Thad Matta,  LaQuinton Ross, Evan Ravenel

Christmas Wish List: OSU needs production from Ross, Smith

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Over the course of the next two weeks, College Basketball Talk will be detailing what some of the country’s best, most intriguing, and thoroughly enigmatic teams need. It’s the spirit of the holidays. We’re in a giving mood.

What do other teams have on their Christmas Wish Lists? Click here to find out.

Gotta have it list-topper: Lenzelle Smith and LaQuinton Ross to keep playing well

The key to Ohio State’s season hinges almost entirely on the play of Smith and Ross. Let me explain. We all know how good of a scorer Deshaun Thomas is. He shoots a ton, he’d be a miserable guy to play pickup ball with, but there’s not denying the fact that he’s one of the most potent scorers in the country. Aaron Craft is an all-american. I love his game. He’s one of the best leaders and on-ball defenders in the country. He’s a throw-back point guard, and he does it better than anyone else in the country. But he struggles when he’s forced to be a primary scorer, a guy that needs to hunt shots and get 13-15 points for the Buckeyes to have success.

That’s where Smith and Ross come into the picture. Both players are currently averaging double-figures on the season, and while Smith is showing more promise as a spot-up shooter and Ross is better is more of a slashing role, the bottom-line is that they can score. And if Ohio State is going to contend with Michigan and Indiana at the top of the Big Ten this season, they need those two to take pressure off of Thomas and Craft.

Stocking stuffer: More minutes for Shannon Scott

Believe it or not, Scott has actually been better than Craft this season. Granted, it’s come in some limited minutes and he’s done some damage in garbage time against bad teams, but Scott’s raw numbers (5.0 assists, 2.6 steals, 5:1 assist-to-turnover ratio) and efficiency stats (he’s got a better offensive rating, assist rate and steal percentage than Craft) are phenomenal. Maybe, one day, the Ohio State staff won’t regret taking him over Columbus native Trey Burke.

Planning on re-gifting: Opponents outside the Kenpom top 100

Frankly, it’s difficult to truly form an opinion on this Ohio State team as is. They’ve only played one team in the Kenpom top 100 this year — Duke — and they put up a performance with two extremes. For about 28 minutes, they dominated the Blue Devils and looked like a legitimate top five team. For the final 12 minutes, they looked like they might finish sixth in the conference. Now, their weak schedule is entirely their fault. Rhode Island is way down because of a coaching change, Washington is usually better than they are this year, Long Beach State didn’t have their transfers eligible yet and Kansas comes to town on Saturday. But that doesn’t change the fact that the Buckeyes have played an extremely weak schedule thus far this season.

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

POSTERIZED: Jaylen Brown throws down hard in transition

Albert Almanza, Jaylen Brown, Jalin Barnes
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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Jaylen Brown is a top five player in the Class of 2015 and a kid projected as a top ten pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.


Because he does things like this:

LATE NIGHT SNACKS: Denzel Valentine, the nation’s best player?

Denzel Valentine
AP Photo/Alex Gallardo
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(This will be updated throughout the day.)

GAME OF THE DAY: Syracuse 74, No. 25 Texas A&M 67

The Orange got 20 points from Michael Gbinije and 15 points and five assists from Trevor Cooney as they won the Battle 4 Atlantis title on Friday afternoon. We wrote on this game earlier. Are the Orange for real this year?


Denzel Valentine, Michigan State: 32 points, nine boards, six assists

No. 3 Michigan State beat Boise State 77-67 in the semifinals of the Wooden Legacy out in California, but the result of that game is less important than the result of Valentine’s night. A night after notching his second triple-double of the season, Valentine took over another way on Friday, hitting five straight threes in the span of about five minutes to put the Spartans up double-figures in a game they were struggling to take control of.

In three games against high-major competition, Valentine is now averaging 30.0 points, 10.7 boards and 9.3 assists. He has been, unequivocally, the best player in college basketball this season.

No. 10 Gonzaga 73, No. 17 UConn 70: Eric McClellan and Kyle Dranginis made some big plays down the stretch as the Bulldogs held on to win a game they led by as much as 21 in the second half. Kyle Wiltjer scored a team-best 17 points for Gonzaga, which finished third at the Battle 4 Atlantis. Rob Dauster wrote more about the Bulldogs and their second-half performance here.

Alabama 64, No. 20 Wichita State 60: While the Shockers’ losses to USC and Alabama don’t help them from an NCAA tournament standpoint, the bigger issue is the team’s health.

No. 17 Notre Dame 68, Iowa 62: The Fighting Irish blew a 15-point second half lead, but the comeback gassed the Hawkeyes, as Notre Dame was able to pull away down the stretch. V.J. Beachem led the way with 16 points.


Quincy Ford, Northeastern: Not only did he score 24 points in the upset win over No. 15 Miami, but he hit the game-winning jumper, too. Video here.

Cat Barber, N.C. State: Barber notched a career-high 37 points to go along with eight assists as the Wolfpack fought off a scrappy Winthrop team, 87-79. He wasn’t the best scorer on the floor, though …

Jimmy Gavin, Winthrop: Gavin finished with 38 points. Off the bench. The most incredible part? He was 5-foot-4, 90 pounds as a sophomore due to Crohn’s Disease.

John Egbunu, Florida: Egbunu finished with 17 points, 11 boards and four blocks as the Gators knocked off FGCU, 70-50. Dorian Finney-Smith added 23 points for Florida.


Wichita State’s bigs: Five of them (Anton Grady, Zach Brown, Rashard Kelly, Bush Wakumota, Eric Hamilton) finished a combined 3-for-21 from the floor with 14 points and 14 fouls. Wakumota shot one of the worst threes you’ll ever see with Wichita State down 62-60 with 10 seconds left.

Grady suffered a scary neck injury late in the game, but early reports sound positive.


  • Jamal Murray went for 21 points and three assists without a turnover at No. 1 Kentucky rolled over South Florida. The big question: How bad is Tyler Ulis’ elbow injury?
  • Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart both had 13 points as No. 8 Villanova knocked off Georgia Tech to win the Preseason NIT, 69-52.
  • No. 23 Xavier raced out of the gates against USC and led by as much as 32, going on to win 87-77 in Orlando. Trevon Bluiett led four Musketeers in double figures with 16 points and James Farr added 12 to go along with nine rebounds off the bench.
  • Troy Caupain had 17 points and Octavious Ellis added 12 points and nine boards (seven offensive) as No. 24 Cincinnati outlasted Nebraska, 65-61, at the Barclays Center.


  • Stanford finished third at the Preseason NIT with a 69-66 win over Arkansas, closing the game on a stunning 21-1 run. Rosco Allen scored eight of his career-high 25 points during that run, and Marcus Allen’s goal-tended layup with 2.6 seconds remaining gave the Cardinal the lead for good.
  • Taurean Waller-Prince had 25 points to lead Baylor to a win over Arkansas State.
  • Joey King’s 18 points paced five players in double-figures for Minnesota as they knocked off Omaha, 93-90.
  • Caris LeVert had 19 points and Derrick Walton added 13 points and seven assists as the Wolverines beat Texas in the fifth-place game in the Battle 4 Atlantis.