A post-withdrawal deadline, but still early preseason Top 25

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One more deadline’s in the past — and now we’re that much closer to the start of the 2011-12 season. Well, a little closer anyway.  Here’s an updated Top 25 projection to tide you over in the meantime.

1. North Carolina

Record: 29-8 (Elite Eight)
Key returnees
: SF Harrison Barnes, PF John Henson, C Tyler Zeller , PG Kendall Marshall, SG Leslie McDonald, SG Dexter Strickland, SF Reggie Bullock
Key losses: None
Incoming recruits: PF James McAdoo, SG P.J. Hairston

The skinny: The Tar Heels hit the jackpot when their stars skipped out being NBA draft lottery picks. No team has more overall talent (thought Kentucky’s close) mixed with experience. But don’t pencil in a national title just yet. Marshall must stay healthy and the Heels’ perimeter shooting needs to improve.

2. Kentucky

Record: 29-9 (Final Four)
Key returnees
: PF Terrence Jones, SG Doron Lamb, SF Darius Miller, C Eloy Vargas, SF Jon Hood.
Key losses: PG Brandon Knight, C Josh Harrellson, SF DeAndre Liggins
Incoming recruits: PG Marquis Teague, SF Michael Gilchrist, PF Anthony Davis, PF Kyle Wiltjer

The skinny: Once again, the Wildcats are loaded with talent. And once again, many of those talented players are freshmen. Given that Kentucky beat UNC for a Final Four spot in 2011, you could argue they should be the top team. The biggest concerns: The frontcourt depth and Teague as the primary ball-handler. They’ll struggle if he gets hurt.

3. Duke

Record: 32-5 (Sweet 16)
Key returnees
: PF Mason Plumlee, SG Seth Curry, PF Miles Plumlee, G Andre Dawkins, SF Ryan Kelly
Key losses: PG Kyrie Irving, SG Nolan Smith, SF Kyle Singler
Incoming recruits: SG Austin Rivers, PG Quinn Cook, C Marshall Plumlee, SF Michael Gbinije

The skinny: Irving bolted, but the Devils are primed to replace him and Smith with Rivers and Cook. No incoming player can match Rivers’ scoring, while Cook thrives as a creator and floor leader. The bigger questions might be if Duke can fill Singler’s role as a versatile scorer and defender. That means more time for the Plumlees and Kelly, and perhaps Gbinije.

4. Syracuse

Record: 27-8 (Third round of NCAA tournament)
Key returnees
: PG Scoop Jardine, SF Kris Joseph, SG Brandon Triche, SG Dion Waiters, SF C.J. Fair, C Fab Melo, PF Baye Moussa Keita
Key loss: PF Rick Jackson
Incoming recruits: C Rakeem Christmas, SG Trevor Cooney, SG Michael Carter-Williams

Jim Boeheim loses just one starter and adds two impact recruits in Christmas and Carter-Williams. The Orange will miss Jackson’s reliable rebounding and post defense, but he’s hardly irreplaceable. They’ll need Jardine to be more consistent and for Joseph and Melo to finally deliver on their tantalizing skills, but all the pieces are there for Syracuse to post yet another outstanding season.

5. Ohio State

Record: 34-3 (Sweet 16)
Key returnees
: C Jared Sullinger, PG Aaron Craft, SG William Buford, SF Deshaun Thomas, SG Jordan Sibert
Key losses: SG Jon Diebler, SF David Lighty, C Dallas Lauderdale
Incoming recruits: C Amir Williams, C Trey McDonald, SF Sam Thompson, SF LaQuinton Ross, PG Shannon Scott, transfer Evan Ravenel.

The skinny: Once Sullinger decided to return, the Buckeyes became a top 10 team. Buford and Thomas should have more prominent roles, but with the addition of solid freshmen such as Williams and Ross, expect Ohio State to remain a balanced, inside-outside team. But they’ll dearly miss Diebler and Lighty.

6. Arizona

Record: 30-8 (Elite Eight)
Key returnees
: PG Momo Jones, SG Kyle Fogg, SF Solomon Hill, SF Kevin Parrom, SF Jesse Perry, PG Jordin Mayes
Key losses: PF Derrick Williams, PF Jamelle Horne
Incoming recruits: PG Josiah Turner, SG Nick Johnson, PF Angelo Chol, PF Sidiki Johnson

The skinny: Williams is gone, but that’s no reason to write off the Wildcats. Every other starter is back along with one the nation’s top recruiting classes. That’s more than enough to offset the loss of one player, no matter how good he may be (Read: Evan Turner/Ohio State). Arizona handled Duke in the NCAA tournament because it finally started to play defense hit shots. The biggest boost? When Sean Miller decided to stay put.

