Articles By David Fox
With all the talk of the NCAA Tournament, the bubble watch and which freshmen will be selected first in the NBA Draft, it’s too easy to forget that conference championships are important.
This weekend seemed to be a good time to reinforce that coaches and teams do put an emphasis on winning the league.
Florida moved a step closer to running the table in the SEC. Thanks to a signature win Sunday, the Big East may be won by a team in Omaha. And the Big Ten, by virtue of two home losses by conference leaders, is wide open again.
10 Things You Need to Know from the College Basketball Weekend
1. Florida looks title-worthy
Whether Kentucky or Tennessee is up or down, Florida doesn’t win at either on the road very often. Since 1999, the only Florida teams to win in Lexington ended up winning the national title. At the same time, the Gators have only won in Knoxville once since 2005. The trend changed this week. Florida hadn’t won in Lexington and Knoxville in the same season since 1988. The Gators this year did it within four days. The popular storyline Saturday night was that the Gators, who start four seniors, used their experience to wear down a freshman-laden Kentucky team. That much is true as Florida adjusted to Kentucky’s defense to shoot 60 percent in the second half of a 69-59 win. The Gators feasted on 13 Kentucky turnovers to outscore the Wildcats 14-7 on takeaways. But Florida is more than experience: Scottie Wilbekin picked apart Kentucky for 23 points, and Casey Prather owned the frontcourt, scoring 24 points on 8-of-9 shooting.
2. Creighton owns Villanova
Villanova is a good team. The Wildcats have defeated Kansas and Iowa in the non-conference. And they’re 10-0 against all but one team in the Big East. The outlier, though, is Creighton. The Bluejays have dominated Villanova this season, and the series sweep may lead to a team from Omaha winning the Big East. Creighton defeated Villanova 101-80 on Sunday to join a 96-68 win over the Wildcats in Philadelphia in Jan. 20. Doug McDermott has been outstanding in both games, scoring 39 on Sunday and 23 in the first meeting, but this isn’t a one-man show. Creighton averaged 1.42 points per possession against Villanova, a team that allows 0.925 otherwise this season. Creighton is 30 of 50 from 3-point range against Villanova. The Wildcats allow opponents to shoot 35.2 percent from 3 for the season.
3a. Syracuse has a pact with the devil ... or something
The Orange are 25-0, but the close calls of the last three weeks has to wear on Jim Boeheim. If anything, it’s provided for great drama. Saturday was the latest in the series of unlikely finishes for Syracuse. Freshman Tyler Ennis was uncharacteristically sloppy in the final seconds against NC State, but the Wolfpack was even more uneven in the 56-55 Syracuse win. NC State turned the ball over on its last two possessions, including a steal by the Orange’s Rakeem Christmas that set up C.J. Fair’s game-winning layup. This has been a trend for Syracuse: The month started with the 91-89 overtime win over Duke and continued with Ennis’ deep 3 to beat Pitt on Wednesday.
3b. Tyler Ennis is mortal
Though he’s only a freshman, Ennis has been the best player in the country with the ball in his hands in the final seconds. Though Syracuse won, Saturday night was the only time when Ennis showed any weakness late. The rookie fouled on a 3-pointer with 1:02 to go (NC State made all three free throws) and committed an offensive foul to turn the ball over as Syracuse attempted to take the lead with 15 seconds left. Ennis made up for it with the outlet pass to C.J. Fair off the Rakeem Christmas steal to seal the win.
4a. James Michael McAdoo is reaching his potential
While no one was looking, North Carolina’s James Michael McAdoo became the player everyone thought he’d be. McAdoo led the way in a 75-71 win over Pittsburgh with 24 points and 12 rebounds — and remember, this is a Pitt team that twice gave Syracuse all kinds of trouble on the glass. North Carolina has found consistency, and McAdoo’s play is a major reason why. During North Carolina’s six-game winning streak, McAdoo is averaging 18.2 points and 8.8 rebounds.
4b. Pittsburgh is awfully ordinary
The Panthers really needed this week to prove themselves. After narrow losses to Syracuse and North Carolina, Pittsburgh will go to the ACC Tournament with a nice record and no great wins. The Panthers are 0-6 against the RPI top 40, and thanks to a lackluster non-conference schedule, Pitt’s best win might be Stanford or NC State. Pittsburgh doesn’t have any NCAA resume-killing losses, but the Panthers aren’t going to have great seed.
5. Wisconsin is back to its early season form
The Badgers continued a four-game winning streak Saturday with arguably its most impressive win of the Big Ten season with a 75-62 win over Michigan in Ann Arbor. Frank Kaminsky feasted on the Michigan frontcourt, scoring 25 points on 11 of 16 shooting while grabbing 11 rebounds. On Thursday, Ben Brust was the star of the show with outside shooting, hitting four 3-pointers and scoring 20 points in a win over Minnesota. More important, Wisconsin appears to have solved the defensive issues that contributed to the 1-5 slide from Jan. 14-Feb. 1.
6a. Michigan State dropped a dud
This was not a good weekend for the state of Michigan with the Wolverines and Spartans losing at home. It might not be fair to be too critical of a team in a first-place tie for the Big Ten lead, but Michigan State has reason to be in panic mode after a 60-51 loss at home to Nebraska. The Cornhuskers are improved, and Michigan State remains the walking wounded. Keith Appling played only 19 minutes. Brendan Dawson is still out. But these aren’t the kinds of games aspiring Big Ten champions lose at home in mid-February. Michigan State was a mess on offense, shooting 12 of 26 from 2-point range and 5 of 24 from 3. The Spartans also got outworked by the upstart Huskers, something that’s becoming a trend. Not a good look for Tom Izzo’s team.
6b. Nebraska is inching toward the NCAA Tournament bubble
The Cornhuskers won’t make mock brackets this week, but they’re worth watching down the stretch. With a win at Michigan State, Nebraska has three RPI top 50 wins, the other two against Ohio State and Minnesota. The Huskers have three not-so-great losses (Penn State, Purdue and UAB) they need to overcome.
7. Indiana is doing something special and not in a good way
The Hoosiers lost 82-64 to Purdue on Saturday to move to 4-8 in the Big Ten, only a year after being a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Barring a major turnaround, Indiana won’t return to the field in 2013. It’s not out of the ordinary for a former No. 1 seed, or even a defending national champion, to miss the Tournament the following year. Nine No. 1 seeds in the last 10 seasons missed the Tournament the next year, but Indiana is a non-factor in the Big Ten. Of the 16 No. 1 seeds since 1985 that missed Tournament the following year, Indiana will push 2012 Pittsburgh for the worst conference record. The Panthers went 5-13 in the Big East a year after after earning a No. 1 seed in 2011.
8. Arizona State’s not-so-secret weapon is Jordan Bachynski
No player out West is on a better hot streak that Arizona State’s 7-foot-2 center Jordan Bachynski. Maybe we should have seen Friday night coming, when Bachynski had eight blocks in a 69-66 double overtime win over rival Arizona. Bachynski came a block and a rebound short of a triple-double with 26 points on Feb. 8 against Oregon. And before that, Bachynski had seven blocks in an overtime win over Oregon State. Bachynski has effectively overshadowed the high-scoring backcourt of Jahii Carson and Jermaine Marshall in the last two weeks as Arizona State has moved into strong NCAA Tournament contention.
9. Baylor has some fight left
Trailing by as much as 10 with nine minutes to go, Baylor fought back to beat Kansas State 87-73 in double overtime. The knock on the Bears has been losing games they should win, but they finally won a game they probably should have lost against the Wildcats. Kenny Chery led the way down the stretch in regulation and finished with a triple-double (20 points, 12 assists, 10 rebounds), and Brady Heslip hit the game-winning 3 — his only make in eight tries — to send the game to overtime.
10a. The best team no one is talking about is Saint Louis
The Billikens continue to be one of the best stories in the country as they took a major step to a second Atlantic 10 regular season title with a 64-62 win over VCU. Saint Louis is 10-0 in the league and its only losses are by single digits to Wisconsin and Wichita State. The Billikens did what they’ve been doing all season by shutting down the 3-point line, holding VCU to 2 of 16 from long range. Opponents are converting 26.7 percent of 3-point attempts against Saint Louis this season.
10b. VCU may not be busting brackets this season
Keep this one in your back pocket for your office pools: This version’s of VCU may not stack up with previous Shaka Smart teams. Even though this is a strong A-10 team, the Rams might not be a threat to advance in the NCAA Tournament. The havoc defense is there (17 forced turnovers vs. Saint Louis), but they’re not capitalizing in the offensive end this season.
• Missouri can relax a bit. Two games and two close calls probably saved Missouri’s NCAA Tournament hopes at least for a week. The Tigers defeated Arkansas 86-85 on Thursday when Jabari Brown scored on a drive to the basket with 12.2 seconds left. Two days later, Missouri defeated Tennessee 75-70.
• UConn’s Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright combined for 55 points, 10 assists and six steals against Memphis. Although the Tigers shot nearly 55 percent from the floor, they had 18 turnovers and repeatedly sent UConn’s guards to the free throw line. Napier and Boatright each had more trips to the line (12) than Memphis did as a team (nine.)
• Maybe no player had a bigger swing than Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield last week: From 1 of 13 and 3 points in a loss to Texas Tech on Wednesday to 8 of 18 and 22 points in a win at Oklahoma State on Saturday.
• LSU continued to play its way into the NIT. With Saturday’s 81-70 loss at Arkansas, LSU has lost three of the last four, all to teams that aren’t going to the NCAA Tournament (Texas A&M and Georgia were the others).
• No bubble team wants a part of Georgia. The Bulldogs deal another blow to the SEC’s hopes of sending teams to the NCAA Tournament with a 61-60 win over Ole Miss. The Bulldogs have defeated Missouri, Arkansas, LSU and now the Rebels this season. Despite an 8-4 SEC record, Georgia lacks the non-conference resume to be an NCAA team itself.
• SMU’s stay in the polls will be short-lived. The Mustangs lost to a dreadful Temple team 71-64.
• UMass picked up a nice win by defeating George Washington 67-61 on Saturday. The Minutemen had lost four of their previous seven games.
• Middle Tennessee clobbered Southern Miss 81-64 to set up a three-team race atop Conference USA with MTSU, Southern Miss and Louisiana Tech. The win, though, may end C-USA’s hopes of being a multi-bid league. Southern Miss was the only team in the league that had a chance at an at-large bid.
• Green Bay may be worth watching in the postseason. The Phoenix defeated the No. 2 team in the Horizon, Cleveland State, on the road 68-52. Green Bay is 20-5 and hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 1996.
Snow through the Southeast and mid-Atlantic derailed basketball schedules Wednesday and Thursday, pushing the first Duke-North Carolina matchup into the third week of February.
The weekend may make up for missed time.
Quality games highlight both days of the weekend, with key matchups atop the SEC and Big East spread across Saturday and Sunday evenings.
Florida rarely has been tested in SEC play, but even an inconsistent Kentucky team could be the Gators top hurdle in the league, especially with the game in Lexington.
And in the Big East, the first matchup between Creighton and Villanova — a 3-point fest for the Bluejays — suggested the Missouri Valley imports will be just fine in their new league. A Villanova win will put further distance between the Wildcats and Creighton in the standings while a Bluejays could signal a new leader in the league.
Those aren’t the only key road trips, of course. Pittsburgh needs to regroup from Wednesday’s heartbreaker against Syracuse or else risk sliding onto the bubble before the ACC Tournament. And Wichita State will again get another team’s best shot in another MVC road trip.
College Basketball Weekend Preview: Feb. 14-16
All times Eastern.
Saturday’s Top Game:
Florida at Kentucky (9 p.m., ESPN)
Just as John Calipari’s talented young team appeared to be making progress, the Wildcats limped to a 64-56 win over lowly Auburn. James Young, Aaron Harrison and Andrew Harrison combined to shoot 6 of 28 from the field against Auburn, but they did contribute on the defensive end. The stumbles in the offensive end of the court aren’t a great sign against a Florida team that is one of the best defensive teams in the country. Even if this isn’t the Kentucky team most expected to see at the start of the season, Florida needs a strong performance to solidify their national title contender status. The Gators haven’t faced a ranked team since a Dec. 17 win over Memphis.
Related: College Basketball Power Rankings Heading into the Weekend
Sunday’s Top Game:
Villanova at Creighton (5 p.m., Fox Sports 1)
Remember what happened the last time these teams met? Led by Ethan Wragge’s school-record nine 3-pointers, Creighton drilled Villanova, ranked No. 4 at the time, 96–68 in one of the most stunning results of the season. The Wildcats, who have not lost since, will be eager to exact some revenge, but that won’t be easy. Creighton has not lost at home since last February. Creighton is one game behind Villanova in the Big East standings. A season sweep would give the Bluejays an excellent chance to be the No. 1 seed in the league tournament.
Pittsburgh at North Carolina (Saturday, 1 p.m., CBS)
Pittsburgh’s 20-5 record is starting to look awfully hollow. Tyler Ennis’ buzzer-beating 3-pointer robbed the Panthers a chance of pulling off one of the biggest wins of the season. Now, the Panthers’ last chance for their top win of the regular season is against the inconsistent Tar Heels. Pitt has only one RPI top 50 win (Stanford) and won’t face another certain NCAA Tournament team until the ACC Tourney. Behind Marcus Paige and James Michael McAdoo, North Carolina has found its stride with five consecutive wins, mostly against the second tier of the conference.
Related: 26 Teams on the NCAA Tournament Bubble
Best Coaching Matchup:
Wisconsin at Michigan (Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS)
A list of the top coaches in college basketball would have Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan and Michigan’s John Beilein near the top. Shocking as it may be, Ryan has a 12-1 record against Beilein since both have been in the Big Ten. Worth watching will be the continued development of Michigan’s freshman point guard, Derrick Walton Jr., The rookie had 13 points, 10 rebounds and six assists against Ohio State, a key development for a Wolverines team looking to find scoring options beyond Nik Stauskas.
Memphis at Connecticut (Saturday, noon, ESPN)
UConn’s lack of size remains a major concern for the Huskies’ ability to advance in March, but it might not be too much of a liability at home against the guard-heavy Tigers. Memphis’ Joe Jackson and UConn’s Shabazz Napier are both productive veterans, but their shots can be streaky.
West Virginia at Texas (Saturday, 8 p.m., Longhorn Network)
West Virginia is making a late push to reach the NCAA Tournament, and Juwan Staten, a transfer from Dayton, has emerged as one of the top players in the league. Texas is still hanging around in the Big 12 race. The Longhorns are one game behind Kansas in the loss column, but they already have a win over the Jayhawks and still have one game remaining with KU.
Wichita State at Evansville (Sunday, 6 p.m., MVC TV)
Evansville is not a great team, but for some reason Wichita State trailed the Purple Aces by 15 at one point when these teams first met on Feb. 1 in Wichita. The Shockers still won 81-67. Wichita State allowed Southern Illinois to stick around for most of a 78-67 win on Wednesday as well. Are the Shockers losing their grip on an undefeated season?
VCU at Saint Louis (Saturday, 2 p.m., ESPN)
Saint Louis might be the best team few people are watching closely. That’s certainly the case on the defensive end of the court where the Billikens rank third nationally in defensive efficiency on KenPom. A major component of Saint Louis’ defense is the ability to shut down the 3-point line. Of course, VCU’s bread and butter is the pressure defense that leads the nation in forced turnover rate. VCU is 1.5 games behind Saint Louis for the A-10 lead.
Under-the-Radar Game of the Week:
UMass at George Washington (Saturday, 2 p.m., CSN Mid-Atlantic)
The Minutemen still have a good RPI at No. 21, but UMass did all of its best work against a solid non-conference schedule. UMass is 3-4 in its last seven, including Wednesday’s home loss to a 9-15 George Mason team. The Minutemen are desperate for a big win while George Washington is looking to re-establish itself in the Atlantic 10.
Other Key Games:
Arizona at Arizona State (Friday, 9 p.m., ESPN)
In a rare Friday night game of merit, Arizona State hosts its in-state rival in a key game for its NCAA Tournament hopes. The Sun Devils are on the bubble, but they’ve defeated Colorado, Cal and Oregon in the last five games. One key to the game will be quick Arizona State point guard Jahii Carson against the Wildcats’ standout defense but also big man Jordan Bachynski against the short-handed Arizona frontcourt.
Oklahoma at Oklahoma State (Saturday, 2 p.m., ESPN)
All is not well in the basketball version of Bedlam. Oklahoma State’s problems are well-established, and Oklahoma has been in a 1-3 funk itself. The Sooners needed a late rally to make a 68-60 home loss to Texas Tech look more respectable.
NC State at Syracuse (Saturday, 3 p.m., ACC Network)
The Wolfpack started 1-4 in the ACC, but it will enter Saturday’s game in the Carrier Dome at 6-5. NC State is about to embark on a three-game road swing, and, obviously, this is the toughest game. Syracuse will look to limit T.J. Warren’s action near the rim. He’s a high-volume shooter, but he hits 57.7 percent of his shots from 2-point range.
Tennessee at Missouri (Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPN2)
Missouri’s NCAA chances have taken a hit thanks to a three-game losing streak that has left the Tigers with an overall record of 16–7 and a 4–6 mark in the SEC. It’s fair to say this is a must win for Mizzou, which does not play a sure-fire NCAA Tournament team the rest of the way. Tennessee might be on the good side of the bubble at this point, but the Vols sure could use a win or two away from Thompson Boling Arena.
Maryland at Duke (Saturday, 6 p.m., ESPN)
This will have little impact on the ACC standings, but it’s a significant game because it’s the last meeting between these two rivals before Maryland heads to the Big Ten next season. Duke has had the upper hand of late, but over the years Maryland has played the Blue Devils as well as any ACC team not named North Carolina. The Cameron Crazies will be ready.
Kansas State at Baylor (Saturday, 7 p.m., ESPNU)
Baylor continues to be one the most disappointing teams in the nation. The Bears, loaded with talent, dropped to 15–9 overall and 3–8 in the Big 12 with a loss at Oklahoma on Saturday. Kansas State, on the other hand, has overachieved. The Wildcats, who beat Kansas in overtime on Monday night, are in position to earn an NCAA Tournament invite for the fifth straight season.
Tyler Ennis made sure Wednesday there wouldn’t be a change atop the Athlon Sports power rankings this weekend.
His unlikely 35-footer as time expired to defeat Pittsburgh keeps Syracuse undefeated and at the No. 1 spot in the power rankings for another week.
This weekend, though, could reshuffle things. Besides Syracuse, the rest of our top five goes on the road this weekend. All of which have reason for concern. Arizona and Wichita State are looking to avoid letdowns while Villanova and Florida are playing perhaps their biggest games of the conference season.
Here’s how the rest of the college basketball landscape looks heading into the weekend.
Related: Previewing Florida-Kentucky and the rest of the weekend action
College Basketball Power Rankings: Feb. 14
All games Saturday unless noted.
1. Syracuse (24-0, 11-0 ACC)
This weekend: NC State
With a win over NC State, Syracuse will be the first team to start 25-0 since 2007-08 Memphis, a team led by Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts.
Last week: 1
2. Arizona (23-1, 10-1 Pac-12)
This weekend: at Arizona State (Friday)
After the loss to Cal, Arizona has been just as stingy in the defensive end. The Wildcats held two of the top five scorers in the Pac-12 (Oregon State’s Roberto Nelson and Oregon’s Joseph Young) to 8 of 23 from the field and a combined 24 points. Jahii Carson is next.
