East Regional breakdown, team capsules

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Who wins, who’s overrated and what’s the best game? We have an answer for each region. I had freelance writer Ray Glier pinch hit for the East breakdown, but the capsules are all me. Enjoy.

Underrated: Kentucky
Everyone looks and sees a young, freshman-laden team and says no way it can win a game past the Sweet 16. But UK committed just six turnovers against a veteran Florida team on Sunday in the SEC Championship game and it makes shots and plays defense. On the road, the freshmen were not very good (4-7), but on a neutral floor they were 6-1. The NCAA Tournament is a decidedly neutral floor for most schools, but UK always brings truckloads of fans to help them out.

The Wildcats take care of the ball and double-down hard in the post. They don’t have a lot of depth, but they have long-armed guards who want to play defense. Darius Miller, a junior, is on a roll finally in his career with a string of double-figure scoring games.

Kentucky will stay with Ohio State for most of a Sweet 16 matchup. Just watch Kentucky and envision this team next season with four starters back, if they all come back.

Overrated: Syracuse, as usual.
Since their title in 2003 the Orange have six NCAA Tournament wins. They load up with home games and pile up wins. Big deal. Syracuse is 8-7 over its last 15 games. Indiana State won’t beat the Orange, but Xavier has a good chance. XU has eight tournament wins the last four years, which is a pretty neat trick for an A-10 school.

Most likely first-round upset
No. 7 Washington is too furious and tough to lose to No. 10 Georgia, which can be bothered by aggressive defense and plays soft. No. 13 Princeton won’t be able to guard the UK dribblers and shooters. Carolina will lose, but it won’t be until the regional final.

You have to say Clemson. The Tigers will get warmed up with a win over UAB in a play-in game and then take out fifth-seed West Virginia. The Tigers are well-coached and West Virginia doesn’t get enough offensive rebounds to make up for poor shooting.

Demontez Stitt, a 6-2 senior guard, had a career-high 25 against North Carolina in the ACC Tournament. Brad Brownell, the Clemson coach, is good enough to match tactics with West Virginia’s Bob Huggins.

Best matchup: Kentucky vs. Ohio State
Ohio State will have more experience and the best big man on the floor, Jared Sullinger, but John Calipari is a better coach than Thad Matta and the Wildcats have better scoring guards. The Buckeyes will win, but it will be a thrilling game for 37-38 minutes.

Aaron Craft is a tough defender for the Buckeyes and it will be a treat to see him try and stay in front of UK guards Brandon Knight and Dorn Lamb. The Wildcats have a 6-7 forward, Darius Miller, who can be a matchup problem because he is shooting outside, but also getting loose inside for baskets.

Impact player
Xavier has lost twice since Jan. 9 and one of the reasons is 6-foot junior guard Tu Holloway. He averages 38 minutes a game and stuffs the stat sheet with 5.5 assists per game and 5.1 rebounds, not to mention 20 points.

The obvious impact player is Ohio State big man Jared Sullinger, who has scored in single-digits just once this season and that was in a 21-point rout of Indiana.

Who wins regional
Ohio State will beat North Carolina. You hate picking chalk in the NCAA Tournament, you want a thunderclap or two, but Ohio State has too much talent for the top part of the bracket. The lower part of this region’s bracket has a lot of teams that can’t compete on the boards with North Carolina. The Tar Heels will sail into the final once Xavier takes out Syracuse.

TEAM CAPSULES

No. 1 Ohio State Buckeyes

Location: Columbus, Ohio.

Conference: Big Ten

Coach: Thad Matta

Pre-tournament record: 32-2, 16-2

Best wins: Florida, Purdue, Wisconsin

Surprising losses: None

Team stats

Key players: Freshman center Jared Sullinger, senior wing Jon Diebler, senior guard David Lighty, freshman guard Aaron Craft .

Full team roster

Strengths: Shooting, defensive rebounding, ball-handling.

Weaknesses: On-ball defense, depth.

Outlook: The favorites. Ohio State plays just seven guys – five play 70 percent of the minutes – but it’s a system that’s worked exceedingly well. That’s what happens when you have a supremely talented low-post scorer and smart passer like Sullinger and guys who hit 3-pointers.

