Previewing your college hoops weekend

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Game of the Weekend: Sat. Noon: No. 5 North Carolina @ No. 1 Kentucky

It is still tough for me to grasp my head around the fact that this game will be happening tomorrow. I’m sure I am not alone when I say that this date and this time slot has been circled on my calendar for a long time. Some of the luster disappeared when North Carolina lost to UNLV on Saturday, but that certainly doesn’t diminish my anticipation level. Simply put — there is just so much about this game that is intriguing on so many different levels. Kentucky vs. Carolina. Half a dozen lottery picks. The two favorites to win the national title. The styles they play. The individual matchups. Its almost too much.

Instead of waxing poetic about this matchup for six or seven more paragraphs, I’m simply going to give you what I believe are the three keys to this game:

Marquis Teague: Its no secret that Kendall Marshall is, at best, a crummy defender. And with Doron Lamb joining Teague in the back court, it means that Marshall will have no choice but to guard him; Lamb is a much more dangerous scorer than Teague, capable of going for 30 if he gets rolling. Like most freshman point guards, Teague has a tendency to get out of control at times. He was the sole reason that Kansas was able to hang with Kentucky for a half as he turned the ball over six times against the Jayhawks. If he does that against the Heels, I can promise you that the score won’t be tied at the break. UNC is too good at capitalizing. Teague is going to have to be aggressive attacking the basket, but he cannot be overaggressive. It sounds simple, but the execution of that idea is more difficult that it sounds. Marshall won’t be able to keep Teague out of the paint, but picking the right times to attack — and making the right decisions when he beats his man — will be the key. He needs to limit turnovers and forced shots.

Front court matchups: One of the areas that UNC has struggled this season is against tough, physical front lines. Michigan State pounded them on the offensive glass. UNLV got their fair share as well. Kentucky? They have a duo in the front court that can attack the offensive glass as well as anyone in the country. The difference? Neither Terrence Jones nor Anthony Davis are known for being able to push people around. Anthony Davis is John Henson with perimeter skills. Terrence Jones has beefed up, but at times he plays like that added muscle was for the beach, not the court. Oddly enough, I’d say that UNC matches up better with Kentucky’s front court than they do with the front court of most other elite teams. Jones will be the difference maker here. Is he going to decide to play like the guy that can be an impossible. Since its technically the front court, I think a lot of scouts will be looking to see how Miller/Lamb matchup with Harrison Barnes.

Pace: Where both Wisconsin and UNLV had success against UNC by controlling the tempo of the game, Kentucky is not the type of team that likes to play slowly. They want to run just as badly as UNC does, and that could end up being a huge advantage for the Heels. With the ability of Marshall to pass ahead and how potent that makes the Heel’s transition game, a faster pace may not be ideal Kentucky.

Five more games you cannot miss

Fri. 7 p.m.: No. 9 Florida @ No. 3 Syracuse: The back courts in this game are going to balance each other out. Both teams have a ton of firepower on the perimeter. That is indisputable. Where the game is going to be decided is in the front court. Syracuse is deep, talented and athletic. Florida, outside of Patric Young, not so much. And the Gators will be without their starting power forward Erik Murphy. Can Will Yeguete step up and continue his early season efforts off the bench on a bigger stage against a more talented team? And is there anyone on the Florida roster that is going to be able to matchup with Kris Joseph’s size and perimeter ability?

Fri. 9 p.m.: No. 19 Vanderbilt @ No. 6 Louisville: Both Vanderbilt and Louisville have been struck hard by the injury bug this season, but the Cardinals, thanks to their depth, have handled it better. Vandy has already been knocked off twice this year, with both coming to teams with tough and physical back courts. Louisville has that as well, and will do everything they can to pressure the Commodores and make life hell for John Jenkins and Brad Tinsley. Peyton Siva will be borderline unguardable in this game, but the same can probably be said for Jeff Taylor

Sat. 3 p.m.: Purdue @ No. 11 Xavier: Purdue has been impressive this season, and its not just the return of Robbie Hummel to being an elite level player. Lewis Jackson is playing as well as he ever has. Ryne Smith is knocking down threes. Anthony Johnson, Terone Johnson and Kelsey Barlow are all producing on both ends. But Xavier, with all do respect to Alabama, is the best team that the Boilermakers have faced this season, and they’ll be taking them on at the Cintas Center, which is not an easy place to play. We all know about Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons, but the keep for Purdue will be handling Xavier’s front line, which isn’t immensely talented but it big and deep.

