10 Takeaways: Who’s No. 1, Jimmer gets angry and a Blake Griffin moment

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No. 1 lost, another pair of ranked showdowns went down and a Cleveland State player did something no college player’s done the last 15 years besides Blake Griffin.

Yeah, I’d call that a pretty good little Saturday.

So take a stroll through the top stories of the day in our 10 Takeaways.

Who’s the 1? Despite Ohio State suffering just its first loss of the season –at No. 13 Wisconsin, a place where the Badgers win 93 percent of the time – conventional wisdom holds that there’ll be a new No. 1 team when Monday’s rankings are released. So who will it be?

If you ask players for No. 2 Kansas, they’re the ones.

“I want to be No. 1,” junior forward Marcus Morris said after throttling Iowa State, 89-66. “I want to have that chip on our shoulder every time we go out. I want to be the one that gets everybody’s best shot because I believe we can take it.”

The Jayhawks were atop the polls for 14 weeks last season and say their desire to be No. 1 comes from taking it for granted. They have something to prove. Odd thing is, the team that handed Kansas (24-1, 9-1 in Big 12 play) its only loss – and at Allen Fieldhouse, no less – says it doesn’t want those honors.

“I don’t want to be No. 1,” freshman Tristan Thompson said after holding off Baylor at home, 69-60. “Enjoy No. 3 and keep climbing that mountain.”

Teammates Jordan Hamilton echoed that statement, which is probably a good thing for the ‘Horns (22-3, 10-0 in big 12 play). They started off last season 17-0 and hit the top spot, only to fall into an epic freefall and nearly miss the NCAA tournament.

So who’s that leave? No. 4 Pitt managed a win at No. 9 Villanova without leading scorer Ashton Gibbs, who’s out a few weeks due to a knee injury. At 23-2 and 11-1 in the Big East, the Panthers’ résumé is fairly impressive. Same with No. 5 Duke (22-2, 9-1), which plays Sunday at Miami. But you know who’s record is the most impressive?

Ohio State’s. A road loss at the nation’s No. 13 team? Pssh. Kansas and Pitt may have beefs, but nobody’s been better thus far than the Buckeyes (I’m not alone in this view, either). Keep them atop the polls.

(It’s all just posturing until the NCAA tournament anyway, right?)

About those Buckeyes: Ohio State football was also No. 1 when Wisconsin’s stunned it earlier this academic year. It’s the second time the Buckeyes’ basketball and football teams have lost to the same school in the same timeframe (Florida did in 2006-07). That trivia nugget aside, Ohio State isn’t sweating this right now.

Yes, it lost to a team that overcame a 15-0 second-half deficit, but coach Thad Matta says there wasn’t much his team could’ve done. Sometimes, the other team just has your number.

“They had to play, for that stretch, darned near perfect to get us and they did,” he told the Wisconsin State Journal. “I don’t know what exactly we could have done differently.”

Mostly, it’ll reinforce the notion that there are no dominant teams this season, which is fine. Should make for a lively NCAA tournament.

Nation, meet Jordan Taylor: Allow me one more on the day’s big game. Can’t ignore Jordan Taylor. The Naismith and Cousy Awards might, but those are simply examples of how they ignored one of the nation’s top players. As Rob Dauster wrote earlier, Taylor could do no wrong in Wisconsin’s win, scoring 27 points (he missed just six of 13 shots) and dishing seven assists in 39 minutes of action. How’d he get this good? Read this fantastic piece by Luke Winn.

Kentucky’s road woes: The Wildcats’ 81-77 loss at Vanderbilt brought about one of the day’s big questions: If Kentucky can’t win an SEC road game (it’s now 1-5), what happens during the NCAA tournament? A win at Louisville on Dec. 31 seems ages ago. Big Blue Nation can console itself with the fact that the ‘Cats only have two road games remaining on the schedule, and one’s at Arkansas. But coach John Calipari wonders if his team is “mentally” tough enough to win a dogfight.

Jimmer gets angry! The nation’s leading scorer had 23 in a win vs. Utah, but needed 19 shots to do it and even had some harsh words for referee Mike Reed after a late foul. Reed told the BYU bench to get Fredette out of the game because “he’s losing control,” according to the Salt Lake Tribune. No word if it’s because he saw Michelle Peralta at the game.

How good is that Valley? Good enough to get two teams into the NCAA tournament. Wichita State and Missouri State both logged solid road wins on Saturday, keeping them knotted atop the conference standings. The Shockers (21-5, 12-3) held on at Northern Iowa, while the Bears (20-6, 12-3) kept pace by beating Illinois State.

