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The 68 Things We Cannot Wait To See In College Basketball This Season

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College basketball officially kicks off on Friday night. Here are the 68 things we’re looking forward to the most this season.

1. How David Padgett deals with the spotlight in his first head coaching job. This is a difficult situation, but he’s got a lot of talent to work with and a solid staff to lean on. – Raphielle Johnson

2. The nonsense that the NCAA comes up with to try and fix college basketball while ignoring the obvious, easy, necessary answer: End Amateurism.- Rob Dauster

3. Bonzie Colson getting buckets like only Bonzie Colson can. – Travis Hines

4. Will Arizona freshman DeAndre Ayton play more like be the motivated potential No. 1 pick he can be or the passive center that barely gave an effort during some games during high school. – Scott Phillips

5. What weird controversy will find Grayson Allen. – TH

6. The unknown. The best part about college basketball are the story lines that pop up out of nowhere. – RD

7. Where Rhode Island head coach Danny Hurley ends up after he leads his team to the Sweet 16. – RD

8. Aaron Holiday. He’s so much better than simply being Lonzo Ball’s understudy, and we’ll see it this season. – RD

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9. J.P. Macura and the art of talking trash. – TH

10. Gonzaga’s Rui Hachimura. You’ll understand why soon enough. – RD

11. BYU’s Yoeli Childs. Ditto. – RD

12. Miles Bridges dunking on anyone and everyone. – TH

13. Seton Hall’s team of veterans prove that you don’t have to have one-and-dones to win. – RD

14. Mohamed Bamba’s impact at Texas. Don’t know if I’d put the Longhorns in the category of Big 12 title contender, but they aren’t far off thanks to Bamba’s arrival. – RJ

15. The backcourt of Shamorie Ponds and Marcus Lovett at St. John’s. – TH

16. How will Kentucky adjust to being a team that lacks a significant veteran contributor from the season prior. This is unlike any team John Calipari’s had in his tenure there. – RJ

17. That Duke/Michigan State matchup in the Champions Classic. Could be the game of the year until we get to March. – RJ

18. How Kansas and Bill Self puts this roster together. Do they have anyone that can play the four? – TH

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19. Montana State’s Tyler Hall shooting three-pointers with a Steph Curry-level green light (he attempted 8.8 per game last season and made 42 percent of them.) – SP

20. People at the Final Four in San Antonio pretending that the River Walk is interesting. – TH

21. People realizing that Svi Mykhailiuk, a senior on Kansas, is four months older than Billty Preston, a freshman. – RD

22. Cincinnati proving that you can be a great college basketball team without having any preseason hype. – RD

23. The Jaylen Adams/Matt Mobley backcourt at St. Bonaventure. Do yourselves a favor and check those guys out at least a couple times this season. – RJ

24. Minnesota’s Isaiah Washington and JellyFam taking over college hoops. – SP

25. The growth of Carsen and Vince Edwards, and Purdue repeated explaining that, no, they are not actually related. – RD

26. Michael Porter Jr. being awesome and leading Missouri back to the NCAA tournament. – TH

27. Chris Mullin vs. Patrick Ewing on the sidelines. Given how fierce that rivalry was when they were players in the Big East, this should be fun. – RJ

28. The joy of listening to Bill Walton calling late-night Pac-12 games. – SP

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29. The Ivy League conference tournament since the league is loaded this season. – SP

30. Kentucky’s growth this season. They’re going to take some lumps early, but they should be a contender come March. – RD

31. Angel Delgado bullying everyone in the paint. – RD

32. The ridiculous backcourt battles in the Big East. – SP

33. What happens next in the FBI investigation since people are being indicted. What will they tell? Who’s next? – RJ

34. TCU taking the next step and actually reaching the NCAA tournament. – TH

35. How Dana Altman will decide to use Troy Brown in his offense. – RD

36. The Mountain West’s never-ending battle to return to national relevancy. Can they be a two-bid league again? – RD

37. Will the SEC actually be improved? On paper there are good reasons to believe so, but can’t blame people for wanting to see it before they buy in. – RJ

38. Seeing if Ethan Happ can carry Wisconsin to another top-four Big Ten finish with this young roster. – TH

CONTENDER SERIES: Kentucky | Kansas | Arizona | Michigan State | Duke
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39. Seeing if perpetually-underrated Conference USA can get a win in the NCAA tournament for the fourth consecutive year. – SP

40. The American title race. Cincinnati and Wichita State would be my favorites, but SMU, UCF, UConn, Temple and Houston will all be heard from as well. I’d be shocked if the winner had fewer than four league losses. – RJ

41. Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga battling it out in the WCC. BYU should be in mix as well, and don’t sleep on San Francisco, but that feels like a two-horse race. – RJ

42. How Northwestern handles success and expectation after their first trip to the NCAA tournament. – TH

43. Seeing how much UCF’s Tacko Fall has improved since last season. – SP

44. How Jim Boeheim handles a potentially tough season at Syracuse. – TH

45. The “Go-Go Gadget” arms of Texas freshman center Mohamed Bamba. – SP

46. Duke’s Wendell Carter. He’s a damn-good player with absolutely no preseason buzz. – RD

47. The race for who will become the presumptive No. 1 NBA draft pick: Michael Porter Jr., Marvin Bagley III and Deandre Ayton. – TH

