Rob Dauster

Oregon forward Dillon Brooks (24) drives past Arizona forward Ryan Anderson during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

WEEKLY AWARDS: West Virginia shines again, but it’s time to pay attention to Oregon

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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Dillon Brooks, Oregon

The Pac-12 may not be as strong at the top as the other power conferences in college basketball, but there may not be a league in the country that is as balanced. There are as many as ten teams that are still in the running for an NCAA tournament bid, and the difference between No. 2 and No. 10 is really not all that drastic.

I say No. 2 because, at this point, I think that the Ducks are the clear-cut best team in the conference. They proved that this week, as they mollywhopped Colorado in Eugene and followed that up with a double-figure win over Utah. Dillon Brooks looked like an All-American on Sunday, putting 30 points and nine assists on the Utes, who had the reputation of being one of the better defensive teams in the conference entering the day.

Brooks’ offensive arsenal is just silly, but his name doesn’t get mentioned in the same breath as some of the other stars in college basketball, probably for the same reason Oregon is flying under the radar. They were injured early and suffered a couple of ugly losses early in the year, to UNLV in Las Vegas and at Boise State. But they’ve won six in a row in the league (how about this run: USC, UCLA, at Arizona, at Arizona State, Colorado, Utah) and nine of their last ten. I think Oregon is Final Four good. Let’s see if anyone else picks up on it.

THE ‘ALL THEY WERE GOOD, TOO’ TEAM

  • Brandon Sherrod, Yale: Sherrod broke the NCAA record of consecutive field goals made in Friday night’s win over Columbia, when he scored 25 points and grabbed eight boards. He had made 30 straight shots since January 16th.
  • Wesley Iwundu, Kansas State: Iwundu had 15 points, five boards and five assists in a loss at Phog Allen Fieldhouse, but he made this list for the 22 points and seven assists he had in the win over No. 1 Oklahoma, when he also was tasked with guarding Buddy Hield, who he “held” to 23 points.
  • Darryl Reynolds, Villanova: Reynolds had 13 boards in a win over Creighton during the week and followed that up with 19 points and 10 boards in the win at Providence. He entered the week averaging just 2.3 points with a reputation for being little more than the reason that Daniel Ochefu needed to play so many minutes.
  • Ryan Anderson, Arizona: The 31 points and 12 boards at Washington State were nice. The 22 points and 15 boards at Washington were even better. The road sweep that Arizona landed? The best.
  • Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia: Maybe it’s Virginia’s struggles on the road. Maybe it’s because they’re a “boring” team to watch. Maybe it’s because their pace keeps his numbers down a bit. Whatever the case may be, no one is paying near enough attention to how good Brogdon has been this season. Myself included. He was terrific against in wins against Boston College and at Pitt this week.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: West Virginia Mountaineers

Here we are, the morning after the Super Bowl has ended, and none other than West Virginia is leading the Big 12.

Seriously.

It’s West Virginia.

Not Oklahoma. Not Kansas. Not Iowa State. West Virginia.

And I know what your initial reaction is going to be. “A schedule fluke”, right? Well, no. Not really. The Mountaineers beat Kansas at home. They lost to Oklahoma in Norman on a tip-in by Khadeem Lattin at the buzzer. This week alone they won at Iowa State and beat Baylor in impressive fashion in Morgantown. Bobby Huggins has this team playing some great basketball, and when they’re forcing turnovers, crashing the glass and getting Jaysean Paige to play like an all-Big 12 guard, they’re tough to beat.

THEY WERE GOOD, TOO

  • Michigan State: The Spartans are back. After seeing Michigan State go into Ann Arbor and work over the Wolverines, I feel pretty comfortable saying that.
  • Louisville: The Cardinals got rocked by the news of their postseason ban, and responded by blowing out Boston College on Saturday. So good for them. The win over North Carolina was nice, too.
  • Texas: The Longhorns kicked off the week by winning at Baylor and followed that up with a better-than-you-think win over Texas Tech.
  • Oregon: Like we mentioned earlier, no one in the country is playing better ball right now than the Ducks.
  • Maryland: The Terps not only picked up a win at Nebraska during the week, but they also held serve against Purdue at home over the weekend, which gave them their second top 50 win of the season.

