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College Basketball’s Top Off Guards

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The off-guard spot is the weakest position in college basketball this season.

For off-guards, only 20 were ranked in our top 100, meaning that the other 80 players in that ranking came from lead guards, wing forwards and big men. I’ll let you handle that math on your own.

Why is this the case? Is it because the best scoring guards in basketball are trying to mold themselves after the likes of Russell Westbrook, John Wall and James Harden as opposed to, say, Kobe? Is it because the emphasis on court-spacing has turned the off-guard spot into a spot-up shooter or 3-and-D role? Or is this just a random year where the two-guards just aren’t all that good?

As interesting as that discussion would be, it’s a different conversation for a different day.

Before we dive into the top 20 off-guards in college basketball, a quick disclaimer: We used four positions to rank players – lead guards, off guards, wings and big men. If your favorite player isn’t on this list, he’s probably slotted in a different position.

RELATED: Top 100 Players | Top Backcourts | Top Frontcourts | Top Lead Guards
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1. Grayson Allen, Duke, Sr.

This pick is probably going to tick some people off.

If LaVar Ball isn’t the most hated man in or around college basketball, it’s Grayson Allen. Beyond the fact that he’s a star guard at Duke with, ahem, something in common with J.J. Redick and Steve Wojciechowski and Christian Laettner, Allen also tripped three different players during the calendar year of 2016 and managed all of a one-game suspension for it.

So I get it.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t hate Grayson Allen.

But I am saying that he’s a damn good basketball player, one of the best in the sport this year.

As a sophomore, Allen averaged 21.6 points, 4.6 boards and 3.5 assists while shooting better than 41 percent from three on a Duke team that ended up as a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament. He was a second-team all-american and the star of a team that included Brandon Ingram. He entered his junior season as the Preseason National Player of the Year, but spent most of the year battling through physical ailments – an ankle that needed offseason surgery to fix – and mental anguish – the weight of being booed everywhere he went and knowing he did that to himself wasn’t easy to handle.

Allen is healthy now. He’s the lone upperclassman on a team that is going to likely end up being the preseason No. 1 team in the country. I fully expect that he will put together a season that will remind the nation of the fact that Allen, in addition to being a habitual tripper working through some emotional issues, is a very, very good college basketball player.

CONTENDER SERIES: Kentucky | Kansas | Arizona | Michigan State | Duke
Allonzo Trier (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

2. Allonzo Trier, Arizona, Jr.

Trier has dealt with some of his own issues over the course of the last year.

Prior to last season, a failed drug test involving the use of PEDs cost him 60 percent of his sophomore year, and while he returned and played like a star, the end result was an upset loss in the Sweet 16 on a night where Trier played a little too much hero-ball.

None of that, however, changes this simple fact: Trier is one of the best pure scorers in all of high-major basketball. He’s a 6-foot-3 combo-guard that is trying to get a clean look at the rim at all costs. I don’t think it’s crazy to predict that he ends up being a 20-point scorer this season.

The big question with Trier this year will be just how much of a ball-stopper he is. Part of the reason that the Wildcats lost to No. 11 Xavier in the Sweet 16 was because Trier froze out Lauri Markkanen down the stretch. He’s going to be sharing the floor with talents like Deandre Ayton and Rawle Alkins this season. Life will be easier for him, and a potential trip to the Final Four will be that much more likely for the Wildcats, if Trier embraces the idea of sharing the rock.

Final Four Sleepers | Louisville | Villanova | West Virginia | USC | Wichita State | Miami
Bruce Brown (Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

3. Bruce Brown, Miami, So.

Brown is the breakout star on this list.

Something of a late-bloomer in the hoops world, Brown was a high-level football recruit before he made the decision to focus on the hardwood. He still plays like a football player, an aggressive driver and athletic finisher that can be a terror on the defensive end of the floor.

Where he started to make some changes down the stretch of last season was on the offensive end of the floor. His jumper started going down more consistently. He started to look more dangerous in ball-screen actions. He caught the eye of NBA scouts and may be the biggest reason that the Hurricanes look like a legitimate threat to beat Duke out for the ACC regular season title.

