The top five stories in college basketball over the weekend:
5. McNeal's heroics save Marquette
No one figured the hottest team in the Big East would have any trouble with lowly South Florida, but Marquette found itself down two to the Bulls with 20 seconds left.
All-conference point guard Dominic James hit a tough shot in traffic to tie the game with 15 ticks to play, and then six seconds later South Florida called timeout to set up what they hoped would be a game winning play. It was, for the other team.
Theft king Jerel McNeal stole a pass and then drove the length of the floor to hit the game-winning layup at the buzzer.
"It was an unbelievable feeling. ... It's just the character of this team,'' McNeal added. "It's not about me. It's not about one player. It's just about the team.''
Marquette improved to 19-4 and 6-2 in the conference while South Florida fell to 11-11 and 2-6.
4. VCU tops Drexel
An acquaintance of mine recently said it best, "You kind of have a boner for mid-majors."
It's true, and I'm not ashamed of it. They're just so cute with their comfy gyms, crisp passing, big brown eyes and their preferring to stay in on the weekends instead of partying all the time. It's very appealing.
Anyhow, VCU (remember those crazy bastards?) is now 18-3 and a perfect 10-0 in the Colonial after taking out Drexel 75-68. You might remember that Drexel beat both Villanova and Syracuse earlier this year.
"They're legit," said Drexel coach Bruiser Flint (remember that crazy bastard?).
B.A. Walker scored 19 of his 24 points in the second half as VCU went on an 11-0 run late in the game and improved to 9-0 on the road.
The Rams, whose three losses (Xavier, Toledo, Appalachian State) have come by a combined seven points, now get set for a Wednesday night showdown with Hofstra (16-5, 9-1).
3. Oregon outlasts Washington State
No. 7 Oregon won its seventh Pacific-10 Conference game by 8 or fewer points when they topped No. 20 Washington State, 77-74 in overtime Saturday night.
Aaron Brooks, who was suspened for the Ducks' loss to Washington earlier in the week, scored 31 points as Ernie Kent's team took sole possession of second place in the conference (for the time being). Brooks, the league's leading scorer, surpassed his 18.4 point average as Oregon (19-2, 7-2) stormed back in overtime after trailing for all but the final second in regulation.
Derrick Low led the Cougars (17-4, 6-3) with 37 points. He made 9 of 16 3-point attempts, including two in overtime, but missed one at the buzzer that would have forced a second overtime.
It was the first game in which Washington State was ranked and played host to a ranked opponent since 1950.
"It definitely was a disappointment," Low said.
2. LSU and Alabama don't want to make the NCAA Tournament
Two SEC teams expected to compete for a national championship are now playing themselves into the NIT.
LSU, a national semifinalist a year ago, lost its third straight over the weekend when they fell 57-54 to Georgia on Saturday. Levi Stukes hit the game-winner with under a second remaining.
"I thought that we played hard and did enough things to win this game," said LSU coach John Brady. "The bottom line is the game came down to the last shot and they made it."
LSU is now 13-7 with an unfathomable 2-4 mark in the SEC.
Apparently a 27-point shellacking earlier in the year wasn't enough motivation for Alabama, who lost to Arkansas for the second time this season on Saturday, this time by a mere six points.
The Razorbacks (14-7, 3-4 Southeastern Conference) outmuscled Alabama in the paint as 7-footer Steven Hill pulled down 16 rebounds. Arkansas held a seemingly insurmountable 51-27 lead with 10:50 to play when the Crimson Tide started its rally and outscored the Razorbacks 30-12 the rest of the way to make things respectable.
Following the game, 'Bama head coach Mike Gottfried said he was disappointed, but promised "We're going to stay together and be positive with one another and turn this thing around."
The Tide are now 15-5 overall and like LSU are 2-4 in the conference.
T-1. UCLA goes down
Lawrence Hill scored seven straight points, including the tying and go-ahead baskets, as Stanford rallied in the second half to stun No. 3 UCLA 75-68 on Sunday night and hand the Bruins only their second loss of the season.
Arron Afflalo had 22 points, six rebounds and five assists for the Bruins, who were outplayed in the second half and had their four-game winning streak snapped. Their only other loss came Jan. 6 at Oregon, 68-66.
Anthony Goods scored 17 of his 20 points in the second half and hit four of the team's seven 3-pointers as Stanford won its third straight and sixth in seven. Stanford completed a sweep of the ranked Los Angeles schools, also beating No. 25 USC 65-50 on Thursday night.
Maybe now it's the Cardinal's turn to earn a ranking. Stanford (14-5, 6-3 Pac-10) was picked to finish seventh in the surprisingly even Pac-10.
Fred Washington's three-point play with 6:27 remaining capped a 15-0 run and a stretch in which Stanford outscored UCLA 39-14 spanning back to late in the first half.
Afflalo scored at 6:21 to end a four-minute drought for the Bruins, but they couldn't get the key stops or rebounds in crunch time.
UCLA (18-2, 7-2), which won both meetings last season for the first time since 1995 after losing the previous six matchups, shot 35 percent in the second half. This marked the first time in seven meetings the game was decided by single digits.
Darren Collison added 17 points and Josh Shipp had nine points, six steals and five assists for the Bruins.
T-1: North Carolina humiliates Arizona
Freshman Ty Lawson scored a career-high 18 points, and visiting North Carolina won 92-64 in a rout Saturday, handing Lute Olson his worst home loss in 24 seasons as coach of the Wildcats. Amazingly, the previous worst loss had been by only 12 points.
North Carolina ended Arizona's 29-game home winning streak against nonconference opponents, the fourth longest in the nation.
Yeah the Tar Heels were impressive, but the real story here is Arizona.
Is anyone else having trouble looking at this team and not thinking about last year's Michigan State squad?
All that talent returning from a team that was pretty good a year ago, and they really haven't given one performance this season that's reflected how good they should be.
They'll beat the teams they should beat and maybe one they shouldn't down the stretch, and then they'll get a five or a six seed and people all over the country will pick them to put it all together and make a run. It's not going to happen. For whatever reason these guys don't mesh, it was the same freak thing with Tom Izzo's bunch a year ago.
If they get paired in the first round with an at-large selection out of the Colonial (VCU, Hofstra, Drexel), it's definitely over.