SET YOUR DVR

No. 10 Michigan State at No. 18 Purdue, Tue. 7:00 p.m.
No. 14 West Virginia at No. 7 Kansas, Tue. 7:00 p.m.
No. 5 Iowa at No. 22 Indiana, Thu. 9:00 p.m.
No. 7 Kansas at No. 1 Oklahoma, Sat. 2:30 p.m.
Gonzaga at No. 12 SMU, Sat. 10:00 p.m.
No. 22 Indiana at No. 10 Michigan State, Sun. 1:00 p.m.
USC at No. 23 Arizona, Sun. 9:00 p.m.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL TALK’S TOP 25: A new No. 1, but how far will Oklahoma and UNC fall?

Iowa forward Jarrod Uthoff (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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We may not see a week the rest of the season with this much uncertainty when it comes to the No. 1 team in college basketball.

Hell, it may be a long time before we see another Monday morning in February with this many questions marks. Because the way I see it, there are at least six teams that can legitimately be discussed at the No. 1 team in college basketball this week.

It starts with Oklahoma, who was so far ahead of the field, at least in my mind, that they can legitimately be ranked No. 1 in the country again this week despite having lost a road game in each of the last two weeks. But there’s a big difference between losing at Iowa State and losing at Kansas State, so the Sooners probably need to drop.

Then there’s Iowa, who we had slotted in at No. 3 last week, behind two teams that, you know, lost on the road to unranked teams. So in theory, they should be able to scoot up to that No. 1 spot, but are we really ready to call Iowa the best team in college basketball?

Villanova continues to cruise along at the top of the Big East, as does Xavier, who is the only team in the top ten with just two losses to their name. Kansas is still in the mix as well, as is Maryland, who beat Iowa just ten days ago.

And that doesn’t even include Virginia, who has nine top 50 wins, or Oregon, who has eight. And it doesn’t factor in West Virginia, who is currently sitting all alone in first place in the toughest conference in college basketball.

That should just go to show you how wild and uncertain and open this season is.

[NEW PODCAST]

The NCAA tournament No. 1 seeds are a crapshoot right now, and they probably won’t even matter. I can’t help but wonder what round of the tournament will be the first where a No. 1 seed is the underdog; my money would be on the Sweet 16.

Anyway, if you’re just tuning into college basketball now that football is over, you’re in for a fun and wild ride, because you probably know just about as much as we do when it comes to trying to figure out a power structure this season.

Here is the NBC Sports Top 25:

1. Iowa (19-4, LW: No. 3): Iowa is the hottest team in college basketball, and while they’re not exactly a trendy pick here, there’s a very strong argument to make that they have the best profile in the sport. They’ve won 11 of their last 12 games, the only loss coming by six at Maryland in a game where there All-American Jarrod Uthoff shot 2-for-13. In that span, they’ve beaten Michigan State twice (in East Lansing by 19) and Purdue twice. They haven’t lost to a team that isn’t ranked in my top 25 this season. They’re all alone in first place in the Big Ten and, given their schedule down the stretch, could very well not lose until postseason play kicks off. This team is the real deal. Get used to it.

[LATEST BRACKETOLOGY]

2. Oklahoma (19-3, LW: No. 1): I was tempted to leave the Sooners at No. 1 this week. They have the nation’s best player, they’ve been the nation’s best shooting team, they blew out Villanova and all of their three losses have been in true road games. But losing two of their last four is not a good look, especially when one of those losses comes by 11 at Kansas State.

3. Kansas (19-4, LW: No. 4): That loss at Oklahoma State doesn’t look quite as bad now that the Pokes nearly knocked off Iowa State in the same building while playing without Jawun Evans. My issue with Kansas — their lack of a true go-to guy — is a bigger issue for the NCAA tournament than it is in the regular season. I think given Oklahoma’s loss on Saturday, they’re once again the favorite to win the Big 12.

4. Villanova (20-3, LW: No. 5): Their are going to be shouts for the Wildcats to be ranked No. 1 in the country, especially since they’ve won 12 of their last 13 games. They’re shooting better from three and, at the moment, they are currently sitting at No. 1 in KenPom’s efficiency rankings. There’s a valid argument to have them No. 1 overall, but personally, I’m just not ready to buy this team as the best in the country. Maybe it’s because they’ve burned me before, I don’t know. I’ll leave them at fourth for now.