It’s simple– if Sullinger doesn’t score, a Buckeye hoists a 3 or gets open for an easy bucket. Diebler’s the biggest threat outside – he hit 10 of 12 vs. Wisconsin in the season finale – but Lighty and junior William Buford also knock down shots. The question about OSU relates to two things: Depth and of Craft. The Buckeyes rarely get into foul trouble, but one could worry about tired legs and if teams try to run the 280-pound Sullinger too much. But more interesting is Craft. He doesn’t start, but still plays more than 30 minutes a game. He and Lighty usually draw the key defensive roles. Can Craft handle the tournament pressure? Matta can’t afford that. Not with his bench. Also, their draw isn’t too friendly.

No. 2 North Carolina Tar Heels

Location: Chapel Hill, N.C.

Conference: Atlantic Coast

Coach: Roy Williams

Pre-tournament record: 26-7, 14-2

Best wins: Duke, Kentucky

Surprising loss: Georgia Tech, Minnesota

Team stats

Key players: Freshman wing Harrison Barnes, freshman guard Kendall Marshall, sophomore forward John Henson, junior center Tyler Zeller.

Full team roster

Strengths: Challenging shots, ball-handling, rebounding.

Weaknesses: Forcing turnovers, 3-point shooting, free-throw shooting.

Outlook: The Heels have found their form. Following a mid-January loss to Georgia Tech, UNC switched point guards, replacing junior Larry Drew II with Marshall. And that has made all the difference. The Heels’ offense, while not as crisp as it was during back-to-back Final Four years in ’08 and ’09, is playing fast and playing efficiently, which rarely happened under Drew. A better offense means more shots and more opportunities for a young team to build confidence, which is showing most in the play of Barnes, the nation’s top recruit. His shooting is still inconsistent, but he’s made clutch shots and is aggressive in attacking the basket. Just as crucial has been the impressive defense, led by Henson and Zeller. Foes rarely have chances to score down low and when they miss, Henson and Zeller are grabbing the rebound. It’s not a thing of beauty like in other years under Roy Williams, but it’s working.

No. 3 Syracuse Orange

Location: Syracuse, N.Y.

Conference: Big East

Coach: Jim Boeheim

Pre-tournament record: 26-7, 12-6

Best wins: Notre Dame, UConn

Surprising losses: Seton Hall

Team stats

Key players: Junior guard Scoop Jardine, senior forward Rick Jackson, junior forward Kris Joseph.

Full team roster

Strengths: Offensive rebounding, interior scoring, challenging shots.

Weaknesses: Defensive rebounding, getting to the free-throw line.

Outlook: Remember Syracuse’s four-game losing streak in January? It’s a thing of the past. The Orange excel at scoring inside the arc in part because their top scorers (Jardine and Joseph) look for mid-range jumpers or try to get to the basket. If they miss, Jackson’s there to grab the rebound and get the putback. It works regardless of foe. When it doesn’t, it’s usually because the Orange aren’t executing. Same with the defense. The Orange’s famed 2-3 zone forces opponents to work for shots, though open looks usually aren’t easy to come by, inside or outside the arc. Syracuse might have been more talented and experienced last season, but they’re no less dangerous this year. Expect another Sweet 16 spot.

No. 4 Kentucky Wildcats

Location: Lexington, Ky.

Conference: Southeastern

Coach: John Calipari

Pre-tournament record: 25-8, 10-6

Best wins: Notre Dame, Washington, Louisville, Florida (twice)

Surprising losses: Ole Miss, Arkansas

Team stats

Key players: Freshman guard Brandon Knight, freshman forward Terrence Jones, freshman guard Doron Lamb, junior wing Darius Miller.

Full team roster

Strengths: Interior defense, ball-handling, 3-point shooting.

Weaknesses: Forcing turnovers, perimeter defense.

Outlook: Kentucky’s really good. Again. The Wildcats may have had some issues winning SEC road games (they were 2-6), but thrived in the conference tournament and have impressive non-conference wins over Notre Dame and Kentucky. They might not have the flair of last year’s squad that won 35 games, but they’re no less efficient, and they do it with fewer players. Kentucky also has an added bonus it didn’t have last year: It can hit 3-pointers. Lamb, Knight and Miller all make at least 40 percent of their attempts beyond the arc, which will be crucial come crunch time and against teams who want to zone the ‘Cats. Another run to the Elite Eight is possible. A Final Four’s not out of reach, either.

No. 5 West Virginia Mountaineers

Location: Morgantown, W.Va.

Conference: Big East

Coach: Bob Huggins

Pre-tournament record: 20-11, 11-7

Best wins: Purdue, Notre Dame, Louisville

Surprising losses: Miami (Fla.), Marshall

Team stats

Key players: Senior wing Casey Mitchell, junior guard Truck Bryant, junior forward Kevin Jones.