Remember his name. You’ll be hearing quite a bit about him by the end of the year.

RELATED: Top 100 Players | Top Backcourts | Top Frontcourts | Top Lead Guards

4. Marcus Foster, Creighton, Sr.

Foster’s career has been such a roller-coaster that it is hard to believe he is still in school. As a freshman at Kansas State, he played like a guy that wasn’t going to be long for the college ranks. He opted to return to school for his sophomore season, where a combination of ego, extra weight and a disagreement with the coaching staff resulted in Foster eventually transferring out of the program after getting relegated to the bench.

He left and wound up at Creighton, where, after a year of sitting out, he started the 2016-17 season playing like an all-Big East sidekick to all-american Mo Watson. But then Watson went down with a torn ACL and the Bluejay season went up in smoke.

So here we are, with Foster headlining a Creighton team with NCAA tournament hopes, four years after his career started.

With a full offseason to figure out how to play without a star at the point guard spot, I fully expect Greg McDermott to find a way to Make Foster Great Again.

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KeVaughn Allen (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

5. KeVaughn Allen, Florida, Jr.

So here’s the thing about KeVaughn Allen: While he’s capable of putting together absolutely massive performances, the one thing that has plagued him throughout his career has been consistency.

Let me explain.

Everyone remembers the 35-point outburst that he had against Wisconsin in the Sweet 16 last season. It was terrific. He went bonkers. He also went 7-for-33 from the floor and 3-for-21 from three in the other three NCAA tournament games that Florida played. Here’s another one: Allen went off for 29 points in a loss at Vanderbilt last January three days after scoring just a single point in what was a showdown for first-place in the SEC with South Carolina three days earlier.

When he gets going, he’s as dangerous as any scorer on this list.

But just how often is he actually going to get going?

MOREThe Enigma of Miles Bridges | NBC Sports Preseason All-American Team

6. Rawle Alkins, Arizona, So.

There is one major question mark involving Alkins that is not about the health of his foot (e’s likely to miss the first month of the season):

Are the shots going to be there for him to prove just how good he can be as a scorer?

That was a concern for Alkins when he was healthy. He’s No. 3 on a team that includes the potential National Player of the Year (Allonzo Trier) and the potential No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft (Deandre Ayton), and he may not be able to play in games until after the hierarchy for shots is determined. That’s tough.

I do think Alkins is a terrific player, but I’m not convinced that we are going to see it all this season.

Final Four Sleepers | Louisville | Villanova | West Virginia | USC | Wichita State | Miami

7. Hamidou Diallo, Kentucky, Fr.

Diallo has unbelievable potential as a defender. He’s 6-foot-5 with a 6-foot-11 wingspan and the kind of athleticism that will have you questioning whether or not he is actually from this planet.

Simply put: He is a freak.

But he’s also still in college, which is not something that was guaranteed after he enrolled at Kentucky in January. Diallo declared for the NBA Draft, went through the workout process and ended up being one of the last players to opt to pull his name out. It begs the question: If a league that values potential over all else, particularly in the drafting process, is concerned enough about a player with this kind of athleticism that he could not lock himself into a first round guarantee, just how worried do we need to be about what he is on the offensive end of the floor?

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Malik Newman (Kansas Basketball)

8. Malik Newman, Kansas, So.

I’m excited to see what Newman is going to be able to produce this season. A former top ten recruit in the Class of 2015, Newman ended up spending a season with Ben Howland at Mississippi State before transferring out and spending a year in residence at Kansas.

This season, he’s going to be put into an ideal position. With Devonte’ Graham finally playing the point, he will slide into that off-guard role for the Jayhawks, given freedom to score the way that we know that he can score. I think that Newman will end up leading the Jayhawks in scoring this season, and while he may not be their best player of NBA Draft prospect, he’ll remind everyone of why he was a top ten player in his class.

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9. Lonnie Walker, Miami, Fr.

Another guy battling injury, Walker should be healthy and ready to go by the start of the season after dealing with a knee issue during the summer.