5. Xavier (21-2, LW: No. 6): To me, Xavier is arguably the most complete team in the country in the sense that I’m not sure there is anyone that creates a bad matchup for them. That said, their best wins this season are against USC and Dayton (albeit by 29) and when they lost to Villanova, they lost in spectacular fashion, going down by 31 points.

6. Maryland (21-3, LW: No. 7): Like the Musketeers, I love the makeup of this Terps roster, but it just feels like they aren’t quite clicking yet. They’ve beaten Iowa and Purdue in the last ten days, but those are their only two top 50 wins this season. They’ve lost three true road games, but one of them was to Michigan and they haven’t show the ability to blow out opponents they’re better than. They might be the best team in college basketball when they’re rolling, but I can’t rank them there right now.

7. North Carolina (19-4, LW: No. 2): The Tar Heels biggest flaw was exposed by Notre Dame on Saturday. I wrote about that here.

8. Michigan State (20-4, LW: No. 9): Sparty’s got it rolling again. They’ve won three straight blowouts following that win over Maryland, and I think it’s safe to say now that Tom Izzo figured out what was ailing his team.

9. West Virginia (19-4, LW: No. 12): Who had West Virginia leading the Big 12 outright the morning after the Super Bowl? If you say you did I’m calling you a liar.

10. Virginia (19-4, LW: No. 13): Virginia might have arguably the best collection of wins of any team in the country this season. They’ve also lost to George Washington, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Florida State and needed a prayer to be answered to beat Wake Forest.

11. Oregon (20-4, LW: No. 18)
12. Miami (19-4, LW: No. 14)
13. Louisville (19-4, LW: No. 22)
14. Purdue (19-5, LW: No. 19)
15. Kentucky (17-6, LW: No. 17
16. Texas A&M (18-5, LW: No. 8)
17. Iowa State (17-6, LW: No. 16)
18. SMU (20-2, LW: No. 11)
19. Baylor (17-6, LW: No. 15)
20. USC (18-5, LW: No. 21)
21. Providence (18-6, LW: No. 11)
22. Texas (16-7, LW: UR)
23. Notre Dame (16-7, LW: UR)
24. Dayton (19-3, LW: UR)
25. Wichita State (17-5, LW: No. 20)

DROPPED OUT: No. 23 Utah, No. 24 Indiana, No. 25 Saint Mary’s
NEW ADDITIONS: No. 22 Texas, No. 23 Notre Dame, No. 24 Dayton

VIDEO: New Mexico loses game on blown call by officials

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Nothing like a nice, controversial finish to get the blood flowing.

New Mexico was on the receiving end of a rule misinterpretation on Saturday afternoon, and that interpretation likely cost the Lobos a win over San Diego State and, arguably, a shot at the MWC regular season title.

Here’s the situation: New Mexico is up by three with 12 seconds left and the ball under their own basket. Their allowed to run the baseline, so Craig Neal calls a play where the inbounder throws the ball to a player running out of bounds.

Totally league as long as the player establishes out of bounds before touching the ball. The referee rules that he doesn’t.

Here’s the video:

The problem?

According to the rules, Xavier Adams — the player receiving the pass from Cullen Neal — only needed one foot on the floor out of bounds in order to establish himself as an inbounder that was able to catch that ball. He got one foot down (see the picture above), but the referees appeared to rule that he needed to have both feet down.

That was incorrect, according to the Mountain West office.

“While this was a very close judgment call made at full speed, it has been determined after careful review of slow-motion video replays the call was in fact incorrect,” the league said in a release. “The New Mexico player did get one foot down (two feet are not required) out-of-bounds before receiving the ball, thus establishing his location in accordance NCAA Basketball Playing Rules 4.23.1.a and 7.1.1.  By rule, the officials were not permitted to go to the monitor during the game to review this play.”

And here’s the kicker: When SDSU got the ball back, they hit a three to send the game into overtime, where the Aztecs won. But if New Mexico had won this game, they’d be sitting at 8-2 in MWC play, one game behind SDSU in the loss column with a return game against them in The Pit.

Instead, they’re now three games back with seven to play, meaning that the race is effectively over.

It’s tough to blame the referees here — it was a bang-bang call that is only clear in slow-motion replay — but man, that’s a big call to miss.

BUBBLE BANTER: George Washington’s critical win, Cincinnati’s bad loss

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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You’ll be hard-pressed to find a team that picks up a bigger bubble win today than No. 25 South Carolina (KenPom: 53, RPI: 30), who finally landed a marquee win in the first game they played against a quality opponent this season, beating No. 8 Texas A&M on Saturday.

