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Late Night Snacks: No. 2 Syracuse, No. 18 Kentucky win Saturday’s showdowns

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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 18 Kentucky 73, No. 6 Louisville 66

The home team won both of Saturday’s games matching ranked teams, with the young Wildcats beating their in-state rival despite not having Julius Randle for much of the second half. The Harrison twins and James Young grew up in the second half, and that certainly bodes well for the Wildcats down the line. As for Louisville, they need to get more from guys other than Chris Jones and Russ Smith

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES: 

1) No. 2 Syracuse 78, No. 8 Villanova 62

After a hot start by the visiting Wildcats the Orange found their groove, winning the matchup of former Big East rivals behind the point guard play of Tyler Ennis. Villanova attempted 31 three-pointers, allowing themselves to be seduced into taking those shots by the Syracuse zone. And while those shots fell early, they didn’t fall with the same regularity as the game progressed. 

2) No. 25 Missouri 68, N.C. State 64

Jordan Clarkson scored 21 points and Jabari Brown added 17 as the Tigers beat the Wolfpack in their first true road game of the season. Another important development for the Tigers moving forward was the play of freshman Johnathan Williams III, who accounted for ten points and seven rebounds. T.J. Warren led N.C. State with 24 points and 13 rebounds, but he didn’t score in the game’s final 11 minutes. 

3) No. 23 UMass 69, Providence 67

A Derrick Gordon putback with just over a second remaining proved to be the difference as the Minutemen beat the Friars by two points for the second consecutive season. UMass was able to win despite the fact that starting point guard Chaz Williams fouled out late in regulation. 

STARRED: 

1) J.J. Avila (Colorado State) 

33 points (14-for-17 FG), eight rebounds and four assists in the Rams’ 86-71 win over Lamar. 

2) Rayvonte Rice (Illinois) 

28 points (10-for-16 FG), seven rebounds and three assists in the Fighting Illini’s 74-60 win over UIC. 

3) Trevor Releford (Alabama) 

34 points (11-for-15 FG) and five steals in the Crimson Tide’s 75-67 loss at UCLA

STRUGGLED: 

1) Akron

The Zips’ road trip came to an end at South Carolina and it’s a good thing it did, as they shot 32.5% and committed 21 turnovers in a 78-45 loss to the Gamecocks.

2) Tulane

The Green Wave scored ten points in the first half and shot 28.6% from the field in a 72-41 loss to Kansas State.

3) Boston College

The Eagles shot 3-for-18 from beyond the arc and committed 23 turnovers in their 69-50 loss to VCU. 

NOTABLES: 

  • BYU is in trouble when it comes to the NCAA tournament. The Cougars lost their WCC opener 87-76 at Loyola Marymount, with Evan Payne leading the victors with 27 points. 
  • In its first game without Mitch McGary, Michigan beat Holy Cross 88-66. Glenn Robinson III led the way offensively with 23 points.
  • No. 24 Gonzaga was also without a starting big man, as Sam Dower missed the Bulldogs’ 74-60 win over Santa Clara. David Stockton accounted for 21 points and four steals. 
  • Chris Perry (18 points) led USF to a 61-57 win at Bradley, with the game being the eighth straight contest decided by five points or less for the Bulls (h/t Ray Curren).
  • Justin Jackson tallied 15 points, ten rebounds and four blocks in Cincinnati’s 74-59 win over Nebraska. 
  • Kyle Cain scored 18 points and grabbed ten rebounds to help lead UNCG to a 55-52 win at Virginia Tech. 
  • Jake Odum finished with 25 points, seven assists, five rebounds and four steals to lead Indiana State to an 86-73 win over Belmont. The Bruins won the first meeting of the season between the two teams last month in Nashville. 
  • Jabari Parker tallied 23 points and eight rebounds and Andre Dawkins hit six three-pointers in No. 9 Duke’s 82-59 win over Eastern Michigan. Also of note: Amir Jefferson grabbing 14 rebounds in the win. 
  • Kareem Jamar (26 points, eight rebounds) hit four free throws in the final 13 seconds to give Montana a 72-71 win at Idaho. 

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • No. 4 Wisconsin 80, Prairie View A&M 43
  • No. 5 Michigan State 101, New Orleans 48
  • No. 15 UConn 82, Eastern Washington 65
  • No. 17 Memphis 75, Jackson State 61
  • No. 21 Colorado 84, Georgia 70

Ole Miss’ Brooks taken to hospital after collapse

Mississippi guard Rasheed Brooks (14) is called for charging against Tennessee guard Shembari Phillips (25) during an NCAA college basketball game in Oxford, Miss. on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. (Bruce Newman/Oxford Eagle via AP)
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Ole Miss senior Rasheed Brooks has been taken to an Oxford area hospital during the Rebels’ game against Tennessee on Tuesday evening, the school announced.

Brooks reportedly was taken by stretcher out of the arena after he collapsed during a timeout.

Obviously, a scary situation, but immediately there were few details. The game did commence following the incident.

VIDEO: Patsos shakes imaginary hands after Rider storms off court

DURHAM, NC - NOVEMBER 13:  Head coach Jimmy Patsos of the Siena Saints watches on during their game against the Duke Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium on November 13, 2015 in Durham, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
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Apparently unhappy with how the game unfolded late, Rider decided against the traditional handshake line Tuesday in its 78-68 loss to Siena.

That didn’t stop Saints coach Jimmy Patsos from going through with it anyway.

The animosity apparently extends from the ejections of Siena’s Marquis Wright and Rider’s Anthony Durham following an altercation between the two, according to the Times-Union. Both Patsos and Rider coach Kevin Baggett were also hit with technicals. Baggett, who had to be held back by assistants, apparently had words with Wright.

Theatrics aside, the win was the fourth-straight for Patsos’ Saints after a 1-3 start to MAAC play. Lavon Long had 29 points to lead the way. Rider has now dropped three in a row and is 4-4 in the league.

Creighton’s Mo Watson Jr. has a torn ACL

LAS VEGAS, NV - NOVEMBER 25:  Head coach Greg McDermott of the Creighton Bluejays talks with Maurice Watson Jr. #10 during the team's game against the Massachusetts Minutemen during the championship game of the Men Who Speak Up Main Event basketball tournament at MGM Grand Garden Arena on November 25, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Creighton won 97-76.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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Mo Watson Jr.’s Creighton career is over.

The star point guard for the Blue Jays had an MRI on Tuesday to determine the damage suffered in his left knee, and it revealed a torn ACL. Watson entered Monday’s game at Xavier averaging 13.4 points and a nation’s-best 8.8 assists on the season. He was the engine that made Creighton’s high-octane offense work.

“Devastated for [him],” head coach Greg McDermott said. “His impact on our program has been incredible. His leadership will continue to be vital to our success.”

With Watson, who was having an all-american season and was seventh in our Player of the Year Power Rankings as of Tuesday, Creighton was a team with Final Four upside. Their defense was a concern, but their ability to score in transition and to get easy looks from three – both of which were largely due to the ability of Watson – ensured that teams were going to have to score in the 80s to beat them.

Without Watson, Creighton was able to hang on to beat Xavier in Cincinnati, but it’s unclear what the future will hold. Isaiah Zierdan replaced Watson at the point down the stretch, and Greg McDermott does have a number of talented guards on his roster, but that doesn’t do much to mitigate was is a devastating loss for this team.

Watson released a statement on twitter on Tuesday:

Player of the Year Power Rankings: Mason, Hart, Lonzo. Who ya got?

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1. Frank Mason III, Kansas
2. Josh Hart, Villanova
3. Lonzo Ball, UCLA: At this point in the year, I feel pretty comfortable making the guarantee that the National Player of the year is going to be one of these three players for three reasons:

  1. All three of them are not just an important piece but the critical component to their team’s success.
  2. The team’s that they play on could very well be the three best teams in college basketball, and I’ve always been of the mindset that winning matters when it comes to Player of the Year and all-american honors.
  3. Their numbers alone are good enough to get them into the conversation even if they didn’t happen to be the best player on one of the best teams in the country.

Frankly, the more that I think about it, labeling this a two-horse race was probably wrong. I’ve had Lonzo Ball third in these rankings for more or less the entire season, but there’s always been a gap between him and the two guys slotted above. Ball’s numbers are ridiculous – 14.6 points, 8.0 assists, 5.5 boards, 1.8 steals, 2.3 turnovers – but it’s what he’s done to that UCLA team that I’ve under-valued. Ball is a talent, and so is T.J. Leaf, but on paper, the difference between this team and last year’s team shouldn’t be as stark as going from a 15-17 season to a year where they are a buzzer-beating three at Oregon away from being undefeated on Jan. 17th. Ball’s presence did that.

The other difference?

I have Frank Mason III as the current leader for the award. Part of that is because Josh Hart has had a couple of bad games in a row and Mason, in the three games since we last convened here, led comebacks at Oklahoma and against Oklahoma State before guiding Kansas to a win at Iowa State. But there is also an argument to be made that Josh Hart has been somewhat figured out in league play. Teams can key in on him and he isn’t quite to the point where he has a response. Big 12 opponents haven’t been able to do that against Kansas.

That, however, is the definition of picking nits, but that’s what we have to do to differentiate these three at this point.

Because when the chips are down, those three players, at this point in the season, have all been sensational, and I would have no issue with someone picking either of the three to win the award.

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4. Caleb Swanigan, Purdue: In Purdue’s only game last week, Swanigan had “just” 17 points and eight boards, but he had a late turnover, missed a critical, point-black shot with less than a minute left and then watched a ball bounce out of bounds that was ruled – probably incorrectly – to be off of Purdue. It wasn’t the greatest finish we’ve seen out of a player this year.

5. Luke Kennard, Duke: In the first 14 games of the season, Luke Kennard averaged 13.9 shots per night and consistently churned out enough terrific performances that he deservedly has been the only Duke player considered for a spot on all-american teams all season long. In the last four games, however, Kennard is averaging just 9.8 shots, which can be attributed to a couple of different things. I don’t think the issue is defenses being more focused in on stopping him, mainly because I think the issue is Jayson Tatum.

Tatum has led the Blue Devils in field goal attempts in six of the last seven games. His usage rate (the percentage of possessions that end with him while he’s on the floor) is 27.8 on the season despite posting an offensive rating of 105.1, meaning he scores 1.051 points-per-possession. In the last seven games, he’s only had an offensive rating better than 109 in home games against Georgia Tech and Boston College.

Kennard, on the season, has an offensive rating of 133.5, which is third nationally for players that with a usage rate above 20, but his usage rate is stuck at 21.7. In other words, the numbers back up what our eyes have been telling us – that Duke’s offensive isn’t as good when the offense flows through Tatum instead of Kennard.

LEXINGTON, KY - DECEMBER 07: De'Aaron Fox #0 of the Kentucky Wildcats dribbles the ball during the game against the Valparaiso Crusaders at Rupp Arena on December 7, 2016 in Lexington, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
De’Aaron Fox (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

6. De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky: Fox is the most important player on Kentucky, and I don’t understand people that argue otherwise. Malik Monk can win games with his ability to score, but Fox ‘s ability to defend and to turn defense into offense is why the Wildcats are in a position for Monk to win games with his scoring alone.

7. Mo Watson Jr., Creighton: It looks like Creighton dodged a bullet on Monday. There has yet to be an official diagnosis, but what initially to be a non-contact knee injury for Watson, it appears that there is no ligament damage. A torn meniscus will not be an easy thing to recover from, but a bone bruise would be. Here’s to hoping he’s OK, but Watson is the engine that makes Creighton’s high-powered offense run.

(UPDATE: Watson’s career is over. He tore his ACL.)

8. Joel Berry II, North Carolina: Berry has been fantastic this season, and there’s a very strong argument to be made that he’s the ACC’s Player of the Year as of today. He is everything we wanted Marcus Paige to be over the course of the last two seasons.

9. Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga: Williams-Goss has been terrific this season, and I’m not sure how many people have noticed. After posting 19 points and six assists in a 23-point win over No. 21 Saint Mary’s, he’s averaging 15.2 points, 5.8 boards, 4.9 assists and 1.7 steals with shooting splits of 49.5/41.1/89.5. This is the best Gonzaga team Mark Few has ever had, and Williams-Goss is the best player on the roster.

10. Lauri Markkanen, Arizona: Luke Kennard is third nationally in offensive rating for players with a usage rate that’s better than 20. No. 1 on that list? Lauri Markkanen, who is quietly having a terrific season for the Wildcats.

JUST MISSED THE CUT

Malik Monk, Kentucky
Johnathan Motley, Baylor
Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame
Dwayne Bacon, Florida State
Markelle Fultz, Washington
Josh Jackson, Kansas
Ethan Happ, Wisconsin
Justin Jackson, North Carolina
Jock Landale, Saint Mary’s
Alec Peters, Valparaiso
Melo Trimble, Maryland

Lauri Markkanen, Arizona Athletics
Lauri Markkanen, Arizona Athletics

CBT Podcast: Luke Winn joins to talk Kansas and their unorthodox backcourt

LAWRENCE, KS - DECEMBER 03:  Devonte' Graham #4 of the Kansas Jayhawks celebrates with Frank Mason III #0 after making a three-pointer during the game against the Stanford Cardinal at Allen Fieldhouse on December 3, 2016 in Lawrence, Kansas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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Sports Illustrated’s Luke Winn, Mr. Power Rankings himself, joined the podcast this week to talk about something other than the Power Rankings.

Luke wrote a long feature on Kansas’ back court of Frank Mason III and Devonte’ Graham, a serendipitous pairing of former mid-major recruits that have turned into arguably the nation’s best pair of guards and the next great two-point guard back court. You can read that story here. You can listen to the podcast below.

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