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College Basketball’s Best Wing Forwards

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There are so many good wings in college basketball this year.

And to be frank, the “wing” spot is a tough one to define. For us, the definition is fairly simple: Players that you cannot simply classify as a guard, but that unequivocally are not big men. 

Miles Bridges is the perfect example. He’s certainly not a guard, at least not in the college games, but the idea of listing him alongside the likes of Tyler Davis or Ethan Happ just doesn’t work. 

Where this gets complicated is with the likes of, say, Trevon Bluiett or Deng Adel or Troy Brown. It’s almost as if the idea of positionless basketball makes it difficult to clearly identify players as a certain position.

Almost.

Which is why we give this 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.

Top 100 Players | Top Backcourts | Top Frontcourts 
Top Lead Guards| Top Off Guards | Top Wings | Top Big Men

1. Miles Bridges, Michigan State

Simply put: Bridges is the best player in college basketball this season. He’s back for a sophomore season after averaging 16.9 points and 8.3 boards while shooting 38.9 percent from three as a freshman. He’s a freak-of-nature athlete and a rarity in the sense that he actually embraces playing on a college campus. He wants to here. That’s why he passed up being a top ten pick to make a run at winning a national title.

As Tom Izzo says, Bridges is a “weirdo“.

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

But it’s not going to be that simple for Bridges. He’ll be playing a new position as a sophomore. Last year, he was forced to play the majority of his minutes at the four, as Michigan State couldn’t keep any of their big men healthy and Bridges – who checked in at 6-foot-7, 240 pounds last season – is the perfect small-ball four. He can bang with the big boys and he can torch those same players when they try to guard him on the perimeter.

This year, he’s going to be playing the three. He’s not going to be guarding bigs, he’s going to be guarding wings. He’s not going to be defended by power forwards, he’s going to draw an opponent’s best perimeter defender. There are going to be different reads he has to make, different instincts and skills he has to utilize, different places that he is going to be getting shots within the Michigan State offense.

That doesn’t mean that Bridges is going to be worse this year. Far from it. It just means that his role is going to be … different, and how he handles that change will affect whether Michigan State is national title good or just the favorite in the Big Ten.

2. Michael Porter, Missouri

There may not be a more talented player in college basketball this season than the potential No. 1 overall pick Michael Porter. At 6-foot-10, Porter has the size of a big man, the perimeter skills of a guard and the athleticism of a ten-time NBA all-star. He’s a freak, and while I hesitate to compare him to Kevin Durant as a player, I think there is the potential that the kind of season that he has for Missouri mirrors that of Durant’s freshman year.

But for me, the big question for Porter – and, frankly, for Missouri – is going to be where he ends up playing. The way that the Missouri roster is constructed, Porter is probably going to end up playing the three. That’s what happens when two big men are among the five best players on a team coached by a guy that loves playing two bigs together. I’m not convinced that is the best place for him to play, not against college players and not when he still hasn’t fully developed those perimeter skills.

At the very least, I expect Porter will be able to do what Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz could not: Get to the NCAA tournament.

Final Four Sleepers | Louisville | Villanova | West Virginia | USC | Wichita State | Miami
Michael Porter Jr., Missouri Athletics

3. Trevon Bluiett, Xavier

Anyone that watched Xavier’s run to the Elite 8 in last year’s NCAA tournament knows just how good Bluiett can be when he gets it going. He’s a walking bucket playing on a team that needs someone to carry the lion’s share of their offensive production. Bluiett will enter this season as a heavy favorite, alongside Villanova’s Jalen Brunson and Seton Hall’s Angel Delgado, to win the Big East Player of the Year award. Hell, he could have made a push for that award last season had he not hurt his ankle.

Bluiett is a good bet to be the Big East’s leading scorer this season, and if Xavier is truly going to make a push to win the conference this year, it will be because Bluiett grew into an all-american.

4. Deng Adel, Louisville

Adel is going to test out just how complicated can a season get for a player.