Sat. 4:30 p.m.: No. 16 Marquette @ No. 7 Wisconsin: There are some great games on the tube this weekend, but I’m looking forward to this matchup as much as any of them. The Badgers have ascended quickly in the rankings thanks to their staunch defense, and that spot in the top ten appears to have been validated by a three point loss at UNC in a game they struggled. Marquette, however, is still a bit of an unknown quantity. They have names we all know — Jae Crowder, Darius Johnson-Odom, Vander Blue — but it will be interesting to see just how those pieces are fitting together this season. Is Marquette really top 20 team?

Sun. 4 p.m.: No. 20 UNLV @ Wichita State: I think it will be safe to say that by Monday, UNLV will have been thoroughly tested in this young season. After knocking off then-No. 1 North Carolina in Vegas on Saturday night, the Rebels went to UC-Santa Barbara and hung on to win a double overtime barnburner. They follow that road trip up with another, this time to take on Wichita State, who is one of the best teams in the MVC and has a tremendous home court advantage. The question mark here — which Shocker will get the unenviable task of trying to slow down the hottest player in the country in Mike Moser.

Who’s getting upset? Sat. 3:15 p.m.: No. 18 Gonzaga @ Illinois

Five more teams on upset alert?

Sat. 5:15 p.m.: No. 17 Pitt @ Tennessee: Last year when this matchup took place, Pitt was also the favorite and Tennessee was the scrappy underdog that had surprised some people early in the season. The Vols won that game, and it was in Pittsburgh. This year, its the same story. Pitt has been disappointing early in the year, particularly on the defensive end of the floor, but they still have Ashton Gibbs, and there is a reason that his name showed up on all-american lists. Tennessee may not have the same amount of talent on the roster that they did last year, but they play hard and finally look like they are getting some coaching. Trae Golden and Jeronne Maymon, who will be matched up with Nasir Robinson, are good enough to carry the Vols at times. The x-factor may end up being whether or not Pitt’s big front line finally decides to start playing like a Panther front line.

Sat. 9 p.m.: West Virginia @ No. 24 Mississippi State: The front court matchup here will be quite entertaining. Renardo Sidney and Arnett Moultrie, for all of the effort and conditioning issues that are present, are as big and as talented as anyone in the country. But West Virginia has their own pair of quality big men in Kevin Jones and Deniz Kilicli. The rebounding battle is going to be important, but it will be interesting to see how West Virginia’s freshman point guard Jabarie Hinds will handle Mississippi State’s Dee Bost.

Sat. 7 p.m.: Penn @ Villanova: Villanova is really making me look bad this season. I went all-in on the Wildcats in the preseason, touting how much I liked this team’s make up and how much they reminded me of the 2009 Final Four team. And while that may be true in the media guide, on the court is a different story. The Wildcats look lost offensively and have gotten inconsistent performances out of the three guys they need to be stars — Maalik Wayns, Mouphtaou Yarou and Dominic Cheek. Penn may play in the Ivy, but this group has some solid pieces, led by point guard Zac Rosen, who has been terrific this year.

Sun. 4 p.m.: No. 8 Baylor @ Nortwestern: In terms of styles, this may be the most interesting matchup of the weekend. Baylor is massive up front and obscenely athletic, with all the natural talent in the world but nary an effective point guard on their roster. Northwestern loves to play small ball and spread the floor, playing a crafty, Princeton-esque system and raining threes. That three-point line may end up being the difference, as the Wildcats have dangerous shooters at every spot on the floor while the Bears are one of the worst in the country at defending the three ball.

Sun. 5 p.m.: No. 23 Cal @ SDSU: This will be a good test for both teams. Cal got utterly embarrassed in their only test this season, while SDSU has lost twice two teams currently ranked in the top 25. The perimeter attack of both teams is strong, with Jorge Gutierrez and Allen Crabbe matching up with Chase Tapley, Xavier Thams, Jamaal Franklin and James Rahon. The key may end up being Harper Kamp, a big man for Cal that doesn’t really have someone to matchup opposite him.

Mid-major matchup of the weekend: Sat. 10 p.m.: Boise State @ Indiana State

With Creighton and San Diego State having had their battle on Wednesday night, the game between the Broncos and the Sycamores becomes the most interesting of the weekend in the challenge between the Missouri Valley and the Mountain West. Why? Because both teams have had success early in the season, but neither of them has really proven anything. Indiana State is a bit undersized up front, but they have one of the most underrated point guards in the country in Jake Odum. The key to slowing down the Broncos will be preventing sharpshooting Aussie Anthony Drmic from getting any looks on the perimeter.

