Kansas v Texas Tech

Turnovers, Joel Embiid’s back major concerns for No. 5 Kansas

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On Saturday night, No. 5 Kansas went into Stillwater and lost to Oklahoma State 72-65, and while it saved the Cowboys’ season, it more or less meant nothing to Kansas.

Nothing at all.

The Jayhawks clinched the outright Big 12 title on Saturday evening with Kansas State knocked off No. 15 Iowa State. If they end up losing out on a No. 1 seed on Selection Sunday, it’s not going to be because they lost to Oklahoma State on the road when the Pokes were back at full strength. They may drop a bit in the polls, but since the polls are nothing more than a popularity contest, I think Bill Self and company will survive.

The loss isn’t an issue. Why the loss happened, however, is.

First things first: the turnovers. Kansas committed 22 of them. Naadir Tharpe had six, many of which were completely head-scratching and, for the most part, unforced. Andrew Wiggins had six as well. It wasn’t like Oklahoma State was pressing for 40 minutes, either. This wasn’t a case of the Jayhawks going up against a team like VCU or Arkansas, teams that build their defense around generating turnovers.

These were brain locks. Wiggins shuffling his feet before putting the ball on the floor. Tharpe leaving his feet to make a pass with no one to pass to. The most egregious? With Kansas down four and less than a minute left in the game, Tharpe gave the ball to Joel Embiid 40 feet from the rim. Embiid tried to throw it back to Tharpe, who wasn’t looking. The ball bounced off of the back of his head and straight back to Embiid. Given time, the Jayhawks will laugh just as hard about that play as I did when it happened.

Elite teams don’t turn the ball over 22 times. National title contenders don’t make those kinds of mistakes that often. It’s the reason why ‘Naadir Tharpe’ is the answer to ‘Why can’t Kansas win a title?’ every time the question is asked. This isn’t the first time this has happened; he almost cost Kansas a win at Texas Tech as well.

As concerning as those turnover numbers were, that’s not the biggest question mark for Kansas coming out of Saturday’s game.

Embiid’s back is.

He hurt it when he landed awkwardly late in the second half. He left the game and returned, but was not moving well at all. One of Smart’s biggest buckets was a driving layup that he scored over Embiid on a block that Embiid normally would have gotten.

After the game, ESPN showed Embiid walking back to the locker room very gingerly. He was clearly in quite a bit of discomfort, although all Self would offer after the game was that Embiid “tweaked his back“. Embiid missed some time earlier this season dealing with back issues.

He’s such an important piece to what Kansas does, obviously. If he’s not at 100%, Kansas is not the same team.

Brunson scores 18 points, No. 8 Villanova beats Stanford

Jalen Brunson
Associated Press
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NEW YORK (AP) Villanova struggled to score and rebound on Thursday night.

The Wildcats’ defense was good enough to still get a win.

No. 8 Villanova compensated for offensive and rebounding struggles by forcing 23 turnovers in a 59-45 victory over Stanford in the semifinals of the NIT Season Tipoff.

“We played pretty good defense but couldn’t rebound with them,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “It was one of those nights we couldn’t make shots but hung in there defensively. Their rebounding was almost a difference maker but thank God it wasn’t.”

The Wildcats (5-0) advanced to face Georgia Tech in the championship game Friday.

Villanova won despite shooting 30.6 percent and getting outrebounded by a 55-35 margin against an opponent starting three players 6-foot-8 or taller. The Wildcats started one player taller than 6-6 but compensated for the size differential by holding Stanford to 26 percent from the floor.

“I didn’t think it would be this ugly on the boards but if we could have made a couple of shots it might not have been as ugly,” Wright said. “But I was proud the guys really grinded defensively.”

Freshman Jalen Brunson was one of few Wildcats not to struggle offensively and scored a career-high 18 points. Josh Hart added 10 points but was 4-for-13 shooting and combined with Ryan Arcidiacono to shoot 6 of 24, including 1 of 15 from 3-point range.

