Kenny Boynton

Contenders and Pretenders

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A hearty welcome to those of you just now joining the rest of us in following college basketball now that football season has ended. We’ll be running a series of posts to get all you football fans caught up on the season at-large. To read through them all, click here.

Out of any season in recent memory, there are more contenders this season than there have been in recent years. There does not appear to be a great team as of now — although Florida is doing everything they can to convince us otherwise — as opposed to a handful of really good teams that have the pieces to win six straight games in the tournament but a fatal flaw that could leave them exposed in the right matchup.

Here are the nation’s five leading contenders and pretenders:

Contender: Florida Gators

We wrote on the Gators earlier today, so I won’t go into too much detail here. The long and short of it is that Florida is as tough defensively as any team we’ve seen in the last decade, and they can just as effective playing man, going zone or throwing on a press, That’s a nightmare to prepare for, especially when they have an offensive attack that rivals Michigan and Indiana.

Pretender: Arizona Wildcats

Arizona is 19-2 on the season and carries with it a No. 7 national ranking. They are a good basketball team that could end up winning the Pac-12. But that gaudy record is the result of some lucky breaks: Nick Johnson’s game-saving block against San Diego State, Sabatino Chen’s game-winner that was incorrectly waved off, Florida playing like a high school JV team in the final minute. There is nothing about the roster makeup of the Wildcats that scares a championship-caliber team.

Contender: Indiana Hoosiers

The Hoosiers have arguably the most talented player in the country on their roster in Cody Zeller, and he isn’t even the MVP of this team. Victor Oladipo is. That’s how good Indiana is. They are still scoring like they did last season, only now they have a defense that ranks in the top 20 and one of the best on-ball defenders in the country in Oladipo.

Pretender: Duke Blue Devils

Duke is currently sitting at No. 4 in the country, but that has as much to do with what they did at the start of the season — rolling through the Battle 4 Atlantis, where they beat Louisville, VCU and Minnesota — than what they have done recently — which includes a 27 point loss to Miami. Duke is missing Ryan Kelly, who is a key piece on both sides of the ball. Duke will be a pretender until he’s back in the lineup.

Contender: Michigan Wolverines

John Beilein’s club is the most potent offensive attack in the country and led by the most dangerous point guard in the country in Trey Burke. The Wolverines have a typical John Beilein-esque roster makeup in terms of their versatility, but instead of having guys like Zak Novak and Stu Douglass on the wings, they have NBA prospects in Tim Hardaway Jr., Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III.

Pretender: Kansas Jayhawks

Ugh. It kills me to say this because I picked Kansas to win the title this year, but I just think they have too many concerns offensively. They don’t have a point guard, as Bill Self made quite clear. Their star player can’t create on his own. They don’t have a viable low-post scoring threat. As good as Kansas is defensively, I just see them having issues scoring against good teams.

Contender: Louisville Cardinals

Louisville was the No. 1 team in the country and a popular pick as the best team in college hoops as recently a two weeks ago. But then they went out and lost three games — by a total of 13 points — and dropped to 12th in the country. Three close losses changes that much about how a team is viewed? Louisville’s pressure is unmatched, and as long as they avoid extended droughts offensively, they’ll be fine.

Pretender: Ohio State Buckeyes

Deshaun Thomas may be the best scorer in the country. Aaron Craft may be the best defender in the country. Beyond that, there’s a lot of ‘meh’ when you look at Ohio State’s roster. Craft is too often forced into the role of secondary scorer, and that’s not how you want him to play. No interior scoring presence hurts as well.

Contender: Michigan State Spartans

Typical Tom Izzo. Sparty is big, they are tough and they are physical. They rebound the ball and they defend. Most importantly, they have a pair of guards in Keith Appling and Gary Harris that are a threat to go for 20 on any given night.When Tom Izzo has a good team, you don’t want to get caught betting against him.

Pretender: Gonzaga Bulldogs

This one hurts, too. I really like this Gonzaga team. They are as good as they have been since Adam Morrison was stache-ing it up in Spokane. They have a pair of big men that are an awful lot of fun to watch in Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris. Kevin Pangos is as good of a shooter as you are going to find. They just don’t defend well enough — especially when Olynyk is on the floor as the same time as Pangos and David Stockton — to stop good teams with elite guards.

