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Player of the Week: Donovan Mitchell, Louisville

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This week capped off a stretch where Donovan Mitchell has been on a tear.

He’s hit for at least 15 points in eight of his last nine games, going for 20 in five and 25 in three of those nine. Over the last seven games, Mitchell, who has been somewhat inconsistent shooting the ball this season, is 24-for-47 (51.1%) from beyond the arc.

This past week was as dominant as he’s been this season. Mitchell had 29 points in the 55-point win the Cardinals landed over Pitt, following that up with 28 points and some suffocating defense on Dennis Smith Jr. as Louisville picked off N.C. State. He was 12-for-18 from three in those two games, and is now shooting 37 percent from beyond the arc on the season.

It’s also probably worth noting that, in two games where the Cards were mostly playing without their two point guards Tony Hicks and Quentin Snider, Mitchell averaged 4.0 assists.

As a team, Louisville has now made 24 threes in their last two games and is shooting 35.9 percent from beyond the arc. For a team whose biggest concern is perimeter shooting, that’s starting to look less and less concerning.

THEY WERE GOOD, TOO

  • Trevon Bluiett, Xavier: Bluiett popped off for 40 points on 15 shots in a close loss at Cincinnati, following that up with 21 points and 10 boards as the Musketeers went into Madison Square Garden and knocked off St. John’s.
  • Josh Jackson, Kansas: The Jayhawks lost at West Virginia to start the week, but it was the 22 points from Josh Jackson that kept Kansas within striking distance for most of the game. Then on Saturday, he was the best player on the floor as Kansas went into Rupp Arena and picked off Kentucky, finishing with 20 points, 10 boards, three assists, two steals and the biggest bucket of the game down the stretch.
  • Andrew White III, Syracuse: In the biggest week of the season for the Orange, White was the best player on the floor, averaging 26.5 points in wins over Miami and Florida State that have given the Syracuse some hope of getting an at-large bid.
  • Josh Okogie, Georgia Tech: Okogie had 35 points and 14 boards on Wednesday night, helping lead the Yellow Jackets to a blowout win over then-No. 6 Florida State in Atlanta. They would follow that win up by knocking off then-No. 14 Notre Dame on Saturday.
  • Esa Ahmad, West Virginia: Ahmad torched No. 2 Kansas on Tuesday night, popping off for 27 points as the Mountaineers landed their second massive win over a top two team at home this season.

College Basketball Talk Top 25: Why you should have Kansas at No. 1, not Gonzaga

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In a week where nine of the top 12 teams in the AP Poll took a loss – and two of those nine lost a pair of games – putting together something that in anyway represents a coherent top 25 is a nightmare.

That said, there once again appears to be a pretty clear-cut top four, although the members of that top four differs slightly this week than it did last week. This week, Kansas, Gonzaga, Villanova and Baylor and the four teams that probably should be at the top of everyone’s poll regardless of whether you rank teams based off of résumé, tournament profile, the eye test or a combination of all three.

If you want to rank undefeated Gonzaga No. 1, you go right ahead. They’re undefeated on the season and those wins over Arizona, Florida, Tennessee and Saint Mary’s just keep looking better and better. If you want to rank Villanova No. 1, I think thats still justified. A two-point loss on the road to a tournament-caliber Marquette team on a night where they shot 6-for-34 from three and missed two game-tying shots at the rim at the end of the game is not exactly a death-knell for their season. Baylor? They still probably have the strongest résumé of anyone in the country.

Kansas, however, is the team that is sitting at No. 1 in my top 25 for one, simple reason: I find it really difficult to judge a team negatively when they go 1-1 in a week where they play two road games against KenPom top five teams.

That’s precisely what the Jayhawks did.

On Tuesday night, they went into Morgantown as six-point underdogs and lost, which is pretty much what everyone expected them to do in the building where Baylor lost by 21 points. Then on Saturday, they went into Rupp Arena as eight-point underdogs and beat Kentucky. There isn’t a soul in the world worth paying attention to that would consider that anything other than a good week.

I had Kansas ranked third last week, above Gonzaga but behind Villanova and Kentucky. Kentucky, deservedly, dropped after they lost a pair of games. I had Villanova in third now, not because their loss was horrid but because their shaky three-point shooting combined with less-than-stellar defense is a concern.

If you want to rank Gonzaga No. 1, I really have no issue with that. It’s justified and deserved. But if you are going to have the Zags jump Kansas in your poll because the Jayhawks lost at West Virginia and won at Kentucky in a week where Gonzaga went 3-0 against teams in the WCC not named Saint Mary’s, you’re crazy.


NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 22: Bryant McIntosh #30 of the Northwestern Wildcats celebrates after hitting a three pointer against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the second half during the championship game of the Legends Classic at Barclays Center on November 22, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Northwestern’s ranked? (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Anyway, here’s the rest of the top 25. For what it’s worth, this was the hardest poll to put together this season. Once you get past the top four, anything goes:

1. Kansas (19-2, Last Week: No. 3)
2. Gonzaga (22-0, 4)
3. Villanova (20-2, 1)
4. Baylor (20-1, 6)
5. Louisville (18-4, 11)
6. Arizona (20-2, 8)
7. North Carolina (19-4, 5)
8. West Virginia (17-4, 17)
9. Kentucky (17-4, 2)
10. Wisconsin (18-3, 12)
11. UCLA (19-3, 9)
12. Oregon (19-3, 10)
13. Virginia (17-4, 21)
14. Florida State (18-4, 7)
15. Cincinnati (19-2, 15)
16. Purdue (17-5, 13)
17. Duke (16-5, 16)
18. Notre Dame (17-5, 14)
19. Saint Mary’s (19-2, 20)
20. South Carolina (17-4, 22)
21. Maryland (19-2, 23)
22. Butler (18-4, 18)
23. Florida (16-5, NR)
24. Northwestern (18-4, NR)
25. SMU (18-4, NR)

DROPPED OUT: No. 19 Creighton, No. 24 Kansas State, No. 25 Iowa State
NEW ADDITIONS: No. 23 Florida, No. 24 Northwestern, No. 25 SMU

Bubble Banter: Northwestern looks like they’re tournament bound

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To see the latest NBC Sports bracket projection, click here.

WINNERS

Northwestern (RPI: 37, KenPom: 30, No. 8 seed): At this point in the season, it’s too early to call anyone a lock for the NCAA tournament unless their school resides in a town like Spokane, Lexington or Lawrence. It’s particularly difficult to label Northwestern a lock considering that A) Their best win this season is over Wake Forest, Dayton or an Indiana team that is without James Blackmon Jr. and O.G. Anunoby, and B) They’re Northwestern. There’s a reason that they haven’t been to the NCAA tournament in the history of the program, and it’s not simply because they cannot get talent to Evanston.

It’s because they’re Northwestern, the program that always finds a way to choke a defeat out of the jaws of victory.

“We’ll either do something special or we’ll be like every other NU team,” Bryant McIntosh said after a win over Indiana on Sunday night. “I worry about it every second,” head coach Chris Collins added when asked about whether he is concerned about how his team will handle success. (Both of those quotes came via Brian Hamilton of Sports Illustrated.)

But it seems awful unlikely that this Northwestern team will follow that path. As of today, they’re 18-4 on the season and 7-2 in the Big Ten, something they haven’t done since 1937-38. The win over Indiana was they’re sixth straight win, something they haven’t done in league play since 1932-33. Their schedule is somewhat backloaded – NU still has to play Purdue twice, at Wisconsin and Maryland at home – but all of those games are winnable; no one in the Big Ten is markedly better than Northwestern, and while the Big Ten is down this year, that still says more about the Wildcats than it does after the conference.

Bottom line? I don’t even think that Northwestern can mess this one up.

Michigan State (RPI: 50, KenPom: 51, No. 10 seed): The Spartans are going to be a fascinating team on Selection Sunday. This is clearly not one of Tom Izzo’s best teams, but is it really bad enough that they could end up missing out on the Big Dance? Sunday’s win over Michigan was important because, at this point, Sparty can’t really afford anymore dumb losses. They’re 13-9 on the season. They’re 5-4 in the league after this win snapped a three-game losing skid. They’ve lost to Northeastern, Penn State and Ohio State. Five of their last nine are on the road. This is going to be an uphill battle.

Virginia Tech (RPI: 35, KenPom: 50, No. 8 seed): Virginia Tech is interesting because they’re a team with an awesome record that doesn’t really have many awesome wins. Beating Duke at home is huge, and Duke winning at Wake Forest helps them in that regard, but there isn’t much else in their 16-5 record – other than losses to Texas A&M and N.C. State – worth noting. Four of their next five games are on the road, and three of their next five games are against Louisville and Virginia. This is the stretch that will make or break their at-large profile.