Full team roster

Strengths: Offensive rebounding, perimeter defense.

Weaknesses: Forcing turnovers, perimeter shooting.

Outlook: The Mountaineers are awfully similar to last year’s Final Four team, with a few crucial exceptions. They’re slightly worse from beyond the arc, don’t force as many turnovers and are worse at corralling defensive rebounds. That’s about it. West Virginia still crushes the offensive glass, hits a high percentage of its attempts inside the arc and does a fair job holding onto the ball. Maybe it’s as simple as the lack of a clutch shooter like De’Sean Butler and a versatile defender like Devin Ebanks. Whatever the reason, they still have one thing going for them: They won’t be an easy out.

No. 6 Xavier Musketeers

Location: Cincinnati

Conference: Atlantic 10

Coach: Chris Mack

Pre-tournament record: 24-7, 15-1

Best wins: Butler, Temple

Surprising losses: Miami (Ohio), Charlotte

Team stats

Key players: Junior guard Tu Holloway, junior center Kenny Frease, senior forward Jamel McLean.

Full team roster

Strengths: Defensive rebounding, 2-point shooting, challenging shots.

Weaknesses: Forcing turnovers, 3-point shooting, depth.

Outlook: Bad luck before the season forced Mack to adjust to a short bench, and it took the Musketeers most of their non-conference schedule to adjust. The solution? The more of Holloway, the better. He’s on the court all the time, touches the ball more than anyone else, scores the most, is the assists leader and can be a defensive stopper when needed. Frease and McLean fill their roles nicely, while senior Dante Jackson and sophomore guard Mark Lyons provide some stability. But if Xavier hopes to return to the Sweet 16 for the fourth straight year, it’ll need two things: Two favorable matchups and a healthy Holloway who can’t miss. Might be one of the few years the Musketeers are home before the second week.

No. 7 Washington Huskies

Location: Seattle

Conference: Pac-10

Coach: Lorenzo Romar

Pre-tournament record: 23-10, 11-7

Best wins: Arizona (twice), UCLA (twice)

Surprising losses: Oregon State, Stanford

Team stats

Key players: Junior guard Isaiah Thomas, senior forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning, senior wing Justin Holiday

Full team roster

Strengths: Shooting, ball-handling, offensive rebounding.

Weaknesses: Defending rebounding, free-throw shooting.

Outlook: It’s déjà vu all over again. The Huskies underperformed last season, then got it together late, won the Pac-10 tournament and eventually reached the Sweet 16. This season, despite a record that belies their productivity, Washington could reach the second week once again. Romar’s team has all the ingredients for a run: A playmaking point guard capable of dominating a game with his tempo and shot-making skills (Thomas), fantastic outside shooters (C.J. Wilcox, Terrence Ross and Scott Suggs), a do-it-all wing (Holiday) and an athletic big man who blocks shots, rebound and scores (Bryan-Amaning). The problem is the Huskies don’t have much depth, their best defender (Venoy Overton) isn’t playing like it and Thomas can get into a me-first zone sometimes. If the Huskies aren’t slacking on defense and hitting even 35 percent of their 3-pointers, they’re a good bet to make the second week.

No. 8 George Mason Patriots

Location: Fairfax, Va.

Conference: Colonial Athletic

Coach: Jim Larranaga

Pre-tournament record: 26-6, 16-2

Best wins: ODU, Duquesne

Surprising loss: Hofstra

Team stats

Key players: Senior guard Cam Long, junior forward Ryan Pearson, sophomore guard Luke Hancock.

Full team roster

Strengths: Shooting, ball-handling, perimeter defense.

Weaknesses: Offensive rebounding, forcing turnovers.

Outlook: Until the Patriots lost to VCU in the CAA tourney semifinals, they’d been touted as a potential Final Four darkhorse. The potential is still there, but perhaps less hype will be a good thing for Jim Larranaga’s team. They’re a balanced, deep, talented squad that does everything well and is excellent at 3-point shooting and taking care of the ball, two things crucial to NCAA tournament success. If they only hit the offensive glass a little more, they’d be an even better version of Butler from 2010. Still, George Mason’s sure to provide a stiff challenge to Ohio State in the second round. An upset would be worthy of anything the 2006 team pulled off.