Last week: 2
3. Florida (22-2, 11-0 SEC)
This weekend: at Kentucky
Averaging 18.7 points in his last three games, point guard Scottie Wilbekin is becoming the go-to player as the Gators angle for an SEC title and another deep run in the Tourney.
Last week: 3
Related: 26 Teams on the NCAA Tournament Bubble
4. Wichita State (26-0, 13-0 MVC)
This week: at Evansville (Sunday)
The last time the Shockers faced Evansville, they faced a 15-point deficit in the first half. Wichita State won by 14.
Last week: 5
5. Villanova (22-2, 10-1 Big East)
This weekend: at Creighton (Sunday)
Villanova hasn’t won the Big East regular season title since 2006. If the Wildcats can win in Omaha to split the season series with Creighton, the championship is in their grasp.
Last week: 6
6. Kansas (18-6, 9-2 Big 12)
This weekend: TCU
Freshman big man Joel Embiid has been hobbled the last three games with knee and back injuries. He could be held out this weekend, and let’s face it: TCU isn’t a bad game to miss.
Last week: 7
7. Duke (19-5, 8-3 ACC)
This weekend: Maryland
The Blue Devils will be well-rested after the North Carolina game was postponed. An upcoming three-game week, though, will include Georgia Tech (Feb. 18) and North Carolina (Feb. 20) on the road and Syracuse (Feb. 22) at home.
Last week: 12
8. Michigan State (21-4, 10-2 Big Ten)
This weekend: Nebraska (Sunday)
Thursday's 85-70 win over Northwestern gave Tom Izzo a chance to empty his bench — 14 players saw court time for the ailing Spartans.
Last week: 9
9. San Diego State (21-2, 10-1 MW)
This weekend: Air Force
The Aztecs finally met their match against a well-coached Wyoming team. San Diego State shot 5 of 21 from 3-point range in the loss in Laramie.
Last week: 4
10. Virginia (20-5, 11-1 ACC)
This weekend: at Clemson
Virginia at Clemson will feature two of the bottom four teams in the ACC in possessions per 40 minutes.
Last week: 15
11. Saint Louis (22-2, 9-0 Atlantic 10)
This weekend: VCU
Jordair Jett, who had the game-winning shot in a scare against La Salle last week, is averaging 17.8 points, 5 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game in A-10 play.
Last week: 14
12. Iowa State (18-5, 6-5 Big 12)
This weekend: Texas Tech
West Virginia averaged 1.36 points per possession in a 102-77 win over the Cyclones. Iowa State normally allows 0.979 points per possession.
Last week: 13
13. Michigan (18-6, 10-2 Big Ten)
This weekend: Wisconsin (Sunday)
Teams are doing a better job of guarding Nik Stauskas. Fortunately for Michigan, Derrick Walton Jr., Zak Irvin and Caris LeVert have stepped up.
Last week: 8
14. Creighton (20-4, 10-2 Big East)
This weekend: Villanova (Sunday)
The Bluejays shot 56 percent from the free throw line in Madison Square Garden. Don’t expect a repeat in Omaha’s biggest game of the season Sunday.
Last week: 10
15. Cincinnati (22-3, 11-1 American)
This weekend: Houston
The key to beating Cincinnati? Force Sean Kilpatrick to take a ton of shots from the perimeter. Kilpatrick was 3 of 12 against SMU.
Last week: 11
16. Iowa (18-6, 7-4 Big Ten)
This weekend: at Penn State
Iowa hasn’t won back-to-back games in nearly a month. That could change this weekend, but Penn State isn’t an easy out in Happy Valley.
Last week: 16
17. Kentucky (19-5, 9-2 SEC)
This weekend: Florida
John Calipari made his former assistant, Auburn coach Tony Barbee, look good in a 64-56 win over the Tigers.
Last week: 18
18. Wisconsin (20-5, 7-5 Big Ten)
This weekend: at Michigan
The Badgers' perimeter defense was vastly improved in the rematch against Minnesota.
Last week: 23
19. Louisville (19-4, 8-2 American)
This weekend: at Temple (Friday)
This is not the Big East: Louisville is amid a five-game stretch against team that rank between 150-200 in KenPom.
Last week: 17
20. Memphis (19-5, 8-3 American)
This weekend: at UConn
The Tigers will hope their lackluster performance against UCF on Wednesday is due to play Gonzaga in the game before and looking ahead to UConn on Saturday.
Last week: 20
21. UConn (19-5, 7-4 American)
This weekend: Memphis
The Huskies defeated UCF and USF by a combined 63 points last week. The next three home games will be huge: Memphis, SMU and Cincinnati.
Last week: NR
22. Texas (18-5, 8-3 Big 12)
This weekend: West Virginia
The Longhorns will hope to have Jonathan Holmes (knee) back to face a red hot Mountaineers team.
Last week: 19
23. SMU (19-5, 8-3 American)
This weekend: at Rutgers
SMU basketball was ranked in the AP poll for the first time since 1985. Football hasn’t been ranked since 1986.
Last week: NR
24. Ohio State (19-6, 6-6 Big Ten)
This weekend: at Illinois
LaQuinton Ross has the consistent scorer the Buckeyes have been lacking.
Last week: NR
25. UCLA (19-5, 8-3 Pac-12)
This weekend: Utah
Kyle Anderson has five double-doubles in his last six games — three with points and assists, two with points and rebounds.
Last week: 25
Even in the last few days, bubble season has taken an unexpected turn.
A week ago, a bubble watch would have had West Virginia and St. John’s on the outskirts of the NCAA Tournament. A few big wins later, and one of those teams is projected in our field.
By our count, 32 teams are “feeling good” for an at-large bid. Barring a major collapse, these teams should be in the NCAA Tournament field. With 22 teams accounting for automatic bids settled in conference tournaments, that leaves 14 spots for the bubble.
These are the teams in contention for those final spots along with projections for who is in or out of the field.
NCAA Tournament Bubble Watch: Feb. 12
All RPI figures from Monday’s official release
Feeling good: Duke, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Virginia
Clemson (15-6, 6-5, RPI No. 64)
Most of the Tigers’ NCAA Tournament case rests on a 72-59 home win over Duke on Jan. 11. Clemson went 9-3 against a lackluster non-conference schedule, so the Tigers will need to start defeating some of the upper echelon ACC teams (Virginia on Feb. 15, Pittsburgh on March 8).
Florida State (14-10, 5-7, RPI No. 54)
After a 77-73 home loss to Miami, Florida State is sinking fast. Neutral court wins over UMass and VCU won’t be enough to overcome six losses in the last eight games.
NC State (16-8, 6-5, RPI No. 59)
NC State did not need a double overtime loss to Notre Dame on Tuesday. A road win over Tennessee is nice, but the Wolfpack also have to atone for a home loss to North Carolina Central. NC State will face Syracuse, Clemson and Pittsburgh on the road and North Carolina at home, giving the Wolfpack the most opportunities of any ACC bubble team to pick up ground before the conference tournament.
Feeling good: Cincinnati, Louisville, Memphis, SMU, UConn
Feeling good: George Washington, Saint Louis, UMass, VCU
Richmond (15-8, 5-3, RPI No. 45)
Wins over UMass and St. Joe’s at the end of January piqued interest in Richmond, a team that faced Florida, North Carolina and Minnesota in the non-conference schedule. The Spiders catch VCU and George Washington at home before the A-10 Tournament.
St. Joseph’s (16-7, 6-3, RPI No. 46)
The Hawks have played their way into consideration just since the start of February with home wins over UMass and VCU. A road trip against George Washington on March 5 could be critical for both teams as they enter the A 10 Tournament.
Feeling good: Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Texas
Baylor (14-8, 2-9, RPI No. 61)
A team with a losing Big 12 record could make the field, but Baylor is pushing it. The Bears’ only two Big 12 wins are over league doormat TCU and an Oklahoma State team in a tailspin.
Oklahoma State (16-8, 4-7, RPI No. 35)
The Pokes had problems before Marcus Smart was suspended for three games. Losing their top player for Oklahoma and Baylor only hastens the Cowboys drift to the bubble. The Cowboys already lost their first game without Marcus Smart by a lopsided margin against a shorthanded Texas.
West Virginia (15-10, 7-5 RPI No. 74)
A 3-8 record in against the top 50 isn’t great, but the Mountaineers are on a roll, defeating Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma and Iowa State all since Jan. 28. The Mountaineers’ worst losses were to Virginia Tech (Nov. 12) and Purdue (Dec. 22). Bet they’d like to play both again.
Feeling good: Creighton, Villanova
Georgetown (15-9, 6-6, RPI No. 57)
The Hoyas appeared to be sinking before a win over Michigan State at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 1 to give Georgetown three good neutral site wins (VCU and Kansas State are the others). An early season loss to Northeastern and a home loss to Seton Hall is a bad look, however.
Providence (16-9, 6-6, RPI No. 49)
The Friars reeled off five consecutive wins in January, including an 81-68 rout of Creighton, to get into the conversation. Road games, though, have halted the Friars progress since Jan. 30. Two winnable road games loom against Butler and Seton Hall.
St. John’s (15-9, 5-6, RPI No. 63)
Even with Sunday’s win over Creighton, St. John’s has work to do to erase the 0-5 start to conference play. That slump included a loss to DePaul, but that might not hurt as much as the non-conference schedule.
Xavier (17-7, 8-4, RPI No. 37)
The Musketeers lost three in a row after starting 5-1 in the league. Xavier may have the toughest stretch before the conference tournament with road trips to Georgetown and St. John’s and home dates with Creighton and Villanova.
Feeling good: Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin
Indiana (14-9, 4-6, RPI No. 78)
A home loss to Northwestern and road losses to Nebraska and Illinois still overshadow the good things Indiana has done in Big Ten play.
Minnesota (16-8, 5-6, RPI No. 41)
True, Minnesota also lost to Northwestern and Nebraska, but the Hoosiers loaded up on teams ranked 200th or worse in the RPI in the non-conference schedule. The Gophers’ edge in the non-conference schedule, which included a game against Syracuse, accounts for the disparity in the RPI.
Feeling good: Wichita State
Indiana State (18-6, 9-3, RPI No. 55)
With Wichita State’s sweep of the Sycamores, the only way the Missouri Valley is a two-bid league is if the Shockers lose in the conference tournament.
Feeling good: Arizona, UCLA
Arizona State (18-6, 7-4, RPI No. 40)
The Sun Devils picked up three critical bubble wins in the last five games with wins over Colorado, Cal and Oregon (only Cal was on the road). That run also included a road loss to Stanford. Saturday’s home date against a struggling Arizona team will be huge.
Cal (15-8, 6-4, RPI No. 51)
If a bubble team is going to go 1-4 in the middle of the conference season, the one win might as well be over previously undefeated Arizona.
Colorado (18-6, 7-4, RPI No. 25)
Losing Spencer Dinwiddie on Jan. 12 was a major blow, but the Buffaloes have started to show signs they can win without him. Granted, every win during this three-game streak was at home and two over over the Washington schools. This week’s road trips to UCLA and USC could be a turning point.
Oregon (15-8, 3-8, RPI No. 42)
At 3-8 in the Pac-12, Oregon has little room for error. A close call with Arizona and turning a 20-point deficit against Arizona State into a mere 2-point loss could signal a team starting to recover ... or it could be the last blow to a season that has fallen apart since the New Year.
Stanford (15-7, 6-4, RPI No. 44)
Road wins are important for bubble teams, and Stanford has them over UConn, Oregon and Cal. The rival Golden Bears returned the favor with a win in Palo Alto, but the Cardinal have no losses worse than Oregon State on the road.
Feeling good: Florida, Kentucky
LSU (15-7, 6-4, RPI No. 62)
Every good LSU win has been followed within a week by a momentum-sapping loss. A loss to Alabama followed the Missouri win. A loss at Georgia followed the Kentucky and Arkansas wins. Not a great look for a team with a home loss to Rhode Island already on the resume.
Missouri (16-7, 4-6, RPI No. 50)
Few teams are more pleased to see West Virginia surging as Missouri is. The Tigers are short on good wins with only one RPI top 50 victory (UCLA), but Missouri defeated West Virginia two days earlier. The Tigers' only SEC wins are over Auburn, Alabama, South Carolina and Arkansas.
Ole Miss (16-8, 7-4, RPI No. 56)
The Rebels’ win over Missouri on Saturday was key to getting Ole Miss on the bubble. The next three games will be crucial. Georgia is a tough out in Athens, and then Kentucky and Florida visit Oxford.
Tennessee (15-9, 6-5, RPI No. 47)
The Volunteers have the most interesting non-conference resume of any SEC bubble team with a win over Virginia, a split with Xavier and losses to Wichita State, NC State and UTEP. Defeating fellow SEC bubble foes Ole Miss at home and LSU on the road could be a determining factor.
BYU (17-9, 9-4, RPI No. 43)
The Cougars’ best wins are over Texas on a neutral court and Stanford on the road, both of which seem much stronger than they were back in November. Three WCC losses to teams ranked 130th or worse in the RPI (Pepperdine, Portland, Loyola Marymount) are as bad as ever. Beating Gonzaga at home or in the WCC Tournament may be the only way in as an at-large.
Gonzaga (21-4, 11-1, RPI No. 21)
Mark Few’s team needed Saturday’s game at Memphis, but the that game slipped away. Even though the Bulldogs’ RPI is worthy, Gonzaga lacks the non-conference resume we usually see from the Bulldogs.
No one is going to confuse today’s game with Paul Westphal’s Loyola Marymount teams, but the tide may be turning.
Scoring had been creeping lower and lower in recent years, to a point where the NCAA Basketball Rules Committee hoped an emphasis on calling hand checking and reinterpreting the block/charge would open up the game.
The returns so far indicate scoring is up, in part because of more free throws and improved efficiency.
Meanwhile, teams and players are enjoying record-breaking offensive performances. The Big 12 scoring record was reset Saturday, more due to the inability of TCU to stop Melvin Ejim than any rule change. At the same time Duke is set to become one of the best offensive teams of the last decade by at least one metric.
This, unfortunately, was lost on anyone at the Oakland Zoo to take in Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh’s pillow fight Saturday.
College Basketball Key Stats of the Week: Feb. 11
71.68. Points per game, per team so far this season
Offense is back in college basketball. Scoring is up 4.04 points per team per game from last season, according to a statistical trend report from the NCAA. If the 71.68 points per game holds up by the end of the season, it will be the highest average since 1995-96. The tougher officiating on hand checks and arm bars seems to have done its job. Of the 4.04 additional points per game this season, 2.24 have come on free throws. Field goal shooting, 3-point shooting and free throw shooting rates all saw marginal improvements. More conference games, plus the postseason, may diminish the average numbers, but this is still a good sign for those who want to see the college game more wide open.
128.8. Duke’s nation-leading offensive efficiency rating on KenPom
Duke took over the No. 1 spot in adjusted offensive efficiency on KenPom with a rating of 128.8. As CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander noted, that figure will shatter the record for as long as Ken Pomeroy has been keeping his tempo-free statistics. These are the best offensive teams in Pomeroy’s ratings since 2003:
|KenPom Adjusted Offensive Efficiency Leaders Since 2002-03|
|2013-14 Duke||128.8||Jabari Parker|
|2004-05 Wake Forest||124.0||Chris Paul|
|2011-12 Missouri||123.9||Phil Pressey|
|2013-14 Creighton||123.8||Doug McDermott|
|2010-11 Ohio State||123.3||Jared Sullinger|
|2008-09 North Carolina|
|2004-05 North Carolina||121.9||Sean May|
|2006-07 Florida||121.5||Joakim Noah|
|2013-14 Michigan||121.4||Nik Stauskas|
|2011-12 Kentucky||121.3||Anthony Davis|
5. Players to have 45 points and 15 rebounds in a game since 1997-98
Iowa State’s Melvin Ejim pulled off one of the most rare performances in college basketball when he scored 48 points and grabbed 18 rebounds in a win over TCU. He’s only the fifth player since 1997-98 to hit 45 points and 15 rebounds since 1997-98 and the first since 2005-06. Here are the others, according to data on bbstate.com:
2013-14: Melvin Ejim (Iowa State), 48 points and 18 rebounds vs. TCU
2005-06: Brion Rush (Grambling), 53 points and 16 rebounds vs. Southern
2003-04: Alex Loughton (Old Dominion), 45 points and 15 rebounds vs. Charlotte
2002-03: David West (Xavier), 47 points and 18 rebounds vs. Dayton
1997-98: Lee Nailon (TCU), 46 points and 16 rebounds vs. Hawaii
6. Points by Ejim in his next game
TCU allowed Ejim to score at will. Two days later, West Virginia shut down Ejim for only six points on 1 of 9 shooting. The Mountaineers defeated Iowa State 102-77 as Ejim was forced to take more shots from the outside, including four 3-pointers.
3. Wins for Kansas State over Kansas in Manhattan since 1983
As lopsided an in-state rivalry as any, Kansas State scored a rare victory by defeating Kansas 85-82 in overtime Monday. Kansas State overcame cramping and minor injuries to key players, not to mention coughing up a nine-point lead with 1:47 to go in regulation, to beat the Jayhawks in overtime. Since 1983, Kansas State has only three wins — in 2008, 2011 and 2014 — at home against Kansas.
46. Losing streak against Division I foes ended by Grambling
Since the end of the 2011-12 season, Grambling State’s lone win was over Division II Central Baptist College on Dec. 16. The Tigers ended their 46-game losing streak to fellow Division I opponents Monday with a 95-80 win over Alcorn State.
1. Field goal in 10 minutes of overtime in Virginia Tech-Pittsburgh
If scoring is up, no one told Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech on Saturday. The Panthers and Hokies set perhaps the season standard for offensive futility in a game involving two major teams. The two teams were tied at 48 at the end of regulation, and Pitt needed only one field goal among two overtimes to seal the win. Lamar Patterson had a layup in the first 20 seconds of the second overtime for the only basket in both extra frames.
93. Points per 100 possessions for Creighton against St. John’s this season
Even though they’ve split the series, St. John’s has Creighton’s number this season. The Bluejays average 93 points per 100 possessions against the Red Storm this season, well below their season average of 118. Creighton has been held to less than a point per possession three times this season, and St. John’s was on the other end of two of those games. Of course, it didn’t help when Creighton went 14 of 25 from the free throw line in a 70-65 loss Sunday.
941. Career assists for LIU Brooklyn’s Jason Brickman
Doug McDermott isn’t the only player ascending in the record book this season. LIU Brooklyn’s Jason Brickman passed Oregon State’s Gary Payton for 11th on the all-time assist list with 941 in his career. If Brickman keeps up his 9.9 assists per game pace for the remainder of the regular season, he’ll have 1,000 assists at the time of the Northeast Conference Tournament for a figure that would place him fourth all time and 76 behind record holder Bobby Hurley of Duke. Expect Brickman, who plays on a 7-16 team, to get more notoriety in the media this week: The next two assist leaders Brickman will pass are CBS analysts Doug Gottlieb (947 assists) and Greg Anthony (950).
