Week in Review: Reggie Hamilton and Florida are honored

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Player of the Week: Reggie Hamilton, Oakland

You should know who Reggie Hamilton is by now. He’s one of the most dynamic guards in the country and the star of a team that could legitimately win a game in the NCAA Tournament if they are able to get there. He went for 35 points in a nationally televised win over Tennessee and followed that up with 28 points in a tough loss to Michigan. The 5’11” Hamilton averages 22.0 ppg and 4.2 apg on the season, but he had the best game of his career on Saturday afternoon.

Hamilton went for 41 points in a win over Valporaiso. He made 14-24 shots from the floor, hitting five threes and added four assists, four steals and three rebounds. More impressive, however, was the fact that the Grizzlies were down by as much as 17 points in the second half, but Hamilton lead the charge back. He scored the first 12 points during an 17-1 run that trimmed the lead to 61-60 and kept Oakland in the game. It was Hamilton’s final shot of the game that truly made the difference, as he went the length of the court in the final five seconds and banked in a runner as time expired:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nbdJOsKSa8%5D

The Summit League is going to be exciting to follow this season. With South Dakota State (who just beat Washington by double figures at Washington) and Oral Roberts (who won by 22 at Xavier) being joined by teams like IUPUI this season, the battle for the Summit’s regular season title will be a fun one to watch.

The All-They-Were-Good-Too team:

G: Nate Wolters, South Dakota State: Wolters played well in his first game of the week, going for 24 points, six boards and five assists in a win over North Dakota, but it was his play in SDSU’s 92-73 win over Washington that earned him his spot on this list. Wolters had 34 points, seven assists, five boards and no turnovers.

G: Michael Dixon, Missouri: The Tigers have a terrific back court, but the guy that is often overlooked in that group is Dixon. That’s not necessarily a knock on him, either, as much as it is a sign of how good Phil Pressey, Marcus Denmon and Kim English. But Dixon can play, and he showed it this week. He averaged 24.0 ppg, 3.0 apg and 3.0 spg in a 2-0 week, including a 30 point performance against William & Mary.

F: DeShaun Thomas, Ohio State: Thomas helped Buckeye fans forget that Jared Sullinger has been banged up this season. Thomas had 23 points in a win over USC-Upstate and followed that up with 30 points and six boards against South Carolina. On the week, Thomas was 23-31 from the floor.

F: Ian Hummer, Princeton: Hummer had a terrific all-around week. He averaged 20.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 6.5 apg and 4.5 spg while leading the Tigers into a 2-0 week with wins over Rider and Boston U.

C: Andre Drummond, UConn: Drummond is finally starting to grow into the player that we all expected him to be when he entered college. Granted, it came against Holy Cross, but Drummond had easily the best game of his collegiate career, finishing with 24 points, eight boards and five blocks on 11-12 shooting form the field.

Bench: Julian Boyd, Long Island (29 pts, 17 rbs vs. St. Peter’s); Keith Clanton, Central Florida (23 pts, 16 rbs, 4 blks vs. Old Dominion); Gorgui Dieng, Louisville (14 pts, 14 rbs, 6 blks vs. Memphis); Drew Gordon, New Mexico (13 pts, 20 rbs, held LeBryan Nash to 2-15 shooting); Jorge Gutierrez, Cal (24 pts, 5 rbs, held Damian Lillard to 4-17); Elias Harris, Gonzaga (18.5 ppg, 9.0 rpg); Bernard James, Florida State (13.0 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 4.0 bpg); Perry Jones, Baylor (28 pts, 8 rbs vs. BYU); Steven Pledger, Oklahoma (31 pts, 10 rbs, 2 stls vs. Houston); Herb Pope, Seton Hall (24 pts, 17 rbs vs. Mercer); John Shurna, Northwestern (32 pts, 9-12 3’s vs. EIU); Russ Smith, Louisville (24 pts, 7 stls vs. Memphis); Antwaine Wiggins, Charleston (21.0 ppg, 9.5 rpg); Tony Wroten, Washington (25.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg); Tyler Zeller, North Carolina (31 pts, 10 rbs)

