Previewing your college hoops weekend

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UPSET SPECIAL

Sun. 2:00 pm: No. 12 Villanova @ La Salle: No city in the country does rivalries quite like Philly. Known as the Big 5, Villanova, Temple, La Salle, Penn, and St. Joseph’s play a yearly round robin, with the winner getting city bragging rights for the whole year. While the tradition and the rivalry today may not be what it was in its heyday, these games are still intense and hold much more meaning than your average non-conference game.

Villanova has not looked as good as many people expected them to be this season, and a huge reason for that has been the struggles of the Wildcat’s two best perimeter players. Corey Fisher has not become the leader everyone expected him to be this season. He’s been ice cold shooting the ball (32.7% from the field, 21.1% from three) and was even benched for the beginning of Villanova’s game against Penn on Wednesday because he talked back to Jay Wright at practice. Maalik Wayns hasn’t been much better. He came into the season being hyped as a potential first round pick, but he’s shot worse from three than Fisher (15.6%) and has lost his scoring touch since Villanova’s win over UCLA. Throw in JayVaughn Pinkston’s suspension and injuries to Maurice Sutton and Isaiah Armwood, and the Wildcats are playing at far from 100%.

La Salle, on the other hand, has been impressive this year. They are 6-3 on the season, and all three losses have been in close games to major conference opponents. Aaric Murray has been terrific, averaging 16.6 ppg, 8.9 rpg, and 3.1 bpg, while Reuben Guillandeaux has become a capable secondary option, scoring 15.9 ppg and hitting 46.9% from three. Villanova needed a 34 point effort from Corey Stokes to beat Penn by 12. If the Wildcats play like that on Sunday, they will take a loss.

UPSET ALERT

Sat. 12:30 pm: No. 8 Michigan State vs. Oakland: Michigan State has been struggling this season, especially in the paint, where the Spartans are usually rock solid. The best big man on the floor in this one will be Oakland center Keith Benson, a 6’11” center putting up 18.2 ppg, 11.7 rpg, and 3.3 bpg early this season. How will the Spartans bounce back from the whooping that Syracuse put on them?

Sat. 6:30 pm: Colorado State vs. No. 4 Kansas: I hate to use the term, but its fits perfectly here. The Rams are the quintessential trap game for the Jayhawks. Kansas is coming off of a big, nationally televised win over Memphis and the Jayhawks are one game away from getting Josh Selby back in the lineup. Colorado State is the team everyone forgets about in the MWC, but they were the consensus sleeper in the conference coming into the season. Travis Franklin and Andy Ogide are quality forwards and could give the Morrii some trouble. Another potential issue — will there be players gunning to try and prove themselves worthy of minutes when Selby gets thrown into the mix?

Sat. 7:00 pm: Wofford @ South Carolina: Bruce Ellington has turned out to be the real deal for South Carolina as a freshman, leading the Gamecocks to a 6-1 start to the season. Wofford, however, is a tough defensive team that really needs a win. The Terriers were picked to win their conference — the SoCon — in the preseason.

BEST MATCHUPS

Sat. 12:00 pm: No. 19 UNLV @ Louisville: Louisville gets their biggest test of the season as the Runnin’ Rebels come to town. UNLV has looked very good early in the season, as they like to press, play an uptempo game, and spread the floor, allowing their talented perimeter players room to operate and create. Replace UNLV with Louisville at the start of the last sentence, and the same thing is true. This one should be a lot of fun for those that get to watch it. There are few teams in the country that consistently get better shots that UNLV. Will they be able to do it against Louisville’s press?

Sat. 2:30 pm: Wisconsin @ Marquette: Let’s put aside the fact that Marquette is in Wisconsin. Let’s also put aside the fact that these two teams are natural born enemies. Think Louisville-Kentucky, only with cheese, not bourbon. Finally, let’s put aside seeing whether Marquette can slow down Badger big man Jon Leuer or Wisconsin has the perimeter quickness to handle Marquette’s back court. The most interesting part of this game is that Vander Blue, a Madison native, originally committed to Wisconsin when he was 15, but backed off of that commitment later on in the process. Wisconsin fans let him have it online. Blue didn’t like that, and eventually committed to Marquette. Too bad this game isn’t in the Kohl Center. That would have been interesting.

