Previewing College Hoops Weekend

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With the conference tournaments starting this week and the regular season winding down on Sunday, this will be the last installment of our weekend previews. We won’t be addressing the conference tournaments in this post (all of that can be found here and here).

UPSET ALERT

Sat. 8:00 pm: No. 5 Duke @ No. 13 North Carolina: First things first: yes, I know, North Carolina beating Duke at home is probably not an upset. But look at the numbers to the left of their names. Technically, I can call this an upset. And I am going to, because it is the most important game of the weekend and deserves the most words written about it.

Calling this the most important game of the weekend might even be an understatement. This is one of the most important regular season games of the season. Thanks to the Blue Devils loss to Virginia Tech last Saturday, the ACC’s two premier programs will square off in the final game of ACC play with the conference title on the line. Back in December, how many people thought that was even possible?

There’s more.

Duke still has a very good shot at earning a No. 1 seed come Selection Sunday. But can you give one of the top four seeds to a team that didn’t win its conference’s regular season title? And all of this is on the line in our sport’s greatest rivalry.

The first game between this two teams was interesting. UNC asserted their will on the Blue Devils in the first half, opening up a lead as big as 16 points thanks to excellent defense and transition offense. But Duke responded in the second half, as Nolan Smith and Seth Curry took the game over.

I think the two most important aspects of this game are how UNC handles Smith and what Duke does against the Tar Heel’s front line. Smith, is this man’s opinion, is the player of the year in college basketball, and never was that more evident than in his second half performance against the Heels. Stopping Smith is a pipe dream, but to slow him down you need to make sure he cannot get penetration off of high ball screens situations. On the other hand, the part of UNC;s resurgence that does not get talked about nearly enough is the emergence of John Henson and Tyler Zeller on the inside. They both may be a bit weak, but they can rebound the ball, they can score the ball, and they can blocks shots. UNC’s defense, not their offense, has been the biggest catalyst in their return to the top of the ACC. And Henson and Zeller are the root cause.

UPSET SPECIAL

Sat. 12:00 pm: No. 11 Louisville @ West Virginia: There are two things that West Virginia does very, very well. The first is rebounding the ball on the offensive end of the floor. They have aggressive, athletic forwards in John Flowers and Kevin Jones, a bruiser in Deniz Kilicli, and some tough guards that aren’t afraid to mix it up with the big boys. Louisville, on the other hand, is not a great defensive rebounding team. They force the offense to take bad shots and they force turnovers, which is why they are the sixth best defensive team in the country despite struggling to finish a possession. West Virginia is also very good at defending the three, which is something that the Cardinals rely on heavily.

Sat. 9:00 pm: No. 8 Texas @ Baylor: Texas has lost their last two games on the road and three of their last four overall. Jordan Hamilton is struggling mightily on both ends of the floor, playing lackadaisical defense and falling back into his role as a gunner instead of a scorer. Baylor has some athletes inside. They have a big-time scorer in LaceDarius Dunn on the perimeter. And they will be playing with a possible NCAA Tournament on the line. At home. On Gameday. Expect the Bears to be fired up.

BEST MATCHUPS

Sat. 12:00 pm: No. 2 Kansas @ No. 24 Missouri: The last time these two teams met up, the Jayhawks pounded the Tigers, who were completely incapable of stopping Kansas. This time, however, the game will be in Columbia instead of Lawrence, where Mizzou is a different team. The Tigers struggle against teams that can break their press and run half court offense, and with the number of experienced players and capable ball handlers that Kansas puts on the court at one time, I have trouble seeing the Tigers capable of making this a full court game.

Sat. 12:00 pm: Virginia Tech @ Clemson: For all intents and purposes, this is an elimination game from the at-large field. Both teams are right on the edge of the cut line, and neither can afford the loss to like their chances heading into the ACC Tournament.

Sat. 1:30 pm: Georgia @ Alabama: This is a huge game for Alabama. Enormous. For starters, they still have to play their way into the NCAA Tournament. The pretty SEC record that the Crimson Tide have posted? Its largely come against bottom feeders. Its also not enough to make the committee forget about the brutal non-conference portion of the schedule. Secondly, with a win, the Tide earns a share of the SEC regular season title. If ‘Bama wins and Florida loses at Vanderbilt? The Tide are your SEC champs. Could a major conference’s outright winner really get left home?