That is great news for Miami, as Walker is the best shooting guard in this class and a potential lottery pick come June. A big time scorer and a big time athlete, he should be perfect playing alongside Brown and Ja’Quan Newton.

But like Alkins, my concern is how he will fit in with this group coming off of injury. He missed the summer and he missed the preseason. How long will it take him to adjust to playing and practicing in college? How long until he learns how to run Miami’s offense or their rotations on defense? How long until his teammates are comfortable playing with him?

10. De’Anthony Melton, USC, So.

Melton is such a versatile talent. He can pass, he can drive, he can defend. He’s a consistent three-point shot away from being an NBA player.

There’s really not all that much to add. Melton is not going to blow-up a box score or make the kinds of plays with the ball in his hands that set twitter on fire. He’s not a lay-up line scout and he’s not a Sportscenter-scout.

He’s just a damn good basketball player.

CONTENDER SERIES: Kentucky | Kansas | Arizona | Michigan State | Duke
Khyri Thomas (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
  • 11. Quinndary Weatherspoon, Mississippi St., Jr.: Weatherspoon averaged 16.5 points and 5.8 boards as a sophomore despite playing through a wrist injury that was supposed to end his season. It’s not a coincidence that Malik Newman, who was a freshman in the same class as Weatherspoon, left when Ben Howland and his staff realized just how good Weatherspoon is.
  • 12. Khyri Thomas, Creighton, Jr.: I love the way Thomas plays the game. At 6-foot-3 with a 6-foot-10 wingspan, Thomas is built to be a 3-and-D wing. He’s one of the best perimeter defenders in the sport and shoots right around 40 percent from beyond the arc. He’ll play in the NBA.
  • 13. E.C. Matthews, Rhode Island, Sr.: Matthews saw his numbers take a bit of a hit as a junior after coming back from a torn ACL he suffered in the first game of the 2015-16 season. He’s a terrific talent, particularly when he’s healthy, and should be in line for a monster senior season.
  • 14. Tyler Hall, Montana State, Jr.: Since 1992, there have been just two underclassmen that have averaged at least 23 points while posting a true shooting percentage above 63.0. One of them was Tyler Hall. The other was Stephen Curry. Clearly, Hall is destined to be a two-time MVP on arguably the best NBA team we’ve ever seen. That’s how this works, right?
  • 15. Markus Howard, Marquette, So.: Continuing with the fun stats, Markus Howard is the first player in the last 20 seasons to shoot 54.7 percent or better from three while firing up at least 4.8 threes per game. That is out-of-this-world efficiency.
RELATED: Top 100 Players | Top Backcourts | Top Frontcourts | Top Lead Guards
Markus Howard (Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
  • 16. Tyus Battle, Syracuse, So.: I’m torn on Battle. On the one hand, he’s a potential first round pick that has a shot to put up massive numbers as a sophomore. On the other hand, he’ll put up those numbers because his Syracuse team isn’t really any good.
  • 17. Shamorie Ponds, St. John’s, So.: Ponds had himself a terrific freshman season for the Johnnies, and his presence on the roster is one of the biggest reasons that Chris Mullin’s squad is getting some NCAA tournament buzz.
  • 18. M.J. Walker, Florida State, Fr..: Walker is going to have his work cut out for him trying to find a way to replace the scoring that the Seminoles lost this offseason, but he may be cut out for it. He’s a freshman, but he’s already 19 years old and was an SEC-caliber recruit as a football player. He’s ready for the ACC.
  • 19. Jerome Robinson, Boston College, Jr.: How many players in the ACC averaged 18.4 points, 3.4 assists and 3.0 boards last season? Jerome Robinson. That’s it.
  • 20. Donte DiVincenzo, Villanova, So.: DiVincenzo is a star waiting in the wings. The question isn’t whether or not he will end up being an all-Big East player, it’s when. He may not end up being the face of the Villanova program until he’s a senior.

No. 2 Arizona drops second-straight

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PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas (AP) — SMU attacked the glass and kept scoring off turnovers to offset a bad shooting performance. It was enough to hand No. 2 Arizona a second stunning loss to an unranked opponent in two nights.