3,645 Total points for Iowa’s father-son duo of Roy Marble and Roy Devyn Marble
Roy Devyn Marble’s 25 points against Michigan led a landmark win this season for Iowa, but it also helped Marble and his father move up the list of father-son duos in college basketball. As Terry Hersom of the Sioux City (Iowa) Journal notes, the Marbles moved into seventh place with a chance to move all the way up to fourth among father/son duos.
|Highest Scoring Father/Son Duos|
|5,024||Dell Curry, Virginia Tech (2,389)||Stephen Curry, Davidson (2,685)|
|4,568||Steve Burtt Sr., Iona (2,534)||Steve Burtt, Jr., Iona (2,034)|
|4,490||Dell Curry, Virginia Tech (2,389)||Seth Curry, Liberty/Duke (2,101)|
|3,883||Jimmy Walker, Providence (2,034)||Jalen Rose, Michigan (1,788)|
|3,675||Pete Maravich, LSU (3,671)||Josh Maravich, LSU (4)|
|3,671||Pete Maravich, LSU (3,671)||Jaeson Maravich, Alabama (0)|
|3,653||Rick Barry, Miami (2,988)||Jon Barry, Pacific/Ga. Tech (1,555)|
|3,645||Roy Marble, Iowa (2,116)||Roy Devyn Marble, Iowa (1,529)|
29. Years since SMU was last in the AP poll
After defeating Cincinnati on Saturday, SMU checked in at No. 23 in the Associated Press poll Monday. The ranking is the first for SMU basketball since March 5, 1985 when the Mustangs were ranked 20th under coach Dave Bliss (yes, that Dave Bliss). SMU was ranked as high as No. 2 that season before losing to Loyola (Ill.) in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Worth keeping in mind SMU football hasn’t been ranked since 1986.
5. American Athletic Conference teams ranked this week
The polls may carry less weight in college basketball than in football, but still, who could have guessed that the American Athletic Conference would have the same amount of top 25 teams as the Big Ten as of Feb. 10? The AAC has five ranked teams this week: No. 10 Cincinnati, No. 13 Louisville, No. 20 Memphis, No. 23 SMU and No. 24 UConn. That’s more than the Big East and the SEC combined.
At the end of January, Iowa State appeared to be falling back to earth after a 14-game wining streak to start the season.
After a 2-4 swoon, the Cyclones may be playing some of their best basketball of the season thanks in part to the play of Melvin Ejim.
Ejim set a Big 12 record with 48 points in an 84-69 win over TCU on Saturday, earning Athlon Sports National Player of the Week honors. By adding 18 rebounds, Ejim joined Blake Griffin and Michael Beasley as the only three players to have 40 points and 15 boards in a game in Big 12 history.
Before Ejim’s breakout performance against TCU — admittedly the worst team in the Big 12 — the Cyclones senior had 22 points and 13 rebounds in a 98-97 triple overtime win over Oklahoma State. His double-double helped Iowa State end an 18-game losing streak in Stillwater.
Athlon Sports National Weekly Awards
National Player of the Week: Melvin Ejim, Iowa State
Ejim delivered perhaps the finest single-game performance in the history of the Big 12 conference. Iowa State’s senior forward scored a league-record 48 points (on 20-of-24 shooting) and added a career-high 18 rebounds to key Iowa State’s 84–69 win over TCU. Ejim bested the previous mark of 44 points, set by two Kansas State players — Michael Beasley in 2008 and Denis Clemente in 2009.
National Freshman of the Week: Marcus Foster, Kansas State
A lightly recruited guard from Wichita Falls, Texas, Foster scored a career-high 34 points — the most by a Kansas State freshman since Michael Beasley had 39 in March 2008 — to lead the Wildcats to a 74–57 win over Texas. Foster converted 13-of-16 from the field (including 5-of-8 from 3-point range) and has now scored 20-plus points in three of his last four games.
Under-the-Radar Player of the Week: Jordair Jett, Saint Louis
Jett scored 19 of his 25 points in the second half — highlighted by a bucket with four seconds remaining to break a 63–63 tie — to lead Saint Louis to a two-point win at La Salle. The Billikens, who have won 16 straight games overall, are 9–0 in the Atlantic 10.
Other Top Performers:
T.J. Warren, NC State
Warren scored 27 points (nearly half of his team’s total) and grabbed seven rebounds in NC State’s 56–55 win at Miami — the Pack’s first road win in ACC play this season. Warren, a sophomore forward, has averaged 23.8 points in his last six games.
Seth Allen, Maryland
Allen poured in a career-high 32 points, including 21 in the second half, as Maryland beat Florida State 83–71 in College Park. A sophomore point guard, Allen missed the first 12 games of the season with a foot injury.
Marshall Henderson, Ole Miss
Here’s a word you don’t often associate with Henderson — efficient. But that is the type of performance Ole Miss received from its shot-happy senior guard. Henderson scored 29 points on 10-of-18 shooting (8-of-15 from 3-point range) to lift the Rebels to a 91–88 win over visiting Missouri. Ole Miss has sole possession of third place in the SEC with a 7–3 record in league play.
Jaye Crockett, Texas Tech
Crockett was the forgotten star of a game that will unfortunately be remembered for Marcus Smart’s confrontation with a Texas Tech fan. Crockett, a senior forward, tied season highs in points (21) and rebounds (12) to lead the Red Raiders to a 65–61 win over Oklahoma State. Tech, under first-year coach Tubby Smith, improved to 4–6 in the Big 12. Last season, the Red Raiders went 3–15 in the league.
Jabari Parker, Duke
Parker bounced back from a subpar performance in Duke’s overtime loss at Syracuse to average 25 points and 12 rebounds as the Blue Devils coasted past Wake Forest and Boston College last week. The freshman from Chicago was brilliant Saturday at Boston College, setting a career high in both points (29) and rebounds (16) in the Blue Devils’ 21-point win.
Jordan Bachynski, Arizona State
Banchynski scored a career-high 26 points, but it was his work on the defensive end that secured the Sun Devils’ 74–72 win over Oregon. The 7-2 center blocked nine shots, including Joseph Young’s layup at the buzzer, to help Arizona State to its fifth win in the last six games. On Thursday, Banchynski had 17 points, 15 rebounds and seven blocks in an overtime win over Oregon State.
Kadeem Jack, Rutgers
Jack and the Scarlet Knights bounced back from a miserable performance at Memphis on Tuesday to beat South Florida 79–69 on the road Saturday night. Jack, a junior forward, led the way with a career-high 31 points on 9-of-14 shooting from the field and a perfect 13-of-13 from the free throw line.
Xavier Johnson, Colorado
Johnson averaged 23.5 points and 9.5 rebounds as Colorado swept a pair of games from Washington State and Washington last week. In a 91–65 win over Washington, Johnson had a career-high 27 points and was one of three CU players to score at least 20 points (Josh Scott had 21 and Asia Booker had 20).
Let’s face it: There aren’t many reasons college basketball would dominate the SportsCenter conversation these days. Even with the Super Bowl over, there’s the NBA and the Winter Olympics to dominate coverage.
Then, Marcus Smart shoved a fan in the final seconds of a loss to Texas Tech. The weekend could have been spent celebrating Iowa’s first major win of the season, Melvin Ejim’s record breaking day at Iowa State or Marcus Foster’s one-man wrecking ball performance against Texas.
Instead, Smart’s outburst will dominate the news cycle. Was the fan out of control? Did Smart’s intensity get the best of him? The answer is probably yes to both. In any event, a player whose intangibles were above reproach to start the season are now in question.
That wasn’t even the only unfortunate interaction between fans and players this week.
More on the Smart situation is available elsewhere on Athlon Sports. Here’s the remainder of the major news this week in college basketball.
10 Things You Need to Know from the College Basketball Weekend
1. Oklahoma State’s season takes another bad turn
Losing to Texas Tech for four consecutive losses and five in the last six games is bad enough for Oklahoma State’s season. The three-game suspension for Marcus Smart related to the shoving incident is the latest blow to a team that’s limping through the Big 12 season. Michael Cobbins is out for the remainder of the season, Stevie Clark has been dismissed, and without Smart, Oklahoma State is down to a six-man rotation without its best player.
2a. Iowa finally got its big win
Two things we knew about Iowa when Saturday started: The Hawkeyes can demolish the teams they’re supposed to beat and they can’t close against teams closer to their league. That changed a bit Saturday was Iowa defeated Michigan 85-67 to end an 0-5 start against the RPI top 20. Sure, the game was at home against a team that’s slumping, and Iowa never really had to play in crunch time. Still, it’s good to see this Final Four sleeper team make a statement against one of the top teams in the Big Ten.
2b. Roy Devyn Marble should be near the top of the Big Ten player of the year discussion
Marble was dominant against Michigan, especially in the first half. The senior finished with 26 points, all but four before halftime. He torched Michigan from 3-point range, hitting 6 of 10 shots from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, he drew the defensive assignment on Nik Stauskas. Michigan’s star guard was limited to only six shots from the field and 10 points.
2c. Teams have figured out how to defend Nik Stauskas
Stauskas at one point was the MVP of the Big Ten back when he scored 19 points a win at Michigan State on Jan. 25. The last three games, though, have been a problem. Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell and Iowa’s Marble have been able to keep him in check as Stauskas is 5 of 15 from the field in the last three games. Michigan has been able to take a Big Ten lead without Mitch McGary, but the Wolverines clearly can’t absorb a slump from Stauskas.
3. Iowa State’s Melvin Ejim had perhaps the best game of the year
We’ve long been fans of Melvin Ejim around here, but Saturday was something new. Ejim scored a Big 12 record 48 points in the 84-69 win over TCU, a total that was also the best so far this season. He added 18 rebounds to put him in a class with Blake Griffin, Michael Beasley and Kevin Durant. More than the totals, Ejim was ridiculously efficient, going 20 of 24 from the field. TCU had no answer for him around the basket, but Ejim also hit two 3-pointers.
4a. Marshall Henderson did Marshall Henderson things
The Ole Miss shooting guard has been quiet in terms of his off-court persona, but he can still be just as prolific a 3-point shooter. Henderson scored 29 points on 8 of 15 3-point shots against Missouri, including two in the second half that held the Tigers’ rally at bay. The 91-88 win keeps Ole Miss in the NCAA Tournament discussion despite road losses to Tennessee and Kentucky in the last two weeks.
4b. Missouri is in trouble
Whoever is the No. 3 team in the SEC after Florida and Kentucky, it’s not Missouri. The Tigers have lost three in a row to fall to 4-6 in the SEC and haven’t defeated a top-50 RPI team since Dec. 7 against UCLA.
5. Marcus Foster demolished Texas
Before Melvin Ejim pushed 50 points later in the day, Kansas State's Marcus Foster was the player of the day in the Big 12. The freshman scored 34 points to halt Texas’ hot streak and to pick up a key 74-57 win for the Wildcats. Foster was the star of the day with 13 field goals to Texas’ 18 as a team, but Kansas State may have played its best all-around game of the year. The Wildcats had 13 steals and held Texas to 32.7 percent shooting to halt a 1-3 streak.
6. Wichita State should get to Arch Madness undefeated
For weeks, Wichita State’s two-game road swing against Indiana State and Northern Iowa appeared to be the primary barrier to being undefeated for the Missouri Valley Tournament. The Shockers conquered both without much trouble defeating Indiana State 65-58 on Wednesday and Northern Iowa 82-73 on Saturday. The Shockers won’t face another RPI top 150 team until it faces No. 102 Missouri State in the regular season finale at home on March 1.
7. The team of the week was SMU
SMU basketball is a thing in 2013-14. The Mustangs had been building for Big East, and now American Athletic Conference, inclusion for a few seasons. Now, that work, the hire of coach Larry Brown and arena upgrades have come to fruition. SMU had been an NCAA contender for several weeks, but Saturday’s 76-55 win over No. 7 Cincinnati signaled that something more may be on the horizon. Entering this season, SMU hadn’t defeated a ranked team since 2003, but the Mustangs have defeated three in 2013-14.
8. Gonzaga missed its golden opportunity
Memphis’ 60-54 win over Gonzaga is the Tigers’ best win as far as the RPI is concerned (it’s Memphis’ third-best win according to KenPom). Make no mistake, Gonzaga needed this far more than Memphis. In crunch time, Gonzaga flopped. The Bulldogs took a 9-point lead with 5:15 to go, but hit one field goal thereafter. Memphis outscored the Zags 17-2 over the final 4:51 for the win. Gonzaga is 21-4, but no lock for an NCAA at-large bid. The Bulldogs’ only top 50 win is over BYU at home. Memphis was only the third top 50 team Gonzaga faced all year, and the West Coast Conference isn’t going to help the strength of schedule the rest of the way.
9. North Carolina, Kentucky overcame slow starts to win games they should win anyway
North Carolina and Kentucky have had their problems with consistency this season, so let’s give credit where it’s due. The Tar Heels fell behind by 9 at Notre Dame in the first half, but made easy work of the Irish the rest of the way in a 73-62 win. Kentucky was tied on the road against lowly Mississippi State at the 7:34 mark of the first half before pulling away for a 69-59 win. It’s nice for both to pull away for comfortable wins, but these early lapses — plus perimeter shooting — aren’t great signs for either teams’ postseason hopes.
10. Adreian Payne returned this week, but Michigan State still isn’t back to full strength
Tom Izzo had plenty of faith Saturday in Adreian Payne, who returned Tuesday from a nagging foot injury. Down 3 in the final 15 seconds against Wisconsin, Michigan State came out of a timeout and called for Payne to come off a screen to hit a 3-pointer. Payne hit the shot to tie the game with 12 seconds left. Wisconsin answered with just as gutsy a shot as Treveon Jackson scored on a mid-range jumper for the Badgers 60-58 win. The story, though, is Payne who finished with 24 points. The game still reinforced that the Spartans aren’t playing at full strength as Keith Appling missed his second consecutive game with a wrist injury. Branden Dawson’s return is still weeks away.
• St. John's is making up for lost time. One of the nation's biggest disappointments around January, the Red Storm defeated Creighton 70-65 on Sunday night for its sixth win in seven games. Look closer, and this emergence has been on the horizon. The last three losses have been by 2, by 2 in double overtime and by 3 on the road against Creighton. St. John's is back on the bubble.
• Pittsburgh lost credibility in a win. Pittsburgh needed two overtimes to beat Virginia Tech (8-15 overall, 1-10 ACC) on Saturday. The Panthers’ 62-57 win was one of the most unwatchable games involving a ranked team as Virginia Tech failed to hit a field goal in the final 13:07 — yet Pitt still needed two overtimes to put this team away. Lamar Patterson was dreadful, hitting only 1 of 9 shots against the Hokies.
• The Ducks are done. A team that started 13-0 will be hard-pressed to make the NCAA Tournament after Saturday. The Ducks fell to 3-8 in Pac-12 play in a 74-72 loss to Arizona State. The final score was close, but the Ducks fell behind by 20 early.
• Oklahoma got a win it needed to have by defeating Baylor 88-72. Isaiah Cousins, the Sooners’ fifth-leading scorer, finished with 21 points after a second-half surge. Before Saturday, Oklahoma had lost back-to-back road games to Iowa State and West Virginia.
• Minnesota ended a losing streak of its own, three games, with a 66-60 win over Indiana.
• Xavier ended a three-game losing streak by defeating Providence 59-53 to keep the Musketeers in the conversation for an NCAA Tournament spot. After a standout January, Providence has slid back to earth with three losses in the last four games.
• Arkansas finally picked up a quality conference road win with a 77-75 win over Vanderbilt. Before Saturday, the Razorbacks’ only SEC road wins under Mike Anderson were against Auburn.
• Georgetown won a game in which it shot 1 of 12 from 3-point range by defeating Butler 71-63.
In an interview before the season, Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart said Texas Tech was his least favorite opposing arena.
“The atmosphere just isn’t there,” he said.
On Saturday, the atmosphere at Texas Tech was too much.
Smart, a preseason All-American and one of the top prospects for the 2014 NBA Draft, shoved a fan in the final seconds of Oklahoma State’s 65-61 loss to Texas Tech in Lubbock.
As he fouled Texas Tech’s Jaye Crockett on a fast break layup attempt, Smart fell to the floor behind the basket. As he got up, Smart reacted to a man in the front row behind the baseline, shoving Texas Tech spectator Jeff Orr.
Less than 24 hours later, the Big 12 suspended Smart three games, and Smart issued an apology. Smart's return will be Feb. 22 during a home game against this same Texas Tech team.
In a statement released by Texas Tech, Orr volunteered not to attend Texas Tech basketball games, home or away, for the remainder of the season. Orr also iindicates he called Smart a "piece of crap." Texas Tech also released a video with inconclusive audio.
A Cowboy Radio Network analyst told the Tulsa (Okla.) World he heard Smart tell Oklahoma State coaches that a fan called Smart a racial slur. In a Sunday afternoon news confernece, neither Smart nor Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford provided details on what the spectator said.
"I would like to take this opportunity to offer my sincere apologies to Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State, Tubby Smith and the Texas Tech Men's Basketball program," Orr said in the statement. "My actions last night were inappropriate and do not reflect myself or Texas Tech - a university I love dearly. I regret calling Mr. Smart a 'piece of crap' but I want to make it known that I did not use a racial slur of any kind."
What’s clear is that no party comes out of this with any way to save face:
• Smart committed one of the most egregious acts an athlete can commit by physically confronting a spectator. The incident comes only games after Smart apologized on Twitter for losing his composure after a loss to West Virginia.
• The Big 12 officials assessed a technical foul on Smart but didn’t eject him, saying the rule book doesn’t provide for a disqualification for a player-fan confrontation.
• The Oklahoma State staff allowed Smart to linger on the court and on the bench despite only 6.2 seconds remaining in a game that had been decided. When Smart finally left the floor, the game had ended and Texas Tech fans were rushing the court. A incident could have escalated quickly.
• Orr’s conduct at games came under scrutiny following the incident.
The next step will be a suspension handed down by the Big 12 and Oklahoma State, probably both. The Cowboys have eight games remaining before the conference tournament.
The suspension, though, may end up being a footnote to how the incident shapes Smart’s reputation from now on.
Anyone who follows college basketball knows Smart as the player who came up from extreme poverty, who is one of the game’s great leaders and who shocked everyone by making a calculated risk to skip the NBA Draft.
Smart knew what he was getting into by returning to school — delaying his first NBA contract by a year and risking a drop in the draft. He often talked of the reward of returning and spending another year as a college student.
Smart also has to know he won’t escape this incident. College basketball is a niche game until the NCAA Tournament. Now, scores of fans know Smart as for this ugly confrontation first and the rest of Smart’s background second, if at all.
Entering this season, Smart's greatest assets were his maturity, leadership and intangibles. All that is in question.
Now, Oklahoma State’s season has spiraled out of control. An injury to Michael Cobbins hurt depth in the frontcourt. Smart’s backup, Stevie Clark, was kicked off the team after his second legal incident of the season. A team that was expected to contend for the Big 12 title has slipped to 4-6 and almost certainly will slide even further while Smart is suspended.
Smart himself has struggled. He had one of the nation’s most dominant performances of any player early in the year against Memphis. The last few weeks had been forgettable until Saturday. His reputation for flopping has been criticized. After a dismal game against West Virginia, Smart stormed off the court in a huff.
Smart returned to school to compete for a championship and dismissed criticism that he should have taken his shot at the NBA Draft.
“I bet on myself,” Smart told Athlon Sports in a preseason interview. “I know what I can do. I believe in my ability.”
The Cover 2 makes its return after a brief hiatus to talk all the big-picture news from Signing Day.
