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2/14 – College Hoops Week in Review: I hope you remembered Valentine’s Day

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Game of the Week: Wisconsin 71, Ohio State 67

Jordan Taylor provided us with the most exciting 13 minutes of basketball this season on Saturday. With Wisconsin down 47-32 after Ohio State went on a 21-6 run, the no-longer-underrated Taylor caught fire. He scored on a tough drive. Two possessions later, he knocked down a three to get the lead to ten. On Wisconsin’s next possession, he buried another three to cut Ohio State’s lead to seven. After two Mike Bruesewitz free throws and another jumper from Taylor, the Badger’s point guard found freshman John Gasser for a three that tied the game with 9:46 left.

All told, the nation’s slowest team had erased a 15 point deficit on the nation’s No. 1 team in 3:30. Aaron Craft did his best to keep Ohio State in the lead, scoring six of the Buckeye’s next eight points as they opened up a four point lead, but Taylor had the answer. He hit a three, found Mike Bruesewitz for a three, and found Keaton Nankivil for a jumper to put Wisconsin ahead, then he capped the run with a three pointer of his own with 5:34 left in the game as the Badgers went up 60-55.

Taylor finished with 27 points and seven assists, accounting for all but six points and three assists in the final 13 minutes of the game. The court was stormed, Ohio State suffered their first loss of the season, and Taylor was Rudy’d.

Florida 61, Tennessee 60: It seems like every game played in the SEC East is a close game with an exciting finish. Florida, however, has proven to be the best in the conference at winning those close games, which is why they are currently sitting at 9-2 in the league with a two game lead. In this one, the Gators overcame a 35-29 half time deficit, winning on a tough, driving layup by Erving Walker with 14 seconds left.

Duke 79, UNC 73: Like the Wisconsin-Ohio State game, Duke-UNC didn’t have a great finish, but it was quite entertaining nonetheless. The Tar Heels jumped out to a 43-27 lead in the first half, but Duke led an entertaining rally in the second half, as Seth Curry and Nolan Smith combined for 40 points after the break.

Wild finishes:

  • Colorado 58, Kansas State 56: Down by two with 1.1 seconds left, Rodney McGruder hit what appeared to be a game-winning three at the buzzer. But after the refs reviewed the shot, it was obvious it came after the buzzer:
  • Pitt 57, Villanova 54: Villanova had the same thing happen. The Wildcats managed to force a couple of turnovers to get back into the game, finally cutting the lead to just three on an Antonio Pena three. After another Pitt turnover, Dominic Cheek missed a three, but the rebound was kicked out to Maalik Wayns, who hit a three one second after the buzzer expired and about thirty seconds after McGruder’s three was waved off.
  • Rutgers 77, Villanova 76: That wasn’t the only tough loss that Villanova suffered this week. Against Rutgers, the Wildcats blew a 13 points lead with five minutes left and an eight point lead with 1:50 of the block. But thanks to some hot shooting by the Scarlet Knights, they were able to get back into it. Down three, Jonathon Mitchell hit a three and was fouled with 0.8 seconds left.
  • Rhode Island 71, Charlotte 70 OT: The Rams overcame a 40-23 second half deficit to force overtime, and in the extra frame Jamal Wilson, who had 11 points on the season coming in, scored on a put back at the buzzer to win the game.
  • Green Bay 63, Illinois-Chicago 61 OT: Robo Kreps hit a floater at the buzzer to win a Horizon League game back on Thursday, but wait for the 1:10 mark and listen to the announcer’s reaction. You’ll laugh.

Players of the Week: I don’t generally like giving out ties with the Weekly Awards, but four players this week gave such impressive performances, I really had no choice:

Norris Cole, Cleveland State: Cole had the line of the year so far this season, going for 41 points, 20 boards, nine assists, and three steal in a win over Youngstown State. The only other player in the last 15 years to have a 40-20 games was Blake Griffin, who had 40 points and 23 boards against Texas Tech. In a loss on Monday, Cole added 27 points, six assists, and seven boards.

John Jenkins, Vanderbilt: Jenkins was terrific in Vandy’s two big wins over Alabama and Kentucky. On Tuesday against the Crimson Tide, he finished with 20 points on 5-11 shooting, but his better performance came on Saturday. With Jeff Taylor struggling, Jenkins picked up the slack, going for a career-high 32 points on 11-17 shooting while hitting six threes, many of them closely contested.