Sat. 3:15 pm: No. 13 Tennessee @ No. 3 Pitt
: The Panthers are a physical defensive team that have been absolute monsters on the offensive glass. As a team, they lead the country by grabbing 48.5% of the available offensive rebounds, which is a ridiculous number. More impressive, however, is that every one of their front court players has a offensive rebound percentage over 10, meaning that every player in Pitt’s front court gets at least 10% of the available offensive rebounds when they are on the floor, led by Dante Taylor, whose 25.4 OR% is out of this world. The Vol’s bread and butter this season is tough perimeter defense. Guys like Melvin Goins, Cameron Tatum, and Scotty Hopson are all excellent defenders that will have their work cut out for them with Ashton Gibbs and Brad Wanamaker.

Sat. 4:30 pm: No. 22 Washington @ Texas A&M: You will struggle to find a better contrast of styles than Washington and Texas A&M. The Huskies love to get out and run the floor, allowing their talented guards and athletes to create in the open floor. Texas A&M is a grind it out team, relying on their toughness on the defensive end to keep them close. Which style wins out?

Sat. 6:00 pm: Arizona @ No. 21 BYU: Last year, Jimmer Fredette went into Tucson and set a McKale Center record by putting 49 points (and 9 assists and 7 boards) on the Wildcats. This year, the Wildcats appear to be much improved, however, and boast one of the best big men in the country in sophomore Derrick Williams. How good is Williams? Kenpom ranks him as No. 1 in the country in terms of offensive rating. Fredette is 9th. It is possible the best big man and the best guard in the country will be sharing a court?

Sat. 7:00 pm: VCU @ Richmond: We talked about intra-city rivalries with Villanova and La Salle. This is an intense intra-city rivalry as well, as VCU is also located in Richmond. Making things even better is that these two teams are both expected to be in the running for a tournament spot come March. Two key matchups are going to be between Joey Rodriguez (VCU) and Kevin Anderson (Richmond), and Jamie Skeen (VCU) and Justin Harper (Richmond). I have a feeling this result will be relevant again when the bracket gets released.

Sat. 8:30 pm: Gonzaga @ No. 23 Notre Dame: The Zags really need to get a win, and it just so happens that they matchup pretty well with the Irish. In terms of roster makeup, the Zags are fairly similar to Kentucky. They have a big goof at center, a talented and athletic power forward, and a guard that can really fill it up. That said, Gonzaga has defended anyone this season, especially three point shooters. Notre Dame just so happens to have a number of very good three point shooters, led by Ben Hansbrough and Tim Abromaitis.

BEST STORYLINES

FRIDAY

  • 8:30 pm: Iowa State @ Iowa: Is there a major conference, in-state rivalry with as little fanfare on a national level as a battle of the Iowas?

SATURDAY

  • 12:00 pm: St. Louis @ No. 1 Duke: Duke continues to play with Kyrie Irving’s status up in the air. Will Mike Krzyzewski drop anymore hints in the post game about his point guard’s status?
  • 12:30 pm: Auburn vs. Rutgers: I thoroughly disagree with you there, Coach Rice.
  • 4:00 pm: No. 4 Kansas State @ Loyola (IL): Jacob Pullen gets a home game back in Chicago. Also of note — only one team in the country shoots free throws worse than Kansas State at 54%.
  • 4:00 pm: Florida Atlantic @ Hofstra: FAU is coming off of wins over Mississippi State and South Florida. Can Hofstra’s Charles Jenkins change that path?
  • 4:30 pm: Cleveland State @ Sam Houston State: Cleveland State is still undefeated.
  • 5:00 pm: San Diego @ No. 15 San Diego State: Discovered by the Germans in 1904, they named it San Dee-ah-go
  • 5:15 pm: Indiana at No. 16 Kentucky: This is one of the more underrated rivalries in college hoops. Christian Watford going up against Terrence Jones will be fun.
  • 7:00 pm: Dayton @ Old Dominion: Dayton’s been downright bad this season, while ODU has taken a bit of a step back in the last week. Both of these teams are big and athletic.
  • 8:15 pm: Morehead State @ Northern Iowa: If you haven’t see Kenneth Faried play yet, you need to.
  • 9:00 pm: New Mexico State @ New Mexico: The Lobos host the second leg of this rivalry.

