JayVaughn Pinkston

Late Afternoon Snacks: Stormy seas in the Big East

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Game of the Day
Villanova 75, No. 3 Syracuse 71 (OT): This is why I don’t think Villanova students should have stormed the floor when they beat Louisville earlier this week, and why they shouldn’t have today, either. It implies they didn’t think their team was good enough to compete against top teams in the Big East, when clearly they are. Darun Hilliard is shaping up to be a top playmaker, with 25 points and six assists in today’s game, and Maphtou Yarou is showing flashes of double-double ability in the post. With freshman Ryan Arcidiacono playing beyond his years – he calmly canned the game-sealing free throws in the extra period – this team is gelling nicely. ‘Cuse gave up way, way too many defensive boards in this one.
Meaningful Results
Georgetown 53, No. 5 Louisville 51: The Big East seems to be bound and determined to show us what we’ll be missing next season. Tough as nails from top to bottom once again, with no easy outs in league play. The Jekyll and Hyde act continued, as Good Georgetown showed up again, and Bad Louisville continued to inhabit KFC Yum! Luke Hancock finally showed up for the Cards, shooting 50% from the floor, but that was no panacea for the slump Peyton Siva is in; the senior guard scored zero points and handed out more turnovers than assists in a dismal performance. Otto Porter, on the other hand, is who we thought he was. His 17 points and 12 boards were big in this low-scoring game.
Wisconsin 45, No. 12 Minnesota 44: I’ll admit it. I doubted Bo Ryan’s ability to get it done with this year’s Badgers. It’s a mistake I’ll never make again. Ryan is likely to keep his record of making the NCAA tournament unblemished again this season, as he continues to grind out unlikely wins the way a dentist drills cavities. Look at the stat sheet, and you won’t see any individual heroes for the Badgers. But you will see that Gopher heroes Trevor Mbakwe (eight points, 10 boards) and Andre Hollins (20 points) got almost no help from their friends, who were locked out by Wisconsin defenders. The marquee wins are there for Bo Ryan again this season. A steady performance from here on out is pretty much a given.
Iowa State 73, No. 11 Kansas State 67: The Cyclones look like a team that will live or die by the outside shot – and indeed, they went 11 of 22 from behind the arc today – but that belies the hustle The Mayor has instilled in this team. ISU’s players fight hard for the long rebounds, as evidenced by Will Clyburn snatching ten rebounds to match forward Melvin Ejim for the game high in the category. Clyburn also scored 24, leading a team of complementary parts that just do what needs to be done at every turn. This was Bruce Weber’s first exposure to Hilton Magic. He understands now, I’m sure.
No. 1 Duke 84, Maryland 64: Freshman Amile Jefferson is still struggling a bit to fill Ryan Kelly’s shoes, but fellow first-year Rasheed Sulaimon had a great day for the Blue Devils, leading all scorers with 25 points on an absolutely torrid 6 of 8 from downtown. The Terrapins again looked like a collection of well-made gears that just aren’t quite meshing at an optimal level.
Games of the Night
Temple at No. 9 Butler, 6:00 pm ET (ESPN2)
North Carolina at N0. 18 NC State, 7:00 pm ET (ESPN)
USC at No. 6 Arizona, 7:00 pm ET (ESPNU)
No. 9 Florida at Mississippi State, 8:00 pm ET (ESPN2)

WEEKLY AWARDS: Denzel Valentine’s big week, Kansas makes a statement

Denzel Valentine
(AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Denzel Valentine, Michigan State

In the title game of the Wooden Legacy, a game that was billed as a matchup between the two best players in college basketball — Valentine and Kris Dunn — Valentine was downright bad …

… by his standards. He finished with “just” 17 points, six assists and five boards. I say “just” because, in the previous two games of the tournament, the Spartan superstar averaged 30.5 points, 10.0 boards and 8.0 assists. He’s been, hands down, the best player in college basketball this season, and that didn’t change this week.


  • Ben Bentil, Providence: Kris Dunn is the guy that is going to get all the national praise, but it was Bentil’s emergence that was critical for the Friars. He averaged 21.7 points and 6.0 boards in three games in the Wooden Legacy, carrying PC when Dunn was battling foul issues.
  • Wayne Selden, Kansas: The highlight of Selden’s week was scoring 25 points on 8-for-11 shooting in the Maui title game win over No. 19 Vanderbilt. For the week, he averaged 19.3 points and shot 12-for-17 from three.
  • Justin Robinson, Monmouth: Robinson averaged 25.7 points in three games for Monmouth at the Advocare Invitational. The Hawks beat No. 17 Notre Dame and USC in the process, only losing to Dayton by three.
  • Justin Jackson, North Carolina: Remember when Justin Jackson was struggling? He averaged 21.5 points, 9.0 boards and 5.0 assists in wins over Northwestern and Kansas State. That came on the heels of a 25-point performance in the loss at Northern Iowa.
  • Henry Ellenson, Marquette: Ellenson notched three straight double-doubles for the Golden Eagles this week, which included 16 points and 11 boards in a win over Ben Simmons and LSU.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Kansas Jayhawks

Kansas headed out to Maui as a team that many weren’t really sure what to make of. They looked good against Michigan State for 30 minutes, then they blew that game as Denzel Valentine went bananas. They had as much depth as anyone in the country, but Brannen Greene was suspended, Cheick Diallo was ineligible and Wayne Selden was the most notable of a handful of talented players that had been somewhere between inconsistent and ineffective this year.