7. Vanderbilt

Record: 23-11 (Second round of NCAA tournament)
Key returnees
: SG John Jenkins, SF Jeff Taylor, C Festus Ezeli, PG Brad Tinsley, PF Lance Goulbourne, PF Steve Tchiengang
Incoming recruits: SG Dai-Jon Parker, PG Kedren Johnson, PF Shelby Moats

The skinny: Only North Carolina got a bigger gift from players passing on the NBA. This might be a bit high for the Commodores given they were never this good with the same group last year, but having Jenkins, Taylor and Ezeli is enough for an early push to the Top 10.

8. Louisville

Record: 25-10 (Second round of NCAA tournament)
Key returnees
: PG Peyton Siva, SG Chris Smith, PF Jared Swopshire, SF Kyle Kuric, SF Rakeem Buckles, PF Gorgui Dieng
Key losses: SG Preston Knowles, PF Terrence Jennings
Incoming recruits: SG Wayne Blackshear, PF Chane Behanan, C Zach Price

The skinny: The Cards overachieved in 2010-11, winning 25 games and finishing tied for third in the Big East. Expect more. Siva’s primed for a breakout, Kuric and Smith developed into key players and Buckles and Swopshire will both be healthy. Knowles’ departure will be offset by Blackshear’s addition and Jennings’ production will be displaced by Buckles and Dieng. Still a talented team.

9. Wisconsin

Record: 25-9 (Sweet 16)
Key returnees
: PG Jordan Taylor, SG John Gasser, SF Mike Bruesewitz, SF Ryan Evans, PF Jared Berggren
Key losses: PF Jon Leuer, SF Keaton Nankivil, SF Tim Jarmusz
Incoming recruits: PF Jarrod Uthoff, SG Traevon Jackson, C Frank Kaminsky

The skinny: Write off the Badgers if you like. But with a solid core returning, a 4-star prospect in Uthoff coming in and Taylor – a national player of the year candidate – running the show, Wisconsin’s going to be what it always is under coach Bo Ryan: Fantastic at home, solid on the road and brutally efficient on offense.

10. Pitt

Record: 28-6 (Second round of NCAA tournament)
Key returnees: SG Ashton Gibbs, SF Nasir Robinson, PG Travon Woodall, PF Dante Taylor, SG J.J. Moore, SF Lamar Patterson, PF Talib Zanna
Key losses: SG Brad Wanamaker, SF Gilbert Brown, C Gary McGhee
Incoming recruits: PF Khem Birch, SG Durand Johnson, C Malcolm Gilbert, PF Jaylen Byrd, SG John Johnson.

The skinny: The Big East champs are out three starters, but Gibbs’ return gives them a solid scorer in which their young, talented roster can thrive. There’s every reason to think that coach Jamie Dixon can put together another 25-win season and vie for the Big East title.

11. Kansas

Record: 35-3 (Elite Eight)
Key returnees
: PG Tyshawn Taylor, PF Thomas Robinson, PG Elijah Johnson
Key losses: SF Marcus Morris, PF Markieff Morris, SG Josh Selby, SG Brady Morningstar, SG Tyrel Reed
Incoming recruits: PG Nadir Thorpe, SG Ben McLemore

The skinny: The latest talent drain for coach Bill Self might be a rougher transition than in 2009. Kansas added one late recruit in McLemore, but bringing in PF DeAndre Daniels would be a welcome addition. Still, if the Jayhawks are to stay atop the Big 12, they’ll need Robinson and Johnson to boost their games as starters.

12. Cincinnati

Record: 26-9 (Third round of NCAA tournament)
Key returnees
: C Yancy Gates, SG Sean Kilpatrick, SG Dion Dixon, PG Cashmere Wright, G Jaquon Parker, SF Justin Jackson, C Anthony McClain
Key losses: SF Rashad Bishop, C Ibrahima Thomas
Incoming recruits: SF Shaquille Thomas, SF Jermaine Sanders, SG Jeremiah Davis, SG Ge-Lawn Guyn

The skinny: A solid core mixed with talent gives Mick Cronin a legitimate Big East contender. When Cincinnati’s offense finally matches its defense – and when Gates plays consistently – it’ll be a Top 10 team.

13. Connecticut

Record: 32-9 (Won national championship)
Key returnees
: PF Alex Oriakhi, SG Jeremy Lamb, PG Shabazz Napier, PF Roscoe Smith, C Tyler Olander
Key losses: PG Kemba Walker, SF Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, SG Donnell Beverly, C Chuck Akwandu
Incoming recruits: PG Ryan Boatright

The skinny: There’s no lack of talent in Storrs, and 5-star prospect Boatright only adds to that mix. More impressive was that the Huskies didn’t play like a young team in 2010-11. But … that was with Kemba running the show and making plays when needed. When he struggled, the Huskies struggled, thus their 9th place finish in the Big East. They’ll miss him at times.

