Rob Dauster

Creighton's Maurice Watson Jr. (10) reacts after scoring during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Xavier in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. Creighton won 70-56. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

WEEKLY AWARDS: Creighton’s Maurice Watson shines, Kansas has huge week

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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Maurice Watson, Creighton

Creighton entered this week on the bubble of the bubble, meaning that, despite sitting in the top 50 of KenPom’s efficiency rankings, the Bluejays had a big hole to climb if they wanted to make it back to the NCAA tournament.

And thanks to Mo Watson, Creighton started that climb.

Watson, who stands a shade up 6-foot, totally dominated No. 5 Xavier in a blowout win over the Musketeers, finishing with 32 points, seven boards and five assists. He followed that up with 18 points and 10 assists as Creighton landed a top 100 road win against Marquette.

All told, in the most important week of the season for the bluejays, Waston averaged 25.0 points, 7.5 assists, 6.0 boards and 2.0 steals while shooting 54.5 percent from the floor and 81.3 percent from the line. That’s a good week, but Creighton is going to need quite a few more nights like that if they’re going to pull off an at-large bid.

THE ‘ALL THEY WERE GOOD, TOO’ TEAM

  • Vitto Brown, Wisconsin: Brown scored a career-high 18 points in a win over Nebraska in the middle of the week, and followed that up with a new career-high of 21 points as the Badgers went into College Park and knocked off No. 2 Maryland by 13 points.
  • Brandon Ingram, Duke: Ingram went for 18 points, 10 boards and four assists in a win over Louisville, but his most impressive performance of the week was the 25 points that he put on Virginia. That included a stretch where Ingram scored 18 straight points. Not bad, right?
  • Demetrius Jackson, Notre Dame: After going for 17 points in a win at Clemson, Jackson followed that up with 27 points and five assists as the Fighting Irish picked up a come-from-behind win to knock off No. 13 Louisville.
  • Tyler Ulis, Kentucky: Ulis finished with a modest 14 points and eight assists in a blowout win over Georgia before going for 27 points and 12 assists in a dominating performance in a 27 point win at South Carolina in a game that John Calipari was thrown out of 2:26 in. Not a bad day.
  • Jabari Bird, Cal: Did Bird bust out of a season-long slump this weekend? He averaged 23.5 points in wins over Oregon and Oregon State, shooting 18-for-28 from the floor and 9-for-16 from three. He set a season-high on back-to-back nights; he hadn’t scored more than 17 points this season.
  • Nick Emery, BYU: In two wins for the Cougars, Emery averaged 34 points this week, including a 37 point outburst on Thursday when he hit 10 threes.
Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) shoots between Oklahoma guard Isaiah Cousins, left, forward Ryan Spangler, center, and forward Khadeem Lattin, right, in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Kansas Jayhawks

If Kansas does end up extending their Big 12 regular season title streak to 12, this may very well be the week that got it done.

On Tuesday, they handled No. 10 West Virginia fairly easily in Phog Allen Fieldhouse. On Saturday, they followed that up by going into Norman and knocking off No. 3 Oklahoma. Those two wins put the Jayhawks in a tie for first place in the Big 12 standings — with West Virginia, a game in front of Oklahoma, who still have to play at West Virginia this season. The race is far from over, but there was a real chance that we could have been sitting here today talking about how Kansas was three game out of first in the league.

So the wins alone were huge.

But how they got those wins might have been more important.

Kansas won at Oklahoma on a night where their two “stars”, Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden, shot 6-for-21 from the floor. They won because Devonte’ Graham scored 27 points and hit two critical threes in the final three minutes. Kansas picked up one of the best wins of the college basketball season, and they did so when they were carried by someone we thought was a role player.

THEY WERE GOOD, TOO

  • Texas Tech: Before this week, the Red Raiders lost eight of their last ten games. Then they went out and beat Iowa State in overtime, following that up by pounding Baylor in Waco. Suddenly, it looks like Tubby Smith has an outside shot of coaching in the NCAA tournament.
  • Duke: The Blue Devils are back on the map as a potential second weekend team after landing wins over Louisville and Virginia in Cameron Indoor Stadium this week. If they win at UNC and Louisville next week, we might be able to call them a potential Final Four team again.
  • Wisconsin: The Badgers capped their seven-game winning streak on Saturday with a 70-57 win at No. 2 Maryland. They’re back in the mix as a potential bubble team, and are one elite win (at Michigan State, at Iowa, at Purdue) away from dancing.
  • Cal: Not only did the Bears get Tyrone Wallace back, but Jabari Bird found his shooting stroke, Jaylen Brown continued his excellent play and Cal landed wins over Oregon and Oregon State. Now let’s see what they could do on the road?
  • Michigan: The Wolverines won at Minnesota last week and following that up with a win over Purdue, which is good for any team in any week. The bigger news? Caris LeVert returned to action. He only played a half — a scoreless 11 minutes, actually — but he’s back. That’s what matters.
  • Alabama: So I guess we have to start paying attention to Alabama now. After wins over Texas A&M and Florida on the road, Avery Johnson’s club is within striking range of the NCAA tournament. Who saw that coming?