Ben Emelogu scored 20 points and the Mustangs upset the Wildcats 66-60 in Thursday’s consolation round at the Battle 4 Atlantis, a jarring start for an Arizona team that began the season as a Final Four favorite with a preseason Associated Press All-American in Allonzo Trier.

Arizona (3-2) lost to North Carolina State 90-84 in Wednesday’s first round. It’s the first time the Wildcats have dropped back-to-back games against nonconference opponents since losing to Mississippi State and San Diego State in November 2011.

“This is a different feeling,” coach Sean Miller said. “It might be healthy for our team because instead of everybody telling you how good you are and you’re going to get to a Final Four and you’re awesome, it’s going to go opposite now.

“And I think that it could be something that drives our team to have even better practice to fix a few things and hopefully get back in the winner’s circle.”

The Mustangs (5-1) blew an 11-point lead in the second half but responded with a 10-2 run to go ahead for good. SMU won despite shooting 31 percent and going eight minutes without a basket in the second half.

“I always say — and everybody thinks I’m lying but I’m not when I say this — the best wins of the year are always when you can’t get your shots to go in the basket and you find a way to win anyway,” SMU coach Tim Jankovich said. “That’s how great seasons are made. Everybody wins when they shoot great and feel great and all that.”

The Mustangs hung on in two ways. First, they capitalized on 20 Arizona turnovers by scoring 19 points off those miscues. Then there was their effort on the boards; they were outrebounded 43-39 overall but nearly doubled up Arizona on the offensive glass (20-11) to finish with 23 more shot attempts and 14 second-chance points.

“We talk about this all the time,” Jankovich said. “Really break it down: Does it take a lot of talent to go run after a ball? Does it take a lot of talent to dive on a ball? … And the answer is no. So really what it takes is the character and it takes an unselfishness and a commitment to the things that win rather than the things that necessarily make me look good.

“And in the end, if you have a team full of those guys, then you’re going to have a successful team.”

Trier scored 22 points to lead the Wildcats, who shot 47 percent. Arizona freshman Deandre Ayton added 17 points and 15 rebounds, but no other Wildcats player scored in double figures. Arizona also shot just 5 of 20 on 3-pointers.

“No, our confidence isn’t affected at all,” freshman forward Ira Lee said. “We’ve just got to see these two games as a learning experience and move on.”

BIG PICTURE

Arizona: Miller immediately said offense wasn’t the problem after the loss to N.C. State, noting the Wildcats haven’t dropped many games when scoring 84 points. Rather, he was concerned about a bad defensive effort. This time, his team had some good defensive moments, but Miller said there was something missing in glaring fashion.

“Maybe we did play some good defense,” Miller said, “but defense always ends with the rebounding. And we were unable to rebound.”

SMU: The Mustangs trailed much of the way against Northern Iowa in their first-round tournament game, but played from ahead in this one. They also came up with a counterpunch, regaining the lead after Arizona erased that 11-point deficit.

“The effort, gosh darn, I don’t care if we were big or tiny or medium-sized out there or who was guarding who, I saw some fighting cats out there,” Jankovich said. “And I loved it.”

EMELOGU’S NIGHT

Emelogu went 7 of 11 from the field and 5 of 7 on 3-pointers to lead SMU’s offense. The rest of SMU’s starters made 12 of 53 shots (23 percent).

“A lot of times, you just play hard and play defense, you win games even though offense didn’t go our way,” Emelogu said.

UP NEXT

Arizona: The Wildcats will play No. 18 Purdue in Friday’s seventh-place game.

SMU: The Mustangs will play Western Kentucky in Friday’s fifth-place game.

Western Kentucky upsets No. 18 Purdue 77-73 in Bahamas

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PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas (AP) — Darius Thompson scored 12 points and hit two clinching free throws with 5.1 seconds left to help Western Kentucky upset No. 18 Purdue 77-73 in Thursday’s consolation round at the Battle 4 Atlantis.

The Hilltoppers (3-2) led nearly the entire night, but needed to make several clutch plays late to hang on.

