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)

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: Some conference matchups play out before football

Oregon forward Dillon Brooks, left, reacts after scoring a basket against Utah during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Salt Lake City, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016. Oregon defeated Utah 77-59. (AP Photo/George Frey)
(AP Photo/George Frey)
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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Utah at No. 16 Oregon, 4:00 p.m.

From Rob Dauster’s Weekend Preview:

Utah suffered one of the worst losses I’ve seen in a while on Thursday night, when Brandon Taylor, for some unknown reason, decided to foul an Oregon State player firing up a half court prayer at the buzzer. The Utes, who are arguably the second-best team in the Pac-12, will look to bounce-back on Sunday against the best team in the Pac-12, No. 16 Oregon at 4:00 p.m.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

1. No. 12 SMU will attempt to stay atop the American standings as they travel to South Florida. While the Mustangs won the first matchup between these two teams at home by 14, they’ve dropped their last two games on the road.

2. A few more American contests are going down as East Carolina travels to UConn and Houston heads to Tulsa. The game between the Cougars and Golden Hurricane is especially interesting because both teams are sitting two games back of SMU and trying to make a move on the postseason.

3. No. 5 Iowa continues the soft part of the schedule as they face Illinois on the road. The Hawkeyes posted recent easy victories over Northwestern and Penn State and will be heavily favored again on Sunday.

4. Could be an intriguing game as No. 17 Miami travels to Georgia Tech. Although the Yellow Jackets aren’t a major contender in the ACC, they’ve been tough this season, especially at home. The Hurricanes fell victim to Georgia Tech last season while they were ranked by Marcus Georges-Hunt has to get back on track after a recent slump for that to happen.

5. There is an Atlantic 10 game that will be featured on NBCSN on Sunday: Saint Louis at St. Bonaventure (2:00 p.m.).

CLICK HERE to watch these games on NBC Sports Live Extra Sunday afternoon.

Illinois State ends No. 21 Wichita State’s 12-game win streak

Fred VanVleet
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Having won 12 straight games, No. 21 Wichita State entered the weekend one of the hottest teams in the country. And with a four-game lead atop the Missouri Valley standings, clinching the regular season title was more a matter of “when” as opposed to “if.” But none of that mattered Saturday night at Illinois State, as the Redbirds managed to hand the Shockers their first conference loss by the final score of 58-53.

In addition to the 12-game win streak, which was second to Stony Brook (15 straight wins), Wichita State also saw its 19-game win streak in Valley regular season games come to an end. Illinois State was the last Valley team to beat Wichita State, eliminating the Shockers in the Arch Madness semifinals last March, and they played with the confidence of a team that believed it could win.

And after a rough first half the Redbirds found a way to come back, erasing a 16-point second half deficit in the process.

Wichita State’s issue in the second half was the fact that they couldn’t make shots. The Shockers shot just 26.7 percent from the field and 1-for-14 from three in the second half, with Fred VanVleet going scoreless and Shaq Morris scoring just one point. And just two players, Ron Baker and Conner Frankamp, managed to make multiple field goals in the game’s final 20 minutes. Illinois State certainly deserves credit for that, as they took away the quality looks Wichita State was able to find in building its lead.

And on the other end of the floor Paris Lee took control of the game during Illinois State’s comeback, scoring 13 of his 19 points in the second half with Deontae Hawkins adding 11 second-half points. Illinois State was even worse from the field, finishing the game shooting just over 27 percent from the field. But they were able to attack the Wichita State defense and get to the foul line, outscoring the Shockers 22-9 from the charity stripe. And in a game in which neither team could get much going offensively, the ability to get points from the line proved to be the difference.

This defeat doesn’t help Wichita State, but did anything really change? Maybe the margin for error when it comes to an at-large bid gets a little smaller with the loss in the eyes of some. But when considering injuries to the likes of VanVleet and Anton Grady in non-conference play, those early season losses are understandable. Saturday was a rough night for Wichita State, but given the maturity and talent on at Gregg Marshall’s disposal the Shockers will be fine moving forward.