Shabazz Napier, Josh Elbaum

Late Night Snacks: Trophies in paradise

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Games of the Day

1. Oklahoma State 76, No. 6 NC State 56  Marcus Smart announced his presence with authority, leading his unranked Cowboys over a team with Final Four aspirations. Oklahoma State put the clamps on the Wolfpack defensively, and that made all the difference.

2. UConn 89, Quinnipiac 83 (2 OT)  – Quinnipiac leader Tom Moore, who was once a UConn assistant, may have wanted to prove something to newbie head coach Kevin Ollie. This battle for the soul of Connecticut happened, amusingly enough, in the Virgin Islands. The Bobcats forced two overtime periods despite the early exit of star forward Ike Azotam with five fouls. Shabazz Napier played 47 minutes and scored 29 points in the win.

3. Colorado 81, Murray State 74  – We’ve talked plenty about Isaiah Canaan here, but Murray hung with the big boys in large part because of Ed Daniels’ 20 and 10 up front. Canaan did score 21, but the Buffs got a balanced attack, with four starters in double figures, led by Askia Booker’s 23.

 

Important Outcomes

1. No 16 Baylor 97, St. John’s 78 – It’ s never easy to bounce back from an early loss. In this case, it was Baylor that got back on track, thanks to an eight-pack of Brady Heslip three-pointers. St. John’s faltered again, falling to 2-2.

2. Western Michigan 58, South Florida 53 – The Broncs came into the South Florida Invitational, ran off three straight wins, and bumped off the host school to win the title for good measure. It was WMU head coach Steve Hawkins’ milestone 300th career victory.

3. No. 4 Ohio State 77, Washington 66 – DeShaun Thomas got his score on, pouring in 31 to help the Buckeyes stay unbeaten as they took home the championship trophy from the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic.

Starred

1. G Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State) – 20 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 steals, 4 blocks. Smart had heard the hype about No. 6 NC State, and took it in his own hands to upstage the Wolfpack. Not bad for a freshman, eh?

2. F Elias Harris (Gonzaga) – Harris hauled down 18 boards to help the Bulldogs stay ahead of South Dakota. He also had 16 points.

3. G Kwame Vaughn (Cal State Fullerton) – Vaughn scored 29 points in a terribly efficient way as the Titans held of Green Bay of the Horizon League. Vaughn was 8-10 from the floor, 2-3 from deep and a perfect 11-11 from the free throw line.

Struggled

1. F C.J. Leslie (NC State) – Everybody’s All-American scored just two points on 1-5 shooting and played just 17 minutes before fouling out against Oklahoma State.

2. The Miami Redhawks – Twelve players saw action against Louisville. Every one of them went home with a single digit in the scoring column. New coach John Cooper, in his first year following the inimitable Charlie Coles, has his work cut out for him.

3. G Galal Cancer (Cornell) – First of all, that’s a rough name. Then you have to go and have a game like Cancer had against Wisconsin. He missed every shot he took, turned the ball over five times and finished with a whopping two points, earned at the stripe.

Three Facts 

1. Jim Baron rides again – The former Rhode Island head coach is making the most of things since he shuffled off to Buffalo. He has the Canisius Golden Griffins at 2-0 to start the season, having beaten a couple of decent teams in St. Bonaventure and Boston U. If he wins three more, he’ll equal the Griffs’ win total from last season.

2. Jordan Bachynski is the Eraser – The 7’2″ Canadian is rejecting shots at an epic rate, tallying 15 blocks in two games. Granted, those games were against height-challenged programs Central Arkansas and Florida A&M, but the Sun Devils will definitely benefit from Bachynski’s presence in the middle.

3. There’s no speed limit in Montana – The fastest program in America is currently the Montana State Bobcats. The boys from Bozeman jam a thrilling 84.3 possessions into each 40 minutes of action. That may be, in part, because their first game of the season was a loss to the Seattle Redhawks, who come in second at 84.2 possessions per 40.

 

No. 22 Xavier’s slide continues with loss to short-handed No. 7 Creighton

CINCINNATI, OH - JANUARY 16:  Chris Mack the head coach of the Xavier Musketeers  gives instructions to his team against the Creighton Blue Jays during the game at Cintas Center on January 16, 2017 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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It’s officially time to be concerned about No. 22 Xavier.

The Musketeers have now lost three straight games, all to the top three teams in the Big East, and currently sit at 13-5 on the year with just a single good win to their name: Clemson.

But prior to Monday’s loss to No. 7 Creighton, Xavier had lost all of their games on the road to teams that will either get a top five seed in the NCAA tournament (Villanova, Butler, Baylor) or play at altitude (Colorado). On Monday, the Musketeers not only lost 72-67 to Creighton, but they did so on a day where the Bluejays lost star point guard and all-american candidate Mo Watson to a knee injury midway through the first half and spent the majority of the game playing with star center Justin Patton saddled with fouls.

Should I mention that Creighton, who is third-nationally in three-point percentage, shot 5-for-19 from beyond the arc, or that their two best healthy guards – Marcus Foster and Khyri Thomas – shot a combined 10-for-31?

All of the stars were aligned. Coming how to an afternoon game against a top ten team on a holiday after losing back-to-back games on the road, and that top ten team lost their most important player early in the first half?

This should have been where Xavier landed that first elite win.

Instead, the Musketeers are left scratching their head again.

And it begs the question: If not now, when?