Sat. 2:00 pm: No. 7 Notre Dame @ No. 16 UConn: This is a good test for the Irish heading into the postseason. The Irish, frankly, are not a very good road team. UConn is reeling a bit down the stretch of Big East play, but they will be celebrating Kemba Walker’s senior night and have proven capable of beating good teams regardless of location. The Irish are playing their best basketball of the season right now. Will it travel with them?

Sat. 2:00 pm: Michigan State @ Michigan: Another rivalry game with major postseason implications. Michigan State is inching ever closer to being considered safe, while the Wolverines simply need to win a couple of games before they can get out of the area around the cut list. The matchup in this game that will be interesting is between Kalin Lucas and Darius Morris. Both are quality point guards, both are asked to do quite a bit for their team.

Sat. 4:00 pm: No. 19 Villanova @ No. 5 Pitt: This one could get ugly. Whatever is going on with Villanova of late is far from good. They aren’t playing hard, they aren’t shooting the ball well, and they aren’t defending the three. About the only thing Villanova is doing is right now is that they are getting off to slow starts. Pitt is coming off of a loss to Louisville on the road, a team that is not exactly known for their ability to box out. Keep an eye on that. Will Pitt be able to dominate the offensive glass like we’ve become accustomed to

Sat. 6:00 pm: No. 14 Florida @ No. 20 Vanderbilt: With a win, the Gators will earn, at the very least, a share of the SEC regular season title. What’s more important, however, is how everything shakes out in the middle of the SEC East. If Florida wins, Tennessee beats Kentucky, and Alabama beats Georgia, there will be four teams tied at 9-7 and tied for second place in the eastern division. No one is in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament, but earning the bye in the SEC Tournament could help seeding immensely.

Sat. 7:00 pm: Princeton @ Harvard: The Ivy is the only league in the country that not only plays their games on a Friday night/Saturday afternoon schedule, they are also the only league that still has the regular season champ get the automatic bid. The game should determine who that autobid is.

Sun. 12:00 pm: No. 23 Kentucky @ Tennessee: Like I mentioned earlier, seeding in the postseason tournaments is the only real outcome of this game. But what I think we all want to see is whether or not Kentucky can find a solution for their road woes. Tennessee is inconsistent at home, but this will be senior night (and possibly the last time Bruce Pearl coaches at Thompson-Boling), so you have to think the Vols will be ready to play

Sun. 4:00 pm: No. 10 Wisconsin @ No. 1 Ohio State: Unfortunately, this game won’t directly be for the Big Ten regular season title (wouldn’t that have been awesome). That said, Ohio State wins it outright with a victory, or shall I say revenge, over Wisconsin. The Badgers are coming off of a win at Indiana where Jordan Taylor scored 39 points on 55 possessions. Based on how entertaining the last game between these two teams was, there is no for you not to tune in.