Five more mid-major matchups to watch

Sat. 2 p.m.: Valparaiso @ Butler: So will Butler end up being Butler again this season? They certainly have the talent to do so, but the Bulldogs still have a long way to go before they reach the level that they have been at the past two seasons. Valpo may be without Brandon Wood this year, but the Crusaders are 5-2 and have beaten Akron and Duquesne already this year.

Sat. 2 p.m.: Cleveland State @ Detroit: Detroit was thought to be the team that would be a favorite to win the Horizon in the preseason, but the Titans aren’t much more than Ray McCallum this season, and he isn’t good enough to carry this program. Cleveland State is a physical defense team that has some offensive pieces that were overshadowed by Norris Cole last year.

Sat. 2:30 p.m.: Colorado State @ Northern Iowa: The Panthers have been perhaps the most surprising team in the Valley this year, with their road loss to St. Mary’s getting out weighed by road wins against Old Dominion and Iowa State. The Rams are coming off of a tough, overtime win against Colorado and have a star in Wes Elkmeier.

Sat. 4 p.m.: Bucknell @ La Salle: La Salle has been a bit of a surprise early on in the season, headlined by the play of their star point guard, Tyreek Duren. The Bison are the favorite to win the Patriot League this season, but they have missed on a couple of chances to build up their non-conference resume. La Salle may not qualify as a marquee win, but any win on the road will help come March.

Sat. 10 p.m.: Missouri State @ New Mexico: New Mexico has been one of the most disappointing team in the country. They don’t know how to get the ball to Drew Gordon and Kendell Williams is not playing up to the level that was expected coming into the season. Hugh Greenwood could be the answer at the point (he has 16 assists and no turnovers the past four games), but its taking time to figure out how to play together. Missouri State has actually been better than expected, but they’ve done it with Kyle Weems struggling. What happens when he finally starts playing like the kid that was MVC player of the year last season.

The rest of the top 25:

Friday

7 p.m.: Northwestern State @ No. 13 Missouri: The Tigers have been one of the most surprising dominant teams early in the season, thanks to a talented perimeter attack and the kind of team unity that this group had been missing under Mike Anderson. This is a group that finally appears to be playing without the fear of making a mistake, and that is the only way to be successful as a basketball team.

Saturday

Noon: UT-Pan American @ No. 2 Ohio State: Ohio State is coming off of their demolition of Duke. If they play like that against UT-Pan American, things could get very, very ugly.

3:15 p.m.: Arkansas @ No. 10 UConn: The Huskies have some major question marks. When will Alex Oriakhi show up? Is Andre Drummond ever going to become consistent? Will Shabazz Napier or Jeremy Lamb ever take the reins of this team? How good is Ryan Boatright? UConn has much more talent than Arkansas, but they also had much more talent than Central Florida.

5:15 p.m.: South Florida @ No. 14 Kansas: Thomas Robinson is certainly living up to the expectations he had coming into the season. In the five games that Kansas has played this season, he’s notched a double-double in every single game. The problem? He’s still getting by off of effort and god-given ability than skill level.

Noon: Iowa State @ No. 15 Michigan: Iowa State is like a freight train without a conductor. This is a group with talented transfers up and down their roster, but without the point guard or the cohesiveness to really take advantage of that. And against a team like Michigan — one that runs a complicated zone and a tricky offensive system — that cohesiveness is important.

8:30 p.m.: Austin Peay @ No. 21 Memphis: The Tigers look like the exact same team as they were last season. Immensely talented but without a clue. Austin Peay has been dreadful this season, but this group has had a tendency to play down to the level of their opponent. If Tyshawn Edmundson gets hot and Memphis doesn’t show up ready to play? Well, wouldn’t that be embarrassing.

10 p.m.: No. 25 St. Louis @ Portland: So who are the Billikens? Are they the team that pounded Washington and rolled through the 76 Classic, or are they the team that got dropped by Loyola Marymount? Rick Majerus has taken this group on a fairly extensive west coast road trip, and Portland has some guys that can shoot. If you like threes, tune in to this game.