Nolan Smith, Duke: Smith has been a catalyst for the Blue Devils all season long, but never was that more evident than this week. He sparked Duke in the second half of their 81-71 road win over Miami on Sunday, finishing with 18 points and five assists despite sitting out a long stretch of the first half after being poked in the eye. On Wednesday, he scored 22 of his 34 points in the second half as Duke rallied from 16 down to knock off North Carolina.

Jordan Taylor, Wisconsin: We’ve already talked plenty about Taylor’s play against Ohio State, both in this post and from the write-ups on Saturday. Taylor averaged 21.5 ppg and 7.5 apg in two wins this week, including 21 points and four assists during Wisconsin’s comeback from 15 points down in the last 13 minutes against Ohio State.

The all-they-were-good-too team:

  • G: Dwight Hardy, St. John’s: Hardy has been on fire of late, and it continued this week. The senior guard has scored at least 25 points in three of his last five games, including a 33 point outburst in the Johnnie’s win over UConn. He followed that up with 18 points in a win at Cincinnati. Hardy was 9-15 from three on the week.
  • G: Ramone Moore, Temple: Moore has become Temple’s start, averaging 15.0 ppg on the season. This week, he led the Owls to two wins, including a 12 point win at Dayton, by averaging 24.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, and 3.5 apg.
  • F: Draymond Green, Michigan State: Have the Spartans finally turned a corner this season? The optimists say yes, and Green is a big reason why, as he notched a 15 point, 14 rebound, 10 assist triple-double in an 18 point rout of Penn State.
  • F: Justin Harper, Richmond: In wins over GW and St. Louis this week, Harper averaged 21.0 ppg and 9.0 rpg, while shooting 14-21 from the floor and 6-10 from three.
  • C: JaJuan Johnson, Purdue: Johnson averaged 19.5 ppg and 8.5 rpg in two wins this week for the Boilermakers.
  • Bench: Trevor Mbakwe, Minnesota (20.5 ppg, 10.5 rpg in two games this week); Reggie Jackson, Boston College (29.0 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 2.5 apg, 22-36 FG, 8-16 3PT); Kyle Kuric, Louisville (25.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 2.5 apg, 18-29 FG, 9-14 3PT); Malcolm Lee, UCLA (22.0 ppg in a 2-0 week); Erving Walker, Florida (20.5 ppg, game-winner versus Tennessee)

Team of the Week: Xavier Musketeers

The Muskies did a lot this week. They took over sole possession of first place in the Atlantic 10. They put themselves into prime position for an at-large berth. And they did it by winning on the road despite not getting great performances out of Tu Holloway.

On Tuesday, X went into Athens and knocked off Georgia 65-57. Holloway led four players in double figures with 18 points, but he didn’t score until there were five minutes gone in the second half. Instead, it was the play of Mark Lyons and Dante Jackson that kept Xavier in it until Holloway was able to take the game over. On Sunday, Xavier got 20 from Holloway, 19 out of Dante Jackson, and 12 points and 12 boards from Kenny Frease as they went into Pittsburgh and knocked off Duquesne, who they were tied for first place in the conference with.

Xavier still has some work to do this season. A couple of ugly early losses on their resume hurt, and the Muskies have shown they are plenty capable of losing to a team like Charlotte in league play. But it seems as if Xavier is, once again, peaking at the right time. Give credit where credit is due — this coaching job by Chris Mack, overcoming the injuries and ineligibilities that he has had to deal with, is as good as any in the country.

Also impressive this week:

