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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

Texas A&M utility Gavin Grahovac (9) throws the ball during A&Ms game against Georgia on Friday, April 26, 2024, at Olsen Field. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)
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Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp attends the Class of 1972 50-year reunion in Kyle Field on April 20, 2022.
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A fighter jet squadron flies over during the National Anthem before Texas A&M’s game against Arkansas at Olsen Field on Saturday, May 18, 2024. (Chris Swann/The Battalion)
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Kennedy White, 19, sits for a portrait in the sweats she wore the night of her alleged assault inside the Y.M.C.A building that holds Texas A&M’s Title IX offices in College Station, Texas on Feb. 16, 2024 (Ishika Samant/The Battalion).
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Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Winners and losers: Washington State and South Florida put nation on notice

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Photo by Photo by Ishika Samant
Senior G Andersson Garcia (11) during Texas A&M’s game against Kentucky on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024 at Reed Arena. (Ishika Samant/The Battalion)

Winner: Washington State’s run through the Pac-12

No. 21 Washington State is making the most of its last hurrah in the soon-to-be extinct Pac-12, logging a 20-6 record and 11-4 mark in conference play. Now second in the Pac-12 standings, the Cougars are riding a seven-game win streak after taking down California and Stanford with ease.

Washington State hasn’t reached the NCAA Tournament since 2008, but coach Kyle Smith has it poised to return to the Big Dance. After a 1-3 start to conference action, the Cougars have taken down the likes of Arizona, Utah, Colorado and Oregon. Now, Washington State gets another crack at league-leading No. 4 Arizona on the road in what is likely its final Quad 1 opportunity.

The Cougars have made it this far with the Pac-12’s No. 2 defense at 66.5 points per game despite the conference’s No. 7 offense. They’ll have their hands full containing the Wildcats, who boast the conference’s top offense with 90.7 points per game. Washington State has been battle tested in leaving the Pac-12 on a high note. Or, more appropriately, the Pac-12 is leaving it.

Loser: Wake Forest’s at-large hopes

What’s worse than dropping a pair of close games versus Top 25 opponents? Losing them when you’re hanging on the bubble of the NCAA Tournament. That describes Wake Forest’s predicament, who gave No. 9 Duke and No. 21 Virginia a run for their money in single-digit losses last week.

The Demon Deacons played tough in both games but couldn’t finish off a win in either of them. What makes the shortcomings even more difficult to handle is that they were both prime opportunities for Wake Forest to move the needle and establish itself on the right side of the NCAA bubble. The Demon Deacons could have picked up two valuable Quad 1 wins, but they’re instead left with a 1-6 record in such games this season.

Not all hope is lost for Wake Forest, though. This week, it has upcoming matchups with Pittsburgh and Duke at home, where it is undefeated. The Demon Deacons will round out the regular season with Clemson before attempting to make their case in the ACC Tournament.

Winner: Amir Abdur-Rahim and the South Florida Bulls

On the night of Dec. 2, USF sat at 2-4, fresh off of a double-digit loss to UMass. Now, flash forward two months later, the Bulls stand alone on top of the American Athletic Conference.

USF is 20-5 and riding an 11-game winning streak, with wins over Florida State, Memphis and FAU. The Bulls hold a one-game lead for first place after being picked to finish ninth in the preseason poll, all led by first-year coach Amir Abdur-Rahim.

Abdur-Rahim was brought on from Kennesaw State in the offseason, where he led the Owls to their first-ever NCAA tournament last season. Now he seems poised to lead the Bulls to the Big Dance for the first time since 2012, all while possibly giving USF its first regular season conference title ever.

Most of the Bulls’ hard parts of the schedule are behind them. If they can take care of Charlotte — who currently sits in second place — and SMU at home, Abdur-Rahim and USF will be hoisting some hardware and a ticket to March Madness at the end of this season.

Loser: South Carolina’s Cinderella run for a conference title

Glass slippers are a double-edged sword: They sure are pretty, but man, are they fragile. The Gamecocks figured out just how fragile they are this past week.

The Feb. 14 matchup between South Carolina and Auburn was set up to be a slugfest bout between two top-15 teams. Instead, the Tigers flat-out mutilated the Gamecocks, thrashing them by 40 points. Auburn shot over 60% from the field, and South Carolina had only three players score 90% of its points.

The Gamecocks’ injury was insulted even more that following Saturday, as in a chance to rebound after their huge loss, South Carolina fell by a point at home to a mediocre LSU team.

Playing with house money is fun when you have nothing to lose, but when you are the house, the circumstances change.

The Gamecocks saw themselves quickly transform from the hunters to the hunted quickly, and were not prepared for the weight that comes with it. It doesn’t get any easier either, as the Gamecocks still have Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Florida, Tennessee and Texas A&M left on the schedule.

The clock may strike 12 for South Carolina, and that carriage could be turning right back into a pumpkin sooner than expected.

Winner: Kentucky’s still here to dominate the SEC

No. 22 Kentucky took down No. 13 Auburn on Saturday, effectively stalling the Tigers’ recent uptick in the Top 25 over the last two months.

Even though Big Blue has nearly fallen out of contention with the top seeds in the SEC, they can still make a last-minute push to better their chances at seeding in March. Kentucky is two games behind conference leader No. 13 Alabama, tied for fifth place.

While Kentucky has dropped four conference games, ideally coach John Calipari’s squad needs to pull off a series of upsets against No. 5 Tennessee and Alabama, as the rest of its SEC slate is unranked opponents.

The bulk of Kentucky’s strength lies in its shooting guards’ ability to make threes, which the team leads the country in at 40.5% from beyond the arc.

While Big Blue showed they could still take care of ranked teams, they still need to win their uphill battles against the upcoming sleeper teams in Ole Miss and LSU, who both lie in limbo in the middle of the SEC standings.

Loser: Purdue against unranked opponents

After firing coach Chris Holtmann last week, Ohio State punished No. 3 Purdue in Columbus, Ohio for the Boilermakers’ third loss of the season. Purdue has fallen short of victory only three times this year, with all losses coming to unranked Big Ten teams.

The upset alert has rung for Purdue all too many times to still remain a viable candidate for the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region. It is only a matter of time before the Boilermakers reach their boiling point in the season, as teams in the lower seeds of the region are nipping at Purdue’s feet.

With notable conference matchups against Wisconsin, Michigan State and No. 12 Illinois remaining on the Boilermakers’ slate. The coveted No. 1 seed in the Midwest is still far from Purdue’s grasp.

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About the Contributors
Luke White
Luke White, Sports Editor
Luke White is a junior telecommunication media studies major and sport management minor from Round Rock, Texas. He has served as head sports editor since May 2023.
Hunter Mitchell, Associate Sports Editor
Hunter Mitchell is a sport management senior minoring in journalism. Hunter has covered football, men's and women's basketball, baseball, volleyball, softball, hockey, cross country, track and field, along with swim and dive. Hunter's favorite sport is college basketball, and he is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writer's Association. Hunter also hosts weekly episodes of the Home Turf sports podcast.
Braxton Dore
Braxton Dore, Sports Writer
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