Sunday

5:05 p.m.: No. 22 Creighton @ Nebraska: The Bluejays are coming off of a very impressive, come-from-behind win over San Diego State in the Viejas Center. With a powerful offense the driving force of this team, its tough to imagine Nebraska, a team that could only manage 53 points against Wake Forest, being able to hang with them.

Top storylines

Fri. 11 p.m.: Washington @ Nevada: There is going to be quite a bit of talent on the court when these two teams square off. The problem is that both programs, in recent years, have a tendency to play below their talent level. I can’t be the only one curious to see how this plays out.

Sat. 4:30 p.m.: Texas @ UCLA: The Longhorns are a different team than they have been in recent years, powered by a talented back court and the enigmatic J’Covan Brown. But UCLA’s entire roster is enigmatic as Ben Howland continues to try and get control of this team. Its amazing to think that a matchup between these two programs features no ranked teams.

Sat. 5 p.m.: Oregon @ BYU: The Ducks have already lost two members of their vaunted recruiting class to a transfer, including their most talented player in Jabari Brown. BYU will be their first real test since the defections. The Cougars aren’t the same team that they were last year, but with Brandon Davies back in the mix, this is still a team that is going to be able to hang with the big boys. Is Oregon one of the big boys?

Sat. 6:35 p.m.: Eastern Washington @ Washington State: Washington State has been struggling this season, highlighted by their loss to UC-Riverside. EWU has some talent, specifically Collin Chiverton and Cliff Colimon. They hung with Gonzaga and have an offense that is capable of putting up a lot of points. Wazzu better come to play.

Sat. 7 p.m.: St. Bonaventure @ Buffalo: Buffalo is 5-1 and fresh off of a 29 point beat down of Dayton on the road. The Bonnies? They’ve had a tough start to the season, losing three of their first five as Andrew Nicholson has struggled to find the rhythm he had the last two years. It should be fun to watch super sophomore Javon McCrea go up against St. Bonnie’s big front line.

Sun. 2 p.m.: Dayton @ Murray State: Dayton is one of the biggest enigmas of the young season. They won the Old Spice Classic, then lost by 29 at home to Buffalo. Murray State, on the other hand, is sitting at 8-0 after winning the Great Alaska Shootout. Are the Racers for real?

Sun. 2:30 p.m.: VCU @ George Washington: This is a matchup that I will be keeping a close eye on. VCU is a young team, but coming off of a trip to the Final Four, a lot was expected of this team. The Commodores lost to Georgia Tech and Seton Hall in fairly ugly fashion, but they threw a couple of haymakers at Alabama in a close loss. GW has some talent on their roster, but they head into this game with losses against the two good teams they have played this season.

Sun. 4 p.m.: NC State @ Stanford: NC State is finally playing like the team that we expected last year when they landed a loaded recruiting class. CJ Leslie and Lorenzo Brown are well on their way to becoming stars in the ACC. But Stanford has been impressive early in the season, with quality back court play and a couple of big bodies inside. Can they handle NC State’s athleticism?

Sun. 5:30 p.m.: Kansas State @ Virginia Tech: This game could end up having major bubble implications come March. Virginia Tech was thought to be a sleeper in the ACC, but they just dropped a roadie to a Minnesota team that didn’t have Trevor Mbakwe or Ralph Sampson. They need this win against a solid Kansas State team that has yet to really hit their stride.

Other notable tips

Friday

– 7 p.m.: Cincinnati @ Georgia
– 7 p.m.: Iona @ Canisius
– 8 p.m.: Mississippi Valley State @ Northwestern
– 9 p.m.: Auburn @ Seton Hall
– 10 p.m.: Columbia @ Loyola Marymount

Saturday

– 1 p.m.: NJIT @ Georgetown
– 1 p.m.: Old Dominion @ Northeastern
– 1 p.m.: Richmond @ Wake Forest
– 1 p.m.: Longwood @ Virginia
– 1 p.m.: UMass @ Miami
– 2:15 p.m.: USC @ Minnesota
– 4 p.m.: Drexel @ Delaware
– 4 p.m.: Arizona State @ Tulsa
– 4 p.m.: Central Michigan @ Temple
– 4 p.m.: James Madison @ Hofstra
– 5:15 p.m.: Mercer @ Belmont
– 6:30 p.m.: Northern Arizona @ Arizona
– 7:30 p.m.: George Mason @ Towson
– 8 p.m.: Stephen F. Austin @ Texas A&M
– 9:30 p.m.: Weber State @ San Jose State
– 10 p.m.: St. Mary’s @ Cal Poly
– 10:05 p.m.: Utah State @ Pacific

