Late Night Snacks: Kansas fans go Wilde for Olivia’s hat

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Game of the Night

No. 4 Louisville 80, Kentucky 77: With realignment destroying old rivalries left and right, thank goodness for the river of localized vitriol that keeps this wonderful annual matchup alive. Last time, it was an unplanned Final Four meeting, won by Kentucky on the way to a national title. This time, it was just one non-conference win for the Cardinals, but that didn’t make the joy any less sweet for Louisville fans, nor the taste any less bitter for Wildcat partisans. Russ Smith went all Russdiculous with 21 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and 3 turnovers (natch) in the win.

Meaningful Results

Tennessee 51, Xavier 47: The Vols will grind it out and kill the tempo in every major matchup they have this season. So far, results have been mixed. Against Oklahoma State, Georgetown and Virginia, that approach ended in barely-watchable losses. Recently, the road grader strategy has been working, leading to a win over Wichita State two weeks ago, and tonight’s triumph over a game Xavier squad. Sophomore swingman Josh Richardson shot 5 of 6 from the floor to lead the Vols with 12 points.

No. 2 Michigan 88, Central Michigan 73: Trey Burke had 22 points and 11 assists to lead the Wolverines to 13-0 against a feisty Chippewas squad. Nick Stauskas kicked in 19 and Glenn Robinson III had 20, and Michigan has an unblemished non-conference record to celebrate. A Big Ten opener at Northwestern is next.

No. 14 Florida 78, Air Force 61: Forgive the Gators if they shudder a little bit at the name “M. Lyons” in the starting lineups. This time, fortunately for them, it was Michael Lyons of Air Force, not Mark Lyons of Arizona. Still, the Falcons gave Florida a game, going into the half down by just two points. This time, the Gators wisely spent more time feeding the post, leading to a 21 point game for Erik Murphy and a complementary 13 for Patric Young.

No. 18 Butler 68, Vanderbilt 49: Vandy ain’t what they used to be, but this is still a road win in the difficult environs of Memorial Gym, and it’s exactly the kind of game Butler must continue to win in order to get back to the Big Dance. It’s easy when Rotnei Clarke puts up 22 points, but you’d like to see a little more from his supporting cast.

Starred

Jerrelle Benimon, Towson: The former Georgetown Hoya single-handedly willed the Towson Tigers to an overtime road win over the Oregon State Beavers. His line speaks for itself: 20 points, 21 rebounds, 2 assists and one block. Benimon played all 45 minutes of the contest and logged only three personal fouls.

Kevin Ollie, UConn: It’s been a pretty decent week for Kevin Ollie, the former UConn player who took over for hoops icon Jim Calhoun on a seven-month contract in September of this year. Ollie and the Huskies visited Newtown in an emotional show of solidarity with the town’s shooting victims earlier this week. Then, as the East Coast Huskies prepared for a visit from the Washington Huskies, Connecticut announced a 5-year contract extension that should ease Ollie’s mind for a while. Then his team beat Washington 61-53 to run the team’s record to 10-2 just in time for Big East play to begin (the beginning of the end?) on New Year’s Day at Marquette.

KU’s power couple: Fans of other schools have long been secretly jealous of Kentucky’s ‘special relationship’ with Ashley Judd. One rival is starting to feel a little smug these days, as the brand new hotness is now housed in Lawrence:

Struggled

Syracuse: Sure, they won by 21 points, but this one begs for a closer examination. They scored 57 points against a 2-12 Alcorn State team that gift-wrapped 86 points in a loss to Fort Valley State earlier this year. The Braves fumbled away 25 turnovers, but also snatched 19 defensive rebounds against a team that towered over them at every position. Worst of all, the Orange shot just 37.5% from the floor and a miserable 20% from behind the arc. All this in the Carrier Dome after losing to Temple there last week. This team needs to clear out the cobwebs, and quickly.

Kentucky at the line: “Hack a Willie Cauley-Stein” doesn’t have the same ring as “Hack a Shaq”, but it’s a platinum-plated strategy for future Kentucky opponents. Louisville put Cauley-Stein on the line four times in the waning minutes of a tight game, and Cauley-Stein missed all four of his charities. He was hardly alone. The Wildcats as a team were just 47.8% from the line.

