After watching Florida steamroll their first four SEC opponents by an average of 26.8 points — which included Saturday’s 31 point beatdown of Missouri — and being reminded of the fact that the Gators did the same thing to Wisconsin, Marquette and Florida State earlier in the season, the biggest question mark about this team is: ‘How did they manage to lose two games?’
It’s pretty simple, really. Florida gave away the game at Arizona, losing by one while being outscored 15-0 in the final two minutes of the half and regulation. The loss to Kansas State came when they laid an egg against Kansas State in Kansas City three days before Christmas when Kenny Boynton was shooting awfully and Mike Rosario went 1-9 from the floor.
Because Florida looks like they very well could be the best team in the country right now, and Kenpom agrees. They are second nationally in offensive efficiency. They are first nationally in defensive efficiency. They are balanced offensively, they have size inside, and they can give multiple different looks on the defensive end of the floor. On the nights that Boynton and Rosario do shoot well, the Gators are scary-good.
Five teams deserving a shout out:
Butler: The Bulldogs beat Gonzaga on a fluky play with 3.5 seconds left that may or may not have involved multiple push-offs by Roosevelt Jones and may or may not have come after the buzzer. But that’s almost beside the point, because the Bulldogs did it without their best player, Rotnei Clarke. If this win did anything, it drove home a point that has been made too many times about Brad Stevens’ Bulldogs: Butler has always been more than the individuals on the roster. Their success is a testament to their system and their program.
Iowa: The Hawkeyes had a tough start to league play, losing road games to Indiana and Michigan State before dropping a home date with Michigan, but have turned things around since. They won at Northwestern last Sunday, and followed that up no Saturday with a win over Wisconsin at home. The Hawkeyes were up 30-10 on Wisconsin early in the first half, and rode out a four-point win on the night they honored the memory of Chris Street.
Oregon: Believe it or not, the Ducks are sitting all by themselves at the top of the Pac-12 standings thanks to a win over No. 24 UCLA in Pauley Pavilion on Saturday and a loss by Washington to Utah. And the most impressive part? It doesn’t seem fluky. The Ducks are legit, and may actually be the best team in the Pac-12. Who saw that coming?
Syracuse: You go into the Yum! Center and you knock off the No. 1 team in the country on the road, you get nominated for Team of the Week. That’s just how it works.
Valparaiso: The Crusaders have moved into sole possession of first place in the Horizon League thanks to a pair of impressive performances this week. On Thursday, Valpo came back from down 22 points in the second half to beat Detroit on the road and followed that up with a 69-63 win over Wright State, who was previously undefeated in league play.
Best of the rest: Belmont, Colorado State, Michigan, Michigan State, Northeastern, Pitt, Rhode Island, Stetson, Wichita State
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.