Kansas Jayhawks

LEXINGTON, KY - DECEMBER 03: Isaac Hamilton #10 of the UCLA Bruins drives to the basket against Bam Adebayo #3 of the Kentucky Wildcats in the second half of the game at Rupp Arena on December 3, 2016 in Lexington, Kentucky. UCLA defeated Kentucky 97-92. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Five things we learned last week: UCLA, Kentucky, the Big 12 and Lagerald Vick

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1. There’s a lot more to this UCLA team than just Lonzo Ball: Entering this weekend, that’s the name that everyone knew on UCLA. Ball is the team’s superstar freshman point guard, a player that has been compared favorably to Jason Kidd and whose ability to spray passes all over the floor is the biggest reason that the Bruins offense is a juggernaut.

But that offense isn’t going to be the difference-maker for the Bruins this season, because the Bruins were able to score last year, too.

No, the reason that UCLA has a chance to win a national title this season is that they can actually defend. They’re not Virginia. They’re not going to hold good teams to 50 points. They’re not going to be forcing 20 turnovers a night. They don’t have to. All they need to do is to be ‘good enough’ on that end of the floor. Limit penetration, protect the rim, clean the defensive glass.

If we learned anything on Saturday, it’s that the Bruins are going to be able to do the latter two things on that list. T.J. Leaf injected a shot of athleticism into the front court while Ike Anigbogu provides a physicality and a toughness they haven’t had in the paint under Alford. Throw in Thomas Welsh, who more than held his own against the Wildcats, and this is a pretty good front line that UCLA is working with.

And given what we already know about this team’s guards, that’s a scary proposition.

RELATED: Player of the Week | Team of the Week | Five Takeaways

LEXINGTON, KY - DECEMBER 03: De'Aaron Fox #0 and Isaiah Briscoe #13 of the Kentucky Wildcats celebrate in the first half of the game against the UCLA Bruins at Rupp Arena on December 3, 2016 in Lexington, Kentucky. UCLA defeated Kentucky 97-92. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

2. Kentucky is going to be just fine: Saturday’s loss was a humbling one for the Wildcats. After steam-rolling through literally everyone they’ve played this season – Kentucky entered the game having won by at least 21 points in every game – the Wildcats got outplayed by UCLA pretty thoroughly. That’s going to happen with young teams, regardless of how well they play against inferior competition, and it may happen again before SEC play starts; Kentucky still have to play North Carolina and Louisville before Christmas.

The Wildcats are an elite defensive team, and they are even better at scoring in transition. Where they struggle, however, is with half court offense. They simply don’t have enough shooters to be able to consistently create high-percentage looks against a set defense, and the way to force them into half court offense is, simply, to score on them. UCLA is one of just a handful of teams that has the guard play and the offensive weapons to be able to do that consistently for 40 minutes, and even then, it took the Bruins a while to grow into the game.

In other words, there aren’t very many teams that can do what UCLA did to Kentucky’s defense.

Thus, there aren’t very many teams that can actually beat Kentucky.

So don’t be worried about the ‘Cats.

They’ll be just fine.

3. Turns out, the Big 12 is really good: The narrative on the Big 12 entering the season was that the league was down outside of Kansas. The Jayhawks were the favorite to win the league just like they always are, but once you got past Bill Self’s club, there really wasn’t much of substance in the league.

That looks to be a dumb narrative.

It starts with Baylor, who has been awesome this season. The Bears picked up yet another excellent non-conference win on Saturday, coming from behind at halftime to beat No. 7 Xavier by 15 points in Waco. It turns out that Baylor actually has the supporting cast around Johnathan Motley to be relevant, and if the tournament was to start today, Baylor would very likely be the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament.

Then there’s West Virginia, who went into Charlottesville and picked up a road win over No. 6 Virginia the same week that they forced 40 turnovers in a 40 minute game. Iowa State is probably still top 25 good, even with that home loss to Cincinnati last week, and we’d be remiss not to mention the play of both Texas Tech and TCU, the latter of whom is one of just two teams in the league and 11 teams in the country that are still undefeated.

Here’s the kicker: As of today, the No. 1 conference in college basketball, according to KenPom.com, is … the Big 12.