No. 9 Villanova Wildcats

Location: Philadelphia

Conference: Big East

Coach: Jay Wright

Pre-tournament record: 21-11, 9-9

Best wins: Louisville, Syracuse

Surprising losses: South Florida, Providence

Team stats

Key players: Senior guard Corey Fisher, sophomore guard Maalik Wayns, sophomore forward Mouphtaou Yarou, senior wing Corey Stokes.

Full team roster

Strengths: Guard play, perimeter defense.

Weaknesses: Guard play, forcing turnovers.

Outlook: It’s all about the guards. When Fisher and Wayns are on, the Wildcats are as good as anyone. When they’re not, well, you close the season with five straight losses. Part of that’s the competition – ‘Nova closed with Syracuse, St. John’s, Notre Dame and Pitt – but that’s not the entire problem. They failed to close out games, hit shots and have dealt with injuries, too. Yarou and Stokes missed parts or all of the final five games, which robbed ‘Nova of two of their most reliable scorers. Fisher and Wayns could find their niche in time for an NCAA tournament win, but don’t count on it.

No. 10 Georgia Bulldogs

Location: Athens, Ga.

Conference: Southeastern

Coach: Mark Fox

Pre-tournament record: 21-11, 9-7

Best wins: Kentucky, Tennessee, UAB

Surprising losses: None

Team stats

Key players: Junior forward Trey Thompkins, junior guard Travis Leslie, junior guard Gerald Robinson.

Full team roster

Strengths: Offensive rebounding, interior defense.

Weaknesses: Forcing turnovers, 3-point shooting.

Outlook: Thompkins and Robinson take more than half of Georgia’s shots, which isn’t good for the Dawgs’ offensive performance. Neither are efficient scorers, which means Georgia usually relies on its defense to win games – and that’s a dicey proposition given that it’s a bend-don’t-break defense that frustrates opponents. It doesn’t create easy scoring chances for Georgia. The bright side in all of this? Leslie is a fantastic player. The high-flying guard is capable of jaw-dropping plays off dunks or in the lane. Too bad he can’t hit a 3-pointer. The Dawgs should be happy to be in.

No. 11 Marquette Golden Eagles

Location: Milwaukee

Conference: Big East

Coach: Buzz Williams

Pre-tournament record: 20-14, 9-9

Best wins: Notre Dame, Syracuse

Surprising losses: Seton Hall

Team stats

Key players: Senior forward Jimmy Butler, junior guard Darius Johnson-Odum, junior forward Jae Crawford.

Full team roster

Strengths: Shooting, ball-handling.

Weaknesses: Defensive rebounding, perimeter defense.

Outlook: Marquette is perpetually underrated, probably because it is perpetually undersized and lacks a dominant player. The Eagles’ schedule is filled with solid wins, close losses – their 13 losses are by an average of six points – and results you’d expect. Consider them a team that’s good, but often not good enough. That track record might serve as an indicator of their NCAA tournament success, especially if they play a physical team with some size inside. And whattya know? Xavier has a 7-footer in Kenny Frease and a solid forward in Jamel McLean. Should be a great game.

No. 12 Clemson Tigers

Location: Clemson, S.C.

Conference: Atlantic Coast

Coach: Brad Brownell

Pre-tournament record: 21-11, 9-7

Best wins: Virginia Tech, Florida State

Surprising loss: South Carolina, N.C. State

Team stats

Key players: Senior guard Demontex Stitt, senior foreard Jerai Grant, junior guard Andre Young.

Full team roster

Strengths: Forcing turnovers, challenging shots.

Weaknesses: Shooting, ball-handling.

Outlook: The Tigers haven’t missed a beat making the transition from Oliver Purnell’s up-tempo pressure defense to Brownell’s more deliberate, half-court style. Defense is still how Clemson wins. Guards like Stitt and Grant either harass ball-handlers or get into the passing lanes, while mobile big men Grant and Devin Booker do their best to thwart things down low. When Clemson’s offense catches up, they may even win a tournament game or two. Until then, it’s first round and out.

No. 12 Alabama-Birmingham Blazers

Location:Birmingham, Ala.

Conference: Conference USA

Coach: Mike Davis

Pre-tournament record: 22-8, 12-4

Best wins: UTEP, Southern Miss

Surprising losses: East Carolina, Arizona State

Team stats

Key players: Senior guard Jamar Sanders, senior guard Aaron Johnson, junior forward Cameron Moore.

Full team roster

Strengths: Perimeter defense, interior scoring.

Weaknesses: Forcing turnovers, 3-point shooting, shot-blocking.