Team of the Week: Florida Gators

The Gators are a team that is being undervalued right now. Heading into their weekend tilt with then-No. 22 Texas A&M, Florida was ranked 13th in the country largely due to their two losses on the season. Those losses came on the road against Syracuse and Ohio State, the No. 1 and the No. 2 teams in the country, by a grand total of 11 points. Yes, a loss is a loss, but at some point being competitive in a tough road environment is worth something. Duke, who was ranked No. 4 in the country, lost by 22 at Ohio State. Florida lost by four.

The reason that I bring this up is because the Gators spent the weekend proving themselves to their doubters. The Aggies have had their struggles early in the season, but that is partly the result of Khris Middleton’s injury. Where Texas A&M thrives is on the defensive end of the floor, particularly on the perimeter. And that is precisely where Florida dominated them. The Gators hit 11 threes and got a combined 54 points out of Erving Walker, Brad Beal and Kenny Boynton.

The question that people are going to ask is whether this win is fool’s gold. Florida is at their best when they are getting Patric Young touches, and on Saturday he didn’t show up. The big man played just 20 minutes, finishing with five points and four boards, taking just two shots from the floor and committing four fouls. Florida was hot enough early in the game to build a 20 point lead before the Aggies realized what had happened, which is the benefit of having players that can as hot as Boynton and Walker. But they are streaky. Young is steady. Could this come back to bite them before the season is over?

Teams deserving a shout out:

Baylor: The Bears won two games this week, including a thriller against BYU at the Marriott Center in Salt Lake City. It was the first time this season that Baylor really showed how good they can be. Yes, they only won by three points, but anyone that has watched hoops in Utah will tell you that BYU is a difficult team to beat at home. Baylor overcame a 13 point deficit against a good team on the road. That’s impressive, even if the Bear’s had their defensive rebounding issues exposed.

Butler: I was ready to leave the Bulldogs for dead after their 4-6 start to the season. But Brad Stevens worked a little of his magic, as Butler overcame a second-half deficit that climbed as big as 15. With a second left on the clock, Andrew Smith tipped in the game-winner to beat Purdue. This certainly doesn’t erase the start that the Bulldogs have had this season, but it should show you just where this team can be as they continue to develop.

Cincinnati: We talked a bit about Xavier and how they struggled without their back court yesterday. The Bearcats are missing their starting front court to suspensions stemming from the brawl, but they have been winning. After beating Wright State 78-58 in the middle of the week, Cincinnati beat Radford 101-70 over the weekend. Granted, Wright State and Radford aren’t exactly mid-major powerhouses, but the Bearcats looked and played like a different team. Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright have been terrific as Cincy’s pushed the pace and caught fire from three (24-53 from deep on the week).

College of Charleston: The Cougars picked up two wins this week, including their second straight against Tennessee. Bobby Cremins’ team is going to be a group to look out for come March. They have legitimate size in the front court and a talented perimeter attack, led by Andrew Lawrence and Antwaine Wiggins.

Indiana State: The Sycamores notched a big win as they went into Nashville and knocked off Vanderbilt at Memorial Coliseum. Jake Odum had 10 points, eight boards and seven assists while RJ Mahurin led the way with 14 points off the bench. ISU was no secret heading into the season, but their presence in the MVC was diminished early in the year due to the success that Creighton, Wichita State and Northern Iowa have had. This win should get them back into the discussion.

Iona: The Gaels are a well-known quantity at this point, but picking up wins at Richmond and at Vermont will earn you mention here.

Kansas State: The Wildcats are a team that I am having trouble figuring out. They struggle at home against a team like North Florida, having to go to overtime to beat the Owls, and then easily dispatch one of the favorites in the SEC — Alabama — by 13 points. Is it an effort thing with Frank Martin’s club, or is this just going to be one of those teams that confuses us all year long.