LAWRENCE, KS - NOVEMBER 29: Lagerald Vick #2 of the Kansas Jayhawks dunks on a fast break as Javonntie Jackson #35 of the Long Beach State 49ers looks on during the game at Allen Fieldhouse on November 29, 2016 in Lawrence, Kansas. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Lagerald Vick (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

4. Is LaGerald Vick the most surprising player in the league?: Baylor’s Manu Lecomte has been better than expected, as has his teammate, Jo Lual-Acuil. Jawun Evans has been a star for Oklahoma State, but we all knew that he was going to be good. Texas A&M transfer Alex Robinson is leading TCU in points, assists and steals, but he was a good player for the Aggies before he left. We knew he would do good things in Fort Worth.

But Vick?

I’m not sure anyone expected Vick to develop into a starter for Kansas just weeks into the season, but here we are. He’s averaging double-figures on the season. He’s made 9-of-11 threes in the last three games, a stretch where he’s averaging 15.3 points. He’s been terrific defensively, and his presence has allowed Kansas to put plus-defenders on the floor at every position while playing small-ball lineups.

Who saw that coming?

5. So maybe the North Carolina hype train got a bit out of control: Yes, North Carolina played well early on this season. Yes, they were impressive in their wins against Chattanooga and in the Maui Invitational. Yes, Joel Berry II and Justin Jackson have both gotten better.

But the fact that the narrative last week somehow turned into North Carolina being the most impressive team in college basketball seemed a little bit weird, a fact that was confirmed by UNC’s loss at Assembly Hall on Wednesday night.

Now let me be clear: There’s no shame in losing in Assembly Hall, not when IU was playing the way they were playing. But UNC dug themselves a 26-9 hole early in the first half that they were never really able to dig out of. They were rattled by the atmosphere. They did not play well at all, and I just don’t think that if this was truly the best team in college basketball, that doesn’t happen that way.

UNC is good, and probably better than many thought entering the season, but before we go anointing them the champs can we take a second to remember these are basically the same dudes we’ve been unimpressed by for a couple of years now?

No. 4 Kansas cruises to 89-74 victory over Stanford

LAWRENCE, KS - DECEMBER 03:  Frank Mason III #0 of the Kansas Jayhawks is reacts after making a basket during the game against the Stanford Cardinal at Allen Fieldhouse on December 3, 2016 in Lawrence, Kansas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) Jerrod Haase received a long, loud ovation upon his return to Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday.

The rest of the cheers were for the Jayhawks.

Frank Mason III scored 20 points, Devonte Graham delivered an early 3-point barrage and fourth-ranked Kansas pulled away late for an 89-74 victory over Stanford, spoiling the return of the Cardinal’s coach to the building where he once starred as a player.

“Certainly an emotional day,” Haase said. “My emotions right now are more frustrated we didn’t play at a higher level, but for me personally, it means a lot – the reception.”

The Jayhawks (7-1) hardly greeted him as warmly, using their speed, depth and outside shooting to turn a 43-35 halftime lead into another rout at a building that has seen its share of them.

“We talked about how they packed the lane and how we were going to have to drive, pitch and drive it again,” Graham said. “We just did a good job of moving the ball, attacking bad close-outs and having the confidence to let them fly.”

Graham hit five 3s and finished with 15 points, and Josh Jackson and Svi Mykhailiuk added 13 points apiece, as the Jayhawks won for the 44th consecutive time in their old barn.

Reid Travis had a career-best 29 points and nine rebounds for Stanford (6-3), doing most of his damage at the free throw line. The career 54 percent free throw shooter was 19 of 22, breaking the school record for makes set by Todd Lichti against UC Santa Barbara during the 1987-88 season.

Travis also set records for makes and attempts in a game against Kansas. Rayford Young of Texas Tech hit 18 foul shots in February 1999 and Iowa State’s Craig Brackins attempted 21 in January 2009.

“I felt like my teammates did a great job of establishing me early, getting me in the post,” Travis said. “I knew I had to draw a lot of fouls, get us to the line early and get a rhythm going.”

After falling into an early deficit, Kansas coach Bill Self began going with a bigger lineup to deal with Travis in the paint, and that seemed to open up Graham on the perimeter. He knocked down all five of his 3-pointers in the first half, helping the Jayhawks to a 43-35 lead.

Stanford kept going to Travis inside, and the 6-foot-8 brute kept going to the free throw line. During two separate stretches of the second half, he made four free throws in less than a minute.

