College Hoops Week in Review: Team of the Week – Colorado


Team of the Week: Colorado Buffaloes

Colorado dispatched of Murray State late on Sunday night, giving the Buffaloes their second tournament title in the calender year. The last one they won? The Pac-12 tournament back in March, which sent Tad Boyle’s club off to the NCAA tournament. But with a number of key pieces leaving that group and coming off of an up-and-down regular season, there were those that doubted the Buffs heading into the year.

Well, not anymore. Not after Colorado knocked off Dayton, Baylor and Murray State. Not after Askia Booker looked like Colorado’s star despite the fact that Andre Roberson did everything we all expected him to do this season. Not after Spencer Dinwiddie appeared to be one of the nation’s most versatile defenders and Josh Scott and Xavier Johnson proved to be much further along than typical freshmen. Until otherwise noted, Arizona and UCLA have to be considered the favorites to win the Pac-12.

But Colorado is not all that far behind.

Five teams deserving of a shoutout:

  • Oklahoma State: We talked about Oklahoma State at more length in the Player of the Week post, but the bottom line is this: they ran over a top half of the SEC team in Tennessee and they thoroughly dominated a top ten team in NC State. Oh, and Marcus Smart is a star. That’s quite a turnaround from their opener, when the Pokes struggled to beat UC Davis.
  • Duke: The Blue Devils went down to Georgia, and while it wasn’t a soul they were looking to steal, they did manage to make a statement early in the season when they knocked off reigning champ Kentucky. It wasn’t just the fact that they won, either; it was how they won: by putting on a big second half run and surviving when the more athletic Wildcats started pressing. That’s a big win for a Duke team that had plenty of doubters heading into the season.
  • Hofstra: The Pride won all three games at home this week, including thrillers against both South Dakota State and Marshall. Shaq Stokes hit a game-winner at the buzzer to knock off the Jackrabbits, while the Pride went into double-overtime against the Thundering Herd. The best news? Jamal Coombs-McDaniel still hasn’t played. They’ll get better.
  • Belmont: The Bruins scored unquestionably their biggest win of the season by going into Palo Alto and knocking off Stanford. The Bruin’s dynamic backcourt of Ian Clark and Kerron Johnosn combined for 29 points in the win. Murray State may not be the best team in the Ohio Valley this season, and Belmont has set themselves up nicely for a run at an at-large bid.
  • Florida State: After losing the opener to South Alabama at home, the Seminoles bounced back with a win in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic by knocking off both Notre Dame and St. Joe’s. In the process, Leonard Hamilton’s club has figured out that they’ll be a different team this season, one that relies on guard play heavily. The MVP of the week for FSU was freshman point guard Devon Bookert, who looked ready to takeover the role of primary ball-handler.

Also deserving a mention: Florida, Gonzaga, Michigan State, New Mexico, Santa Clara, SMU, St. Mary’s, Xavier, Wichita State, Youngstown State

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

No. 1 Kentucky survives without Tyler Ulis in lineup

Tyler Ulis
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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Less than a week after giving No. 2 Maryland all they could handle, Illinois State went into Lexington and gave No. 1 Kentucky fits.

The Redbirds never really threatened UK in the second half, but they went into the break tied and were within single digits down the stretch, eventually losing 75-63.

Kentucky was flustered. They turned the ball over 15 times compared to just eight assists, they shot 2-for-12 from three and just 29-for-46 (63 percent) from the charity stripe. They simply did not handle Illinois State’s pressure all that well.

And there was a reason for that.

Tyler Ulis didn’t play.

Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate just what a player brings to a team until that player is not in the lineup, and that was precisely the case with Ulis on Monday night. It was crystal clear what he provides Kentucky. Beyond leadership and the ability to break a press without throwing the ball to the other team, he’s a calming presence. He doesn’t get rattled when a defender is harassing him and he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a situation like a mid-major threatening the No. 1 team in the country in their own gym.

He’s everything you look for in a pure point guard, and for as good as Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe have looked at times this season, it should be crystal clear who the most important player on this Kentucky team is.

LSU loses to Charleston, eliminates at-large bid margin for error

Ben Simmons
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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Ben Simmons scored 15 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, the second time in his six-game career that the LSU freshman has collected that many caroms, but that wasn’t enough for the Tigers to avoid dropping a game on the road to the College of Charleston, 70-58. It was the third straight loss for Simmons’ crew, as they fell to Marquette and N.C. State at the Legends Classic last week.

But here’s the thing: LSU didn’t just lose.

The game really wasn’t close.

LSU was down by as many as 23 points. It was 39-17 at the half, and that was after Charleston had a shot at the buzzer called off upon review. They made a bit of a run in the second half but never got closer than seven. When LSU would cut into the lead, the Cougars would respond with a run of their own, killing LSU’s spirit while keeping them at arm’s length.

[RELATED: Ben Simmons’ one college year a waste?]

Now, there are quite a few things here to discuss. For starters, LSU’s effort was, at best, apathetic, and, at worst, regular old pathetic. The team has a serious lack of leadership that was plainly evident on Monday night; would Fred VanVleet let his team fold against a program picked to finish at the bottom of the SoCon? Would Tyler Ulis? For that matter, would Tom Izzo or Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari?

Perhaps more importantly, does any of that change when Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor get back?

Simmons did show off his potential — 18 boards, four assists, he even made his first three of the year — but he also showed precisely why there are scouts that are trying to curtail the LeBron James comparisons. Simmons was 4-for-15 from the floor with seven turnovers against a mediocre mid-major team. There are so many things that Simmons does well, but scoring efficiently — particularly in half court setting — and shooting the ball consistently are not on that list.

But here’s the biggest issue: LSU may have put themselves in a situation where they aren’t a tournament team. As of today, they’re 3-3 on the season with losses to a pair of teams that, at best, seem destined to be in the bubble conversation on Selection Sunday in addition to this loss to Charleston. The rest of their non-conference schedule is ugly. The only game worth noting is at home against No. 6 Oklahoma at the end of January.

The NCAA factors in non-conference schedule strength when determining at-large teams. You need to at least try, and LSU didn’t try; they have one of the worst non-conference schedules in the country.

The great thing about being in the SEC — as opposed to, say, the Missouri Valley — is that the Tigers will have plenty of chances to earn marquee wins. Six, by my court: Kentucky twice, Texas A&M twice, Vanderbilt on the road and Oklahoma at home. They probably need to win at least two or three of those games to have a real chance, and that’s assuming they can avoid anymore horrid losses in the process.

The season isn’t over six games in, not by any stretch of the imagination.

But LSU has done a hell of a job eliminating their margin for error.