BEST STORYLINES

Saturday

  • 12:00 pm: Duquesne @ Richmond: The Spiders can probably lock up an NCAA Tournament bid with a win against the Dukes and in the first round of the A-10 Tournament.
  • 12:00 pm: Indiana @ Illinois: Most folks have the Illini safely in the NCAA Tournament right now. Does that change if they lose to the Hoosiers and finish below .500 in the Big Ten?
  • 1:30 pm: Iowa State @ Kansas State: Iowa State has beaten both Nebraska and Colorado after they knocked off Texas. Can they do the same to the Wildcats?
  • 2:00 pm: No. 17 Georgetown @ Cincinnati: The last time the Hoyas played the Bearcats, Cincy complete shut Georgetown down in the second half after Chris Wright broke his hand. Will the rematch be any different?
  • 2:00 pm: Oregon @ No. 18 Arizona: The Wildcats will clinch the Pac-10 regular season title with a win.
  • 2:00 pm: Xavier @ St. Louis: The Musketeers can lock up the Atlantic 10 regular season title with a win.
  • 4:00 pm: Wyoming @ No. 3 BYU: Can the Cougars recover from the loss of Brandon Davies? It didn’t look that way on Wednesday night.
  • 4:00 pm: No. 6 Purdue @ Iowa: The Boilermakers still have an outside chance of being able to play their way into a No. 1 seed come Selection Sunday.
  • 4:00 pm: DePaul @ No. 12 Syracuse: With a win, Syracuse will clinch the fourth spot in the Big East standings and a double bye in the Big East Tournament.
  • 5:30 pm: UCLA @ Washington State: This game would have held a lot more intrigue if Washington had lost to UCLA Thursday night. Wazzu still has an outside chance at getting in off the bubble.
  • 6:00 pm: Marquette @ Seton Hall: Marquette needs this win if they want to make the tournament.
  • 7:00 pm: No. 21 Utah State @ Louisiana Tech: The Aggies long ago locked up the WAC regular season title, but they still have some work to do to assure themselves on an NCAA Tournament trip.
  • 8:00 pm: South Florida @ No. 15 St. John’s: The Johnnies can only earn themselves a double bye with a win and a Syracuse loss.
  • 8:00 pm: East Carolina @ UAB: The Blazers are still in the tournament picture, believe it or not, but without a quality win on their resume, a loss to ECU would be devastating.
  • 9:00 pm: Nebraska @ Colorado: The Buffaloes are one of the handful of teams trying to play their way into one of the last few spots in the NCAA Tournament.
  • 10:00 pm: Colorado State @ No. 9 San Diego State: Want an idea of how bad the bubble is? If the Rams win this game, they will likely be dancing.
  • 10:30 pm: USC @ Washington: The Trojans and the Huskies probably locked in their NCAA Tournament fates on Thursday. USC looks to be done. Washington should be in.

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

Flagler, No. 6 Baylor rally late, top No. 14 Gonzaga 64-63

Baylor vs. Gonzaga
USA Today
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — In a rematch of the 2021 national championship game, Adam Flagler hit a pair of 3s as No. 6 Baylor scored the final eight points to rally past No. 14 Gonzaga 64-63 Friday night.

Gonzaga’s Rasir Bolton missed a wild, driving layup try at the buzzer.

Two seasons ago, Baylor beat the then-undefeated Zags 86-70 to win its first title. This time, the Bears didn’t take the lead for good until Jalen Bridges made two free throws with 16 seconds left.

“Adam is a great leader, but no one knew he wasn’t feeling well today,” Baylor head coach Scott Drew said. “To be honest, some players wouldn’t have played. He played through the pain and left it all out on the court. As a coach, I appreciate that.”

The Bears (6-2) trailed 63-56 before Flagler hit a 3-pointer with 1:33 left. Flagler’s 3 with just over a minute to play cut Baylor’s deficit to 63-62.

After a Gonzaga shot clock violation, Flagler’s 3-point attempt for the lead was off the mark, but Bridges was fouled by Drew Timme on the rebound attempt. Bridges hit two foul shots to put Baylor ahead.

The Zags (5-3) had a final chance when Bolton caught an inbounds pass near his own foul line with 4.6 seconds remaining. He drove the lane, but his off-balance shot went high off the glass and missed as the buzzer sounded.

“We took two balls down hill and tried to make plays at the rim. At that point in the game, those are tough,” Gonzaga head coach Mark Few said. “It’s very disappointing. They made plays, man.”

Freshman Keyonte George had 18 points and seven rebounds for Baylor. Flagler had 11 points and Langston Love added 10.

“I trust my work. I was able to knock them down,” George said. “My teammates believe in me each and every day. They give me that confidence in a big game to make big shots like that.”

Malchi Smith scored 16 points for Gonzaga. Anton Watson added a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds. Timme had nine points.

Baylor led by as many as 12 in the first half before Gonzaga closed to five at the break.

Watson’s basket put Gonzaga ahead 41-40. From there, the teams swapped leads over the next 13 minutes as the second half featured two ties and 14 lead changes.

A thunderous dunk from Smith gave Gonzaga its seven-point lead with under two minutes to go.

BIG PICTURE

Baylor: The win was a big rebound for Baylor after its 26-point loss to Marquette earlier in the week. The loss was the Bears’ most lopsided since they fell to Kansas 82-56 in 2007

Gonzaga: After opening the season ranked No. 2 in the AP preseason poll, the Zags have now lost two of three.

