Kentucky is the most vulnerable against physical teams

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UNCASVILLE, CT – Every team in the SEC should send a thank you note and an edible arrangement to Old Dominion after their 62-52 loss to Kentucky in the final of Hall of Fame Tip-Off tournament.

The Monarchs just wrote the blueprint for how to beat Kentucky this season. Its simple, really: make it ugly.

“Old Dominion did a great job,” Kentucky head coach John Calipari said after the game. “We know that this is how people are going to play us. They’ll hold the ball and be physical with us. They were very physical with us, especially in the post. I don’t know if one of many teams has missed as many one-footers as we missed. They were on your body and we weren’t going to get a free look that way.”

We’ve been saying it since October — the player that Kentucky is going to miss the most from last season’s Final Four team isn’t Brandon Knight or Deandre Liggins, its Josh Harrellson. For all the talent that the Wildcats have in their front court with Terrence Jones, Anthony Davis and Kyle Wiltjer, the one thing they lack is a big, physical post presence. They don’t have that guy that will battle for position and make it difficult for an opposing team’s center to score on the block.

I don’t think its a stretch to say that Harrellson would make the Wildcats unquestionably the best team in the country.

“They got the ball wherever they wanted to in the post,” Calipari said. “It was too physical for Anthony Davis. It was so physical that he couldn’t even grab the ball. He must learn to bend over and play that way or every game he plays is going to be like this. Kyle was fighting and trying to get to some balls, but he had some baskets scored on him too.”

“We got behind the post and we fouled, because we didn’t get position as they were fighting harder than we were fighting.”

To be fair, Old Dominion just matches up well with Kentucky. The Monarchs are a team full of veterans that are well-coached and disciplined defensively. The guys on that team know what is going to be asked on them on every possession, and they simply execute. They are also very, very physical. Throw in the fact that this is the second noon-tip in a row for a young Kentucky team that is on the tail-end of a week-long road trip — remember, they never went back to Lexington after their game on Tuesday at the Champion’s Classic in New York City — and it was a perfect storm.

It only made sense that the Monarchs were going to give Kentucky problems.

And it also makes it easy to identify who is the most likely to knock off the Wildcats in the SEC. Alabama has a couple of tough, veteran bigs and they play a physical style of defense. They should give Kentucky problems. After seeing Mississippi State two nights in a row this week, I think the Bulldogs can also give Kentucky a fight. But is Vanderbilt really going to change the way they play, particularly if Festus Ezeli is still injured or not back to 100%, just for a game against the Wildcats?

More than anything, this is an indicator of who Kentucky will struggle with.

But its also a perfect teaching point for Calipari. Watching this tape, it won’t be difficult for him to clearly lay out for his team exactly where they are going to struggle this season and what they need to improve on. Teaching point aren’t easy to come by when you’re running Kansas out of Madison Square Garden or outscoring Penn State 47-15 in a half. Nearly losing to Old Dominion, however, will get this group’s attention.

“We’re either going to evolve or we’re not going to be as good as everybody thinks,” Calipari said. “Because what its going to be is mush-mouth basketball right now until we prove we can play.”

“But I think I have a good enough team with good enough guys, they’ll figure it out.”

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

No. 2 Kansas rides hot start to 95-68 win over UW-Milwaukee

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LAWRENCE, Kan. — Devon Dotson had 22 points and nine assists, Udoka Azubuike added 15 points and 17 rebounds, and second-ranked Kansas rolled to a 95-68 victory over Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Tuesday night.

Ochai Agbaji also had 22 points for the Jayhawks (8-1), who built a 40-12 lead in the first half and cruised the rest of the way to their 26th consecutive home win. It also gave them 300 for the decade, joining Gonzaga (304) as the only Division I schools to have reached the milestone before the calendar flips to January.

Darius Roy had 25 points to lead the Panthers (5-5), who actually outscored the Jayhawks most of the second half. Leading scorer Te’Jon Lucas was held to 11 points on 1-of-6 shooting from beyond the arc.

Kansas basically put the game away with a faultless first 12 minutes.

Agbaji, who went for 20 points and 12 boards against Colorado over the weekend, continued his torrid pace by knocking down three 3-pointers in the first three minutes. McCormack and Azubuike got into the act down low, using their massive bulk against the smaller Panthers. And then Dotson went on a scoring binge, using cat-quick penetration to get into the lane and knocking down a series of 3s when Milwaukee began to collapse on the paint.

The result was a 17-1 run to start the game, a 23-4 advantage by the 14-minute mark, and a 40-12 lead — and a whole bunch of used timeouts by Milwaukee coach Pat Baldwin — by the time the buzzer sounded on the under-8 media timeout.

Just how efficient was Kansas by that point? Try a 19-3 rebounding advantage, an 8-of-13 mark from the 3-point line, and 11 assists on the Jayhawks’ first 15 made field goals. Oh, and they had just three turnovers.

The crisp passing and utter selflessness was on display during one fast-break opportunity, when Dotson curled a bounce pass around a defender to Agbaji, who passed up his own look to dump the ball to Tristan Enaruna for a layup.