SUNDAY

  • 1:00 pm: Penn State @ Virginia Tech: Two of the best back court players in the country square off. Both could end up with 40+ the way they defend.
  • 4:00 pm: Boston College @ Maryland: ACC play is starting.
  • 5:00 pm: Southern Miss @ Cal: USM desperately needs this win with their weak non-conference schedule.
  • 6:15 pm: Clemson @ Florida State: Florida State is the nation’s best defensive team, but rank 165th in the nation in offensive efficiency. That has to be the biggest gap in the country.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

Three Things To Know: Shaka’s seat heats up, Baylor survives, Virginia doesn’t

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It was a slow night for college hoops on Monday, but there is still plenty to talk about after some weird results.

Here are the three things you need to know:

1. SHAKA’S SEAT IS HEATING UP

The Shaka Smart era at Texas feels like it has hit an inflection point.

On Monday night, the Longhorns went into Morgantown, W.V., and found themselves wishing Country Roads would take them home before the first half came to a close. No. 14 West Virginia, coming off of blowout loss at Kansas State on Saturday, used a 28-2 run over a 10 minute stretch in the first half to turn a 15-13 lead into a 43-15 blowout. They would go on to win 97-59.

The loss dropped Texas to 12-6 on the season and 2-4 in the Big 12. The Longhorns certainly are not out of it just yet — three of their four Big 12 losses came against teams that currently rank in the top six at KenPom — but it’s getting harder and harder to defend the situation that’s brewing in Austin. Texas has now lost four of their last six and five of their last eight. They are in danger of missing the NCAA tournament for the second straight season and for the third time in four years.

But perhaps the biggest concern is that the Longhorns just don’t seem to be growing as a program. Last year, while Texas ended up missing the tournament, they finished as a top 25 team on KenPom and made a run all the way to the NIT title. It’s worth noting that before the tournament started, they were already a top 30 team on KenPom; their ranking wasn’t skewed by getting hot for three weeks in a tournament no one cares about.

The problem this season is that there has been no progression. Texas has been a program under Shaka that has hung their hat on defense, but this is the worst defensive team he has had in his tenure. That becomes even more of an issue when you factor in that they cannot score. They’re 111th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency, which is what happens when your offense is, essentially, a spread ball-screen into a contested three.

KenPom has Texas favored to win just three more games the rest of the season. They’re projected to finish 17-14 overall and 7-11 in the Big 12.

That’s not good.

2. NO. 1 BAYLOR SURVIVES

It looked like Baylor was going to cruise to a pretty easy win at home against Oklahoma, but the Sooners had other ideas. They hung around long enough in the second half to make things interesting late. Oklahoma hit back-to-back threes in a 40 second span to cut a 59-51 lead to 59-57 with 41 seconds left, and after Baylor couldn’t find a way to score on their next possession, Austin Reaves cut off a 3-on-1 break to flare to the corner and fire up a wide-open, go-ahead three with less than five seconds left.

He missed.

Baylor won.

And No. 1 lived to fight another day.

3. VIRGINIA LOSES AGAIN

The reigning national champions lost for the fourth time in their last five games on Monday night, this time falling at home against N.C. State, 53-51.

Like Oklahoma, Virginia had a shot to win the game at the buzzer, as N.C. State fouled up three and then missed free throws of their own at the other end. But Virginia is the 346th-best three-point shooting team in the country for a reason, and Casey Morsell missed the game-winner as time expired.

At this point, it’s getting harder to see how Virginia is going to find a way to play their way into the NCAA tournament.

Chris Mack: David Johnson’s shoulder ‘is fine’

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The biggest concern coming out of Louisville’s win at Duke on Saturday evening was the status of David Johnson’s shoulder.

