1/24 – College Hoops Week in Review: Buzzer Beaters galore

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Game of the Week: UConn 61, Villanova 59

This week was rife with buzzer beaters, but perhaps the most significant one came from UConn’s all-everything point guard Kemba Walker. Villanova’s Corey Fisher had tied the game at 59 with 22 seconds left on the clock, and after a UConn timeout, Walker sent the Wildcats back to Philly with a loss thanks to this shot:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=stnWE0nAeHc]

Villanova looked like they were pulling away when an Antonio Pena jumper pushed the Wildcat lead to 45-48 at the nine minute mark, but UConn came back. It was a 14-3 run, sparked on the defensive end and capped by a Jeremy Lamb layup with just over three minutes left, that got the Huskies back in the lead. They were up 59-54 with 48 seconds left after two Walker free throws, but Corey Fisher scored five straight points to tie the game and set up the final possession.

Memphis and Indiana State’s exciting weeks: Like I said, there were numerous significant buzzer beaters this week — JaJuan Johnson and Brian Williams can attest to that — but the games that Indiana State and Memphis played probably resulted in the most chewed finger nails per fan of any program in the country this week.

Indiana State: For the Sycamores, it started with a Tuesday night visit from conference-leading Missouri State. It was a back and forth contest for 40 minutes, but with 4.9 seconds left on the clock, Indiana State had the ball down 69-67. It was inbounded to Jake Kelly, who has battled injuries the past two seasons, and he drove and scored with 0.6 seconds left. Kelly also drew a foul and calmly knocked down the free throw for the 70-69 win:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V5HHSfHuzYo]

And that might not have been their wildest game of the week. On Saturday, the Sycamores went into Charles Koch Arena to take on Wichita State, who was a game behind both Missouri State and Indiana State for first in the MVC standings. ISU over came a 10 point second half deficit to take a two point left, but JT Durley tied the game with seven seconds left to force OT. In the first OT, ISU was down eight points, but managed to force a second overtime on a Kelly layup with 24.5 seconds left. Toure’ Murry forced the third overtime with a free throw with 8.8 seconds left. In the final OT, a Ben Smith three game WSU a 84-83 lead, and the Shockers would score the next nine points to win 93-83 in triple OT.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0K7MEh]

Memphis: The Tigers had their own wild week. Still playing without Wesley Witherspoon (one game he was suspended, the other he was injured), the Tigers went 2-0 this week with a couple of fantastic finishes. On Wednesday night, Memphis dug themselves an 18 point hole against Southern Miss. The Tigers fought their way back into the game, and even took a 71-66 lead at one point. The Golden Eagles responded with an 8-2 run, setting up this ending:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fnwVai-Y5SM]

Against UAB on Saturday, the Tigers pulled out an exciting overtime game that had a wild last two minutes of regulation. UAB took a 64-62 lead with 1:55 left, but a Tarik Black three point play gave Memphis the lead back. Jamarr Sanders answered with a strong drive and finish, but Will Barton buried a three with 55 seconds left as the Tigers went ahead 68-66. After UAB tied the game up, Barton banked in an off-balance thirty-footer, but he was called for a travel before he got the shot off. In the OT, Memphis didn’t allow UAB to score until there were 37 seconds left, but some horrific free throw shooting down the stretch allowed the Blazers two shots to tie on their final possession:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXZ-lycvJbo]

Four OT Madness — Utah Valley outlasts North Dakota: This one was wild.

Players of the Week: Isaiah Thomas and Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Washington

The Huskies have long been considered the favorite to win the Pac-10, but this week they erased any doubt that their slip-up at Stanford created. U-Dub took care of Arizona and Arizona State at home this week, largely due to the play of these two young men. Thomas has been the best point guard in the country in the month of January. He’s averaging 20.2 ppg, 9.2 apg, and 4.2 rpg while gathering 11 steals and posting an assist-to-turnovers ratio of 3:1. That time frame also happens to coincide with the loss of Abdul Gaddy to an acl injury. Thomas has always been a streaky player, but his talent has never really been questioned. Maybe the move to the point and more time with the ball in his hands is what he needed to jump start his season. For the week, he averaged 20.5 ppg, 9.0 apg, and 6.0 rpg.