Louisville: The Cardinals finally had the offensive explosion we’ve been waiting for in a win over Memphis. They posted 95 points, including a career-high 24 out of sophomore point guard Russ Smith. Gorgui Dieng was also impressive, notching 14 points, 14 boards and six blocks. When Louisville is getting those kind of performances from those players, Louisville becomes a better team offensively.

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs picked up a couple of wins this week, including going into Detroit and knocking off a very good Detroit team that has been playing up to their potential since Eli Holman returned to the lineup. What was most impressive about that win wasn’t the play of the front court (33 points, 20 boards from Arnett Moultrie and Renardo Sidney) or the emergence of Brian Bryant (17 points, six boards), it was the fact that MSU blew a 15 point lead on the road, but was able to regroup and hold on for the win.

Murray State: The Racers didn’t notch a win as impressive as knocking off Memphis on the road, but they did win two games and remain undefeated.

St. Joseph’s: How good can this St. Joseph’s team be? Top three in the Atlantic 10? Top four? Are they a top 25 team? All of the above? St. Joe’s has a talented back court in Tay Jones and Langston Galloway and some athletes on their front line. They can run the floor and are capable of putting on impressive displays of athleticism. And as Villanova and Creighton can attest, the Hawks can beat anyone at home. Now they have to prove they can do it on the road, too.

UNLV: Can someone figure this UNLV team out for me? They smacked North Carolina at home, got worked on the road by Wichita State and Wisconsin on the road, and now they beat Illinois in Chicago by 16 points? I don’t get it.

Five thoughts:

Terrence Jones vs. Will Barton: Terrence Jones missed a chance to prove his doubters wrong on Saturday afternoon. After scoring just six points in the last 60 minutes of basketball for Kentucky heading into their game against Chattanooga, Jones dislocated the pinky on his left hand early in the game. He tried to return, but he couldn’t. The injury furthered the questions surrounding Jones, and its not so much the result of another poor outing due to the injury as much as it is the fact that he didn’t have a chance to change the public’s mind. Personally, I won’t have my mind changed until Jones becomes a dominant presence in a game like the one that Kentucky will play on New Year’s Eve against Louisville. Be the best when the lights are the brightest.

Will Barton has the opposite issue. Where Jones seems to struggle with his intensity and focus, Barton plays hard every second that he is on the floor for Memphis. He did it again as the Tigers lost to Louisville on Saturday, finishing with 28 points and 16 boards. On the season, Barton is posting all-american numbers, averaging 21.2 ppg and 8.6 rpg. The problem is that he is the only one on Memphis that plays that way. Until their entire team can put forth the kind of effort that Barton does on a nightly basis, Memphis will continue to underachieve.

The Pac-12 is awful: It just keeps getting worse out west. On Saturday, it was the drubbing that Arizona got when they went up to Seattle to take on Gonzaga. On Sunday, it was the beatdown that Washington took at the hands of South Dakota State. Oregon lost to Virginia by 13. USC lost to Georgia. Oh, and Arizona State lost to Northern Arizona, who fired their coach a week ago. Cal is probably the league favorite still, but after that? Is Stanford the second best team? What about Oregon State? Can Washington or Arizona figure it out?

Who is the third best team in the SEC?: Kentucky is No. 1 and Florida is No. 2. That much is, for the most part, inarguable. But who is the third-best team in the league? I’m ready to write off Vanderbilt, who lost to another mid-major program at home on Saturday, their fourth loss of the season. They also lost two games in overtime. But I don’t trust Alabama anymore, either. The Crimson Tide can defend like crazy and have some athletes up front, but they have now lost three of their last four games, including Saturday’s defeat at Kansas State.

So is it Mississippi State? The Bulldogs won at Detroit on Saturday, improving to 11-1 on the season and extending their winning streak to 10 games. They have proven that they can win on the road against a quality team on a night when their star guard, Dee Bost, is struggling to score the basketball. They have a big front line, they have scorers on the wing and they have three or four guys capable of scoring 15 points.