STAR WATCH

Timme began the night leading the Bulldogs in scoring at 20 points per game. He was hampered by foul trouble against Baylor and got his first field goal with six minutes remaining. He fouled out with 16 seconds to play.

REMATCH PLAYERS

Four players on the floor Friday night had significant minutes in the championship game two years ago including Flagler, Timme and Watson, along with Baylor’s Flo Thamba.

UP NEXT

Baylor: The Bears return home to host Tarleton on Tuesday before playing Washington State on Sunday in Dallas for the Pac 12 Coast-to-Coast Challenge.

Gonzaga: The Bulldogs return to Spokane for three straight beginning Monday when they face Kent State for the first time in school history.

Carr scores 19, No. 2 Texas beats No. 7 Creighton 72-67

Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports
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AUSTIN, Texas – Texas had pressured Creighton’s shooters into a miserable night, only to watch a late flurry of 3-pointers start swishing.

An 11-point Longhorns lead was down to three.

That hardly rattled Marcus Carr and the second-ranked Longhorns, who stepped up with big late shots of their own and steady free-throw shooting to secure another impressive early-season victory, 72-67 over the seventh-ranked Bluejays on Thursday night.

Carr scored 19 points and made two free throws with 10 seconds left as Texas held off Creighton’s furious late-game rally.

Creighton struggled through a wretched 3-point shooting night, but pulled within 62-59 thanks in part to five points in a row by Baylor Scheierman. Carr’s baseline jumper and an easy layup by Tyrese Hunter when Creighton lost him on an inbound pass with 46 seconds left stretched the Longhorns’ lead again.

That didn’t quite close the door on Creighton, which got two more 3-pointers from Scheierman, who had missed his first nine attempts. That forced Texas to finish it from the free-throw line behind Carr and Brock Cunningham. Cunningham’s two free throws with 4 seconds left were his only points of the game.

“There’s going to be a bunch of times one of us has to go down there and knock down a bunch of free throws,” Carr said. “We talk about it all the time.”

The matchup was part of the Big 12-Big East Battle and Texas earned its second win over a top-10 opponent in its new arena. The Longhorns (6-0) beat then-No. 2 Gonzaga on Nov. 16 and have their highest ranking since they were No. 1 during the 2009-2010 season.

“I don’t think we’ve proven anything,” Texas coach Chris Beard said. “We’re just a team that’s trying to get better.”

Hunter scored 15 points for Texas.

Ryan Kalkbrenner had 20 points and 13 rebounds for Creighton (6-2), and Ryan Nembhard scored 17 points. The Bluejays were 4 of 27 on 3-pointers.

Scheierman, a 44% shooter from beyond the arc this season, made three 3s in a row late. His off-balance shot from the right corner over a defender pulled the Bluejays within 68-65 with 11.4 seconds left.

Scheierman finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds.

“The reality is you are gonna have nights,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “It just happens. We don’t ever want him to stop shooting.”

BIG PICTURE

Creighton: Kalkbrenner was all but unstoppable on a 9-of-10 shooting night for the Bluejays, who kept launching from long range instead of looking for their 7-foot-1 center.

Texas: The Longhorns couldn’t force their usual numbers of turnovers and fast-break points, but were exceptionally clean with the ball on offense. Texas had just three turnovers that Creighton turned into three points.

FORMER TEAMMATES

Texas senior forward Christian Bishop played three seasons at Creighton before transferring prior to last season. He finished with six points and four rebounds in 16 minutes.

“We understood what this game was, not just for our team but for Christian,” Carr said.

TIRED TEAM

McDermott suggested his team maybe just wore out. The Bluejays went 2-1 in the Maui Invitational last week and then played their first game of the season on an opponent’s home court.

“Three games in three days against ranked teams (in Hawaii) and then to come in here,” McDermott said. “That’s a lot to ask of my team.”

UP NEXT

Creighton hosts in-state rival Nebraska on Sunday.

Texas plays No. 16 Illinois in New York City on Dec. 6 in the Jimmy V Classic.

