michigan

College Basketball Talk’s Latest Top 25

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The toughest team to rank this week was Michigan, a team sitting at 15-4 on the season that, until last week, wasn’t even in the conversation to be in the top 25.

I had them 18th last week. I slotted them No. 5 this week. Too high? Maybe, but there are a couple of things to remember with this Michigan team:

  • Their worst loss of the season, to Charlotte in Puerto Rico, came in a game that both Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III got injured. Robinson didn’t play after getting hurt in the first half. Stauskas did, but he spent much of the end of the game limping around the floor.
  • Derrick Walton is a different player than he was early in the season. His confidence and understanding of the offense is growing, and he’s been more effective when Stauskas is allowed to initiate offense.
  • Losing Mitch McGary for the season was a blessing in disguise for this team. He’s an effort guy. His impact on the floor is a result of his ability to play harder than his opponent. He was injured and out of shape, which really hampered his effectiveness. In other words, a healthy rotation of Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford is better than a banged up Mitch McGary.

As a result, the Michigan team we’re watching now is a different team than the one that lost at Iowa State, at Duke and at home to Arizona. Michigan currently is sitting at 7-0 in the Big Ten, all alone in first place, after reeling off three straight wins over top ten teams. If we’re ever going to overlook a slow start, it has to be with this team.

THE TOP 25

1. Arizona (20-0, LW: No. 1): Arizona is still undefeated after getting tested at home by Utah on Sunday night. That road win over Michigan is looking better and better by the day.

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2. Syracuse (19-0, LW: No. 3): The Orange aren’t blowing teams out, but they keep on winning. On Saturday, they got another fight out of Miami and managed to hang on to beat the Hurricanes. Trevor Cooney had been shooting 24% from three in ACC play, but snapped out of that funk with a 3-for-6 performance that included a huge three late in the Miami game to stretch the Orange lead to six.

3. Florida (17-2, LW: No. 4): Florida is in the same boat as Syracuse. They’re defense can be, at times, absolutely stifling — Tennessee scored 41 points against them and Jordan McRae shot 1-for-15 — but they can go through lulls offensively. I’m ready for the Gators to be tested against Kentucky. The rest of the SEC is just thoroughly mediocre.

4. Kansas (15-4, LW: No. 5): Andrew Wiggins put together one of his most impressive halves in college basketball on Saturday, lighting TCU up for 19 of his 27 points in the first half. The Jayhawks are 6-0 in Big 12 play and already hold a two-game lead on everyone in the conference.

5. Michigan (15-4, LW: No. 18): Michigan became the first team since 1997 to knock off three straight top ten teams as they beat Iowa at home and won at Michigan State this week. Nik Stauskas is playing like an all-american, and having a healthy Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford inside has proven better than having a banged-up Mitch McGary.

6. Michigan State (18-2, LW: No. 2): For the first time since November, Michigan State had their injury issues catch up with them. They were without Adreian Payne, the fifth straight game he’s missed, and Branden Dawson, who is out for a month, on Saturday.

7. Wichita State (21-0, LW: No. 7): The Shockers just keep winning. The problem? Nothing they can do in the Valley this season will be considered impressive. Does anyone else hate the Big East for snatching away what could have been three games between the Shockers and Creighton this season?

8. San Diego State (18-1, LW: No. 8): SDSU won at San Jose State this week and survived Utah State on the road in overtime. The Aztecs are a nightmare defensively, but they have some issues on the offensive end. If Xavier Thames isn’t scoring, will anyone on this team?

9. Villanova (17-2, LW: No. 6): I still like Villanova, but when you lose by 28 on your home floor, you fall in the rankings. I’m pretty sure that’s a federal law.

10. Kentucky (15-4, LW: No. 11): Willie Cauley-Stein snapped out of his funk on Saturday and Alex Poythress has scored in double-figures in three of his last four games. Beyond that, it’s tough to take anything out of the Wildcats beating up on mediocre SEC competition. Seriously, Kentucky-Florida? Can we make this happen four times a year in the future?

