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)

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.

Yale’s Makai Mason expected to play vs. Harvard

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For the first time since the 2016 NCAA tournament, Yale basketball fans are going to have a chance to see Makai Mason play for the Bulldogs.

A star point guard that is already committed to play for Baylor as a grad transfer in 2018-19, Mason missed all of the 2016-17 season and the 2017-18 season to date with a series of foot injuries.

As a sophomore, Mason averaged 16.0 points and 3.8 assists for the Bulldogs as they won the Ivy League and knocked off Baylor in the first round of the NCAA tournament as a No. 12 seed. He had 31 points in that win.

The Elis are currently 5-4 in the Ivy League after beating Dartmouth on Friday night. With Mason back in the fold, they seem like a safe bet to get to the Ivy League tournament and a contender to win it all.

The way that Ivy League rules are written, players are not allowed to redshirt, even if they are injured for the season. Since Mason was in classes as a junior, during the season that he missed, this year is the last year that he would be allowed to play for an Ivy League program.

Bubble Banter: Texas, Syracuse land massive wins

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As we will do every day throughout the rest of the season, here is a look at how college basketball’s bubble teams fared on Saturday.

It’s worth reminding you here that the way winning are labeled have changed this season. Instead of looking at all top 50 wins equally, the selection committee will be using criteria that breaks wins down into four quadrants, using the RPI:

  • Quadrant 1: Home vs. 1-30, Neutral vs. 1-50, Road vs. 1-75
  • Quadrant 2: Home vs. 31-75, Neutral vs. 51-100, Road vs. 76-135
  • Quadrant 3: Home vs. 76-160, Neutral vs. 101-200, Road vs. 136-240
  • Quadrant 4: Home vs. 161 plus, Neutral vs. 201 plus, Road vs. 240 plus

The latest NBC Sports Bracketology can be found here.

WINNERS

TEXAS (RPI: 49, KenPom: 44, NBC seed: Play-in game): The Longhorns landed a massive, massive win for their NCAA tournament chances on Saturday afternoon when they went into Norman and picked off Oklahoma. The win snapped a three-game losing streak and put them into a position where a 2-2 finish to Big 12 play keeps them at 8-10 in the league. That’s relevant because no team more than two games below .500 in league play has reached the NCAA tournament since the early 90s. The Longhorns are now 6-7 against Quadrant 1 opponents with some elite wins in that mix — Texas Tech, at Alabama, a sweep of Oklahoma Butler on a neutral — and no losses worse than Quadrant 2. Texas is going to have a very real chance to be an NCAA tournament team with 14 losses this season.

SYRACUSE (RPI: 41, KenPom: 48, NBC seed: First four out): The Orange hold their bubble future in their own hands, and they got started in the right direction on Saturday by going into Coral Gables and picking off Miami. That’s their third Quadrant 1 win — assuming that Buffalo, who is currently 30th in the RPI, remains top 30 — but a Quadrant 3 loss and the lack of a truly marquee victory is a glaring hole in their résumé. The good news? This is the remaining schedule for the Orange: UNC, at Duke, at Boston College, Clemson. Go 2-2 in that stretch and they will enter the ACC tournament in pretty good shape.

VIRGINIA TECH (RPI: 59, KenPom: 42, NBC seed: 9): The Hokies beat the breaks off of Georgia Tech in Atlanta on Saturday, meaning they finished their three game road trip at 2-1 with a win at Virginia. Not bad. The rest of VT’s schedule looks like this: Clemson, Louisville, Duke, at Miami. With a Quadrant 3 loss and a non-conference SOS of 325, I still think the Hokies need to win two of these games.

BUTLER (RPI: 40, KenPom: 26, NBC seed: 10): The Bulldogs added another Quadrant 2 win to their profile on Saturday with an impressive win over Providence at home. Butler is 3-9 against Quadrant 1 opponents with three Quadrant 1 games left on their schedule: Creighton, at St. John’s, at Seton Hall. I think they’ll probably be in if they win one of those three games, but I would recommend winning two.

LOSERS

PROVIDENCE (RPI: 34, KenPom: 67, NBC seed: 8): Losing at Butler doesn’t exactly hurt Providence’s profile. Quadrant 1 road losses are what they are. The Friars are interesting because they have five Quadrant 1 wins but two Quadrant 3 losses and a hideous, Quadrant 4 loss to DePaul at home. I think they need two more wins (Seton Hall, at Xavier, at Georgetown, St. John’s) to lock up their at-large bid.

YET TO PLAY

KANSAS STATE
LSU
BOISE STATE
ARKANSAS
N.C. STATE
MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE
BAYLOR
WASHINGTON
TCU
LOUISVILLE
MARQUETTE
UCLA
USC

VIDEO: St. Bonaventure’s LaDarien Griffin blocks shot, saves ball missing a shoe

Screengrab via News 4 Buffalo
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One of my favorite plays of the season to date.

With St. Bonaventure down 72-69 with just over three minutes left of their win over No. 16 Rhode Island, LaDarien Griffin lost a shoe and was forced to play a defensive possession in just a sock.

What did he do?

Well, he blocked a shot, corralled the loose ball and threw the ball off of a URI player who was standing out of bounds to stop play. Check this out:

That wasn’t the only big play that he made.

He also blocked a shot with 4.2 seconds left that helped preserve the win for the Bonnies.