Braden Gall and David Fox explain why Alabama’s day was almost non-news and why Tennessee and Kentucky turned out to be the big winners.
Charlie Strong at Texas gave us a reason to look into recruiting in the state of Texas and whether his words about the virtues of being a “gadget program” have merit. Has Strong already fallen too far behind Coach Cool at Texas A&M?
Then, we talk about the most interesting long-term recruiting trend whether it’s USC vs. UCLA or Ohio State pulling away from the rest of the Big Ten.
If you're looking for a few stories referenced in this podcast, here is Travis Brown's survey of high school coaches for the Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram, plus our Signing Day winners and losers and our consensus rankings.
The podcast can be found on athlonsports.com, iTunes and our podcast RSS feed.
Please send any comments, questions and podcast topics to @AthlonSports, @BradenGall and @DavidFox615 on Twitter or email email@example.com.
After last week, maybe college basketball needs a bit of a breather for the weekend.
Syracuse’s overtime win over Duke was the game of the year, but Saturday and Sunday also wrecked the top 25 with seven ranked teams losing to unranked foes.
This week, only two games will feature two ranked teams (Michigan-Iowa and Gonzaga-Memphis). On one hand, the weekend will lack a true No. 1 matchup, but the potential for chaos is still high.
Creighton, Texas, North Carolina and Oregon all face critical road trips while teams like Iowa and Gonzaga are getting into desperation mode for season-defining wins.
Navigating this week in basketball won’t be as easy as pointing you to Syracuse and Duke, but there’s plenty here to appreciate as the regular season enters its stretch run.
College Basketball Weekend Preview: Feb. 8-9
Game of the Week:
Michigan at Iowa (Saturday, 2 p.m., ESPN)
The Big Ten has become a two-team race with Iowa dropping to 6-4 in the league with a Tuesday loss to Ohio State at home. The Hawkeyes have only one RPI top 25 win — over Ohio State in Columbus. Iowa has been tabbed as a potential NCAA sleeper with the Hawkeyes’ standout offense and flawless ability to take a care of business against lesser teams. Fran McCaffery’s team, though, needs to show it can beat an upper-tier Big Ten team if it’s to be taken seriously in the second weekend of the Tourney. Michigan rebounded from its first conference loss of the season last week against Indiana to take care of Nebraska 79-50 in Ann Arbor. Big Ten Player of the Year contender Nik Stauskas, though, has been in a slump, shooting 2 of 9 from the field for 15 points in the last two games.
Great Non-Conference Game:
Gonzaga at Memphis (Saturday, 9 p.m., ESPN)
This will be a key game for NCAA seeding, particularly for Gonzaga. The Bulldogs’ at-large resume is lacking a big wins, and this will be the last chance for the Zags to acquire one. Only one West Coast Conference team, BYU, is in the RPI top 40. The two teams in Memphis will be evenly matched, particularly at point guard where Gonzaga’s Kevin Pangos will face the Tigers’ Joe Jackson in a meeting of two underrated veterans.
Creighton at St. John’s (Sunday, 7 p.m., Fox Sports 1)
Welcome to Madison Square Garden, Doug McDermott. The National Player of the Year contender will play his first game in New York against a hot St. John’s team with the talent to get on a late-season roll and make a run at the NCAA Tournament. The Red Storm’s only loss in the last five games came by three at Creighton on a McDermott 3-pointer in the closing seconds. Creighton is 8–1 in the Big East and leads the league in both offensive and defensive efficiency in conference games.
Tricky Road Trip:
North Carolina at Notre Dame (Saturday, noon, ACC Network)
The Tar Heels have recovered from a disastrous start in ACC play and once again appear to be a team capable of winning some games in the NCAA Tournament. Notre Dame has struggled to remain relevant in the ACC without Jerian Grant, who was lost for the season due to academics. Mike Brey’s team is very tough to beat at home — the Irish knocked off Duke in South Bend on Jan. 4 — but Carolina has the decided edge in talent.
Bubble Watch (East Coast Edition):
Providence at Xavier (Saturday, 3 p.m., Fox Sports 1)
Providence and Xavier are among a pack of teams fighting for third place — behind Creighton and Villanova — in the new-look Big East. Both teams feature star power, with Bryce Cotton leading the way for Providence and Semaj Christon continuing to shine at Xavier. The Musketeers, though, have been in a funk. Xavier has lost three in a row, starting with an 81-72 loss to Providence on the road. The Friars built momentum in January, but they’ve lost two of the last three to NIT-caliber team like Marquette and St. John’s. The loser of this game will be in some trouble.
Bubble Watch (West Coast Edition):
Oregon at Arizona State (Saturday, 5 p.m., Fox Sports 1)
This is a key game between two middle-of-the-pack Pac-12 teams who figure to be fighting for at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament. Arizona State rebounded from a slow start in league play and is now 5–4 with a three-game homestand looming. Oregon stopped the bleeding with a win over USC at home on Saturday, but the Ducks have not played well since the end of December. Arizona State’s dynamic point guard Jahii Carson will look to exploit an Oregon team that has struggled to guard anyone since conference play began. Carson is averaging 22.8 points per game in his last five.
Baylor at Oklahoma (Saturday, 7 p.m., ESPN2)
Baylor has been in a must-win situation for weeks now. The Bears are 2-7 in the Big 12, but they stopped a five-game losing streak with a surprising — and potentially season-saving — win at Oklahoma State last Saturday. This team has enough talent to work its way back into the NCAA Tournament picture. Oklahoma needs a victory in its own way after dropping back-to-back road games to Iowa State and West Virginia. The Sooners return to Norman against a team they defeated 66-64 on Jan. 18.
Best Potential for Fireworks:
Missouri at Ole Miss (Saturday, 5 p.m., SEC Network)
Two of the nation’s most feared 3-point shooters will be on display in Oxford this weekend when Marshall Henderson and the Rebels host Jabari Brown and Mizzou. Henderson’s overall shooting percentage is down from last season, but he’s been more accurate from 3-point range despite attempting more shots per game. Brown, the SEC’s leading scorer (20.1 ppg), is shooting 47.4 percent from beyond the arc.
Other Key Games:
Texas at Kansas State (Saturday, 1:30 p.m., Big 12 Network)
Texas went from being a nice story in the Big 12 to garnering national attention last week when the Longhorns smashed Kansas 81-69 in Austin. The Longhorns have defeated Iowa State, Kansas State, Baylor and KU in the last five games. Not bad for a team picked to finish anywhere from eighth to 10th in the Big 12 in the preseason. The Wildcats’ small frontcourt may have trouble with Texas big men Cameron Ridley and Jonathan Holmes.
Cincinnati at SMU (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., ESPNU)
It’s gone largely unnoticed, but Cincinnati is off to a 10–0 start in the new American Athletic Conference. The Bearcats, who already have wins at Memphis and Louisville, will be tested on Saturday at suddenly relevant SMU. The Mustangs, under the guidance of Larry Brown, improved to 6–3 in the American with a resounding win over Memphis last weekend. SMU is closing in on its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1993.
Wichita State at Northern Iowa (Saturday, 9 p.m., ESPN2)
Wichita State’s likelihood of getting to the Missouri Valley Tournament undefeated took another step when the Shockers defeated Indiana State 65-58 in Terre Haute for their toughest road trip of the conference season. Northern Iowa is traditionally a tough opponent in the Valley, but the Panthers are 11-12 and 5-6 in the league. Wichita State likely won’t play a top 100 team in KenPom again unless it catches the Sycamores in the MVC Tournament.
Michigan State at Wisconsin (Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS)
Both teams hope they’re starting to return to form. Michigan State saw big man Adreian Payne return to the lineup Thursday against Penn State. Wisconsin ended its 1-5 stretch with a 75-63 win over Illinois on the road on Tuesday. Even in the win, the Badgers still let an opposing guard as Rayvonte Rice score 24 points in 30 minutes.
Athlon Sports' Mitch Light contributed to this report.
Determining the top spot this week was easy. Arizona lost. Syracuse won its biggest game of the season. And that’s that.
The rest of the rankings, though, remain difficult to determine. Wichita State, San Diego State and Florida are slicing through their schedules, continuing to move up by attrition.
The top teams in the Big Ten lost last week with Michigan falling to Indiana and Michigan State falling to Georgetown. Meanwhile, teams like Cincinnati and Virginia continued to make us believers with major victories in the last week.
All in all it's an exercise in momentum. One loss isn't enough to drop too far, but teams in cold snaps like Oklahoma State and Wisconsin are getting close to making us forget about all they did earlier in the season.
Here’s where everyone stands entering the weekend:
Related: College Basketball Weekend Preview
College Basketball Pre-Weekend Power Rankings: Feb. 7
1. Syracuse (22-0, 9-0 ACC)
This weekend: Clemson (Sunday)
Trevor Cooney tied a school record with nine 3-pointers in Monday’s win over Notre Dame. That’s also as many treys as he had in the previous five games combined.
Last week: 2
2. Arizona (22-1, 9-1 Pac-12)
This weekend: Oregon State (Sunday)
The Wildcats have been walking a tightrope in the last two weeks. Arizona has to be thankful to have escaped at 3-1 after another close call with Oregon on Thursday.
Last week: 1
3. Florida (20-2, 9-0 SEC)
This weekend: Alabama
How balanced is Florida? No single player accounts for 20 percent of the Gators’ scoring in conference games.
Last week: 3
4. San Diego State (20-1, 9-0 MW)
This weekend: Nevada
The Aztecs dodged their first loss since Nov. 14 when they overcame a 14-point deficit to beat Boise State. With the game-winning assist, Xavier Thames continues to state his case as an All-American.
Last week: 5
5. Wichita State (24-0, 11-0 MVC)
This weekend: at Northern Iowa
After defeating Indiana State on Wednesday, Wichita State won’t face another RPI top 100 team until it hosts Missouri State on the last day of the regular season.
Last week: 9
6. Villanova (20-2, 8-1 Big East)
This weekend: Seton Hall
Since a cold start to Big East play, James Bell is averaging 21.3 points in his last six games.
Last week: 8
7. Kansas (17-5, 8-1 Big 12)
This weekend: West Virginia
Naadir Tharpe in three games from Jan. 20-Feb. 1: 6 of 14 from the field, 21 points. Naadir Tharpe against Baylor on Thursday: 9 of 13, 22 points.
Last week: 4
8. Michigan (17-5, 9-1 Big Ten)
This weekend: at Iowa
On Sunday, Indiana was the first opponent since Charlotte on Nov. 24 to hold Michigan to less than a point per possession. The Wolverines responded with 1.2 points per possession against Nebraska.
Last week: 6
9. Michigan State (20-3, 9-1 Big Ten)
This weekend: at Wisconsin
Adreian Payne returned Thursday in the win over Penn State, but now Michigan State is down Keith Appling.
Last week: 7
10. Creighton (18-3, 8-1 Big East)
This weekend: at St. John’s (Sunday)
The Bluejays score 40.4 percent of their points from the 3-pointer.
Last week: 10
11. Cincinnati (22-2, 11-0 American)
This weekend: at SMU
Sean Kilpatrick has averaged 25.3 points per game in the last four games as Cincy is running away with the AAC.
Last week: 14
12. Duke (18-5, 7-3 ACC)
This weekend: at Boston College
Mike Krzyzewski is showing more faith in Rasheed Sulaimon. The sophomore had 19 points and five assists against Wake Forest and 16 points and six assists against Syracuse.
Last week: 11
13. Iowa State (17-4, 5-4 Big 12)
This weekend: TCU
The next week or so will give Iowa State a chance to climb the Big 12 standings against TCU, West Virginia and Texas Tech.
Last week: 20
14. Saint Louis (21-2, 8-0 A-10)
This week: at La Salle
The Billikens need to get through La Salle to set up the Atlantic 10 game of the year against VCU in a week.
Last week: 15
15. Virginia (18-5, 9-1 ACC)
This weekend: at Georgia Tech
Virginia’s bench outscored Boston College’s reserves 39-10 on Wednesday night.
Last week: 15
16. Iowa (17-6, 6-4 Big Ten)
This weekend: Michigan
The Hawkeyes fell out of Big Ten race due to inability to close out big games.
Last week: 12
17. Louisville (19-4, 8-2 American)
This weekend: Off
The Cardinals still have time to work out issues with an off week followed by Temple, Rutgers and USF.
Last week: 16
18. Kentucky (17-5, 7-2 SEC)
This weekend: at Mississippi State
Welcome back, Willie Cauley-Stein. The sophomore big man had 18 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks Tuesday against Ole Miss.
Last week: 19
19. Texas (18-4, 7-2 Big 12)
This weekend: at Kansas State
The Longhorns are second in the Big 12 in adjusted defensive efficiency on KenPom.
Last week: NR
20. Memphis (17-5,7-3 American)
This weekend: Gonzaga
Six Tigers scored in double figures in 101-69 rout of Rutgers on Tuesday.
Last week: 22
21. Oklahoma (17-6, 6-4 Big 12)
This weekend: Baylor
Iowa State and West Virginia shredded the Sooners’ defense in the last two games.
Last week: 13
22. Oklahoma State (16-6, 4-5 Big 12)
This weekend: at Texas Tech
The Cowboys are 4-5 without Michael Cobbins this season and 3-3 without Stevie Clark. Neither will return this season.
Last week: 17
23. Wisconsin (18-5, 5-5 Big Ten)
This weekend: Michigan State (Sunday)
The Badgers last three Big Ten wins are over Illinois twice and once against Purdue.
Last week: 18
24. Gonzaga (21-3, 11-0 WCC)
This weekend: at Memphis
Even if the Bulldogs are down this season, they don’t have a true challenger in the West Coast Conference. Saturday will be huge for the resume.
Last week: NR
25. UCLA (17-5, 6-3 Pac-12)
This weekend: at USC
The Bruins strung together three nice wins (Stanford, Cal, Oregon) only to lose at Oregon State.
Last week: 24
Dropped out: No. 21 UConn, No. 23 Pittsburgh
What’s the fun in pinpointing that Doug McDermott is a strong contender for Big East Player of the Year? That’s a little obvious considering he’s the nation’s second leading scorer.
Of course, McDermott isn’t the only clear-cut player angling to be his league’s top player this season. The favorites for conference players of the year are more or less clear in many leagues.
Conference tournaments are roughly six weeks away, so we’re here to say the field for conference players of the year shouldn’t be set.
Granted, players like McDermott at Creighton, C.J. Fair at Syracuse, Jabari Parker at Duke and Nik Stauskas at Michigan are plenty deserving, but others are worth watching for top honors. These players maybe aren’t on the top teams, or they’re poised for great stretch runs, or they’ve only recently gone on hot streaks in league play.
Dark Horses for Conference Player of the Year honors
The Favorites: Tyler Ennis and C.J. Fair (Syracuse), Jabari Parker (Duke)
Dark Horse: Rodney Hood, Duke
If Hood converts his dunk against Syracuse or goes to the free throw line on a Rakeem Christmas foul on Saturday, maybe Hood is up there with the leaders. Either way, he’s still getting less fanfare thanks to playing with perhaps the nation’s best freshman in Jabari Parker. Hood is second on the Blue Devils at 16.9 points per game, but leads them in scoring in conference games (16.4 ppg).
Dark Horse II: Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia
Brogdon was 0 for 5 from the floor and scoreless in an embarrassing 87-52 loss to Tennessee on Dec. 30, but since then, he’s been Virginia’s most consistent player. Brogdon, who missed all of last season while recovering from foot surgery, has been more productive than teammate Joe Harris since conference play began. The sophomore guard is averaging 15.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists since league play began.
Dark Horse III: Lamar Patterson, Pittsburgh
Patterson is second only to T.J. Warren in scoring in conference games at 18.8 points per game, but the Panthers don’t have any wins over top teams in the league like Syracuse, Duke and Virginia. That may be enough of a knock on Patterson to keep him off a few ballots despite an outstanding season.
The Favorites: Sean Kilpatrick (Cincinnati), Shabazz Napier (Connecticut) and Russ Smith (Louisville)
Dark Horse: Markus Kennedy, SMU
The NCAA gets flak for being cold to athletes at times. Not for Markus Kennedy, though. Kennedy was able to surprise his mother in Philadelphia with a visit Saturday before the sergeant in the Air Force was deployed to Kuwait. SMU obtained a waiver from the NCAA to pay for the flight, but not until after Kennedy was 10 for 10 from the floor with 21 points and 15 rebounds in a key win over Memphis. Kennedy has five double-doubles in American Athletic Conference play for a team that should make its first NCAA Tournament in 21 years.
The Favorites: Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State), Andrew Wiggins (Kansas)
Dark Horse: Melvin Ejim, Iowa State
Is Ejim even the best candidate on his own team? That’s debatable. DeAndre Kane is putting up 16.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and six assists per game. Before Iowa State’s brief swoon in conference play, Kane was an All-America contender. Ejim, though, has been a rock in a frontcourt who has helped lift the Cyclones out of their recent slump. Ejim scored 44 total points and added 29 total rebounds in a sweep of the Oklahoma schools in a span of three days to lift his average to 18.8 points and eight rebounds in conference play.
Dark Horse II: Juwan Staten, West Virginia
If the Mountaineers were closer to playing in the NCAA Tournament, Staten would get more of a run for league player of the year. Still, West Virginia has improved from a tough out to a team able to beat teams with better postseason resumes (Baylor and Kansas State). The Dayton transfer is averaging 20.4 points per game in league play.
The Favorite: Doug McDermott (Creighton)
Dark Horse: Bryce Cotton, Providence
This is the league race with the least amount of suspense. McDermott could cap his stellar career as the National Player of the Year. Big East Player of the Year seems to be a given. In any other year, though, Cotton likely would be the guy. The Friars veteran is fourth in the Big East in usage rate, not a surprise considering he averages 21.3 points, 5.8 assists and 39.5 minutes per game. In a head-to-head matchup, Cotton scored 23 points to McDermott's 21 in the Friars' win on Jan. 18
The Favorites: Gary Harris (Michigan State) and Nik Stauskas (Michigan)
Dark Horse: Roy Devyn Marble, Iowa
The Hawkeyes need to knock off one of the top teams in the league when the country is watching. Still, Iowa rarely plays down to its competition, and the Hawkeyes have no let downs on the schedule so far. Give credit to the veteran Marble, who averages 17 points per game in league play.
Dark Horse II: Terran Petteway, Nebraska
Another great player on a team that’s going to the NIT. The sophomore Petteway remade himself during his redshirt season after transferring from Texas Tech, and now the 6-6, 209-pound guard averages 18.2 points per game. His emergence came Jan. 26 with a 35-point performance against Minnesota.
The Favorite: Nick Johnson (Arizona)
Dark Horse: Chasson Randle, Stanford
Back from a sophomore slump, Randle is carrying Stanford to a potential Tournament bid. His shooting percentage has gone from below 40 percent last season to 48.1 all while the Cardinal has played most of the season without point guard Aaron Bright. Stanford still needs a few more key wins to feel good about a bid, but Randle is leading the way at 18.8 points per game.
Dark Horse II: Justin Cobbs, Cal
Cobbs’ season isn’t all that different from last year. He’s still averaging more than 15 points per game, and his efficiency numbers from the floor haven’t changed dramatically. But Cobbs is the go-to player this season after playing as the running mate to Allen Crabbe as a junior. Cobbs’ game-winning shot against Arizona, though, makes him a contender.