11. Oklahoma State (16-3, LW: No. 12)
12. Cincinnati (19-2, LW: No. 13)
13. Iowa (16-4, LW: No. 9)
14. Wisconsin (17-3, LW: No. 10)
15. Iowa State (15-3, LW: No. 14)
16. Pitt (18-2, LW: No. 15)
17. Louisville (17-3, LW: No. 16)
18. Saint Louis (18-2, LW: No. 17)
19. Duke (16-4, LW: No. 19)
20. Creighton (17-3, LW: No. 24)
21. UConn (16-4, LW: No. 22)
22. Memphis (15-4, LW: No. 23)
23. UMass (17-2, LW: No. 21)
24. Oklahoma (16-4, LW: UR)
25. UCLA (16-4, LW: UR)

Update: Creighton’s Watson turns himself into police

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 31: Injured guard Maurice Watson Jr. of the Creighton Bluejays looks on during the game against the Butler Bulldogs at Hinkle Fieldhouse on January 31, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Creighton defeated Butler 76-67. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Update: Later Sunday, Watson turned himself into the Douglas County Jail, a law enforcement official told the Omaha World-Herald. Watson’s attorney told the paper that Watson was driving back to Omaha from his native Philadelphia and was slowed by the snowstorm that hit parts of the country this week.

Law enforcement has been unable to arrest Creighton guard Maurice Watson since a warrant for his arrest on the charge first-degree sexual assault was issued last week, according to police.

“The U.S. Marshals Service and the Omaha Police Fugitive Unit continue to look for Mr. Watson,” Omaha Police said in a statement Sunday. “At this point in time, Mr. Watson is dodging law enforcement efforts to arrest him.

“Until he is located and arrested by law enforcement, or turns himself in, the entire Douglas County Court system is operating off of Mr. Watson’s time frame.

“Neither OPD nor the Douglas County Attorney’s Office is part of any specific arrangements for Mr. Watson to turn himself in.”

Watson was accused by a 19-year-old acquaintance, who reportedly is also a Creighton student, of sexual assault in the bathroom of an Omaha residence around 3 a.m. on Feb. 4. A report was filed later that day.

The point guard was in the midst of a banner season for the Bluejays before he tore his ACL in January, which ended his collegiate career. Creighton announced on Feb. 13 he was suspended from the team and not allowed to participate in senior night act due to  “alleged actions that are contrary to university policies and core values.”

The warrant for his arrest was issued Thursday.

 

Seventh-ranked Louisville dominates Syracuse

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The hint arrived early that Louisville might be no kind of matchup for Syracuse when the Cardinals jumped out to a quick 11-2 lead. The Orange, though, appeared to steady and seemed intent on delivering an interesting Sunday afternoon and a maybe another resume-changing win after beating Duke earlier in the week as the roared back to take a lead.

Everyone should have taken the early hint.

Louisville used a 21-4 first-half run to gain separation and never looked back as the Cardinals dominated Syracuse, 88-68, on Saturday afternoon at the KFC Yum! Center.

The win was the fourth in five games for Louisville, which shot 56.9 percent from the floor and held the Orange to 35.7 percent shooting.

Donovan Mitchell was sensational, going for 25 points on 9 of 16 shooting, including 6 of 10 from deep, while also grabbing five rebounds and dishing out four assists. It was his third-straight game with at least 20 points.  He also had an absolutely dynamic one-handed alley-oop late that was just fantastic.

The Cardinals showed no ill effects of a hangover stemming from the loss earlier this week at North Carolina, but instead it was as dominant a performance as they’ve had in weeks.

On the losing side of the ledger are the Orange, who looked to be building some momentum after a three-game losing streak by beating Duke on Wednesday. Then, the Blue Devils went and lost to Miami and Syracuse just got smashed by another ACC contender. That doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence.

For Syracuse, it looks destined to spend another Selection Sunday sweating, though there’s certainly enough time for it to go either way. The Orange can really only hurt themselves until the ACC tournament with Georgia Tech heading to the Carrier Dome this week. That’s a game Syracuse will need to win, lest they really want the pressure ratcheted up in Brooklyn.

A big part of the issue for Syracuse pinning its hopes on the ACC tournament is its total lack of depth. Tyler Lydon and Andrew White both went at least 40 minutes for the 11- and 10-straight games, respectively. Syracuse played seven and got 28 minutes total from its bench.

With a few days typically between days, that’s pretty sustainable for the regular season, but those minutes are sure to weigh on players going on back-to-back (and maybe longer) days.