“He drew basically 17 fouls on four guys, so that just goes to tell you we didn’t play the scouting report,” Self said. “Our guys just played butt-behind and let him go wherever he wanted to go.”

The Jayhawks showcased their versatility in other areas, though.

Down the stretch, Jackson scored on a nifty dunk off an alley-oop pass, Mason got a tilting runner to go while crashing to the floor, and Mykhailiuk knocked down 3-pointers from the wing that sent the lead ballooning toward 20 late in the game.

BIG PICTURE

Stanford’s first-year coach played three seasons for the Jayhawks under Roy Williams, and later served as their director of basketball operations. Haase then followed Williams to North Carolina, but he was fondly received on Saturday, getting a massive ovation from an appreciative crowd.

“I remember clearly walking into Allen Fieldhouse when I was first recruited,” Haase said, “and I think I’ll remember the feeling at shootaround today, walking into the arena.”

Kansas snapped a two-game skid against the Cardinal that included an NCAA Tournament loss in 2014, when Andrew Wiggins and Co. couldn’t slow down Stanford in St. Louis. The Jayhawks were even able to get their benchwarmers some action for the third straight game.

STATS AND STREAK

Mason led the Jayhawks in scoring for the fifth time in eight games. … Kansas had 20 assists and only nine turnovers. … Travis was just 5 of 14 from the field. … Stanford was 2 of 8 from beyond the arc. … The Cardinal only had seven assists on 21 field goals.

UP NEXT

Stanford gets nearly two weeks off before playing Cal State East Bay on Dec. 16.

Kansas continues its six-game home stand against Missouri-Kansas City on Tuesday night.

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

College Basketball Talk Top 25

WEST LAFAYETTE, IN - NOVEMBER 14:  Josh Hart #3 of the Villanova Wildcats goes up for a shot against the Purdue Boilermakers at Mackey Arena on November 14, 2016 in West Lafayette, Indiana.  (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
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1. Villanova (6-0, Last week No. 1): The Wildcats hold steady at No. 1 this week as they weren’t tested.

2. Kentucky (6-0, 2): The more we watch Michigan State the less impressive that win looks for Kentucky. They’ll get UCLA at home on Saturday. We’ll know a lot more then.

3. Kansas (5-1, 4): The Jayhawks cruised right along with a title in the CBE Classic and a blowout win over UNC Asheville.

4. Duke (6-1, 5): Grayson Allen left a game because his foot was bothering him and it looks like none of the three injured freshmen will be available against Michigan State on Tuesday. We won’t know just how good Duke is for a while longer.

5. North Carolina (7-0, 6): There’s an argument to be made that North Carolina has been the most impressive team in the country this season. They haven’t won a game by fewer than 15 points yet.

RANKINGS: AP Poll | Coaches Poll | NBC Sports Top 25

6. Gonzaga (6-0, 8): The Zags did what we expected them to do, cruising to a title in the Advocare Invitational. It was more difficult against Iowa State than it should have been.

7. Xavier (6-0, 12): The Musketeers are starting to fly a bit under the radar. Their 22-point win over Northern Iowa on Saturday is better than you may realize.

8. Baylor (6-0, 15): The Bears are the only team in the country with four top 40 KenPom wins. they deserve this ranking for now. We’ll see if they can keep this thing rolling all year long.

9. Creighton (6-0, 16): The Bluejays look like one of the nation’s most potent offensive teams once again.

10. Virginia (6-0, 10): The Wahoos, on the other hand, are the nation’s most stingy defensive team.

11. UCLA (8-0, 13)
12. Indiana (5-1, 3)
13. Louisville (5-1, 9)
14. Purdue (5-1, 19)
15. Saint Mary’s (5-0, 21)
16. Wisconsin (5-2, 17)
17. Rhode Island (5-1, 20)
18. South Carolina (6-0, NR)
19. Syracuse (4-1, 14)
20. Maryland (7-0, 22)
21. Cincinnati (5-1, 23)
22. Iowa State (5-1, NR)
23. Michigan (5-1, 22)
24. Butler (6-0, NR)
25. Arizona (5-1, 11)

DROPPED OUT: No. 7 Oregon, No. 18 Virginia Tech, No. 24 Dayton
NEW ADDITIONS: No. 19 South Carolina, No. 22 Iowa State, No. 25 Butler

Kansas turns to zone, beats Georgia 65-54 to win CBE Classic

KANSAS CITY, MO - NOVEMBER 22:  The Kansas Jayhawks hold the trophy after winning the the CBE Hall of Fame Classic Championship game against the Georgia Bulldogs at the Sprint Center on November 22, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri.  The jayhawks defeated the Bulldogs with a final score of 65-54. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Frank Mason III and Josh Jackson took it as a shot to their pride.