Cal (RPI: 48, KenPom: 59, first four out): Cal picked up a win over Stanford on Sunday night, which isn’t exactly a great win but it means they avoided an ugly loss. The biggest issue for the Golden Bears right now? They don’t have any good wins, but they still get Arizona on the road and Oregon at home.

Wichita State (RPI: 79, KenPom: 21, first four out), Illinois State (RPI: 36, KenPom: 37, No. 10 seed) and Valparaiso (RPI: 74, KenPom: 90, No. 13 seed autobid): At this point, I think it will be nearly impossible for two of these three teams – Wichita State and Valpo – to get an at-large bid if they lose before their conference tournament final, while I think Illinois State is going to get to Selection Sunday with a profile that would make things much less stressful if it comes with an automatic bid. All three won their games on Sunday.

LOSERS

N.C. State (RPI: 64, KenPom: 78, No. 11 seed): The Wolfpack lost at No. 13 Louisville, which is hardly a blemish on their profile. In fact, with No. 17 Duke avoiding a loss at Wake Forest – N.C. State won at Duke on Monday – this weekend was probably a net-positive for them. But that Louisville win had the potential to erase some of the ugliness that N.C. State had endured early-on in league play; they had a chance to give themselves some breathing room.

Michigan (RPI: 59, KenPom: 35, play-in game): On paper, losing at Michigan State isn’t all that bad of a loss, but given the muck that is the middle of the Big Ten and a rough close to the regular season – the Wolverines play four of their last five and five of their last seven on the road – John Beilein’s 13-8 Michigan team is in a tough spot.

Indiana (RPI: 80, KenPom: 39, No. 7 seed): Assuming that whatever is ailing James Blackmon Jr. isn’t season-ending, the Hoosiers should be able to shake this loss off. The bigger issue for them is going to be how the committee judges their hideous RPI and just how much they take into account the fact that O.G. Anunoby played in the big wins Kansas and North Carolina but is now out for the year.

No. 24 Xavier survives St. John’s, but Edmond Sumner gets injured

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No. 24 Xavier showed something impressive on Sunday evening, managing to hold on for an 82-77 win at St. John’s despite dealing with some major adversity.

Trevon Bluiett led the way with 21 points and 10 boards as the Musketeers went up by as many as 15 points and held a 12-point lead with six minutes left, but that 12-point lead came after Edmond Sumner, Xavier’s star point guard, went down with what appeared to be a pretty nasty knee injury.

(Don’t watch this video if you’re squeamish):

“I have no information about Sumner,” head coach Chris Mack told reporters after the game. “It didn’t look good, but hopefully he gets back sooner than later.”

Sumner will have an MRI to determine the severity of the injury.

If they lose him for a significant amount of time, this is just another blow in what has been a difficult season for the Musketeers. They’re currently playing without Myles Davis, who was suspended for the first 15 games of the season and left the team after playing three games.

Xavier is 15-6 on the season after the win, but they still haven’t beaten anyone oh note. They have a win over Clemson, who is 2-6 in the ACC, and wins over Wake Forest and Utah, who both look destined to be on the wrong side of the bubble come Selection Sunday. Winning at St. John’s was big, and avoiding a collapse in a game like that is a nice mental and confidence boost, but without Sumner, it may all be for naught.

Huskers take lead in last minute, upset No. 20 Purdue 83-80

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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) Michael Jacobson’s putback with 42 seconds left gave Nebraska the lead, and the Cornhuskers made 4 of 6 free throws the rest of the way to hold off No. 20 Purdue 83-80 on Sunday.

Reserve Jack McVeigh matched his season high with 21 points, and reserve Jeriah Horne had 16 points for the Huskers (10-11, 4-5 Big Ten). They ended a five-game losing streak.

Dakota Mathias made 5 of 7 3-pointers and scored 19 points to lead Purdue (17-5, 6-3), which lost for the first time in four games. Carsen Edwards had 16 points, and Caleb Swanigan had 14 points and 14 rebounds.

The Huskers missed 11 of their first 15 shots after halftime, allowing Purdue to wipe out their 39-33 halftime lead. They clawed back to take the lead for good after Jacobson stole the ball from Swanigan and was there to put back McVeigh’s missed 3-pointer to put the Huskers up 79-78.

Swanigan passed out of a double-team to Vincent Edwards on Purdue’s next possession. Edwards tried to pass to Mathias, who bobbled the ball and had it swiped by Glynn Watson Jr. Watson got fouled and made two free throws for a four-point lead with 10.5 seconds left.