PHOTO: Drake wears jersey of Zion Williamson, 2018 recruit

Drake
AP Photo
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Drake, who is famous for jumping on bandwagons and Canada’s most well-known Kentucky basketball fan, was spotted in an Instagram post wearing the jersey of Zion Williamson, one of the best players in the Class of 2018:

@mikewillmadeit @troubledte6

A photo posted by champagnepapi (@champagnepapi) on

This Williamson kid is good, too.

Well, he’s great for the mixtapes.

Because he does stuff like this:

2017 McDonald’s All-Americans announced

Atlanta, GA - MAY 27: Nike EYBL. Session 4. Michael Porter, Jr. #1 of KD Mokan Elite dribbles. (Photo by Jon Lopez)
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Rosters for the 2017 McDonald’s All-American game were announced on Sunday night as the game is headlined by Kentucky (four) having the most committed prospects in the game for the second consecutive season. Duke and UCLA also have two All-Americans each while seven players remain uncommitted.

Alabama, Arizona, Kansas, Miami, Michigan State, Oregon, USC, Washington and Western Kentucky all have one McDonald’s All-American each.

The 40th McDonald’s All-American game is scheduled for March 29 at the United Center in Chicago.

Here are the rosters for the East and West:

EAST

Mohamed Bamba, 6-foot-11, Westtown School (West Chester, PA) — undecided
Wendell Carter, 6-foot-9, Pace Academy (Atlanta, GA) — committed to Duke
Trevon Duval, 6-foot-3, IMG Academy (Bradenton, FL) — undecided
Quade Green, 6-foot-1, Neumann Goretti High School (Philadelphia, PA) — committed to Kentucky
Kevin Knox, 6-foot-8, Tampa Catholic High School (Tampa, FL) — undecided
Nick Richards, 6-foot-11, The Patrick School (Hillside, NJ) — committed to Kentucky
Mitchell Robinson, 6-foot-11, Chalmette High School (Chalmette, LA) — committed to Western Kentucky
Collin Sexton, 6-foot-3, Pebblebrook High School (Mableton, GA) — committed to Alabama
Lonnie Walker, 6-foot-4, Reading High School (Reading, PA) — committed to Miami
P.J. Washington, 6-foot-8, Findlay Prep (Henderson, NV) — committed to Kentucky
Kris Wilkes, 6-foot-7, North Central High School (Indianapolis, IN) — committed to UCLA
Jarred Vanderbilt, 6-foot-8, Victory Prep Academy (Houston, TX) — committed to Kentucky

WEST

DeAndre Ayton, 7-foot-0, Hillcrest Prep (Phoenix, AZ) — committed to Arizona
Brian Bowen, 6-foot-7, La Lumiere School (LaPorte, IN) — undecided
Troy Brown Jr., 6-foot-7, Centennial High School (Las Vegas, NV) — committed to Oregon
Jaylen Hands, 6-foot-3, Foothills Christian High School (El Cajon, CA) — committed to UCLA
Jaren Jackson, 6-foot-11, La Lumiere School (LaPorte, IN) — committed to Michigan State
Brandon McCoy, 6-foot-11, Cathedral Catholic High School (San Diego, CA) — undecided
Charles O’Bannon Jr., 6-foot-6, Bishop Gorman High School (Las Vegas, NV) — committed to USC
Michael Porter Jr., 6-foot-10, Nathan Hale High School (Seattle, WA) — committed to Washington
Billy Preston, 6-foot-10, Oak Hill Academy (Mount of Wilson, VA) — committed to Kansas
Gary Trent Jr., 6-foot-5, Prolific Prep (Napa, CA) — committed to Duke
M.J. Walker, 6-foot-5, Jonesboro High School (Jonesboro, GA) — undecided
Trae Young, 6-foot-2, Norman North High School (Norman, OK) — undecided

Conference breakdown of McDonald’s All-Americans

Pac-12: 6
SEC: 5
ACC: 3
Big 12: 1
Big Ten: 1
Conference USA: 1
Undecided: 7

VIDEO: Tom Crean loses his mind at garbage time alley-oop

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Indiana landed a 76-57 win over Rutgers on Sunday, a win that the Hoosiers badly needed; well, maybe the better way to phrase it is that Indiana couldn’t afford to lose this game.

Whatever the case is, the bottom-line is this: Indiana got a win in impressive enough fashion that they could clear the bench at the end of the game.

That resulted in Devonte Green attempting to throw an alley-oop to Freddie McSwain at the buzzer.

While up 19.

