College Basketball Talk’s Latest Top 25

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When it’s late-February, you play in the ACC and you’re undefeated, you’re the No. 1 team in the country.

That’s just the way that it works.

But does that mean that Syracuse is the best team in the country? Well, that’s a different story.

I hate using the term “luck” when it comes to sports. There’s nothing lucky about the fact that Tyler Ennis has been absolutely dominant in crunch-time. There’s nothing lucky about the fact that he’s a terrific basketball player with the mental toughness to handle the pressure that comes with the final minutes of close games. The numbers that he was putting up weren’t sustainable — against N.C. State, he missed just his second shot and committed his first turnover in the last five minutes of a one-possession game — but calling that kind of execution “lucky” is wrong.

What is “lucky”, however, is winning a game because you hit a running 35-footer, as Syracuse did at Pitt. It might also be considered lucky when you beat N.C. State at home thanks to the refs deciding against giving T.J. Warren an and-one and the Wolfpack turning the ball over on the ensuing possession.

The last three bigs wins for the Orange have come by a combined five points. That’s not exactly sustainable.

THE TOP 25

1. Syracuse (25-0, LW: No. 1): The Orange stay in the top spot thanks to a pair of one possession wins. Given the number of games that Tyler “Ennions” Ennis has won for the Orange down the stretch, he’s vaulted himself into the conversation for National Player of the Year.

2. Florida (23-2, LW: No. 3): For my money, right now, I think Florida is the best team in the country. They can give you so many different looks defensively and Scottie Wilbekin has spent the last month doing his best Tyler Ennis impression in close game.

3. Wichita State (27-0, LW: No. 6): The Shockers are that much closer to finishing the regular season undefeated. They beat Southern Illinois and Evansville this week.

4. Duke (20-5, LW: No. 10): We’re going to find out just how good the Blue Devils are next week. They pay a visit to North Carolina, a game that was snowed out last week, on Thursday before hosting Syracuse on Saturday.

5. Arizona (23-2, LW: No. 2): The Wildcats lost at Arizona State on Friday night, a game where they scored just 66 points in double-overtime. This team has some serious question marks offensively without Brandon Ashley.

6. Kansas (19-6, LW: No. 5): The Jayhawks bounced back from a loss to Kansas State by blowing out TCU. Joel Embiid’s scheduled to play on Tuesday as well.

7. San Diego State (22-2, LW: No. 4): SDSU lost at Wyoming, which is always a tough road trip to make given that Laramie is in the middle of nowhere and the elevation there is problematic for the sea level-bound Aztecs. But that doesn’t change the fact that this team relies too heavily on Xavier Thames for offense.

8. Cincinnati (23-3, LW: No. 9): The Bearcats handled Houston on Saturday thanks to another ridiculous performance from Sean Kilpatrick.

9. Creighton (21-4, LW: No. 19): The Bluejays now own a pair of wins over Villanova by a combined 49 points. That’s … ridiculous.

10. Michigan State (21-5, LW: No. 7): The Spartans still are not healthy, but that doesn’t exactly excuse them from a home loss to Nebraska on Sunday.

11. Kentucky (19-6, LW: No. 11)
12. Villanova (22-3, LW: No. 8)
13. Saint Louis (23-2, LW: No. 13)
14. Virginia (21-5, LW: No. 14)
15. Louisville (21-4, LW: No. 15)
16. Iowa State (19-5, LW: No. 12)
17. Wisconsin (21-5, LW: UR)
18. Iowa (19-6, LW: No. 16)
19. Texas (20-5, LW: No. 18)
20. UConn (20-5, LW: No. 22)
21. Memphis (19-6, LW: No. 21)
22. Ohio State (20-6, LW: No. 25)
23. Michigan (18-7, LW: No. 17)
24. North Carolina (17-7, LW: UR)
25. UCLA (20-5, LW: UR)

No. 5 Villanova beats Tennessee 85-76 in Battle 4 Atlantis

BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 16: Jalen Brunson #1 of the Villanova Wildcats drives against Elijah Long #55 of the Mount St. Mary's Mountaineers in the first half during the first round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at KeyBank Center on March 16, 2017 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas — Jalen Brunson scored 25 points to help fifth-ranked Villanova rally from 15 down and beat Tennessee 85-76 in Thursday’s semifinals at the Battle 4 Atlantis.

The Wildcats (5-0) trailed 44-29 with 1:39 left before roaring out of a break with a dominating run. Villanova scored the first 11 points as part of that 23-2 burst, with the Wildcats playing far more aggressively and getting out in transition.

Mikal Bridges added 21 points for Villanova, which shot 52 percent after halftime and built a 15-point lead with 4:40 left before having to hold off a late rally by the Volunteers.

Grant Williams scored 20 points for Tennessee (3-1), which clawed to within 79-76 on Admiral Schofield’s 3-pointer with 51.6 seconds left. But that was as close as the Volunteers got, with Villanova hitting four free throws and getting a breakaway dunk from Donte DiVincenzo with 13.2 seconds left to seal it.

