Rob Dauster

West Virginia's Tarik Phillip moves down court defended by Texas Tech's Jordan Jackson in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016, in Lubbock, Texas. (Mark Rogers/Lubbock Avalanche-Journal via AP) ALL LOCAL TELEVISION OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT
(Mark Rogers/Lubbock Avalanche-Journal via AP)

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: West Virginia at Iowa State headlines the night

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 14 West Virginia at No. 13 Iowa State, 9:00 p.m.

This is a big game for both teams. The Mountaineers have lost three of their last five games, including a mollywhopping on Saturday at the hands of Florida. Their only two wins during that stretch came against Kansas State and TCU, and they will be without Jonathan Holton. Iowa State, on the other hand, had won four straight games before heading down to Texas A&M, where they were handed a double-digit loss by the Aggies. Iowa State is just one game out of first place in the conference, but with a loss to Texas on the road and a home loss to Baylor already, the Cyclones will be in a bad spot when it comes to the Big 12 regular season title with another home loss.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR

  1. No. 22 Indiana will head up to Michigan in a battle between two teams that have rolled to a combined 15-3 record in the Big Ten with one truly notable win between the two of them. We’ll get a chance to see if these two are “real” tonight.
  2. No. 20 Kentucky looked like the real deal when they lost at No. 4 Kansas over the weekend. What will happen tonight, when they head back out on the road to take on Tennessee?
  3. The biggest bubble game of the night will be played in Indianapolis: Georgetown at Butler at 7:00 p.m.
  4. Duke has lost four of their last five games, will still be playing without Amile Jefferson and heads to Georgia Tech tonight, where the Yellow Jackets have been a tough out this season.
  5. The nation’s No. 1 team, Oklahoma, is at home against TCU tonight. What does Buddy Hield have in store for us?

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • No. 11 Providence at DePaul, 9:00 p.m.
  • No. 25 South Carolina at Georgia, 7:00 p.m.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR POWER RANKINGS: It’s Buddy Hield and then everyone else

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) dribbles the basketball up court in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Harvard at the Diamond Head Classic, Friday, Dec. 25, 2015, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)
(AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)
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There’s no denying it at this point: Buddy Hield is the favorite to win the Player of the Year award in college basketball this season.

Anyone that says otherwise is being contrarian for the sake of being contrarian, and there are a couple of reasons for that. For starters, Hield is having the most efficient season of any high-usage player in the KenPom era. I explained this in detail yesterday (right here), but for simplicity’s sake, no one in the last 13 years has been as potent offensively as Buddy. Not J.J. Redick or Adam Morrison or Stephen Curry or Jimmer Fredette or Doug McDermott. No one.

He’s also the only player since the 1994-95 season to shoot at least eight threes per game and make more than 52.0 percent of those threes. The closest anyone came to that was Troy Hudson of Southern Illinois, who shot 51.1 percent on 8.7 3PAs per game.

So yes, Hield is having a historically great season.

But he’s not the only guy on this list that’s doing so.

Providence guard Kris Dunn is one of just two players since 1994-95 (that’s the reference point because it’s as far back as this database goes) to average at least 17 points, six boards and six assists in a season, and he’s the only one to do all of that while also notching three steals per night.

The other guy to do that?

Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine, who is the only player to average 18 points, seven boards and six assists in the last 21 years. That would usually lock Valentine in as the hands-down favorite to win, at the very least, the Big Ten Player of the Year award, except Jarrod Uthoff is currently averaging 2.5 blocks and shooting 46.4 percent from three, something that no one has done (while averaging more than two 3PAs per game) since 1994.

Should I mention that Uthoff is also averaging 18.6 points for a top five team that is currently sitting in first place in the Big Ten standings?

And I haven’t even mentioned BYU’s Kyle Collinsworth, who is on pace to be the first player in that database to average at least 15 points, seven boards and seven assists.

In other words, that’s a really long way of saying that Hield is not the only player in college basketball having an unbelievable season. So saying that this is Hield’s award to lose at this point isn’t a shot at anyone else in the field, because he’s one shooting slump away from looking relatively mortal, and shooting slumps can happen to the best of them. (Ask Marcus Paige).