MBA has developed into a monster in the paint, and showed why this week. Against Arizona and Derrick Williams, he had 18 points, seven boards, and three blocks, and while Williams outplayed him on the stat sheet — 22 points, 11 boards — the fact that MBA was able to get Arizona’s all-american into foul trouble down the stretch was a big reason Washington pulled away late. On Saturday against Arizona State, MBA had a career-high 30 points and was, again, instrumental in the Huskie’s late surge to hold on for the win.

Both MBA and Thomas are not only both playing as well as they have all season, but they seem to have developed a nice connection on the court. Thomas is looking for MBA when he drives, and MBA is getting open and finishing the passes he receives. The more I watch Washington, the more I believe this is a team capable of making a deep tournament run. With Thomas, MBA, and the bevy of wing players on this Washington roster, Lorenzo Romar has plenty of weapons on this team.

The All-they-were-good-too team:

  • G: Kevin Foster, Santa Clara: The Broncs had a terrific week, beating both Gonzaga and Portland, but Foster was the star. He had 36 points and six assists against the Zags, following that up with 19 points in the win over Portland.
  • G: Jordan Hamilton/J’Covan Brown, Texas: The two Longhorn guards combined to averaged 37.5 ppg as Texas knocked off two top ten teams this week. Brown sparked the comeback against Kansas, while Hamilton’s second half put away Texas A&M.
  • G: Cam Long, George Mason: Long led Mason to a important 2-0 week as the Patriots knocked off both Drexel and James Madison to create some space at the top of the CAA standings. Long had 14 points and seven rebounds in the win against Drexel, but it was the 30 points, five assists, and four boards he had against JMU that got him on this team. He did it on 8-9 shooting from the floor, including 4-4 from three.
  • F: Justin Harper, Richmond: Its about time you start paying attention to this kid. An athletic, 6’10” power forward that shoots 50% from three? He’s averaging 18.2 ppg and 6.7 rpg on the season, 25.5 ppg and 7.4 rpg with 11 blocks over the last five, and went had 51 points and 18 boards in two wins this week against George Washington and UMass, who entered the week a combined 6-1 in the A-10.
  • C: Jared Sullinger, Ohio State: Sullinger was an absolute monster against Illinois on Saturday. He had 27 points, 16 boards, and three blocks, and almost single-handedly got the Illini’s entire front line in foul trouble.
  • Bench: Jimmer Fredette, BYU (42 points at Colorado State); Josh Gasser, Wisconsin (1o points, 12 boards, 10 assists vs. Northwestern); Ben Hansbrough (averaged 20.5 ppg and 5.5 apg in wins over Cincy and Marquette); Kore White, Florida Atlantic (22 points and 11 boards as FAU moved to 7-0 in the Sun Belt); Lazeric Jones, UCLA (205 ppg in 2-0 week); Tu Holloway, Xavier (21.5 ppg, 5.0 apg, four steals in wins over St. Bonaventure and Temple)

Team of the Week: Texas Longhorns

The Longhorns firmly entrenched themselves in the debate for the best team in the Big XII, and as a Final Four favorite, with their two wins over top ten opponents this week. On Wednesday, the ‘Horns hosted Texas A&M and blew them out of the water, opening up an early 20-5 lead and never seriously getting challenged after that. Then on Saturday, Texas went into Phog Allen Fieldhouse, a place that Kansas had not lost in 69 games, and came back from 15 down in the first half to beat the Jayhawks.

What makes Texas so good this season is their defense. Jordan Hamilton and J’Covan Brown are not exactly elite defenders just yet, but they are much improved over last season. Cory Joseph is long for a point guard and not afraid to get out and pressure on the perimeter, while Dogus Balbay is one of the best on the ball defenders in the country. Combine that with big guys like Tristan Thomspon and Alexis Wangmene to protect the rim and Gary Johnson to clean up the misses, and Rick Barnes crew has settled into a nice defensive rhythm. More important, however, is that this season, in stark contrast to last year, everyone on this Texas team has a clearly defined role. The fact that their best offensive lineup is able to lock up defensively is another big change from last season. Believe it. These ‘Horns are for real.

