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Deng Adel, Mangok Mathiang suspended for Virginia game

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Louisville announced that Deng Adel and Mangok Mathiang have been suspended for Monday night’s game at No. 9 Virginia after breaking curfew on Saturday night.

“After we returned to Louisville, I boarded the team bus and told them how proud I was of them, but the most important thing now is to get their rest as we had an early morning practice and had to travel,” said UofL Coach Rick Pitino. “For some reason, Mangok and Deng chose to break curfew and were out very late. This is an extremely big game for our basketball team and it would be an understatement to say that I am extremely disappointed in both young men. That being said, we will move forward and put forth a great effort with a depleted team. Mangok is no longer a captain of our team. Donovan Mitchell has now been inserted in that role.”

Louisville is down to seven scholarship players for Monday’s game, as point guards Quentin Snider and Tony Hicks are both out of the lineup.

Adel is Louisville’s third-leading scorer at 11.1 points, while Mathiang has averaged 12.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and shot 67 percent from the field over the last five games.

Virginia is 4-1 against Louisville since joining the ACC and blew out a full-strength Cardinals team in the Yum! Center earlier this season.

Five things we learned this week: Oregon’s peaking, Kentucky’s struggling and Gonzaga’s statement

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1. Gonzaga may not be the best team in the country, but they’re the most consistent among the elite: I don’t think there is a “best team in college basketball” because I don’t think there is any team in the country that is without noticeable and exploitable flaws. Kansas has no depth on the interior and can’t guard anyone. Kentucky can’t score in the half court and lacks a measure of toughness inside. UCLA can’t guard anyone. Baylor’s guard play and been shaky in recent weeks. Arizona is heavily reliant on inconsistent freshmen. Duke is Duke.

You get the point.

The only possible exception to that is Gonzaga, the last remaining undefeated team in the country. The knock on this team earlier is the season was that they didn’t have a go-to guy. They didn’t have someone that could take a game over, that could be relied upon to demand the ball and make a play at the end of a clock or to quell another team’s run.

But isn’t that exactly what Nigel Williams-Goss has been doing? Take Thursday night, for example. Williams-Goss had 33 points as Gonzaga went into the Marriott Center and knocked off BYU. That many point is always going to come in an impressive performance, but perhaps what stood out the most is that he always had an answer. The Zags took control early and held a pretty significant lead for much of the game, but every time BYU made a run and looked like they were ready to make this thing interesting, Williams-Goss had an answer. BYU isn’t great, but they’re talented and play in one of the rowdiest environments in the country; 19,000 screaming Mormons pack that building every game.

The Zags are balanced, they are deep, they are big, they defend and they have their go-to guy. They also have yet to put together the kind of ugly performance we’ve seen out of every other title contender this season.

Saturday’s trip to Moraga to take on No. 18 Saint Mary’s can’t get here soon enough.

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2. Kentucky is going through growing pains: Right now, Kentucky is a mediocre basketball team loaded with talented basketball players. Part of it is that Malik Monk has been struggling with his shooting stroke the last two weeks, and when Monk is off, the Wildcats simply cannot score in the half court. Part of it is that De’Aaron Fox has been battling a bum ankle and an illness that held him out of a game and seemingly sapped him on injury in another. Part of it is that Bam Adebayo just isn’t the kind of force on the block that Kentucky needs him to be.

The biggest reason for their recent struggles, however, is that teams are starting to figure out how to have success against them. Keep Fox from turning the corner going left, stay attached to Monk as much as possible, get physical in the paint, attack the glass, limit transition. That’s exactly what Florida did in their 88-66 win over the Wildcats on Saturday.

Most good teams go through something like this. The issue isn’t midseason struggles, the question is what the response will be. When teams figured out they could beat up Kansas in the paint, Kansas started playing zone. When Duke struggled playing lineups with two big men, they moved Jayson Tatum to the four. In 2014, John Calipari famously “tweaked” his offense to get his 10-loss team to the national title game. What will this year’s tweak be?

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 11: (L-R) Isaiah Briscoe #13, Edrice Adebayo #3 and De'Aaron Fox #0 of the Kentucky Wildcats celebrate on the bench against the Hofstra Pride in the second half of the Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival at Barclays Center on December 11, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

3. Oregon’s best can beat anybody’s best: I’m not sure Arizona fans can be all that upset about what happened in Eugene on Saturday, because I’m not sure that any team in the country could’ve gone into Matthew Knight Arena and beaten Oregon that day. Hell, I’m not sure anyone could’ve kept it close.

At one point in the first half, Oregon had made 10 threes and Arizona had scored 11 points. The Ducks hit 16 of their first 21 long-range bombs. Their defense, which has been underrated all season long, held Arizona to one tough spot per possession, and the Ducks were able to beat Arizona down the floor in transition when they secured the rebound.