Johnson was the best player on the floor for Louisville, finishing with 19 points, seven assists, four boards, three steals and two blocks as the Cardinals landed a much-needed win in Cameron. But with three minutes left in the game, he landed on his surgically-repaired left shoulder and had to leave the game. He returned to the bench, but he did not return to the game.

Head coach Chris Mack did not seem overly concerned about the injury after the game, and he confirmed as much in a conference call on Monday.

“The shoulder is fine,” Mack said. “He’s just a little sore, but he’ll practice the next couple of days and we fully expect him to play on Wednesday.”

Bracketology: Welcome to the top line, San Diego State

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Here is the latest NCAA tournament bracketology projection.

Welcome to the top line, San Diego State.  The Aztecs join Baylor, Gonzaga, and Kansas as No. 1 seeds in our latest bracket update.  SDSU remains the only unbeaten team in college hoops, buoyed by wins over tournament teams Iowa, Creighton and BYU.

The West-leaning geographical slate of top seeds means someone has to go East.  As SDSU is the fourth overall seed, that adventure belongs to them.  Several additional power conference teams are pushing for the top line, too – including Florida State, Michigan State and surging Seton Hall.  And let’s not forget about Louisville, a preseason top seed.  The Cardinals put together an impressive road win at Duke on Saturday.

The latest look at where our NCAA tournament bracketology projection stands …

UPDATED: January 20, 2020

FIRST FOUR – DAYTON
EAST REGION Virginia Tech vs. Georgetown
WEST REGION NC State vs. VCU
SOUTH REGION  PR VIEW-AM vs. NORFOLK ST
WEST REGION MONMOUTH vs. ST. FRANCIS (PA)

SOUTH Houston                           WEST – Los Angeles
Omaha Spokane
1) BAYLOR 1) GONZAGA
16) PV-AM / NORFOLK ST 16) MONMOUTH / ST. FRANCIS (PA)
8) Arkansas 8) Illinois
9) Memphis 9) HOUSTON
Tampa Sacramento
5) Colorado 5) Arizona
12) EAST TENNESSEE ST 12) NC State / VCU
4) Maryland 4) Iowa
13) S.F. AUSTIN 13) NEW MEXICO ST
St. Louis Greensboro
6) Marquette 6) Michigan
11) NORTHERN IOWA 11) Saint Mary’s
3) LOUISVILLE 3) Duke
14) NORTH TEXAS 14) LITTLE ROCK
Albany Spokane
7) Wisconsin 7) LSU
10) USC 10) Oklahoma
2) SETON HALL 2) Oregon
15) WILLIAM-MARY 15) UC-IRVINE
EAST – New York MIDWEST – Indianapolis
Sacramento Omaha
1) SAN DIEGO STATE 1) Kansas
16) RADFORD 16) MONTANA
8) Rutgers 8) Indiana
9) STANFORD 9) Florida
Albany Cleveland
5) Kentucky 5) Creighton
12) LIBERTY 12) YALE
4) Villanova 4) DAYTON
13) AKRON 13) VERMONT
Greensboro St. Louis
6) Penn State 6) Auburn
11) Virginia Tech / Georgetown 11) BYU
3) West Virginia 3) Butler
14) COLGATE 14) WRIGHT STATE
Tampa Cleveland
7) Ohio State 7) Wichita State
10) DePaul 10) Texas Tech
2) Florida State 2) MICHIGAN STATE
15) AUSTIN PEAY 15) NORTH DAKOTA ST

BUBBLE NOTES
Last 4 Byes Last 4 IN      First 4 OUT Next 4 OUT
USC Virginia Tech Purdue Washington
DePaul NC State Minnesota Saint Louis
Saint Mary’s Georgetown Arizona State St. John’s
BYU VCU Xavier Richmond

Top Seed Line
Baylor, Gonzaga, Kansas, San Diego State
Seed List

Breakdown by Conference …
Big Ten (10)
Big East (7)
ACC (5)
SEC (5)

Big 12 (5)
Pac 12 (5)
American (3)

West Coast (3)
Atlantic 10 (2)
Mountain West (1)

AP Poll: Baylor leapfrogs Gonzaga, seventh No. 1 team this season

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Here is the latest college basketball AP Poll.