Let’s start with what’s happening on the court. After spending his freshman season banged up, Adel was thought by many to be a breakout candidate as a sophomore, and to a point, he actually was. He was very good down the stretch of last season, although that growth was somewhat overshadowed by the fact that Donovan Mitchell was awesome.

This was supposed to be Adel’s year to because the superstar for this team, to show NBA teams why he’s worthy of a contract, but a wrench got thrown into those plans when Rick Pitino was fired as a result of the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college hoops. Now, instead of playing for one of the greatest coaches in the history of the sport, Adel will be looking for make that improvement under the tutelage of a 32-year old first-time head coach.

Let’s see how this plays out.

Top 100 Players | Top Backcourts | Top Frontcourts 
Deng Adel (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Top Lead Guards| Top Off Guards | Top Wings | Top Big Men

5. Vince Edwards, Purdue

Edwards has quietly been a productive, versatile and vital cog in the Purdue machine over the course of the last two seasons. He’s a multi-positional defender that makes threes and distributes the ball with an efficiency that should make stat-heads swoon. He’s not really cut out to be a star, but he was quietly much more effective last season than O.G. Anunoby, an in-state rival that got all of these accolades last preseason.

Anunoby is off to the NBA after an injury-plagued season, meaning that it is time for Edwards to get his due. With Caleb Swanigan gone, he’ll have to shoulder more of the offensive load this season, but assuming that Carsen Edwards can develop into a go-to guy offensively for the Boilermakers, Edwards should prove to NBA teams why he has value as a role player.

6. Kevin Knox, Kentucky

I’m torn on Knox when it comes to ranking him on this list.

On the one hand, the kid is a terrific talent. He’s a top ten prospect in a very good class with the tools and the athleticism to make him an intriguing player in the eyes of the NBA. But to me, he’s more of a power forward with some perimeter skill than he is a small forward at this point in his development. In other words, the role I see him playing in his career is as a small-ball four, a guy that should be tasked with getting to the glass and being a switchable defender all while taking advantage of the slow-footed power forwards that will try to keep him in front at the other end.

But on this Kentucky team, Knox will likely never play that role, not with the amount of front court talent John Calipari has at his disposal and the lack of depth available in the back court. This, to me, has the feel of Kentucky trying to fit Trey Lyles into the lineup as a three when that role just wasn’t quite right for his skill-set.

It will be interesting to see how that will play out for Knox, who picked perimeter playing time at Kentucky over a more natural small-ball four role that he could have played at Duke or North Carolina.

CONTENDER SERIES: Kentucky | Kansas | Arizona | Michigan State | Duke
Troy Brown, Jon Lopez Nike

7. Troy Brown, Oregon

It’s going to be fascinating to see how Oregon head coach Dana Altman opts to use Brown this season, because he’s never really had a play of Brown’s ilk at his disposal. Brown is something of a 6-foot-6 point forward, an uber-versatile wing that isn’t exactly a scorer and isn’t exactly a shooter but that can handle the rock in ball-screen actions and is capable of creating off the bounce, for himself and for his teammates. Think P.J. Dozier, a former South Carolina player that is now on a two-way contract with Oklahoma City.

Altman’s never really had a guy like that at Oregon. He’s had a lot of guys that were tweeners, but they were either score-first forwards (Dillon Brooks) or freak athletes that work as switchable defenders (Jordan Bell, Elgin Cook, Dwayne Benjamin). Brown will be a different kind of player on a team that returns essentially just a single relevant guy from last year’s Final Four team. Altman is as good as anyone at finding a way to make new rosters fit together, and I’m exciting to see how he decides to utilize Brown’s talent.

8. Bennie Boatwright, USC

Boatwright was a guy that I expected to be something of a breakout star as a freshman, and to a point he was. He averaged 15.1 points in 27 minutes, shooting 36.4 percent from three on the season. But he also missed roughly half the season with knee issues. He’s healthy now, and that is a major reason why I think that USC has a shot to be a Pac-12 title contender and a Final Four team this year.