  • Wisconsin and Purdue: As we mentioned earlier, the Badgers handed Ohio State their first loss of the season. They also knocked off Iowa on the road earlier in the week. The Boilermakers had an impressive win of their own on Sunday, going into Champaign and beating Illinois. They also knocked off Indiana on Tuesday in a rivalry game. It sets up a battle for second place in the conference on Wednesday, as these two teams are tied for second place, two games behind Ohio State.
  • St. John’s: On Thursday, the Johnnies once again proved their home court dominance with a 17 point win over UConn, their fourth impressive home win in the last five week. Then on Sunday, they went into Cincinnati and knocked off the Bearcats, landing a huge bubble victory and proving themselves capable of winning on the road.
  • Vanderbilt: The Commodores went a long way towards asserting themselves as the second best team in the SEC East. Not only did they hand Alabama their first loss against the SEC East on Tuesday, they outlasted Kentucky 81-77 at home on Saturday afternoon.
  • Pitt: Playing without the injured Ashton Gibbs, the Panthers notched two very tough road wins, knocking off West Virginia in the Backyard Brawl and then beating in state rival Villanova. The Panthers are looking more and more like the best “team” in the country.
  • Georgetown: If you didn’t know yet, the Hoyas are the hottest team in the country and officially back from the slump they had to start Big East play. On Wednesday, they went into the Carrier Dome and beat hated-rival Syracuse before coming home to knock off a scrappy Marquette team. The Hoyas are doing it with defense, as they have now won eight in a row.
  • Duke: The Blue Devils are well on their way to erasing all memories of the humiliating defeat they suffered at the hands of St. John’s. Since that loss, Duke has won four straight, including road wins at Miami and Maryland and Wednesday’s rivalry matchup with North Carolina.
  • Kansas: There is not a team in the country playing better basketball on the offensive end then Kansas. On Monday, they beat Missouri by 17 despite the Tigers scoring 86 on points on 51.7% shooting, putting all five starters in double figures, and turning the ball over eight times. Then on Saturday, the Jayhawks beat Iowa State by 23 despite allowing the Cyclones to knock down 14 threes.
  • Old Dominion: The Monarchs won two road games this week to remain two games behind George Mason in the CAA standings, beating William & Mary and VCU, who was tied for first with the Patriots.
  • Murray State: The Racers claimed sole possession of first place in the OVC with wins over Tennessee Tech and Jacksonville State this week.
  • Valpo: The Crusaders can now claim a one game lead in the loss column of the Horizon League thanks to wins over Wright State and Detroit and a loss by Cleveland State to Detroit.
  • Montana: After losing to Weber State and Northern Arizona last week on the road, the Grizzlies came home to knock off Sacramento State and then pull into a tie for first with Northern Colorado thanks to a win on Saturday.

Matchups of the Week:

  • 2/14 – 7:00 pm: West Virginia @ Syracuse
  • 2/14 – 9:00 pm: Kansas @ Kansas State
  • 2/15 – 7:00 pm: GMU @ VCU
  • 2/15 – 9:00 pm: Michigan State @ Ohio State
  • 2/16 – 6:30 pm: Wisconsin @ Purdue
  • 2/16 – 7:00 pm: Georgetown @ UConn
  • 2/17 – 7:00 pm: Richmond @ Temple
  • 2/18 – 9:00 pm: UConn @ Louisville
  • 2/19 – 12:00 pm: Pitt @ St. John’s
  • 2/19 – 1:00 pm: Notre Dame @ West Virginia
  • 2/19 – 6:00 pm: Washington @ Arizona
  • 2/19 – 9:00 pm: Utah State @ St. Mary’s
  • 2/20 – 1:00 pm: Ohio State @ Purdue
  • 2/18-2/20: Bracket Busters

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

VIDEO: Kentucky fan makes a hype video

NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 11:  Isaiah Briscoe #13 of the Kentucky Wildcats celebrates in the game against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the quarterfinals of the SEC Basketball Tournament at Bridgestone Arena on March 11, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Memorial Day weekend is typically a slow time for sports news, so over the weekend, the CBT crew has been discussing fan videos and songs.

If you’re not familiar, a lot of programs have fans that are so passionate, that they create something as tribute for their programs. This stuff tends to happen in the offseason.

Take this 12-minute video a Kentucky fan made that was posted by Kentucky Sports Radio’s Drew Franklin yesterday as an example:

Twelve minutes is a staggering amount for a video like this, but it captures multiple seasons and even goes into the future.

Not bad.

But it definitely doesn’t beat this Villanova song released by MRG after the Wildcats’ NCAA tournament run.

So now that we’ve seen the baseline for videos and songs, do any other fanbases have anything better in them this summer? There’s still a lot of time until college hoops begins next season and there are plenty of fans who can jump in with a submission.

Throughout the summer, we’ll post the best fan submissions on CBT (as long as they’re clean and original) and see which group of fans has the best at the end of it all.

Canisius finds a new head coach following Jim Baron’s retirement

Canisius head coach Jim Baron talks with players during college basketball practice in Buffalo, N.Y., Tuesday, March 5, 2013. One year after Baron was fired at Rhode Island, the coach and his point guard son, Billy, have teamed up at Canisius to breath new life into a struggling program. (AP Photo/David Duprey)
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Canisius has found a new head coach following the retirement of Jim Baron, as the Griffins have hired former Buffalo coach Reggie Witherspoon, according to a report from Mark Gaughan of the Buffalo News.