For those interested, here is the NBC Sports Top 25.

Baylor and Gonzaga were the only two teams in the top five that took care of business last week.

That doesn’t mean they didn’t move around, too.

The Bears (15-1) leaped over the Bulldogs and into the No. 1 spot in college basketball AP poll on Monday, using wins over Iowa State and Oklahoma State to give the Top 25 its seventh team on top this season. That matches the record set in 1983 for the most No. 1s in the history of the poll, which dates to the 1948-49 season.

Gonzaga (20-1) was merely a victim of its conference schedule. The Bulldogs blew out Santa Clara and BYU, but just enough voters considered those wins to be less impressive than the Bears’ perfect Big 12 start. Baylor received 33 first-place votes and had 1,591 points from the 65-member media panel while Gonzaga received 31 first-place votes for 1,588 points.

“It takes a team to win,” said Baylor coach Scott Drew, whose team also reached the top of the poll two years ago. “As a coach, you’re just really proud when different people step up, especially guys that have been working hard.”

The rest of the top five looks a whole lot different after Duke, Auburn and Butler all lost both of their games last week.

Kansas (14-3) rose three spots to No. 3 in the college basketball AP poll after victories over Oklahoma and Texas, the latter requiring a big comeback in Austin. San Diego State (19-0) remained perfect with wins over Fresno State and Nevada, and Florida State (16-2) barged into the fifth spot after it beat reigning national champion Virginia and survived overtime to best Miami.

The Seminoles haven’t lost since playing Indiana in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge the first week of December.

Louisville, which tasted the top spot earlier this season, jumped five spots to sixth after beating Pittsburgh in overtime and handling the Blue Devils. Dayton was next, followed by Duke, Villanova and Seton Hall to round out the top 10.

Duke also lost to Clemson earlier in the week, sending coach Mike Krzyzewski’s team tumbling five spots.

“We just have to get older,” he said after the Blue Devils’ 79-73 loss to the Cardinals on Saturday at Cameron Indoor Stadium. “I’m really up on my team. It’s a long journey. I’ve never told you that we’re great. It’s a process for us, playing these two teams. Getting beat, we have to learn from it and move on. It’s a long journey.”

Krzyzewski’s team wasn’t alone in getting a tough lesson last week. Fourth-ranked Auburn fell all the way to No. 16 after losing a pair of blowouts to Alabama and Florida, and fifth-ranked Butler was bounced all the way to 13th after the Bulldogs followed up a loss to Seton Hall by getting soundly beaten by DePaul.

“It’s the time of the year when we should be trying to elevate our play, and we’re not,” said Tigers coach Bruce Pearl, whose team had won its first 15 games. “Obviously, there’s a pretty big price on our head being ranked fourth in the country. And so I think we have to respond to the step-up that we saw this week from both Alabama and Florida.”

Here is the full college basketball AP poll:

1. Baylor (33 first-place votes)
2. Gonzaga (31)
3. Kansas (1)
4. San Diego State
5. Florida State
6. Louisville
7. Dayton
8. Duke
9. Villanova
10. Seton Hall
11. Michigan State
12. Oregon
13. Butler
14. West Virginia
15. Kentucky
16. Auburn
17. Maryland
18. Texas Tech
19. Iowa
20. Memphis
21. Illinois
22. Arizona
23. Colorado
24. Rutgers
25. Houston

Others receiving votes: Wichita St. 94, LSU 83, Michigan 73, N Iowa 42, Ohio St. 36, Stanford 28, Wisconsin 28, Penn St. 24, Liberty 21, Florida 21, Arkansas 19, Virginia 13, Creighton 13, Duquesne 13, Purdue 9, ETSU 6, Indiana 6, Southern Cal 4, Marquette 2, BYU 2, Harvard 1.

Here’s a closer look at the other big news in another fresh Top 25:

RUTGERS ON THE RISE

The Scarlet Knights bounced back from a loss to Illinois by beating Indiana and Minnesota at home, running their record at the RAC to 13-0 this season — the best start in school history. That was enough to get Rutgers (14-4) into the poll at No. 24 for the first time since the final poll of the 1978-79 season. And with Seton Hall at No. 10, the state of New Jersey has two teams ranked for the first time since the Pirates were joined by Princeton in the last poll of the 1990-91 season.