14. Baylor

Record: 18-13
Key returnees: C Perry Jones, SF Quincy Acy, PF Anthony Jones, PG A.J. Walton, C J’Mison Morgan.
Key loss: SG LaceDarius Dunn
Incoming recruits: SF Quincy Miller, SG Deuce Bello, PG Pierre Jackson (and Cal transfer Gary Franklin)

The skinny: Jones’ return to Waco may have been the biggest individual surprise of the offseason. The immensely talented post player started slow last season, but seemed to finally be comfortable by year’s end. And the additions of Miller and Bello give the Bears two explosive talents. Now. Can the play defense?

15. Memphis

Record: 25-10 (Second round of NCAA tournament)
Key returnees
: SG Will Barton, PG Joe Jackson, PF Tarik Black, SF Drew Barnham, SG Antonio Barton, SG Charles Carmouche, SF Wesley Witherspoon.
Key loss: PF Will Coleman
Incoming recruit: SF Adonis Thomas

The skinny: Will Barton’s return gave the Tigers as much talent as any team in the nation when you include Thomas, one of the elite 2011 recruits. Next up? Improving that predictable offense and so-so-defense.

16. Temple

Record: 26-8 (Third round of NCAA tournament)
Key returnees
: SG Ramone Moore, PG Juan Fernandez, SG Khalif Wyatt, PF Michael Eric, SF Rahlier Jefferson, SF Scootie Randall
Key loss: PF Lavoy Allen
Incoming recruits: PG Will Cummings, SF Jimmy McDonnell

The skinny: The Owls will miss Allen inside, but he’s the only guy gone from a team that thrived at the end of the year. They won’t turn the ball over, they’ll hit 3-pointers and they’ll win games. That gets you in the Top 20.

17. Michigan

Record: 21-14 (Third round of NCAA tournament)
Key returnees
: SG Tim Hardaway, C Jordan Morgan, SF Zack Novak, SG Stu Douglass, PF Evan Smotrycz, PF Jon Horford
Key loss: PG Darius Morris
Incoming recruits: SG Carlton Brundidge, PG Trey Burke

The skinny: Morris’ departure hurts. A lot. Michigan’s still a Big Ten contender, but they don’t have much room for error without their point guard. Hardaway and Morgan are a solid duo. But they’re chasing Ohio State and Wisconsin. And maybe Purdue.

18. Texas A&M

Record: 24-9 (Second round of NCAA tournament
Key returnees
: SF Khris Middleton, PF David Loubeau, PF Kourtney Roberson, SG Dash Harris, SF Naji Hibbert, SF Ray Turner
Key losses: PG B.J. Holmes, SF Nathan Walkup
Incoming recruits: PG Jamal Branch, SG Jordan Green, SF Elston Turner (transfer)

The skinny: The Aggies don’t win any beauty contests, but that’s by design. They’re here because of their defense. Simple as that. It also helps to return four of five starters and to plug in a recruit like Branch. If Middleton’s offense continues to develop, A&M will be more than defensive show.

19. Purdue

Record: 26-8 (Second round of NCAA tournament)
Key returnees
: SF Robbie Hummel, PG Lewis Jackson, SF D.J. Byrd, SG Ryne Smith, SF John Hart, SG Terone Johnson, SF Kelsey Barlow, PF Patrick Bade, PF Travis Carroll
Key losses: SG E’Twaun Moore, C JaJaun Johnson
Incoming recruits: PF Jacob Lawson, PF Donnie Hale

The skinny: Johnson and Moore are gone, but the Boilermakers have three key pieces returning: Hummel – who sat out the entire 2010-11 season – Jackson and coach Matt Painter. Painter, who spurned Missouri’s efforts to lure him away from West Lafayette, may be the most crucial piece, too. Few coaches get more out of their teams.

20. Marquette

Record: 22-15 (Sweet 16)
Key returnees
: SG Darius Johnson-Odum, PF Jae Crowder, PG Junior Cadougan, SG Vander Blue, C Davante Gardner, PF Jamil Wilson
Key losses: SF Jimmy Butler, SG Dwight Buycks
Incoming recruits: SF Juan Anderson, SG Todd Mayo, PG Derrick Wilson

The skinny: Coach Buzz Williams is back and he’s got his roster of solid, underrated players with him. That Sweet 16 berth wasn’t a fluke because the Golden Eagles were always a team that was far better than its record indicated. That’ll be true again in 2011-12 when Johnson-Odom, Crowder and Cadougan get a boost from Anderson.