What it is, however, is a sign of just how good Hield — and Oklahoma — have been this year.

Anyway, here are the Power Rankings. You can follow along with the countdown on the CBT Facebook page right here.

Houston rallies to upset No. 12 SMU, 71-68

Houston's Galen Robinson Jr. (25) is chased to the basket by SMU's Jordan Tolbert (23) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Monday, Feb. 1, 2016, in Houston. Houston won 71-68 for an upset. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
(AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
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HOUSTON (AP) Houston trailed by 11 points early in the second half and appeared headed for its second loss to No. 12 SMU this season.

That was when they started to fight back.

Devonta Pollard scored 23 points and Damyean Dotson added 13 as Houston rallied for a 71-68 victory over SMU on Monday night, just the second loss of the season for the Mustangs.

Pollard and Dotson keyed a 21-4 run midway through the second half for the Cougars (16-6, 6-4 American), which defeated a ranked team for the first time since beating No. 25 SMU in March 2014. The win was the first over a team ranked this high or higher since beating No. 3 Memphis in January 1996.

“There were a lot of turning points in the game,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said. “When we got down 11, it was our fight. That is a part of our identity. Our kids stay together. They don’t back down.”

Both teams pointed to Houston’s 41-27 rebounding advantage as one of the keys to the Cougars’ win.

“We focused on defense and rebounding,” Pollard said. “Everything else took care of itself.”

Nic Moore had 16 points for SMU (19-2, 8-2), which has lost two of its last three after being the last unbeaten team in Division I. Ben Moore scored 12 points and Markus Kennedy had 12 points and nine rebounds for the Mustangs, who shot 8 of 27 in the second half and finished shooting 40 percent overall.

Houston shot 55 percent in the second half and 46 percent for the game.

“I think we have had slippage in a lot of areas,” SMU coach Larry Brown said. “In some ways I think we are worrying about things that really aren’t that important. . We won by doing a great job on the boards, and we haven’t done that recently. I have seen it, but I also understood that every game will be a lot tougher based on how we started the season.”

After Houston pushed its lead to eight points, Nic Moore scored five straight points and Ben Moore cut the lead to 66-65 with two free throws with 2 minutes left. Following a free throw by Galen Robinson, Jr., Nic Moore and Dotson traded missed shots, and Kennedy was called for an offensive foul with 59 seconds left.

Pollard made two free throws with 46 seconds left to push the lead to 69-65, and Nic Moore’s 3-pointer was blocked by Robinson. Bertrand Nkali made a free throw with 26 seconds left, but Nic Moore hit a 3-pointer with 16 seconds remaining to cut the lead to two.

Wes VanBeck hit one free throw with 14 seconds left, and Jordan Tolbert’s 3-point attempt missed and Shake Milton could not get a 3-point attempt off in time.

“We didn’t play like ourselves,” Tolbert said. “We got out of what we normally do. We stayed in the game down the stretch. The last four or five possessions we didn’t get the look we were trying to get.”

Trailing 49-38 with just under 16 minutes remaining, Houston responded with the 21-4 run over the next 8 minutes led by nine points from Pollard and seven from Dotson. LeRon Barnes and Pollard capped the run with consecutive 3-pointers to give the Cougars their largest lead of the game, 59-53. The Mustangs went 1 of 11 from the field during the run and went 6:07 without scoring.

SMU opened the second half with an 8-2 spurt to open up a 47-36 lead on a 3-pointer by Milton with 17:26 remaining.

TIP-INS

SMU: Milton added 10 points and Jarrey Foster had nine. … SMU shot 13 of 25 from the field in the first half. … The Mustangs hit on 20 of 23 from the free throw line.

Houston: Houston honored its football team at halftime. The Cougars went 13-1, won the American Conference and defeated Florida State in the Peach Bowl. Coach Tom Herman addressed the crowd along with Houston mayor Sylvester Turner. … Rob Gray, Jr., Houston’s leading scorer with a 17.3 average, missed the game with an ankle injury.