Streaking: Coastal Carolina now has the nation’s longest win streak (22) after beating Winthrop 61-56. George Mason won its 11th straight, 82-68 over rival James Madison. Murray State got its eighth W in a row and 10th in its last 11 by beating Jacksonville State. Meanwhile, Centenary remained the only winless team on the season, dropping to 0-27 with a 91-58 loss at UMKC.

Slumping: Maryland dropped to 16-9 overall and 5-4 in the ACC with a loss at BC. It gets worse when you consider the Terps’ lone wins since Jan. 1 are Wake Forest (twice), Georgia Tech, Virginia, Clemson and Longwood. Of those, only Clemson has a winning record. K-State (16-9, 4-6) lost at Colorado. Its lone impressive Big 12 win (Jan. 24 vs. Baylor) is looking more and more like an anomaly. Both the ‘Cats and Terps will be hard pressed to reach the Big Dance.

Where’d they come from? UCLA got 19 from Malcolm Lee in a 69-61 win vs. Oregon State for its fifth straight win and ninth in last 10 games. The Bruins are now 18-7 overall and 9-3 in the Pac-10. Memphis (19-6, 7-3) rallied past Southern Miss and is within half a game of the C-USA lead. The Tigers play UAB on Wednesday. Both had rough starts to the season, but could be darkhorses to watch in March.

Blake Griffin? Really? Yes, really. Cleveland State guard Norris Cole throws up stellar numbers – 20.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 2.3 steals per game – but Saturday he hit a different level. He put up 41 points, 20 rebounds, nine asissts and three steals in a win over Youngstown State. Nobody’s posted a 40-20 game in college the last three years except Griffin, the 2009 Player of the Year at Oklahoma. Take a bow, Norris.

Want more? I’m also on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

USC lands four-star 2018 guard Elijah Weaver

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USC landed an important commitment for its future on Monday night as four-star Class of 2018 guard Elijah Weaver.

Regarded as the No. 35 overall prospect in the Rivals’ national Class of 2018 rankings, the 6-foot-5 Weaver gives the Trojans a floor leader to build around for the future as he provides great size in the backcourt. Capable of playing multiple guard spots, Weaver has a lot of upside for a program that has done a very solid job of developing backcourt talent under head coach Andy Enfield.

Weaver’s commitment is also important for the Trojans because it comes despite the looming FBI investigation that the program is dealing with thanks to former assistant coach Tony Bland. USC had recently lost a four-star commitment from forward J’Raan Brooks, so the commitment of Weaver is a huge momentum boost for them as they get right back on track in the Class of 2018.

With Weaver in the mix, USC now owns three four-star pledges in the 2018 class as he joins four-star forward Taeshon Cherry and four-star guard Kevin Porter.

Jim Larranaga believes he’s ‘Coach-3’ in FBI investigation

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Despite losing key contributors Davon Reed and Kamari Murphy from last season’s NCAA tournament team, the Miami Hurricanes are expected to be a player both within the ACC and nationally this season. But instead of having the focus solely on the likes of JaQuan Newton, Bruce Brown and Lonnie Walker, Jim Larrañaga’s program is also having to deal with the impact of the ongoing FBI investigation into corruption and fraud in college basketball.

While no one connected to the Miami men’s basketball program was arrested last month, the program is referenced in the FBI report. On Monday, Larrañaga stated during a press conference that he believes that he is “Coach-3” in the FBI report. Larrañaga also maintained his innocence, saying that he had done nothing wrong while also being thankful that none of his assistant coaches were involved.

“It’s been a strain, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually,” Larrañaga said according to the Palm Beach Post. “It’s something that’s there. I have to deal with it. I have the support of my wife and a wonderful family. I have the support of the university, my staff and players.”

According to the FBI report, “Coach-3” requested that payments totaling $150,000 be funneled to “Player-12” in order to ensure his commitment to their university. It has been reported that “Player-12” was 2018 five-star prospect Nassir Little, who has also stated that he had done nothing wrong. Two of the schools recruiting Little at the time, Arizona and Miami, have been entangled in the FBI investigation to varying degrees.

While Miami has not had anyone connected to its program arrested, Arizona assistant coach Emmanuel “Book” Richardson was one of the four Division I coaches were were indicted. As a result Little removed both Arizona and Miami from consideration before ultimately committing to North Carolina earlier this month.

There’s no telling what the FBI investigation will ultimately uncover, which for the schools involved could take a heavy toll not only for the 2017-18 season but for future years as well. The FBI case has been comparatively quiet since the first set of indictments, with future moves likely to be influenced by what authorities learn from the ten individuals named in the first announcement.

Miles Bridges discusses being offered money during recruiting process

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With the FBI launching an investigation into corruption and fraud in college basketball last month, the entire sport has found itself under the microscope. Ten people, including four Division I assistant coaches, were arrested and there’s no telling just how long the FBI’s investigation will last or what information it will produce.