21. Belmont

Record: 30-5 (Second round of NCAA tournament)
Key returnees
: SG Ian Clark, PF Mick Hedgepeth, PG Kerron Johnson, PF Scott Saunders, PG Drew Hanlen, SF J.J. Mann
Key losses: SG Jordan Campbell, SF Jon House

The skinny: The A-Sun champs lose two starters, but that’s just a technicality. The Bruins used so many guys last season, everyone logged significant minutes during their 30-win season. Besides, their top players – Clark, Hedgepeth and Saunders – are all back, along with that full-court pressing defense.

22. Florida

Record: 29-8 (Elite Eight)
Key returnees
: SG Kenny Boynton, PG Erving Walker, PF Erick Murphy, PF Patric Young, SF Casey Prather, SG Scottie Wilbekin
Key losses: PF Vernon Macklin, SF Chandler Parsons, PF Alex Tyus
Incoming recruits: SG Brad Beal, SG Mike Rosario (transfer)

The skinny: The Gators are loaded – with shooters. Boynton and Walker can hoist their share of shots, but how will it work with the additions of Beal and Rosario? Someone’s gonna have to pass and defend. They’ll certainly miss the steady play of Macklin, Parsons and Tyus, though. So why are they ranked? There’s too much talent to ignore.

23. Xavier

Record: 24-8 (First round of NCAA tournament)
Key returnees
: PG Tu Holloway, SG Mark Lyons, C Kenny Frease, SF Jeff Robinson, SG Brad Redford, F Justin Martin, F, Travis Taylor
Key losses: PF Jamel McLean, SF Dante Jackson
Incoming recruits: PF Jalen Reynolds, SF Dezmine Wells, PG Dee Davis

The skinny: That was a massive sigh of relief coming from Xavier coach Chris Mack once Holloway withdrew from the NBA draft. They have questions up front, but welcome two solid guards in Wells and Davis. Pair them with Holloway, a national player of the year candidate, and the Musketeers will again be a Top 25 team.

24. Wichita State

Record: 29-8 (Won NIT)
Key returnees
: PG Toure’ Murry, C Garrett Stutz, SG David Kyles, PG Joe Ragland, SF Ben Smith, SG Demetric Williams
Key losses: PF J.T. Durley, PF Gabe Blair, SG Graham Hatch
Incoming recruit: SG Evan Wessel

The skinny: The NIT probably deserved an NCAA tourney bid. That’ll be rectified in 2012 when Murry and Kyles ensure the Missouri Valley’s best team flirt with the Top 25 all season. The Shockers got a big boost when coach Gregg Marshall stayed put over the offseason, too.

25. Alabama

Record: 25-12 (Lost in NIT championship)
Key returnees
: PF JaMychal Green, SF Tony Mitchell, PG Trevor Releford, SG Andrew Steele
Key losses: SG Senario Hillman, SG Charvez Davis, PF Chris Hines
Incoming recruits: PF Nick Jacobs, C Moussa Gueye, SF Rodney Cooper, SG Levi Randolph

The skinny: Green, Mitchell and Releford are an underrated trio and the Tide should get a boost with Jacobs and Randolph. Both can be immediate contributors and vie for starting roles. Of course, this assumes the defense picks up where it left off in 2011.

Best of the rest: Gonzaga, George Mason, UCLA, Clemson, Michigan State, New Mexico, Arkansas, Villanova,  Florida State, West Virginia.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

Ten Things You Need To Know: Catch up on all of Saturday’s college hoops action

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College basketball went insane on Saturday.

Well, it was insane all week.

But Saturday was really nuts.

Here’s everything you need to know.

1. NO. 3 DUKE LOST THEIR SECOND GAME THIS WEEK

David Johnson exploded on to the scene with 19 points, seven assists, four boards, three steals and two blocks.

Louisville exorcised some demons.

Duke looked like a team that is banged up, can’t guard the four and lacks a go-to scorer.

A full breakdown of this game can be found here.

2. NO. 4 AUBURN LOST THEIR SECOND GAME THIS WEEK, TOO

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

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

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

They were both this week.

And they were both ugly losses.

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

Suddenly, those concerns look prescient.

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

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

Auburn is still good.

They’re just not a top five team.

3. OH, AND NO. 5 BUTLER LOST THEIR SECOND GAME THIS WEEK AS WELL!

But this game said a whole lot more about DePaul than it did about Butler.

I explained why right here.

4. PAYTON PRITCHARD REALLY WANTS TO BE NATIONAL PLAYER OF THE YEAR

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

Saturday might have been his statement game.

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

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Payton Pritchard called game!!!!!!

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

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

5. BUT SO DOES MYLES POWELL

Seton Hall capped off an absolutely stellar week by going into Madison Square Garden and knocking off their biggest regional rival, St. John’s, on the road despite trailing by 13 points at the half.