No. 20 Maryland upsets No. 7 Notre Dame at the buzzer, 74-72

maryland basketball
Matt Cashore/USA TODAY Sports
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Diamond Miller scored 31 points, including the game-winner at the buzzer, to lead No. 20 Maryland to a 74-72 victory over seventh-ranked Notre Dame on Thursday night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Irish guard Sonia Cintron’s layup had tied the game with 15 seconds left off before Maryland held for the last shot. Miller hit a contested mid-range jumper just before time expired to give the Terrapins a victory over a top-10 opponent. It was the 15th lead change of the game.

Miller also grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds to go along with five assists. Shyanne Sellers added 17 points.

Maryland (7-2) picked up its first win over Notre Dame (6-1) since 2007.

Cintron’s double-double led the Irish with 24 points and 10 rebounds.

Notre Dame’s leading scorer Olivia Miles got off to a slow start on Thursday due to foul trouble. She scored 12 of her 14 points in the final 15 minutes of the game to go along with seven assists and two steals.

BIG PICTURE

Maryland: The Terrapins picked up their second top-20 win of the season ahead of the upcoming Big Ten opener.

Notre Dame: The Irish have had issues with foul trouble this season, a problem that persisted on Thursday. Miles played just 25 minutes, including the majority of the fourth quarter, due to picking up her fourth foul late in the third quarter.

UP NEXT

Maryland: Returns to College Park for the program’s Big Ten opener Sunday against Nebraska.

Notre Dame: Stays home to host No. 3 UConn Sunday.

Virginia’s depth helping its rapid climb in the AP Top 25

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
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The starting five is the same, but that is where comparisons between the Virginia team that has climbed to No. 3 in the AP Top 25 and last year’s NIT quarterfinalists ends.

Yes, one more year together and a trip to Italy has made the first five significantly better, but part of the credit for that surely goes to another group: the reinforcements. They’ve helped the Cavaliers (6-0) already knock off No. 6 Baylor, No. 16 Illinois and Michigan.

Virginia has scored 70 points or more in its first six game for the first time since the 2003-04 season, and coach Tony Bennett said it was the offense – and not UVA’s signature relentless defense – that saved them in a 70-68 victory this week at Michigan in the ACC/Bg Ten Challenge.

“Our offense kind of kept us in it in the first half,” Bennett said, before the team put it all together, erasing an 11-point halftime deficit to disappoint a raucous Wolverines crowd.

Reece Beekman was the offensive catalyst, scoring 15 of his 18 points before halftime, but four others joined him in double figures, including Jayden Gardner. His foul-line jumper with 39.9 seconds left provided the last of his 11 points, and the winning margin.

Gardner, who led Virginia in scoring last season (15.3 ppg), is averaging 11.5 this year.

“We’ve got a lot of capable scorers and we’re just gonna keep playing together. And we’re playing very unselfish basketball right now,” Gardner said after scoring 24 against Maryland Eastern Shore. He went into the game with 31 points through four games.

“He’s not the most jumping type of guy, but he’s got so much power,” Hawks coach Jason Crafton said of Gardner, an East Carolina transfer with 2,068 career points. “That low center of gravity and the flexibility that he has to be able to get under people and hold his position is elite. When he wants the ball at a certain spot, he can get it there.”

The leader remains guard Kihei Clark, who already has a place in Virginia history, having retrieved a loose ball and fed Mamadi Diakite for a jumper that sent the Cavs’ Elite Eight game against Purdue into overtime on the way to winning the 2019 national championship.

Newcomers Ben Vander Plas, a transfer from Ohio, and freshman Isaac McKneely have given Bennett more options, and more scoring power than a year ago.

As a junior, Vander Plas had 17 points for No. 13 seed Ohio when the Bobcats upset Virginia 62-58 in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament.

He scored seven straight in the second half against the Wolverines, twice scoring inside and then swishing a 3-pointer while trying to slow down bruising big man Hunter Dickinson.

“Ben, yeah. Just his poise and composure in the post, took advantage of some mismatches and he really gave us a great lift,” Bennett said. Vander Plas is the son of a teammate of Bennett’s at Green Bay, and his first name is a tribute to Bennett’s father, Dick.

McKneely scored 15 and made 4 of 6 3-point tries in an 89-42 victory against Monmouth

“He was standing in front of our bench. I’m like, `Listen, we’re not helping off him,”‘ Monmouth coach King Rice said he told his team, pointing at McKneely, a two-time player of the year in West Virginia. “And he kind of looked at me and I said, `Yeah, you, because you make all of them,’ and he started laughing.”

