The nation’s top defense faced the top offense in an ACC showdown this past week.
The defense won it, and that could be Virginia coach Tony Bennett’s ticket to his first Final Four.
Hounding Duke into difficult shots and slowing its transition game, No. 2 Virginia knocked off the fourth-ranked Blue Devils 65-63 on Saturday.
Kyle Guy hit two free throws with 6.1 seconds left and Virginia (20-1, 9-0 ACC) held Duke (18-3, 6-3) 28 points below its scoring average to win at Cameron Indoor Stadium for the first time since 1995.
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“We can be as good as we want to be,” Guy said.
The Cavaliers can make an argument for being the best team in college basketball this season.
Villanova (19-1, 6-1 Big East) has been No. 1 in the AP Top 25 the past three weeks and will likely remain there in Monday’s poll after beating Marquette on Sunday.
But Virginia will likely see a spike in first-place votes after beating the nation’s fourth-ranked team. The Cavaliers have the best record in Division I, the nation’s best defense (52.1 points per game) and the third-best field-goal percentage defense (37 percent).
Virginia hasn’t lost since Dec. 5 to No. 7 West Virginia and has a 2 1/2-game lead over Louisville in the ACC after winning its 12th straight game. The Cavaliers also held No. 18 Clemson to 36 points in a 25-point victory last week.
“There’s talent and I don’t think our players sometimes get enough credit for their talent,” Bennett said. “But there is a synergy or a chemistry that when they’re right, it’s even better.”
BIG 12 RACE
No. 5 Kansas’ bid for a record 14th straight Big 12 title is getting tight.
The Jayhawks (17-4, 6-2 Big 12) appeared to be in control of the conference race, but an 85-80 loss to No. 12 Oklahoma cut their lead to one game over four teams.
The Sooners (15-5, 5-3) followed their victory over Kansas with a loss to Alabama , but that was part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge.
West Virginia (16-5, 5-3) lost both of its games last week, to TCU and Kentucky. No. 14 Texas Tech (17-4, 5-3) was the only team among the Big 12 upper echelon to win both of its games last week, knocking off Oklahoma State and South Carolina.
Kansas, which beat Texas A&M this weekend, plays at rival Kansas State on Monday.
No. 6 Michigan State hit a bump at the start of the new year, losing to Ohio State and Michigan and needing overtime to hold off Rutgers.
The Spartans (20-3, 8-2 Big Ten) seemed to have found their groove again, reeling off three straight lopsided wins before topping Maryland 74-68 Sunday.
Last week, Michigan State beat Illinois 87-74 on the road and rolled over Wisconsin 76-61.
The win over the Badgers came 12 hours after Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis, a close friend of coach Tom Izzo’s, announced his retirement amid outcry over the school’s handling of molestation allegations against Larry Nassar. Michigan State fans wore teal T-shirts during the game to raise awareness about sexual violence.
“I’m going to worry about my team, I’m going to worry about the survivors and I’m going to worry about what I do,” said Izzo, who also denied reports that he plans to retire.
SUN DEVILS SPUTTERING
Arizona State became a popular pick to make a deep March run after knocking Xavier and Kansas during a 12-0 nonconference season.
The Sun Devils reached No. 2 for the program’s highest ranking, but the Pac-12 has proven to be a little more difficult for them.
Arizona State (16-5, 4-5 Pac-12) lost three of its first four conference games and has yet to win consecutive Pac-12 games. The Sun Devils lost 80-77 to unranked Utah at home on Thursday, but bounced back with an 80-66 win over Colorado.
Will it be enough to keep the Sun Devils in the rankings next week?
More AP college basketball coverage: www.collegebasketball.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_Top25