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Player Of The Week: Trae Young, Oklahoma

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My favorite part about covering college basketball are the stories that come out of nowhere.

Like, for example, a borderline top 20 recruit from Norman, Oklahoma, going to his hometown school, putting up Maravichian numbers and taking a team that second-to-last in the Big 12 a season ago and turning them into a legitimate national title contender and possible conference champ.

Trae Young is what makes college basketball so enjoyable for me.

And I swear to you, I am getting sick of writing about Trae Young.

It’s not because I don’t love the story and it’s not because he’s a bad kid. By all accounts, he seems to be a genuinely good dude. He’s also a hard-worker that is making the absolute most out of his comparatively-limited physical skills.

I just don’t know what else can possibly be said about him that hasn’t already been said, that I haven’t written ten times over.

He’s incredible. He’s putting up numbers that compare favorably to the numbers that Russell Westbrook is currently averaging for that other team in Oklahoma. His counting stats are ridiculous, as are his advanced stats; no one has ever used as many possessions as Young uses, and his efficiency on those possessions would be very good for a player that has the ball in his hands half the time.

This past week, Young went for 27 points, nine assists and four steals in a win over No. 8 Texas Tech and followed that up by tying a career-high with 43 points and setting career-highs with 11 boards and ten threes to go along with seven assists in an overtime win over No. 16 TCU. He shot 44 percent from the floor and 50 percent from three in those two games.

And it’s only January 15th.

So I better get used to this.

THE ALL-‘THEY WERE GOOD, TOO’ TEAM

  • LUKE MAYE, North Carolina: Maye snapped out of a funk in a big way this week, going for 32 points and 18 boards in North Carolina’s home win over Boston Colleege before posting 18 pints and 11 boards to go along with three assists and three steals in a win at Notre Dame.
  • DENG ADEL, Louisville: Adel led the Cardinals to a pair of crucial wins this week, knocking off Florida State in Tallahassee and beating Virginia Tech in the Yum! Center. Adel averaged 21.5 points, 8.5 boards and 4.0 assists in the two wins, including a 27-point, 11-rebound performance against the Hokies.
  • LINDELL WIGGINTON, Iowa State: Wigginton has been one of the best freshman in the country that no one is talking about. This week, he scored 27 points in Allen Fieldhouse in a five-point loss before putting up a career-high 30 as the Cyclones landed their first league win of the season over Baylor.
  • CHANDLER HUTCHISON, Boise State: Hutchison’s phenomenal senior season continued this week as he put 21 points, 10 boards and four assists on Fresno State in a road win before dropping 44 on San Diego State at home. The Broncos look like Nevada’s biggest challenger in the Mountain West race.
  • JUSTIN WRIGHT-FOREMAN, Hofstra: Wright-Foreman is now the nation’s second-leading scorer after the week he had. If we pretend that last Sunday night was actually this week, then Wright-Foreman averaged 31.3 points, 4.3 assists and 3.7 boards in three games. In six league games, he’s averaging 30.5 points and 4.5 assists.

College Basketball Power Rankings: Purdue moves up to No. 2, top ten sees changes

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TCU has lost their last three games and four of their last five. They would currently be sitting with a five-game losing streak – an 0-5 start in the Big 12 – had they not outplayed Baylor in overtime at their place a few weeks back.

And yet, I have the Horned Frogs ranked in my top 25 today. They’re 25th, mind you, but they’re there, over the likes of Creighton and Texas A&M and Notre Dame and Florida State and Nevada and Saint Mary’s.

The reason why is simple in my mind: TCU is excruciatingly close to having an absolutely incredible season. They are, as I wrote on Saturday afternoon, the perfect example of just how insanely tough the Big 12 is this season.

TCU lost by one to No. 9 Oklahoma at home in their Big 12 opener after Trae Young sparked a comeback from 11 points down in the final 10 minutes and TCU missed a shot at the buzzer that would have won it. They lost by four points at home to Kansas on a night when Kansas shot 55 percent from three. They lost by one in double-overtime at Texas when Jaylen Fisher missed a would-be game-winning layup at the buzzer, and they lost by five in overtime at Oklahoma.

Put another way, their four losses in the Big 12 are by a combined 11 points in a combined three overtimes with a combined two missed game-winners. If those game-winners go down, TCU is 3-2 in the Big 12 with another road win and a win over the Fighting Trae Youngs. If a few more bounces go their way, they’re 4-1 or 5-0 in the league, they’re 16-1 or 17-0 on the season and they’re ranked somewhere in the top five, maybe even No. 1.