Sunday

– 2: p.m.: Seattle @ Harvard
– 2: p.m.: Iona @ Niagara
– 2 p.m.: Akron @ Middle Tennessee State
– 2 p.m.: New Mexico State @ Southern Miss
– 3:30 p.m.: South Carolina @ Clemson
– 4:30 p.m.: Stetson @ Indiana
– 4:45 p.m.: Notre Dame @ Maryland
– 6 p.m.: Ole Miss @ Penn State
– 8 p.m.: St. Joseph’s @ American
– 8 p.m.: Montana @ Oregon State

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

AP Poll: Baylor remains No. 1 in week with few changes at the top

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Here is the latest college basketball AP Poll.

For those interested, here is the NBC Sports Top 25.

Baylor is No. 1 for a second straight week in a college basketball AP poll that had no major changes at the top, a rare bit of stability in a wildly unpredictable season.

The Bears stayed well ahead of No. 2 Gonzaga in Monday’s poll, part of an unchanged top seven for the first time this season. In fact, the only change in the top 10 came with Villanova moving up a spot to No. 8 to swap positions with No. 9 Duke. That comes in a season that has seen seven different teams reach No. 1 this season, matching a record set during the 1982-83 season.

Baylor (17-1) hopped over Gonzaga last week to reach No. 1 for the second time in program history, then earned 44 of 64 first-place votes to keep a firm hold on the top spot after beating Oklahoma and Florida last week.

The Zags earned 19 first-place votes to remain either No. 1 or No. 2 in the poll since the middle of December, followed by Kansas, San Diego State — the last unbeaten team in Division I — and Florida State.

Louisville, Dayton, Villanova, Duke and Seton Hall rounded out the top 10.

No. 22 LSU, No. 23 Wichita State and No. 24 Penn State were the week’s new additions, re-entering the poll after appearances earlier this season. Texas Tech, Memphis and Arizona fell out of the rankings.

Here is the full college basketball AP Poll:

1. Baylor (44 first-place votes)
2. Gonzaga (19)
3. Kansas (1)
4. San Diego State
5. Florida State
6. Louisville
7. Dayton
8. Villanova
9. Duke
10. Seton Hall
11. Oregon
12. West Virginia
13. Kentucky
14. Michigan State
15. Maryland
16. Butler
17. Auburn
18. Iowa
19. Illinois
20. Colorado
21. Houston
22. LSU
23. Wichita State
24. Penn State
25. Rutgers

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More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and http://www.twitter.com/AP_Top25

___

Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap

ACC fines Brey for his officiating comments

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GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) The Atlantic Coast Conference has fined Notre Dame $20,000 and publicly reprimanded Fighting Irish basketball coach Mike Brey for his comments about officiating after Saturday’s loss at Florida State.

The league announced the penalties Monday, saying Brey’s comments “were in direct violation” of the league’s sportsmanship policy that states that public criticism of officiating “is not in the best interest of intercollegiate athletics.”

Brey referenced several issues after the 85-84 loss to the Seminoles, including a technical foul called on the Irish bench with 2:31 left. He also mentioned game official John Gaffney by name as he left the news conference in Tallahassee.

“We’re treated by the officials like we haven’t brought football as a full member (to the league), but yet we get a full share of the ACC Network TV, are you kidding me?” Brey said, a reference to Notre Dame’s independence in football even as it remains a member of all other league sports.

Moments later, a frustrated Brey waved both hands as he got up to leave and continued his comments as he left the room.

“You’ve got to be kidding me, man,” Brey said, raising his voice. “Come on, man. We’re in the league, too.”

The league said in a news release that the matter is closed and declined to make additional comment. The fine will go toward an ACC scholarship fund that assists athletes with pursuing graduate degrees after completing undergraduate requirements.

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

Monday Overreactions: Ayo Dosunmu, Maryland and Nick Richards’ takeoer

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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Ayo Dosunmu, Illinois

Ayo Dosunmu did it again.

Illinois’ sophomore star and leading scorer finished with 27 points, none of which were bigger than the final shot of the game as Dosunmu hit a foul line jumper over Zavier Simpson with 0.5 seconds left on the clock to beat Michigan in Ann Arbor:

It’s the sixth straight win for the Illini, who have climbed all the way up to No. 21 in the AP poll, and no one has been more influential in that run than Dosunmu. He’s averaging 19.0 points and 5.4 assists over the last five games, and in a conference where winning road games is notoriously difficult, the Illini have won at Wisconsin, at Purdue and at Michigan during that stretch.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Maryland Terrapins

No team in the country has elicited a louder chorus of doubters throughout the course of the season than Maryland.