That’s not meant as a shot. It’s meant purely in RPI terms. The Gamecocks have played just one RPI top 50 team this season — Alabama twice, and they split — and the Crimson Tide are 3-6 in the SEC and barely in the top 50. Throw in that horrid non-conference schedule (318th) and what you had was a team with a great record (19-3) and RPI but without any real proof as to how good they are in on-court results.

That’s a problem, which is why this win is so big. Because not only did they beat a top ten team and the SEC favorite, but they did so in College Station, and road wins matter more than home wins in the eyes of the Selection Committee. Frank Martin’s club still has some work to do, but winning on Saturday earned them some margin for error.

The only team that comes close to South Carolina is George Washington (KenPom: 82, RPI: 49). Entering the day, the Colonials’ profile hinged almost totally on a win over Virginia on the fourth day of the season. As the Cavaliers have steadily improved, the win has looked better and better.

The problem is that GW hasn’t done much to add to in. The win over Seton Hall was nice as were wins over Davidson, Tennessee and Duquesne, but they’re not enough to overcome losses to ugly losses to Saint Louis and DePaul. Losing to Richmond at home — who is probably better than their RPI indicates — certainly didn’t do them any favors, either.

On Saturday, George Washington went down to Richmond and knocked off VCU, who, entering the day, was on a 12-game winning streak, undefeated in the Atlantic 10 and sitting in the top 30 of the RPI. That’s not quite what you would call a marquee and it certainly won’t lock the Colonials into an NCAA tournament bid, but if they intend of getting an at-large bid this season, it’s a win they really needed.

WINNERS

  • Oregon State (KenPom: 84, RPI: 41): The Beavers landed another huge win for their profile, knocking off Colorado at home, a win that game them their second RPI top 50 win in three days and their fifth of the season. They’re 7-8 against the top 100 with no bad losses. The problem? Wayne Tinkle’s club has done almost all of their damage at home and five of their last seven games are on the road. It’s not going to be easy, but at this point, I’d argue they have the inside track towards an at-large bid. Who had that in October?
  • Florida State (KenPom: 40, RPI: 38): The Seminoles are one of a handful of teams that seem to be trending for the NCAA tournament’s cut-line, and while winning at Wake Forest isn’t much of a game-changer, it is an RPI top 100 win on the road. That’s a nice addition to a résumé for a team headed to the cutline, where the difference in profiles is minimal.
  • LSU (KenPom: 55, RPI: 72): The Tigers are going to be a fascinating case on Selection Sunday. They beat Mississippi State on the road on Saturday to (get this) move into first place in the SEC! The problem? They played a bad non-conference schedule, they have two sub-100 losses and their second-best win (Kentucky is the best) came at Alabama, who is a fluke of the RPI formula. But their worst losses all came when they were at less than 100 percent. They’re at South Carolina and get Texas A&M at home next week. We’ll get answers then.
  • Seton Hall (KenPom: 32, RPI: 44): The Pirates landed a nice win over Georgetown at home, giving them another top 100 victory for their profile. Two good wins — and the win over Wichita State is only going to look better and better — and no bad losses with a top 50 RPI is a good combo. That No. 274 non-conference schedule? That means they still had lots of work to do to feel safe.
  • Butler (KenPom: 42, RPI: 61): The Bulldogs landed a must-win at St. John’s on Saturday, setting them up for their most important week of the season. The Bulldogs are right on the cut-line right now. Win at Seton Hall and beat Xavier at home, and they can feel pretty good about getting an at-large bid as long as they win the games they’re supposed to win after that.
  • Saint Joseph’s (KenPom: 57, RPI: 37): Like Temple, the Hawks did well on Saturday to avoid losing to an opponent that could tank their profile. St. Joe’s is in a better spot that Temple right now — they have better computer numbers and now bad losses — but a total lack of quality wins will be an issue on Selection Sunday. They badly need to beat Dayton at home this month.
  • Cal (KenPom: 43, RPI: 39): The Golden Bears added their eighth RPI top 100 win on Saturday, beating Stanford in Berkeley by 15. With three top 35 wins and just one truly bad loss, Cuonzo Martin’s club should feel pretty good about getting a bid as long as they win the games they’re supposed to win down the stretch.
  • San Diego State (KenPom: 68, RPI: 57): The Aztecs needed overtime to beat New Mexico at home, which was huge because SDSU isn’t exactly in a position to lose many games and still be on the right side of the bubble. They’re 10-0 in the Mountain West and may not be an at-large team. That’s where the league is at right now. SDSU has played one RPI top 100 since Dec. 22nd.
  • Temple (KenPom: 92, RPI: 74): The Owls beat Central Florida. It doesn’t do much for their profile, but a loss could have killed their already slim chances of an at-large bid. They get Villanova at home later this month. That’s a must-win.
  • Valparaiso (KenPom: 23, RPI: 36): The Crusaders beat one of the four-worst teams in college basketball on Saturday. Just playing that game is going to hurt their profile. I think the Crusaders are a top 40 teams in college basketball, but they want to make sure they win the automatic bid.
  • Saint Mary’s (KenPom: 30, RPI: 54): The Gaels avoided losing to San Diego, but the damage may have been done by the mid-week loss to BYU. They have no top 50 wins, no chances to land a top 50 win and some ugly scheduling numbers. I’m not sure they could survive a loss in the WCC tournament.
  • Gonzaga (KenPom: 35, RPI: 71): Like Saint Mary’s, Gonzaga is in a position where they cannot afford many (any?) losses in WCC play. They beat Pepperdine on the road last night, a tougher road trip than people may realize. The Zags have the added bonus of a roadie against SMU this month. That could be the decisive game for their bubble status.