“I was doing what I always do,” Brunson said. “I try to play aggressive all the time. I saw they were backing off me a little bit so there is time for me to shoot and time for me to make other plays.”

Leading scorer Marcus Allen had 12 points but was 3 for 12 for Stanford (2-3). Dorian Pickens added 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Stanford lost its third straight by double digits and will face Arkansas in the consolation game. The Cardinal missed their first 15 shots of the game and their first eight attempts of the second half while falling behind by 16.

Stanford was within seven on a basket by Reid Travis with 6:34 remaining, but Villanova scored the next six points and finished the game with a 13-6 run.

“They’re a very good defensive team, they’re active and they made a lot of plays,” Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said. “The thing we did most was we turned the ball over 23 times, so that was disappointing.”


Villanova: Seven of Villanova’s school-record 33 wins came in New York last season. The Wildcats won twice in the Legends Classic at Barclays Center, beat St. John’s and Illinois during the regular season at Madison Square Garden and won three games there for the Big East Tournament championship. … Guards Arcidiacono and Hart combined to miss their first 11 3-point attempts. Arcidiacono came into the game shooting 44 percent from 3-point range while Hart entered at 45 percent. … Darryl Reynolds tied a career high with 19 minutes, getting most of those in the second half after Daniel Ochefu picked up his fourth foul.

Stanford: Thursday was Stanford’s 13th game in New York since 2011-12. Last year, the Cardinal appeared in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, beating UNLV and losing to eventual national champion Duke. … Stanford faced Villanova for the second time. The other meeting was a 96-70 Cardinal loss on Dec. 23, 1970. … Stanford missed 12 layups and tip-ins during the first half. … Allen hit his head on the court trying to deflect the ball on a layup by Hart. Dawkins said Allen was a little dizzy but didn’t think the junior would miss any time.


Villanova: Georgia Tech in the championship game on Friday.

Stanford: Arkansas in the consolation game on Friday.

Justin Robinson, Monmouth knock off No. 17 Notre Dame

King Rice
Associated Press
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Less than two weeks after they opened their season with an upset win at UCLA, Monmouth picked up its first-ever win over a team ranked in the AP Top 25.

Two Justin Robinson free throws with 3.6 seconds remaining proved to be the difference as King Rice’s Hawks upset No. 17 Notre Dame at the Advocare Invitational in Orlando, and the diminutive point guard was a problem for the Fighting Irish all night.

Robinson scored 22 points, with 14 of them coming from the foul line as Notre Dame’s guards struggled to keep the quick guard contained off the dribble. He was one of three¬†Hawks to score in double figures, and their combination of depth and athleticism proved problematic for Mike Brey’s team. All five Notre Dame starters scored in double figures, with Demetrius Jackson’s 20 leading the way, but the lack of depth proved problematic as the game wore on.

Notre Dame didn’t get a single point from its bench, with Matt Farrell and Matt Ryan combining to play 28 minutes. That lack of depth not only cost Notre Dame Thursday night, but it’s something they’ll have to figure out if they’re to be a contender in the ACC. Jackson and Steve Vasturia ran into foul trouble against Monmouth, and the lack of a bench option capable of picking up the slack led to Monmouth building up a ten-point lead in the second half.

Notre Dame tried to account for that by slowing down the tempo, but in doing so they struggled to find quality looks against the Monmouth defense. And given the players at Rice’s disposal, it’s tough to slow the game down against a team that can get after you on both ends of the floor.

Monmouth entered this season with expectations of contending for a MAAC title alongside the likes of perennial favorites Iona and Manhattan, and their start to the season backs up that belief. With two players in Robinson and Deon Jones who have earned all-conference honors during their careers and a host of contributors that includes guards Je’lon Hornbeak and Micah Seaborn, this is a group to keep an eye on as the season wears on.

Because if they can earn a bid, Monmouth’s non-conference schedule will have them prepared for the NCAA tournament.