There were 1,930 games between Division-I teams in February and March. Here are the wildest things that happened during the months:
[Tournament games only] March 2: #305 Campbell 81, #98 UNC Asheville 79 (OT) (11.7%) The biggest upset of single-elimination basketball was the seven-seed over the two-seed in Big South quarterfinal action. But the story of this game was Campbell’s Chris Clemons. He’s 5-9, occasionally dunks, and scored 51 points in this game. He led the nation by taking 42% of his team’s shots when on the floor, and he used an incredible 53% of the Camels’ possessions in this game. Normally, that’s the hallmark of a senior going rogue in some sort of Kobe-like farewell game.
But Clemons is a sophomore and was quite efficient in this performance, committing just three turnovers while going 18-of-32 from the field which included eight 3-pointers. Campbell’s eventually appearance in the Big South title game was the second least-likely team accomplishment in conference tournament action, given a 3.6% chance of happening before action began.
2. February 27: #323 Savannah State 74, #141 N.C. Central 73 (5.9%) I’m not sure what’s in store for Savannah State next season, but in the Tigers’ penultimate game of the season, they recorded their most impressive performance, a road win against the regular-season champs of the MEAC. Weirdly, it was the most conventional game the team played all season. They took an unremarkable number of 3’s (26) and played just 70 possessions of basketball, equalling their slowest-paced game of the season.
1. February 25: #78 BYU 79, #1 Gonzaga 71 (1.4%) Gonzaga could win or lose in Glendale. Those are the only options and we can’t know what is going to happen right now. But there hasn’t been a one-loss champion since N.C. State pulled off the feat in 1974. We’ve had a zero-loss champ, and champs with two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten and 11 losses since then. But never a one-loss champ and potentially history would not have been possible this weekend without Gonzaga, a 20-point favorite, blowing an 18-2 lead at home to BYU.
[Tournament games only] March 9: #115 George Mason 82, #197 Fordham 71 (OT) (0.6%) The Patriots were down by seven with 47 seconds left and it was Fordham’s ball. A timeout was called. In the huddle Mason head coach Dave Paulsen said some motivational words.
Something like, ‘We are going to win this game and extend our season. What do you think?’ And his players were like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, let’s do it.’ GMU clawed back into it and Marquise Moore was at the line for two free throws with seven seconds left and if he made them both, the game would be tied. Moore missed the first free throw and he missed the second as well. But Justin Kier remembered the inspirational words of his coach, and got the offensive rebound and Jalen Jenkins would make a game-tying bucket to force overtime, where Mason would win easily. It’s also worth noting that Moore had 19 rebounds in this game. He’s 6-2. He finished 11th nationally in defensive rebounding percentage.
2. February 18: #250 Army 71, #185 Navy 68 (0.3%) The is no love lost between Army and Navy. If they weren’t so busy concerning themselves with defending the nation, they might just fight each other. Army trailed 54-31 with 11:56 to go. There was a timeout and Army head coach Jimmy Allen offered some motivation words.
Maybe something like, ‘Hey, I’m first-year head coach Jimmy Allen. We cannot lose to Navy. Not on my watch. We lost to Navy earlier in the season by 16, in overtime, at home. This equalled the most lopsided overtime loss in college hoops since 2002. I wouldn’t have taken this job if I had known Navy was going to repeatedly beat us in embarrassing ways. So let’s try a little harder the rest of this game.’ And the players were like, ‘Yes, let’s win one for Jimmy Allen. It’s his first year as head coach and that would be a nice thing to do.’ So Army came back and they won thanks to a late three-pointer by Jordan Fox.
1. February 13: #9 Kansas 84, #4 West Virginia 80 (OT) (0.1%) The Jayhawks were down 64-50 with 2:59 remaining after WVU’s Tarik Phillip made a layup. Game over! Bill Self wasn’t even going to waste a timeout to regroup the team at this point. He simply barked instructions from the sideline.