The Favorites: Jabari Brown (Missouri), Casey Prather (Florida) and Julius Randle (Kentucky)
Dark Horse: Jordan McRae, Tennessee
Jarnell Stokes is the only SEC player averaging a double-double in conference play, but McRae may be the most valuable down the stretch. McRae scored 34 against Arkansas and 26 in a critical win against fellow bubble-dweller Ole Miss. A year ago, McRae went on a streak of eight consecutive games with at least 15 points — including five in a row with at least 20 — down the stretch. After Wednesday's loss to Vanderbilt, Tennessee may need another stretch like that to make the NCAA Tournament.
This is the stage of the season where every coach starts to dread the unexpected.
More or less, we know what to expect from top teams around the country. Of course, there will be upsets and surprises, but for the most part we can count on the good teams to more often than not put a consistent team on the court.
Just take Cincinnati, even if this isn't a team that’s not many people’s idea of a title contender. But the Bearcats have been consistent in at least one way by putting the same five players on the court for every game.
Not every team is as lucky as Cincinnati. Injuries and personnel changes have impacted Oklahoma State and Arizona in ways that could derail their major goals for the season.
From the undefeated teams, to the teams dealing with curve balls and teams that just got a little lucky, here are the key stats of the week.
College Basketball Key Stats of the Week: Feb. 5
24. Teams since 1976 to be undefeated in time for the first polls of February.
Arizona’s loss to Cal means the Wildcats won’t join the elite group to make it to this point of the season with an unblemished record. With Syracuse and Wichita State undefeated at the time of the first AP poll of February, the Orange and Shockers have joined a group of 22 other teams since Indiana’s undefeated team in 1975-76 to be unbeaten at this point. Here’s how the other 22 fared.
1. Starting lineup used by Cincinnati this season.
The Bearcats are 10-0 in the American but still have their share of detractors. That’s not without good reason: Cincinnati’s non-conference schedule is ranked 315th on KenPom. But Cincinnati has wins over Pittsburgh and Louisville, so that has to count for something. What’s most remarkable for Mick Cronin’s team aside from Sean Kilpatrick’s scoring is that Cronin has used only one starting lineup in 23 games this season. Kilpatrick, Justin Jackson, Tutus Rubles, Shaquille Thomas and Ge’Lawn Guyn have started every game this season.
64.6. Free throw percentage against Ohio State in the last two games.
Not that Ohio State has had anything to do with it, but the last two opponents’ struggles at the free throw line have helped the Buckeyes reverse their fortune. Wisconsin went 19 of 29, and Iowa went 12 of 19 from the line as the Buckeyes ended their slump with a pair of wins. To put those numbers in perspective, the 64.6 free throw percentage by Wisconsin and Iowa in the last two games would rank 325th nationally over the course of the season. And if you think home cooking is a factor here, consider that Ohio State was on the road for both dismal free throw shooting performances.
511. Minutes of experience lost by Oklahoma State without Michael Cobbins and Stevie Clark.
The Cowboys have a definite big four in Marcus Smart, Markel Brown, Le’Bryan Nash and Phil Forte, but the Pokes’ depth has been decimated in recent weeks with a season-ending injury to forward Michael Cobbins in late December and the dismissal of backup point guard Stevie Clark on Monday. They were only the seventh- and eighth-leading scorers, but their absence has been felt mightily. Combined, they played 511 minutes this season. The rest of the roster behind Cobbins and Clark has played 302 minutes.
8. Percentage points Arizona’s 2-point field goal rate drops without Brandon Ashley.
The loss of starting forward Brandon Ashely is a major hit for Arizona, which has played three consecutive less-than-dominant games. The last of which to Cal resulted in the Wildcats’ first loss of the season and last game with Brandon Ashley. As SI’s Luke Winn points out, Arizona will miss Ashley’s play around the rim. The senior shot 55 percent on 2-pointers this season. Take away his production and Arizona’s 2-point field goal rate drops from 51.2 percent to 50.4. That might not seem like a lot, but it was already middle of the road in the Pac-12. Without Ashley, Arizona’s 2-point field goal rate drops from fifth in the league to ninth.
1,403. Points lost in the AP poll by Wisconsin since Jan. 13.
Saturday’s matchup between Wisconsin and Ohio State ensured that one team would end a slump and another would continued. The Buckeyes’ 59-58 win means the Badgers are still searching for answers. In less than a month, Wisconsin was ranked third in the nation with 1,482 points in the AP poll on Jan. 13. Five losses in six games later, and Wisconsin is unranked with only 79 points in the voting.
719. Points gained in the AP poll by Texas since Jan. 13.
Wisconsin’s fall in part has been mirrored by the rise of Texas. The Longhorns didn’t appear on a single AP ballot in the Jan. 13 poll. After winning six games in a row and four consecutive against ranked teams capped by Saturday’s 81-69 win over Kansas. The Longhorns are now ranked 15th.
2. Teams to defeat four ranked teams in consecutive games this season.
On Jan. 20, Kansas did something that hadn’t been done since 1997 by winning defeating four consecutive ranked teams in four games. Texas needed only two weeks to match the feat. The Longhorns defeated No. 8 Iowa State, No. 22 Kansas State, No. 24 Baylor and No. 6 Kansas to match the Jayhawks four-for-four streak earlier this year.
461. Career record for 3-pointers set by Oakland’s Travis Bader.
On Sunday, Oakland’s Travis Bader surpassed J.J. Redick for the most career 3-pointers. Redick left Duke with 457 3-pointers during his career. Bader hit 5 of 7 against Milwaukee, giving him 461 for his career. Just for fun: Marshall Henderson is averaging nearly 4 3-pointers per game in 54 games at Ole Miss. If he averaged that over the 128 games Bader has played at Oakland, Henderson would have 510 3s.
Perhaps the greatest threat to Syracuse’s undefeated start won’t be games like Saturday, when the Orange defeated Duke in overtime in a wild atmosphere at the Carrier Dome.
Instead, the end for Syracuse’s winning streak may be games like Monday. All the emotion from two days earlier had left the building as Syracuse got the best shot from a capable Notre Dame team. Save for 3-point sharpshooter Trevor Cooney, the entire Syracuse roster had an off night in the 61-55 win.
Wichita State will have its own challenge this week with road games against the second place team in the Missouri Valley (Indiana State on Wednesday) and another road trip to a team tied for third (Northern Iowa on Saturday).
Going undefeated is near impossible in college basketball. No team has made it to Selection Sunday undefeated since UNLV in 1990-91 before the Runnin’ Rebels lost in the Final Four to Duke.
Since Indiana finished the 1975-76 season undefeated, 24 teams have been unbeaten at the time of the first Associated Press poll in February.
Making this season more rare is the double of Syracuse and Wichita State unblemished to start the month. Since Indiana ran the table, two teams have been unblemished at this stage of the season only four times before 2013-14.
The last time two teams started February undefeated, a Jameer Nelson-led St. Joseph’s team and Stanford were both 18-0 at this stage of the season.
What can Syracuse and Wichita State expect for the remainder of the season? In all likelihood, a loss. The Shockers have the easier schedule, but they also haven’t won the Missouri Valley Tournament since 1987.
Here are a few other notables looking back at the teams undefeated at this stage of the season:
• In the last decade only three of the six teams that started February undefeated stayed that way into March. The best winning streaks to start the season since 2003-04 are as follows:
2004-05 Illinois (29-0, ended March 6 at Ohio State)
2003-04 St. Joseph’s (27-0, ended March 11 by Xavier in the Atlantic 10 Tournament)
2003-04 Stanford (26-0, ended March 6 at Washington)
2007-08 Memphis (26-0, ended Feb. 23 by Tennessee)
2010-11 Ohio State (24-0, ended Feb. 21 at Wisconsin)
2011-12 Murray State (23-0, ended Feb. 9 by Tennessee State)
• Since Indiana went undefeated in 1975-76, only one other team undefeated at the start of February won the national title (2001-02 Duke), three others reached the title game (2007-08 Memphis, 2004-05 Illinois and 1978-79 Indiana State), and three topped out in the Final Four (1995-96 UMass, 1990-91 UNLV, 1980-81 Virginia)
• Jim Boeheim has been here before as his 1999-2000 Syracuse team started 19-0 before losing on Feb. 5 to Seton Hall. Among the coaches who also have twice reached the first week of February undefeated since 1975-76 include John Calipari at UMass and Memphis, Jerry Tarkanian at UNLV and Ray Meyer at DePaul.
• The names of players who have been undefeated at this point of the season is staggering: Larry Bird at Indiana State, Ralph Sampson III at Virginia, Michael Jordan at North Carolina and Christian Laettner at Duke.
|Undefeated in the first week of February since 1975-76|
|Wichita State (23-0)|
|2011-12||Murray State (23-0)||31-2||Round of 32 (lost to Marquette)|
|2010-11||Ohio State (21-0)||34-3||Sweet 16 (Ohio State)|
|2007-08||Memphis (21-0)||38-2||National runner up (Kansas)|
|2004-05||Illinois (23-0)||37-2||National runner up (North Carolina)|
|2003-04||Stanford (18-0)||30-2||Round of 32 (Alabama)|
|St. Joseph's (18-0)||30-2||Elite Eight (Oklahoma State)|
|1999-2000||Syracuse (20-0)||26-6||Sweet 16 (Michigan State)|
|1996-97||Kansas (22-0)||34-2||Sweet 16 (Arizona)|
|1995-96||UMass (21-0)||35-2||Final Four (Kentucky)|
|1991-92||Duke (17-0)||34-2||National champion|
|Oklahoma State (20-0)||28-8||Sweet 16 (Michigan)|
|1990-91||UNLV (18-0)||34-1||Final Four (Duke)|
|1987-88||BYU (15-0)||26-6||Round of 32 (Louisville)|
|1983-84||North Carolina (20-0)||28-3||Sweet 16 (Indiana)|
|DePaul (17-0)||27-3||Sweet 16 (Wake Forest)|
|1982-83||UNLV (18-0)||28-3||Round of 32 (Utah)|
|1981-82||Missouri (18-0)||27-4||Sweet 16 (Houston)|
|1980-81||Oregon State (17-0)||26-2||Round of 32 (Kansas State)|
|Virginia (18-0)||29-4||Final Four (North Carolina)|
|1979-80||DePaul (19-0)||26-2||Round of 32 (UCLA)|
|1978-79||Indiana State (20-0)||33-1||National runner up (Michigan State)|
|1976-77||San Francisco (21-0)||29-2||First round (UNLV)|
|1975-76||Indiana (18-0)||32-0||National champion|
Jim Boeheim called the win over Duke one of the best games he’d coached at the Carrier Dome. ESPN’s Dick Vitale called it one of the best games he’d ever called.
The only question: Why did it take so long for such a game to occur?
Syracuse and Duke lived up to its promise of two national title-contending teams meeting for the first time in 16 years, but it was only a slice of a chaotic basketball weekend.
Seven ranked teams lost to unranked foes on Saturday and Sunday. Five top-10 teams lost, not least of which was one of three remaining undefeated teams (Arizona) and one of the flavors of the week (Michigan).
That leaves Syracuse and Wichita State as the only undefeated teams in the country as the calendar turns to March.
The next question is how long these winning streaks can last. Both Pittsburgh and Duke pushed Syracuse at the Carrier Dome. The Orange will play both on the road in February.
What appears to be the toughest road stretch for Wichita State begins this week with a trip to Indiana State on Wednesday and another to Northern Iowa on Saturday.
The 10 Most Important Things in College Basketball this Week
1a. We want more of what Syracuse and Duke delivered
Few regular season games can match what occurred at the Carrier Dome on Saturday. Syracuse’s 91-89 win in overtime over Duke will stand with any NCAA Tournament game in 2014 as the highlight of the year. Two 900-win coaches went back and forth strategically, the stars performed, and unsung heroes made their impacts. If this is what an expanded ACC — with Louisville joining next season, mind you — we’ll take it.
1b. C.J. Fair and the Syracuse frontcourt delivered
Perhaps an outsized amount of attention has been given to Syracuse’s fantastic freshman point guard. True, Tyler Ennis came up with a key basket at the end and nine assists in the win over Duke, but this was the C.J. Fair show for a good bit. The veteran forward showed off his ability to score from any spot inside the arc, finishing 12 of 20 for 28 points. Jerami Grant added 24, including a perfect 10 for 10 from the free throw line. And Rakeem Christmas defended Rodney Hood on a potential dunk to take a lead with 14.3 remaining. Christmas could have been called for a foul, but the call never came, keeping Syracuse ahead.
1c. Duke is national title worthy
The Blue Devils had their lapses in ACC play, but there was enough Saturday to show Duke has the pieces for a title run. Jabari Parker was in foul trouble, but the Blue Devils kept coming back against undefeated team on the road. Most encouraging was the play of role players like Amile Jefferson with six offensive rebounds, Tyler Thornton with three consecutive 3-pointers late in the second half and Rasheed Sulaimon and Andre Dawkins combining for 30 points.
2a. Arizona is about to get tested twice over
Arizona’s first loss of the season seemed imminent in retrospect. On Wednesday, the Wildcats needed all 40 minutes to pull away for a 10-point win over Utah before a defensive stand and a late 3 from Nick Johnson finally put away Stanford. Saturday's late-night loss to Cal wasn’t so much a shocking loss for Arizona as much as it was a culmination of three consecutive less-than-dominant games. The bigger news is the season-ending injury to starting forward Brandon Ashley, who averages 11.5 points and 5.8 rebounds. The Wildcats can insert freshman Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (8 ppg, 5.4 rpg) or go with a three-guard lineup. Either way, this is will be a major adjustment for a team that has gotten this far without a major incident.
2b. This shot from Justin Cobbs:
3a. Rick Barnes has gone from hot seat to possible national coach of the year
After years of letdowns, Texas is basking in being one of the nation’s true surprise teams, a development that took one more giant step with a 81-69 win over Kansas in Austin. Rick Barnes may not win national coach of the year, but he should be in the discussion. Texas, the same team that lost to Houston in the CBI last season, has defeated four ranked teams in four games.
3b. Texas beat up Kansas up front
The most impressive part of Texas’ win? The way the Longhorns outworked Kansas around the basket. Forward Jonathan Holmes finished with 22 points and three blocks while center Cameron Ridley, a McDonald’s All-American who once appeared to be a bust, had 10 rebounds and four blocks. Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins entered the game on a two-game hot streak before finishing 2 of 12 from the field.
4a. Kentucky woke up, but there’s still reason to be worried.
Kentucky came back from a disconcerting loss to LSU to beat Missouri 84-79. That’s a good road win over one of the few NCAA contenders in the the SEC, but there’s still plenty here for John Calipari to nitpick. Kentucky still struggled to defend guards Jabari Brown and Jordan Clarkson as most SEC teams do. The Tigers duo combined for 21 of 34 shots and 61 points. Missouri got little outside of that pairing, however. Meanwhile, Kentucky’s four best freshmen combined for 73 points and showed a good spark after the LSU loss.
4b. Hello, Jabari Brown
5. Ohio State has stopped the bleeding while Wisconsin is still in a tailspin
The Buckeyes and Badgers started a combined 31-0 and went 1-9 thereafter. Someone had to win Saturday, and Ohio State waited until the final possession to seal the 59-58 win. The Buckeyes moved starter Shannon Scott to a more familiar role as the top guy of the bench. He and his replacement in the starting lineup, Sam Thompson, combined for only 11 points, but Ohio State was more aggressive in the offensive end. Wisconsin, though, struggled to find a shot for the second consecutive game, finishing 3 of 17 from 3-point range.
6. Yogi Ferrell is keeping things interesting for Indiana
Ferrell was one of the most impactful players of the weekend. He scored 27 points and guarded Nik Stauskas, who scored only six, in Indiana’s 63-52. It’s been tempting to write off the Hoosiers this season after losses to Nebraska on the road and Northwestern at home in recent weeks, but Indiana is still in the thick of the NCAA at-large conversation thanks to wins over Wisconsin and Michigan.
7. Michigan State needs Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson in the worst way
The Spartans perhaps stretched their roster as far as it could go without Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson. Michigan State lost 64-60 to Georgetown at Madison Square Garden on Saturday in what might be the Spartans’ last game without Payne. Dawson’s return is weeks away, but Payne could rejoin the team against Penn State on Thursday after missing seven games. The Hoyas had lost five in a row.
8a. Baylor ended its funk in unlikely fashion
Baylor’s collapse ended (Scott Drew hopes) at a time no one could have envisioned. Baylor visited Stillwater with altered travel plays due to weather and no Kenny Chery due to injury. Even without its point guard, Baylor defeated Oklahoma State 76-70 for the Bears’ second Big 12 win. Gary Franklin had 11 points and five assists subbing for Chery, but Brady Heslip’s long-range scoring was the story of the day as Heslip hit six 3s in a 20-point performance.
8b. What’s wrong with Phil Forte and Marcus Smart?
Smart got his seven assists, but he has not been the Big 12 player of the year contender in recent games. Smart has been brutal from 3-point range in recent games, shooting 3 of 28 from beyond the arc in the last four games. The real question is why a 29.7-percent 3-point shooter is taking seven 3s against Baylor. Sharpshooter Phil Forte also was in a funk, going 0 of 4 from the floor. Oklahoma State hasn’t really been the same since forward Michael Cobbins was lost for the season, and now Stevie Clark is in trouble again. The freshman point guard was arrested for the second time this season during the weekend.
9. Virginia is legitimately in the race for the ACC title
The Cavaliers defeated Pittsburgh 48-45 on the road Sunday to put the Cavaliers in second place in the ACC standings. The Cavaliers don’t have the national notoriety of some of the teams in their league, but they’re right in the ACC race. Virginia is 7-1, already had its meeting with Duke and catches Syracuse at home. The sub-50 point total isn’t appealing, but the Cavs deserve credit for winning on an off night for Joe Harris (4 of 12, 11 points). Malcolm Brogdon was the hero again.
10. Larry Brown is going to the NCAA Tournament
SMU responded from its setback against USF to beat a ranked Memphis team 87-72 on Saturday, a major statement win for a team seeking to beef up its NCAA Tournament resume. As long as the Mustangs don’t collapse down the stretch, SMU can use these two top-50 wins (Connecticut is the other) for an at-large bid. SMU hasn’t been to the Tournament since 1993, and coach Larry Brown hasn’t been since leading Kansas to the 1988 title.
• Give credit to North Carolina freshman Kennedy Meeks playing a role in the Tar Heels quest for consistency. He had 20 rebounds in 39 minutes in the last two games as North Carolina has won four of five.
• While you were getting ready for Super Bowl festivities, UCLA lost 71-67 to Oregon State. Arizona has its questions coming out of the Cal loss, but UCLA continues to be one of a handful of Pac-12 teams without the ability to consistently defeated the lower-tier teams in the league.
• Point guard DeAndre Kane was the early frontrunner for Big 12 player of the year, but Iowa State forwards Georges Niang and Melvin Ejim have played a lead role in pulling Iowa State out of its funk. Niang had 27 points and Ejim had 22 points and 16 boards in the 81-75 win over Oklahoma on Saturday
• Chris Collins should be in the Big Ten Coach of the Year discussion even if his team won’t play in the NCAA Tournament. Northwestern defeated Minnesota (minus Andre Hollins) 55-54 for back-to-back Big Ten road wins. The Wildcats are 5-5 in the league including wins over Wisconsin and Indiana on the road.