I say all that to say this: When Oregon is playing like that, they are damn-near unbeatable. They aren’t always going to play that way – hell, two days earlier, they needed Dillon Brooks to score 12 straight points in the final minutes to avoid losing at home to Arizona State – but Saturday served the rest of the nation with notice: The Ducks belong in the conversation with the rest of the nation’s elite as national title contenders.

4. Duke is all-in on small-ball: The Blue Devils got Coach K back on Saturday in a win over Pitt, but that wasn’t the story of their weekend because what the Blue Devils did on Saturday didn’t differ all that much from what they did on Monday, or last Saturday. Duke has fully bought into the idea of playing small-ball, of rotating Grayson Allen, Luke Kennard, Matt Jones and Frank Jackson through the three back court spots while allowing Jayson Tatum to spend as much time as possible at the four.

This is the best lineup that Duke can put on the floor. It allows Tatum to take advantage of mismatches against bigger defenders while keeping the floor spread for Allen and Kennard, who can create off the dribble and help to nullify Duke’s point guard issues. The issue is going to be how the Blue Devils adjust to the fact that it is going to cut into some player’s minutes. Harry Giles III is going to struggle to crack 10 minutes a game if Amile Jefferson isn’t in foul trouble. Marques Bolden is going to be firmly planted on the Duke bench.

And if that’s what it’s going to take for the Blue Devils to win, they’re just going to have to live with it.

5. The Big 12 title race is going to be a roller coaster ride: On Wednesday night, Kansas beat Baylor in Phog Allen Fieldhouse which, essentially, gave the Jayhawks the inside track to their 13th straight Big 12 regular season title … until they went and they lost in that same building on Saturday to Iowa State. That loss opened up the door for Baylor to pull even with the Jayhawks, which was massive because the Bears still get to host Kansas later on this season … but then Baylor lost at home to Kansas State. That meant that the big winner of the day in the conference was West Virginia, who could pull within a game of first place and draw even with Baylor in second place in the conference … until they lost at home to Oklahoma State.

I don’t expect this ride to slow down.

LAWRENCE, KS - FEBRUARY 04: Head coach Bill Self of the Kansas Jayhawks greets Monte Morris #11 of the Iowa State Cyclones during a break in their game on February 4, 2017 at Allen Field House in Lawrence, Kansas. (Photo by Reed Hoffmann/Getty Images)
Head coach Bill Self (Photo by Reed Hoffmann/Getty Images)

Team of the Week: Oregon Ducks

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Oregon put together the single-most dominant performance that we’ve seen to date this season.

They were hosting Arizona on Saturday. The Wildcats entered the day ranked No. 5 in the country. They were 10-0 in Pac-12 play, which included a win at UCLA. There was a growing crowd that considered Arizona, as of 3:59 p.m. ET, to be the best team in college basketball.

That all changed at 4:00 p.m. ET, because Oregon totally humiliated the Wildcats. They his 16 of their first 21 threes. They jumped out to a 38-11 lead and stretched it to 62-27. They threw more casual alley-oops than you’ll see the Harlem Globetrotters throw against the Washington Generals.

It was proof that Oregon, on their best day, can beat anyone in the country. But, perhaps more importantly, the win kept the Ducks in the race for the Pac-12 regular season title. Had they lost this game, Oregon would’ve found themselves two games out of first.

It’s also worth noting here that, on Thursday night, the Ducks outlasted an Arizona State team in a classic trap game. Dillon Brooks scored the final 12 points for the Ducks.

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THEY WERE GOOD, TOO

  • Big 12 bubble teams: Iowa State, Kansas State and Oklahoma State put themselves into the NCAA tournament for the time being with wins at Kansas, Baylor and West Virginia, respectively. Even TCU added a couple of wins, beating Kansas State and Texas.
  • Florida: The Gators made a statement on Saturday, beating No. 8 Kentucky by 22 points to keep themselves within a game of first place in the SEC title race. That was the big win. But it wasn’t a fluke. The Gators went coming off three straight wins by at least 32 points.
  • Syracuse: The Orange added two come-from-behind wins to their résumé, erasing a 17-point second half deficit to win at N.C. State and a 12-point halftime deficit to knock off Virginia in the Carrier Dome. The Orange are now in the thick of the race for an at-large bid.
  • Purdue: The Boilermakers kept themselves in the Big Ten title race by knocking off two teams perched above them in the standings this week. On Wednesday, it was a 21-point win over Northwestern at home. On Saturday, they erased a 12-point deficit at Maryland to knock off Maryland by a point.
  • Xavier: The Musketeers may have lost Edmond Sumner to a torn ACL but they haven’t quit on their season. Xavier landed a pair of two-point wins over NCAA tournament teams this week, beating Seton Hall at home and going into Omaha and knocking off Creighton.
  • Wichita State: The Shockers evened up the race for the Missouri Valley regular season title with a 41-point win over Illinois State, who was previously undefeated in conference play and who had beaten Wichita State at home earlier this season.