48. If there’s a serious challenger to Arizona in the Pac-12, or if Arizona and Allonzo Trier thrive despite the FBI investigation. – TH

49. Wichita State competing for the first time in the AAC after moving out of the Missouri Valley. – TH

50. Auburn’s search for a new head coach once Bruce Pearl is run out of town. – RD

51. Trevon Duval’s progression at Duke. For all the talent on that roster, really think he holds the key to a national championship. If he runs the show as well as his talent leads many to believe he can, they’ll be in San Antonio at minimum. – RJ

52. DeAndre Ayton at Arizona. That team’s loaded, but he’s the toughest matchup on that roster. And given how last season ended, those veterans should be plenty motivated as well. – RJ

53. The ever-increasing slate of good college hoops being played on Thanksgiving thanks to this year’s PK80. – SP

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54. Mike Daum at South Dakota State. There aren’t many guys his size who can score inside and out while threatening to be a 50/40/90 guy in college basketball. He’s special. – RJ

55. A healthy season of Chimezie Metu and Bennie Boatwright playing together at USC. – SP

56. Watching Grand Canyon try to make the NCAA tournament during their first season of eligibility. – SP

57. Provindence shocking everyone when they play their way into being a top 20 team in the country. – RD

58. Vermont winning a game in the NCAA tournament and thus confirming that T.J. Sorrentine is no longer hitting them from the parking lot for the Catamounts. – RD

59. Devonte’ Graham getting his own chance to shine at Kansas with the departure of Frank Mason. – SP

60. Will coaches that staunchly support playing two bigs – Cuonzo Martin, Roy Williams – learn to embrace small-ball the way that Bill Self did? – RD

61. Giddy Potts become a mid-major darling. Who doesn’t love chunky little guys that fire up threes? – RD

62. DePaul and Illinois playing for the first time in 60 years. – SP

63. The Big East race. I really think it’s going to be closer than some people think. Seton Hall, Xavier and Providence are all capable of winning the league, and Villanova’s still Villanova. – RJ

64. A healthy Oregon State. That’s a tournament team with everyone on the court, especially Tres Tinkle. – RJ

65. How UCLA deals with initiating an international incident, and whether or not the Ball Family rips the program apart at the seams. – TH

66. What South Carolina does for an encore. They lost a lot from the Final Four team, but you know Frank Martin’s guys are going to compete. – RJ

67. Oklahoma freshman Trae Young pulling up from unfathomable distances for three-pointers. – SP

68. How Jim Larranaga puts all those quality guards to good use down at Miami. The Hurricanes have the tools to win the ACC. – RJ

NCAA tourney chair addresses non-conference strength of schedule and quadrant system

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The way the NCAA tournament selection committee picks teams for inclusion into the sport’s crowning event is always under intense scrutiny. It’s a national past time, really.

One of the easiest targets is the RPI, an obviously flawed metric. It was the topic of discussion recently in the Omaha World-Herald, most notably the non-conference strength of schedule component.

That post spurred a lengthy response from Creighton athletic director and selection committee chairman Bruce Rasmussen, who defended the committee’s work with a metric that it acknowledges to be imperfect.

Here’s Rasmussen:

“Non-conference SOS is not a predominant tool in selections.

In fact, each year that I have been on the committee, we have discussed why you have to look beyond the number to evaluate a team’s non-conference strength of schedule, and even with this qualifier, non-conference schedule ranks well behind other factors such as how you did against other tournament caliber teams, did you win the games you were supposed to win, and how did you do away from home since winning away from home is difficult and the tournament games are all games away from home.

“I have argued each year that I have been on the committee that non-conference SOS should be taken off the team sheet, but until we develop a new metric it is staying. However, understand that the committee understands its fallacies (as we also recognize other weaknesses in the current RPI formula) and it is not a prominent factor in decisions.”

Rasmussen also examined the quadrant system being used:

“Many think that the first and second quadrants are silos and that every win in the first quadrant or every win in the second quadrant is treated equally.  I think it is important that while we refer to first and second quadrant wins, we also better communicate that this is only a sorting mechanism and each game in these quadrants is looked at differently. They don’t have the same value.”

So while it’s fair to question NCAA selection committee’s decisions and the way in which they make them, it’s clear there is an extensive amount of well-intentioned thought put into the process.

College Basketball Coaches Poll: Michigan State moves atop the Top 25

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Michigan State is your new No. 1 team in the country, according to the USA Today Coaches Poll.

The Spartans received 20 of a possible 32 first-place votes after their comeback from 27 points down to beat Northwestern on the road on Saturday.

Virginia is still sitting at No. 2 while Villanova and Xavier round out the top four. Duke climbed a few spots to No. 5.