I’m not sure TCU would deserve that top five ranking if they had it. And I don’t think they currently deserve to be out of the top 25 altogether.

Results matter. They have to. The whole reason we play the game is to determine a winner and a loser. We want those last-second shots to matter, because if they didn’t, then all the drama and fun in sports would disappear.

But it all has to be relative.

Good teams sometimes lose close games to better teams. Sometimes they lose close games to worse teams on the road. It doesn’t mean that team isn’t good.

And TCU is the perfect example.

Anyway, here is the rest of the top 25:

1. Villanova, 16-1 (Last Week: No. 1)
2. Purdue, 17-2 (4)
3. Texas Tech, 15-2 (5)
4. West Virginia, 15-2 (3)
5. Virginia, 16-1 (6)
6. Oklahoma, 14-2 (7)
7. Michigan State, 16-3 (2)
8. Arizona, 14-4 (8)
9. Wichita State, 15-2 (12)
10. Duke, 15-2 (13)
11. Xavier, 16-3 (11)
12. Seton Hall, 15-3 (9)
13. Kansas, 14-3 (14)
14. Arizona State, 14-3 (10)
15. Kentucky, 14-3 (17)
16. Gonzaga, 16-3 (18)
17. North Carolina, 14-4 (19)
18. Auburn, 16-1 (24)
19. Cincinnati, 15-2 (22)
20. Clemson, 15-2 (23)
21. Michigan, 15-4 (NR)
22. Ohio State, 15-4 (NR)
23. Tennessee, 12-4 (NR)
24. Miami, 13-3 (16)
25. TCU, 13-4, (21)

DROPPED OUT: No. 15 Texas A&M, No. 20 Notre Dame, No. 25 Creighton

NEW ADDITIONS: No. 21 Michigan, No. 22 Ohio State, No. 23 Tennessee

Saturday’s College Basketball Recap: Michigan’s win, West Virginia’s loss, Trae Young

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PLAYER OF THE DAY

No. 4 Michigan State has one of, if not the best front line in all of college basketball this season. They are deep, they are talented, they are huge and they are the reason that the Spartans have been one of the best defensive teams in the country this year.

And on Saturday afternoon, Michigan’s Mo Wagner was the best big man on the floor. He finished with 27 points and four boards, shooting 8-for-13 from the floor and 3-for-4 from three, before fouling out. Those stats weren’t without highlights, either. There was this Dirk fadeaway …

… and this move that left Nick Ward on his backside:

The result was an 82-72 win in the Breslin Center, a win that will go down as one of the best wins that anyone lands this season, a win that essentially locks Michigan into an NCAA tournament berth as long as they do what they’re supposed to do the rest of the season.

We went more in-depth on this game here, including some words about Michigan’s defensive improvement and what is wrong with Michigan State.

THE REST OF SATURDAY’S STARS

  • TRAE YOUNG, Oklahoma: Young tied a career-high with 43 points and set career-highs in rebounds (11) and made threes (10) as the No. 16 Sooners beat No. 9 TCU in overtime, 102-97. Oklahoma moved into a four-way tie for first-place in the Big 12 with the win, but the story of this game may actually be TCU. Why? We break it down here.
  • MARVIN BAGLEY III, Duke: It shouldn’t surprise anyone that, in a win over Wake Forest, Bagley went for 30 points, 11 boards and three assists. What is a great sign is that Bagley also added four steals and three blocks. The knock on him is defense. It’s getting better.
  • SHANNON EVANS II, Arizona State: Evans went for 22 points and seven assists, making big play after big play down the stretch, as Arizona State landed themselves a come-from-behind win over Oregon State.
  • DONTE DIVINCENZO, Villanova: DiVincenzo loves playing St. John’s. After torching the Red Storm three times as a freshman, he went for 25 points and a career-high six threes on Saturday night in the Garden as No. 1 Villanova won.
  • SHAI GILGEOUS-ALEXANDER, Kentucky: Gilgeous-Alexander continues to be Kentucky’s best player. He had 22 points and six assists in Saturday’s win at Vanderbilt, including this beautiful assists to Hamidou Diallo for a three with less than two minutes left.

TEAM OF THE DAY

No. 8 Texas Tech did what they needed to do if they want to win the Big 12 regular season title this season: They defended their home court, erasing an 11-point second half deficit to knock off No. 2 West Virginia, 72-71, in Lubbock.