OTHER NEWCOMERS

Iowa, which has been in and out of the poll all season, made the biggest jump back in at No. 19 after its win over then-No. 19 Michigan. The Hawkeyes were joined by No. 22 Arizona — which beat a ranked team in Colorado — and No. 25 Houston, which romped through SMU and then-No. 16 Wichita State last week.

ON THE WAY OUT

The Shockers dropped all the way out after losing to Houston and Temple. The Wolverines also fell out, along with Big Ten rival Ohio State and Creighton, whose one-week stay ended with a loss early last week to Georgetown.

BUCKEYES BUMMER

No team has been falling as steadily as Ohio State, which was 9-0, was ranked in the top five and received first-place votes just six weeks ago. The Buckeyes have lost six of their last nine games, and five of their last six, to complete their tumble from the poll. Their lone victory in the last few weeks was against lowly Nebraska.

___

More AP college basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_Top25

Monday’s Overreaction: Myles Powell, Payton Pritchard, David Johnson and the two worst chokes of the year

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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Myles Powell, Seton Hall

Seton Hall improved to 6-0 in Big East play this season with wins over Butler and St. John’s, but that doesn’t come anywhere close to telling the whose story here.

The Pirates trailed by double-figures at halftime of both of those games. Both of those games were on the road. They were down 40-30 at the break at No. 5 Butler, but Myles Powell came to the rescue, scoring 19 of his 29 points after the break to lead the Pirates to a 78-70 win.

Then on Saturday, Seton Hall trailed St. John’s 43-30 at the Garden at halftime, but Powell — again — took over, scoring 23 of his 29 points in the second half as Seton Hall remained perfect in the Big East.

It took him a while to get fully healthy, but now that he is, Powell is showing everyone why he is a favorite to win National Player of the Year.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Rutgers Scarlet Knights

What Steve Pikiell has done with this Rutgers program should never, ever be overlooked.

After a week in which the Scarlet Knights beat both Indiana and Minnesota at the RAC, They are now sitting at 14-4 over and 5-2 in the Big Ten, good for second in the toughest conference in college basketball. They are 24th in KenPom, which is the highest that this program has ever ranked in the metric we all use the most when evaluating teams. They are 18th in the NET with a 2-3 mark against Quad 1 opponents and five Quad 1 and Quad 2 wins combined.

Put another way, Rutgers is very much in a position where missing the NCAA tournament this season would be something of a disappointment.

Now, it should be noted that this is when their schedule gets tough. They play at Iowa on Wednesday and still face off with Michigan twice, Maryland twice, Purdue twice and play at Ohio State, Wisconsin and Penn State. A home game against No. 24 Illinois is about their sixth-toughest game left on the schedule.

It won’t be easy.

But getting to 14-4 wasn’t easy in the first place.

MONDAY’S OVERREACTIONS

1. DAVID JOHNSON MAKES LOUISVILLE GREAT AGAIN

Louisville may have finally found an answer to their point guard problems.

David Johnson, a freshman from Louisville that has spent the season to date trying to get back up to speed after offseason shoulder surgery, had his coming out party in a big way on Saturday, going for 19 points and seven assists as Louisville went into Cameron and knocked off Duke.

That is incredibly important news for a Louisville team that has desperately been searching for a guy to do all of the things that Johnson did on Saturday night.

The way he scored those points is the most significant part of the equation. He broke down defenses. He dribbled right past Jordan Goldwire and drove the lane for a dunk. He created out of ball-screens. He handled Duke’s ball-pressure like he was playing against high school opponents.

And then there was the passing (see below):

 

This is what the Cardinals have been waiting for. It’s been a talking point all season long, and every time I have mentioned it, I have also mentioned that Louisville was just waiting to see if Johnson would ever get healthy. That staff believed he was a pro after getting him on campus, and anyone that watched him play on Saturday night would be inclined to agree.

If he can remain healthy and play somewhere close to this level for the rest of the season, then this Louisville team is much, much more dangerous.