Who had a good week:

  • UConn Huskies: The Huskies beat both Villanova and Tennessee this week at home in close games. The wins were nice, but more importantly the Huskies role players are playing great basketball right now. Alex Oriakhi seems to have worked through his midseason slump. Jeremy Lamb sparked the comeback against Villanova and had a career high 16 points against Tennessee. Roscoe Smith and Shabazz Napier can make plays on both ends of the floor. Kemba Walker did not play great this week, but with defenses focusing on slowing him down, UConn’s role players have been what is keeping the Huskies in the top 10.
  • Washington: I’ve already talked plenty about these Huskies in this post, so I’ll only add this — the past few seasons Washington has struggled on the road. Six of their next eight games are roadies, including trips to Pullman for Wazzu and Tucson for Arizona. Win those, and maybe the pollsters will start agreeing with Kenpom.
  • George Mason, Hofstra, and VCU: There doesn’t appear to be one great team in the CAA this season, but the top of this league is tough and balanced. These three teams look like they are starting to separate themselves from the pack. Hofstra, who rode Charles Jenkins to wins over UNC-Wilmington and William & Mary, and VCU, who knocked off Georgia State before going into Richmond to beat Old Dominion, are tied atop the league at 7-1 while GMU picked up wins against Drexel and James Madison to find themselves alone just one game back.
  • Xavier Musketeers: Once again, Xavier seems like they are primed to prove the doubters wrong. After a ho-hum non-conference schedule, the Muskies have won their first five games in A-10 play, capped by an 88-77 victory over Temple on Saturday. Don’t write off their win at St. Bonaventure, either. The Bonnies are improved this season, and Xavier fought back from an early double digit deficit.
  • Memphis Tigers: As we mentioned earlier, the Tigers picked up two huge wins this week, beating C-USA contenders Southern Miss and UAB in exciting fashion on the road without Wesley Witherspoon. Memphis has now won three games in a row, and they are finally starting to look like the team we all expected in the preseason. Memphis is young, but they now appear to be playing not only with effort and intensity, but with more smarts. There have been fewer bad shots and much more defense the last three games.

Who struggled this week:

  • Seton Hall Pirates: It would have been one of the great storylines of the season if Seton Hall was able to turn things around with Jeremy Hazell’s return, but an 0-2 week — including a loss to Rutgers — means SHU has now lost eight of ten overall and six of seven in Big East play.
  • Colorado Buffaloes: So much for this team being a sleeper in the Big XII. After impressive wins over Kansas State and Missouri, Colorado proceeded to lose to Nebraska and Oklahoma this week.
  • Gonzaga Bulldogs: The Zags lost to both Santa Clara and San Francisco this week, dropping them to 3-2 in the conference and setting up an enormous game against St. Mary’s on Thursday. If they lose that one, the Zag’s stranglehold on the WCC may officially be over.
  • Northwestern Wildcats: Northwestern desperately needed to pick up a win against Wisconsin at home on Sunday if they truly wanted to be considered a threat for an at-large bid. Instead, they lost by 32 points.
  • The MWC: The talk of the MWC in the preseason was that the league had the potential to earn four — maybe even five — bids to the NCAA Tournament this season. They may be lucky to get three this year. UNLV got blitzed by Colorado State. The Rams proceeded to lose to BYU at home — a win they needed if they wanted a real shot at an at-large bid — while UNLV picked up an ugly win against New Mexico. The Lobos are in real trouble, as they are now just 1-4 in conference play and have lost six of nine. Is Drew Gordon a chemistry killer? The Lobos are just 5-6 since he got eligible.
  • St. John’s Red Storm: Like Seton Hall, the Johnnies had a chance at being one of the great stories of college hoops this season, but after starting off 3-0 in Big East play, they have now lost four of five. Getting smacked by 25 at Louisville was bad, but losing at home to fellow bubble-dweller Cincinnati at home might have been worse.
  • Morehead State: With Austin Peay and Murray State losing a couple of games this week, Morehead had a chance to swoop in an climb their way up the OVC’s standings. Instead, they lost their second straight game, this time to Eartern Kentucky, to fall to 5-4 in league play.