The Summit League is pretty good: And the conference race is going to be a lot of fun to watch. South Dakota State just knocked off Washington by 19 points on the road. Oral Roberts beat a depleted Xavier team by 22 on the road. Oakland owns a win over Tennessee and is coming off of a buzzer-beating win against Valparaiso on the road. The league has star power — Nate Wolters, Reggie Hamilton, Frank Gaines, Alex Young — and teams capable of beating anyone, anywhere.

So much for “Rick Barnes can’t coach”: Anyone notice what’s going on in Austin? After a disappointing showing in the Legends Classic, the Longhorns have won seven straight games. On Saturday, they beat a good Temple team 77-65. For the first time in recent memory, Barnes does not have a roster stocked with future pros and did not head into the season with the kind of hype normally reserved for the blue bloods. Instead, he’s put together a team that plays hard and embraces their underdog role. I still have question about J’Covan Brown being the leader of a team, but as Myck Kabongo and the rest of the youngsters on the Texas roster continue to develop, the Longhorns will only get better.

Game of the Week:

Butler 67, Purdue 65:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6yIkd_sQbGE%5D

Miami 93, Florida Atlantic 90 2OT: Wild finish to this one. Down six with just under a minute left, FAU got a couple of buckets surrounding a turnover by Miami, and after the Canes hit 1-2 from the free throw line, Omari Grier buried a three from the corner at the buzzer to force OT. The first overtime was intense, including a wild sequence that saw five baskets made in the span of 1:45 — a Ray Taylor three gave FAU a 77-76 lead, but that was answered by a Kenny Kadji three. Kore White tied the game with a dunk, which was followed up with Rion Brown and Grier trading threes. Miami eventually took control in the second overtime, winning the game.

Matchups of the Week:

– Tue. 9:00 pm: Charleston @ No. 4 Louisville
– Tue. 8:00 pm: Oakland @ Arizona
– Tue. 8:00 pm: Ohio @ Northern Iowa
– Tue. 9:00 pm: Butler @ Gonzaga
– Wed. 7:00 pm: Texas @ No. 6 UNC
– Wed. 9:00 pm: Oklahoma State @ No. 21 Alabama
– Thu. 7:00 pm: Memphis @ No. 17 Georgetown
– Thu. 7:00 pm: Florida State @ No. 13 Florida
– Thu. 9:00 pm: No. 19 Illinois @ No. 8 Missouri
– Thu. 10:30 pm: St. Mary’s @ No. 7 Baylor
– Thu. 11:00 pm: Long Beach State @ No. 9 Xavier
– Fri. 9:00 pm: West Virginia @ No. 7 Baylor

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

Bubble Banter: It’s that time of year again!

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It’s getting to be that time of year.

Bubble Banter is back, baby!

Over the course of the next three days, we are going to be diving headlong into bubble chatter right here, breaking down every single team that is on or near the bubble for the NCAA tournament Field of 68. This, of course, is according to our Dave Ommen, who sent me a list of all the bubble teams. Our cut-off, at least for this conversation, is teams that currently sit as a No. 9 seed or better in the most recent bracket that we released.

Why?

Because — with the notable exception of Ohio State — it is difficult to see how any of those teams can end up out of the NCAA tournament before our next bracket projection gets published on Monday.

So, you know, they’re not currently on the bubble.

Anyway, come back throughout the weekend to see who the winners and the losers are and what it means for their standing in regards to the cut line.

FRIDAY

Wisconsin at PURDUE, 7:00 p.m.
YALE at Brown, 7:00 p.m.