LOSERS

  • Vanderbilt (KenPom: 52, RPI: 31): We got a glimpse of what Vanderbilt could be on Thursday, when they beat Texas A&M by 17. We got a glimpse of what they are on Saturday, when they followed that up with a loss at Ole Miss. The ‘Dores are looking like they’re going to end up right there on the cut-line on Selection Sunday.
  • Cincinnati (KenPom: 33, RPI: 65): The Bearcats took a bad loss on Saturday, as they went into Memphis and lost to a team that was blown on by 20 on that very same floor by UConn on Thursday. That’s the first sub-100 loss Cincinnati has, but they still have three more road games against sub-100 teams and just one win over a team ranked higher than 49th in the RPI. That game against SMU at home in the regular season finale may be the difference between the NCAA tournament and a trip to the NIT.
  • Clemson (KenPom: 49, RPI: 73): The Tigers took a loss that will look worse on their profile that it was in real life at Virginia Tech on Saturday. The Tigers have a fascinating résumé: six top 50 wins, three sub-100 losses (two of which are sub-180) and one of the nation’s 15-worst non-conference schedules. For my money, they’re on the outside looking in by a fair margin, as the selection committee has proven they factor in non-conference scheduling heavily.
  • Georgetown (KenPom: 60, RPI: 70): The Hoyas lost the Seton Hall tonight. On the road, to a top 50 opponent, which isn’t a huge deal … except for the fact that it’s their third straight loss and the fourth in five games since winning at Xavier. The one win in that stretch? At home against Creighton in a game where they came back from 12 down in the last two minutes. Given what’s left on their schedule, the Hoyas can still make the tournament. In theory. But it’s becoming less and less likely they’re a team that can actually get those wins.
  • Washington (KenPom: 74, RPI: 51): The Huskies lost to Arizona at home on Saturday, which, in a vacuum, isn’t a terrible loss. It was at home, yes, but it was also to Arizona, an RPI top 35 team. Where it hurts is that Washington is on the bubble, five of their next six games come against top 50 teams and four of those five are on the road. They needed that win because they’re entering the toughest part of their schedule.
  • Stanford (KenPom: 102, RPI: 63): The Cardinal have three top 50 wins, no bad losses and solid strength of schedule numbers. The problem? They’re now 3-9 against the top 50 and 5-10 against the top 100 after losing to Cal. At some point, they have to start collecting wins against the good teams that they’re playing.
  • Colorado (KenPom: 56, RPI: 23): The Buffs lost at Oregon State, but they’re pretty comfortably on the right side of the bubble and this was a road loss to a top 50 opponent. Not a major blow by any stretch.
  • BYU (KenPom: 58, RPI: 54): For some reason, BYU was still in the bubble conversation. They aren’t after losing to Pacific.