Bill Self was just trying to win a game.

The Jayhawks’ coach turned to a zone defense Tuesday night, a rarity for a guy whose hallmark is a relentless man-to-man, and that slowed down Georgia enough to give fifth-ranked Kansas a 65-54 victory over the Bulldogs in the CBE Classic championship game.

“I didn’t think it was a hit (to their pride),” Self explained, “but you know, if you can’t guard their bigs and you can’t rebound out of man, we had to try to do something.”

On the other end, Mason led the way with 19 points, Jackson had 15 points and 11 rebounds and Devonte Graham contributed 14 points for the Jayhawks (4-1), who won their third consecutive in-season tournament title and second CBE Classic. They also won the event in 2012.

Jackson, one of the nation’s top freshmen, was voted MVP.

Kansas hopes it’s the beginning of a sweet ride at the Sprint Center this season. The Jayhawks face Davidson in the same building in a couple of weeks, then play the Big 12 Tournament there in March before the arena hosts an NCAA Tournament regional final, where they hope to earn a spot in the Final Four.

Yante Maten had 30 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Bulldogs (3-2), but they were done in by 3-for-18 shooting from the perimeter, equally lousy foul shooting and turnovers that led to easy runouts.

J.J. Frazier, who had been averaging 19 points per game, was held to two on 1-for-10 shooting.

“You have to make shots to win,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “We didn’t shoot the ball very good. Give Kansas’ defense credit for that. But we shot the ball so poorly the first three-quarters of the game, we didn’t score enough to get in position to win it.”

The zone defenses, which neither coach particularly enjoy, were a big reason for it. They slowed the game and turned it into a shooting contest.

“We haven’t really done it much so it was kind of new to us,” Jackson said, “but obviously it worked. For our pride a little bit, we really wanted to play man, but to win the game, we had to go zone.”

Kansas was a bit more efficient from the perimeter, slowly drawing away after trailing 20-19 with about 8 minutes to go, to forge a 35-25 lead at the break. The Bulldogs only made one of their final 16 field goal attempts, and their only scoring in the final 5 minutes came at the foul line.

The lead was still just 42-34 with 16 minutes to go when Mason drove for a basket, the first of eight straight points for the Jayhawks. Mason added another basket, Jackson solved the Bulldogs’ zone for a dunk and Graham and Dwight Coleby finished it off to give Kansas a comfortable cushion.

Georgia went more than 7 minutes without scoring as the game got away.

“We were prepared to play. We thought we could win the game. We’re disappointed we didn’t win,” Fox said. “We didn’t have enough guys chip in, and for us to win, we have to have more guys contribute.”

POST PROBLEMS

The Jayhawks’ post players were virtually non-existent. Landen Lucas never took a shot before fouling out in 10 minutes, Udoka Abuika played only 5 minutes and never took a shot, and Carlton Bragg Jr. finished 1 for 3 from the floor while gathering just one rebound in 10 minutes.

“They’re just not playing very well and not playing very smart and not contributing,” Self said. “They are good kids and they want to do well, but for whatever reason they have really struggled.”

BIG PICTURE

Georgia earned a split in the CBE Classic, and losing to Kansas doesn’t hurt its NCAA Tournament resume. The Bulldogs showed in their win over George Washington that they can be competitive.

Kansas has already proven it can score this season. On Tuesday night, the Jayhawks proved they can play a little defense, too, even if it meant ditching Self’s preferred man-to-man.

UP NEXT

Georgia begins a five-game homestand against Gardner-Webb on Friday night.

Kansas plays UNC-Asheville on Friday night in its second game at Allen Fieldhouse this season.

College Basketball Talk’s Top 25: We have a new No. 1 team in America

WEST LAFAYETTE, IN - NOVEMBER 14:  Josh Hart #3 of the Villanova Wildcats goes up for a shot against the Purdue Boilermakers at Mackey Arena on November 14, 2016 in West Lafayette, Indiana.  (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
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1. Villanova (5-0, Last Week: No. 2): The Wildcats went 4-0 this week. Not only did they go on the road and beat Purdue but they also went down to the Charleston Classic and swept through that tournament with relative ease. I’m not sure they’re the best team in the country but it’s hard to argue against their résumé.

