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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.)
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.
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
|SOUTH – Atlanta||EAST – Boston|
|1) VIRGINIA||1) VILLANOVA|
|16) SOUTHERN / SAVANNAH ST||16) FL GULF CST / NICHOLLS|
|8) Providence||8) Florida State|
|9) Florida||9) NEVADA|
|5) Ohio State||5) West Virginia|
|12) LOUISIANA||12) St. Bonaventure / Washington|
|4) Tennessee||4) GONZAGA|
|13) E. TENNESSEE ST||13) BUFFALO|
|6) Alabama||6) Kentucky|
|11) MID TENNESSEE||11) Kansas State|
|3) Texas Tech||3) CINCINNATI|
|14) CHARLESTON||14) VERMONT|
|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|
|1) KANSAS||1) Xavier|
|16) PENNSYLVANIA||16) UNC-ASHEVILLE|
|8) Miami-FL||8) Oklahoma|
|9) Seton Hall||9) Virginia Tech|
|5) Michigan||5) RHODE ISLAND|
|12) NEW MEXICO ST||12) LOYOLA (CHI)|
|4) ARIZONA||4) Wichita State|
|13) SOUTH DAKOTA ST||13) BELMONT|
|6) Houston||6) Missouri|
|11) Texas||11) Baylor / Syracuse|
|3) Clemson||3) Purdue|
|14) BUCKNELL||14) RIDER|
|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.
I’ve said it for about a month now: When healthy, I think that Villanova is the best team in college basketball.
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
HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. (AP) — Dave Stallworth was running the show the last time Wichita State beat a Top 5 team on the road. Landry Shamet took the lead as the Shockers did it again 54 years later.
This one, too, will be a reference point, given all that was at stake.
Shamet scored 19 points, and No. 19 Wichita State ended the nation’s longest home-court winning streak, beating No. 5 Cincinnati 76-72 on Sunday to leave the American Athletic Conference race wide open.
The Shockers (21-5, 11-3) beat a Top 5 team on the road for the first time since 1964. They led most of the way, building an 11-point lead midway through the second half and holding on. Shaquille Morris’ dunk with 5 seconds left finished it off.
The Shockers ran onto the floor for congratulatory chest bumps. Coach Gregg Marshall got a celebratory dunking in the locker room, leaving his light-colored shirt clinging to him.
“It’s tremendous,” Marshall said. “Look at my shirt. College basketball has such tremendous parity. The games are decided by great players making great plays. Landry is a tremendous player.”
The Bearcats (23-4, 12-2) had won their last 39 home games. In their first real home challenge of the season, they wound up playing catch-up and coming up short. Cincinnati hasn’t beaten a ranked team all season, falling to 0-3 with losses to Xavier and Florida.
Cincinnati and Wichita State were expected to contend for the title in the Shockers’ first season in the AAC. Wichita State gave itself a chance with a solid all-around game led by its point guard. Shamet had 16 points in the first half, when the Shockers shredded the nation’s second-ranked defense to take control.
Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin was bothered by his team’s “gross, mind-boggling defensive breakdowns,” including allowing the Shockers to get open for those two late layups. Wichita State shot 53 percent from the field, getting open 3-pointers in the first half and layups in the second half.
“We’re just not in a good place right now,” Cronin said. “I hadn’t slept much. We’re not in a good place for a lot of reasons.”
Wichita State closes the regular season by hosting Cincinnati on March 4. Houston (21-5, 11-3) also is in the running for the league title after beating Temple on Sunday.
The Shockers hit seven of eight shots during a 17-3 run that gave them a 34-23 lead. Cincinnati responded by turning up its full-court defense, forcing three quick turnovers, and going on a run that cut the deficit to 42-40 at halftime.
The Shockers showed a little defense of their own, forcing five turnovers while rebuilding their lead to 59-48 with 11 minutes left, matching its biggest of the game. Cincinnati closed to 72-70 on Trevon Scott’s dunk with 13 seconds left, but the Shockers scored on a pair of inbound passes by Landry, the last a full-court heave to Morris for a dunk that provided the final margin.
“This is what we do,” said Austin Reaves, who made the first of the two decisive layups. “We stick together on the road.”
Wichita State: The Shockers needed a win to maintain their chances of a regular season title, and they got it with another good showing on the road. The Shockers are the most successful road team in the nation over the past five years at 47-8, including 7-2 this season.
“This is like our 50th red-out or white-out or black-out,” Marshall said. “We feel comfortable when that happens.”
Cincinnati: The Bearcats moved into the Top 5 even though they hadn’t beaten a ranked team all season. Losses at Houston and at home to Wichita State left them prepared for a plummet.
“As it gets later in the season, every team is better,” said Jacob Evans III, who had 16 points. “It’s not the beginning of conference or the season. Every team knows us well. We’ve got to be able to go to second options when they take away the first ones.”
NO LONGER A SWEET HOME
The Bearcats hadn’t lost at home since a 77-70 defeat against Temple on Dec. 29, 2015. They went 18-0 at Fifth Third Arena last season and were 13-0 at Northern Kentucky’s BB&T Arena, where they’re playing this season while their on-campus arena is renovated.
LONG TIME NO SEE
The Shockers and Bearcats played regularly as members of the Missouri Valley Conference from 1958-70, but it was their first game since 1981.
TOP 5 HISTORY
It was only the fourth time the Shockers have beaten a Top 5 team on the road. They beat No. 5 Oklahoma A&M in 1954 and topped No. 3 Loyola in 1963 and again in 1964 behind Stallworth.
TOUGH WEEKEND IN CINCY
Cincinnati had two teams in the Top 5, and both of them lost at home over the weekend. No. 4 Xavier lost to No. 3 Villanova 95-79 on Saturday at Cintas Center.cincinnati