Milwaukee finally had a stretch of success late in the first half, but the Jayhawks still cruised into the locker room with a 52-27 lead. The second half was mostly academic, punctuated by a few big highlights — like the alley-oop pass from Dotson that Agbaji threw down with a rim-rattling reverse dunk with about 12 minutes to go.

That was enough to start the victory party nice and early.

BIG PICTURE

Milwaukee never gave itself a chance by spotting Kansas a big lead on the road, but it also never gave up. The Panthers scored seven of the first eight points to start the second half and stood toe-to-toe with the Jayhawks the rest of the way.

Kansas is poised to move to No. 1 next week after top-ranked Louisville lost to Big 12 rival Texas Tech at the Jimmy V Classic in New York. The result was shown on the video boards in Allen Fieldhouse and elicited a big roar.

UP NEXT

Milwaukee plays its lone home game in December against Eastern Illinois on Saturday night.

Kansas plays Kansas City on Saturday night at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

VIDEO: Texas Tech celebrates win over No. 1 Louisville

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Texas Tech pulled off another upset of a No. 1 team on Tuesday night when the Red Raiders took down Louisville in Madison Square Garden.

Playing without freshman guard and leading scorer Jahmi’us Ramsey, Texas Tech earned its biggest win over the season in the Jimmy V Classic.

It led to a wild postgame celebration for Texas Tech, one week after dropping a tough overtime game on the road at DePaul.

The win could lead to the Red Raiders getting back in the top 25 this week.

No. 1 goes down again as Texas Tech upsets Louisville

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NEW YORK — It was the fourth time it’s happened in the first five weeks of the season, the third time it’s happened against an unranked team and the second time that Madison Square Garden played host to the carnage.

The No. 1 team in the country lost.

On Tuesday night, in the opener of the Jimmy V Classic, No. 1 Louisville lost to the unranked Texas Tech, 70-57. That’s the same Texas Tech that arrived in New York City on a three-game losing streak — against Iowa, Creighton and DePaul — and who was forced to play with leading scorer Jahmi’us Ramsey, who missed his third straight game with a hamstring injury.

Davide Moretti led the way for the reigning national runners-up, finishing with 18 points, while freshman Terrence Shannon chipped in with 13 of his own and Chris Clarke added seven points, 12 boards and six assists.

As we have become accustomed to under head coach Chris Beard, Texas Tech won with their defense. They held Louisville to 34 percent shooting for the game. The Cardinals were 3-for-17 from three. They turned the ball over 19 times and made 18 field goals. It was, to be frank, as bad as it sounds.

Texas Tech does this to teams. They take you out of what you want to do offensively. The Red Raider coaching staff scouts as well as any staff in the country — in the first half, with their defense right in front of them, they were calling out Louisville’s sets as Louisville was calling their plays. — and this put Louisville in an impossible spot. They couldn’t get good shots out of their offense because Texas Tech wouldn’t let them, but with a point guard situation that is can be flatteringly called a work in progress, they didn’t have anyone that could create offense.

Texas Tech forces you to make plays.

Louisville doesn’t have anyone that can do that.

And it showed.

Penn State upsets No. 4 Maryland

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Penn State used five double-figure scorers and played consistently hard on both ends of the floor as the Nittany Lions stunned previously-unbeaten No. 4 Maryland with a 76-69 Big Ten win on Tuesday night.

Losing by 30 on the road to Ohio State in their last conference game, Penn State displayed impressive intensity on the defensive end, limited turnovers on the offensive end and received plenty of help for star senior Lamar Stevens when he wasn’t having his best game. For the second straight season, Penn State upset a ranked Maryland team on its home floor as the Nittany Lions proved they’ll be a tough out at home all season.

Penn State (8-2, 1-1) received double-doubles from both Stevens (15 points, 10 rebounds) and big man Mike Watkins (15 points, 11 rebounds, four blocks) as the duo did a ton of damage on the interior. The Nittany Lions also had double-digit scoring efforts from Myreon Jones (14 points), Izaiah Brockington (14 points) and Myles Dread (10 points). With 19 assists and only eight turnovers, Penn State’s offense did an outstanding job of running clean sets and getting good looks from multiple players.

This is a quality win for the Nittany Lions early in the Big Ten portion of the schedule. It gives an unproven team a major boost of confidence — particularly beating a top-five team on a night where Stevens was only 5-for-13 from the floor. The Ohio State road loss shows Penn State still has a long way to go to be considered any kind of major threat. But Pat Chambers’ team is at least balanced and feisty enough to be a really tough out at home this season. A few more wins like this could put Penn State in the NCAA tournament picture with the kind of schedule they’ll play in the Big Ten this season.

But the major story here is the loss for Maryland. Because the Terps have some concerning trends they need to address.

Early in the season, Maryland (10-1, 1-1) has made a habit of falling behind early. It happened multiple times in an early-season tournament. And it’s now happened in back-to-back Big Ten games against Illinois and Penn State. While Maryland has been able to overcome slow starts all season with talent and comeback wins, a bad start came back to really bite them on Tuesday.