And that, in turn, cause Tom Crean to lose his mind:

WATCH LIVE: Atlantic 10 basketball doubleheader Sunday on NBCSN

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 13: A detailed view of a Spalding basketball during a quarterfinal game between the Davidson Wildcats and La Salle Explorers in the 2015 Men's Atlantic 10 Basketball Tournament at the Barclays Center on March 13, 2015 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
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The Atlantic 10 invades NBCSN and the NBC Sports app on Sunday with two games that will air as part of a doubleheader.

It starts with UMass at Rhode Island at 2:30 p.m. and concludes with George Washington heading to La Salle at 4:30 p.m.

CLICK HERE to watch the Atlantic 10 on NBCSN

No. 13 Oregon routs Oregon State 85-43

EUGENE, OR - DECEMBER 11: Dillon Brooks #24 of the Oregon Ducks shoots the ball over Ar'Mond Davis #22 of the Alabama Crimson Tide during the first half of the game at Matthew Knight Arena on December 11, 2016 in Eugene, Oregon.  (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
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EUGENE, Ore. (AP) Payton Pritchard and No. 13 Oregon made the 40-mile bus ride a wasted trip for Oregon State in the latest leg of college basketball’s most-played rivalry.

As it turned out, the 347th Civil War wasn’t much more than a neighborhood skirmish.

Pritchard had 17 points and Oregon scored the game’s first 21 points in an 85-43 victory over Oregon State on Saturday night.

“Defense,” Pritchard said of the fast start. “When we start off going hard on defense, locking up, that’s going to happen for us.”

Dylan Ennis added 16 points to help the Ducks (16-2, 5-0 Pac-12) win their 14th consecutive game – their longest such streak in 70 years – and 36th in a row at home. Dillon Brooks and Casey Benson each had 11 points.

Drew Eubanks had 19 points to lead the Beavers (4-14, 0-5), and Stephen Thompson Jr. added 10 points. They have lost 10 of their last 11 games.

“I think we were nervous,” Oregon State coach Wayne Tinkle said. “They came out and got physical with us and we had a couple of guys that didn’t know how to respond to their physicality.”

So dominant was Oregon from the opening tip that Oregon State needed more than nine minutes to make a field goal and had four of its first nine attempts blocked. The Beavers didn’t have more points than turnovers until Eubanks hit two free throws to cut the Ducks’ lead to 31-11 after 14 minutes.

“Our defensive intensity was really good to start the game,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “I liked our activity the whole first half. Guys really flew around pretty good.”

Oregon State shot 4 of 24 (16.7 percent) in the first half. Eight of those 20 misses were blocked.

After leading 41-13 at the half, Oregon started the second on a 16-5 run to go up by 37 points. The Ducks’ largest lead was 43 in the final minute.

Oregon had assists on its first eight field goals and finished with 23 assists while shooting 27 of 52 (51.9 percent) overall and 11 of 23 (47.8 percent) from 3-point range.

“I don’t think we made a 3 that wasn’t off an assist tonight,” Altman said. “When our ball movement was good, we scored baskets.”

Jordan Bell had four of Oregon’s 12 blocks, one off the school record, and Chris Boucher had three. Oregon now has 137 blocks on the season to lead the nation.

BIG PICTURE

Oregon State is now 2-10 since losing leading scorer Tres Tinkle, who averaged 20.2 points through the first six games, to a broken right wrist in late November. His status remains indefinite.

Oregon is one victory away from matching the school record for consecutive wins (15), which dates back to 1913. The Ducks have won 14 straight for the sixth time in their history but only the second time since World War II.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Oregon, after climbing eight spots in the past two weeks, may improve its position with at least two teams ranked above it having lost.

STAT OF THE NIGHT

Oregon’s 42-point margin was its largest in 161 Civil War victories. Oregon State has 187 wins in the series, including one by 43 points.

HE SAID IT

Altman said Boucher, who leads the Ducks in scoring at 13.7 points, told him before the game that he was fine continuing to play off the bench. Boucher hasn’t started since missing two games with a sprained ankle in mid-December. “For a player to say, `Use me however you’ve got to use me to win the game,’ that’s unselfish and that creates chemistry,” Altman said.

WAY TO GO, CHARLIE

The biggest cheer from what remained of the announced sellout crowd of 12,364 came when senior walk-on Charlie Noebel hit a 3-pointer with 39 seconds left for his first points of the season and his second field goal in 21 games spanning three seasons.

UP NEXT

Oregon State will try to break its five-game losing streak when it hosts Stanford on Thursday night.

Oregon stays home to face California on Thursday night and Stanford on Saturday.