College Basketball Talk’s Latest Top 25

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I can already tell what’s going to happen so I figure I’ll just address it now before I’m ripped on twitter and in the comments section: Yes, I have Iowa ranked above Iowa State despite the fact Iowa State beat Iowa. And no, it has nothing to do with the ankle injury that Deandre Kane is dealing with right now.

I wrote this about the Cyclones on Tuesday after they beat Baylor at home and I still believe it now. I’m not sure there is anyone in the country that I would pick to beat Iowa State in their own building, but until this team proves that they can win a game against a good team away from Hilton Coliseum, they are just another talented team with a strong home-court advantage.

Iowa, on the other hand, just went into Columbus and put up 84 points on the nation’s best defense in a win over Ohio State. Their three losses this season? To 15-1 Villanova in overtime in the Battle 4 Atlantis title game in which Iowa blew a nine-point halftime lead; to Wisconsin in Madison in a game where a Fran McCaffery-ejection spurred on a run by the Badges that resulted in the Hawkeyes blowing an 11-point halftime lead; and at Iowa State, where Iowa gave the game away down the stretch by missing free throws and wide-open threes (ahem, Zach McCabe).

If you’re going to lose three games, it may as well be three heartbreakers to top 15 teams with a combined two losses.

The bottom line is this: I am not just ranking the resumes of the top 25 teams. This isn’t bracketology. There’s more to a win or a loss than it being just a win or a loss. It’s subjective. There’s room for interpretation and opinion, and, in my opinion, these are the nation’s top 25 basketball teams.

Disagree?

Call me on it. Leave a note in the comments. Tweet at me. I promise there’s at least some logic behind it.

THE TOP 25

source: Getty Images1. Arizona (17-0, LW: No. 1): The Wildcats just keep rolling along. This week, they went to LA and knocked off both UCLA and USC. Nick Johnson and T.J. McConnell both had big games this week. It’s weird: the No. 1 team in the country has one of the nation’s least-appreciated back courts. Those dudes are good!

2. Michigan State (15-1, LW: No. 2): The Spartans survived a pair of overtime games this week, both of which took place in East Lansing. They still aren’t healthy, however. Adreian Payne spent this past week battling a sprained foot. He sat out against Minnesota.

3. Syracuse (16-0, LW: No. 3): The Orange weren’t pushed in games against Virginia Tech and, surprisingly enough, North Carolina. In ACC play, Cooney is shooting 10-for-39 (25.6%) from the floor and 7-for-32 (21.9%) from three.

4. Wisconsin (16-0, LW: No. 4): The Badgers weren’t properly challenged this week, as they whipped up on Illinois in the only game they played. It may not happened this week, either, as a trip to Indiana and a visit from Michigan await the Badgers.

5. Florida (13-2, LW: No. 6): Florida beat down South Carolina at home before notching an impressive win at Arkansas in overtime despite playing without Casey Prather and with a banged up Scottie Wilbekin.

6. Villanova (15-1, LW: No. 7): The Wildcats won at Seton Hall and St. John’s this week, neither of which are all that notable.

7. Wichita State (17-0, LW: No. 7): The Shockers needed overtime to complete a comeback from 19 points down in the second half in their visit to Missouri State on Saturday night. The Bears are a better team than you think and one of the three toughest road trips the Shockers will be taking this season.

8. San Diego State (14-1, LW: No. 9): The Aztecs followed up their win at Kansas by knocking off Boise State and Air Force in Mountain West play. SDSU is awesome defensively. Finding consistency scoring the ball — hi Winston Shepard! — will be the key.

9. Kansas (11-4, LW: No. 15): Kansas followed up their loss to SDSU at home by beating a good Oklahoma team on the road and smacking around Kansas State by 26 points at home. Wayne Selden averaged 22.0 points in the two wins.

10. Iowa (14-3, LW: No. 19): The Hawkeyes finally landed the big win that had escaped them this season, going into Columbus and knocking off Ohio State. They also beat Northwestern in a game that Fran McCaffery was suspended.