Mike Moser, UNLV: Moser’s return from injury was anything but glorious, as he played 12 minutes, picked up five quick fouls, and went back to the bench with just 3 points, one board and one turnover.

CBT Podcast: Monday Overreactions: Villanova-Xavier, the Big 12 is drunk, the best in the Big Ten is … ?

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Rob Dauster was joined by Eamonn Brennan of The Athletic on today’s show to overreact to everything that happened this weekend, from Villanova pasting Xavier to the insanity that is the Big 12 to what happened in the Big Ten in the last ten days. We also spend a good 30 minutes talking about bubble teams, tournament resumes and some misconceptions with both. The rundown.

OPEN: Bubble Banter. We talk about weird bubble teams and whether or not we like the new Quadrant system.

36:08: Villanova’s win over Xavier and the Big East title race.

45:15: The Big 12 makes no sense and I love it.

58:30: Michigan State deserves the Big Ten title.

Team Of The Week: Houston Cougars

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The Cougars have now won five straight games, but it was the two games they won this week that set the tone for what the rest of their season can be.

On Thursday night, Cincinnati came to down and Houston dropped them, 67-62, despite digging a double-digit hole in the first half. They followed that up by going into North Philadelphia and poleaxing Temple. They were up 34-11 midway through the first half. They won by 21 points. It was never a question.

And as a result, Houston’s bid to the NCAA tournament is no longer a question so long as they avoid losing to Memphis, East Carolina and UConn. And if they truly are an NCAA tournament team, they’ll get that done.

But perhaps the best piece of news is that the Cougars did all this while Rob Gray did not play well. He’s one of the best players in that conference, and the fact that they were able to right Devin Davis and Corey Davis to wins in two of their most important and toughest games of the league slate is significant.

What happens when Rob Gray gets right?

THEY WERE GOOD, TOO

  • WICHITA STATE: Not only did Wichita State land a come-from-behind win over Temple on Thursday night, one where they trailed by 14 points at halftime, but they followed that up by going to Cincinnati and knocking off the then-No. 5 Bearcats.
  • MICHIGAN STATE: The Spartans moved into sole possession of first place in the Big Ten due in large part to the fact that they were able to erase a 27-point first half deficit at Northwestern.
  • BAYLOR: The Bears look like they are now heading for the NCAA tournament after landing wins at Texas and at home over Texas Tech on Saturday. Now that Scott Drew’s team is healthy, they look like they belong in the top 25.
  • ST. BONAVENTURE: The Bonnies might have solidified their bid for the NCAA tournament. As long as they don’t do anything dumb the rest of the season, beating Rhode Island at home on Friday night should be enough for them to get in.
  • DUKE: The Blue Devils have now won three straight games after losing Marvin Bagley III to a minor knee sprain, mainly because their defense is now playing at a level that we haven’t seen yet this season. Are the Blue Devils better without Marvin Bagley??? (Hint: No.)

Player Of The Week: Terry Maston, Baylor

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Terry Maston is back from injury and playing the best basketball of his career.

The 6-foot-8 senior was utterly dominant in two critical, close wins this week. It started with 26 points and six boards in a double-overtime win at Texas on Monday night that was something of a play-out game for NCAA tournament purposes.

Then on Saturday, that win was overshadowed. Maston had 24 points and five boards in regular as the Bears knocked off No. 7 Texas Tech for their fifth straight win, and suddenly it looks like Scott Drew’s club will be in the NCAA tournament come Selection Sunday.

All told, in what will arguably be the most important week of the season for Baylor, Maston scored 50 points, or a total of 38 percent of Baylor’s total scoring output in those two games.

Not bad for a guy that came off the bench in both of those wins.