The 55-year-old Witherspoon was formerly the head coach at Buffalo from December 1999 until after the 2012-13 season and was recently an assistant coach at Alabama and Chattanooga the past two seasons.

During his time at Buffalo, Witherspoon went 197-225 while making four postseason appearances. He takes over a Canisius program that went 14-19 and 8-12 in the MAAC last season.

As a Buffalo native who has coached in the area as a high school, junior college and Division I head coach, Witherspoon should be familiar with the landscape of being a basketball coach in that city. It’s hard to say if Witherspoon can lead Canisius to prominence at this stage in his career, but he’ll certainly know the area enough to hit the ground running.

UNC’s Roy Williams recovering from knee replacement surgery

JACKSONVILLE, FL - MARCH 19:  Head coach Roy Williams of the North Carolina Tar Heels reacts on the bench against the Harvard Crimson during the second round of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena on March 19, 2015 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) North Carolina Hall of Fame men’s basketball coach Roy Williams is recovering from knee replacement surgery.

In an email Friday, athletics spokesman Steve Kirschner says Williams is “resting comfortably” after the procedure on his right knee performed by Dr. Walt Beaver in Charlotte. Kirschner says there’s no exact recovery timetable but Williams is expected to be on the road for July recruiting “as usual.”

The 65-year-old Williams had procedures on both knees last year but experienced discomfort during the season as the Tar Heels won the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season and tournament titles before losing in the NCAA title game on a last-second shot to Villanova.

A week later, Williams said he was considering surgery options for a “bone-on-bone” condition and noted: “I’ve got to be able to move around.”

Utah to play rival BYU in basketball again in 2017

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - DECEMBER 2: Nate Austin #33 of the Brigham Young Cougars and Jakob Poeltl #42 of the Utah Utes try for the ball in the second half of the Utes 83-75 win at the Jon M. Huntsman Center on December 2, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)
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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) Utah will play rival BYU in basketball again in 2017 in a game that will end a “cooling off period” Utah demanded due to events at recent games.

Utah said in a news release Thursday that the two schools have agreed to play in 2017 at BYU. The school’s athletic directors are talking about scheduling future games.

The decision to cancel the rivalry upset BYU and ignited a controversy that lit up sports talk radio and triggered legislators to order a state audit of Utah athletics. The game had been played every year since 1909 except for during World War II.

Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said in January that the rivalry had become a “venomous and toxic environment.” BYU guard Nick Emery was ejected from December’s game for punching Utah’s Brandon Taylor.

Looking Forward: Defense will help Arizona sort out loaded rotation

PROVIDENCE, RI - MARCH 17:  Head coach Sean Miller of the Arizona Wildcats reacts in the first half against the Wichita State Shockers during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Dunkin' Donuts Center on March 17, 2016 in Providence, Rhode Island.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
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The NBA Draft’s Early Entry Deadline has come and gone. Just about every elite recruit has decided where they will be playing their college ball next season. The coaching carousel, which ended up spinning a bit faster than initially expected, has come to a close for all of the major programs. 

In other words, by now, we have a pretty good feel for what college basketball is going to look like during the 2016-17 season. With that in mind let’s take a look at Arizona, an elite program that reloads with designs on erasing the bad memories of last year’s first round NCAA tournament exit. 

After going on a two-year run in which they went 67-9, won two Pac-12 regular season titles and made two Elite Eight appearances, Arizona took a step back in 2015-16. Sean Miller’s Wildcats saw their grip on the Pac-12 loosen, with Oregon taking advantage, and their NCAA tournament stay was a short one thanks to a tough Wichita State team. Many programs would sign up for a season that included 25 wins despite injuries to freshmen Ray Smith (torn ACL) and Allonzo Trier (broken hand).

But Arizona isn’t your “run of the mill” program, which is a testament not only to what the retired Lute Olson accomplished during his time in Tucson but to what Sean Miller’s managed to do as well. Since his arrival Miller’s pumped new life into the program, with Arizona racking up highly regarded recruiting classes and the wins to match.

All that’s missing from his time at Arizona is a trip to the Final Four, an accomplishment Arizona hasn’t been able to boast since 2001. And after last year’s disappointing finish, Arizona’s work on the recruiting trail in the spring has them in a position where they can get that done. There’s talent, depth and versatility on the roster heading into the 2016-17 season, with some key returnees being joined by one of the nation’s best recruiting classes.