SET YOUR DVR

No. 10 West Virginia at No. 24 Texas, Tue. 7:00 p.m.
No. 14 Iowa State at No. 21 Baylor, Tue. 9:00 p.m.
Duke at No. 9 North Carolina, Wed. 9:00 p.m.
No. 12 Miami at No. 9 North Carolina, Sat. 12:00 p.m.
No. 3 Oklahoma at No. 10 West Virginia, Sat. 4:00 p.m.
No. 18 Purdue at Indiana, Sat. 8:30 p.m.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL TALK’S TOP 25: Kansas slides back into the top spot

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1. Kansas (21-4, LW: No. 1): The top of the top 25 is fluid these days, but after the Jayhawks went into Norman and knocked off Oklahoma — which came five days after they beat West Virginia at home — they can hop into the top spot of the poll. For now.

2. Oklahoma (20-4, LW: No. 2): I’m leaving Oklahoma at No. 2 for the simple fact that half of their losses this season have come by a combined seven points and three overtimes against the No. 1 team on this list. This conversation would be very, very different if Khadeem Lattin and Buddy Hield made their timely free throws.

[NEW BRACKETOLOGY]

3. Iowa (20-5, LW: No. 1): The loss at Indiana isn’t all that concerning. A four-point home win over Minnesota? That is.

4. Villanova (22-3, LW: No. 4): Villanova is going to remain No. 1 in both polls because this was another week where Villanova didn’t lose, but I’m just not in the camp that sees them as the best team in college basketball.

5. Michigan State (20-5, LW: No. 8): With the way that Denzel Valentine has been playing of late I think that the Spartans are back to being the best team in the Big Ten.

6. North Carolina (21-4, LW: No. 7): The Tar Heels got back on track with a 20 point win over Pitt, but they still can’t figure out how to consistently hit get on the defensive glass.

7. Virginia (20-5, LW: No. 10): The ‘Hoos seem to have figured out their issues on the road. They blew out Louisville, they blew out Pitt and they lost on a buzzer-beater (travel?) at Duke.

8. West Virginia (20-5, LW: No. 9): There’s no shame in losing at Kansas. That 30 point win at TCU will make a lot of people forget about it.

9. Maryland (22-4, LW: No. 6): The Terps have the most talented starting lineup in college basketball. When they’re at their best they’re excellent. That’s not what happened on Saturday.

10. Xavier (22-3, LW: No. 5): The Musketeers shot 1-for-21 from three and got destroyed by Maurice Watson in a blowout loss to Creighton. In an impressive win at Xavier, they went 8-for-11 from three in the first half.

[PLAYER OF THE WEEK | TEAM OF THE WEEK]

11. Miami (20-4, LW: No. 12)
12. Kentucky (19-6, LW: No. 15)
13. Purdue (20-6, LW: No. 14)
14. Oregon (20-6, LW: No. 11)
15. Louisville (19-6, LW: No. 13)
16. Iowa State (18-7, LW: No. 17)
17. Notre Dame (18-7, LW: No. 23)
18. Dayton (21-3, LW: No. 24)
19. Duke (19-6, LW: UR)
20. SMU (21-3, LW: No. 18)
21. Arizona (20-5, LW: UR)
22. Texas (16-9, LW: No. 22)
23. USC (18-7, LW: No. 20)
24. Indiana (20-6, LW: UR)
25. Utah (18-7, LW: UR)

DROPPED OUT: No. 15 Texas A&M, No. 19 Baylor, No. 21 Providence, No. 25 Wichita State
NEW ADDITIONS: No. 19 Duke, No. 21 Arizona, No. 24 Indiana, No. 25 Utah

Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament chances take a major blow in loss to No. 16 SMU

SMU guard Nic Moore (11) shoots over Gonzaga forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
(AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
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Nic Moore scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half and added 11 assists as No. 16 SMU knocked off Gonzaga in Moody Coliseum on Saturday night, 69-60.

The Zags got 20 points and 16 boards from Domantas Sabonis, but Kyle Wiltjer scored just four points and shot 2-for-17 from the floor.

It wasn’t pretty.

And it may have been the end of Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament hopes.

Entering Saturday, the Zags had an RPI in the mid-60s, enough to keep them in the bubble conversation but not enough to make them anything more than a team that will be projected to end up on the cut-line.

The issue is a complete lack of quality wins on their résumé. Gonzaga beat UConn in the Bahamas. That’s a borderline top 50 win. They beat Washington, another borderline top 50 win. Beyond that? They swept Pepperdine, beat Tennessee and own a win over Montana. None of those are top 100 wins, and that’s why the SMU game was such a big deal. The Mustangs are a top 25 team. This was a road game. This win was the kind of thing that the Zags could pin at the top of their profile.