11. Ohio State (15-2, LW: No. 5)
12. Kentucky (12-3, LW: No. 12)
13. Oklahoma State (13-2, LW: No. 17)
14. Iowa State (14-1, LW: No. 18)
15. Baylor (13-2, LW: No. 15)
16. Creighton (14-2, LW: No. 22)
17. Cincinnati (15-2, LW: No. 23)
18. Memphis (12-3, LW: No. 24)
19. UMass (14-1, LW: No. 25)
20. Pitt (15-1, LW: UR)
21. Colorado (14-3, LW: No. 10)
22. Louisville (14-3, LW: No. 14)
23. Duke (12-4, LW: No. 13)
24. Saint Louis (15-2, LW: UR)
25. UCLA (13-3, LW: UR)

Auburn’s leading shot-blocker suffers devastating ankle injury

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Things went from bad to worse for No. 10 Auburn in a hurry.

The Tigers currently trail South Carolina 46-25 at the half in Columbia. The deficit is not impossible to overcome — right, Michigan State? — but it will be very hard to do without their leading shot-blocker and best frontcourt defender.

With a minute left in the first half, Anfernee McLemore suffered a devastating left ankle injury that will almost assuredly end his season. Think Gordon Hayward.

McLemore is one of just three players in Auburn’s rotation over 6-foot-7. He’s also Auburn’s leading shot-blockers at 2.7 per game and second-leading rebounder despite averaging fewer than 20 minutes. Without him available, Chuma Okeke and Horace Spencer are going to be asked to carry the entire load up front for a team whose biggest question mark was already their complete lack of size and depth up front.

This is a brutal blow for a team that has gone from an SEC afterthought to a projected No. 1 seed.

McLemore was taken off the floor on a stretcher.

No. 2 Michigan State matches largest comeback in a decade with 27-point rally over Northwestern

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Michigan State overcame a 27-point deficit on Saturday afternoon to beat Northwestern, 65-60, for a memorable Big Ten road win. It’s the biggest comeback win in Big Ten history while also matching the largest college basketball comeback of the last decade.

Trailing by 22 points at halftime and by 18 points with 14 minutes left, the comeback for the Spartans was slow and methodical at first, as Michigan State’s defense slowly suffocated the Wildcat offense.

And when the jumpers started falling with a Josh Langford (eight points) three with a little over 13 minutes left, the Spartans made their big push.

Sophomore point guard Cassius Winston was a major catalyst in the comeback for Michigan State as he buried multiple top-of-the-key threes and pull-up jumpers to help give the Spartans a new-found confidence. Winston finished with 17 points, nine rebounds and seven assists as he came through in a major way in the second half. With star Miles Bridges (eight points) battling foul trouble in the second half, Winston and other Michigan State role players stepped up in a big way. Big man Nick Ward grinded to 15 points and a lot of key stops on the defensive end. Matt McQuaid knocked down some big shots while taking a charge and playing well on both ends. Jaren Jackson had the go-ahead three-point play to finally give the Spartans their first lead.

This was a team comeback in which Michigan State (26-3, 14-2) used the sum of its parts to slowly dismantle Northwestern. It was one of the more impressive comebacks in recent memory. Doing commentary for Fox, Steve Lavin said this was one of the biggest one-half swings in his 30 years of being around Division I basketball.

While beating Northwestern isn’t some sort of monumental achievement this season, Michigan State didn’t have a huge comeback win this season. The biggest deficit that the Spartans had overcome to win this season was only 13 points. Now we know that Michigan State is capable of making a comeback from a very large deficit as they showed they’re capable of coming through with the offensive firepower. And Bridges, the team’s leading scorer, only had two field goals.

This is the Michigan State we’ve wanted to consistently see this season. Michigan State getting stops is nothing new. The Spartans held Northwestern scoreless for over 11 minutes at one point in the second half as the Wildcats were brutal shooting the ball in the first half. But if Michigan State’s offense gets rolling like that because of balanced inside/outside contributions from role players? That’s the Spartans everyone keeps hoping will show up in March.