Matchups of the Week:

  • 1/24 – 7:00 pm: Notre Dame @ Pitt
  • 1/25 – 9:00 pm: Purdue @ Ohio State
  • 1/26 – 10:00 pm: SDSU @ BYU
  • 1/27 – 7:00 pm: Hofstra @ VCU
  • 1/27 – 11:00 pm: St. Mary’s @ Gonzaga
  • 1/29 – 12:00 pm: Georgetown @ Villanova
  • 1/29 – 12:00 pm: Louisville @ UConn
  • 1/29 – 12:00 pm: Xavier @ Richmond
  • 1/29 – 1:00 pm: Minnesota @ Purdue
  • 1/29 – 7:00 pm: Kansas State @ Kansas
  • 1/29 – 9:00 pm: Missouri @ Texas

No. 8 Kansas avenges earlier loss to No. 7 K-State, 90-78

Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
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LAWRENCE, Kan. — Jalen Wilson had 20 points, Kevin McCullar Jr. added 16 points and 13 rebounds, and No. 8 Kansas avenged a loss to Kansas State just a couple of weeks ago with a 90-78 victory over the seventh-ranked Wildcats on Tuesday night.

Dajuan Harris Jr. scored 18 for the Jayhawks (18-4, 6-3 Big 12), who built a 12-point halftime lead before coasting to their 17th straight home win over the Wildcats in the 10th matchup of top-10 teams in series history.

Kansas has rebounded nicely from a rare three-game skid that included the overtime loss to Kansas State, and made sure to avoid taking back-to-back losses in its storied home for the first time since the 1988-89 season.

Markquis Nowell scored 23 points and Keyontae Johnson had 22 to lead the Wildcats (18-4, 6-3), who were trying for their first regular-season sweep of their biggest rival in four decades. Nae’Qwan Tomlin added 11 points and David N’Guessan had 10.

In their first meeting on Jan. 17, the Wildcats raced to a big early lead and controlled the game until late in the second half, when the Jayhawks forced overtime — only for Kansas State to win on Johnson’s alley-oop dunk.

It was the Jayhawks who controlled the rematch.

They used a 16-7 run in the first half that included a technical foul on Kansas State coach Jerome Tang to build a 32-19 lead. And when Johnson answered with eight straight points for the Wildcats, and the lead was eventually trimmed to four, the reigning national champs pulled away again down the stretch.

It was 37-32 when Wilson hit back-to-back 3-pointers and Zach Clemence added one of his own. And by the time Wilson made two foul shots with about 10 seconds left, Kansas had built a 49-37 lead that it took to the break.

The Wildcats briefly got within six in the second half before the Jayhawks stretched their lead to as many as 16.

OFFICIATING OOPS

Johnson had to sit with two fouls just 2 1/2 minutes into the game. Only problem? The crew of John Higgins, Kip Kissinger and Marques Pettigrew gave one to the wrong player. By the time they corrected their mistake, the Wildcats’ leading scorer had unnecessarily ridden the bench for several minutes.

SELLOUT … AND THEN SOME

For the first time in more than 15 years, more Kansas students redeemed tickets than there was space available inside Allen Fieldhouse. The overflow had to watch the game on screens in the adjacent Horejsi Family Athletics Center, where the Jayhawks play volleyball games. Those students also got refunds and concessions vouchers.

BIG PICTURE

Kansas State’s three losses in league play have been to ranked teams on the road: TCU, Iowa State and Kansas. And with a more forgiving second half to the Big 12 schedule, the Wildcats remain firmly in the conference title hunt.

Kansas got its mojo back with its win over Kentucky last weekend. This victory over another bunch of Wildcats was crucial because the road doesn’t get any easier for the Jayhawks, who are in the midst of three straight games against teams ranked 13th or better.

UP NEXT

Kansas State returns home for another top-10 showdown Saturday against No. 10 Texas.

Kansas hits the road for the third time in four games against No. 13 Iowa State on Saturday.

BC beats No. 20 Clemson 62-54; Tigers fall into ACC tie

Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
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BOSTON — Makai Ashton-Langford had two key driving baskets in the closing two minutes and finished with 15 points to help Boston College beat No. 20 Clemson 62-54 on Tuesday night.

Jaeden Zackery added 13 points for the Eagles (11-12, 5-7 Atlantic Coast Conference). BC held Clemson to one field goal — and that came with 18 seconds left — in the final 13:16.

Hunter Tyson led Clemson (18-5, 10-2) with 22 points and Chase Hunter had 12. The Tigers fell into a first-place tie atop the ACC with No. 6 Virginia.