COOGS WIN WEEKLY AWARDS

Gray, a sophomore guard, earned the American player of the week award and Robinson, a freshman guard, earned the conference’s rookie of the week honor. Gray averaged 23.5 points in wins over Tulsa and East Carolina, while Robinson scored a career-high 19 points against Tulsa before adding 12 points and seven assists against ECU.

HE SAID IT

Tolbert on SMU’s missing effort: “To me, teams are more excited to play us than we are to play them. We have to get back (being) hungry. A lot of people are gunning for us now.”

UP NEXT

SMU is at South Florida on Sunday

Houston is at Tulsa on Sunday

Shaka Smart’s adaptability as coach on display as Texas upsets No. 17 Baylor

Texas head coach Shaka Smart instructs his team in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Baylor on Monday, Feb. 1, 2016, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
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Exactly 23 days ago, the Shaka Smart era at Texas looked like it was destined for the NIT. The Longhorns had just lost their third game in four days and their second straight on the road. They were 9-6 overall and 1-2 in the Big 12 with league losses to Texas Tech and TCU.

That was a bad spot to be in.

But fast forward a little than three weeks, and with a win on Monday night at No. 17 Baylor, suddenly the Longhorns not only have themselves sitting in a position where, barring some kind of collapse, they are almost assured of a trip to the NCAA tournament and now tied for second in the conference, just a game behind league leaders Oklahoma and West Virginia.

In Waco on Monday, it was a 67-59 win over the Bears that extended this run of success to six wins in seven games, a stretch that includes wins over Iowa State and at West Virginia. Throw in December’s win over North Carolina in Austin, and there aren’t many teams in college basketball with as many excellent wins as the Longhorns have.

Much of this run can be credited to the play of Prince Ibeh and Connor Lammert. Ibeh is suddenly playing like an athletic, 7-foot, 265 pound center should play. In his last four games, Ibeh is averaging 11.5 points, 8.5 boards and 4.8 blocks, which more than makes up for what the Longhorns lost when senior center Cam Ridley, who has having by far the best year of his career, was injured. Lammert, a 6-foot-9 lefty with three-point range, is brimming with confidence. He had 15 points and hit three threes on Monday night, including a three with less than a minute left that put Texas up 62-56.

Smart has an innate ability to build confidence in his players, and that’s really become clear with this Texas team in the last three weeks.

But he also deserves all the credit in the world for the way that he’s coached this team. Namely, it’s not ‘Havoc’.

That was his brand when he arrived in Austin. That’s what VCU did and that’s who Smart was as a coach. The entire city of Richmond, Virginia, embraced it and Smart totally built his roster around it.

But that’s not what this Texas team is doing. Smart easily could have given into his ego and played that all-out, full-court pressing style despite not exactly having the pieces to adequately do it. Instead, he’s tailored his offense and his defense to the pieces that he has available to him, and he does deserve credit for doing that.

And winning in the process.

People may not realize this, but when VCU made the Final Four in 2011, they did not run ‘Havoc’. That run wasn’t just a product of a system, a machine built around being more athletic, more physical and in better shape than their opponents. That was Shaka coaching up a team that played four-around-one offensively and got hot from three at the right time.

And while the season still has a long way to go, it’s hard not to look at what he’s gotten this team to do over the course of the last 23 days and not be impressed, with both his coaching acumen and his team.

No. 16 Louisville lands their first marquee win over No. 2 North Carolina

Louisville's Damion Lee (0) dunks the ball over the defense of North Carolina's Joel Berry II (2) and Justin Jackson (44) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Monday, Feb. 1, 2016, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
(AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
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Just 48 hours after scoring 14 points in the first half against a Virginia team that doesn’t defend like the Virginia we know and love, No. 19 Louisville went out and knocked off No. 2 North Carolina in the Yum! Center on Monday night, 71-65.

This was precisely the kind of win that the Cardinals needed. The knock on this group all season long has been the complete lack of quality wins on their résumé. They played very well at Kentucky … in a game they lost. They looked really good at Michigan State … in a loss.