The win is the first that anyone has landed against the Mountaineers since the opening night of the season, when Texas A&M beat them in Germany. It’s the second win that Texas Tech has landed against one of the other top four teams in the Big 12 – they also won at Kansas – and it moved the Red Raiders into a first place tie with West Virginia, No. 9 Oklahoma and No. 12 Kansas.

It’s hard to believe that Chris Beard, in just his second season as head coach at Texas Tech, is doing this despite being just six years removed from getting fired by Texas Tech and being forced to take a job as the head coach of an ABA expansion team.

GAME OF THE DAY

No. 12 Kansas has now beaten Kansas State for the sixth straight game – and the 12th straight game at Allen Fieldhouse – but it didn’t come without a fight. Kansas State had a chance to win the back-and-forth affair at the buzzer, but Barry Brown missed a tough three at the buzzer.

The final score was 73-72. Devonte’ Graham led the way with 23 points and five assists.

The Jayhawks got Silvio De Sousa eligible for the first time this season, but the freshman had a limited impact in his debut.

WTF???? OF THE DAY

Mike Krzyzewski wasn’t the only one that was sick on Saturday.

No. 7 Duke played without their Hall Of Fame head coach when Wake Forest came to town on Saturday, winning 89-71 behind 30 points, 11 boards, four steals, three blocks and three assists from Marvin Bagley III. But Krzyzewski wasn’t the only one that was sick on Saturday. Apparently freshman Gary Trent Jr. was as well, because he spent one TV timeout puking into a bucket while the team managers held up towels around him.

He still finished with 19 points on 6-for-7 shooting from three.

That’s not bad.

WHAT ELSE DO YOU NEED TO KNOW?

Texas A&M was back to full strength for the first time in ages, and it didn’t matter. The Aggies lost their fifth straight game to open SEC play, falling at No. 24 Tennessee, 75-62.

Allonzo Trier went for 25 points and Deandre Ayton added 24 as No. 17 Arizona survived Oregon, 90-83, in the McKale Center. The Ducks were coming off of a win at No. 11 Arizona State, who erased a 12-point second half deficit to beat Oregon State, 77-75, on Saturday.

Trevon Bluiett and No. 10 Xavier took their frustrations out on No. 25 Creighton, whipping the Bluejays 92-70 in the Cintas Center to snap a two-game losing streak. As Bluiett goes, so goes Xavier, and Bluiett snapped himself out of a dreadful slump with a 24-point performance, hitting 9-for-16 from the floor and 5-for-7 from three.

It looks like Minnesota may have given up on the season. The Golden Gophers suffered their second-worst home loss in the history of their home on Saturday, falling to No. 5 Purdue, 81-47. The only time Minnesota lost by more in their own building came when John Wooden and Lew Alcindor were at UCLA.

T.J. Gibbs had 19 points and six assists as Notre Dame came agonizingly close to beating
No. 20 North Carolina at home on Saturday. They lost 69-68 because this shot rolled out:

Donte Grantham went for 18 points and Marcquise Reed added 16 points as No. 19 Clemson hit 12-for-21 from three in a 72-63 win over No. 18 Miami. The Hurricanes have now lost two of their last three and three of their last six.

No. 22 Auburn improved to 16-1 on the season after landing a come-from-behind win at Mississippi State, 76-68.

Braian Angola went for 24 points and eight assists and Christ Koumadje added 23 points, eight boards and four blocks off the bench for No. 23 Florida State, who overcame 37 Tyus Battle points to beat Syracuse in double-overtime, 101-90.

A 31-10 run midway through the first half turned a 21-10 deficit into a 42-31 lead as No. 13 Seton Hall knocked off Georgetown, 74-61.

No. 5 Wichita State and No. 14 Cincinnati both avoided a road loss in league play, picking up wins at Tulsa and South Florida, respectively.

Shamet, Frankamp lead No. 5 Wichita St over Tulsa 72-69

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TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Landry Shamet and backcourt mate Conner Frankamp each scored 16 points and No. 5 Wichita State held off Tulsa 72-69 Saturday.

Shamet made the first of two free throws with 8 seconds left for a three-point edge.

After Shamet missed his second foul shot, the Shockers fouled Sterling Taplin. He missed the front end of a one-and-one with 4.9 seconds left, Junior Etou rebounded and passed back to Taplin, whose 3-point try at the buzzer rimmed out.

Taplin scored 26 points. Corey Henderson missed a 3 with 10 seconds left that would have put Tulsa ahead by one.

Markis McDuffie added 10 points and nine rebounds for Wichita State (15-2, 5-0 American Athletic Conference).

Henderson had 14 points and Etou had 12 points and seven rebounds for Tulsa (10-8, 3-3).