Trailing by 10 at halftime, Maryland tried to make second-half runs to stay with Penn State. Ultimately, the Terps were derailed by inconsistent offense, sloppy and careless turnovers (Penn State had 17 points off turnovers in the first half) and an inconsistent effort on the inside.

Maryland’s offense had 20 turnovers to only nine assists for the game as the Terps never seemed to figure out the proper way to run its offense. Alternating between senior Anthony Cowan Jr. (16 points) and sophomore Eric Ayala (15 points) initiating offense, both guards had too many bad passes and unforced errors for a team with Big Ten title aspirations.

It’s very clear that Maryland has the talent to compete with nearly any team in the country. Even on an off night, the Terps made this a one-possession game against a balanced Big Ten team with some veteran players. But Maryland can’t have these kinds of unforced errors if they see themselves making a deep run in the NCAA tournament.

That mainly falls on Cowan. A few of his turnovers were stunningly bad for a senior floor leader. Getting stripped 35 feet from the hoop and throwing lazy passes for interceptions and easy layups can’t happen for Cowan. There’s just too much talent on offense for Maryland to be giving away points in close games.

The good news for Maryland is that there is plenty of time to correct some of these mistakes. Cowan can limit the mistakes. The offense will likely play better and more together. But Maryland’s slow starts are a trend to keep an eye on as it has been a factor for them in multiple games this season.

Bracketology: Cardinals, Buckeyes sit atop latest bracket projection

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At the quarter-turn of our race to Selection Sunday, the Louisville Cardinals lead Ohio State by a nose for the No. 1 overall seed.  Close behind are Michigan, Kansas, Gonzaga and Maryland.  The Buckeyes and Wolverines are the surprise entries among that group, although both have earned their positions with impressive performances out of the gate.

While the first turn provides a quick glance at the Field, we still have three-quarters of the race to run – including a daunting backstretch and the turn for home known as conference play.  Those grueling furlongs tend to separate the pretenders and contenders.

Early brackets are notoriously fluid; margins between teams are thin. Early projections also tend to produce some quirkiness – especially related to conference balance.  Keep those things in mind.  By next month we could see a lot of changes.

UPDATED: December 10, 2019

FIRST FOUR – DAYTON
EAST REGION Iowa State vs. Arizona State
SOUTH REGION Georgetown vs. Oregon State
MIDWEST REGION  SACRED HEART vs. PRAIRIE VIEW AM
WEST REGION MONTANA vs. NC A&T

MIDWEST Indianapolis EAST – New York                       
St. Louis Cleveland
1) LOUISVILLE 1) OHIO STATE
16) NC-AT / SACRED HEART 16) RADFORD
8) West Virginia 8) VCU
9) Penn State 9) Texas
Sacramento Sacramento
5) Arizona 5) SAN DIEGO STATE
12) WESTERN KENTUCKY 12) UNC-GREENSBORO
4) Kentucky 4) Washington
13) LIBERTY 13) YALE
St. Louis Greensboro
6) MEMPHIS 6) Villanova
11) Saint Mary’s 11) Iowa St / Arizona St
3) DAYTON 3) TENNESSEE
14) WRIGHT STATE 14) VERMONT
Albany Greensboro
7) Florida 7) Seton Hall
10) DePaul 10) Indiana
2) Maryland 2) Duke
15) HOFSTRA 15) COLGATE
WEST – Los Angeles SOUTH – Houston
Omaha Cleveland
1) KANSAS 1) Michigan
16) MONTANA / PV-AM 16) SOUTH DAKOTA ST
8) Stanford 8) LSU
9) Marquette 9) Colorado
Albany Omaha
5) Michigan State 5) North Carolina
12) BOWLING GREEN 12) NORTHERN IOWA
4) Virginia 4) Baylor
13) BELMONT 13) S.F. AUSTIN
Tampa Tampa
6) Purdue 6) Auburn
11) Oklahoma 11) Georgetown / Oregon St
3) BUTLER 3) Florida State
14) RIDER 14) GEORGIA STATE
Spokane Spokane
7) Utah State 7) Xavier
10) Creighton 10) Connecticut
2) GONZAGA 2) OREGON
15) UC-SANTA BARBARA 15) NEW MEXICO STATE

BUBBLE NOTES
Last 4 Byes Last 4 IN      First 4 OUT Next 4 OUT
Creighton Georgetown Iowa Arkansas
Connecticut Arizona State Wichita State Virginia Tech
Saint Mary’s Oregon State NC State Houston
Oklahoma Iowa State Richmond Oklahoma State

Top Seed Line
Louisville, Ohio State, Michigan, Kansas

Breakdown by Conference …
Big East (8)
Big Ten (7)
Pac 12 (7)
BIG 12 (6)
SEC (5)
ACC (5)
West Coast (2)
American (2)
Atlantic 10 (2)
Mountain West (2)