I imagine something like, ‘We need to play better. Let’s play better. We need to win this game and win the Big 12 title again. Also, all of these close games in conference play are a bad sign for the future. I know people think we are clutch, but let’s be frank. Clutchness independent of one’s skill during the rest of the game might exist on a small scale, but more often it is used by sportswriters to build a narrative. Our small margin of victory is not indicative of future invincibility in close games but rather a sign that future games against top competition will be difficult to win. I’m concerned we might not win a game in the Big 12 tournament or get to the Final Four like everyone thinks. So let’s win this game so we have something fun to remember about the season.’ And his players responded, not with words, but by closing regulation on a 21-7 run and winning the game in overtime.
February 6: #302 Norfolk State 92, #319 Savannah State 87 [95 possessions] This game was peak Savannah State: 58 three-pointers and 95 possessions. Who cares what actually happened in the game. SSU was on APR probation and wasn’t playing in the postseason anyway. The Tigers were playing for fun, and this game was that. It was the third-most three-pointers attempted in a D-I vs. D-I game in the history of basketball and the most since 1996. All in regulation time, too.
February 18: #258 San Diego 60, #127 Santa Clara 58 (2OT)  It’s not surprising that a WCC game ends up here, but one not involving Saint Mary’s might be surprising. However, now you have Herb Sendek in the league and it’s possible for teams other than the Gaels to produce 64 possessions in 50 minutes of action. Sendek did some good things with Santa Clara this season. I would say watch out for the Broncos next season but it’s been 15 years since a team other than Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s or BYU received an at-large bid out of the WCC.
February 4: #146 Wofford 131, #154 Samford 127 (4OT)  Last time we chatted, I lamented the lack of quadruple-overtime games during the season. But February made up for it, providing 4OT games on three consecutive days ending with this one. And after a quad was produced by Utah Valley and Cal State Bakersfield in the WAC semifinals, the season finished with four, the most 4OT games in a season since the 2009 also produced four. This game also happened to be the highest-scoring game involving two D-I teams since 2003.
March 4: #274 Milwaukee 43, #95 Valparaiso 41  This was in the Horizon League quarterfinals and Valpo was adjusting to like without it’s star player Alec Peters. One can understand why the Crusaders may have been out of sorts. Still, it’s kind of frustrating to know you only needed 44 points to buy yourself another game. The 43 points was the lowest for a winning team all season. The game was 4 to 3 at the end of the first quarter, which was the lowest-scoring first quarter in any game in over five years. Milwaukee won its semifinal and its appearance in the Horizon League final was the least-likely team accomplishment in all of the conference tournaments, estimated at 2% before action began.
#201 UTEP. (February/March change in AdjEM: +6.71) I’m not sure how to evaluate Tim Floyd this season. On the one hand, the Miners were preseason #217 and finished #201, so things went about as expected. On the other hand, UTEP was seriously awful for the first half of the season, starting 2-13 and 0-3 in Conference USA, which dropped them to #317. The Miners won their next two games, but those were overtime victories at home against Florida Atlantic and FIU which are the the kinds of events consistent with a struggling team. However, from that point on, UTEP was kind of good. The team finished 12-6 in conference, and won a game in the conference tourney before falling to Middle Tennessee to end the season. Maybe some motivational words were spoken. Others: 2. Michigan (+6.46), 3. Cal State Fullerton (+5.13), 4. South Dakota State (+4.89), 5. Texas A&M Corpus Christi (+4.80).
#12 Virginia. (February/March change in AdjEM: -6.21) The wacky thing about Virginia showing up here is that the Cavs had seven wins after February 1 and six of them were by double-digits, including games against Louisville and North Carolina. But four of their seven losses were by double-digits as well. The offense was completely inept at times and the season ended with a 26-point drubbing by Florida. It didn’t help Virginia’s rating that the ACC had a disappointing postseason as well. Others: 2. UAB (-5.95), 3. St. Francis Brooklyn (-4.68), 4. San Diego (-4.46), 5. Yale (-4.39).