THE ALL-‘THEY WERE GOOD, TOO’ TEAM

  • GRAYSON ALLEN, Duke: In three games without Marvin Bagley III, Duke is now 3-0 thanks to Grayson Allen averaging 22.3 points and 5.3 assists while shooting 42 percent from three. Last week, Duke beating Virginia Tech by 22 points and won at Clemson.
  • CALEB and CODY MARTIN, Nevada: The Wolf Pack picked up two road wins this week, including a win at Boise State that gave them the inside track at the Mountain West regular season title. The twins combined to average 42.5 points, 12.5 boards and 4.0 assists in those two wins.
  • AARON HOLIDAY, UCLA: The Bruins stayed on track to earn a berth into the NCAA tournament with wins over Oregon and Oregon State. Holiday was the star both nights, going for 17 and 10 assists against OSU and following that up with 29 points, six assists and five boards in an overtime win over Oregon.
  • MATT MOBLEY, St. Bonaventure: Mobley averaged 28 points and nine boards as the Bonnies beat La Salle and No. 16 Rhode Island to put themselves in a spot where they can realistically feel good about their chances of getting into the NCAA tournament.
  • DEANDRE AYTON, Arizona: Ayton had one of his best games of the season on Thursday night, going for 25 points, 16 boards, four assists and three blocks as the Wildcats picked off Arizona State on the road.

Bracketology: Kansas returns to top line

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The roller-coaster ride along the No. 1 seed line continues.  This morning, we welcome back Kansas.  The Jayhawks’ rally against West Virginia, combined with Auburn’s loss at South Carolina, inched KU back to the top line.  With three weeks to go, Virginia and Villanova look like good bets to hold their top-seed positions.  The next two spots – occupied today by Xavier and Kansas – are a little more in question.

Various seed line groupings are closely bunched, meaning fluidity remains in the middle and lower ends of the bracket.  A lot of bubble teams won over the weekend, picking up notable wins along the way.  The proverbial stretch run is upon us.

Here’s the latest ..

UPDATED: February 19, 2018

FIRST FOUR PAIRINGS – Dayton (First Round)

  • Washington vs. St. Bonaventure | East Region
  • Syracuse vs. Baylor Midwest Region
  • SOUTHERN vs. SAVANNAH ST | South Region
  • FL GULF COAST vs. NICHOLLS | East Region

BRACKET PROJECTION

SOUTH Atlanta    EAST – Boston                               
Charlotte Pittsburgh
1) VIRGINIA 1) VILLANOVA
16) SOUTHERN / SAVANNAH ST 16) FL GULF CST / NICHOLLS
8) Providence 8) Florida State
9) Florida 9) NEVADA
Boise San Diego
5) Ohio State 5) West Virginia
12) LOUISIANA 12) St. Bonaventure / Washington
4) Tennessee 4) GONZAGA
13) E. TENNESSEE ST 13) BUFFALO
Dallas Wichita
6) Alabama 6) Kentucky
11) MID TENNESSEE 11) Kansas State
3) Texas Tech 3) CINCINNATI
14) CHARLESTON 14) VERMONT
Detroit Nashville
7) Texas AM 7) Creighton
10) NC State 10) TCU
2) MICHIGAN STATE 2) North Carolina
15) WRIGHT STATE 15) WAGNER
WEST – Los Angeles MIDWEST – Omaha
Wichita Detroit
1) KANSAS 1) Xavier
16) PENNSYLVANIA 16) UNC-ASHEVILLE
8) Miami-FL 8) Oklahoma
9) Seton Hall 9) Virginia Tech
San Diego Boise
5) Michigan 5) RHODE ISLAND
12) NEW MEXICO ST 12) LOYOLA (CHI)
4) ARIZONA 4) Wichita State
13) SOUTH DAKOTA ST 13) BELMONT
Dallas Pittsburgh
6) Houston 6) Missouri
11) Texas 11) Baylor / Syracuse
3) Clemson 3) Purdue
14) BUCKNELL 14) RIDER
Nashville Charlotte
7) Arizona State 7) Arkansas
10) Saint Mary’s 10) Butler
2) AUBURN 2) Duke
15) UC-SANTA BARBARA 15) MONTANA

NOTES on the BRACKET: Virginia is the No. 1 overall seed – followed by Villanova, Xavier, and Kansas