SATURDAY

VCU at La Salle, 12:00 p.m.
PITT at SYRACUSE, 12:00 p.m.
ST. JOHN’S at DEPAUL, 2:00 p.m.
VIRGINIA TECH at Boston College, 2:00 p.m.
LSU at TEXAS, 2:00 p.m.
OKLAHOMA at MISSISSIPPI STATE, 2:00 p.m.
RHODE ISLAND at St. Bonaventure, 3:00 p.m.
UNCG at Samford, 3:00 p.m.
AKRON at Ohio, 3:30 p.m.
LIBERTY at Stetson, 4:00 p.m.
Chattanooga at EAST TENNESSEE STATE, 4:00 p.m.
N.C. STATE at Georgia Tech, 4:00 p.m.
SMU at MEMPHIS, 4:00 p.m.
TENNESSEE at No. 3 Kansas, 4:00 p.m.
BYU at San Francisco, 5:00 p.m.
No. 7 Dayton at RICHMOND, 6:00 p.m.
No. 15 Kentucky at No. 18 TEXAS TECH, 6:00 p.m.
Kansas State at ALABAMA, 6:00 p.m.
Washington State at UTAH, 7:00 p.m.
NOTRE DAME at No. 5 Florida State, 8:00 p.m.
SAINT MARY’S at LMU, 9:00 p.m.
WASHINGTON at No. 23 Colorado, 9:00 p.m.
No. 22 Arizona at ARIZONA STATE, 9:30 p.m.
Colorado State at UTAH STATE, 10:00 p.m.

SUNDAY

VIRGINIA at Wake Forest, 12:00 p.m.
No. 11 Michigan State at MINNESOTA, 3:00 p.m.
Fordham at SAINT LOUIS, 3:00 p.m.
XAVIER at Creighton, 4:00 p.m.
Loyola-Chicago at NORTHERN IOWA, 4:00 p.m.
OHIO STATE at Northwestern, 6:30 p.m.

Best Bets: Previewing Baylor-Florida, Texas Tech-Kentucky

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As always, the Vegas lines are not out for the weekend games, so we will be breaking them down using KenPom, Torvik and Haslametric projections.

FRIDAY

MARQUETTE at No. 13 BUTLER, 9:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Butler 72, Marquette 66
  • TORVIK: Butler 72, Marquette 66
  • HASLAM: Butler 71, Marquette 64
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: Butler 70, Marquette 64

In theory, this is an ideal buy-low spot for Butler. They are coming off of three straight losses, the last two of which came on the road. The loss at DePaul was a bad matchup, and the loss at Villanova was a result of Sean McDermott and Jordan Tucker shooting a combined 1-for-12 from three until the final minute of a 15-point loss.

Marquette, on the other hand, is in a prime sell-high spot. The Golden Eagles have won three in a row. Two of them came at home and the third was at Georgetown, a team that is down to just seven scholarship players. Trying to predict the nights that Markus Howard doesn’t score 30-plus is more or less impossible, but I do think that it is worth noting Butler is 12th nationally in defensive three-point field goal percentage and has a couple of quality perimeter defenders they can throw at him.

BEST BET: The logic says to bet Butler here. The problem is that, at Butler (-6) or (-6.5), I don’t think we’re buying Butler low or selling Marquette high. KenPom and Torvik both have the line at (-6) while Haslam has it at (-7). I was hoping to get it at (-5) or lower, which is unfortunate. Either way, if I’m going to be betting this game — which, let’s be honest, is probably going to happen — it will be with Butler.

Oh, and Butler is unveiling Butler IV, their new puppy, tonight. Never fade the puppy play.

SATURDAY

No. 15 KENTUCKY at No. 18 TEXAS TECH, 6:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Texas Tech 67, Kentucky 64
  • TORVIK: Texas Tech 67, Kentucky 64
  • HASLAM: Texas Tech 69, Kentucky 63
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: N/A

The more I think about this, the more I like the Texas Tech side here. I do think that the Red Raiders have one of the best coaching staffs when it comes to developing and instituting a game-plan. That’s a problem for a Kentucky team that tends to be fairly limited in what they run offensively. Put another way, Kentucky tends to figure out what works for them and run it over and over and over again. Their playbook shrinks as the season progresses, and that’s the kind of thing that Chris Beard and Mark Adams can take advantage of.