 

No. 22 Indiana falls at Penn State

Penn State's Shep Garner (33) moves towards the basket during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Indiana in State College, Pa., Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Ralph Wilson)
(AP Photo/Ralph Wilson)
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Brendan Taylor scored 24 points to lead Penn State to a 68-63 upset of No. 22 Indiana on Saturday night.

The Nittany Lions were 2-8 in Big Ten play entering the weekend. Indiana? They were 9-1 and tied for first in the conference. It’s the second loss in four games for the Hoosiers following a 7-0 start to Big Ten play, a fact made all the more concerning by the fact that their league schedule is finally about to get difficult.

The Hoosiers play No. 5 Iowa at home and No. 10 Michigan State in East Lansing next week. The following week they get No. 18 Purdue at home. In the final week of the regular season, Indiana squares off with No. 5 Iowa on the road and close the regular season with a visit from No. 4 Maryland.

That’s a lot of good teams that the Hoosiers to close out the year.

The question has been asked since Indiana’s hot start to league play: Are they for real? Did the Hoosiers really somehow turn things around defensively, or was that winning streak simply a by-product of their schedule?

The truth is that it was probably a combination of both. Calling them a fraud would be unjust — if you watched those games, there wasn’t much fluky about them; Indiana earned the Ws — but it does seem fair to say this is something of a regression to the mean.

They were going to slip up eventually.

And it will totally be forgotten if the Hoosiers can find a way to close the regular season with a winning record in their final seven games.

Bonzie Colson leads Notre Dame to come-from-behind win over No. 2 North Carolina

Notre Dame's Demetrius Jackson (11) hugs teammate Notre Dame's Bonzie Colson following an NCAA college basketball game against Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C., Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016. Notre Dame beat Duke 95-91. (AP Photo/Ben McKeown)
(AP Photo/Ben McKeown)
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Less than an hour after No. 1 Oklahoma lost to Kansas State, No. 2 North Carolina fell on the road against Notre Dame, 80-76.

The Tar Heels led by 15 points with two minutes left in the first half. They were still up double-figures with 16 minutes left in the game, but the Irish made more plays down the stretch and, quite frankly, were the tougher team in crunch time.

The final sequence was a microcosm of the second half. With North Carolina down 80-76 and 10 seconds left, Notre Dame let the Tar Heels roll the ball all the way to their own three-point line. Joel Berry II picked the ball up and went in for a relatively uncontested layup … that he bricked. Notre Dame’s Zach Auguste grabbed the rebound and was fouled. He missed the front end of a one-and-one, but he was able to knock the ball out of Brice Johnson’s hands and run out the clock.

That’s the way it went for most of the second half.

Notre Dame shot just 34.8 percent from the floor and 3-for-16 from three, but they got to the foul line 38 times, they finished with 20 offensive boards — 12 came in the second half, when UNC only got 10 defensive boards — and they snagged seemingly every loose ball.

Combine that with the fact that the Tar Heels had fits trying to defend Notre Dame’s ball-screens, and this is what you get.

Bonzie Colson led the way with 19 points and 10 boards for UNC, and if you need any more examples for why I’m saying that the Irish won this game because they were tougher, this is it. Colson is 6-foot-5 on a good day, and he posted a double-double with six offensive boards against a front line that includes Brice Johnson, Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks. He posted 13 of those points and seven of those boards (four offensive) in the second half.

So congratulations to Notre Dame.

This is a big win for them.

But it’s also the kind of loss that we’ve seen far too often with this North Carolina team. Seeing them get pushed around like this is not exactly new. They’re big and strong and athletic and talented … and soft. They’re the most talented team in the country but there is no one on this team that you could call a junkyard dog.

“I’ve got a wonderful bunch of kids, but we’ve got to decide that we want to compete when it’s tough, not just when it’s easy,” Roy Williams said.

As one coaching friend puts it, “they don’t have MFers, and it’s hard to win without them.”

That’s why the team that, on paper, should be the best in the country is not. That’s why they lose games on the road and why they’ve made a reputation out of underperforming in the last few years.

The good news?

They’re not the only flawed team in college basketball this season.

Everyone is.

Literally everyone.

Which is why the Tar Heels can certainly still win either ACC title and reach a Final Four, especially if the Marcus Paige we got tonight — 19 points, 5-for-7 from three — is the Marcus Paige we get for the rest of the season.

But if you’re wondering why North Carolina loses games like this, games where their opponent shoots 34.2 percent while erasing a 15-point deficit, you have your answer.