That’s a big time win.

And Powell was, as you might expect, once again a big time player.

He scored 23 of his 29 points in the second half and made big shot after big shot down the stretch. This came just three days after he went for 29 points as Seton Hall erased a 10 point halftime deficit on the road against No. 5 Butler.

In fact, the Pirates are currently sitting at 6-0 in the Big East after a slow start to their season, and they already have won at DePaul, at Xavier, at Butler and at St. John’s.

And now they get three straight home games.

Kevin Willard’s club has put themselves in a great position to make a run at the 2020 Big East regular season title.

6. KENTUCKY RALLIES AFTER COACH CAL GETS TOSSED

This was awesome.

Coach Cal was ejected on Saturday in the most mild-mannered way I’ve ever seen.

He was arguing with the refs about the way they were implementing the flop rule against his team, and — I think — he was given two technicals for being out of the coach’s box and staying out of the coach’s box to curse at the refs. Look at this:

The best part?

Kentucky was up 11 early in the first half, but they blew that lead. After going 3-for-4 on technical free throws, Arkansas held a 47-44 lead on a coach-less Kentucky team.

And how did the Cats respond?

A cool 17-2 run to put the game to bed in a 73-66 win.

7. HOUSTON BLEW OUT WICHITA STATE TO TAKE CONTROL OF THE AMERICAN

The Houston we expected to see all season long showed up in Wichita on Saturday night.

The Cougars beat the No. 16 Shockers in their own building, 65-54, and it wasn’t really that close. Wichita State was down 49-27 at one point, allowing just one player to crack double-figures.

The Shockers lost two games this week and now sit a game off the pace in the American, behind Houston and Tulsa, who are tied for first.

8. WEST VIRGINIA SOMEHOW GAVE UP 84 POINTS TO KANSAS FREAKIN’ STATE

Kansas State entered Saturday ranked 198th in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency metric. James Madison, the 275th-best team in college basketball, and VMI, the 291st-best team in college basketball, ranked directly behind them. The only “high-major” players worse than Kansas State offensively this season?

Temple, South Florida, Virginia, East Carolina and Boston College.

West Virginia, on the other hand, entered Saturday ranked as the single-best defensive team in the entire sport. They were playing defense at a level that would rank among the very-best defensive teams that we have ever seen. Their four Big 12 opponents were averaging 51 points against them.

Kansas State had 42 points at halftime. They scored 84 points on the night. They won 84-68 to drop the Mountaineers two games out of first place in the Big 12 title race, because …

9. … BAYLOR ERASED A 12 POINT DEFICIT ON THE ROAD

The Bears looked like they were going to be the top five team to blow a win they should not be blowing on Saturday.

Oklahoma State threw a 2-3 zone on the Bears, doing the exact same thing that Washington did to Baylor late in the only game that they lost thus far this season, and Baylor was lost for the first half. They trailed 36-24 at one point late in the half before slotting MAtthew Mayer at the high post and thwarting all of Oklahoma State’s plans.

In the end, however, the Cowboys still had a shot to win late, but that was until Devonte Bandoo banged home three threes in the final eight minutes, including two in a one minute span after the final TV timeout, to secure a 75-68 win.

Bandoo scored 14 points off the bench. He is the fourth-best guard on this Baylor roster.

Put another way, this team is deep, they are loaded, and the guys all the way down their bench can make the shots that beat you.

That’s scary.

10. SAN DIEGO STATE IS STILL UNDEFEATED

The Aztecs trailed at the half but ran Nevada off the court after halftime, taking home a 68-55 win.

David Johnson shines as No. 11 Louisville beats No. 3 Duke, 79-73

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David Johnson scored all 19 of his points in the first half and added seven assists, four boards, three steals and a pair of blocks off the bench as No. 11 Louisville went into Cameron Indoor Stadium and knocked off No. 3 Duke, 79-73.

The Cards jumped out to a 25-10 lead in the first 10 minutes of the game as Duke struggled to protect the ball. The Blue Devils slowly chipped away at the lead and got within one point with three minutes left before Louisville put the game away.

Jordan Nwora finished with just six points on 3-for-12 shooting as he dealt with Duke’s best defender in Stanley, while Dwayne Sutton took advantage of a mismatch at the four and chipped in with 13 points.

Stanley led the way for the Blue Devils with 24 points and 11 boards. Tre Jones was 5-for-16 from the floor and Vernon Carey struggled with fouls, finishing with just 12 points and six boards to go along with six turnovers.

Here are three things that we learned in Louisville’s win:

1. DAVID JOHNSON HAS ARRIVED, BUT IS HE HEALTHY?

First things first: Johnson says he’s OK. He told reporters after the game that the injury he suffered to his surgically-repaired left shoulder is nothing more than a bump or a bruise. Chris Mack was not worried about he while speaking at his postgame press conference. For those that missed it, Johnson took an awkward fall on his left shoulder with three minutes left in the game. He stayed on the ground behind the play, went to the bench with his left arm dangling by his side and headed back to the locker room before returning to Louisville’s bench for the final minutes. He did not return to the game.

So it sounds like he is going to be OK.

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

He finished with 19 points, but the way he scored those points is the most significant part of the equation. He broke down defenses. He dribbled right past Jordan Goldwire and drove the lane for a dunk. He created out of ball-screens. He handled Duke’s ball-pressure like he was playing against high school opponents.

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

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

2. THIS FELT LIKE A TURNING POINT FOR LOUISVILLE

I try to avoid the content in this space to be entirely narrative-based, but I’m not going to be able to avoid it here.

So indulge me for a minute, OK?

This game really felt like a turning point in Louisville’s season. It felt like they rid themselves of quite a few demons by going into Cameron Indoor Stadium and winning the way that they won, and the biggest reason that I say that is because of what happened last year. I’m sure every Duke and Louisville fan will remember this quite clearly: The Cardinals blew a 23 point lead at home in the final 10 minutes and lost to the Blue Devils.

This year, the game was starting to look like it might play out the same way. Louisville led by 15 points in the first half, by 10 at halftime and had a cushion of at least three possessions for what felt like the entire second half before Matthew Hurt capped off a 9-0 run by hitting three free throws to tie the game at 58. What happened? Fresh Kimble immediately answered with an and-one bucket to take the lead back. Duke tied things up against at 63, and on the next possession Kimble hit a three to, against, take the lead back. Duke made multiple runs in front of the Crazies, and Louisville had an answer every single time.

And on the road, no less.

Louisville has not been great playing away from the Yum! Center, and they have not played tough against elite competition all that often this season. It sometimes felt like they didn’t realize just how good they can be when they actually play with some heart.

That it happened in a game where they blew a lead and still won against Duke while getting elite play out of the point guard spot just feels like everything coming together.

The Cards head home to face Georgia Tech and Clemson next week.

We’ll see if that take ends up being true.

3. DUKE’S TWO MAJOR FLAWS WERE ON DISPLAY ON SATURDAY

The two biggest issues that there are on this Duke roster are that they lack someone that can truly lock up at the four, and they don’t have a go-to scorer in crunch-time if teams are going to collapse on Vernon Carey.

Hurt is who Louisville went after on Saturday night. It wasn’t Jordan Nwora, who was being guarded by Cassius Stanley for much of the night, but instead the likes of Dwayne Sutton, or Samuell Williamson, or whoever Hurt ended up guarding on a switch. The three that I mentioned Fresh Kimble hitting in that last section? That came against Matthew Hurt.

And Hurt was really good on the offensive end tonight. He finished with 16 points. He hit three threes. He had a tip-dunk. He also didn’t get a single defensive rebound, steal or block. If he added 16 points, how many was he responsible for giving up?

The other issue is one that we knew Duke was going to face this season. Tre Jones has definitely gotten better this season, and he definitely is still not a guy that you want being the player you’re calling up a play for in crunch time. Neither is Cassius Stanley, who is elite in transition and has proven himself a capable floor-spacer that can make things happen with his athleticism, but you’re not drawing up a play to get him the ball when you need a bucket against a set defense.

Carey is the answer, but between the foul trouble and the size that Louisville had inside, he was never able to get it going. And that could be a problem considering how many good teams around the country have plenty of size inside.

In a vacuum, I don’t think a road loss to Clemson and a home loss to Louisville is the kind of thing that should scare you off of thinking that the Blue Devils are the best team in the country. But a vacuum doesn’t take into account the matchup issues that those teams — who play two different styles — both exposed in Duke.

I’m worried.

If you’re a Duke fan, getting Wendell Moore healthy and Tre Jones back to 100 percent should be your biggest priority.

Diarra, Gordon lift Kansas State over No. 12 West Virginia

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MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) Cartier Diarra tied a career high with 25 points, Xavier Sneed added 16, Dujuan Gordon had a career high 15, and Kansas State held off No. 12 West Virginia 84-68 for their first win in Big 12 play this season on Saturday.

Kansas State (8-9, 1-4 Big 12) went up by as many as 23, but a 15-0 run by the Mountaineers cut the lead to eight in the second half, thanks in part to seven turnovers in four minutes by the Wildcats.

West Virginia (14-3, 3-2) would get as close as six, but the Wildcats held on and won by 16.

Miles McBride and Chase Harler paced the Mountaineers with 11 points each, Gabe Osabuohein had 10 as West Virginia lost their first game when the trailed at halftime.

Turnovers proved costly for West Virginia as they committed 18 and Kansas State scored 28 off those mistakes.

Kansas State shot 59% from the field and held the Mountaineers to 45%. The Wildcats hit nine 3’s while West Virginia had 41 bench points.

With two minutes left in the first half, it was a fastbreak dunk by Antonio Gordon assisted by Dujuan Gordon that got the crowd on their feet pushing the Wildcat lead to 11.

Kansas State held a 17-point lead at halftime and shot 58% in the first 20 minutes of play.

BIG PICTURE

Kansas State: This was the best game played by the Wildcats all season. They needed a win like this one before taking on their in-state rival up next.

West Virginia: The Mountaineers had way too many turnovers and didn’t shoot the ball very well.

UP NEXT

Kansas State travels to Kansas on Tuesday.

West Virginia hosts Texas on Monday.

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For more AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

Payton Pritchard three caps come-from-behind win for No. 8 Oregon at Washington (VIDEO)

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Oregon point guard Payton Pritchard hit one of the shots of the year on Saturday, as he buried this ridiculous, step-back three with the game tied in overtime to deliver a 64-61 win over Washington:

“They can put the blame on me. I can take all the criticism, but I will be right there to take that last shot, take that pass, make that play whether it goes good or bad,” Pritchard said.

Pritchard hit his sixth 3-pointer of the game with 3.4 seconds left in overtime and Oregon rallied from a 16-point second-half deficit to stun Washington 64-61 on Saturday.

The Ducks (15-4, 4-2 Pac-12) avoided being swept on their trip north by overcoming a 48-32 deficit with 10:22 remaining in the second half and handed Washington (12-7, 2-4) its third loss in four games.

Pritchard was the extent of Oregon’s offense, finishing with 22 points on 7-of-16 shooting. He hit a floater with 1:08 left to give Oregon the lead and provided the winning 3-pointer despite tough defense from Washington’s Jamal Bey. Pritchard was able to get just enough space to get the shot clear before the shot clock expired.

The Ducks rallied from 19 down to beat Seton Hall earlier this season. But this one felt a bit sweeter getting the better of one of their rivals.

“I don’t think the length really bothers me. If you don’t have a hand up I’m going to let it fly,” Pritchard said.

Chandler Lawson added 16 points and 12 rebounds for the Ducks, who rebounded from an ugly loss to Washington State on Thursday. Lawson had not scored more than eight points in a game this season and played just seven minutes in the loss to Washington State.

“If you don’t get started right, you’ve got to keep battling,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “I was really disappointed Thursday night. We didn’t compete. We got outworked. … I thought we played a lot harder. We didn’t play well, but we did play a lot harder.”

Isaiah Stewart led Washington with 25 points and 19 rebounds. The freshman was dominant on the interior but didn’t get the help he needed from others. Marcus Tsohonis had 12 of his 14 points in the first half, but the Huskies were 0 of 11 on 3-pointers in the second half and overtime, and 14 of 23 at the foul line.

Washington scored just 24 points in the second half and overtime combined.

“It was like he was going to will us to the game,” Washington coach Mike Hopkins said of Stewart. “He’s just special. … I wish we could have got that one for him today.”

Stewart opened overtime with a baseline reverse, but it turned out to be Washington’s only basket of the extra period.

Lawson scored in the lane with 2:10 left and Pritchard followed with a runner to give Oregon a 61-59 lead, its first since it was 9-7 in the opening minutes. Stewart hit a pair of free throws to tie the game with 49 seconds left. Pritchard forced another deep 3-pointer and missed, but Chris Duarte got the offensive rebound and Pritchard didn’t miss given a second opportunity.

THE COMEBACK

Washington led by 12 at halftime after perhaps its best first half of the season. The Huskies led 48-32 with 10:22 remaining in regulation after a pair of free throws by Stewart. Oregon then went on a 15-2 run to get back into the game, triggered by a change in its defense. The Ducks went to a full-court press and it flustered the Huskies. Washington scored just eight points the rest of regulation.

Meanwhile, Pritchard was the catalyst at the offensive end. He hit Oregon’s first 3-pointer of the second half to get the Ducks within 50-45 and then left a perfect pass for Lawson’s dunk to pull them within 50-47 with 4:26 left.

Pritchard later hit a 3 from about 35 feet with 1:08 left to pull Oregon even at 54. Stewart hit a pair of free throws, but Shakur Juiston scored underneath for the Ducks with 17.8 left to tie the game at 56.

Washington’s final possession was rushed and Jamal Bey’s 3-pointer at the buzzer hit the back rim.

“The press changed the tempo of the game. … Got them on their heels a little bit,” Altman said.

