Men’s coach Kevin Ollie said his program understands there would be a drop-off in the quality of league opponents, and looked toward improving its RPI by putting together a very tough non-conference schedule for the upcoming season that includes Washington, Maryland, Florida, Stanford and possibly Indiana.
Who said no one cared about college basketball in November?
Jalen Hudson scored 35 points and Chris Chiozza added 26 points, 10 assists and eight boards as No. 7 Florida outlasted No. 17 Gonzaga, 111-105, to take home a double-overtime win in the semifinals of the PK80 Motion bracket.
The Gators will advance to face No. 1 Duke in the finals on Sunday.
But before we get into Sunday’s action, we need to wrap up what could end up being the best game that we see in college basketball this season.
I honestly don’t know where to start, because this thing was back and forth for the entirety of the 50 minutes. Gonzaga jumped out to a 36-29 lead at the break, but the Gators caught fire in the second half, as Hudson, Chiozza and KeVaughn Allen hit a series of ridiculous threes in the second half and overtime.
But seemingly every one of those threes was answered by Gonzaga. It started with Johnathan Williams III, who looked like an all-american. He finished with 39 points, 12 boards and three assists, scoring every time he touched the ball in the second half. Josh Perkins added 17 points, seven boards and seven assists before fouling out, while Killian Tillie had 17 points of his own.
The game was won early in the second overtime, when Florida used a 9-2 run — a three from Hudson, a three from Chiozza, another three from Hudson — to break a deadlock and open a lead Gonzaga would not be able to fight back from.
It was unbelievably entertaining to watch on TV, and even better live, where the arena was packed with Gonzaga fans.
Here are the three things we can take away from that game:
1. I severely underestimated Florida coming into the season: My thought process was correct. Losing Kasey Hill, Devin Robinson and Justin Leon hurt this group defensively, and for a team that was built around their defense a year ago, that would be tough to recover from.
What I didn’t realize, however, was that Egor Koulechov and Jalen Hudson were going to take turns mimicking Klay Thompson’s stat lines while Chiozza finished his development into the best point guard in the SEC. Mike White has embraced a gun-slinger’s style of play. Florida gets out and runs, they push the ball in transition, they fire up threes and they have no conscience when it comes to bad shots.
Because White knows that he has guys on his roster that can make those shots, even when they’re bad shots. And while there will be nights where Koulechov goes 1-for-9 from the floor and Allen shoots 5-for-16 — as they did on Friday — they can be picked up by the other two players on that perimeter. White has veterans up and down his lineup. He may have the toughest point guard in the country in Chiozza. And his team still isn’t whole, as they’re waiting for John Egbunu to return from his torn ACL.
Veteran guards that can go for 30 on a given night combined with big, physical posts and a team that puts up triple-digits on the regular is the kind of team that can get to a Final Four.
I thought they were overrated as a top ten team entering the season. They may actually be underrated at No. 7.
2. The same thing can be said for Gonzaga: Did see this coming from Johnathan Williams III?
I can honestly say that I expected him to contend for the WCC Player of the Year award. We had him ranked as a top 100 player entering the year and I figured that he would end up being the leading scorer for this Gonzaga team.
But what we saw on Friday night?
An unstoppable force in the paint and around the rim?
A guy that can go for 39 points on 16-for-22 shooting?
That I did not see coming, and I can’t say that I expected Josh Perkins to be as good as he has been in Portland, either. If that duo can play anywhere near the level that they’ve played this week for the rest of the season, Gonzaga will have one of the best 1-2 punches on the west coast. Throw in a veteran roll players (Silas Melson), a couple of intriguing foreigners (Tillie, Rui Hachimura) and a freshmen class with some promising kids (Corey Kispert, Zach Norvell) and … well you pretty much have the kind of Gonzaga team that we’ve become accustomed to seeing.
They’re the favorite in the WCC once again.
How silly of us to think otherwise.
3. Mike White is a helluva coach: We knew this already, didn’t we?
That’s why he got the job that was vacated by Billy Donovan?
But what really impresses me with this group is just how different they are from last year’s team. As I said earlier, last year’s group was No. 2 nationally in defensive efficiency, according to KenPom, but they could struggle to run offense and score the ball at times. This team? Well, they’ve failed to crack 100 points just once this season, are must-see TV every time they play and run their offensive differently than they did last year. White is playing to the strength of his roster, and it’s paying dividends.
4. Gonzaga fans are criminally underrated: At a Final Four last year that included North Carolina and Oregon, Gonzaga was the most impressive fan base. They traveled to Arizona en masse, partied all weekend and showed up — sunburnt, but there — in incredibly loud fashion during the games.
The same can be said for the PK80 tournament. And every home game the Zags play. They’re loud, they know their stuff and they’re annoying on twitter.
That’s the fan base trifecta.
And they should get credit for it.
PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas (AP) — Dakota Mathias scored 24 points to help No. 18 Purdue roll past No. 2 Arizona 89-64 in the seventh-place game at the Battle 4 Atlantis, sending the Wildcats home with three losses in three days.
The Boilermakers (5-2) had struggled with their shooting through two tournament losses of their own, but shot 57 percent and made 11 of 22 3-point attempts in a break-loose performance.
Carsen Edwards added 22 points in what could have been a possible title-game matchup in the eight-team tournament. Instead, the Boilermakers and Wildcats found themselves playing the final game just to salvage a win.
Now, shockingly, Arizona (3-3) is the lone team leaving the Bahamas with an 0-3 tournament record.
Freshman Deandre Ayton had 22 points before fouling out for the Wildcats, while junior Allonzo Trier — who came in averaging 27.8 points — finished with just eight on 3-for-10 shooting.
Arizona: Paradise turned into a total nightmare for Arizona. There was the opening-game 90-84 loss to North Carolina State that left coach Sean Miller frustrated by his team’s poor defense. Then there was the loss to SMU in which the Wildcats undercut any defensive gains by failing to secure stop-ensuring rebounds. This time, his team offered meager defensive resistance to a hot-shooting team that quickly gained confidence with each possession. And that raises the question: how far will the Wildcats fall in Monday’s AP Top 25? Or will they stay in the rankings at all?
The last time that a team went from No. 2 to unranked was in November of 1986, when defending champion Louisville fell out of the polls.
Purdue: The Boilermakers couldn’t hold leads in their first-round overtime loss to Tennessee, then got out-toughed in a loss to Western Kentucky. Still, Mathias had insisted there was plenty to play for. His team came out and proved it, playing with a free-flowing confidence while knocking down open look after open look to reboot their suddenly sputtering offense. Purdue shot just 39 percent from the field and 33 percent from behind the arc in the first two tournament games, but had no trouble tearing through Arizona’s defense.
Arizona: The Wildcats host Long Beach State on Wednesday.
Purdue: The Boilermakers host No. 19 Louisville in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Tuesday.
What was billed as a matchup between potential No. 1 picks Marvin Bagley III and Mo Bamba turned into a showcase for the talents of the former, as MB3 went for 34 points and 15 boards to lead No. 1 Duke to an 85-78 overtime win over Texas in the semifinals of the PK80 tournament in Portland.
The Blue Devils had dug themselves a 43-31 hole and trailed by as many as 16 points in the second half, but that changed once Duke figured out that Texas had no way to stop their big freshman. His 34 points tied him with J.J. Redick for the Duke freshman record.
Gary Trent Jr. added 17 points for the Blue Devils, who lost senior Grayson Allen to fouls with two minutes left in the game. Coach K played the final two minutes and overtime with five freshmen on the floor.
Texas was led by Dylan Osetkowski, who finished with 19 points. The 6-foot-9 Tulane transfer played well, but a couple of questionable decisions and a missed dunk cost Texas some points; their 16-point lead should have been closer to 25. Bamba finished with nine points and 10 boards, but he fouled out in regulation and struggled to make as much of an impact as the other three big men that were on the floor.
Duke will play the winner of tonight’s No. 7 Florida vs. No. 17 Gonzaga game in the final of the PK80’s Motion bracket.
Here are five things we can takeaway from the game on Friday night:
1. Grayson Allen fouling out was the best thing that could have happened to Duke: Duke is an exceptionally young team. We’ve been this before, but it bears repeating because they youth showed up on Friday afternoon. There are six freshmen in the rotation. There are two sophomores in the rotation, neither of whom played a big role as freshmen. And there is Allen.
That’s Duke’s entire rotation.
On Friday, Allen played all of 25 minutes due to foul trouble. He fouled out with two minutes left in regulation. He was on the bench in overtime. And what that meant was that Duke’s youngsters got thrown into the fire in a nationally-televised tournament game. They were forced to be the ones to make winning plays, and for 20 of the 45 minutes that were played on Friday, they were not able to rely on Allen to be the one to do it for them.
Trevon Duval looked up to the task once again. Bagley, despite taking a stupid 23-footer with five seconds left in regulation, was totally dominant down the stretch. Gary Trent Jr. scored a critical and-one with a minute left that gave Duke their first lead since the first possession of the game. Wendell Carter made some important plays. Alex O’Connell was probably the biggest beneficiary. He played 29 minutes and made one of the most important plays of the game, chasing down a loose ball that eventually wound up in Allen’s hands for a three that sparked Duke’s comeback.
Those guys needed that, and it will help Duke in the long run.
2. Duke’s defense is a major problem once again: It was terrible on Friday night. No wonder Coach K is becoming reliant on a 2-3 zone. Defense rotations were slow. Guards were getting beaten one-on-one. Big men were lost defending the pick-and-roll. Their transition effort was, frankly, terrible. The thinking before the start of the season was that the presence of Bagley at the four and Duval at the point would make this group more efficiency defensively, but through two weeks that does not appear to be the case.