The Terps were a top ten team in the preseason, and spent the entire season ranked inside the top 20 of the AP poll and currently sit at No. 10 in KenPom’s rankings. But because of some uninspiring performances early in the season, combined with the fact that the Terps had entered the week with an 0-4 record on the road, it was easy to overlook this group as nothing more than another fraudulent Mark Turgeon roster.

This week, the narrative changed. The Terps erased a 14 point deficit on the road to knock off Northwester, 77-66, in Chicago and then followed that up by going on a 7-0 run in the final two minutes to land a 77-76 win at Indiana.

Suddenly, the Terps are on a three game winning streak with back-to-back home games coming up next.

MONDAY’S OVERREACTIONS

1. NICK RICHARDS IS THE SEC PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Richards has been one of the most improved players in the country this season, but Saturday was really the first time that we saw him completely take over a game.

He finished with 25 points, 14 boards and four blocks in the 76-74 overtime win at Texas Tech, scoring the game-winning points with 10 seconds left.

This is notable, because if you look at Kentucky’s biggest wins of the season to date, they all happened to be a result of one of Hagans or Maxey going absolutely nuts. Maxey had 27 in the win over Michigan State. He had 26  against Louisville. Hagans went for 21 points, seven boards and seven assists against Georgia Tech. He had 13 points, six boards and six assists at Arkansas and 15 points, nine boards and nine assists against Alabama.

Point being, this is the first time that Richards has definitively been the best player on the floor while carrying Kentucky to a win like this on the road.

I also get it: He completely overwhelmed Texas Tech’s frontline — which, frankly, is not a new occurrence, if you have seen the Red Raiders play this season. But we’ve seen Richards play against frontlines he should dominate and, well, not dominate.

As it stands, he’s now the leading scorer and rebounder for the Wildcats. He’s probably the leader in the clubhouse for SEC Player of the Year, and very much in the mix for an all-american team.

2. TEXAS TECH HAS A SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF WORK TO DO TO GET TO THE TOURNAMENT

I’m not sure people realize just how little there is on Texas Tech’s resume right now. They beat Louisville (11) on a neutral court. They beat Iowa State (70) at home. They beat Oklahoma State (83) at home. They won at Kansas State (89). Combined, that’s one Quad 1, two Quad 2 and a Quad 3 win. They have eight wins against sub-200 teams and have lost to seven Quad 1 opponents, including Kentucky (23) at home on Saturday. The Red Raiders will have plenty of chances to build on their profile — they get West Virginia (7) at home and play at Kansas (3) next week alone — but there is no doubt that this team has to start winning some games against teams that are not horrific.

As it stands, the Red Raiders are the very last team in the most recent NBC Sports bracket projection.

3. THE BIG TEN IS GOING TO DISAPPOINT IN MARCH

The biggest reason that I believe this is the lack of elite point guard play. I’ve made this point roughly 18,000 times by now, but in the last decade, the only team that won the national title without having two lead guards playing together was the 2012 Kentucky team that had the top two picks playing together.

And the thing about this year’s Big Ten is that the lead guard play is not great. Cassius Winston, when he’s right, is the best in the country. Ayo Dosunmu, the way he’s been playing for the last month, is right there with him. Anthony Cowan is, in theory, on that list. Zavier Simpson? Maybe. Marcus Carr? At times.

I think that’s it.

So that’s a concern.

As is the fact that every team in the Big Ten is built around their frontcourt play.

I was struck over the weekend as I watch Michigan and Illinois down the stretch play with four centers on the floor — Kofi Cockburn and Giorgi Bezhanishvili for the Illini and Jon Teske and Austin Davis for the Wolverines. Iowa is at their best when they play with Luka Garza and Ryan Kriener. Tom Izzo loves to play Xavier Tillman with another big man. I could keep going if I had the time.

That is the only league in the country where that happens, and I think it is fair to wonder how well that will hold up in March.

4. ARIZONA IS NOT FAR AWAY FROM BEING REALLY DANGEROUS

More than anyone else in college basketball, the Wildcats are the team that appear to be the darling of the predictive metrics this season.

(I would say Ohio State, but they spent the first half of the season absolutely bludgeoning really good teams and still don’t have a loss to a team outside the top 40.)