But Wiltjer didn’t show up, the Zags had no answer for Moore and they’ll head back to Spokane needing, in all likelihood, to win the WCC’s automatic bid if they want to dance.

POSTERIZED: Cal’s Jaylen Brown has his dunk contest entry

California's Jaylen Brown lays up a shot against Oregon State in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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Cal picked up a big win over Oregon State in Haas Pavilion on Saturday night, and the exclamation point was this emphatic dunk from Jaylen Brown:

YOU MAKE THE CALL: Did Duke’s Grayson Allen travel on his game-winner vs. Virginia? (VIDEO)

Duke's Grayson Allen (3) and Marshall Plumlee (40) react during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Louisville in Durham, N.C., Monday, Feb. 8, 2016. Duke won 72-65. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
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Duke star Grayson Allen hit a game-winner on Saturday afternoon, a tough, driving layup that gave the Blue Devils a 63-62 win over No. 7 Virginia in Cameron Indoor Stadium:

The location of said game matters, because it appears that Allen traveled on the play.

Well, more than “appears”.

Allen did travel.

Twice actually. As you can see in this screen grab, Allen’s foot came down before he got the shot off:

Screen Shot 2016-02-13 at 6.44.34 PM

And if that wasn’t bad enough for UVA fans, Allen also quite clearly took three steps before releasing the shot:

There’s not really much to argue about here. Allen traveled. But before you get all riled up about the no-call, a few things to keep in mind:

  1. A player taking three steps on a drive is the call that referees miss more than anything, including block-charge decisions. It’s a very difficult call to see in real time, and if you’re going to make it in that situation — final seconds, in Cameron, on a Duke player — you better be damn sure that you’re right.
  2. The same can be said about Allen’s foot hitting the ground before he got the shot off. To figure out that the refs got it wrong, I had to take a screen grab from a slow-motion replay on an angle that none of the three referees had. It’s a split-second thing, and that’s something that’s rarely going to get called unless it’s obvious. Especially then.
  3. So yes, the referees blew the call. But I’m not sure there is a ref in the world that gets that one right.

And for what it’s worth, I’m not buying the whole Allen got fouled angle. That was great defense from Marial Shayok and an even better finish by Allen. It’s tough luck for the Cavs, but not really all that much different than winning a game like this.

Whatever the case may be, the result isn’t changing.

Duke got 25 points from Brandon Ingram, picked up their second win of the week over a ranked opponent and now head to their most difficult week of the season — at North Carolina and at Louisville — playing some of their best basketball.

In the last two games, the Blue Devils have given up 1.016 points-per-possession, a marked improvement over 1.081 PPP they were giving up entering the day.

Have the Blue Devils solved their issues defensively?

Notre Dame’s Steve Vasturia sparks come-from-behind win over No. 13 Louisville

Notre Dame’s Steve Vasturia (32) goes up for a shot over Boston College’s Idy Diallo (4) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Robert Franklin)
(AP Photo/Robert Franklin)
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Demetrius Jackson scored 20 of his 25 points in the first half and Steve Vasturia scored 15 of his 20 points in the final 20 minutes as Notre Dame landed a 71-66 win over No. 13 Louisville on Saturday afternoon.

The Fighting Irish trailed by as many as 11 points early in the second half, but Vasturia’s hot shooting combined with Notre Dame holding Louisville to just 15 points in the final 15 minutes made all the difference.

The Fighting Irish are not as good as they were last season, but they are built in a similar mold. Jackson, as we expected, as become one of the nation’s most dynamic point guards, impossible to slow-down in isolation and ball-screen actions. Steve Vasturia emerging as a legitimate secondary option offensively and Zach Auguste is one of the nation’s most underrated big men and one of the most dangerous as the roll-man in ball-screens.

Combine all of that with a handful of shooters creating space and Bonzie Colson’s emergence as a force on the offensive glass, and Mike Brey once again has one of the nation’s most lethal offensive attacks.

Where they struggle is on the defensive end of the floor, which is what makes the end of Saturday’s win so meaningful. The Irish entered the day ranked 232nd in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric, which more or less means they’re as good as a bad mid-major program at keeping their opponents from scoring.

But they don’t have to be great to be able to win games.

They have to be good enough and they have to get important stops.

That’s precisely what happened on Saturday.

Whether or not that actually becomes a trend for this group will be something to monitor — it happened for Duke during last year’s NCAA tournament — but the bottom-line is this: Notre Dame does something better than just about anyone else in college basketball, and that’s score the ball.

On the nights they are able to gets some stops, they are going to be able to win some games. In the last eight days, they’ve proven that, beating North Carolina, Clemson on the road and Louisville.

And that makes them dangerous in March.