• Not a great look for Xavier: The Musketeers lost 68-60 at home to Seton Hall for its second consecutive loss. Xavier can’t afford many of those kinds of losses.
• Florida State’s stock has plummeted since starting 12-4. The Seminoles’ 53-49 home loss to Clemson was their fourth in five games.
• West Virginia is probably NIT-bound, but the Mountaineers had a nice week with a win at Baylor and a 10-point win over Kansas State. West Virginia needs all the momentum it can get. The schedule down the stretch is brutal.
The race for the national freshman of the year has been in flux for most of the season, which is great news for lists like these.
Jabari Parker started on a hot streak before Aaron Gordon took center stage in a head-to-head matchup between Duke and Arizona. Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid have both looked like Kansas’ best freshman at certain times. And the rest of the Big 12 — Kansas State, Texas and Oklahoma — have provided candidates for the most underrated freshman of the season.
This week has a new No. 1 rookie after we picked Embiid seven days ago. This week, we’re going with Parker for the freshman trending upward thanks to three consecutive double-doubles for a team that’s entering its biggest showdown of conference play.
That game against Syracuse could change things up again thanks to the Orange point guard Tyler Ennis. But Kansas’ rookies can’t be ignored in a tough road trip against Texas and the Longhorns’ freshman Isaiah Taylor.
The Freshman 15: Jan. 31
1. Jabari Parker, Duke
Parker is in fine form as the Blue Devils visit the Carrier Dome on Saturday with three consecutive double-doubles. The forward also set a Duke freshman record with 12 20-point games this season after a 21-point effort against Pittsburgh.
2. Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
Has Wiggins reached the turning point of the season? The Oklahoma State game was not a shining performance from the rookie, but since then, he’s twice set career highs. The 27 points against TCU may be easy to overlook but not 29 points and seven rebounds against Iowa State on Wednesday. He was 18 of 29 from the field this week.
3. Joel Embiid, Kansas
Embiid’s per game numbers since Jan. 11 are impressive enough (13.3 points, 8.3 rebounds), but he is averaging 20.8 points and 13 rebounds per 40 minutes.
4. Tyler Ennis, Syracuse
Ennis is third in the ACC in assist-to-turnover ratio in conference play (2.9) and second in assists (5.4) and steals (2.0).
5. Aaron Gordon, Arizona
Arizona’s close call against Stanford on Wednesday was not helped by a five-point performance by Gordon in one of the few off games of the season. Gordon shot 5 of 23 from the field last week.
6. Julius Randle, Kentucky
Randle struggled on both sides of the court just like everyone for Kentucky in the 87-82 loss to LSU on Tuesday. Defenses are collapsing on Randle, but he’s still averaging 16.1 points and 10.2 rebounds.
7. James Young, Kentucky
Young was one of the few Wildcats making shots in the loss to LSU, hitting 8 of 18 from the field for 23 points. His shot hasn’t been consistent all season, but he’s shot 51.2 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3-point range in the last three games.
8. Jordan Woodard, Oklahoma
The point guard of one of the nation’s surprise teams, Woodard had 18 points and only two turnovers in his matchup against Marcus Smart for Oklahoma’s signature win of the season.
9. Isaiah Taylor, Texas
Taylor broke out with 27 points in the 74-60 win over Baylor on Saturday, the Longhorns third consecutive win over a ranked team (though Baylor won’t be ranked for much longer).
10. Jordan Mickey, LSU
The Tigers’ top freshman has helped LSU make a push onto the NCAA Tournament bubble in recent games, averaging 13 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.3 blocks in his last four games.
11. Noah Vonleh, Indiana
Vonleh grabbed only three rebounds in the loss to Nebraska on Thursday, but that followed three consecutive double-digit game. Vonleh, however, remains a limited threat in the offensive end.
12. Nigel Williams-Goss, Washington
The Huskies won’t go to the NCAA Tournament unless they win the Pac-12 tourney, but Williams-Goss is having an outstanding season at point guard for Lorenzo Romar. He’s filled up the stat sheet with 4.4 rebounds and 4.1 assists while breaking out for 32 points against Oregon State on Saturday.
13. Derrick Walton, Michigan
Walton has come into his own in recent games as Michigan's point guard, highlighted by 19 points, six rebounds and four assists in the signature win at Michigan State on Saturday.
14. Marcus Foster, Kansas State
Foster had his worst game of the season on Tuesday with 2 points on 1-of-8 shooting against Texas Tech, but he’s still averaging 12.9 points in Big 12 games.
15. Bobby Portis, Arkansas
Portis has returned to form in recent games even if Arkansas has not. The power forward had 16 points and seven rebounds against Missouri and 18 points and nine rebounds against Auburn in the last two games.
Take a break from Super Bowl preparations Saturday — and Sunday — to watch a little college basketball. Trust us.
While last weekend was short on top matchups, this week promises plenty of key storylines on heading into the biggest sports day of the year.
The showdown between Duke and Syracuse is the top game of the week as the Blue Devils appear to have solved some of their defensive shortcomings just in time for their first trip to the Carrier Dome.
The meeting will be the first between Jim Boehiem and Mike Krzyzewski since the 1998 NCAA Tournament when Duke defeated Syracuse in the Sweet 16. Since then, the two coaches have combined for three national championships and reached the 900-win marks at their respective schools.
In other games, top contenders face tricky road matchups against surprise teams. Kansas faces Texas in Austin as the Longhorns have been one of the biggest surprises in the Big 12. Arizona dodged Stanford on Wednesday, but its trip to the Bay Area will continue against a Cal team that is in NCAA Tournament contention.
Related: This week's NCAA Tournament Projections and Bubble Watch
College Basketball Weekend Preview: Feb. 1-2
Game of the Week:
Duke at Syracuse (Saturday, 6:30 p.m., ESPN)
The Blue Devils have the outside shooting to attack the Orange’s zone defense, ranking fifth nationally 3-point efficiency (41.4 percent). Meanwhile, Duke’s recently reacquired ability to defend will be tested. The Blue Devils held Pittsburgh forward Lamar Patterson to 4 of 14 shooting on Monday, but defending forwards C.J. Fair and Jerami Grant will be another challenge. Syracuse point guard Tyler Ennis didn’t have his best game of the season in the road scare Wednesday against Wake Forest, but this should still be a showdown between two of the nation’s top freshmen in Ennis and Jabari Parker.
Related: College Basketball Pre-Weekend Power Rankings
Baylor at Oklahoma State (Saturday, 2 p.m., ESPN)
It’s time to panic in Waco. The Bears, who beat a Colorado (with Spencer Dinwiddie) and Kentucky in non-conference action, dropped to 1–6 in the Big 12 with Tuesday’s home loss to West Virginia. This team is too good to be sinking to an NIT bid. Baylor has been nothing short of inept since conference play started. Oklahoma State’s situation isn’t as dire as Baylor’s, but the Cowboys have lost two of their last three games and struggled to beat West Virginia at home.
Arizona at Cal (Saturday, 10:30 p.m., Pac-12 Networks)
Arizona’s undefeated start, now at 21 games, has been tested in the last two games. The Wildcats’ 10-point win over Utah on Sunday was more hotly contested than the final score indicated. On Wednesday, Arizona held Stanford to one field goals in the final 9:30 to escape Palo Alto with a win. Cal has lost three in a row, but Mike Montgomery’s team is solid on both sides of the court and has some nice veteran leadership in the form of senior guard Justin Cobbs and senior big man Richard Solomon. It would not be wise to pick against Arizona, but don’t be shocked if this game goes down to the wire.
Tricky Road Trip:
Kansas at Texas (Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPN)
Texas continues to be one of the nation’s biggest surprises. The Longhorns lost their top four scorers from the worst team of the Rick Barnes era, yet somehow find themselves among the upper echelon of the Big 12 with a 5–2 mark in league play. Kansas, of course, remains the team to beat. The Jayhawks, loaded with elite talent, are 6–0 in the Big 12 and appear to be getting better every game. Andrew Wiggins, the subject of lofty expectations to start the season, has set career highs in the last two games with 27 points against TCU and 29 against Iowa State.
Virginia at Pittsburgh (Sunday, 12:30 p.m., ESPNU)
Both teams are darlings in the advanced analytics world with Pitt ranked 12th in KenPom and Virginia one step behind. That’s with good reason. Both teams play sound basketball on both ends of the court, and with the exception of Virginia early in the season, neither loses games to inferior competition. That said, neither team has taken down a upper-echelon team this season.
Best Individual Matchup:
Oklahoma at Iowa State (Saturday, 4 p.m., Big 12 Network)
Oklahoma’s Ryan Spangler, a Gonzaga transfer, may be one of the top rebounders in the country. After a 17-board game against Oklahoma State on Monday, Spangler is averaging 13.5 rebounds in his last six games. The rematch will pit Spangler against Iowa State forward Melvin Ejim for the second time this season.
Odd Non-Conference Game:
Michigan State vs. Georgetown (Saturday in New York, 3 p.m., Fox Sports 1)
Michigan State steps out of Big Ten play for a trip to Madison Square Garden to play a Georgetown team that has lost five games in row. The Hoyas, thought by many to be a legitimate Big East title contender, slipped to 3–6 in the league with a loss at home to Villanova on Monday night. When healthy, Michigan State is arguably the best team in the country. The Spartans, however, have not been healthy in weeks. The game is part of a basketball showcase the day before the Super Bowl, including Marquette at St. John’s and the Miami Heat at the New York Knicks.
Other Games to Watch:
Ohio State at Wisconsin (Saturday, noon, ESPN)
Ohio State and Wisconsin don’t lose on the same day very often, much less both both at home to Penn State and Northwestern. The two teams were among the last undefeated teams in the country, but Wisconsin has lost four of five while Ohio State has lost five of six. Wisconsin has had a hard time defending guards on the perimeter including Minnesota’s Drew Mathieu and Northwestern’s Drew Crawford. Ohio State, meanwhile, has been a mess on offense since conference play began.
Kentucky at Missouri (Saturday, 1 p.m., CBS)
Kentucky’s season hit a low point this week with a listless performance Tuesday against LSU. The Wildcats had no answer for Tigers big man Johnny O’Bryant, who scored 29 points. Missouri isn’t built the same way, but guards Jabari Brown and Jordan Clarkson are among the most prolific scorers in the SEC. Missouri’s season hasn’t gone as well as the Tigers would have hoped, but the are coming off a win at Arkansas.
Memphis at SMU (Saturday, 2 p.m., CBS Sports Network)
Larry Brown has worked wonders in his second season at SMU, putting the Mustangs into NCAA Tournament contention. The 78-71 loss to USF on Tuesday was a notable setback, though, meaning the Mustangs need to reassert themselves against a top American Athletic Conference team. This visit from Memphis on Saturday figures to be the most anticipated home game for the program in decades. The Tigers have been inconsistent, but Josh Pastner’s team has all the right pieces — talented young players, veteran leadership, solid guard play and quality big men.
Michigan at Indiana (Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS)
Michigan is fresh off one of the best eight-day stretches in school history. The Wolverines sandwiched wins at Wisconsin and Michigan State around a win at home against Iowa. This team is 7–0 in the Big Ten — and has done it without preseason All-American Mitch McGary. Indiana, treading water in the tough Big Ten, has a win over Wisconsin (at home) on its résumé, but the Hoosiers sure could use another quality victory to impress the selection committee.
The number of undefeated teams remaining in college basketball has remained steady at three since Jan. 14.
Saturday may be the single day that’s most likely to change.
Granted, the three undefeated teams — Arizona, Syracuse and Wichita State — are all likely to be favored this weekend. But the weekend will still be tricky for at least two of them.
Arizona has been flirting with its first upset in the last two games, and now visits a well-coached Cal team. Syracuse will face the best team of any of the unbeatens, though, when Duke makes its first trip to the Carrier Dome. Wichita State is the least likely to lose this weekend against an Evansville team with a losing record. The Shockers’ biggest tests will come next week.
Arizona and Syracuse may be staying put at Nos. 1-2 heading into the weekend, but there’s been movement elsewhere.
Related: This week's NCAA Tournament Projections and Bubble Watch
College Basketball Pre-Weekend Power Rankings: Jan. 31
1. Arizona (21-0, 8-0 Pac-12)
This weekend: at Cal
The second half against Stanford showcased the best of Arizona this season: Stifling defense and a big shot from Nick Johnson.
Last week: 1
2. Syracuse (20-0, 7-0 ACC)
This weekend: Duke
The Orange have played three of the last four games on the road, but the Carrier Dome crowd gets back-to-back marquee games against Pittsburgh and Duke
Last week: 2
Related: Duke-Syracuse highlights weekend
3. Florida (18-2, 7-0 SEC)
This weekend: Texas A&M
The Gators finally got a resolution from the NCAA on stud freshman Chris Walker, but he won’t be able to play until Tuesday against Missouri.
Last week: 4
4. Kansas (16-4, 7-0 Big 12)
This weekend: at Texas
Andrew Wiggins has set career highs in back-to-back games, but don’t forget about Naadir Tharpe, who had 12 points and 12 assists against Iowa State on Nov. 29.
Last week: 5
5. San Diego State (18-1, 7-0 Mountain West)
This weekend: Colorado State
The Aztecs haven’t lost since Nov. 14, but offensive efficiency remains in question. San Diego State ranks 302nd nationally in effective field goal percentage.
Last week: 6
6. Michigan (16-4, 8-0 Big Ten)
This weekend: at Indiana (Sunday)
Going by the numbers, Michigan’s offense is better this season than it was with Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. a year ago.
Last week: 14
7. Michigan State (19-2, 7-1 Big Ten)
This weekend: vs. Georgetown (New York)
The Spartans’ loss to Michigan on Saturday was as deflating as any defeat, so give a ton of credit to Michigan State recovering for an overtime road win over Iowa on Tuesday.
Last week: 3
8. Villanova (18-2, 7-1 Big East)
This weekend: at Temple
In most seasons, a three-game road trip against Marquette, Georgetown and Temple would be tough. Not this season. The Wildcats can sweep the whole thing.
Last week: 8
9. Wichita State (22-0, 9-0 Missouri Valley)
This weekend: Evansville
The Shockers haven’t been challenged since Missouri State took them to overtime on Jan. 11. Will that change next week at Indiana State and at Northern Iowa?
Last week: 7
10. Creighton (18-3, 8-1 Big East)
This weekend: DePaul (Friday)
Doug McDermott’s historic season continued with a game-winning 25-footer and season-high 39 points against St. John’s on Tuesday.
Last week: 11
11. Duke (17-4, 6-2 ACC)
This weekend: at Syracuse
Recent lineup change has Quinn Cook coming off the bench along with Andre Dawkins.
Last week: 16
12. Iowa (16-5, 5-3 Big Ten)
This weekend: at Illinois
The Hawkeyes are as sound a team in the country, but Iowa is 0-5 against RPI top 25 teams.
Last week: 12
13. Oklahoma (17-4, 6-2 Big 12)
This weekend: at Iowa State
The Sooners’ entire starting five averages double-digit scoring.
Last week: NR
14. Cincinnati (20-2, 9-0 American)
This weekend: USF (Sunday)
The Bearcats had a light non-conference schedule, so the Bearcats have made the most of wins over Pittsburgh and Louisville.
Last week: 20
15. Saint Louis (19-2, 6-0 Atlantic 10)
This weekend: George Mason
The Billikens are 21-1 in their last 22 Atlantic 10 games including the league tournament.
Last week: 13
16. Louisville (17-4, 6-2 American)
This weekend: UCF
Point guards Terry Rozier and Chris Jones had miserable games Thursday in a loss to Cincinnati.
Last week: 10
17. Oklahoma State (16-4, 4-3 Big 12)
This weekend: Baylor
The Cowboys are 1-3 in Big 12 road games. They’ll be happy to return to Stillwater for back-to-back games to start February.
Last week: 9
18. Wisconsin (17-4, 4-4 Big Ten)
This weekend: Ohio State
The Badgers got burned by another top guard in Drew Crawford in the Northwestern loss, and Badgers players not named Ben Brust shot 8 of 39 against the Wildcats.
Last week: 17
19. Kentucky (15-5, 5-2 SEC)
This weekend: at Missouri
Kentucky played little defense in an 87-82 loss to LSU. The Wildcats need to rebound in a hurry.
Last week: 19
20. Iowa State (15-4, 3-4 Big 12)
This weekend: Oklahoma
The Cyclones tested Kansas in Lawrence on Wednesday but came up short in an 92-81 loss.
Last week: 18
21. UConn (17-4, 5-3 American)
This weekend: Off
It’s nearly February and Shabazz Napier still leads the Huskies in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals.
Last week: 21
22. Memphis (16-4, 6-2 American)
This weekend: at SMU
Only 30 teams take a lower rate of 3-point shots among all their attempts from the field than Memphis’ 26.2 percent.
Last week: 22
23. Pittsburgh (18-3, 6-2 ACC)
This weekend: Virginia (Sunday)
Talented forwards Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna will be tested against a stout defensive team in Virginia.
Last week: 15
24. UCLA (17-4, 6-2 Pac-12)
This weekend: at Oregon State
Many teams have tried, but the Bruins have proven they are the second-best team in a solid Pac-12.
Last week: NR
25. Virginia (16-5, 7-1 ACC)
This weekend: at Pittsburgh (Sunday)
Malcolm Brogdon has been one of the breakout players in ACC play, averaging 15.1 points per game in the last eight.
Last week: 25
Dropped out: No. 23 UMass, No. 24 Minnesota
Beyond the quarterbacks, Tennessee and Wisconsin have their fair share of rooting interests in the Super Bowl.
Led by Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, no school will have more of their former players in the Super Bowl than the Volunteers. Manning and three others play for Denver.
Wisconsin isn’t far behind with four players in the Super Bowl. Wilson is one of three Badgers on the Seahawks 53-man roster heading into Sunday.
Beyond the colleges for the two quarterbacks in the Super Bowl, certain corners of the state of California will be watching their own favorite sons. The state of California produced 22 players on Super Bowl rosters, as many as the next two states combined.
Athlon Sports mapped the 53-man rosters for both the Seahawks and the Broncos by college and high school. Here’s what we found:
The maps are interactive. Zoom in and out to check different areas and find names of each player. The Broncos are marked in orange, and the Seahawks are marked in green.
Where the Super Bowl players went to college
• Gary Andersen may be the coach with more reasons to brag than others. On the one hand, he can sell the four Super Bowl players at his current stop at Wisconsin, including running back Montee Ball for the Broncos and linebacker O’Brien Schofield, defensive back Chris Maragos and Wilson for the Seahawks.
Andersen, a first-year coach in 2013, can’t really play up player development for those four, but he can for linebacker Bobby Wagner and running back Robert Turbin, two Seahawks who played for Andersen at Utah State.
• After Tennessee (five) and Wisconsin (four), some of the usual suspects have three players in the Super Bowl: Florida, Georgia, Stanford, Texas and USC.
Among the surprises with three apiece include Kentucky (linebackers Danny Trevathan and Wesley Woodyard and tight end Jacob Tamme), San Diego State (running back Ronnie Hillman, linebacker Heath Farwell and long snapper Aaron Brewer) and Texas Tech (wide receiver Wes Welker and guards Louis Vasquez and Manny Ramirez).
• NC State has up to four players in the Super Bowl, assuming you count Wilson. The Seahawks quarterback graduated from NC State before transferring to Wisconsin. The other NC State products in the Super Bowl are linebacker Nate Irving, defensive end J.R. Sweezy and kicker Steven Hauschka.