They have one win against a top 30 team and just two wins against top 55 opponents. Their best win away from home is against Wake Forest, yet the Wildcats, at 13-6 overall, find themselves sitting at 10th in KenPom and 12th in the NET. This is what happens when you find a way to lose games close. Five fo their six losses came by five points or less, and it hasn’t always been the same formula. Arizona erased leads to land backdoor covers against Baylor, Gonzaga and Saint John’s. They blew leads on the road in league play in losses to Oregon and Arizona State. They completely collapsed in the second half against Oregon State.

So I’m not sure there is a clear-cut answer to what ails the Wildcats right now.

But I do know that with the talent on their roster, they are not as far away from being an actual top ten team as the average Arizona fan on twitter will have you believe.

5. IS SYRACUSE THE FOURTH-BEST TEAM IN THE ACC?

Someone has to be the fourth-best team in the ACC, and as far as league standings go, the Orange currently qualify. They are 6-3 in the conference, having won their last five games, and they have fully embraced the idea that this roster needs to fire up as many threes as possible to have a chance to win.

That said, they still haven’t beaten anyone. Their best win came at Virginia in overtime, but Virginia may not be a tournament team this season. The trouble is that the Orange only get the other top teams in the conference — Duke, N.C. State, Florida State and Louisville — once each.

They probably need to win at least two of those games to have a real shot at a tournament bid.

Bracketology: Baylor strengthens its grip on the No. 1 overall seed

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Here is the latest NCAA tournament bracketology projection.

Baylor continues to strengthen its grip on the No. 1 overall seed.  The Bears won their fifth true road game (5-0 in opportunities) of the season at Florida on Saturday.  They are No. 1 in the NCAA’s NET ratings, 6-1 in Quadrant 1 games and 10-1 against Quadrant 1 and 2 opponents combined.  Baylor hasn’t lost since November 8, a nearly two-month stretch of perfection.

Elsewhere, the top line remains in tact.  There’s room for debate across lines two through four. It’ll be interesting to see how the Selection Committee views the profiles of teams like Florida State, Louisville and Duke in the weeks ahead.  Unless something changes, there will be fewer Quad 1 opportunities in this year’s Atlantic Coast Conference.

Tracking the Bubble is going to keep you busy.  It’s several lines deep into the bracket today.  The margins between a nine seed and an 11-seeded play-in team are minimal.  And that’s not factoring in the next 8-12 teams knocking on the door.

The latest look at where our NCAA tournament bracketology projection stands …

UPDATED: January 27, 2020

FIRST FOUR – DAYTON
MIDWEST REGION NC State vs. Arizona State
SOUTH REGION VCU vs. Texas Tech
SOUTH REGION  ROBERT MORRIS vs. NORFOLK ST
MIDWEST REGION MONMOUTH vs. PR VIEW A&M

SOUTH Houston WEST – Los Angeles                         
Omaha Spokane
1) BAYLOR 1) GONZAGA
16) ROB MORRIS / NORFOLK ST 16) NORTHERN COLORADO
8) Wichita State 8) USC
9) Saint Mary’s 9) Oklahoma 
Sacramento Tampa
5) Penn State 5) LSU
12) YALE 12) AKRON
4) Kentucky 4) West Virginia
13) NEW MEXICO ST 13) S.F. AUSTIN
Cleveland Albany
6) Marquette 6) Colorado
11) VCU / Texas Tech 11) BYU
3) MICHIGAN STATE 3) Villanova
14) NORTH TEXAS 14) COLGATE
Tampa Spokane
7) Indiana 7) Wisconsin
10) Saint John’s 10) Memphis
2) Florida State 2) OREGON
15) AUSTIN PEAY 15) SOUTH DAKOTA ST
EAST – New York MIDWEST – Indianapolis
Sacramento Omaha
1) SAN DIEGO STATE 1) Kansas
16) UC-IRVINE 16) MONMOUTH / PV A&M
8) Ohio State 8) HOUSTON
9) Florida 9) Arkansas
Greensboro St. Louis
5) Butler 5) Creighton
12) EAST TENNESSEE ST 12) NORTHERN IOWA
4) Maryland 4) Iowa
13) VERMONT 13) LIBERTY
Greensboro Cleveland
6) Auburn 6) Illinois
11) DePaul 11) NC State / Arizona St
3) Duke 3) DAYTON
14) WRIGHT STATE 14) LITTLE ROCK
Albany St. Louis
7) Rutgers 7) Arizona
10) Stanford 10) Michigan
2) SETON HALL 2) LOUISVILLE
15) WILLIAM & MARY 15) WINTHROP

