, 14-4) appear closer to getting freshman star Zion Williamson back from a knee sprain that has sidelined him for nearly six full games.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski said Friday that the 6-foot-7, 285-pound Williamson had gotten his “first really good workout” on Thursday and now had to improve his conditioning while getting used to contact again.
That test will come Monday, and Krzyzewski sounds optimistic the candidate for national player of the year will be ready for Thursday’s quarterfinals in the ACC Tournament.
“Hopefully we’ll get a couple of good days of practice where he can play 5-on-5, and then we’ll see how that goes,” Krzyzewski said after the UNC loss. “The way he looks right now, I think it’s just a matter of getting in shape, getting in game shape and going forward.”
Michigan State (25-6, 16-4 Big Ten) has been down two top players in Nick Ward and Joshua Langford because of injuries. Yet Cassius Winston and the Spartans keep winning, beating seventh-ranked Michigan on Saturday to sweep the Wolverines.
That put them in a tie with the Boilermakers (23-8, 16-4), who lost at Minnesota earlier in the week to squander a shot at the outright crown.
It marked the first time the Big Ten had a tie at the top since Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State did it in 2012.
A NEW LOOK
Kansas’ 14-year run with claiming at least a share of the Big 12 regular-season title ended with Tuesday’s loss to Oklahoma. By Saturday night, Texas Tech and Kansas State were on top.
The Red Raiders (26-5, 14-4) beat Iowa State on Saturday to secure their first league crown since claiming the title in the now-defunct Southwestern Conference in 1996. That was also the most recent time Texas Tech had cracked the top 10 of the AP Top 25 poll before last season’s run to the NCAA Elite Eight.
Kansas State (24-7, 14-4) beat Oklahoma on Saturday to earn a share of the Big 12 title for the first time since 2013.
In the SEC, LSU (26-5, 16-2) beat Florida in overtime and then beat Vanderbilt to capture that program’s first regular-season title in a decade.
Saturday’s win against the Commodores came with coach Will Wade suspended indefinitely after reports of a wire-tapped phone call between Wade and a man convicted last year in the federal investigation into corruption within the sport.
The Big East’s top teams are struggling down the stretch.
No. 23 Villanova (22-9, 13-5) finished atop the Big East but the reigning national champion lost to Seton Hall on Saturday to fall for the fifth time in eight games. And No. 16 Marquette (23-8, 12-6) lost to Georgetown on Saturday to enter the league tournament on a four-game losing streak.