Outlook: UAB was lucky to get in. A C-USA tournament loss to East Carolina didn’t dissuade the NCAA tournament committee, but the Blazers’ subpar season should concern you. They don’t do much of anything well. They defend 3-pointers OK, but opponents don’t shoot a lot of 3s against them because it’s just as easy to score inside. And defense is UAB’s strong suit. If there’s a plus, it’s that the Blazers get to play Clemson in the First Four. West Virgina won’t be as easy.

No. 13 Princeton Tigers

Location: Princeton, N.J.

Conference: Ivy League

Coach: Sydney Johnson

Pre-tournament record: 25-6, 12-2

Best wins: Rutgers, Tulsa, Harvard (twice)

Surprising losses: Brown, Presbyterian

Team stats

Key players: Sophomore forward Ian Hummer, senior guard Dan Mavaraides, senior forward Kareem Maddox.

Full team roster

Strengths: Defensive rebounding, shooting.

Weaknesses: Forcing turnovers, offensive rebounding.

Outlook: Maddox, Hummer, Mavaraides and junior guard Douglas Davis (the hero of the tiebreaker win vs. Harvard) rarely leave the court, which is a good thing for the Tigers. All four are relatively experienced and efficient players, meaning they won’t be overwhelmed by their opponent, no matter what conference they’re from. Hummer and Maddox will be a little undersized, but that’s about it. Besides, when you shoot like this Princeton team – 37.4 from beyond the arc, 50.5 inside it – good things happen. That’s why the Tigers are back in the Big Dance for the first time since 2004 and for the 24th time overall. But getting a tournament win vs. Kentucky? That might be asking a bit much.

No. 14 Indiana State Sycamores

Location: Terre Haute, Ind.

Conference: Missouri Valley

Coach: Greg Lansing

Pre-tournament record: 20-13, 12-6

Best win: Missouri State (twice)

Surprising loss:Wyoming

Team stats

Key players:Junior guard Dwayne Lathan, junior guard Carl Richard, senior swingman Aaron Carter.

Full team roster

Strengths:Interior defense, 3-point shooting.

Weaknesses: Offensive rebounding, turnovers.

Outlook: Looking for a team that doesn’t rely on any one player and needs major contributions from at least four guys to win a tournament game? The Sycamores are it. Lathan and Richard are their leading scorers, but Carter and freshman guard Jake Odum were the difference in the Missouri Valley championship game. Throw in guys like senior Jake Kelly and junior forward Myles Walker, and Indiana State’s a team that found the right mix of players and rode it to a tourney berth. Don’t expect it to last. The Sycamores get crushed on the boards and don’t have the overall defense to force Syracuse into a poor shooting night.

No. 15 Long Island Blackbirds

Location: Brooklyn, N.Y.

Conference: Northeast

Coach: Jim Ferry

Pre-tournament record: 27-5, 18-2

Best wins: Robert Morris (twice)

Surprising losses: St. Francis (Penn.)

Team stats

Key players: Sophomore forward Jamal Olasewere, junior guard C.J. Garner, sophomore forward Julian Boyd, senior guard David Hicks.

Full team roster

Strengths: Offensive rebounding, perimeter defense, getting to the free-throw line.

Weaknesses: Defensive rebounding, turnovers.

Outlook: The Blackbirds were 6-4 back in mid-December. They’ve been on a bit of a roll since. LIU features athletic forwards, two guards who can hit from outside and a nice mix of depth and experience. Thing is, they haven’t beaten anyone notable, or even played a notable team. Usually when a team sweeps their conference’s regular-season and tournament titles, it’s a sign of good things to come in March. But this might not apply here. LIU lost to MAAC champ St. Peter’s back in November, which is a fair indication of the Blackbirds’ NCAA tournament hopes. They won’t be around long unless they’re hitting everything from outside. And even that’s not guarantee.

No. 16 Alabama State Hornets

Location: Montgomery, Ala.

Conference: Southwestern Athletic

Coach: Lewis Jackson

Pre-tournament record: 17-17, 7-7

Best wins:Texas Southern (twice)

Surprising losses: Prairie View A&M, Grambling

Team stats

Key players: Junior guard Tramaine Butler, junior Kenderek Washington, senior Robert Sanders

Full team roster

Strengths: Offensive rebounding, forcing turnovers.

Weaknesses: Shooting, ball-handling, defensive rebounding.