BIG PICTURE

Tennessee: The Volunteers were coming off an overtime win against No. 18 Purdue in the first round and they were poised to add an even bigger upset. But that flat second-half start wiped out a strong half’s worth of work and squandered the momentum that came through their board work and converting turnovers.

Villanova: That’s two straight days the Wildcats put together a second-half spurt to take control in the Bahamas. They did it in Round 1 against Western Kentucky to finally break the game open, but this one — full of active hands, deflected passes and guys diving on the floor — brought them back in a game that was once getting away from them.

UP NEXT

Tennessee: The Volunteers will play the North Carolina State-Northern Iowa loser in Friday’s third-place game.

Villanova: The Wildcats will play the N.C. State-Northern Iowa winner in Friday’s championship game.

VIDEO: Mike Brey celebrates Maui win shirtless

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Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey celebrated his team’s win in the Maui Invitational by going shirtless in the team locker room:

This came after Brey spent the entire tournament coaching in shorts and a t-shirt:

Mike Brey (Darryl Oumi/Getty Images)

I think it’s safe to say Brey enjoyed himself on the islands.

No. 13 Notre Dame lands come-from-behind win to beat No. 6 Wichita State in Maui

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Notre Dame led twice during Wednesday night’s Maui Invitational title game.

At 4-2, and, after Martinas Geben hit the second of two free throws with 2.3 seconds left, at 67-66.

That score would end up being the final, as the 13th-ranked Irish erased a 14-point second half deficit to knock off No. 6 Wichita State and bring home that Maui trophy.

Bonzie Colson led the way with 25 points and 11 boards while Matt Farrell chipped in with 15 points, four assists, four boards and three steals. Geben chipped in with 12 points, including those two free throws that served as the eventual game-winners.

Beyond the simple fact that they did it against one of the best teams in the country, what makes this comeback so impressive is that the Irish didn’t rely on a flurry of threes to change the course of the game. This comeback came through grit, toughness defensively and, if we’re being honest, a little bit of luck.

With less than 20 seconds left on the clock and the Irish down by three points, Colson airballed a pretty good look at a three from the top of the key. On the ensuing inbounds, Farrell stole the ball and happened to find Colson under the rim for a layup. The lead was cut to one, and Wichita State proceeded to miss the front end of a one-and-one after being fouled.

The ball once again ended up underneath Notre Dame’s basket, but this time it was the Irish ball, and after a gorgeous inbounds play, Geben headed to the line for two shots. The first shots somehow managed to go down after bouncing off the back of the rim, the backboard and the front of the rim twice.

And with that, Notre Dame would get off of the islands with another quality win for their résumé and a title to their name.

No. 8 Kentucky finally has it easy against Fort Wayne, 86-67

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Nick Richards had career highs of 25 points and 15 rebounds, and 70 percent first-half shooting propelled No. 8 Kentucky to an 86-67 rout of Fort Wayne on Wednesday night.

Kentucky’s 19-of-27 shooting before halftime countered the Mastodons’ eight 3-pointers that kept them close for a while. Once Fort Wayne started missing, it couldn’t match the length or speed of the young Wildcats (5-1), who eventually led 78-48 with 6:50 remaining on the way to their most decisive win this season.

Richards thrived in both halves and on both ends, making 9 of 10 from the field and all seven free throws for his first career double-double. The 6-foot-11 freshman’s previous highs were 10 points against Utah Valley and nine rebounds against Kansas last week.

Quade Green, Kevin Knox and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander each added 11 points as Kentucky shot a season-best 33 of 55 (60 percent) and dominated the rebounding 44-21.

Junior guard John Konchar had 19 points and Bryson Scott 18 for Fort Wayne (3-2), who had won three in a row before losing on 40 percent shooting.

BIG PICTURE

Fort Wayne: A year after upsetting Indiana, the Mastodons led Kentucky 37-36 with 3:51 left in the first half behind 8-of-22 shooting from long range. They went cold from outside and elsewhere after that and the Wildcats pounced to lead at the break and stretch the advantage to 30 points in the second half. The Mastodons’ 12 3-pointers were their third-highest total this season.

Kentucky: Something had to give after all those tense performances and the Wildcats thrived because of their size and best shooting effort this season. Richards couldn’t be stopped on either end, and teammates seemed in sync for the first time. Sophomore forward Wenyen Gabriel came up just short of a double-double with 10 rebounds and nine points.

UP NEXT

Kentucky hosts Illinois-Chicago on Sunday to wrap up the Rupp Classic before getting a few days off.

Fort Wayne visits East Tennessee State on Saturday. ETSU lost 78-31 to Kentucky last Friday.

VIDEO: Providence beats Belmont on Kyron Cartwright’s buzzer-beating three

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We got the first wild buzzer-beater of the college basketball season on Wednesday night, as Kyron Cartwright answered a Belmont bucket with 3.7 seconds left by going 94-feet to hit a leaning three at the buzzer:

Providence won the game 65-63.

Cartwright finished with 17 points in the win.