• Schools conspicuously absent from the Super Bowl include rivals Ohio State and Michigan.
• The SEC rules again: The league’s current lineup produced 22 players in the Super Bowl from 10 different schools. Only Auburn, Missouri, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt are absent.
After the SEC’s 22, the Pac-12 checked in with 16 and the ACC, Big 12 and Big Ten with 11 each.
Where the Super Bowl players went to high school
A tip of the hat to Dallas Jackson of NationalHSFootball.com for his charts of each players' high school details. Check his site for where each player ranked as a recruit:
Denver Broncos | Seattle Seahawks
• California led all home states with 22 players taking up 106 roster spots. The Golden State’s high total isn’t that surprising. However, that California’s total equalled that of Texas (12) and Florida (10) is surprising considering all three are considered on equal footing in recruiting.
The next most represented states were Georgia (eight) and Virginia (six).
• Two high schools will have two players each in the Super Bowl: Norfolk (Va.) Maury claims graduates Kam Chancellor, a Seattle defensive back, and Vinston Painter, a Broncos offensive tackle. Both went to college at Virginia Tech.
Colony High in Ontario, Calif., produced Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner and Denver cornerback Omar Bolden.
The ceiling for the 2013-14 Kentucky team continues to be a moving target.
Before the season, Kentucky's fantastic freshmen had Big Blue Nation thinking national championship and quietly talking about running the table.
The gaudy record was put in doubt by the third game of the season with a loss to Michigan State. That the Spartans were a veteran team also ranked in the top three raised few red flags. Then came losses to Baylor and North Carolina, talented but inconsistent squads. The 73-66 win over Louisville on Dec. 28 seemed to be a turning point, at least until SEC play started.
Then came the SEC speed bumps. Arkansas was a fluky game in officiating, lost on a last-second putback. Few teams win in Fayetteville, anyway.
Losing at LSU on Tuesday isn’t totally embarrassing on paper, but Kentucky never led, rarely defended and often looked disinterested. In short, it was a game that could be a harbinger of things to come or a wake-up call.
No, Kentucky’s not on the NCAA Tournament bubble quite yet, but the Wildcats have only two RPI top-50 wins and four losses to teams ranked between No. 51-100. Kentucky has hardly looked the part of a team capable of winning four to six NCAA Tournament games in a row.
So what’s gone wrong and how worried should Kentucky fans be with six weeks to Selection Sunday?
What’s Gone Wrong at Kentucky?
Kentucky doesn’t always do that team thing
Only a few weeks ago, John Calipari reiterated that his team is full of freshmen who at this time last year were the centerpiece of their teams. Against college veterans, one freshman can’t win a game on his own. That’s valid — Kansas had a learning curve with its young roster, and Duke’s Jabari Parker had his own adjustment period after storming out of the gates. But it’s nearly February, and Kentucky’s rookies don’t always look like they enjoy playing together. This is a cliche argument, but instances like this only reinforce the lack of chemistry. For example:
(h/t @DrewFranklinKSR of KentuckySportsRadio.com).
The “What are you doing?” factor
Kentucky’s fate likely was sealed in the 87-82 loss to LSU in the final seconds even after three Aaron Harrison 3-point baskets helped cut a 10-point deficit to five. But with 11 seconds left, Kentucky never fouled, allowing LSU to dribble the clock out. ESPN color commentator Dan Dakich was exasperated. “What are you doing?” Dakich asked in disbelief. Before the late-game blunder, Dakich also was critical of Kentucky’s effort, saying “LSU is competing and Kentucky is just playing.” The statement summed up the loss all too well. Not that Calipari would disagree: “I'm still having to coach too much,” he said after the Texas A&M win on Jan. 21. “Having to get on guys too much.”
Point guard play is lacking
Andrew Harrison was the top-ranked point guard in the 2013 signing class, but he’s hardly looked the part this season. Harrison had one assist and four turnovers against LSU. He’s averaging four assists per game in SEC play, good for fourth in the league, but Harrison hasn't been a facilitator. The passing problem isn’t isolated to Harrison, though. It’s team-wide. “Whenever they got the ball, they tried to shoot it,” Calipari said after the win over Georgia on Saturday. “If they couldn't shoot it, they tried a little bit more to shoot it, and then one more thing to try to shoot it, and if they couldn't shoot it they passed it.” Kentucky is 12th in SEC conference games in assists per field goal at 46.3 according to KenPom.com.
Kentucky can get destroyed on the interior
Against LSU, Kentucky had no answer for big man Johnny O’Bryant (29 points on 12 of 20 shooting) whether the Wildcats tried Willie Cauley-Stein, Julius Randle or Dakari Johnson. The problem wasn't limited to Kentucky’s defensive end or this game. LSU blocked 11 shots, the most against Kentucky during the Calipari era. And 10 days earlier, Tennessee grabbed 20 offensive rebounds against the Wildcats.
Julius Randle can’t take over
In three SEC games, Randle has been held to 10 points or fewer. That Randle still averages 16.1 points per game is somewhat remarkable given the way teams gang up on him defensively. The triple-teaming of Randle and physical play is partly a function of the supporting cast. The Harrisons and James Young haven’t always made teams pay for focusing so much on Randle.
The Big Question: Can Kentucky find out what’s right?
The 2014 Kentucky team will hope for a repeat of 2011. That season, the Wildcats went 10-6 in the SEC, with all the losses coming on the road. Once Kentucky got on neutral courts, the Wildcats won the SEC Tournament and reached the Final Four. And while Kentucky this season never expected to start February with five losses, the other four defeats aren’t nearly as bad as LSU. But where are the big statements? The win over Louisville remains the high point of Kentucky’s season, but what’s the next-best moment on which the Wildcats can brag? Putting away Tennessee in the second half in Lexington? Look at the resume: Louisville and Tennessee may be the only wins over NCAA at-large bid teams on the schedule. Kentucky’s problems are more related to effort, chemistry and decision-making rather than personnel. That may be a doomsday scenario for the Wildcats.
The season has reached that stage of the year where one question is inevitable: How is the selection committee going to find 68 teams to play in this Tournament?
Teams we thought were in good shape weeks ago are working their way out. Colorado’s resume might be fine now, but we know the selection committee will take into account that the Buffaloes are lost without injured point guard Spencer Dinwiddie. Baylor looked like a Big 12 contender at one point, but the Bears are 1-6 after Tuesday’s home loss to West Virginia.
Meanwhile, that Baylor win over Kentucky earlier this season is less and less of a statement game after the Wildcats have dropped SEC games to Arkansas and LSU.
At least this week, the SEC provided our projections with the final teams in the field. Tennessee looked listless against Florida, but the Volunteers’ resume includes a major win over Virginia and wins over fellow SEC bubble teams LSU (on the road) and Arkansas.
For now, LSU is in our projections. The Tigers’ case is flimsy, but wins in the last week over Kentucky and Missouri work in their favor. No, a home loss to Rhode Island is a good look, at the end of the bracket, no one looks great.
NCAA Tournament Projections and Bubble Watch: Jan. 29
Feeling good: Duke, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Virginia
Bubble in: Florida State, North Carolina
Bubble out: Wake Forest
Notes: Seeding for Duke and Virginia will be great if both can continue hot streaks. ... Pittsburgh is probably safe, but the Panthers’ lack of a big win will hurt seeding. ... A season sweep to Virginia isn’t a great look for Florida State, but the Seminoles have few blemishes on the resume. ... North Carolina’s rout of Clemson allows Roy Williams to exhale a little.
Feeling good: Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Memphis
Bubble in: SMU
Bubble out: None
Notes: Since defeating SMU and Memphis in back-to-back games in early January, Cincinnati has played the dregs of the AAC. A huge game at Louisville looms Thursday. ... The Mustangs’ loss to USF on Tuesday is troublesome. ... UConn’s December losses to Stanford and Houston cut down on the Huskies’ margin for error.
Atlantic 10 (4)
Feeling good: George Washington, Saint Louis, VCU
Bubble in: UMass
Bubble out: Richmond
Notes: Saint Louis’ last loss came Dec. 1 to Wichita State, but the Billikens have yet to hit the meat of their league schedule. ... VCU’s win in Charlottesville over RPI No. 21 Virginia is one of the better ones for the league. The Rams also defeated Belmont, Dayton and La Salle on the road. ... The non-conference resume for UMass is looking more and more suspect. The Minutemen’s only real chance for a big road statement is at George Washington. ... Richmond is on the fringe after a home win over UMass on Jan. 22.
Big 12 (6)
Feeling good: Iowa State, Kansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas
Bubble in: Kansas State
Bubble out: Baylor
Notes: Baylor, 1-6 in the Big 12 after losing at home to West Virginia, is going to play itself out of the Tournament if the Bears don’t turn things quickly. ... The Sooners are the league’s biggest riser in the last month. ... Kansas should be a No. 1 seed if the Jayhawks can win the tough Big 12. ... Texas has defeated three consecutive AP ranked teams. ... The Cowboys’ last good win was Jan. 8 against Texas.
Big East (4)
Feeling good: Creighton, Villanova
Bubble in: Providence, Xavier
Bubble out: Georgetown
Notes: Providence has won five in a row, including wins over Georgetown, Creighton and Xavier. ... Georgetown has lost five in a row.
Big Ten (7)
Feeling good: Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Wisconsin
Bubble in: Indiana
Bubble out: Illinois
Notes: Minnesota’s loss to Nebraska wasn’t a great look, but the Gophers have four RPI top-100 wins. ... Anyone remember Michigan’s loss to Charlotte? Didn’t think so. ... Iowa so far has been able to avoid a loss to a below-average team, but the Hawkeyes have few elite wins. ... Indiana and Illinois are close. They split head-to-head meetings, and both lost to Northwestern. The Hoosiers lost at home, but at least they have a Wisconsin win.
Missouri Valley (1)
Feeling good: Wichita State
Bubble in: None
Bubble out: Indiana State
Notes: Indiana State was the Valley’s best hope for a second at-large candidate before losing by 20 to Wichita State on the road. Perhaps the only way the MVC is a multi-bid league is if the Shockers lose in the conference tournament.
Mountain West (3)
Feeling good: San Diego State, New Mexico
Bubble in: Boise State
Bubble out: None
Notes: San Diego State will have a record befitting of a high seed but not the RPI and schedule strength. ... New Mexico is by no means a lock with road trips against Utah State, Boise State, UNLV, Nevada and San Diego State looming. ... Boise State needs to pick up a good conference win, but at least the schedule strength is strong.
Feeling good: Arizona, UCLA
Bubble in: Cal, Oregon, Stanford
Bubble out: Arizona State, Colorado
Notes: Arizona plays seven of the last 11 regular season games on the road. ... Cal’s road win over Oregon is less and less impressive but not nearly as damaging as last week’s loss at USC. ... The Sun Devils’ marquee win is at home over a wounded Colorado team. ... The Ducks stopped the bleeding of a five-game losing streak by defeating lowly Washington State on Sunday. ... Stanford’s pair of road wins (UConn and Oregon) are keeping the Cardinal in the mix.
Feeling good: Florida, Kentucky
Bubble in: Missouri, LSU, Tennessee
Bubble out: Arkansas, Ole Miss
Notes: Florida may be in the conversation for a No. 1 seed. ... Tennessee and Ole Miss are on the fringe. Their matchup Wednesday is huge for both. Meanwhile, LSU has lost to both. ... Missouri’s road win over Arkansas on Tuesday was huge. ... With loss to LSU on Tuesday, Kentucky is sliding. ... Stop us if you’ve heard this before: Arkansas needs to win a road game.
West Coast (1)
Feeling good: Gonzaga
Bubble in: None
Bubble out: BYU, Saint Mary’s
Notes: Both BYU and Saint Mary’s lost on the road to Gonzaga, so marquee wins for both are dwindling. ... BYU’s neutral site win over Texas is looking better and better, but it probably won’t be enough to overcome a 6-4 record against teams ranked between 101-200 in the RPI.
One-bid leagues (21)
America East: Stony Brook
Atlantic Sun: Mercer
Big Sky: Northern Colorado
Big South: UNC Asheville
Big West: UC Santa Barbara
Conference USA: Southern Miss
Horizon: Green Bay
MEAC: North Carolina Central
Northeast: Robert Morris
Ohio Valley: Belmont
Southland: Stephen F. Austin
Summit: North Dakota State
Sun Belt: Georgia State
WAC: Utah Valley
The weekend in college basketball ended with another coaching milestone for Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, one he extended Monday with a victory over Pittsburgh.
Saturday, though, will be perhaps just as notable. The first meeting between Krzyzewski and Jim Boeheim since the 1998 NCAA regional semifinal will pit two coaches with at least 900 wins at their current schools, and both teams have national title aspirations.
When the two last faced each other Krzyzewski sat on 431 wins at Duke (and added one with a win over Syracuse) while Boeheim had 528 at Syracuse.
The career numbers lead our top stats this week, but other coaches, playeres and teams had key notables.
10 Key Stats from the Week in College Basketball
1,840. Combined wins at Duke and Syracuse for Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Boeheim
Krzyzewski and Boeheim have long been members of the 900-win club, but with Duke’s win over Florida State on Saturday, now both coaches have won 900 games at their current schools, the first meeting between two coaches who won 900 games at their current schools (Syracuse’s game at Duke on Feb. 22 also will be the Orange’s first game at Cameron Indoor). The two coaches haven’t faced each other since the Sweet 16 in 1998.
679. Wins for Rick Byrd at Belmont, the next most for an active coach at his current school
To put the 900 wins at a single school in perspective, the next active coach has a long way to go to catch up to Krzyzewski and Boeheim. Belmont’s Rick Byrd has 679 wins with the Bruins, who were the NAIA when he started in 1986. The next active coach with the most wins at a program that has been in NCAA Division I through the entirety of his tenure is Davidson’s Bob McKillop with 462 victories. Here are the complete leaders:
Active coaches, most wins at current school
939 Jim Boeheim, Syracuse
901 Mike Krzyzewski, Duke
679 Rick Byrd, Belmont*
512 Greg Kampe, Oakland*
462 Bob McKillop, Davidson
457 Tom Izzo, Michigan State
432 Billy Donovan, Florida
*part of his tenure was before school joined NCAA Division I
122.9. Michigan’s offensive efficiency rating this season on KenPom
Is it possible that Michigan’s offense is better this season without Trey Burke and, effectively, Mitch McGary? The Wolverines’ efficiency numbers say yes. Michigan’s offensive rating on KenPom is more than two points higher this season than last year: 123.0 compared to 120.3 in 2012-13. Think of that as 122.9 points per 100 possessions adjusted for the schedule. Michigan’s efficiency rating in Big Ten play is up from 112.3 last season to 119.2 this year. The Wolverines’ effective field goal rate is up from 54.6 percent to 56.2.
7. SEC opponents Florida has held to fewer than 50 points in the last two seasons
The mix of Florida’s defensive prowess and the lack of depth in the SEC has been a bad combination for competitive balance in the league. The Gators beat Tennessee 67-41 on Saturday for the seventh game in the last two seasons in which Florida held an SEC opponent to fewer than 50 points. Here’s the breakdown of points scored against Florida since 2012-13 in SEC play, including the conference tournament:
Opponent scoring in Florida's SEC games since 2012-13 (Florida's record)
49 or fewer: 7 (7-0)
50-59 points: 11 (11-0)
60-69 points: 7 (4-3)
70 or more: 2 (1-1)
3. Consecutive games with 20 second-chance points for Duke
Another Duke number and one that doesn’t totally involve Jabari Parker — though he set a Blue Devils’ freshman record with his 12th 20-point game of the season Monday. Duke’s offensive rebounding has been a showcase in the last three games, contributing to 20 second-chance points in a game for the third consecutive time. The Blue Devils outscored Miami, Florida State and Pittsburgh 71-24 combined on second-chance points in the last three games.
42.6. Minutes per game in Big East play for Providence’s Bryce Cotton
Let that one sink in for a minute, since Providence started Big East play, the Friars’ leading scorer is averaging more than a game played in each conference game. Providence played two double overtime games in conference play against Seton Hall and St. John’s, but Cotton also played 40 minutes in four league games. Providence clearly needs him on the court as Cotton has contributed to 91 of the Friars’ field goals this season either by scoring himself or through an assist.
3. Consecutive overtime games for Marquette
No question, this has been a long season for Marquette, but lately that’s literal rather than figurative. The Golden Eagles have played three consecutive overtime games against Butler, Georgetown and Villanova, losing to the Bulldogs and Wildcats and defeating the Hoyas. The record is four consecutive overtime games held by 1982 Jacksonville (3-1), 1985 Illinois (3-1) and 1988 Dayton (1-3). If there’s a chance Marquette’s streak can continue, the Golden Eagles will face the right opponent Thursday in Providence. The Friars have played four overtime games this season, the last two settled in double overtime.
5. Different leading scorers in the last five games for UCLA
If balance is what you like, try UCLA. Five different players have led the Bruins in scoring in the last five games: David Wear (18 points against Cal), Tony Parker (22 against Stanford), Kyle Anderson (28 against Utah), Norman Powell (19 against Colorado) and Zach LaVine (19 against Arizona State). Oddly enough, the Bruins’ leading scorer, Jordan Adams, hasn't led the team since Dec. 14 against Prairie View.
7. Big 12 teams in the top 25 this season, most for any conference
When Texas ended a two-season drought from the AP rankings this week, the Longhorns became the seventh Big 12 team to land in the top 25, the most for any conference this year. The seven ranked teams from the Big 12 (all but TCU, Texas Tech and West Virginia) is more than double the representation for the Big East and SEC this season (three each). The ACC and Big Ten have had six teams each ranked the season. In this week’s poll, the Big 12 has No. 6 Kansas, No. 8 Oklahoma State, No. 16 Iowa State, No. 23 Oklahoma and No. 25 Texas.
12. Double-digit rebound games for Ryan Spangler at Oklahoma
Ryan Spangler was going to have a tough time cracking the rotation at Gonzaga with Sam Dower and Przemek Karnowski, and Oklahoma offered him a chance to return to his home state. It’s tough to argue he made the right decision. He’s told reporters he has no hard feelings for Gonzaga, but we’ll throw out this stat anyway: With 17 rebounds in the 88-76 win over Oklahoma State on Monday, Spangler has 12 games this season with double-digit rebounds. Gonzaga players have hit double-figure boards seven times this season.
The list of star players not present in East Lansing was staggering Saturday: Branden Dawson, Mitch McGary and Adreian Payne all were out for two teams that have been the walking wounded for most of the season.
Spartans point guard Keith Appling played, but his wrist was in such bad shape he could barely shoot.
That left Nik Stauskas and Gary Harris with the opportunity to fill the void.
The two guards went back and forth for most of the game in a matchup that often left them one on one, but in the end, it was the Michigan guard Stauskas who was blowing kisses into the crowd at the Breslin Center.
Stauskas finished with 19 points against Michigan State and 26 against Iowa on Wednesday for two of Michigan’s three consecutive wins over ranked teams. The week, in which Stauskas shot a combined 15-of-26 from the field, earned the sophomore Athlon Sports National Player of the Week honors.
“We knew he was going to have to pick his spots but he hit some daggers that were tough shots with Gary all over him,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “It was a great matchup of two really good players and that was a pretty efficient game by Nik.”