The Eagles used a 5-0 spurt — with T.J. Bickerstaff hitting a free throw and getting a driving layup — to pull ahead 50-45 with just over five minutes to play.

Clemson sliced it to 50-47 before Aston-Langford made his two big baskets. He followed that by making two free throws with 32 seconds left.

Trailing by 10 midway into the second half, the Tigers went on a 10-0 spree, tying it at 45 when RJ Godfrey hit both ends of a 1-and-1.

The Eagles had opened a double-digit lead twice in the opening six minutes of the second half, the later 45-35 on Prince Aligbe’s foul-line jumper with 14:12 to play.

BIG PICTURE

Clemson: Off to a solid start in conference play, the Tigers were tested on the road for the second straight game after edging Florida State by a point on Saturday. It hasn’t been easy for them away from home with a 4-3 record and with three away matchups against North Carolina, North Carolina State and Virginia to go, they’ll need to get it straightened out of they’re going to won the ACC regular-season title.

Boston College: The Eagles proved when they play defense that they’re a tough out in coach Earl Grant’s second season. A little more offense could make them very dangerous for top ACC teams to play.

ARRIVING LATE

In the first half, Clemson’s man-to-man defense smothered the Eagles’ offense for the opening 10 minutes, holding them in single digits in scoring until just about the same time the student section finished filling up late, bringing some energy to a very quiet building.

BC’s players then responded, closing the half with a 22-4 spree that turned an 11-point deficit to a 30-23 halftime edge.

SIDELINED

Both teams were missing key players. Guard Brevin Galloway, Clemson’s fourth leading scorer at 10.6 points per game, was sidelined with an abdominal injury. For BC, guard DeMarr Langford Jr., who logs big minutes at the point, was out with a knee injury.

UP NEXT

Clemson: Hosts No. 23 Miami on Saturday.

Boston College: Hosts Syracuse on Saturday.

South Carolina tops women’s AP Top 25; Ohio State tumbles

Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
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It was a rough week for Ohio State, which lost all three of its games and tumbled down the AP Top 25 as a result.

The previously unbeaten Buckeyes fell from second to 10th in The Associated Press women’s basketball poll released Monday after losing to Iowa and Indiana, two top 10 teams, as well as Purdue. Ohio State fell two games back in the Big Ten Conference standings.

South Carolina remained No. 1 for the 32nd consecutive week. The Gamecocks, who were again a unanimous choice from the 28-member national media panel, have the fourth-longest streak ever atop the poll. Only UConn (51 and 34 weeks) and Louisiana Tech (36) have had longer runs at No. 1.

Stanford moved back up to No. 2 in the poll and the Cardinal were followed by LSU, Indiana and UConn in the top five. LSU is the only other undefeated team in women’s basketball besides South Carolina, which visits UConn for a top-five showdown on Sunday.

Iowa jumped out four spots to sixth with Utah, Maryland and Notre Dame coming in ahead of Ohio State. The Hawkeyes started the season No. 4 in the poll.

The Fighting Irish split a pair of games last week against ranked opponents, routing Florida State before falling to N.C. State.

“There’s a lot of parity right now, which is great, great for the game,” Notre Dame coach Niele Ivey said. “The game is growing, which is what you want. But yeah, I mean, every night, especially the ACC, the ACC is the strongest league and, you know, we have just a tough stretch every night.”

One week after falling out of the rankings, Texas re-entered the poll at No. 24. The Longhorns routed then-No. 14 Oklahoma and Oklahoma State last week. South Florida also came in at No. 25. Colorado and Illinois fell out of the poll.

RISING BULLS

No. 25 South Florida continued its streak of being ranked for at least one week every season since the Bulls entered the poll for the first time in 2015.

“For us not being in a so-called football five conference, that’s a huge accomplishment,” South Florida coach Jose Fernandez said. His team has won 10 consecutive games and has 20 victories this season. The team’s four losses have all come against ranked opponents (Michigan, Villanova, Ohio State and N.C. State).

“This group has been fun to coach. We always play a great non(equals)conference schedule,” Fernandez said. “We won on the road at Texas, beat Alabama, beat Arkansas. We challenged ourselves in November and December.”