Beyond that, their best win was, well, I don’t know. They hadn’t beaten a top 35 opponent on KenPom. It could have been Pitt or Florida State at home. Maybe Georgia Tech, or Virginia Tech, or N.C. State on the road. There was an argument to be made that, entering Monday, Louisville’s best win was Grand Canyon, and while they looked tough when they played, there was no empirical evidence for that beyond an impressive ranking on KenPom.com.

And then throw in that embarrassing loss to Virginia on Saturday. There was plenty of reason to doubt Louisville.

Not so much anymore.

Damion Lee led the way with 24 points, which included a pair of threes that helped the Cardinals create some separation from the Tar Heels midway through the second half, while Chinanu Onuaku added another double-double (12 points and 10 boards) and Donovan Mitchell chipped in with 10 points of his own. Defensively, the Cardinals forced 16 turnovers and held North Carolina to 34.5 percent shooting, including a 3-for-17 performance from beyond the arc.

And as a result, the Cards landed a win to pin at the top of the NCAA tournament profile while remaining within a game of first place in the ACC. Considering how tough the stretch run of ACC play will be for the Tar Heels, Louisville has a real chance to win at least a share of the ACC regular season title.

That’s pretty impressive to think about considering A) What this team lost in the offseason, B) The fact that the program is dealing with the Katina Powell scandal and C) their two best players spent last season at mid-major programs.

But that may not even be the biggest story coming out of this game.

Because Marcus Paige has apparently totally lost the ability to shoot the ball.

He was 3-for-13 on Monday night; 1-for-6 from three. That means that, in the last six games, Paige is now shooting 12-for-57 from the floor, a cool 21.1 percent. From the field. From three, Paige is 5-for-36, or knocking them down at a 13.9 percent clip.

That’s a problem. North Carolina has plenty of strength in their front court. Brice Johnson is playing like an All-American, Kennedy Meeks is a load when he’s healthy and Isaiah Hicks is talented enough to start at just about any program in the country that doesn’t start two guys as talented as Johnson and Meeks. They can really score in the post and they’re a great rebounding team.

What they lack is scoring, shooting and creativity out of their back court.

And that’s when Paige is playing like an all-american.

In a vacuum, losing a game at Louisville where you’re down by one possession in the final minute is not all that big of a deal, even if you are arguably the most talented team in all of college basketball. But with Marcus Paige struggling, there is only so far that this Tar Heels team will be able to go.

AP POLL: Oklahoma remains atop the College Basketball’s Top 25

Buddy Hield
(AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)
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I wrote about it over on the Coaches Poll post: There is not justification for ranking North Carolina over Oklahoma unless you ignore evidence and just believe that North Carolina is the best.

And that’s OK with me.

I am actually still riding with my pick that the Tar Heels will win the National Title. They haven’t done anything to change my opinion — assuming that, eventually, Marcus Paige and Justin Jackson learn how to shoot again — so I don’t have an issue with voters putting UNC No. 1.

[NEW PODCAST | NBC Sports Top 25 | Bracketology]

But long story short: the empirical evidence says that Oklahoma is the No. 1 team in the country, meaning that the only way you can rank North Carolina above the Sooners is if you simply think the Tar Heels are better. The AP voters don’t think so

[Player of the Week: Buddy Hield | Team of the Week: Oregon]

Anyway, here is the Coaches Poll:

1. Oklahoma (18-2, 45 first-place votes)
2. North Carolina (19-2, 20)
3. Villanova (18-3)
4. Maryland (19-3)
5. Iowa (17-4)
6. Xavier (19-2)
7. Kansas (17-4)
8. Texas A&M (18-3)
9. Virginia (17-4)
10. Michigan State (19-4)
11. Providence (18-4)
12. SMU (19-1)
13. Iowa State (16-5)
14. West Virginia (17-4)
15. Baylor (17-4)
16. Oregon (18-4)
17. Miami (FL) (16-4)
18. Purdue (19-4)
19. Louisville (17-4)
20. Kentucky (16-5)
21. Wichita State (16-5)
22. Indiana (18-4)
23. Arizona (17-5)
24. Dayton (18-3)
25. South Carolina (19-2)