2. Kentucky (4-0, 4): The win over Michigan State sounds good, but the Spartans aren’t actually all that good this season, at least not right now. A 21-point win over the Spartans isn’t a season-defining win this year.

3. Indiana (3-0, 5): The Hoosiers smoked two more hapless opponents this week. I’m not totally sold that this team is a top five team just yet, but they did beat Kansas on a neutral court and Kansas beat Duke on a neutral court. So here we are.

4. Kansas (2-1, 6): They’re still my pick to win the national title, even if I came away more impressed with Duke after Kansas beat them.

5. Duke (4-1, 1): All I need to say about the Blue Devils is right here.

RANKINGS: AP Poll | Coaches Poll | NBCSports.com

6. North Carolina (4-0, 7): They’ve steam-rolled a bunch of teams they should steam-roll. With the Maui Invitational starting this week, we should know enough about the Tar Heels come Thanksgiving.

7. Oregon (2-1, 3): Ditto for the Ducks, who lost at Baylor by 17 points but who are still playing without their all-american Dillon Brooks. He’s expected to be in the lineup Monday for their Maui opener.

8. Gonzaga (3-0, 9): Gonzaga’s win over San Diego State is going to look a lot better on paper in March than it actually was, as the Aztecs are banged up.

9. Louisville (3-0, 10): Undefeated. Untested.

10. Virginia (3-0, 8): I dropped UVA two spots with the news of Austin Nichols’ dismissal. I’m not ready to drop them farther than that yet, not until I see what Tony Bennett can do with these guys.

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11. Arizona (3-0, 11)
12. Xavier (5-0, 14)
13. UCLA (3-0, 13)
14. Syracuse (3-0, 17)
15. Baylor (3-0, NR)
16. Creighton (4-0, 19)
17. Wisconsin (2-1, 12)
18. Virginia Tech (3-0, 18)
19. Purdue (2-1, 16)
20. Rhode Island (4-1, 22)
21. Saint Mary’s (3-0, 23)
22. Michigan (4-0, UR)
23. Cincinnati (3-1, 20)
24. Dayton (2-1, 21)
25. Maryland (4-0, 25)

DROPPED OUT: No. 15 Michigan State, No. 24 Florida State

NEW ADDITIONS: No. 15 Baylor, No. 22 Michigan

Player of the Week: Frank Mason III, Kansas

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 15:  Frank Mason III #0 of the Kansas Jayhawks hits a game-winning shot with 1.8 seconds remaining against the Duke Blue Devils in the second half during the State Farm Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden on November 15, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Frank Mason III, Kansas

Through the first two weeks of the season, I think it’s safe to say that Kansas point guard Frank Mason III is college basketball’s early favorite as National Player of the Year. This week along, he went for 18 points and three assists in a win over Siena just three days after he had 21 points and five assists, burying the game-winning jumper, as the No. 7 Jayhawks picked off No. 1 Duke at Madison Square Garden in the Champions Classic.

And that doesn’t even include the 30 points that Mason had in a season-opening loss to Indiana, or mention the fact that the Jayhawks have already flown from Lawrence to Honolulu to New York back to Lawrence this season.

This is not going to be the last time that Mason wins this award this season, you can bet on that.

THEY WERE GOOD, TOO

  • Melo Trimble, Maryland: Maryland has played three games against Division I foes and Trimble is averaging 23.7 points in those three games. He made the game-winning plays in all three, including the free throws that beat DC rival Georgetown.
  • J.P. Macura, Xavier: Trevon Bluiett and Edmond Sumner are the big names for the Musketeers, but it was Macura that averaged 19.0 points, 4.7 boards, 3.7 assists and 2.3 steals in the Tire Pros Invitational title.
  • Deandre Burnett, Ole Miss: Burnett went for 41 points in an overtime win over Oral Roberts in the opening round of the Paradise Jam, following that up with 20 points and four assists in a win over Saint Joseph’s.
  • Malik Monk, Kentucky: Monk went for 23 points and hit seven threes as the Wildcats picked off No. 13 Michigan State in the Champions Classic.
  • Tacko Fall, UCF: In four games this week, the 7-foot-6 Fall averaged 17.8 points, 12.5 boards and 2.7 blocks as the Knights pushed No. 3 Villanova in the Charleston Classic finals.