Ryan Dunn also made quite the impression on Rice in his first collegiate appearance, scoring 13 points with six rebounds and three blocks in almost 27 minutes.

“I was in the building when De’Andre Hunter came off the bench and had a breakout game,” Rice said of Hunter, now with the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks. “Dunn reminds me a lot of Hunter, and you can tell he’s young. But when he grows into that body with that skill set, he’ll be giving people problems for a long, long time.”

The Cavaliers open Atlantic Coast Conference play against Florida State, then host top-ranked Houston, which beat them 67-47 last season, a week later.

“A good schedule for sure and it tests you, it kind of shows you, win or lose, you see where you’ve got some holes,” Bennett said.

So far, the Cavaliers have been able to fill them all.

No. 4 Arizona turning heads early in the season

arizona basketball
David Cruz/USA TODAY Sports
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TUCSON, Ariz. — Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd knew there was talent on his roster. He wasn’t exactly sure how good the team would be.

The former longtime Gonzaga assistant had a similar view of last year’s team and that one turned out to be pretty good, running all the way to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16.

This year’s team could end up being even better.

Buoyed by transfers and improved returning players, Arizona has rolled through the early part of its schedule, climbing to No. 4 in this week’s AP Top 25 after winning the Maui Invitational.

“I learned that we’re good,” Lloyd said. “We’re tough. We’re gritty. I think there’s going to be some great things for us to really double down on and some things to show our guys where we went the wrong way.”

Lloyd had a superb first season in the desert, earning coach of the year honors last season with a team that lost three players to the NBA.

The Wildcats (6-0) had to replace three NBA players again this season. Again, they made a seamless transition.

Improvement on the part of the returning players has been a big part of it.

Oumar Ballo, considered a project as a freshman at Gonzaga, has transformed into one of the nation’s best big men. The 7-foot, 260-pound center from Mali has vastly improved his footwork and developed patience in the post, setting himself up for good shots instead of trying to bull his way to the basket.

Ballo is averaging 19 points and 10 rebounds while shooting 76.7% from the field, fourth-best nationally. He was named Maui Invitational MVP after finishing with 30 points and 13 rebounds against No. 7 Creighton in the title game.

Not bad for a player who averaged 2.5 points and 6.3 minutes per game two years ago at Gonzaga.

“When he struggled, I still believed in him,” Lloyd said. “I didn’t need for him to be instantly successful for me to reaffirm my belief in him. When he struggled, we continued to love him and work with him and then he continued to hang in there and I think it is a great story.”

Fellow big man Azuolas Tubelis has made a few strides of his own, adding strength and toughness to his athletic, fluid game. The 6-10 forward leads Arizona with 19.3 points per game while grabbing 8.0 rebounds.

Fiery point guard Kerr Kriisa has rounded into a reliable floor leader, averaging 15.3 points and 7.5 assists while shooting 51% from the 3-point arc.

“I don’t pay attention to the antics because they don’t mean anything to me,” Lloyd said. “I know maybe that draws attention to him from other people but when it comes to just pure basketball, I mean he is doing a good job and I think he is really showing something.”

So is Courtney Ramey.

The Texas transfer has given the Wildcats a huge boost in his first season in Tucson, providing hounding defense, leadership and another scoring option. He’s averaging 16 points per game and has hit 10 of 16 from 3-point range so far this season.

Campbell transfer Cedric Henderson Jr. has provided an athletic lift off the bench and 7-foot Estonian Henri Veesaar has given Arizona solid minutes.

The mix of new and old has helped Arizona lead the nation with 97.5 points a game and rank second with 21.8 assists per game. The Wildcats climbed 10 spots in this week’s poll after wins over Cincinnati, No. 24 San Diego State and Creighton.

Arizona opens Pac-12 play Thursday at Utah.

“It was good to get the recognition, but we’re not satisfied,” Ramey said. “Our ultimate goal is to be No. 1 at the end of the season and be the final two teams playing, so I think the regular season matters but it’s not the ultimate goal for us.”

The Wildcats are certainly off to a good start.