P.J. Thompson hit a corner 3-pointer with 5.8 seconds remaining to bring the Boilermakers (4-2) to 75-73, but Thompson answered with two free throws that made it a two-possession game and all but sealed the win.

Justin Johnson led the Hilltoppers with 17 points, including a tough driving score for a five-point lead with 21 seconds left.

Isaac Haas scored 22 points to lead Purdue, which shot just 32 percent in the first half. The Boilermakers trailed 42-31 at the break and never fully recovered.

BIG PICTURE

Purdue: That’s an 0-2 showing in two days for the Boilermakers in the Bahamas. The high-scoring, 3-point shooting offense hasn’t found its rhythm here, though Purdue shot 50 percent after halftime in this one to give itself a chance late.

Western Kentucky: The Hilltoppers were coming off a loss to No. 5 Villanova, making this the first time they had played consecutive games against ranked opponents since the 1993 NCAA Tournament. But they earned a win against a ranked team for just the second time in the last 15 tries.

UP NEXT

Purdue: The Boilermakers will play the Arizona-SMU loser in Friday’s seventh-place game.

Western Kentucky: The Hilltoppers will play the Arizona-SMU winner in Friday’s fifth-place game.

Duke overcomes tenacious Portland State 99-81

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Marvin Bagley III said the Blue Devils knew they had to wake up for the second half against Portland State.

And eventually, they did. Trevon Duval had 22 points and No. 1 Duke pulled away for a 99-81 victory over the surprisingly tenacious Vikings on Thursday to open the Phil Knight Invitational.

 Bagley added 18 points, and Grayson Allen had 14 points and nine assists. The Blue Devils (6-0) will face the winner of the Thursday game between Butler and Texas.

Duke trailed by as many as eight points but took control midway through the second half when Wendell Carter Jr.’s dunk put the Blue Devils in front 67-62. They would go on to lead by as many as 21 points.

“The first half we obviously weren’t playing like we were normally do. We weren’t doing the things that we do well. We weren’t going to our strengths. We kind of came out sluggish,” Bagley said. “But going into the second half it was just ‘You have to wake up.’ They (the coaches) mentioned to us that these are the type of games that are going to be like that if you don’t come out ready to play.

It was coach Mike Krzyzewski’s 200th victory as coach of a No. 1-ranked team. He’s 200-29 when the Blue Devils sit atop the poll.

Deontae North led the Vikings (4-1) with 24 points, including 20 in the first half, but fouled out with 8:39 left in the game.

It was the first time in program history that the Vikings had faced a top-ranked team. Portland State’s last win over a ranked opponent was an 86-82 victory over then-No. 25 Portland in December 2009.

“I thought they just knocked us back the whole first half,” Krzyzewski said. “We were in a reactionary mode the first 20 minutes.”

The tournament involves 16 teams playing in two brackets on Thursday, Friday and Sunday, with a break on Saturday. The field also includes No. 4 Michigan State, No. 7 Florida and defending national champion North Carolina.

Dubbed the PK80, the tournament celebrates Nike co-founder Phil Knight’s 80th birthday.

Duke and Portland State were in the Motion Bracket, playing Thursday at the Memorial Coliseum. Teams in the Victory Bracket played at the adjacent Moda Center.

Knight was sitting courtside for the game.

The five-time NCAA champion Blue Devils were coming off a 92-63 victory over Furman on Monday night, led by Bagley with 24 points.

Portland State was coming off an 83-79 victory over Utah State at the Memorial Coliseum on Monday. The Vikings are playing the first season under coach Barret Peery.

“I’m proud of our team,” Peery said. “But I was proud of our team before the ball went up.”

Portland State was no pushover from the start, taking a 12-11 lead on North’s 3-pointer with 16:54 to go in the opening half. North hit another 3 that put the Vikings up 19-15 and Michael Mayhew’s jumper extended the lead.

North made another 3 to make it 33-26 with 8:33 left in the half. The Vikings stayed out in front until Gary Trent Jr. made a pair of free throws for Duke to tie it at 42 with 2:09 left in the half.