Athlon Sports College Basketball National Awards: Jan. 27
National Player of the Week: Nik Stauskas, Michigan
Stauskas is making a strong push for Big Ten Player of the Year honors. The sharpshooting Canadian after averaged 22.5 points last week as Michigan posted huge wins against Iowa in Ann Arbor and Michigan State in East Lansing. A 6-6 shooting guard, Stauskas hit 5-of-6 from 3-point range and scored 19 points in the Wolverines’ comeback win over Michigan State on Saturday night. He is averaging 19.0 points and shooting 44.4 percent from three in Big Ten games.
National Freshman of the Week: Isaiah Taylor, Texas
Taylor, a freshman point guard, penetrated through the Baylor defense time and again en route to a career-high 27 points to lead Texas to a 74–60 win over slumping Baylor in Austin. The Longhorns, coming off the first losing season of the Rick Barnes era, improved to 16–4 overall and 5–2 in the Big 12. They have won three straight games over a ranked opponent for the first time in school history.
Under-the-Radar Player of the Week: Treveon Graham, VCU
Graham scored a career-high 34 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead VCU to a 97–89 win over La Salle in double-overtime on Saturday in Philadelphia. Graham, a junior guard, sent the game into overtime by scoring the final six points of regulation, and he also scored six of the Rams’ seven points in the first overtime. His 34 points are the most scored by a VCU player in the five-year Shaka Smart era.
Other top performers:
Bryce Cotton, Providence
Surging Providence, winners of five straight games, is getting great play from Cotton, a senior guard who averaged 21.5 points and 6.5 assists (without committing a turnover) in the Friars’ wins over Butler and Xavier last week. Cotton has played every minute of each of the last five games, including 50 in a double-overtime win at St. John’s two weeks ago.
Le’Bryan Nash, Oklahoma State
With All-American Marcus Smart struggling through a dismal performance, Nash stepped up with a career-high 29 points to go along with nine rebounds to lead Oklahoma State to an 81–75 win over West Virginia in Stillwater. Nash, a junior swingman, converted 10-of-13 from the field and 9-of-14 from the foul line.
Terran Petteway, Nebraska
Petteway, a transfer from Texas Tech, scored a career-best 35 points on 10-of-15 shooting and added six rebounds and three assists in Nebraska’s 82–78 win over Minnesota in Lincoln. A 6-6 swingman from Galveston, Texas, Petteway is averaging 17.2 points and 5.3 points for the Cornhuskers after averaging only 3.1 points as a freshman for Texas Tech two years ago.
James Siakam, Vanderbilt
Siakam scored a career-high 22 points and tied an SEC career high with 10 rebounds in the Commodores’ 66–55 win at Texas A&M. A junior forward from Cameroon, Siakam converted 6-of-10 from the field and 10-of-13 from the foul line to lead the Commodores to their first road win of the season. His previous career high in an SEC game was nine points in a win over Missouri two weeks ago.
Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
Wiggins played perhaps the finest game of his young career, scoring 27 points — including 19 in the first half — as Kansas avenged a shocking loss at TCU last season by pounding the Horned Frogs 91–69 in Fort Worth. Wiggins, a potential No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, connected on 8-of-13 from the field and 9-of-10 from the foul line, and added five points and five rebounds. Wiggins, often criticized for his lack of aggression, has attempted 22 free throws in his last two games.
Nigel Williams-Goss, Washington
Williams-Goss poured in career-high 32 points — on only 15 field goal attempts — to help Washington rally from 12 points down in the second half to beat Oregon State 87–81 in Seattle. A freshman guard from Oregon, Williams-Goss hit 10-of-15 from the field (including 3-of-4 from three) and 9-of-10 from the foul line.
The weekend of college basketball delivered only one true marquee matchup, but the weekend didn't lack for news. Although Michigan and Michigan State delivered in every way we hoped it would, other teams made key strides on Saturday and Sunday.
Let’s start with Michigan, now the last remaining team undefeated in Big Ten play. Michigan State gave all it could, but the Spartans’ injuries in the end were too much to overcome.
Michigan, of course, has had its own players banged up, but the Wolverines have grown in the last few weeks to be a better team now without Mitch McGary than they were when he was healthy.
A scary thought for the rest of the league: Imagine a team with an improved Nik Stauskas and a matured Derrick Walton playing with the sophomore big man McGary. As it is, Michigan is already in charge of the league for the time being.
Elsewhere, Duke is starting to look more and more like the team we thought the Blue Devils would be this season. Where that places Duke in the ACC will be answered this week when the Blue Devils face Big East imports Pittsburgh and Syracuse.
10 Things You Need to Know from the College Basketball Weekend
1a. Michigan is a Final Four threat
In his absence from the court, Mitch McGary found at least one way to stay useful — writing “Win the Game” on a white board. It seems to be working as Michigan is undefeated without McGary, including three consecutive wins over top-10 teams. Two of those have come in Madison and East Lansing after Saturday's 80-75 win at Michigan State. The Spartans were shorthanded, but Michigan was able to erase a second-half eight-point deficit with key baskets in transition down the stretch to seal the win. Guards Nik Stauskas, Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton combined for 55 points and 15 of 17 free throws as Michigan took over the Big Ten lead ... two months after a loss to Charlotte and and the injury to McGary appeared to set Michigan back to the middle of the Big Ten.
1b. Gary Harris should be on All-America lists
Stauskas may be the frontrunner for Big Ten Player of the Year, but Harris is the league MVP. With Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson out and Keith Appling barely able to shoot with a wrist injury, Harris is keeping Michigan State in Big Ten contention. Harris matched Michigan’s guards basket for basket for most of the game to finish with 27 points. As the Spartans have taken their hits with injuries, Harris has averaged 19.9 points per game in Big Ten play.
1c. Tom Izzo is having an emotional year
After the loss to Michigan, Izzo said he’d never been prouder of a team in 30 years at Michigan State — high praise, considering the track record. Michigan didn’t take a lead until the final 3:12. Afterward, Izzo praised Appling’s toughness to play through injuries, and players told reporters the coach was nearly moved to tears in the postgame meeting. Only weeks ago, Izzo was exasperated as his team coughed up a 17-point lead in regulation against Ohio State before winning in overtime. For certain, this has been a roller coaster season for the veteran coach.
2a. We’re about to find out of Duke is a national title contender
Back on Jan. 11, Duke looked nothing like a team ready to contend for the Final Four. At that point the Blue Devils couldn’t defend, lost their toughest games of the season to Kansas and Arizona and dropped two ACC games to Notre Dame and Clemson. Since then, Duke has started to look the part of a title contender, but the major test will be next week at Pittsburgh (Monday) and at Syracuse (Saturday). The Blue Devils have shut down the 3-point line in three consecutive games and dominated the offensive glass Saturday in a 78-56 win over Florida State. Duke grabbed 27 offensive rebounds — led by Jabari Parker’s 10 — for a team offensive rebound rate of 61.4 percent.
2b. You’re going to hear the number 900 a lot for the next week
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski joined Syracuse’s Jim Boehiem as the only major college coaches to win 900 games at a single school. Boeheim, Krzyzewski’s opponent next Saturday, has 938 wins all with the Orange.
2c. Duke’s defense has caught up
Parker was fantastic against Florida State, Rodney Hood contributed 18 points and Andre Dawkins and Rasheed Sulaimon continue to give Krzyzewski third and fourth scoring options. Meanwhile, the leaky Duke defense has finally started to catch up. Since Duke sputtered in a win over Virginia on Jan. 13, the Blue Devils moved from outside of the top 100 in defensive efficiency on KenPom.com to No. 62 to start the week.
3. Wisconsin and Iowa State can take a deep breath
Two three-game losing streaks by previously undefeated teams ended when Iowa State and Wisconsin both won Saturday. The Cyclones ended their three-game losing streak with an 81-75 win over a quality Kansas State team. With DeAndre Kane having an off game, Iowa State’s frontcourt was dominant as Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang combined for 38 points compared to 10 total points for Kansas State’s starting forwards. Wisconsin’s win wasn't as much of a statement with a 72-58 win at Purdue, but the Badgers responded in the defensive end. Wisconsin struggled to guard anyone during its three-game losing streak but held the Boilermakers to 35.4 percent shooting and 3 of 17 from 3-point range.
4. Rick Barnes may be saving his job
Texas’ week started with Jonathan Holmes’ buzzer-beating 3-pointer to beat Kansas State and continued with a 74-66 road win over Baylor on Saturday. When the season started, Barnes’ program appeared to be heading in the wrong direction — no Sweet 16 appearances since 2008 and a losing season in 2013 that ended with a CBI loss to Houston. Now, Barnes is a Big 12 coach of the year contender. Barnes’ recruiting has been scrutinized, especially in the state of Texas, but his freshman point guard who graduated from a Houston high school, Isaiah Taylor, scored 27 against Baylor. With no seniors getting regular minutes, the core of the team should be around for another year. The Longhorns have put together three consecutive wins over ranked teams heading into a game against Kansas on Saturday, the biggest game in Austin since January 2011.
5. Florida had the best defensive game of the weekend
The Gators had a couple of closer-than-they-should-have-been games against Auburn and Alabama in the last week. Their defensive effort against Tennessee made sure they had enough of a cushion to play walk-ons. Florida defeated the Volunteers 67-41, the eighth time in the last nine games the Gators held their opponent to 62 points of fewer. The Volunteers couldn’t manage to get good shots from the perimeter all game as Tennessee’s starting backcourt went 2 of 29 from the field and only got to the free throw line twice. Jordan McRae, who averages 19.2 points per game, scored only 5. Florida, who ranks ninth on KenPom.com in defensive efficiency, might not be seriously tested until they face Kentucky on Feb. 15.
6. North Carolina can make shots again
Time to check in on the North Carolina roller coaster. This time, the Tar Heels are on the upswing again with a 80-61 win over Clemson. No, the Heels don’t need to take a victory lap for beating Clemson at home, but this at least a positive sign for the time being. The Tar Heels scored 45 against Syracuse, 57 against Miami, 61 against Virginia and 67 against Wake Forest. The Heels were hitting their shots Sunday, converting 10 of 19 shots from 3-point range against a team ranked second nationally in defending the 3-point line. Carolina hit the 70-point mark with more than four minutes to go against Clemson, one of the top defensive teams in the country. North Carolina faces some of the weaker teams in the ACC between now and the Feb. 12 game against Duke, not that sustaining momentum has been a strong suit for this team.
7. Baylor is in a tailspin
Unless the Bears can turn things around in short order, Baylor is going to have trouble shedding its image of an underachieving team. With the 74-60 loss to Texas, Baylor fell to 1-4 in the Big 12 with its only win over TCU in Waco. Against the Longhorns, Baylor couldn’t find the basket. Cory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin were a combined 4 of 16 from the field, and sharp-shooter Brady Heslip was 0 for 4 from 3-point range. Baylor shot 32.1 percent from the field and 17.6 percent from beyond the arc against Texas, yet another game where Baylor couldn’t get anything done in the offensive end in a Big 12 game. The Bears have non-conference wins over Kentucky and a healthy Colorado, but they’re going to need to get hot in conference play in a hurry.
8. Marcus Smart, Phil Forte were both awful Saturday yet the Pokes still won
Oklahoma State lost a key cog in the frontcourt in Michael Cobbins earlier this season. Then, the Cowboys struggled with their composure for much of the game against Kansas. And now, Marcus Smart had the worst game of his career Saturday against West Virginia. At some point, maybe Oklahoma State’s recent games should raise some concerns, but not quite yet. The reason, at least this week, was that Le’Bryan Nash and others proved capable of carrying the Pokes in an 81-75 win over the Mountaineers. Smart went 1 of 7 from the field against West Virginia, and the normally sharp-shooting Phil Forte was 1 of 9 from 3-point range. Good thing Nash made up for it with 29 points on 10 of 13 shooting.
9. Providence has arrived on the bubble
Time to start taking Providence seriously as an NCAA Tournament contender. The Friars defeated Xavier 81-72 on Saturday for their fifth consecutive Big East win after starting 0-2 in the league. Bryce Cotton may be one of the nation’s most overlooked players, but he can score with anyone (22.4 points per game in Big East play). Besides the Musketeers, Providence has defeated Georgetown and Creighton, but all three wins have come at home. Still, the Friars are in the top 50 in the RPI and on KenPom.com. All that’s missing is a big road win. The Friars will have that opportunity with three of the next four on the road.
10. Creighton is a little more than Doug McDermott
Hold McDermott to 14 points and 5 of 15 from the field, and most teams would feel pretty good. Not Georgetown. McDermott was tied for the team lead in scoring, but five Bluejays scored in double figures, including Will Artino and Devin Brooks off the bench. Forward Ethan Wragge’s 3-point prowess is well established, but Jahenns Manigat added 10 points in the 76-63. Creighton probably doesn’t want to risk a 14-point night from McDermott in March, but it’s nice to know the Bluejays can absorb that kind of game every once in a while. Meanwhile, Georgetown is falling apart. The Hoyas have lost four in a row, and center Josh Smith was declared academically ineligible during the week.
• The season isn’t going quite as well for Sean Miller’s brother Archie at Dayton. The Flyers looked like a potential NCAA Tournament team with an early 10-point win at Georgia Tech, wins over Gonzaga and Cal in Maui and an overtime win over Ole Miss. Dayton has lost three in a row in the Atlantic 10 in a 1-4 start in league play.
• No Spencer Dinwiddie, no NCAA Tournament for Colorado. The Buffaloes lost 72-51 to Arizona State, giving Tad Boyle’s team three losses in four games since Dinwiddie was lost for the season. Bad break.
• Not sure if Minnesota’s 82-78 loss at Nebraska on Sunday is reason to get off the Gophers bandwagon after Richard Pitino’s team defeated Wisconsin earlier in the week. Minnesota is still without Andre Hollins, and Nebraska defeated Ohio State in Lincoln earlier this season.
• After a win over Notre Dame, Wake Forest is 4-3 in the ACC. The Demon Deacons have a shot at an NIT bid, major progress given the way Jeff Bzdelik’s tenure started.
Recent weeks have presented the classic conundrum for those who spend time ranking teams: Do you rank a team based on what they have been all season, what they can be or what they are right now?
Tough life, right?
Teams like Wisconsin and Iowa State have seen winning streaks turn into losing streaks. Right now, clearly, they’re not very good, but the body of work suggests they’re still among the best in the country.
Teams like Kansas and Duke are starting to look more like the teams we thought we’d see this season, but — again — their body of work might suggest a lower ranking.
Maybe we’ll get more answers during the weekend, but probably not. Here’s a look at where teams standing heading into Saturday.
College Basketball Pre-Weekend Power Rankings: Jan. 24
All games Saturday unless noted.
1. Arizona (19-0, 6-0 Pac-12)
This weekend: Utah (Sunday)
The only weakness for Arizona? Try free throw shooting (66.7 percent). Otherwise, nada.
2. Syracuse (18-0, 5-0 ACC)
This weekend: at Miami
The undefeated Orange got a bit of bad news this week with a season-ending injury to DaJuan Coleman, Syracuse’s best low-post player.
3. Michigan State (18-1, 7-0 Big Ten)
This weekend: Michigan
The Spartans will head into Saturday’s game against Michigan — also perfect in the Big Ten — without Adreian Payne (foot) and Branden Dawson (hand).
4. Florida (16-2, 5-0 SEC)
This weekend: Tennessee
Florida is 5-9 against Tennessee since the 2006-07 season, including the current three-game losing streak to the Volunteers.
5. Kansas (14-4, 5-0 Big 12)
This weekend: at TCU
The Jayhawks have been rewarded for wins over four consecutive ranked teams with four days off and a date with lowly TCU.
6. San Diego State (17-1, 6-0 MWC)
This weekend: at Utah State
The Aztecs have a great defense, but they’re shooting 43.5 percent from 2-point range, ranking 326th nationally.
7. Wichita State (20-0, 7-0 MVC)
This weekend: at Drake
Since the overtime scare against Missouri State, Wichita State has won their last three games by an average of 19 points.
8. Villanova (16-2, 5-1 Big East)
This weekend: at Marquette
Creighton exposed Villanova’s leaky 3-point defense in a major way. Teams are shooting 36.2 percent from 3 vs. the Wildcats.
9. Oklahoma State (15-3, 3-2 Big 12)
This weekend: at West Virginia
The Cowboys played one poor half and one good half in Lawrence on Saturday.
10. Louisville (17-3, 3-1 American)
This weekend: UCF
Freshman point guard Terry Rozier has 14 assists and two turnovers in three games since taking over for an injured Chris Jones.
11. Creighton (16-3, 6-1 Big East)
This weekend: Georgetown
The Bluejays have the highest offensive efficiency rating on KenPom.com since at least 2003.
12. Iowa (15-4, 4-2 Big Ten)
This weekend: at Northwestern
In the last two games, Aaron White has scored one point total in the first half ... and a combined 34 in the second.
13. Saint Louis (18-2, 5-0 A-10)
This weekend: Richmond
The Billikens were able to survive defensive lapses to beat a bad Duquesne team on the road Wednesday.
14. Michigan (14-4, 6-0 Big Ten)
This weekend: at Michigan State
Nik Stauskas is averaging 23.3 points in his last three games heading into huge showdown with rival Michigan State.
15. Pittsburgh (17-2, 5-1 ACC)
This weekend: at Maryland
The Panthers responded to a hard-fought loss at Syracuse by scoring 76 points and shooting 56.3 percent in a win over a salty defensive team in Clemson.
16. Duke (15-4, 4-2 ACC)
This weekend: Florida State
Is Duke on its way back up? Jabari Parker is dominating again and the Blue Devils can defend again ... against NC State and Miami.
17. Wisconsin (16-3, 3-3 Big Ten)
This weekend: at Purdue
The Badgers have allowed opponents to shoot 55 percent from the field during this three-game losing streak.
18. Iowa State (14-3, 3-2 Big 12)
This weekend: Kansas State
The Cyclones have lost three in a row, and it’s tough to find where the streak will end: Iowa State’s upcoming schedule is Kansas State, at Kansas, Oklahoma, at Oklahoma State.
19. Kentucky (14-4, 4-1 SEC)
This weekend: Georgia
Alex Poythress has proven to be a key contributor off the bench, scoring 16 against Texas A&M on Tuesday.
20. Cincinnati (18-2, 7-0 American)
This weekend: at Temple (Sunday)
The Bearcats are in the midst of six-game stretch against the weaker teams in the American before facing Louisville on the road on Jan. 30.
21. UConn (15-4, 3-3 American)
This weekend: at Rutgers
The Huskies are shooting a stellar 41.7 percent from 3-point range.
22. Memphis (14-4, 4-2 American)
This weekend: USF (Sunday)
Shaq Goodwin is averaging 17 points and 6.8 rebounds in his last four games against AAC competition.
23. UMass (16-2, 3-1 A-10)
This weekend: at St. Bonaventure
The Minutemen’s close calls in A-10 play caught up with them in 55-52 loss to Richmond on Wednesday.
24. Minnesota (15-5, 4-3 Big Ten)
This weekend: at Nebraska (Sunday)
The Gophers split a tough 11 days with wins over Ohio State and Wisconsin and losses to Michigan State and Iowa. Not bad for the young Pitino.
25. Virginia (14-5, 5-1 ACC)
This weekend: Virginia Tech
The Cavaliers are quietly contending for the ACC regular season title. Virginia won’t play Duke again and gets Syracuse at home. Cavs must beat Pitt on the road next week.