Exactly seven days ago, Brooks very nearly ended Ike Anigbogu’s career.
On Thursday night, he did the same to poor David Collette, Utah’s center:
Exactly seven days ago, Brooks very nearly ended Ike Anigbogu’s career.
On Thursday night, he did the same to poor David Collette, Utah’s center:
1. The rest of the N.C. State season will be awkward?: Mark Gottfried was fired by the university on Thursday, which didn’t come as a surprise. Smoke was rising, and the Wolfpack were sinking. They were 14-13 and 3-11 in the ACC following a 24-point home loss to North Carolina, which followed a 30-point loss to Wake Forest. The Wolfpack are 13th in a 14 team ACC and have lost six straight since their upset win at Duke.
And all of that came after a 16-17 season in 2015-17.
So no, it wasn’t a surprise that Gottfried was let go by the university. What was mildly surprising, however, was that he and athletic director Debbie Yow agreed that he would be able to coach out the rest of the season, four regular season games and N.C. State’s trip to the NCAA tournament, which means that I now am rooting for one thing and one thing only: N.C. State to make the NCAA tournament.
Think about how awesome that would be.
The lame-duck head coach, the one that’s been to four NCAA tournaments in five-plus years in Raleigh, rallies a group that has the talent to get to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament after he already received his pink slip. I feel pretty confident saying that has never happened before in the history of the sport, and I also feel pretty confident saying that it will be make things in Raleigh even more awkward.
Some sportswriters root for the best story. Me? I root for chaos, and how could anything be more chaotic than what would happen at N.C. State if Gottfried gets them back into the NCAA tournament?
2. The Big Ten title race will see some movement: The way things currently stand, Wisconsin, Maryland and Purdue are all tied for first place in the Big Ten with five games remaining. On Sunday, Wisconsin and Maryland square off, meaning that there will be, at most, two teams in the league of the conference come Monday morning. Purdue gets Michigan State at home in a game that the Spartans badly need if they’re going to get into the NCAA tournament.
The x-factor here? Bronson Koening is not healthy. He played just 15 minutes in the loss at home against Northwestern. He didn’t play in Thursday’s loss at Michigan. Maryland, on the other hand, got 30 points out of Melo Trimble in Wednesday night’s win at Northwestern.
Is it possible that Wisconsin, who led the Big Ten by two full games last Sunday, will be out of first place just one week later?
3. Kansas vs. Baylor: A top five battle between the two teams at the top of the Big 12 standings? Yes, please.
There is a lot to go over with this matchup – we do that here – but there are two specific story lines that need to be tracked in this game. First and foremost is the streak. Kansas, obviously, has won 12 straight Big 12 regular season titles, and they’re currently up two games on Baylor in the Big 12 standings. A win on Saturday would give them the outright Big 12 title barring the kind of collapse we only see out of Iowa.
The other side of it, however, is that Baylor is still fighting for a No. 1 seed, but the Bears have lost three of their last five games – including games against Kansas State and Texas Tech – and are no longer a lock for that top seed line, not with the top of the ACC surging. Beating the Jayhawks would be a nice way to keep themselves as a No. 1 seed while also making the Big 12 race relevant down the stretch of the season.
4. Is Kentucky back in their groove?: Two weeks ago, Kentucky bounced back from a stretch where they lost three out of four games by beating a terrible LSU team at home by seven points, a game where they hemorrhaged 58 points second half points.
That convinced Coach Cal to run through a three-hour practice that focused entirely on the defensive side of the ball, and the response has been two wins in a row, at Alabama and at home over Tennessee. On Saturday, the Wildcats pay a visit to Georgia, who was the only team that Kentucky was able to beat in that four-game stretch. That win came at home, in overtime and as a direct result of Malik Monk going absolutely bonkers in the second half.
The Bulldogs are a better team than their record might indicate. Yante Maten and J.J. Frazier may be the best 1-2 punch in the conference. This game will be the test that lets us know if the Wildcats are back to being the team we saw earlier in the season.
No. 3 Kansas at No. 4 Baylor, Sat. 1:00 p.m. (CBS): The biggest game of the weekend will be in Waco, as Kansas and Baylor get back together after the Jayhawks took down the Bears two weeks ago in Lawrence.
Since then, the two teams have been on different paths. The Jayhawks are sitting two games up on Baylor in the Big 12 standings with five games remaining. A win on Saturday for Kansas would all but lock up their 13th straight Big 12 regular season title.