Last Four Byes (at large): Butler, Saint Mary’s, Kansas State, Texas

Last Four IN (at large): Washington, Baylor, St. Bonaventure, Syracuse

First Four OUT (at large): UCLA, LSU, Louisville, Marquette

Next four teams OUT (at large): USC, Utah, Georgia, Notre Dame

Breakdown by Conference …

ACC (9): VIRGINIA, Duke, North Carolina, Clemson, Florida State, Miami-FL, Virginia Tech, NC State, Syracuse

SEC (8): AUBURN, Tennessee, Missouri, Alabama, Kentucky, Texas AM, Arkansas, Florida

BIG 12 (8): TEXAS TECH, Kansas, West Virginia, Oklahoma, TCU, Kansas State, Texas, Baylor

Big East (6): VILLANOVA, Xavier, Creighton, Providence, Seton Hall, Butler

Big 10 (4): MICHIGAN STATE, Purdue, Ohio State, Michigan

Pac 12 (3): ARIZONA, Arizona State, Washington

American (3): CINCINNATI, Wichita State, Houston

Atlantic 10 (2): RHODE ISLAND, St. Bonaventure

West Coast (2): GONZAGA, Saint Mary’s

Mountain West (1): NEVADA

ONE BID LEAGUES: Loyola-Chicago (MVC), Rider (MAAC), Middle Tennessee (C-USA), Louisiana (SBELT), Pennsylvania (IVY), Montana (BSKY), Wright State (HORIZON), Nicholls (SLND), East Tennessee State (STHN), UC-Santa Barbara (BWEST), Buffalo (MAC), Florida Gulf Coast (ASUN), Belmont (OVC), Charleston (CAA), UNC-Asheville (BSO), Savannah State (MEAC), South Dakota State (SUM), New Mexico State (WAC), Vermont (AEAST), Bucknell (PAT), Wagner (NEC), Southern (SWAC)

Bracketing principles: read them for yourself at http://www.ncaa.com.

College Basketball Power Rankings: Villanova remains in the top spot

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I’ve said it for about a month now: When healthy, I think that Villanova is the best team in college basketball.

When healthy.

Over the course of the last seven games, they played without Phil Booth, one of the program’s better perimeter defenders and a double-digit scorer that averages better than three assists per night. His presence also means that the Wildcats have someone coming off the bench that isn’t a freshman that’s in over their head after missing a month with a broken hand.

Booth took his cast off on Saturday, a day when the Wildcats went into Cincinnati and mollywhopped No. 4 Xavier. There is hope that he will be able to suit up on Wednesday, when Villanova hosts DePaul, meaning that Villanova is back to full strength. They are 24-3 on the season and two of those three losses came without Booth.

Virginia probably has the best résumé in college basketball. I’m not sure Villanova will be able to earn the No. 1 overall seed unless the Wahoos slip-up; I’m also not sure it matters, Villanova is heading to the East Regional almost regardless of what happens.

But I do think that Villanova is college basketball’s best when they are at their best.

And now, with Booth back, they are at their best.

So they’re my No. 1 team.

Here is my full top 25:

1. Villanova, 24-3 (Last Week: No. 1)
2. Virginia, 24-2 (2)
3. Michigan State, (3)
4. Xavier, 24-4 (5)
5. Purdue, 24-5 (4)
6. Duke, 22-5 (10)
7. Texas Tech, 22-5 (7)
8. Cincinnati, 23-4 (6)
9. Gonzaga, 25-4 (11)
10. North Carolina, 21-7 (17)
11. Auburn, 23-4 (8)
12. Ohio State, 22-7 (9)
13. Kansas, 21-6 (13)
14. Wichita State, 21-5 (25)
15. Clemson, 20-6 (12)
16. West Virginia, 19-8 (15)
17. Rhode Island, 21-4 (16)
18. Tennessee, 19-7 (14)
19. Arizona, 21-6 (21)
20. Nevada, 23-5 (20)
21. Michigan, 22-7 (23)
22. Butler, 18-10 (22)
23. Texas A&M, 17-10 (18)
24. Baylor, 17-10 (NR)
25. Saint Mary’s, 25-4 (19)

DROPPED OUT: No. 24 Oklahoma

NEW ADDITIONS: No. 24 Baylor