That all changed in Maui — well, other than Greene’s suspension — as Kansas rolled over Chaminade, UCLA and Vanderbilt to bring home the tournament title. Blowing out Chaminade was to be expected. But beating down a talented UCLA team? Dominating a very good Vanderbilt squad? That’s the Kansas we’ve been hoping to see show up for a few years now. The question is whether or not it’s sustainable, and at least on paper, it appears to be. Selden’s shooting percentages will come back to earth, but his raw numbers are less important than his confidence and aggressiveness. Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham are going to continue to take pressure off of each other in the back court. Perry Ellis isn’t going anywhere.

I questioned whether or not Kansas was truly one of the nation’s elite when the season started. I think they answered that question for me.


  • Xavier: The Musketeers not only won the Advocare Invitational in Orlando, they blew out in-state — and former Atlantic 10 — rival Dayton in the finals.
  • Syracuse: The Orange are going to be a factor in the ACC this season. How much? I don’t know. But after winning the Battle 4 Atlantis by knocking off No. 18 UConn and No. 25 Texas A&M, it’s clear they’re going to be involved all season.
  • Northeastern: The Huskies picked up a road win against No. 15 Miami on this buzzer-beating jumper.
  • Arkansas-Little Rock: The Trojans picked up their second huge road win of the year, going into Tulsa and knocking off the Golden Hurricane. They’re now 5-0 on the season, having also won at SDSU.
  • Tournament winners: West Virginia knocked off Richmond and San Diego State to bring home the Las Vegas Invitational title, No. 24 Cincinnati beat Nebraska and George Washington in the Barclays Center Classic and Marquette knocked off LSU and Arizona State to win the Legends Classic.


Tuesday: No. 2 Maryland at No. 9 North Carolina, 9:30 p.m.
Wednesday: Butler at No. 24 Cincinnati, 7:00 p.m.
Wednesday: Louisville at No. 3 Michigan State, 7:15 p.m.
Wednesday: No. 13 Indiana at No. 6 Duke, 9:15 p.m.
Saturday: No. 11 Arizona at No. 10 Gonzaga, 3:15 p.m.

As good as they’ve been, No. 3 Michigan State has yet to play their best

Bryn Forbes, Ryan Fazekas
Associated Press
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Sunday night’s Wooden Legacy title game matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence was billed as a matchup of the nation’s two best players, and rightfully so. Michigan State senior Denzel Valentine (17 points, six rebounds, five assists), who already has two triple-doubles to his credit this season, and Providence redshirt junior Kris Dunn (21 points, five rebounds, seven assists) have more than lived up to the preseason expectations and more of the same was expected in Anaheim.

And while both had their moments, it was Michigan State’s supporting cast that made the difference in their 77-64 victory. The scary thing for future opponents on Michigan State’s schedule is that Tom Izzo’s team is nowhere near being a finished product.

With Valentine dealing with first-half foul trouble Bryn Forbes stepped up, scoring 13 of his 18 points to help the Spartans take a two-point lead into the half. As for the 11-0 run that Michigan State produced to take control of the game late, a host of players stepped forward in regards to scoring, rebounding and defending.

Freshmen Deyonta Davis and Matt McQuaid combined to score nine points over the final 5:32, with transfer guard Eron Harris adding six of his 12 points during that stretch. The Spartans outscored the Friars, who aren’t as deep, 22-7 during that stretch to close out the game, hunting for quality shots and hitting the offensive glass while making things difficult for Providence on the other end of the floor.

The end result was a final margin that does not indicate just how close the game was. While Providence seemed to run out of steam Michigan State received contributions from multiple players, which is undoubtedly a good sign for this group moving forward.

The Spartans will return the currently injured Gavin Schilling later this season, giving them another big man alongside Davis, Matt Costello and Colby Wollenman. He was a player they missed Sunday night, as he can defend opposing big men both in the post and on the perimeter. His absence was a main reason Michigan State didn’t have an answer for Providence’s Ben Bentil (20 points, seven rebounds) defensively.

The key for this group is going to end up being role definition, which is especially true in the case of Harris. A transfer from West Virginia, Harris came to East Lansing with the reputation of being a big time scorer. He’s struggled through the first two weeks of the season, but he got on a roll on Sunday night, finishing with 12 points, three boards and three assists. He showed he’s capable of doing a variety of things on the perimeter, and fitting into a “Swiss army knife” kind of role would make Michigan State that much more dangerous.

There’s no denying that Michigan State has been one of the nation’s best teams thus far.

But there’s also no denying that the Spartans have yet to hit their ceiling, which is definitely a positive moving forward.