Mayhew hit a long 3-pointer and Portland State led 49-45 at the half. Mayhew was among five Vikings who fouled out in the second half.

Carter’s layup put Duke out in front 54-53, but North answered with a jumper and Bryce Canda added a 3-pointer.

Carter had another layup to give the Blue Devils a 61-60 lead and Bagley’s tip-in pushed the lead to 63-60, energizing the mostly blue-clad crowd at the Coliseum. Duke never trailed again.

“This was a big stage for us,” said Canda, who finished with 14 points. “But we can’t hang our heads.”

BIG PICTURE

Duke: Allen scored just five points against Furman, and Krzyzewski said he was banged up and held out of a couple of practices going into the game. But he was back in form against Portland State. He taunted a Portland State player late in the game and got a technical, eliciting a strong reaction from Krzyzewski.

Portland State: It was the first time Portland State had faced a No. 1-ranked team. The Vikings have twice faced a No. 2 team, including Duke in 1997. … The Vikings play in the Big Sky conference. They’ve made the NCAA tournament twice, in 2008 and 2009, with first-round losses both times.

MORE COACH K: Krzyzewski has coached 229 games with a No. 1-ranked team, surpassing John Wooden for the lead. … It is the 500th week that Duck has been ranked in the top 10 of the AP poll under him, most by a coach in the AP Top 25’s history.

NORTH’S SECOND TECH: North was on the floor in front of the scorer’s desk, getting ready to check into the game when he earned his second tech of the game. Coach Peery said apparently the ref thought North had commented on the previous play.

UP NEXT

Duke: The Blue Devils go on to face the winner of the late Thursday afternoon game between Butler and Texas when the tournament continues on Friday.

Portland State: The Vikings will face the Butler-Texas loser.

Terrell lifts Rhode Island past No. 20 Seton Hall, 75-74

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NEW YORK (AP) — Jared Terrell made a running layup with 5.2 seconds left to give Rhode Island a 75-74 victory over No. 20 Seton Hall on Thursday night in the second game of the Preseason NIT.

Terrell finished with 32 points to help the Rams improve to 3-1. Stanford Robinson added 15 points.

Myles Powell led the Pirates (4-1) with 21 points. Angel Delgado had 18 points and 14 rebounds, and Khadeen Carrington and Desi Rodriguez had 12 points each.

Following Terrell’s layup, Seton Hall inbounded the ball to Carrington, who raced up court but lost his dribble and the Pirates were unable to recover the loose ball before the buzzer sounded.

Trailing by nine at halftime, Seton Hall outscored Rhode Island 27-17 in a 14:06 span to take the lead at 72-71. Carrington made two free throws with 5:54 left to give the Pirates their first lead since his jumper 5:09 into the game.

Defense was both the cause and effect for Seton Hall’s turnaround. Specifically, the Pirates played defense in the second half after surrendering 60.7 percent (17 of 28) shooting from the field — including 77.8 percent (7 of 9) from 3-point range — —in the first 20 minutes.

The Rams regained the the lead, 73-72, on Andre Berry’s layup with 4:05 left. The lead lasted for 2:02 until Ismael Sanogo’s layup gave Seton Hall a one-point advantage.

BIG PICTURE

Seton Hall: The Pirates entered the game having yielded just 254 points_or an average of 63.5 points per game_in winning their first four games. Against Rhode Island, Seton Hall allowed 54 points in the first half and the Rams broke the 64-point barrier with 11:03 left in the second half on Jared Terrell’s 3 in front of the Rhode Island bench.

Rhode Island: The Rams authored an otherworldly offensive performance — in the first half. Rhode Island scored 54 points on 60.7 percent shooting. But college basketball is a two-half game and, in the second, Rhode Island only made 8 of 31 shots from the field.

NOTABLE

Seton Hall Fell to 7-2 against Rhode Island

Rhode Island: The second of two games at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center also marked the second time Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley coached against his alma mater. Hurley scored 1,070 points in five years at Seton Hall.

UP NEXT

Seton Hall: Plays Vanderbilt in the consolation game Friday.

Rhode Island: Plays Virginia in the championship Friday.

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.