There’s a reason they call him Bennie Buckets, and we’re going to see it this season.

9. Jeff Carroll, Oklahoma State

No one benefitted more from Brad Underwood’s one season at Oklahoma State than Jeff Carroll, who went from a no-name role player on a mediocre team to a 17-point scorer and a 44-percent three-point shooter on a tournament team. Now, with Jawun Evans in the professional ranks and Underwood at Illinois, it is going to be Carroll who carries the water as new head coach Mike Boynton looks to navigate his first season as a head coach, wading into the Big 12 with the stench of an assistant coach fired after being arrested by the FBI hanging over the program.

10. Justin Jackson, Maryland

Jackson is one of the guys that I think will have a breakout 2017-18 season. I don’t think it’s crazy to project him as a potential top 20 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. He’s 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot-2 wingspan, the ability to make threes and the skill-set to play the three or the four. Players like him at the future of the NBA.

The big question is going to be how much of that shines through this season at Maryland. There’s a changing of the guard for the Terps, as Melo Trimble is off to the NBA and a sophomore class that includes Jackson, Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter takes over. Jackson put up some massive games as a freshman, but consistency was an issue. How will that play out this year?

Big Ten Preview | ACC Preview | Big 12 Preview | Pac 12 Preview
Justin Jackson (Rob Carr/Getty Images)
  • 11. Amir Coffey, Minnesota: Coffey is such an important piece for what Minnesota does. He’s a multi-positional defender with offensive versatility that takes some of the play-making pressure off Minnesota’s backcourt.
  • 12. Jacob Evans, Cincinnati: As much as everyone wants to talk about Cincinnati’s front court, there’s a line of thinking that Evans may actually be the best player on the Bearcat roster. He did lead them in scoring as a sophomore.
  • 13. Mustapha Heron, Auburn: A former five-star recruit lured to Auburn by Bruce Pearl, Heron is going to be asked to carry the water for a Tiger team that has the pieces to make a run to the NCAA tournament this season.
  • 14. Mikal Bridges, Villanova: We’ve been waiting for Bridges to make a leap as a player for a couple years now, and that has not yet happened. But even without it, he’s still been effective for the Wildcats thanks to his length, defensive prowess and ability to score from the perimeter.
  • 15. J.P. Macura, Xavier: With all the attention that Trevon Bluiett gets, Macura has flown under the radar. But he is a talented, versatile player that led Xavier through some difficult stretches last season. He is a tough kid that isn’t going to back away from a challenge.
Top 100 Players | Top Backcourts | Top Frontcourts 
Top Lead Guards| Top Off Guards | Top Wings | Top Big Men
Big Ten Preview | ACC Preview | Big 12 Preview | Pac 12 Preview
  • 16. Kelan Martin, Butler: The big thing with Martin this season is going to be consistency. He has the ability to score 25 points in a half on any given night, but he can turn into something of a gunslinger that hunts shots at the detriment to his team’s offense. How will new Butler head coach Lavall Jordan handle that?
  • 17. Jordan Caroline, Nevada: Caroline is probably the most talented player in the Mountain West this season. He had some explosive performances last season, and with Nevada losing two of their top three scorers, he’ll be asked to do much more on that end of the floor.
  • 18. Theo Pinson, North Carolina: This may be something of a reach for a guy that has never proven to be a consistent scorer, but his playmaking and the fact that Roy Williams can slot him at the four in need-be makes him incredibly valuable. I think he has a big senior season.
  • 19. Chandler Hutchison, Boise State: If Caroline is the most talented player in the league, Hutchison may be the best. He’s my pick to win Mountain West Player of the Year.
  • 20. Josh Okogie, Georgia Tech: Okogie is a name you need to familiarize yourself with. He averaged 16 points in the ACC as a freshman and made the cut for the U19 World Cup, a team coached by John Calipari, over kids Cal was recruiting.

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.