Kentucky, Connecticut headline winners and losers from men's college basketball weekend

Kentucky guard Adou Thiero (3) drives the ball on Auburn forward Chad Baker-Mazara (10) during their game at Neville Arena in Auburn, Ala., on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024.
Kentucky guard Adou Thiero (3) drives the ball on Auburn forward Chad Baker-Mazara (10) during their game at Neville Arena in Auburn, Ala., on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024.

The only set of rankings by any official group of selectors that truly matters is the last one. That was the case for the College Football Playoff, and it is equally true of the NCAA men’s basketball committee, which unveiled a preliminary peek at the top 16 seeds on Saturday.

With a month left in the regular season, those seeds will undoubtedly change, but it took less than 24 hours to demonstrate just how little relevance this set of rankings will have when all is said and done. Several of those slotted in the top 16 have already lost, including the committee’s initial choice as the No. 1 overall seed.

We did, however, get an indication that quality wins seem to be the most important criteria. As such, we can identify the most meaningful results, both positive and negative, from the weekend. Here are the biggest winners and losers:



Just a week after many observers had the Wildcats’ postseason prospects dead and buried – yes, including us – they turned in their most complete performance of the year at Auburn. That’s the same Auburn team that just three nights earlier on the same floor laid a 40-point thrashing on South Carolina. If Kentucky can continue that defensive intensity that had been conspicuously absent, it can still be dangerous in March.

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Whether the committee wanted to consciously convey the message that they don’t look at the polls, the defending champion Huskies left little doubt they’re still the team to beat with their wire-to-wire domination of Marquette. They’ll now in all likelihood be the unanimous No. 1 in the USA TODAY Sports Coaches Poll. UConn’s challenge now will be maintaining this level of play over the final month.

Iowa State

The bad news for the Cyclones is they can’t play their tournament games in Hilton Coliseum. But their home success might translate into a Big 12 regular-season title, no small feat in that conference. On Saturday they added Texas Tech to their list of home victims, which also includes the likes of Houston and Kansas. They won’t have long to enjoy it, however, with their road rematch against the Cougars up next on the Big Monday lineup.


Elsewhere in the Big 12, the Jayhawks finally got a quality result away from home, completing a season sweep of longtime adversary Oklahoma. Though Kevin McCullar still wasn’t at full speed, his return after a two-game absence certainly helped as Kansas ended a four-game road losing streak in the conference.

San Diego State and Colorado State

The Aztecs got a busy weekend in the Mountain West started early by defending their home court Friday night against New Mexico, which had picked up a big road win at Nevada just a few days earlier. That win allowed last year's tournament runners-up to climb back into a share of the league lead as the Rams took down Utah State on Saturday. Colorado State for its part remains within a game of the top spot in the tightly bunched league that might still be in position to send six teams to the Big Dance.

Saint Mary’s

The Gaels weren’t actually in action over the weekend, but they earn a spot in the winners’ column anyway. With Yale taking its first Ivy League loss at Princeton, SMC is the last team without a conference loss. The Gaels now get three of their last four West Coast Conference contests at home, having already defeated their closest pursuers, San Francisco and Gonzaga, on the road.



In the grand scheme, the Boilermakers should still land on or very near the top line of the bracket, Sunday’s loss at Ohio State notwithstanding. But the result against the 13th-place team in the conference being led by an interim coach will do nothing to address concerns about Purdue, a team that will already be dogged by its recent history of postseason disappointment once March Madness arrives.


The committee’s initial seeding confirmed that Wisconsin has a top-16 résumé. But the Badgers haven’t looked the part of a top-four regional seed for several weeks. Saturday’s overtime loss at Iowa was Wisconsin’s fifth setback in six outings. The Badgers are far from missing the field of 68 altogether, but they need to rediscover their winning form to have any confidence of sticking around.

South Carolina

After their disastrous midweek trip to Auburn, the Gamecocks seemed well on their way to getting a bounce-back win at home against LSU. But everything fell apart in the second half, and a 16-point lead somehow became a one-point loss to a mid-tier team. Coach Lamont Paris will now try to use a few days off to restore his team’s mindset before bubble dweller Mississippi comes to Columbia next Saturday in search of a high-end result.


While not a crippling setback on its face, the Tigers’ one-point home loss to N.C. State now has them back at .500 in the ACC standings. Their chances of climbing into the top four and earning a double bye into the quarterfinal round of the league tournament also took a hit.

Florida Atlantic

The Owls dug themselves too big a hole Sunday at South Florida and now find themselves two games behind the league-leading Bulls in the American Athletic Conference. FAU almost certainly has the at-large credentials to go dancing if necessary, but any thoughts of simply dominating their new league after last season’s Final Four run have long since been extinguished.

Indiana State

The Sycamores’ first appearance in the Top 25 in 45 years will be short lived. That was already going to be the case thanks to Tuesday’s home loss to Illinois State, but Indiana State dropped a second consecutive game at Southern Illinois, allowing Drake to climb back into a tie with the Sycamores atop the Missouri Valley standings.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: College basketball winners, losers headlined by Kentucky, Connecticut