Player of the Week: Kasey Hill, Florida

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It was a fitting time for Kasey Hill to have the best game of his collegiate career.

Hill was a McDonald’s all-american coming out of high school, a top ten prospect that was expected to partner with AAU teammate Chris Walker to lead the Gators into national title contention before heading on to the NBA in a year or two.

And part of that statement was true. As a freshman, Hill backed up all-american Scottie Wilbekin as the Gators went 18-0 in the SEC, won the SEC tournament and went to the Final Four. Hill, however, never lived up to that potential, as he’s been a good-not-great point guard for a Florida program that’s been in transition with new head coach Mike White.

On Saturday, however, Hill scored 21 points and added six assists and five boards as the Gators landed the biggest win of the White era, beating No. 8 Kentucky in the O-Dome, 88-66. Hill totally outplayed De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk, the latest superstar back court that John Calipari has amassed in Lexington. Fox, in particular, is a guy built in the mold of Hill. Lightening quick, sprinter’s speed in transition, elite defender that struggles to shoot.

Fox is what we thought Hill would be.

And Hill got the best of him on Saturday.

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THEY WERE GOOD, TOO

  • Jawun Evans, Oklahoma State: Evans led the Pokes to a pair of road wins this week, first going for 24 points in a win in Oklahoma and then following that up with 18 points and five assists when Oklahoma State went into Morgantown and beat No. 7 West Virginia. Those two wins put the Cowboys into the NCAA tournament as of today.
  • Dillon Brooks, Oregon: Brooks had 18 points in Oregon’s blow-out win over Arizona on Saturday, but more important were the 27 points he had against Arizona State on Thursday. He scored the final 12 points of the game in a one-point win against a team at the bottom of the Pac-12.
  • Andrew White III, Syracuse: White had 28 points in a comeback win at N.C. State and then went for a team-high 23 points in the comeback win over Virginia. He’s averaging 25.5 points in his last four games, which just so happens to be a four-game winning streak where the Orange have worked their way back into bubble contention.
  • Caleb Swanigan, Purdue: The Boilermakers knocked off two teams in front of them in the Big Ten standings this week. Swanigan had 24 points and 16 boards in a 21-point win over Northwestern and followed that up with 26 points and 10 boards in a win at Maryland.
  • Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga: Gonzaga’s streak of 267 straight minutes holding onto a lead came to an end on Saturday, but it didn’t on Wednesday, when Williams-Goss went for 33 points as the Zags smacked around BYU in the Marriott Center.

No. 10 Wisconsin outmuscles Indiana, holds on for 65-60 win

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MADISON, Wis. — Ethan Happ scored 20 points, Nigel Hayes added 15 and 10 rebounds, and No. 10 Wisconsin outmuscled Indiana to hold on for a 65-60 win on Sunday.

Happ was 8 of 10 from the field to help the Badgers (20-3, 9-1 Big Ten) win their seventh straight game. Maryland’s loss to Purdue on Saturday allowed Wisconsin to take a one-game lead in the conference over the Terrapins.

The 6-foot-8 Hayes joined the 6-foot-10 Happ to give Indiana problems in the paint. But the Badgers were plagued by mistakes or missed foul shots after building a 12-point lead midway through the first half.

Indiana (15-9, 5-6) stayed within a couple possessions of the lead for most of the rest of the way. Josh Newkirk’s two foul shots with 28.6 seconds left got Indiana within 60-57, but Wisconsin went 5 of 6 from the foul line from that point to seal the win.

No. 12 UNC beats No. 20 Notre Dame 83-76 in relocated game

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GREENSBORO, N.C. — Justin Jackson scored 16 points to help No. 12 North Carolina beat No. 20 Notre Dame 83-76 on Sunday in a game postponed a day and relocated from UNC’s campus due to a water shortage.

Isaiah Hicks added 14 points for the Tar Heels (21-4, 9-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), who shot 49 percent and dominated the glass while having six double-figure scorers.

V.J. Beachem scored 20 points for the Fighting Irish (17-7, 6-5), who lost for the fifth time in six games.

UNC led by 15 midway through the second half, only to see Notre Dame climb back to within 75-73 on Beachem’s 3-pointer from the corner with 3:47 left. But Joel Berry II answered with a jumper at the 3:33 mark to start an 8-0 run and turn away the comeback.

The postponement came Friday after the water system supplying the Chapel Hill campus and surrounding area instructed its 20,000 customers not to drink or use the water due to critically low supplies, brought on by a water-main break and the shutdown of a treatment plant.

The Greensboro Coliseum had hosted a country music concert Saturday night, giving arena officials a short turnaround to have the building ready for tipoff. Still, the game had a familiar feel despite its unexpected location — the coliseum has hosted the ACC Tournament 26 times, the last coming nearly two years ago when Notre Dame beat UNC to capture its first basketball championship in any league.