The Boilermakers had shot 55.3 percent while winning their previous three games. They made 43.5 percent against the Huskers. Swanigan had his nation-leading 18th double-double, but he had one of his worst shooting games of the season, going 5 for 15.

Nebraska outscored Purdue 30-15 to wipe out an early nine-point deficit and go into halftime up 39-33, with the bench contributing 21 points. McVeigh hit 4 of his first 5 3-pointers, making three in three minutes late in the half to hold off Purdue after the Boilermakers had pulled within a point.

The Huskers missed 9 of their first 11 shots after half, and Purdue went 4 for 4 on 3-pointers while outscoring them 22-11 to take a 55-50 lead.

BIG PICTURE

Purdue: Coach Matt Painter said he would have thought the Boilermakers would win with their 14-for-24 3-point shooting, but with 13 turnovers and Swanigan not able to control the inside offensively, they were ripe for the upset.

Nebraska: The Huskers got 39 points from their bench, with Horne having his best game of the season after having not played, by coach’s decision, in the previous game against Northwestern.

UP NEXT

Purdue hosts Northwestern on Wednesday.

Nebraska hosts Michigan State on Thursday.

More AP college basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

Balanced No. 7 Wildcats beat Huskies, stay perfect in Pac-12

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TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) Kadeem Allen scored 14 points to lead five Arizona players in double figures and the No. 7 Wildcats wore down Washington 77-66 on Sunday to stay alone at the top of the Pac-12 standings.

The Wildcats (20-2, 9-0 Pac-12) won their 14th straight overall and 18th in a row at home.

Kobi Simmons added 13 points, and Allonzo Trier, Dusan Ristic and Lauri Markkanen had 12 apiece.

Freshman sensation Markelle Fultz scored 16 points for Washington (9-12, 2-7) but on 8-of-23 shooting. He was 0 for 4 on 3-pointers and missed all four of his free throws.

Washington led virtually entire first half before Arizona’s offense finally got moving and pulled away in the second.

Halfway through the Pac-12 season, the Wildcats have sole possession of first place thanks to Colorado’s upset of Oregon on Saturday.

Arizona was sluggish early against Washington’s aggressive zone defense and the Huskies led 33-31 at the break.

Arizona finally took its first lead since it was 4-2 on Allen’s driving layup that put the Wildcats up 40-39 with 16:57 to play.

Arizona methodically pushed it from there. Markkanen, the reigning Pac-12 player of the week who was having a rough afternoon up to that point, sank a 3-pointer that made it 57-49.

Trier, in his third game back from his suspension for using a banned substance, scored the next four points on two free throws and a driving layup and the Wildcats led 61-49 with 7:33 to go.

With his team down eight, Fultz slipped in the lane and Allen picked the ball out of his hands, leading to Trier’s one-handed dunk that gave Arizona a 67-57 lead with 3:29 to play.

The game got off to an ugly start for the home team.

Arizona missed its first eight 3-pointers and had nine first-half turnovers, three apiece by Allen and Markkanen.

Arizona got a `3′ on its ninth try. Trier’s long-range basket was followed by Allen’s 3-pointer that tied it at 31-31 with 31 seconds left. But Dickerson’s rebound basket at the buzzer gave Washington a 33-31 lead at the half. It is the last of four offensive rebounds for Dickerson in the first half.

The Huskies’ first free throw didn’t come until there was 14:15 left in the game. By then, Arizona had taken 17. Washington finished 7 of 17 at the line to Arizona’s 22 of 30.

TOP 25 IMPLICATIONS

Arizona wasn’t at its best but was good enough to stay perfect in the conference with a big game looming at Oregon next Saturday.

HOME AND BACK

After losing at Arizona State on Wednesday night, Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar decided to take his team back to Seattle rather than wait in the desert four days for Sunday’s game. They took a charter that arrived in Seattle at 2:30 a.m., Pacific time.

The Huskies flew commercial on their return trip and the plane was an hour late. A medical emergency on another passenger further delayed the team from getting off the plane.

They got to their hotel at 3 p.m. Saturday, local time.

FULTZ’S JOURNEY

Fultz could have been wearing an Arizona uniform. The freshman guard from Upper Marlboro, Maryland, had narrowed his choices to Washington, Arizona and Kentucky before settling on the Huskies, who were among the first major college teams to show interest in him as an unheralded underclassman.

UP NEXT

Washington: Huskies return home to face USC on Wednesday night.

Arizona: The Wildcats play at last-place Oregon State Thursday night.