Outlook: At the start of February, the Hornets were just 6-16. Now they’re going dancing. Credit the aggressive that excels at forcing turnovers and making things tough for opponents in the lane. As a result, the Hornets play a lot of guys to stay fresh and avoid tired legs. If they manage to win their “First Four” game, they’ll need that defense to be better than ever to even stay close vs. Ohio State. Don’t expect much more than a good first half.

No. 16 Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners

Location: San Antonio

Conference: Southland

Coach: Brooks Thompson

Pre-tournament record: 19-13, 9-7

Best wins: San Jose State, Sam Houston State

Surprising losses: Samford, Texas State

Team stats

Key players: Senior guard Devin Gibson, freshman forward Jeromie Hill, sophomore wing Melvin Johnson.

Full team roster

Strengths: 3-point shooting, ball-handling.

Weaknesses: Rebounding.

Outlook: The Roadrunners were the surprise winner of the Southland Conference tournament, beating the league’s best team (Sam Houston State) and its top seed (McNeese State), mostly thanks to the superior play of Gibson. Everything runs through him on offense, and with good reason. He’s the Southland’s most explosive player and a dynamite scorer. Texas-San Antonio faces long odds to maintain their fun run, though. They could win their First Four game, but would get drilled by Ohio State.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

Three Things To Know: Memphis embarrassed; Luka Garza shows out again

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The story of the night in hoops was Zion Williamson’s return to the basketball court.

But there was plenty of action in the college ranks that is worthy of talking about.

Here are the three things that you need to know:

1. No. 20 MEMPHIS LOST BY 40 TO TULSA

That is not a typo.

The 20th-ranked team in the country went into Tulsa, Okla., and lost to the Golden Hurricane, 80-40. Tulsa was up 40-17 at halftime. This was a butt-whooping that was so bad that all Tulsa needed to do was score a single point in the second half and they would have been able to get the win.

Memphis shot 28 percent from the floor. They were 2-for-21 from three. They finished the night with more turnovers (20) and fouls (22) than field goals (16). This was the worst loss that a top 25 team has suffered against a ranked team in 27 years, since UConn beat then-No. 12 Virginia by 41 points.

For Tulsa, this is a massive, massive win. They are currently sitting all alone in first place in the American standings, a half-game up on Houston.

So good for Frank Haith.

But the story here is Memphis, because the Tigers, considered title contenders before the season began, look anything-but right now.

“We let our defense dictate our offense,” head coach Penny Hardaway told reporters after the game. “We didn’t play any defense today. I think today was the first day we’ve done that ll year. I don’t know if guys overlooked Tulsa because of the name. We did our due diligence as a coaching staff to let them know what was going to happen with the matchup zone and how hard they play.

“It’s pretty embarrassing.”

2. LUKA GARZA WENT NUTS AGAIN

If it seems like Garza is putting up monster numbers every games, it’s because he is.

On Wednesday night, the Hawkeyes welcomed newly-ranked Rutgers to campus and sent them home with an entertaining, hard-fought, 85-80 win. And Garza was the star of the show. He finished with 28 points, 13 boards, four blocks and two steals in the win, anchoring the paint as Iowa out-scored Rutgers 47-37 in the second half.

The big fella is now averaging 23 points and 10.5 boards.

Iowa has now won four straight games to move into a tie for third in the Big Ten standings — with Rutgers, among others — and they have won eight straight games in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. They are a third of the way through a three-game homestand as well.

3. VIRGINIA TECH TAKES DOWN NORTH CAROLINA

Virginia Tech kept up their push to finish as the fourth-best team in the ACC with a 79-77 double-overtime win over North Carolina.

The Hokies are now 14-5 overall and 5-3 in the ACC, but the more interesting story might actually be the Tar Heels.

They are 8-10 on the season and 1-6 in the ACC. They have been a disaster for the last month, but there may be some reinforcements on the way in the shape of Cole Anthony. If he returns and the Tar Heels, who are 2-7 in his absence but have wins over Alabama and Oregon with him, get things back on the right track, they are likely going to find themselves in an incredibly awkward situation on Selection Sunday.

Big 12 hands down Kansas-Kansas State fight suspensions

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The Big 12 handed down suspensions to four Kansas and Kansas State players for their role in the fight that occurred in Phog Allen Fieldhouse on Tuesday night.

Silvio De Sousa, who tried to fight three different Kansas State players and picked up a stool during the melee, received a 12 game suspension from the conference. David McCormack, who went into the stands to confront James Love III, received a two game suspension. Love was given eight games for part in the fight, while Antonio Gordon, the freshman that turned a messy situation into a fight, was hit with a three game suspension.