No. 23 Oklahoma loses fifth-straight, Trae Young at risk of missing NCAA tournament?

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Trae Young has hit the freshman wall, and there are few signs that he is ready to break through to the other side.

Let’s start with the good news, I guess: In today’s 77-66 home loss to a Texas team that entered the day tied for eighth in the Big 12 standings, Young finally snapped his streak of 20 missed three-pointers. After starting off Saturday 0-for-4 after missing all nine of his threes at Texas Texas and his last seven threes at Iowa State, Young hit three of his last six triples.

He also made all nine of his free throws, extending that streak to nearly 30 consecutive makes, while scoring 26 points and committing fewer than four turnovers in a game for the first time since December 8th.

Those are all good things!

The problem, however, is that they came in Oklahoma’s fifth straight loss, their sixth loss in the last seven games and their eighth loss in their last ten games. The Sooners have been dreadful for more than a month, and it’s not going to get any easier; they play at Kansas on Monday.

The question “why?” is pretty simple, too. Young is struggling and the rest of the pieces on the roster just have not been good enough to be able to pick up the slack. Brady Manek is a spot-up shooter that has struggling shooting the ball. Kameron McGusty went from being a player that looked like a potential all-Big 12 guy last season to Just A Guy this season. Christian James hasn’t been bad, and Jamuni McNeace and Khadeem Lattin hold their own in the paint, but by and large Young’s supporting cast has not been providing enough support while Young has been in this slump.

The question of whether or not Oklahoma can turn this around is not quite so simple unless you know the reason for Young’s struggles. Has he simply found himself in a place where the grind of a full season of college basketball and two months of Big 12 play — a league where every team has a good-to-great player at the point — has worn him down physically and mentally, or has the blueprint for how to beat the Sooners become too prevalent?

Or is it all of the above?

If Young is gassed, that’s an issue that, in theory, can be solved.

If the Sooners, are a flawed roster that cannot function or win games when opponents sell out to stop their superstar freshman, that isn’t as easy to deal with. Rest can solve the former. You’re not solving the latter, you’re not bring more talent into the program, while Young is still on campus.

At 16-10 overall and 6-8 in the Big 12, Oklahoma still looks like a pretty safe bet to reach the NCAA tournament. For starters, they were listed as a No. 4 seed just six days ago when the Selection Committee unveiled their first iteration of the top 16 seeds. They also have six Quadrant 1 wins and no bad losses to their name. Their won-loss record is a casualty of the Big 12 meat-grinder.

But that doesn’t mean they are safe. If they finish up the Big 12 season going 1-3 — which is feasible given how they’ve played the last month and their remaining opponents: at Kansas, Kansas State, at Baylor, Oklahoma State — then they’ll be 7-11 in the league. No one in more than 25 years has reached the NCAA tournament with a league record four games under .500.

The Sooners aren’t doomed yet.

But it is time for them to figure their issues out.

PHOTOS: Miami, Syracuse wear shirts honoring Florida shooting victims

Photo via Mike Waters, Syracuse.com
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Syracuse is playing in Miami on Saturday, the first game that the Hurricanes have played at home since the shooting at Parkland, Florida’s, Stoneman Douglas High School.

Both teams wore warmup shirts honoring the victims of the shooting prior to the game:

Parkland and Coral Gables are about 50 miles apart, but both towns are suburbs with the same Miami-Fort Lauderdale metro area.

St. John’s guard Lovett to leave school, turn pro

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Marcus Lovett announced on Saturday morning that he will be leaving St. John’s to pursue a professional career.

This decision doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Lovett, who averaged 14.9 points through the first seven games of the season, was ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury despite reports that he was healthy enough to play.

According to the New York Post, Lovett was not even enrolled in school for the spring semester.

Lovett spent three seasons in New York with the Johnnies and played less than a year and a half.