It would also be the fourth loss in the last six games for the Bears, who have looked most of the season like they’re primed to be one of the four No. 1 seeds on Selection Sunday. But with teams like Duke, North Carolina and Louisville continuing to win in the ACC, and the Pac-12 placing three teams at the top of their conference, nothing is guaranteed for Scott Drew’s club.
The key to this game is going to be in the paint. That’s where Baylor’s strength lies, with All-American candidate Johnathan Motley flanked by Jo Lual-Acuil. That’s also where Kansas struggles, as Landen Lucas is the only big guy on their roster that has had any real impact in the paint this season. Carlton Bragg Jr. is being asked to play out of position, Mitch Lightfoot isn’t ready, Dwight Coleby is not healthy yet and Udoka Azubuike has a wrist injury. If Motley can get Lucas into foul trouble early, Baylor will be in a great spot.
On the other end of the floor, however, the Bears are going to have to figure out a way to deal with Kansas playing small-ball. The Jayhawks will likely face plenty of that 1-1-3 zone that Drew employs, but with their ability to shoot and drive from every spot on the perimeter, they have the pieces to be able to attack it.
However it shakes out, I have a feeling that this will end up being a close, thrilling game down the stretch.
No. 14 Virginia at No. 10 North Carolina, Sat. 8:15 p.m. (ESPN): First place in the ACC is on the line on Saturday night as the Cavaliers head down to Chapel Hill to square off with the Tar Heels. UNC is currently sitting all alone in first place in the ACC with three teams – Florida State, Louisville and Duke – sitting a game out of first place. Virginia and Notre Dame are tied two games out of the race.
Virginia badly needs this win after falling at home to Duke on Wednesday night, their fourth loss in six games, but I’m not sure that they have the horses to outrun UNC. The Tar Heels are a team that is not getting quite enough attention at this point in the season, and with the combination of Joel Berry II and Justin Jackson, a long with a massive and healthy front line, UVA is going to have their work cut out for them.
The key to this game will be UNC defensively. Duke held the Wahoos to 44 points in the first 38 minutes of Wednesday’s game, which is why they were able to win despite the fact that Virginia locked down everyone not named Jayson Tatum. Can UNC, whose defense ranks 42nd nationally, do the same?
FIVE MORE GAMES TO WATCH
Oregon is the flagship program of Nike, and if there’s anything we’ve learned about Duck basketball over the course of the last decade, it’s that they’re always going to be on the cutting edge of the “OMG THESE UNIFORMS ARE SICK AF” movement.
Last night was no different, as the Ducks unveiled uniforms that, quite literally, glowed in the dark:
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) Undefeated Gonzaga struggled in the first half against San Francisco, and looked nothing like the nation’s top-ranked basketball team.
But Nigel Williams-Goss helped the Zags dominate the second half and coast to a 96-61 victory Thursday night.
Williams-Goss scored 30 points as Gonzaga extended the nation’s longest winning streak to 27 games.
“We’re not going to beat every single team by 20 points in the first half,” said Przemek Karnowski, who added 23 points and seven rebounds for Gonzaga (27-0, 15-0 West Coast). “We’ve got to play our defense like we’re supposed to.”
Gonzaga, which is seeking to become the first team since Kentucky in 2015 to go undefeated in the regular season, let San Francisco shoot 50 percent and take the lead midway through the first half.
But they held the Dons to 23.5 percent shooting in the second half, and outscored them 54-26 for the win.
“I like how we adjusted,” Karnowski said. “We altered a lot of shots.”
Chase Foster had 15 points and Matt McCarthy added 11 for San Francisco (18-10, 8-7). The Dons have dropped 11 straight to Gonzaga and 28 in a row in Spokane dating to 1989.
Williams-Goss, a junior guard, added six rebounds and seven assists as he torched the Dons for at least 30 points for the second time this season. He was 10 of 14 from the field.
“He’s a really, really focused individual,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said of Williams-Goss. “He doesn’t leave anything to chance.”
San Francisco coach Kyle Smith liked his team’s effort in the first 16 minutes.
“We competed well,” Smith said. “We gave ourselves a chance.
“We had a couple quick possessions, a couple of bad shots that led to a quick transition for them,” Smith said. “You can’t let your guard down at all.”
San Francisco shot well to lead for a good portion of the first half, until a late surge gave Gonzaga a 42-35 lead at halftime.
Williams-Goss scored 11 points as Gonzaga put together a 15-2 run that bracketed halftime to build a 52-37 lead early in the second.
Williams-Goss continued to score virtually at will, adding eight more points as Gonzaga built a 62-43 lead.
The Dons made only five of their first 20 shots in the second half.
“We guarded the ball better,” Few said. “We guarded the rim. We quit giving up 3s.”