“This kind of behavior cannot be tolerated and these suspensions reflect the severity of last evening’s events,” said Commissioner Bob Bowlsby.  “I am appreciative of the cooperation of both institutions in resolving this matter.”

In the final seconds on Tuesday night, after DaJuan Gordon stole the ball from him at halfcourt, De Sousa blocked Gordon’s shot and towered over him. That sparked an incident that turned into a full-fledged brawl, as De Sousa threw punches at three different players on Kansas State before picking up a stool as the fight spilled into the handicapped section of Kansas seating.

Self called the fight “an embarrassment” after the game, adding on Wednesday that “we are disappointed in [De Sousa’s] actions and there is no place in the game for that behavior.”

McCormack will be eligible to return for Kansas on Feb. 1st when they play Texas Tech at home. De Sousa will be available to play in the final game of the regular season at Texas Tech. Gordon can return on Feb. 3rd, when the Wildcats host Baylor, while Love will be out until late February. But he has played just one game and two minutes on the season, so there is no clear indication of when he will actually put on a Kansas State jersey again.

The four most important questions after Kansas-Kansas State fight

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Very other sport can treat brawls like comedy, and I think it’s about time that we did the same for basketball.

So let’s take a look at the four funniest moments from last night’s Kansas-Kansas State fight. Shouts to Jomboy:

1. IS THE KANSAS MASCOT OK?

Throughout the entire fight, the mascot is just in utter disbelief. He cannot believe what he just saw, and he certainly cannot be consoled:

2. CAN JEREMY CASE START AT LINEBACKER FOR KU’S FOOTBALL TEAM?

Case is the video coordinator for Kansas. He’s also a former Kansas point guard. He knows what this rivalry is all about, and he also is not going to be afraid to get in the middle of it.

Case starts out on the wrong side of the melee:

But when he sees De Sousa and Love squaring up and throwing punches, he intervenes by throwing himself into a player six inches taller than him:

3. WHAT HAPPENED TO JAMES LOVE III’S SHOE?

James Love the third has played in exactly one game this season. He has spent more time on the court fighting that he has actually playing, but he still found a way to get into the middle of this fight and, in the process, lost his shoe:

He’s not dressed for the game.

Did he bring an extra pair of shoes? Did he have to head back onto the bus without a shoe on this right foot? So many questions, so few answers.

4. WHO IS THE MAN IN THE ORANGE HAT?

He’s some kind of photographer.

He got his shot, that’s for sure:

Kansas-Kansas State fight: Nuance, context the key in Silvio De Sousa discussion

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So I wanted to elaborate on a point that I made on twitter this morning because 280 characters just is not enough to be able to parse through the nuance of this situation.

If you missed it, the thread is here.

First and foremost, everyone involved in this needs to be punished. Silvio De Sousa needs to be suspended. Antonio Gordon needs to be suspended. James Love III needs to be suspended. David McCormack, and potentially Marcus Garrett, probably need to be suspended, although I’m not sure either of them actually through a punch. Point being, anyone else that threw a punch needs to be suspended.

Full stop.

I am not saying otherwise.

But I think that it is important to add some context to the conversation, and I also think that it is important to say this: This doesn’t make any of the young men involved in this fight bad people. Silvio De Sousa is not inherently a bad person because he picked up a stool, and the faux-trage of people calling for him to get booted out of school, arrested or even deported are, at best, completely over-reacting and, at worst, showing off a bit of their racial bias.

Before I get into this, one more thing: I am not condoning any of it. Fights like this should not happen.

But the reality of hyper-competitive athletics is that in emotionally charged situations, fights are going to happen. And if you’ve ever been in a fight like this, you know that things happen incredibly quickly. You’re not thinking, you’re reacting. You can’t call a 20 second time out to come up with a way to defend yourself when someone is throwing haymakers, you just do what you can in the moment.

So let’s talk about the moment, shall we?

De Sousa is the guy that set this entire thing in motion with the way that he reacted to DaJuan Gordon’s steal and layup attempt. The reason the Kansas State bench rushes over to the scene is because De Sousa is towering over one of their freshman teammates, and the reason the Kansas sideline runs over is because the Kansas State sideline does. What turned this incident into a full-fledged brawl was Antonio Gordon flying in and shoving De Sousa over the back of the basket stanchion. De Sousa reacts by throwing punches at two different Kansas State players when a third player — James Love III, in the black polo — comes flying in and squares up with him. They both throw a few punches at each other, knocking De Sousa back over the stanchion again as Kansas staffer Jeremy Case comes flying in to break them up.