The Musketeers still play Villanova and Butler at home, visit Creighton and have the Crossroads Classic at Cincinnati. There are opportunities for them to get wins that they need.

But if they cannot get a win over a short-handed Creighton team at home, who are they actually going to be?

VIDEO: No. 7 Creighton beats No. 22 Xavier, loses all-american Mo Watson to a knee injury

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Creighton point guard Mo Watson was carried off of the Cintas Center floor on Monday afternoon after an ugly-looking injury in the first half.

Watson drove the lane and landed on his left leg. He immediately grabbed the knee in clear distress:

The Bluejays would hold on to win a thrilling, hard-fought game, 72-67, without Watson. That’s impressive, and it means that they move into a tie for first place in the Big East with Villanova, but the story of this game was Watson.

According to a reporter at the game, Watson told head coach Gregg McDermott that he “heard it pop“. Losing Watson to any significant injury would be catastrophic for the No. 8 Bluejays. Watson entered Monday averaging 13.4 points and a nation’s-best 8.8 assists. He’s been in the top ten of our Player of the Year Power Rankings all season long, is a clear-cut candidate for an all-american team and is the engine for the high-powered offense that has made Creighton a Final Four contender.

The injury may be somewhat controversial as well. Two minutes before the video clip above, Watson banged knees with a Xavier defender and had to be helped off of the floor. He was tested on the sideline and allowed to return to the game, albeit with a noticeable limp.

UPDATE: Gregg McDermott told FS1 after the game that Watson’s ligaments are intact, but that they are concerned about the meniscus.

College Basketball Coaches Poll: Kansas vaults to No. 1

LAWRENCE, KS - DECEMBER 03:  Devonte' Graham #4 of the Kansas Jayhawks celebrates with Frank Mason III #0 after making a three-pointer during the game against the Stanford Cardinal at Allen Fieldhouse on December 3, 2016 in Lawrence, Kansas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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Kansas vaulted up to the No. 1 spot in the Coaches Poll for the first time this season, receiving 23 of the 32 first place votes.

Villanova comes in at No. 2 while UCLA, Gonzaga and Kentucky finish up the top five. Bay.or, who was No. 1 in the country last week, is No. 6 while Duke fell all the way to No. 18 with a pair of losses last week.

RANKINGS: AP Poll | Coaches Poll | NBC Sports Top 25

1. Kansas (23 first-place votes)
2. Villanova (4)
3. UCLA (2)
4. Gonzaga (3)
5. Kentucky
6. Baylor
7. Creighton
8. West Virginia
9. North Carolina
10. Oregon
11. Louisville
12. Florida State
13. Arizona
14. Butler
15. Notre Dame
16. Virginia
17. Wisconsin
18. Duke
19. Xavier
20. Cincinnati
21. Florida
22. Purdue
23. Saint Mary’s
24. South Carolina
25. Maryland

College Basketball AP Top 25: Villanova is back to the top spot

VILLANOVA, PA - DECEMBER 13: Kris Jenkins #2 of the Villanova Wildcats reacts in the second half against the Temple Owls at The Pavilion on December 13, 2016 in Villanova, Pennsylvania. The Villanova Wildcats defeated the Temple Owls 78-57. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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Villanova vaulted back into the No. 1 spot in the AP Poll after falling out for a week when they lost at Creighton.

Kansas comes in at No. 2 while UCLA, Gonzaga and Kentucky finish up the top five. Bay.or, who was No. 1 in the country last week, is No. 6 while Duke fell all the way to No. 18 with a pair of losses last week.

RANKINGS: AP Poll | Coaches Poll | NBC Sports Top 25

1. Villanova (28 first-place votes)
2. Kansas (32)
3. UCLA (3)
4. Gonzaga (2)
5. Kentucky
6. Baylor
t-7. Creighton
t-7. West Virginia
9. North Carolina
10. Florida State
11. Oregon
12. Louisville
13. Butler
14. Arizona
15. Notre Dame
16. Virginia
17. Wisconsin
18. Duke
19. Florida
20. Cincinnati
21. Purdue
22. Xavier
23. Saint Mary’s
24. South Carolina
25. Maryland

Texas gets important commitment from 2017 point guard Matt Coleman

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Texas landed an important piece for its future on Monday as four-star Class of 2017 point guard Matt Coleman committed to the Longhorns during a televised announcement.

A priority recruit for head coach Shaka Smart, the 6-foot-2 Coleman is regarded as the No. 35 overall prospect in the country, according to Rivals. A lefty floor general who can attack the basket and set up others, Coleman played for Smart this summer as the two won a gold medal together with the USA Basketball U18 team during the 2016 FIBA Americas.

Coleman is going to have to improve his perimeter shooting for the next level — he only shot 18 percent from three-point range in Nike EYBL play — but he’s the type of setup guard who should help the talented Texas perimeter get ideal shots. It’ll be intriguing to see how Smart plans to play Coleman in what could be a crowded backcourt next season but Coleman should help bring stability to the team.

With Coleman in the mix, we’ll likely see Smart use a lot of lineups with two ball handlers as we saw with Isaiah Taylor and Javan Felix last season. That type of backcourt might suit Smart’s style of play a bit better than the current Texas roster this season.

Coleman is the fourth commitment for Texas in the Class of 2017. He joins three other four-star prospects in big man Jericho Sims, guard Jase Febres and forward Royce Hamm.