2. PAYTON PRITCHARD IS A KILLER

The reason Payton Pritchard is one of the frontrunners for National Player of the Year is the fact that he is putting up terrific numbers this season for a top ten team and doing so while putting together some incredibly impressive performances in crunchtime.

Saturday might have been his statement game.

Oregon erased a 13-point second half deficit thanks in large part to Pritchard, who hit a huge three with a minute left to tie the game. In overtime, he hit a floater to give the Ducks the lead before burying this insane three to win the game with 3.2 seconds left:

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Payton Pritchard called game!!!!!!

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No. 8 Oregon avoided going 0-2 on the Washington road trip with a 64-61 win. Pritchard finished with 22 points. The Ducks are now 3-0 in overtime games this season largely due to the fact that Pritchard is arguably the most clutch player in college basketball.

Is there anyone that you would want taking a big shot in a big game more than him?

3. BAYLOR IS A KILLER, TOO

I talked about this in depth at the 19:00 mark of the podcast, but with the exception of an early season loss against Washington — I’ll get to that — the Bears have been arguably the best team in college basketball down the stretch of close games.

Whether it’s wins at Texas Tech, or Kansas, or Oklahoma State, Baylor has consistently been able to execute in situations where teams like Duke have not been able to execute. That is why they are sitting at No. 1 in the country right now and Duke has three losses to their name.

And as far as the Washington game is concerned, the Huskies play zone. Baylor was totally lost against that zone down the stretch. Oklahoma State played zone as well, and Baylor discovered the answer in the second half: Matthew Mayer. They plugged him in at the high post, and it launched a comeback.

So now they have an answer for that, too.

4. WE ALL SHOULD HAVE SEEN THIS WEEK COMING FOR AUBURN

Auburn entered this seek as one of just two undefeated teams left in college basketball, but there were question marks.

The Tigers don’t have a single win over a team ranked in the top 40 on KenPom. They have only played three Quad 1 games this season. Their only Quad 1 win is barely a Quad 1 win: It came at Mississippi State, who currently ranks 70th in the NET; the cutoff for Quad 1 road wins is top 75.

The other two Quad 1 games that Auburn has played this season?

They were both this week.

And they were both ugly losses.

On Tuesday, it was Alabama that ran over Auburn in the basketball version of the Iron Bowl, 83-64. On Saturday, it was Florida doing the damage, as they held Auburn to 25.5 percent shooting from the field, 4-for-23 shooting from three (17.4%) and to just a single point during an eight-minute stretch late in the second half that saw the Gators push their lead from 47-43 to 69-44. They won 69-47.

Suddenly, those concerns look prescient.

The truth is this: Auburn is dangerous. They are a team that can make a lot of threes, that can force turnovers and play in transition and has the ability to play big (with Austin Wiley) or small (without Austin Wiley). They have a lottery pick in Isaac Okoro and they have a couple of guards on their roster capable of taking games over in J’Von McCormick and Samir Doughty.

But they haven’t consistently played up to the level of a top five team, and their 15-0 record was inflated by feasting on teams that are just good enough to make us believe.

Auburn is still good.

They’re just not a top five team.

5. STANFORD AND UTAH STATE, WHO CHOKED WORSE?

Stanford was up 46-25 in the second half of their loss at USC on Saturday evening. They led by 15 points with less than 10 minutes left. They were up by five points with 15 seconds left and the ball out of bounds underneath USC’s basket, and not only did they find a way to lose that game in overtime, but they got lucky to actually get to OT. USC missed a free throw that could have won the game in regulation.

According to KenPom, USC had a 3.8% chance to win this game at the half, a 3.6% chance to win the game with 10 minutes left and just a 0.7% chance to win with 15 seconds left.

But that’s not as bad as what happened to Utah State.

The Aggies led 66-48 with less than 4:10 remaining. Boise State had a 0.3% chance of winning this game with five minutes left. Turnovers, fouls, missed threes. Utah State did it all, but they still led 73-67 with 15 seconds left, 75-70 with eight seconds left and 75-73 with three seconds left and the ball.

And they lost.

That just does not seem possible.