Here is the full coaches poll:

1. Michigan State (20 first-place votes)
2. Virginia (8)
3. Villanova (4)
4. Xavier
5. Duke
6. Gonzaga
7. Texas Tech
8. Kansas
9. Purdue
10. North Carolina
11. Cincinnati
12. Wichita State
13. Auburn
14. Arizona
15. Ohio State
16. Michigan
17. Clemson
18. Rhode Island
19. Tennessee
20. Saint Mary’s
21. West Virginia
22. Nevada
23. Houston
24. Middle Tennessee State
25. Arizona State

Was Bob Huggins justified in his anger over foul shots in Kansas win over West Virginia?

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Much has been made of Bob Huggins’ ejection on Saturday evening, as West Virginia blew yet another double-digit lead at Phog Allen Fieldhouse as Kansas picked up a critical, 77-69 win.

The ejection was hilarious, and everything that I want to remember Huggy Bear by: Cussing out all three refs as he earns his second technical and an ejection while needing to hold up his pants with his hands:

Huggs is a national treasure.

The more interesting conversation, however, centered around why Huggins was tossed. Kansas shot 35 free throws on Saturday. West Virginia shot just two, which is an absolutely staggering number.

And I thought this was deserving of further scrutiny.

Let’s start with the obvious: West Virginia fouls a lot, enough that it’s not an exaggeration to say that a foul could probably be called on every possession. Part of the strategy of playing the way that Press Virginia does is that they are betting that officials are not going to call a foul on every possession, because they won’t. West Virginia is also a jump-shooting team this season, as nearly 40 percent of their field goal attempts come from beyond the arc. Their free throw rate both offensively and defensively is dead last in the Big 12.

Put another way, the Mountaineers are always going to be outshot from the free throw line.

Then you have to combine that with the Kansas stats. The Jayhawks are second in the Big 12 on offensive free throw rate and third in defensive free throw rate. Throw in the home court advantage that comes with playing in the Phog, and the safest bet in the world would have been Kansas outshooting West Virginia from the charity stripe.

It also needs to be noted that the 35-2 advantage was 27-2 before West Virginia started fouling intentionally and before Kansas went to the line for those two late Huggins’ technical fouls.

But that didn’t stop Huggins from going off in the press conference after the game:

“We blew the game last year,” Huggins said. “We should have won the game. We had the game. They did a great job, they made shots, we threw it around, we missed free throws, we did everything humanly possible to lose the game. That was us.”

“I’ve been doing this 40 years. I don’t I’ve ever been in a game where we shot two free throws. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a game where the disparity 35-2. I’ve never been in a game like that.”

But perhaps his most telling line was this, when asked what his message to his team was:

“It wasn’t their fault.”

It’s pretty clear that Huggins believed his team was hosed on the road.

The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

West Virginia is normally going to shoot fewer free throws than their opponents. Kansas is normally going to shoot more free throws that their opponents. Studies have proven that home environments in college basketball have an impact referee decisions as much as any sport in the world, including English soccer. That’s part of having a home court advantage, and it’s part of the advantage of having a rowdy, raucous and loud crowd. It’s why places like Phog Allen, and Cameron Indoor Stadium, and Koch Arena, and the McKale Center, and anywhere else with a big and loud fan base.

But 35-2 is 35-2, and it will take quite a bit of video evidence to proof to me that Kansas did not get a significant benefit from playing in front of their home crowd on Saturday night.

So did the referees cost West Virginia the game?

Debatable. I’d argue that Jevon Carter missing some shots and Daxter Miles’ insistence on passing up open threes to try and pass the ball to players going for a rebound played a pretty big role, as did the fact that Kansas is a really good team that made some big shots down the stretch.

But the whistles played some kind of a role.

Just like they always do in the Phog.

College Basketball AP Poll: Virginia, Michigan State, Villanova top the Top 25

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Virginia remained in the No. 1 spot in the AP Poll while Michigan State and Villanova still sit at No. 2 and No. 3 with Xavier once again in fourth.

The biggest change in the poll was that Duke rose to No. 5 after three straight wins; they were No. 12 last week.

Kentucky is still not a part of the top 25.

Here is the full AP Poll:

1. Virginia (42 first-place votes)
2. Michigan State (19)
3. Villanova (4)
4. Xavier
5. Duke
t-6. Texas Tech
t-6. Gonzaga
8. Kansas
9. Purdue
10. North Carolina
11. Cincinnati
12. Auburn
13. Wichita State
14. Arizona
15. Clemson
16. Ohio State
17. Michigan
18. Rhode Island
19. Tennessee
20. Nevada
21. West Virginia
22. Saint Mary’s
23. Houston
24. Middle Tennessee
25. Florida State

VIDEO: Wichita State celebrates in locker room after win over Cincinnati

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Wichita State went into Cincinnati — well, Northern Kentucky — on Sunday evening and landed their biggest win of the season.

They were fired up about it, as you might imagine.

And their locker room celebrating after the win was, as the kids say, litty:

Here’s the funny part to me: This game wasn’t played at Cincinnati. It wasn’t played at Wichita State. It was played at Northern Kentucky, where the Bearcats are playing their home games while they wait for the renovations on their arena to be completed.

Which means that some poor NKU employee that had nothing to do with either of these two programs had to spend the time cleaning up this mess.