Michigan State forward Miles Bridges is considered by many to be the leading candidate for national Player of the Yeah honors, and he had the opportunity to turn pro after a good freshman season. But Bridges made the decision to return to East Lansing, and with that comes questions as to why he would do that as opposed to cashing in on his NBA potential as soon as possible.

In an interview with Brendan Quinn of The Athletic (subscription required) Bridges discussed a host of issues, including being offered money by people while going through the recruiting process.

“I mean, if you get caught, that might be the end of your career. I wanted to play in college really bad,” Bridges told Quinn. “I don’t know — materialistic things, they don’t really get to me. So when people were offering me money, I would say no right away, because I wanted to be able to live out my college experience. But really, I don’t know, it is hard, especially because I was so young at the time — 17.”

Given the ongoing investigation, high-profile players and teams will be on the receiving end of increased scrutiny even if they aren’t part of the FBI probe. It’s an unfair situation for a player like Bridges to deal with, as even in the actual cases of alleged wrongdoing the players themselves are essentially commodities whose services are being auctioned as opposed to the main characters looking to cash in.

Unfortunately, due to recent events a decision like the one made by Bridges will result in some questioning whether or not the player received something from the school or another entity/individual. And that’s a tough — and unfair — thing for a young player to have to deal with.

Broken hand sidelines North Carolina PG Joel Berry II

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North Carolina’s defense of its national title will likely begin without its most important player, as it was announced on Monday that senior point guard Joel Berry II will miss approximately four weeks due to a broken bone in his right hand.

Berry started at the point each of the last two seasons, earning Most Outstanding Player honors in April as the Tar Heels defeated Gonzaga to win the national title. As a junior, Berry averaged 14.7 points, 3.6 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game and started 37 of the 38 games in which he played. Berry shot 42.6 percent from the field and 38.3 percent from three, with the latter percentage being the best on team amongst players who attempted at least two three-pointers per game.

Berry was named an NBC Sports Preseason Third-Team All-American in late September.

With Berry out of the lineup, North Carolina loses its floor general as well as one of their top perimeter shooters. Sophomore Seventh Woods and freshman Jalek Felton become more important options at the point as a result of Berry’s injury, and the team doesn’t lack for perimeter shooters either with Cameron Johnson, Brandon Robinson, Kenny Williams and freshman Andrew Platek all being capable of helping to pick up the slack.

North Carolina opens its regular season on November 10 against Northern Iowa.

Bill Self’s stance on Kansas/Missouri series remains unchanged

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Sunday afternoon in Kansas City, bitter rivals Kansas and Missouri got together on the basketball court for the first time since 2012, with the Showdown for Relief raising $1.75 million for recent hurricane victims. In what was an entertaining game, the Jayhawks won by the final score of 93-87 with point guard Devonté Graham leading the way for the winners with 25 points and ten rebounds.

Kansas finished the game with five players in double figures, including Mississippi State transfer Malik Newman (17 points) and center Udoka Azubuike (16). On the other side freshman Michael Porter Jr. paced four Tigers in double figures with 21 points while younger brother Jontay grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds off the bench.

However despite the excitement for the two rivals being on the same court in any capacity, Sunday’s meeting was different given the circumstances. Following the game Kansas head coach Bill Self was asked about the possibility of the two teams meeting in a regular season game, and he maintained the stance he’s held since Missouri left the Big 12 for the SEC.

“I’m not going to say never, but I don’t think there’s been any change in our position as far as the university goes,” Self said following Sunday’s exhibition. “I’m the spokesman, I guess, on this but trust me, I’m not the only one that feels that way.”

While it would certainly benefit college basketball if Kansas and Missouri were to renew acquaintances down the line, it is understandable that Self — and maybe some others on the Kansas side of things — would have reservations. The programs, even with the arrival of Cuonzo Martin in Columbia and the freshman class led by the aforementioned Michael Porter Jr., are in different places right now.

The Jayhawks have their sights set on a 14th consecutive Big 12 title and a run at their first national title since 2008, Missouri is looking to fast-track a rebuilding process after struggling mightily under former head coach Kim Anderson. Yet with that being said, the state of the two athletic departments during realignment likely has more to do with the teams not playing each other.

Missouri was a school with options earlier this decade before joining the SEC, but that was not the case for Kansas. Had the Big 12 broken up as some believed would be the case, where would the Jayhawks have landed? Fortunately for the school the Big 12 survived the realignment craze, losing four schools (Missouri and Texas A&M to the SEC, Colorado to the Pac-12 and Nebraska to the Big Ten) and adding TCU and West Virginia to get their membership number to ten.

Given that, the best bet for college basketball fans who want to see this rivalry played during the regular season may be to hope for the programs wind up in the same in-season tournament. Even better, how about the same NCAA tournament region?