STEWART’S DAY

Stewart is the third player this season to have at least 25 points and at least 19 rebounds in a game, joining Purdue’s Trevion Williams (36 points, 20 rebounds) and Rider’s Tyere Marshall (28 points, 20 rebounds). All three performances ended up coming in losses.

BIG PICTURE

Oregon: The Ducks changed the starting lineup with Will Richardson getting his first start of the season and Anthony Mathis coming off the bench for the first time. The switch didn’t work and Oregon lacked the scoring punch Richardson had provided coming off the bench. Richardson had one point. Mathis scored just two.

Washington: The Huskies got Jaden McDaniels back in the lineup after missing Thursday’s win over Oregon State with an ankle injury. McDaniels struggled with his shot, hitting 1 of 9 from the field, and finished with five points.

UP NEXT

Oregon: The Ducks return home to host USC next Thursday.

Washington: The Huskies travel to Utah next Thursday.

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

Dotson and Azubuike lead No. 6 Kansas over Texas 66-57

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) Devon Dotson’s left hip looks fine. And that’s good news for No. 6 Kansas.

Dotson returned to the lineup after sitting out a game with a hip pointer injury and gave the Jayhawks a big late 3-pointer and free throws down the stretch to lead Kansas over Texas 66-57 on Saturday.

Dotson scored 21 points, including the final seven of the game for the Jayhawks. His long 3-pointer with 2:49 put Kansas ahead by eight and four straight free throws in the final 39 seconds closed out the win.

“If we played without him today, we would not have won,” Kansas coach Bill Self said.

Dotson played nearly 39 minutes and afterward said he felt good.

“It felt great,” Dotson said. “Coming in, there were no restrictions. When I’m out there playing, I have no excuses. I’m getting treatment. It’s gonna be fine.”

Udoka Azubuike scored 17 points and a burst from him early in the second half allowed Kansas (14-3, 4-1 Big 12) to take the lead.

Kansas closed the game with a 12-3 run that started with consecutive baskets from Marcus Garrett. The Jayhawks got a big break when Garrett was initially called for a charge, but the foul was quickly reversed. The layup counted, Garrett made the free throw and Jayhawks led 59-54 before Dotson closed it out.

Garrett had a scary moment earlier when he landed hard after an off-balance shot attempt. He stayed on the floor for several minutes and then briefly went to the Kansas locker room. He returned a few minutes later and made the big plays.

“That was a remarkable recovery,” Self said. “I think (the fall) scared him more than anything else.”

Dotson’s 3-pointer was just the second of the game for Kansas, the best-shooting team in the Big 12 from long range. Kansas attempted only 10, opting instead for Dotson and Garrett to drive or to push the ball inside to Azubuike, who was locked in a battle under the basket with Texas’ Jericho Sims.

Sims scored a career-high 20 points for the Longhorns (12-5, 2-3) and tied the game at 54-all. Texas gave him little help from the outside. After averaging 12.5 3-pointers in their previous two games, the Longhorns were just 6 of 20 on Saturday.

“Those two (Sims and Azubuike) canceled each other out,” Texas coach Shaka Smart said. “”Their guards were the biggest difference in the game.”

BIG PICTURE

Kansas: Saturday was the eighth time the Jayhawks made four or fewer 3-pointers and the third time in Big 12 play. Isaiah Moss, who started in Dotson’s place against Oklahoma and made six, took and made only one in 32 minutes against the Longhorns.

“Its going to catch up to us,” Self said. “We were fortunate today. We’ve got to be a team that knock (them) down. We’re not going to shoot as many at most.”

Texas: The Longhorns let what would’ve been a big upset get away. A win could have changed a lot for the Longhorns going forward, but instead Texas now has two home losses in its first five Big 12 games. The inconsistency of the 3-point shooting continues to be baffling. In all three Big 12 losses, Texas has made six or fewer from long range.

“This a game you’ve got to seize, that you’ve got to grab,” Smart said.

DEFENSIVE CLAMPDOWN

Texas guard Andrew Jones scored eight consecutive points for Texas in the first half in a 13-1 run that opened an eight-point lead. Jones didn’t score again and missed all four of his shots in the second half.

Smart lamented that Texas didn’t build a bigger lead. The Jayhawks pulled the game back within six by halftime.

“For it to be six at halftime, that’s a good half, but the way that we defended,” Smart said. “But if that lead is 10 or 12, that’s a big difference.”

FAN SCARE

The game had an extended break in the second half when a fan collapsed behind the Texas bench during a timeout. Emergency officials had to move several chairs off the Texas bench to take her out of the arena across the court on a stretcher.

Texas officials didn’t release any further information on the incident or the women’s condition.

UP NEXT

Kansas hosts Kansas State on Tuesday.

Texas plays at No. 12 West Virginia on Monday.

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25