RECORD PERFORMANCES

Cameron Brink carried Stanford to a win over Oregon with a triple-double that included 10 blocks. It was the first triple-double in NCAA Division I women’s basketball featuring double-digit blocks since Tamari Key did it for Tennessee in an overtime win against Texas on Nov. 21, 2021.

No. 20 Oklahoma’s Taylor Robertson set the all-time NCAA women’s career record for 3-pointers when she hit her 498th in a loss to Iowa State on Saturday. Robertson has 503 entering this week. The all-time NCAA record, men or women, is held by Antoine Davis of Detroit Mercy, who has 534 and counting.

Purdue a unanimous No. 1 in AP Top 25; Vols up to No. 2

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
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Purdue became this season’s first unanimous No. 1 team in the AP Top 25 men’s college basketball poll Monday after wins over Michigan and Michigan State last week as chaos ensued behind the Boilermakers among other ranked teams.

More than half of Top 25 teams lost, including second-ranked Alabama, which was routed by Oklahoma in the Big 12-SEC Challenge. That allowed Purdue to grab the remaining No. 1 votes and tighten its grip atop the poll, while Tennessee jumped two spots to second and Houston held onto third in voting by 62 national media members.

The Boilermakers (21-1) have won eight straight since a one-point loss to Rutgers on Jan. 2.

“We’re the No. 1 team in the country because of how unselfish we are as a team,” Purdue guard David Jenkins Jr. said. “We had a lot of people doubting us in the beginning because, you know, we may not be the most talented team or whatever, but we’re close on the court and off the court and it’s really translating to how we’re winning.”

The Volunteers climbed to their highest perch since reaching No. 1 for four weeks during the 2018-19 season. They routed Georgia before becoming one of three SEC teams to beat Big 12 opponents on Saturday, knocking off No. 10 Texas 82-71 for their fifth consecutive win over a top-10 team.

Perhaps this is the year Rick Barnes finally gets the Vols through the Sweet 16 for the first time as their coach.

“We have a chance to be as good as we want to be,” he said. “It’s up to one thing: Are we tough enough to embrace the daily grind? And not worry about going to the Final Four or worry about going to the NCAA Tournament, but can we build a team that can be successful that time of year? It starts with truly embracing the grind.”

The Crimson Tide dropped to fourth after the blowout loss to the Sooners, when Alabama fell behind by 17 at halftime in an eventual 93-69 defeat. The Tide edged fifth-ranked Arizona by just two points in this week’s poll.

“It doesn’t have any effect on SEC standings, which is the only good thing to come out of this,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said of the lopsided loss. “Hopefully we’ll recover from a loss out of conference, but you know, it’s not good.”

Virginia was sixth and Kansas State, which rebounded from a narrow loss at No. 13 Iowa State by pummeling Florida on Saturday, fell two spots to seventh; the Wildcats face eighth-ranked Kansas in a top-10 showdown Tuesday night.

UCLA dropped to ninth after losing to Southern California and Texas rounded out the top 10.

Baylor continued its climb from unranked to No. 11 following wins over the Jayhawks and Arkansas. The Bears were followed by Gonzaga, Iowa State, Marquette and league rival TCU – the sixth Big 12 team in the top 15.

Xavier, Providence, Saint Mary’s, Florida Atlantic and Clemson completed the top 20, while poll returners Indiana and San Diego State joined Miami, UConn and Auburn in rounding out the Top 25.

RISING AND FALLING

The No. 11 Bears and No. 17 Providence made the biggest leaps, each climbing six spots from last week.

“I think our defense is better. Our turnovers are better. When you don’t give people easy transition baskets, now its five-on-five in the half court,” said Baylor coach Scott Drew, whose team had a date with the Longhorns on Monday night.

“We execute at a pretty high rate,” Drew said. “It really comes down to taking care of the ball, making sure we get shots up and when you don’t make them, you’ve got to get rebounds. And our guys are buying into that.”

Auburn took the biggest hit of those still in the poll, dropping 10 places after losses to unranked Texas A&M and West Virginia.

IN AND OUT

The Hoosiers returned to the poll at No. 21 and the Aztecs rejoined it right behind them. They took the place of Charleston, which fell out from No. 18 after losing to Hofstra, and New Mexico, which lost to Nevada in double overtime last week.