And with that will come an important question for the Wildcats: how will they sort everything out from a rotation standpoint?

Competition within the ranks is hardly a bad thing; “as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” The same can be said for versatility, which will be another positive trait for Arizona in 2016-17. At first glance the roster has just two players seemingly locked into one specific position: Parker Jackson-Cartwright at point guard and Dusan Ristic at center. Outside of that, Arizona boasts a host of players capable of filling multiple spots based upon the desires of their head coach and the flow of the game.

The front court includes a mobile 7-footer in sophomore Chance Comanche, who managed to earn more consistent appearances down the stretch thanks to his activity on the defensive end of the floor. Newcomers in Lauri Markkanen and Keanu Pinder who can fill multiple roles in the front court, with Markannen’s ability to step out and hit perimeter shots being especially key, and the same can be said of the talented Smith provided there are no lingering effects from his second ACL tear in as many years.

With the injury and the time away from live action Smith will likely have some rust to shake off, but this is something Arizona can work through given their depth. There’s role versatility and this sets up to be a more mobile group defensively as well, which can only help the Wildcats moving forward.

The bigger area for Arizona from an options standpoint is on the perimeter, as they’re loaded with established returnees and high-caliber newcomers. And with the players available, how everything shakes out with regards to roles and minutes that come with them will be very interesting to watch. Trier’s back after a successful freshman season in which he averaged 14.6 points per game and shot 46.6 percent from the field, and with his ability to attack defenses off the dribble he’ll figure prominently in the Arizona rotation again in 2016-17.

Also returning are Kadeem Allen and Parker Jackson-Cartwright, who shared the point guard duties with Allen getting the starting nod thanks in large part to his ability on the defensive end of the floor. Losing Gabe York, who was second on the team in scoring and Arizona’s best three-point shooter a season ago, can’t be overlooked. But with the additions to the program, Arizona can more than account for the production lost there.

Last year Trier was the Wildcat best capable of attacking defenses off the bounce, but even with the relative “lack” of such options Arizona still managed to average 80 points per game and shoot 48 percent from the field. Things will be a bit different in 2016-17, thanks to factors such as the loss of York and Ryan Anderson and the fact that they’ll have more players capable of breaking down opponents off the dribble. Freshmen Kobi Simmons, Rawle Alkins and Terrance Ferguson can all create shots via dribble penetration, with Ferguson also being one of the top shooters in the class of 2016.

CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 30: Terrance Ferguson #6 of the East  team goes up for a dunk against the West team during the 2016 McDonalds's All American Game on March 30, 2016 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
Terrance Ferguson (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)

But could this turn out to be a case of having too much of a good thing? While considered a point guard, Simmons proved to be better at getting himself looks than doing so for others, and Alkins was also considered to be a “ball dominant” guard at the high school level. How will that change at the college level, and how will the pieces fit together within Arizona’s rotation?

These are important questions to address, and how Arizona can do that is on the defensive end of the floor.

After two straight seasons of producing defenses that ranked in the top three in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy’s numbers (first in 2014, third in 2015), Arizona was ranked 41st in that category last season. After two consecutive seasons of limiting teams to less than 40 percent shooting from the field, Arizona allowed teams to shoot 41.3 percent in 2015-16. Also of concern was the turnover department, with teams committing an average of just 11.4 per game against the Wildcats last season.

By comparison, those two Elite Eight teams managed to force an average of 13.8 turnovers per game in 2013-14 and 12.4 per contest in 2014-15. The pack line defense isn’t one that people would necessarily categorize as a “pressure” system, but one of the strengths for Arizona during those two Elite Eight runs was having athletic options on the wings who can make life difficult for passers and the players looking to receive those passes. That wasn’t the case last season, but it may not be a problem in 2016-17 thanks to the roster additions.

Ferguson’s athleticism is noted above, and he’s also a long-armed player who more than holds his own defensively. Alkins also has the physical tools needed to cause trouble on the wing, which will give Arizona a good shot at playing defense at the level we grew accustomed to seeing them reach.

Physical tools aside, there’s always the “carrot” of playing time to dangle in front of the players. When discussing the adjustment process for freshmen many rush to the offensive end, and that’s understandable to a certain extent. But the biggest adjustment comes on the other end of the floor, and being able to prove that you can defend your position and carry out the team’s defensive game plan.

Arizona will certainly have offensive talent across the board next season. But the reason why they can rebound from last season and possibly reach the Final Four is the fact that some of that talent will make a difference defensively as well.