3. Texas gave this game away: This one is going to sting for Shaka Smart and the Longhorns, because they should have had this game won. Texas was up by 16 points in the middle of the second half, and frankly, they weren’t even playing that well. As good as Dylan Osetkowski was, he settled for far too many jumpers, missed a dunk and turned the ball over trying to throw a lob to Mo Bamba when he should have just laid the ball in. Bamba fired up two ill-advised threes of his own, while Matt Coleman shot 1-for-12 from the floor and Andrew Jones made some poor decisions.
Put another way, Texas had Duke on the ropes and couldn’t finish them off. Instead, they let Duke hang around close enough to put together a second-half run that salvaged what was an otherwise underwhelming performance. If the Longhorns find themselves on the bubble come March, they are going to regret failing to land a win over the No. 1 team in America.
4. Mo Bamba has insane tools, but his motor is a question: The potential that Bamba has as a defender is unreal. He’s 7-foot-1 with a 7-foot-9 wingspan and has the footspeed to be able to, in theory, hedge ball-screens and even switch when he needs to. He’s a unicorn prospect on the defensive end of the floor, and his offensive repertoire is, at the very least, intriguing. He’s got a soft touch and has shown enough as a three-point shooter that he wasn’t taken out on either of his misses on Friday.
But there are some issues with his motor. It’s not that he’s soft, and it’s not that he isn’t competitive, but there is just something about the way that he plays. He’s nonchalant. The word that Mike Schmitz of ESPN uses is “casual”. He has a habit of coasting, and it will be interesting to see if spending the rest of the year being coached by Shaka Smart can break him of that habit.
5. Coaching freshmen is hard: This should be the biggest takeaway from Friday night. Duke was a mess on the defensive end of the floor. Texas wasn’t much better. Coleman was a trainwreck offensively. Bamba fouled out in 20 minutes. There’s a reason that the saying goes, ‘the best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores.’ Coach K has learned that the hard way in recent years. Shaka Smart is in the middle of the crash course.
On a day that the Pac-12 desperately needed some good things to happen for the league, Arizona State provided it.
Tra Holder popped off for 40 points and Bobby Hurley’s four-guards provided a total of 91 points as the Sun Devils erased a 15-point first half deficit before running No. 15 Xavier out of Las Vegas, 102-86. It was the second time this season that Holder has scored more than 35 points, and after adding four assists, four boards and three steals, he’s now averaging 23.3 points, 6.0 boards, 5.5 assists and 2.0 steals.
Hurley also has Shannon Evans on this team, and after putting up 22 points on the Musketeers, Evans is averaging 19.5 points and 5.3 assists on the season. Kodi Justice, who had 28 points in a win over Kansas State in the opener of the Las Vegas Invitational, is averaging 15.5 points this season, and that doesn’t even factor in Romello White, DeQuon Lake or Remy Martin, who are all capable of putting up 20 points on a given night.
Put another way, Arizona State has scored at least 90 points in every game that they’ve played this season.
There may not be a more potent scoring team in college basketball this season.
And it begs the question: Is Arizona State actually the best team in the Pac-12?
We wrote about it this morning. The Pac-12 has had a rough go of it this week. Arizona lost twice in the Battle 4 Atlantis. UCLA lost their opener to Creighton in the Hall Of Fame Classic. Oregon got beaten by UConn. Cal was blown out by Chaminade. Oregon State fell to St. John’s and Long Beach State. It’s been rough out west.
Unless you hail from Tempe, where the Sun Devils are now 6-0 on the season with a blowout win over a Xavier team that, despite pooping the bed on Friday night, look like a team that could legitimately test Villanova in the Big East.
If you want my take on Arizona State, it’s really pretty simple: On the nights where Tra Holder and Shannon Evans get it rolling, there isn’t going to be much anyone can do. They’re nearly impossible to guard. They make tough threes off the dribble, they can get into the lane and finish amongst the trees, and if you try and help on a drive or trap a ball-screen, they are both willing a capable passers. We saw it on Thanksgiving, when Kansas State held them in check while allowing Justice to hit for 28 points and White and Lake to combine for 30 points and 11 offensive rebounds.
Put another way, on their best night Arizona State is going to be able to beat just about anyone in college basketball this season.
The question is what happens on the nights when those two don’t look like a back court made up of Steph Curry and Allen Iverson.
They beat Kansas State when Evans and Holder combined to shoot 6-for-23 from the floor, but I’m not exactly sure that beating Kansas State is all that impressive.
At the very least, we know that there is going to be a fifth team in the mix at the top of the Pac-12 standings, and that if Arizona, UCLA and USC don’t figure out their issues, there will be someone there to take advantage.
Kerwin Roach is one of the best dunkers in college basketball, and he was at it again on Saturday afternoon in the PK80, as he went soaring in to throw down a dunk in the face of Duke forward Javin DeLaurier: