Once Coach K passes Knight, nobody’s passing him

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UPDATE: Tuesday was the night. Congrats to Coach K.

There’s no guarantee Mike Krzyzewski’s record-breaking 903rd career victory happens Tuesday night. No. 6 Duke is only a six-point favorite against Michigan State, which might be why he’s downplayed the game a bit the last few days. (Then again, that’s also his style.)

But that win will happen soon. If not Tuesday, it’ll be Friday against Davidson. Then Coach K will pass his former coach, Bob Knight, as the all-time wins leader among D-I coaches – and just keep right on going.

And that’s the point, isn’t it? Krzyzewski will eventually set a record that far surpasses any number Knight, Adolph Rupp or Dean Smith approached. (Pat Summit is another story.)

He’s headed for 1,000 wins, easy.

Coach K’s been headed there for years. When he won his 700th game in 2004, Bill Brill projected the Devils’ icon to reach 925 wins by February of 2012. (Yeah, Bill knew his stuff.) He’ll hit that mark and just keeping winning.

He’s 64, but Krzyzewski doesn’t seem anywhere near retirement. He’s a year removed from his fourth national title, had the nation’s No. 1 team for part of last season and again has the Devils ranked in the top 10. Part of that’s because of his maniacal focus on Duke’s game-by-game improvement. Few programs play more consistently over an entire season.

That’s how he approaches every game. Seems to have worked.

“I’d rather go out and try to win this game for the right reasons, and the residual is you get 903,” Krzyzewski said. “I mean, that’s another perk you get from it. That’s not the perk. The perk is beating Michigan State, going 3-0 and becoming a better team. And then things add up.

“I’m good about not making it that big of a thing, even though I know it’s a big thing. I’m not minimizing it.”

But his longevity also comes from his ability to adapt to changes in college hoops. Some coaches don’t recruit well into their 60s. Not Coach K.

So consider him a lock to continue winning 29 games a season (his average total every season from the last 10 years) until he retires. Say he coaches until he’s 69. (Another four seasons after this one.) That’s about 145 victories, placing him at 1,050 career victories.

That might just be impossible to beat.

As Luke DeCock from the Raleigh News & Observer notes, plenty of coaches are already chasing him, but few will have everything fall into place to come close. Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim and UConn’s Jim Calhoun aren’t far behind Krzyzewski’s total, but both are older. Boeheim thinks West Virginia coach Bob Huggins has the best shot, but even 25 wins a season for 12 more years would place Huggins shy of 1,000.

Guys like North Carolina’s Roy Williams and Gonzaga’s Mark Few have better career win percentages, but got started too late in their careers to make a charge for Coach K.

That leaves the young guns.

Kansas’ Bill Self (445 wins at age 48) and Florida’s Billy Donovan (396 wins at age 46) are on pace, but need to continue racking up 30-win seasons for another 20 years. DeCock estimates Butler’s Brad Stevens would be 66 by the time he hit 900 wins.

(shakes head)

That’s the thing with Krzyzewski. Not only has he crushed it with the NCAA tournament – that run of seven Final Fours in a nine-year stretch is astounding – and in the ACC, but he’s done it at a remarkable rate for his entire career.

He’s a one-of-a-kind coach. That’s why he’s making this record unattainable until another Coach K comes along. Might be a long, long time though.

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You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

Three Things to Know: Big Ten dominates, DePaul stays perfect, Georgetown wins

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It turned out to be a pretty wild night of basketball Wednesday. Purdue absolutely stomped Virginia. Villanova had trouble with Penn. Ohio State thumped North Carolina.

There is more where that came from, though, so here’s what else you need to know from a busy night of hoops around the country.

1. The Big Ten dominated the ACC in the challenge’s final night

As noted above, the Big Ten not only took care of business in the two highest-profile games of the third and final night of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, but absolutely walloped their opponents. Truly, Purdue and Ohio State embarrassed Virginia and North Carolina.

That wasn’t the limits of the Big Ten’s success, however.

Third-ranked Maryland decimated Notre Dame (72-51) and Penn State smacked Wake Forest (76-54). Georgia Tech did beat Nebraska (73-56), and NC State outlasted Wisconsin (69-54), in the lower-tier games.

What we learned Wednesday was that the Big Ten’s strength at the top of the conference is legit, which may have been somewhat in question – at least in the immediate, attention-span deficient times we live in – after Michigan and Michigan State took losses to Louisville and Duke, respectively, last night.

The headliners, though, are what count Wednesday. What Purdue and Ohio State did sends the message that the Big Ten looks to have a real claim on being the country’s toughest conference.

2. DePaul trending up, Texas Tech not so much

Given just how bad DePaul has been in recent years – they avoided finishing out of the Big East cellar just twice in 10 years – it’s been fair to wonder how real this undefeated start to the season has been.

By beating Texas Tech, 65-60 in overtime, the Blue Demons made some progress in quieting doubts about the potential of this being a tournament team.

Dave Leitao’s team now has three wins against top-75 KenPom teams, with two (Minnesota and Iowa) coming on the road. They also knocked off Boston College on the road. Hey, the Eagles are still an ACC team.

Their statistical profile still isn’t great – they don’t shoot it all that well, they don’t take a lot of 3s and they aren’t strong on the boards – but they’re winning. All they’re doing is winning, actually.

It’s certainly a team with a lot of improved talent, and at some point, talent and track record have to take over from a history of losing.

That time appears to be quickly approaching.

As for Texas Tech, Chris Beard’s preseason top-10 team has now lost three straight to a trio of teams – Iowa, Creighton and DePaul – that aren’t expected to compete for conference titles, even if they ultimately prove themselves solid, tournament-level teams.

It probably shouldn’t be surprising to see the Red Raiders struggle given the amount of turnover from last year’s national runners-up, but unless they figure out a way to beat top-ranked Louisville on a neutral floor Tuesday, they’re going to enter conference play with the best win on their resume being Eastern Illinois (KenPom: 245). That’s not a great place to be.

3. Georgetown wins at Oklahoma State

This is a hard one to get a handle on.

On one hand, the Hoyas got a nice road win against a solid Oklahoma State team after losing two major contributors earlier this week.

On the other hand, Georgetown had two players on the floor against the Cowboys who are facing serious accusations of wrongdoing. Georgetown coach Patrick Ewing released a statement saying no player gets “special treatment,” but it still seems strange to see the Hoyas allow players under an unsettled cloud of accusations to take the floor.

A road win against a Big 12 opponent, even if the Cowboys were down a starter, is going to help the Hoyas build a resume that’s going to be much harder to compile without James Akinjo – whose departure is separate from any legal issues his former teammates are having – and Josh LeBlanc, but the way this is being handled makes that seem beside the point.

No. 6 Ohio State hands No. 7 UNC worst home loss in 17 years

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Duane Washington scored 14 points, E.J. Liddell added 12 points off the bench and Ohio State held Cole Anthony to 4-for-15 shooting as the No. 6 Buckeyes went into the Dean Dome and treated No. 7 North Carolina like they were the Michigan football team.

The final score was 74-49. It’s North Carolina’s worst loss since losing by 26 points at Miami in 2013. It’s their worst home loss since the Matt Doherty era, when then-No. 1 Duke won by 29 points in the Dean Dome in 2002.

That isn’t pretty.

Here are the three things to take away from this performance:

1. NORTH CAROLINA DOES NOT HAVE ENOUGH HELP FOR COLE ANTHONY

Cole Anthony is a stud. He’s one of the most entertaining scorers in all of college basketball, and he is going to spend the majority of this season putting up absolutely monstrous numbers.

The problem is that he is going to have to put up those numbers if the Tar Heels are going to have a chance to win at anywhere near the level they expect, because there is a real dearth of scoring firepower on the roster around him.

You want proof?

The Tar Heels have yet to break 80 points in a single game this season. That’s not the norm for Roy Williams’ teams.

Now, to be clear, North Carolina played the majority of this game without Armando Bacot – we’ll get to that – and he is the second-best scoring option on this roster. So that certainly played a role in UNC’s struggles, as did the fact that Ohio State is the second-best defensive team in the country, according to KenPom.

But there are going to be plenty of games this season where the Tar Heels have to square off with teams that are really good defensively. And this game was played in the Dean Dome. UNC cannot blame a 27.4 percent shooting performance entirely on their opponent.

The truth is this simple: The Tar Heels have a bunch of pieces on their roster that should thrive in a role. Brandon Robinson is a good defender, a good passer and a guy that can make open jumpers. Garrison Brooks can get to the offensive glass and bang in the paint defensively. Leaky Black has the kind of length and versatility everyone is looking for.

But none of them have played well enough to be the third-option offensively for a team with ACC title and Final Four aspirations. The grad transfers, Christian Keeling and Justin Pierce, are nothing more than bench options, and rightfully so.

That means the Tar Heels are in a tough spot.

2. ARMANDO BACOT’S ANKLE INJURY SOUNDS BAD

I just spent 400 words explaining to you why North Carolina needs secondary scoring options alongside Cole Anthony.

Their best secondary scorer is Armando Bacot. He sprained his left ankle in the first five minutes of Wednesday night’s game. Roy Williams told reporters after the game that “he may be out awhile.”

North Carolina plays at Virginia on Sunday. They play at Gonzaga Dec. 18th. Uh oh.

3. THIS WAS AN OHIO STATE-MENT

First and foremost, yes.

I said that.

It wasn’t an editor.

It was me.

And it was good.

Second of all, this isn’t exactly breaking news, but this Ohio State team is awesome. As of this very moment, they rank second overall on KenPom, behind only Louisville. They are the nation’s second-best defense, and they are allowing just 0.781 points-per-possession on the season. (That’s really good.)

We all thought we knew this already. The Buckeyes beat Cincinnati at home. They blew out Villanova at home. But Cincinnati has been terrible since then, Villanova was playing their first road game of the season with a really young team and we had yet to see the Buckeyes play away from home. Like Louisville on Tuesday night, this was a chance for Ohio State to make themselves known on a national stage with everyone watching.

They did.

But here’s why this win was so impressive to me: It’s the second-worst loss that North Carolina has experienced at home in the last 56 years, and it came on a night where Luther Muhammad played just nine minutes and Kaleb Wesson finished with just 10 points, nine boards and six turnovers.

The Buckeyes can win when their best players don’t play well, because A) They’re deep and balanced, B) They are a team built on their defense and C) They are as well-coached as anyone in the country.

The Big Ten is absolutely loaded at the top this year.

And Ohio State may be the best of the bunch.

Which means they may be the best team in the country.

Who saw that coming?

Corey Kispert leads No. 9 Gonzaga over Texas Southern 101-62

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SPOKANE, Wash. — Corey Kispert scored 17 points, Joel Ayayi added 16 and No. 9 Gonzaga beat Texas Southern 101-62 on Wednesday night, rebounding from a loss to Michigan in the Battle 4 Atlantis title game.

Seven players scored in double figures for Gonzaga (9-1). The Zags have 28 consecutive home wins, second-longest streak in the nation after Tennessee’s 30.

Tyrik Armstrong scored 15 points for Texas Southern (2-6), which is playing a difficult nonconference schedule. Yahuza Ross added nine.

Gonzaga made 12 of its first 15 shots to jump to a 25-15 lead.

Texas Southern scored three straight baskets to get to 25-21.

But Gonzaga replied with a 28-9 run to push its lead to 53-30 at halftime.

Gonzaga shot 61% in the first half, while the Tigers shot just 37.8% and made just one of 11 from 3-point range.

Gonzaga scored the first nine points of the second half for a 62-30 lead.

Kispert’s 3-pointer gave Gonzaga an 82-46 lead with just under eight minutes left in the game.

BIG PICTURE

Texas Southern: The Tigers were picked to finish second in the Southwestern Athletic Conference. Their defense came in yielding 79.9 points per game. They have lost to Gonzaga each of the previous two years.

Gonzaga: The Bulldogs have five players banged up, and were seeking to rebound from an 82-64 loss to Michigan last Friday that was their most lopsided since 2014. They are 14-0 all-time against SWAC teams.

UP NEXT

Texas Southern hosts Concordia on Saturday.

Gonzaga plays at No. 22 Washington on Sunday, followed by a game at No. 12 Arizona on Dec. 14 before returning home to face No. 7 North Carolina on Dec. 18.