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TEAM OF THE WEEK: Michigan Wolverines

Did anyone see this coming from the Wolverines? They went into Madison Square Garden and worked over a Marquette team coming off of dominating win over their own and followed that up with a blowout win of a pretty good SMU team. I’ll have some more thoughts on Michigan in the #taeks below.

THEY WERE GOOD, TOO

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 18: Derrick Walton Jr. #10 of the Michigan Wolverines reacts after hitting a three pointer against the Southern Methodist Mustangs in the second half of the 2K Classic Championship at Madison Square Garden on November 18, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Derrick Walton Jr. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

FIVE HOT #TAEKS FROM THE WEEK

1. Luke Kennard has been the beneficiary of Duke’s injury woes: No one on Duke’s roster had better taken advantage of the opportunity created by injuries to Harry Giles III, Jayson Tatum and Marques Bolden than Luke Kennard has. With Grayson Allen also banged up – he’s reportedly dealing with a toe issue – Kennard has emerged as Duke’s go-to guy on the offensive end of the floor, and he’s thriving in the role. He was the best Duke player in the loss to Kansas, finishing with 22 points, five boards and five assists, and led the team with 24 points in Sunday’s win over No. 21 Rhode Island. On the season, he’s averaging 18.2 points while shooting 55.2 percent from the floor and 13-for-25 from three.

That’s massive for Duke for a couple of reasons, not the least of which being the fact that Kennard – and, frankly, Coach K – has learned that he is capable of carrying this team against some of the best opponents in the country. But it’s also evidence that the Blue Devils have more quality pieces that we may have realized, if that’s possible. Think about it like this: If Duke has everyone available to them, Jayson Tatum and Grayson Allen are the first two options offensively. Then it’s probably Harry Giles III. And then you get to the guy that’s leading them in scoring and was the best player on the floor the two times Duke played a ranked team.

That’s scary.

2. Michigan is better than Michigan State, at least right now: I don’t know if they’ll be better than the Spartans come March but I do know that right now, as of November 21st, the Wolverines are the best team in the state of Michigan. Their back court is about doing what we expected them to do. Zak Irvin has been scoring the rock and Derrick Walton has been doing the things we want senior point guards to do. The key, however, is that Michigan’s bigs look better than anyone realized they would be. Moritz Wagner and Mark Donnal have been somewhere between effective and above average while D.J. Wilson has been catching lobs, hitting threes and blocking shots, anchoring a defense that looks far better than it was a year ago.

Will it last? We’ll find out soon enough.

3. Is Baylor the second-best team in the Big 12?: We didn’t know who it was going to be, but entering the season, we knew that someone was going to set themselves apart from the pack as the second-best team in the Big 12. The early returns are in, and it looks like the Bears are Kansas’ biggest contender after they blew out Oregon at home. Johnathan Motley has been everything we expected him to be while Manu Lecomte and Jo Lual-Acuil have outperformed all expectations early on.

4. We underestimated just how good Creighton is: We knew about Mo Watson and Marcus Foster coming into this season. And we knew that Cole Huff had the talent to be better than his production last season. What we didn’t realize was just how talented Justin Patton is or how good Khyri Thomas is. Patton is an athletic, versatile 6-foot-11 center that makes plays on both ends of the floor – and adds a dimension that the Jays were previously lacking – while Thomas is a perfect compliment in the back court to Watson’s playmaking and Foster’s shot-hunting. If their win over Wisconsin didn’t convince, did a shellacking of N.C. State do the trick?

5. Is Northern Iowa the best team in the Missouri Valley?: At this point, I think it’s fair to wonder if they are. Wichita State is still in the midst of figuring out how they’re going to replace Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker while Illinois State doesn’t have the same kind of discipline that UNI does. They don’t make mistakes defensively, they execute their sets offensively and they make the open threes their offense creates. Throw in the fact that Klint Carlson is a terrific player and Jeremy Morgan is a future NBA player, and you’ve got a team that is going to make a run at the MVC title.

PROVIDENCE, RI - MARCH 19: Luke Kennard #5 of the Duke Blue Devils greets fans after defeating the Yale Bulldogs 71-64 during the second round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Dunkin' Donuts Center on March 19, 2016 in Providence, Rhode Island. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Luke Kennard (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)