Gonzaga, which has trailed only 6 percent of the time in games this season, fell behind 16-11 midway through the first half. The Zags clawed back and tied the game at 22-22 on Zach Collins’ basket. Williams-Goss followed with a 3-pointer to put Gonzaga ahead for good.
San Francisco: The Dons gave Gonzaga one of its toughest league tests, losing 95-80 earlier this season. It was the most points scored this season against the Zags. The Dons are off to their best start since the 1999-2000 season.
Gonzaga: The Zags limit opponents to 37 percent shooting, second in the nation. Gonzaga has won at least 25 games in 13 of the past 14 seasons. Their 20 straight conference wins dating to last year are the longest streak in the nation.
Gonzaga made 19 of 35 shots in the decisive second half, while holding the Dons to 8-of-34 shooting in the half. Gonzaga won the rebound battle 44-32 and converted 15 San Francisco turnovers into 30 points.
Gonzaga post Killian Tillie missed the game with a broken finger, and guard Bryan Alberts sat out with an ankle injury
San Francisco plays at Portland on Saturday.
Gonzaga hosts Pacific on Saturday, and then will have two remaining regular season games left against San Diego and BYU as they seek an undefeated season.
PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) No. 5 Arizona was down its starting point guard Kadeem Allen to a dislocated finger, but the Wildcats are no stranger to playing shorthanded this season.
The Wildcats played a lot of the season without suspended Allonzo Trier, lost top recruit Ray Smith with a torn ACL before the season and spent six games without point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright.
On Thursday night, Jackson-Cartwright, Allen’s understudy, came through with a career night.
He scored a career-best 20 points and Lauri Markkanen finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds to help Arizona overcome an early deficit and breeze past Washington State 78-59.
“I’ve never been a part of a team that’s been through more than we have. . I’ve also never been a part of a group that’s been as resilient, tough-minded, kind of find-a-way group that we’ve become,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said.
“We wouldn’t have the record we have if we didn’t have numerous times where players stepped up.”
Arizona (24-3, 13-1 Pac-12) trailed for just over 10 minutes in the first half, but carried a 16-6 run into halftime, when it led by nine.
“Sometimes it’s one of those nights when the ball is going in,” Jackson-Cartwright said. “I just credit my teammates for finding me. The basket just seemed to be much bigger tonight.”
The Wildcats shot 5 of 6 from 3-point range in the second half and forced 12 turnovers. They spent the majority of the second half with the lead above 20 points.
Washington State’s leading scorer Josh Hawkinson struggled against Arizona’s interior size. He finished with seven points on 3-of-9 shooting, and struggled in both matchups against Arizona this season.
Ike Iroegbu led the Cougars (11-15, 4-10) with 17 points. The guards accounted for more than 75 percent of WSU’s points.
“We played well in this game in the first half, we just missed layups,” Washington State coach Ernie Kent said.
The Wildcats started 3 of 9 from the field and Washington State took an early lead, which Arizona did not regain until its run late in the first half.
The win is Arizona’s 12th straight over Washington State.
Arizona: The Wildcats lead Oregon by a game for first place in the Pac-12 standings, and checked in as the ninth overall seed in the selection committee’s top-16 projections. A road sweep in Washington would keep Arizona first in the conference, but it still needs to play USC and No. 6 UCLA next week.
Washington State: Losers of their last five, the Cougars currently sit 10th in the Pac-12 standings, two places behind Arizona State which it holds a win over and hosts Saturday. For Kent, there is still plenty to play for during the last four games of the regular season.
“Ultimately it falls on them to be successful,” Kent said. “You can tell me you want to be successful, but if I’m looking at the same tape again . getting blown by baseline, forgetting to block out, forgetting to run a play, that’s a problem.”
Allen dislocated his pinky on his shooting hand when it snagged onto Jackson-Cartwright’s jersey in practice on Tuesday. Allen received seven stitches and, according to Miller, initial indications were less than favorable.
“Kadeem’s bone popped out of his finger,” Miller said. “That’s enough to make you faint.”
Arizona’s starting center Dusan Ristic did not play in the second half after spraining his ankle. The team is unclear whether Ristic will play Saturday.
The Wildcats jumped from No. 9 to No. 5 this week after a home sweep paired up with Louisville, Oregon, Wisconsin and Baylor taking losses. A potential road sweep of the Washington schools – two teams below 150 in the RPI rankings – should keep the Wildcats in the top 5.
Arizona: The Wildcats play Washington in Seattle then return home to host USC and No. 6 UCLA.
Washington State: The Cougars host Arizona State on Saturday.