No. 21 Tennessee tops Florida A&M for 31st-straight home win

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — John Fulkerson scored 15 points to lead five Tennessee players in double figures as the 21st-ranked Volunteers trounced winless Florida A&M 72-43 on Wednesday night for their 31st consecutive home victory.

Tennessee (7-1) owns the longest active home winning streak of any Division I team. The Vols haven’t lost at home since falling 94-84 to Auburn on Jan. 2, 2018.

The Vols’ latest victory improved Rick Barnes’ coaching record to 699-365 in 32 seasons at George Mason (1987-88), Providence (1988-94), Clemson (1994-98), Texas (1998-2015) and Tennessee (2015-present).

Barnes will try to become the seventh active head coach to earn 700 career Division I wins when Tennessee hosts No. 15 Memphis on Dec. 14. The fraternity includes Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, North Carolina’s Roy Williams, West Virginia’s Bob Huggins, Coastal Carolina’s Cliff Ellis and Kentucky’s John Calipari.

Fulkerson’s 15-point performance came four days after the junior forward scored a career-high 17 in a 72-69 victory over VCU, which was ranked No. 20 at the time.

Yves Pons scored 14 points and Olivier Nkamhoua had 11 for Tennessee. Lamonte’ Turner and Josiah-Jordan James added 10 points apiece.

Evins Desir scored 11 points for Florida A&M (0-7).

Tennessee took control with an early 14-0 run that opened a 16-3 advantage. The Vols stayed in front by double digits the rest of the way.

Florida A&M shot just 35.6% (16 of 45) from the floor. Tennessee hasn’t allowed any of its first eight opponents to shoot better than 41.1%.

BIG PICTURE

Florida A&M: This game continued the early-season travels for Florida A&M, a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference program that won’t play its first home game until it hosts Morgan State on Jan. 11. The Rattlers are opening their season with 11 road games and two neutral-site contests.

Tennessee: The Vols won easily despite not getting much scoring from Jordan Bowden, who entered with a team-high 15.4 points per game. Bowden scored just three and shot 1 of 7. Tennessee will need to play better to beat Memphis after the exam break. Tennessee had an equal number of turnovers and baskets (10) in the second half.

UP NEXT

Florida A&M is at Portland on Dec. 16.

Tennessee hosts Memphis on Dec. 14.

Jalen Smith’s double-double helps Maryland rout Notre Dame

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COLLEGE PARK, Md.  — Jalen Smith had 15 points and a career-high 16 rebounds as No. 3 Maryland cruised to a 72-51 victory over Notre Dame on Wednesday night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Eric Ayala scored 14 points and Aaron Wiggins added 11 for the Terrapins (9-0), who are off to their best start since winning 10 in a row to open the 1998-99 season.

John Mooney had 17 points and 12 rebounds for Notre Dame (6-2), which had won six in a row since opening the season with a loss at North Carolina.

It took some time for the Terps’ offense to get going, but their defense was sharp for nearly the entire first half. After falling behind 9-4, Maryland allowed just four points over the next 12:31.

Ayala scored seven points in a row to turn a one-point game into a 21-13 lead, and later delivered a tomahawk slam a minute before the break. Aaron Wiggins capped the half by getting the carom from his missed 3-pointer and slamming it home for a 32-20 lead.

Notre Dame never cut the deficit to less than 10 in the second half as Maryland snapped a six-game skid in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, a streak that began when the Terps were still in the ACC.

Smith recorded his fifth double-double of the season, matching his total from all of last season.

BIG PICTURE

Notre Dame: The Irish missed out on the first of their three chances for a noteworthy nonconference victory this month. Notre Dame will get chances at home against UCLA (Dec. 14) and in Indianapolis against Indiana (Dec. 21) for a brand-name triumph outside the ACC.

Maryland: The evidence continues to build that the Terps are an elite defensive team. Three days after holding Marquette star Markus Howard to just six points, Maryland smothered the Fighting Irish, limiting them to 29.0 percent from the floor.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Maryland, which rose to No. 3 in this week’s poll after winning the Orlando Invitational, did nothing to dent its lofty ranking in the first of two games this week.

UP NEXT

Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish begin a three-game homestand Saturday, facing Boston College in their first ACC game in more than a month.

Maryland: The Terps open conference play on Saturday at home against Illinois, the first of two league games in a span of four days.