Put yourself in De Sousa’s shoes here. In the span of 10 seconds, he’s fought three different Kansas State players, sees nothing but purple in front of him and just got knocked to the ground. Is he getting jumped? Does he have to fight them 1-on-3? That’s when he grabs the stool, to defend himself, and when he sees that no one is coming after him anymore, he drops it:

Context.

He should be suspended for 8-10 games.

He set this entire thing in motion.

But maybe, just maybe, tone down the rhetoric.

Women’s Wednesday: A new column dedicated to the women of college basketball

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Welcome to CBT’s first ever weekly women’s basketball column. I’m here to help provide you with some insight into the world of women’s college hoops.

Women’s sports are reaching new heights, especially in basketball. The WNBA announced a new collective bargaining agreement starting in the 2020 season that includes a 53 percent raise, maternity benefits, a base salary and performance-based bonuses. This year’s NCAA women’s basketball tournament will be broadcasted in its entirety on ESPN, with the semifinals and championship game premiering in primetime.

Female athletes are beginning to garner the attention they deserve. Sabrina Ionescu is drawing national attention for a historic senior season, as she has 22 career triple-doubles and became Oregon’s all-time leading basketball scorer in her career-high 37-point performance against Stanford last week. In the WNBA, women such as Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, and more are shattering gender stereotypes and proving that women can play basketball at a high level, just as men can.

While women’s sports have made a push into the public eye, there is still quite a way to go. It’s important to place an emphasis on the women who excel in their sport and give them the spotlight they deserve. Too many times women are only given credit through a masculine lens, whether that’s only getting attention after receiving praise from men, being compared to a male counterpart, or being a footnote in a male athlete’s story. Female athletes deserve to be their own story.

That’s what I’m hoping to do with this column over the rest of the season — give women a place to shine. I’d like to use this space to highlight some of the amazing women that play in the NCAA and hear from them about their experiences, the records they’re setting and their basketball journey. While I won’t even begin to make a dent in the breadth of talent available in women’s college basketball, I hope to use this column each week to take a deeper dive into some incredible women, as well as give you an idea of what’s happening around the country that week.

WEDNESDAY’S NEWS AND NOTES

South Carolina sits atop the world of college hoops, earning 22 first-place votes from the AP panel to nab the No. 1 spot. The Gamecocks have an 18-1 record with wins over ranked opponents such as Maryland, Baylor, Kentucky and most recently Mississippi State.

Baylor — the reigning national champs —- sits in the No. 2 spot in the rankings after dethroning UConn and ending its dominant 98-game winning streak at home. The Lady Bears received six of the first-place votes from the AP committee.

The rest of the top five is filled out by UConn at No. 3, Oregon at No. 4 after beating then-No. 3 Stanford, and Louisville rounds it out at fifth, receiving the last two first-place votes.

In a monster performance against Stanford, Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu had a career-high 37 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. She has four triple-doubles on the season and has a chance to become the NCAA’s first player to eclipse 2,000 career points, 1,000 career rebounds and 1,000 career assists. As of Jan. 18, she has 2,265 points, 904 rebounds and 928 assists.

DePaul remains unbeaten in the Big East, with Chante Stonewall leading the team with 17.9 ppg while Kelly Campbell has 102 assists on the season, ranking No. 8 in the country.

Baylor’s 40-point victory over then-No. 17 West Virginia is their 45th consecutive Big 12 win.

Mississippi State’s JaMya Mingo-Young and Aliyah Matharu combined for 24 points and four steals off the bench in a close 79-81 loss to South Carolina on Monday.

Star freshman and No. 1 recruit Haley Jones suffered an apparent right knee injury and left Stanford’s Sunday win over Oregon State. She is scheduled to have an MRI but the team has given no further updates.

North Carolina State’s Elissa Cunane has 20+ points in four of her last six games and 10 double-doubles on the season, helping the Wolfpack to a dominant win over Florida State last week.

UCLA became the last undefeated team to fall with a double overtime loss to USC — who hadn’t yet won a Pac-12 matchup —  on Friday.

Northwestern made its debut this season in the Top-25, coming in at No. 22 — its first ranking since the 2015-2016 season.

No. 3 Oregon faces rival No. 7 Oregon State on Friday in a crucial Pac-12 matchup.

Stanford freshman Fran Belini threw down a one-handed dunk in pregame warmup before facing Oregon that you HAVE to see: