College Basketball Talk’s Latest Top 25

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Last week, I had Michigan State sitting at fifth behind four undefeated teams: Arizona, Syracuse, Wisconsin and Ohio State.

This week?

I have the Spartans second, jumping them past Syracuse, Wisconsin and Ohio State despite the fact that none of those three teams lost this week.

Which probably doesn’t make a ton of sense considering the fact that in most polls, the only way a teams drops is if they lose.

But here’s where I counter: the biggest reason that Michigan State lost to North Carolina, and thus the biggest reason that they found themselves ranked as low as they were, was that the Spartans spent much of the month of December battling nagging injuries to a number of their key players. Gary Harris had an ankle injury. Adreian Payne is dealing with planter fasciitis. Matt Costello had mono. Keith Appling had a bum wrist.

That would be four of their five starters.

And now that those guys are healthier, the Spartans are starting to roll again. They whipped up on Penn State and Indiana on the road this past week, looking as dominant as ever. And when this team is healthy and playing its best basketball, they are the best team in the Big Ten and easily one of the best teams in the country.

So they get the bump even if the teams they jumped didn’t necessarily deserve to drop.

THE CBT TOP 25

1. Arizona (15-0, LW: No. 1): After putting together one of the most dominating defensive performances of the season, giving up just 25 points to Washington State, the Wildcats struggled to finally put away Washington on Saturday.

2. Michigan State (13-1, LW: No. 5): Gary Harris had a career-high 26 points in a 17-point win at Indiana on Saturday.

3. Syracuse (14-0, LW: No. 2): The Orange struggled to put away Miami at home in their ACC opener, and it had a lot to do with the 2-for-12 performance they got from Trevor Cooney.

4. Wisconsin (15-0, LW: No. 3): Wisconsin was dominated in the first half of their win over Iowa in the Kohl Center on Sunday night. They came back in the second half in a win that was sparked by a pair of technicals that Fran McCaffery picked up.

5. Ohio State (15-0, LW: No. 4): LaQuinton Ross scored 36 points in two wins this week, but just as important was the fact that Shannon Scott hit four of the ten threes that he took against Purdue and Nebraska.

6. Florida (11-2, LW: No. 8): The Gators only played one game this week, struggling to beat Richmond in their last non-conference game. Michael Frazier had been struggling a bit but went for 18 points in the win.

7. Villanova (13-1, LW: No. 10): Villanova narrowly avoided getting picked off by Butler at Hinkle Fieldhouse on New Year’s Eve, following that up with a blowout win over Providence at home on Sunday night.

8. Wichita State (15-0, LW: No. 11): How many teams in the country have a better back court than the Shockers’ trio of Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker and Tekele Cotton? I’m not sure there are five.

9. San Diego State (12-1, LW: No. 21): The Aztecs won a pair of road games in two of the toughest environments in the country last week, going into Moby Arena and beating Colorado State before knocking off Kansas in Phog Allen Fieldhouse.

10. Colorado (13-2, LW: No. 24): The Buffaloes are now off to their best start in school history and have picked up home wins over Oregon and Kansas.

11. Oregon (13-1, LW: No. 12)
12. Kentucky (10-3, LW: No. 13)
13. Duke (11-3, LW: No. 6)
14. Louisville (13-2, LW: No. 14)
15. Kansas (9-4, LW: No. 9)
16. Baylor (12-1, LW: No. 15)
17. Oklahoma State (12-2, LW: No. 8)
18. Iowa State (13-0, LW: No. 18)
19. Iowa (12-3, LW: No. 19)
20. Illinois (13-2, LW: No. 22)
21. Missouri (12-1, LW: No. 23)
22. Creighton (12-2, LW: UR)
23. Cincinnati (13-2, LW: UR)
24. Memphis (10-3, LW: No. 17)
25. UMass (12-1, LW: No. 25)

Grand Canyon lands Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson

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Grand Canyon landed an important piece for its NCAA tournament push on Saturday night as Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson pledged to the Antelopes.

The 6-foot-3 Benson will be eligible right away as spent the past three seasons with the Ducks as a key reserve guard, helping Oregon to multiple deep NCAA tournament runs. Benson picked Grand Canyon over Wisconsin for his final season of college basketball as Benson’s brother, T.J., is an assistant coach with the Antelopes.

Benson shot 40 percent from three-point range last season while also being a steady ball handler over the course of his career at Oregon as he has only 81 career turnovers in over 2,600 career minutes with the Ducks. While Benson wasn’t asked to score a lot for a loaded Oregon team that featured multiple bucket-getters, he could be asked to do more at Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon is eligible for the NCAA tournament for the first time next season as the addition of Benson gives them an experienced guard who should be more of a factor in the WAC. The Antelopes are coming off of a 22-9 season in which they finished 11-3 in conference play.

With great facilities and a quickly-growing fan base, head coach Dan Majerle has the potential makings of a perennial mid-major conference contender if he continues to recruit well to Grand Canyon.

Colorado adds commitment from Class of 2017 point guard McKinley Wright

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Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.

A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.

The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averaged 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.

It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.

Oral Roberts to hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills

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Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.

Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.

“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”

Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.

 

Iowa commit Connor McCaffery to redshirt in basketball to pursue baseball

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Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.

Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.

There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.

McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.

Butler, Chris Holtmann agree to a contract extension

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Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.

“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and I’m excited to continue to work alongside them.”

Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.

“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment – both by our university and by Chris – allows the momentum within our program to continue.”

Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.