CONFERENCE CALL

The Big 12’s dominance of the SEC in the final year of their head-to-head challenge was rewarded in the poll, where the league led the way with six ranked teams and all of them in the top 15. The Big East has four teams in the poll but none higher than No. 14 Marquette, while the SEC and ACC have three teams apiece.

College basketball broadcaster Billy Packer dies at 82

billy packer
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Billy Packer, an Emmy award-winning college basketball broadcaster who covered 34 Final Fours for NBC and CBS, died Thursday. He was 82.

Packer’s son, Mark, told The Associated Press that his father had been hospitalized in Charlotte for the past three weeks and had several medical issues, and ultimately succumbed to kidney failure.

Packer’s broadcasting career coincided with the growth of college basketball. He worked as analyst or color commentator on every Final Four from 1975 to 2008. He received a Sports Emmy for Outstanding Sports Personality, Studio and Sports Analyst in 1993.

“He really enjoyed doing the Final Fours,” Mark Packer said. “He timed it right. Everything in life is about timing. The ability to get involved in something that, frankly, he was going to watch anyway, was a joy to him. And then college basketball just sort of took off with Magic Johnson and Larry Bird and that became, I think, the catalyst for college basketball fans to just go crazy with March Madness.”

Packer played three seasons at Wake Forest, and helped lead the Demon Deacons to the Final Four in 1962, but it was his work as an analyst that brought him the most acclaim.

He joined NBC in 1974 and called his first Final Four in 1975. UCLA beat Kentucky in the title game that year in what was John Wooden’s final game as coach.

Packer was also part of the broadcast in 1979 with Dick Enberg and Al McGuire when Magic Johnson’s Michigan State team beat Larry Bird’s Indiana State squad in the title game. That remains highest-rated game in basketball history with a 24.1 Nielsen rating, which is an estimated 35.1 million viewers.

Packer went to CBS in the fall of 1981, when the network acquired the rights to the NCAA Tournament. He remained the network’s main analyst until the 2008 Final Four.

In 1996 at CBS, Packer was involved in controversy when he used the term “tough monkey? to describe then-Georgetown star Allen Iverson during a game. Packer later said he “was not apologizing for what I said, because what I said has no implications in my mind whatsoever to do with Allen Iverson’s race.?

Sean McManus, the chairman of CBS Sports, said Packer was “synonymous with college basketball for more than three decades and set the standard of excellence as the voice of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.”

“He had a tremendous impact on the growth and popularity of the sport.” McManus said. “In true Billy fashion, he analyzed the game with his own unique style, perspective and opinions, yet always kept the focus on the game. As passionate as he was about basketball, at his heart Billy was a family man. He leaves part of his legacy at CBS Sports, across college basketball and, most importantly, as a beloved husband, father and grandfather. He will be deeply missed by all.”

Packer was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008.

ESPN broadcaster Dick Vitale took to Twitter as word of Packer’s death spread. “So sad to learn of the passing of Billy Packer who had such a passion for college basketball,” Vitale tweeted. “My (prayers) go out to Billy’s son Mark & the entire Packer family. Always had great RESPECT for Billy & his partners Dick Enberg & Al McGuire-they were super. May Billy RIP.”

College basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla tweeted: “We fell in love (with) college basketball because of you. Your voice will remain in my head forever.”

Packer was viewed as a controversial figure during his broadcasting days, often drawing the ire of college basketball fans, particularly on North Carolina’s “Tobacco Road.”

“As a kid, I was a big NC State fan growing up, and I would watch a game and the next day I’d be like, `Boy you sure have it out for NC State, don’t you?’ And he would just laugh,” Mark Packer said.

The younger Packer, who is the host of ACC PM on the ACC Network, said it didn’t matter what school – most fans felt the same way about his father.

“He would cover North Carolina game and Tar Heels fans would be like, `you hate North Carolina,”‘ Mark Packer said. “Wake (Forest) fans would be like, `you hate us.’ And Billy just sort of got a kick out of that.”

Mark Packer said that while most fans will remember his father as a broadcaster, he’ll remember him even more for his business acumen. He said his father was a big real estate investor, and also owned a vape company, among other ventures.

“Billy was always a bit of a hustler – he was always looking for that next business deal,” Packer said.