#POSTERIZED: Donovan Mitchell caps Cards win with an oop

LOUISVILLE, KY - JANUARY 19:  Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Louisville Cardinals reacts after making a three point shot to end the first half against the Clemson Tigers at KFC YUM! Center on January 19, 2017 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Louisville used a huge first-half run to pull away from Syracuse, and a Donovan Mitchell slam to put the icing on the cake.

The Cardinals sophomore caught a pass one-handed and seamlessly threw it home to deliver the signature moment of Louisville’s 88-68 win over the Orange on Saturday

LaVar Ball walks back statement on Lonzo’s Laker future

LEXINGTON, KY - DECEMBER 03: Lonzo Ball #2 of the UCLA Bruins reacts after making a three-point basket against the Kentucky Wildcats in the second half of the game at Rupp Arena on December 3, 2016 in Lexington, Kentucky. UCLA defeated Kentucky 97-92. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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The only person better at generating headlines than Lonzo Ball seems to be his father, LaVar. The elder Ball managed to do so again this weekend, once for saying something wild and then again for walking those comments back.

LaVar told KCUB Sports Radio 1290 in Arizona that UCLA star Lonzo would play for the Lakers and that he would discourage other teams from taking the stellar point guard at the top of the draft. Later, he said he was only posturing.

“I’m not trying to say he won’t play for a different team,” LaVar told ESPN. “But I’d like him to play for the Lakers because it’s home, and I’d love him to learn from Magic [Johnson]. He’s the best guard ever to me, and nobody better for Lonzo to learn from than Magic Johnson.”

Lonzo is averaging 14.8, 7.6 assists and 6.8 rebounds per game for the Bruins, who stand at 26-3 on the season. He’s in the mix to be the potential No. 1 pick in June’s NBA draft.

LaVar has already stated on multiple occasions that Lonzo is better than two-time MVP Steph Curry of Golden State. He’s clearly supremely confident – and outspoken – about his son’s talent. With two younger sons, LaMelo and LiAngelo, set to soon begin their own college careers, LaVar’s exuberant proclamations may just be getting started.

Duke and Krzyzewski have “a decision” to make as injuries linger

DURHAM, NC - NOVEMBER 26:  Amile Jefferson #21 talks with Grayson Allen #3 of the Duke Blue Devils during the game against the Appalachian State Mountaineers at Cameron Indoor Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Durham, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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Duke missed the production of veterans Grayson Allen and Amile Jefferson on Saturday in its 55-50 loss to Miami, the Blue Devils’ second-straight loss after falling to Syracuse earlier in the week. It also missed their influence on the offensive end.

Allen missed the game with an ankle injury while the foot problem that sidelined Jefferson for a pair of games in January continues to be an issue and limited to minor second-half minutes Saturday. Without the pair, Duke shot 31.8 percent from the floor and had 13 turnovers against the Hurricanes.

We need those guys to calm people down on the offensive end,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said after the game. “The continuity on the offensive end is not up to par with the defense.”

Both players will be re-evaluated before Tuesday’s home contest against Florida State, but Jefferson’s injury would appear to be the most concerning given it has lingered for well over a month now.

“I’ve got to make a decision with Amile,” Krzyzewski said. “He’s not running. He is not running at all.”

Duke could likely make it work in the short term if it was short just one of the Allen-Jefferson duo, but without both it stresses the ballhandling, playmaking and inexperienced frontcourt all at the same time. Luke Kennard was the only Blue Devil to crack double figures scoring against the ‘Canes while freshmen Marques Bolden and Harry Giles, who both have had their injury issues, were relatively ineffective in player fewer than 20 minutes apiece. Both Kennard and Jayson Tatum played a full 40.

At the start of the season, Duke had the look of a juggernaut, but given the multitude of issues they’ve faced seemingly from the jump, it has a bit of a slog with only a seven-game winning streak to have eased their pain all year.

What made the Blue Devils look so formidable before the season was their sheer level of talent. With Allen and Jefferson ailing, the move for Krzyzewski might be to just bet on that talent in the NCAA tournament rather than jockey for seeding position. He could keep Jefferson and Allen on the shelf as they heal, give Giles and Bolden a ton of run and then just make a go of it in the Big Dance, betting on the talent overcoming the inconsistency of the season.

Like Krzyzewski said about Jefferson, he’s got a decision to make.