BUBBLE NOTES
Last 4 Byes Last 4 IN      First 4 OUT Next 4 OUT
Michigan Arizona State Rhode Island Purdue
BYU NC State Virginia Tech Tennessee
Saint John’s VCU Richmond Xavier
DePaul Texas Tech Minnesota Georgetown

Top Seed Line
Baylor, Gonzaga, Kansas, San Diego State
Seed List

Breakdown by Conference …
Big Ten (10)
Big East (7)
Pac 12 (6)
SEC (5)
Big 12 (5)

ACC (4)
American (3)

West Coast (3)
Atlantic 10 (2)
Mountain West (1)

College Basketball Top 25 Power Rankings: Baylor, Gonzaga lead the way

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A new college basketball top 25 is now live.

I sat down at my laptop to write out a column about why I ranked certain teams in certain spots and, to be perfectly honest, I couldn’t find a way to give a damn.

As I’m sure you all know, Kobe Bryant died today. He was in a helicopter along with eight other people, including his daughter, Gianna, and her teammate, Alyssa Altobelli along with her mom, Keri, and dad, John. They were on the way to play in a travel team game. At least two, and certainly more, families were gutted, and while we are going to be talking about Kobe for the most part, I do think that should be emphasized.

Nine people died on that helicopter. Nine.

I’ve been thinking a lot today about why so many folks — like myself — spent Sunday completely torn up about the death of a person that we never met, a person that may or may not be deserving of the outpouring of love and adoration coming his way. What I came up with is this: The true heartbreak in this story is that Kobe was on the plane with one of his four daughters, the one he has spent the last couple of years proudly and publicly developing into a full-blown middle-aged sports dad with. It was awesome to see. This was not how their story was supposed to end.

Kobe and his wife also have three other daughters: a 17-year old along with a three year old and a newborn that is just seven months old. The Altobellis left a family behind, too, and what that family is going through is crushing as well, but I can’t stop thinking about what Vanessa, his wife, is going to be forced to deal with. She’s post-partum, with one daughter that will never know her father, and now has to cope with the loss of her husband and the loss of a child while trying to keep that 17-year old sane and explain to a three-year old why daddy and her big sister are never coming home.

That’s unfathomable to me.

But the reason I think this hit me so hard is that I keep putting myself in that helicopter. As a parent, the only goal in your life is keep your kids safe and happy. At any cost. It’s that simple. How do you deal with being on a helicopter with your child — and, for the Altobellis, with your spouse — knowing that something has gone wrong? Knowing what’s going to happen? Knowing the inevitability of your situation? Knowing that there’s nothing you can do to stop it, to keep your baby safe?

I don’t think that I’m alone there.

So I spent as much time as I could today playing with my kids, because arguing about ranking college basketball top 25 teams has never seemed dumber.

We can yell at each other next week.

Anyway, here is the rest of the NBC Sports college basketball top 25.



1. BAYLOR (17-1, Last Week: 1)
2. GONZAGA (21-1, 2)
3. KANSAS (16-3, 3)
4. FLORIDA STATE (17-2, 4)
5. LOUISVILLE (17-3, 5)
6. SETON HALL (15-4, 6)
7. DUKE (17-3, 7)
8. SAN DIEGO STATE (21-0, 8)
9. DAYTON (18-2, 9)
10. OREGON (17-4, 13)
11. KENTUCKY (16-5, 14)
12. WEST VIRGINIA (16-3, 15)
13. VILLANOVA (16-3, 17)
14. ILLINOIS (15-5, 24)
15. AUBURN (17-2, 12)
16. MICHIGAN STATE (16-3, 10)
17. IOWA (14-5, 18)
18. MARYLAND (16-4, 23)
19. HOUSTON (16-4, 20)
20. BUTLER (16-4, 11)
21. CREIGHTON (16-5, 25)
22. COLORADO (16-4, NR)
23. PENN STATE (14-5, NR)
24. RUTGERS (15-5, NR)
25. ARIZONA (13-6, 19)

NEW ADDITIONS: No. 22 Colorado, No. 23 Penn State, No. 24 Rutgers
DROPPED OUT: No. 16 Texas Tech, No. 21 Memphis, No. 22 Michigan