Three days after losing 104-71 at Houston, Tulsa jumped on the Shockers early and held a 30-20 lead, helped by a trio of 3-pointers by Taplin. Wichita State rallied with a 12-0 run and held Tulsa to one basket in the final 7:50 to take a 36-32 lead at the break.

The Shockers extended the lead to 45-34 early in the second half on a four-point play by Shamet before Tulsa broke out of its shooting funk with a trio of 3-pointers to pull within 45-43.

BIG PICTURE

Wichita State: The Shockers now have a 66-61 lead in the long-running series between the former Missouri Valley Conference rivals. The sellout crowd of 8,355 was fairly evenly divided between Tulsa and WSU fans who made the three-hour drive.

Tulsa: In its three-game conference losing streak, leading scorer Junior Etou has been held to 12, 2 and 12 points. The 6-foot-8 senior came in averaging 16.2.

VIDEO: Berry lifts No. 20 North Carolina past Notre Dame as Gibbs’ winner spins out

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Roy Williams wasn’t concerned about style points after No. 20 North Carolina beat Notre Dame for its first Atlantic Coast Conference road victory of the season.

“I feel the luckiest I’ve ever felt after the last minute of a basketball game,” Williams said after the 69-68 victory Saturday night. “Joel Berry gets fouled and makes two free throws when you’re down one. My frustration button is at a very high level right now.”

Berry II, saddled with three fouls in the first half, made two free throws with 7.1 seconds left for the winning points. But the Tar Heels (14-4, 3-2) allowed Notre Dame sophomore point guard T.J. Gibbs to dribble the length of the floor, get off a shot, rebound the miss and send the ball inside the cylinder before it, too, spun out at the buzzer.

Berry finished with 15 points, and Luke Maye had his 10th double-double of the season with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Theo Pinson added 13 points, and North Carolina finished with a 9-2 run while holding the Irish (13-5, 3-2 without a field goal in the last 5:58.

Gibbs, who scored both of those points for Notre Dame on free throws with 37 seconds remaining for a brief 68-67 lead, finished with a game-high 19 points and six assists for Notre Dame, which got 14 points from senior Martinas Geben and a career-high 12 points from sophomore reserve Nikola Djogo.

“Man, I feel for our guys – we battled so hard,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “It’s a tough one to swallow because you feel like you’re going to get it.”

The Irish, playing without injured starters Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell, used an eight-man rotation that frustrated Williams’ Tar Heels, who shot just 42.6 percent (26 of 61) and were outrebounded 45-37 by the Irish. Geben’s nine included seven off the offensive boards. Notre Dame shot just 34.8 percent (23 of 66) from the field but stayed in it with timely 3-pointers (10 of 24) that included the first ever of the 6-foot-10 Geben’s career.

“I thought they played harder than us, they played smarter than us,” Williams said. “Even on the last play, we did a good job defending the shot but we didn’t box him (Gibbs) out. I told Michael (Brey) I was so proud of his team.”

The game was close right from the opening tip, with neither team able to pull away by more than six points. There were 24 lead changes and the game was tied 12 times.

The Tar Heels led 40-37 at halftime during which Notre Dame endured a stretch of 6:54 without a field goal. Maye came up one rebound short of a double-double with 13 points and 9 rebounds, while Berry had nine points, all from beyond the arc before drawing his third personal in the final 2 minutes. Gibbs, who missed his first four shots, finally got on the board with 7:44 left and finished with nine points, one more than Geben.

Geben scored four points, had two offensive boards and took a charge as Notre Dame started the second half on an 11-7 run for a 48-47 lead with 14:40 to play.

After five straight points by Pinson gave the Tar Heels a 56-50 lead with 9:48 to play, Notre Dame called a timeout. A 10-4 spurt was highlighted by two 3-pointers by Gibbs after his backhanded missed field goal was hammered home by Rex Pflueger left the game tied at 60-60 with 6:53 left.

Djogo then hit two quick 3-pointers to put the Irish up 66-60 with 5:58 remaining. They would be the last field goals Notre Dame would make.

BIG PICTURE

North Carolina: The Tar Heels, who lost games at Florida State and Virginia earlier this month, got their first ACC road victory and avoided three straight ACC road losses for the first time since 2014. North Carolina has had winning road records in 11 of its 14 seasons under coach Roy Williams, who got the 830th victory to tie Mount St. Mary’s Jim Phelan on the career list.

The milestone was the furthest thing on his mind.

“The tape session tonight is going to be a lot of fun, that’s all I can tell you,” Williams said.

Notre Dame: Matt Farrell, who has missed the last 2 1/2 games with a sprained ankle, dressed and led Notre Dame out of tunnel for pregame warmups but sat on the bench with fellow senior Bonzie Colson (broken left foot, eight weeks) as Brey used eight players, with five of them finishing in double digits in minutes in the first 20 minutes. Farrell is expected to practice Sunday and Monday and likely start Tuesday against visiting Louisville.

“I don’t mind praising another coach,” Williams said about Brey. “What he has done is given them a plan and hope that they can still be successful. They’ve gone from behind an efficient offensive team to a rebounding and defending team.”

Evans rallies No. 11 Arizona State to 77-75 win over Beavers

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TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Tra Holder was having a bad day, and the 11th-ranked Arizona State Sun Devils were staring at the possibility of a 1-4 record in the Pac-12.

Then his teammates came through.

Shannon Evans scored seven of his 22 points in a late 10-0 run and the No. 11 Sun Devils held on to beat Oregon State 77-75 on Saturday.

Holder, the Pac-12’s leading scorer at 20.9 points per game, made one of nine shots and scored four points. His teammates said they won it for him.

“He’s one of the top point guards in the country right now,” said Kodi Justice, who hit four 3-pointers and had 14 points. “Without him we wouldn’t be where we’re at. This is for him.”

Stephen Thompson Jr. scored 21 points for the Beavers (10-7, 2-3), matching his career best with five 3s (in 10 attempts).

Tres Tinkle added 18 for Oregon State, but missed a 3-pointer that would have won the game at the buzzer. Thompson’s little brother, Ethan, added 11 points, as did teammate Drew Eubanks.

“We were playing really good defensively, we were on pace for some really good defensive numbers,” Oregon State coach Wayne Tinkle said. “Then they kept driving us, driving us, driving us. They either laid it in or got to the free-throw line. Our D unfortunately went south on us.”

Evans had all of his 22 points in the second half.

“Shannon was in attack mode,” Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley said. “He wasn’t going to let us lose. His 3 (with 1:07 to play) again reminded me of the shot he hit at Kansas.”

Remy Martin scored 12 points, and De’Quon Lake had 11 for the Sun Devils.

“The mark of a good team and a winning team is guys stepping up and compensating for him (Holder) not being at his very best,” Hurley said. “But I think Kodi said it very well. We would never be in the position we’re in if it’s not for that guy. In the big games we’ve been in, he’s been special this year.”

The Beavers, who also played Arizona close Thursday but lost on a late Wildcats rally, have not beaten a Top 25 team on the road since a win at then-No. 15 Washington on Jan. 5, 1985.

Evans made two free throws and a driving layup, then capped it with a 3-pointer in the 10-0 surge that put Arizona State ahead 73-68 with 1:07 remaining. Oregon State cut it to 75-73 on Stephen Thompson’s 3 with 32 seconds left.

Martin made one of two free throws to put ASU ahead 76-73 with 20.3 seconds left but Thompson’s driving layup sliced the lead to 76-75 with 7 seconds to play. Evans made one of two free throws to give the Beavers a chance but Tinkle’s 3 was way off the mark.

“It might have been fatigue, it might have been foul trouble,” Wayne Tinkle said about allowing Arizona State’s late surge. “We just have to be better. We’re a better defensive team than that. We just couldn’t finish them off.”

There were nine lead changes and neither team led by more than five points in a tight first half that ended with Oregon State up 34-33.

Holder was just 1 for 8 from the field in the first half. He took one shot in the second half, and missed.

The Beavers took control with a 10-0 run early in the second half, taking a 45-35 on a pair of free throws by Tinkle with 16:48 left. Oregon State took its biggest lead, 57-44, when Ethan Thompson sank a 3 with 11:32 left.

But the Sun Devils, whose 12-0 nonconference record led them to a No. 3 national ranking, were able to claw back into it.

“I feel like we have a big target on our back just because of all the publicity we had in the nonconference,” Evans said. “We have to take that for what it is and come out ready to play every night. We just want to stay together and using each other and believing what the coaches say and I feel like that’s what we did tonight.”

BIG PICTURE

Oregon State: Beavers lost twice in Arizona but give both opponents fits. Their patient style and talent could give teams big problems when they visit Corvallis.

Arizona State: The Sun Devils desperately needed this victory to avoid falling to 1-4 in the Pac-12 and suffering back-to-back home losses. Arizona State still has a ways to go with a crucial trip to the Bay Area coming up.