This is also a good buy-low spot for Texas Tech, considering that they are coming home off of a loss at TCU.

On the other side of the ball, I do worry about Texas Tech’s ability to create offense. They have struggled on that end, and I don’t think they actually have the front court pieces to be able to pull Nick Richards out of the paint.

BEST BETS: I’ll be curious to see where the line opens up here. I lean Texas Tech at anything (-4) and below, and I hope that the Kentucky effect can push that line much lower. I also will be on the under. If I think Texas Tech will have trouble to score, and Kentucky will have trouble to score, it only makes sense.

No. 1 BAYLOR at FLORIDA, 6:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Baylor 65, Florida 64
  • TORVIK: Baylor 65, Florida 63
  • HASLAM: Baylor 65, Florida 64
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: N/A

Baylor feels like they’re due for a loss, right?

They needed to erase a 12-point second half deficit at Oklahoma State last weekend. On Monday night, they nearly had Austin Reaves hitting a three in the final seconds to give Oklahoma a win in Waco. And now they are heading back out on the road to take on a Florida team that has been better of late?

Here’s to hoping that this line gets inflated because of the number next to Baylor’s name.

I also believe that the under is in play here. Baylor is one of the nation’s best defensive teams. Florida has not been as good on that end of the floor of late, but they, too, have shown flashes of being able to guard. They also matchup well with the Bears. But more importantly, I don’t believe that either of these teams are going to try and push the tempo. Florida has shown a frustrating determination to play possession by possession this season, while the Bears rank 269th in average offensive possession length.

BEST BET: I’ll be targeting the Florida ML here, particularly if the Gators end up getting points, but taking the under seems like the best play in this game.

No. 8 VILLANOVA at PROVIDENCE, 12:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Villanova 70, Providence 68
  • TORVIK: Providence 70, Villanova 69
  • HASLAM: Villanova 68, Providence 66
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: N/A

It’s not going to feel comfortable, but this feels like a good spot to take Providence. Villanova has won five in a row and 11 of their last 12, but their last four games have been played at home. They’ve failed to cover in two of their last three games and are just 1-3 against the spread on the road this season.

Providence has lost back-to-back games on the road, covering the spread in both games, and have covered in six of their last eight games.

BEST BET: I’ll be on the Providence side, but whether I take the Providence ML or take the points will depend on what the line opens up at.

No. 21 ILLINOIS at MICHIGAN, 12:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Michigan 71, Illinois 68
  • TORVIK: Michigan 71, Illinois 68
  • HASLAM: Michigan 71, Illinois 69
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: N/A

The logic here is going to be exceedingly simple: Illinois is as hot as any team in the country right now. They’ve won five straight games, including wins at Wisconsin and at Purdue, the latter of which was by 17 points. Michigan, on the other hand, has not been the same team since they lost Isaiah Livers to a groin injury and, since January 1st, they’ve ranked 127th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to Torvik.

BEST BET: I’ll be all over the Illinois ML, especially if this line opens up at Illinois (+3).

TENNESSEE at No. 3 KANSAS, 4:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Kansas 68, Tennessee 54
  • TORVIK: Kansas 68, Tennessee 54
  • HASLAM: Kansas 70, Tennessee 50
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: N/A

Kansas ranks No. 1 nationally in adusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom. They’re third in Torvik’s rating system. Since Lamonte Turner saw his season come to an end, Tennessee has ranked 251st nationally if adjusted offensive efficiency. The one point guard on their roster, freshman Santiago Vescovi, is averaging 5.0 turnovers per game despite playing just 24.5 minutes — to be fair, he had 21 turnovers in his first three games and has had just nine in the last three.

BEST BETS: I think Kansas rolls here after a week of hearing how bad they are because of Tuesday night’s fight.

SUNDAY

No. 17 MARYLAND at INDIANA, 1:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Maryland 67, Indiana 66
  • TORVIK: Indiana 67, Maryland 65
  • HASLAM: Maryland 66, Indiana 64
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: N/A

Maryland is 1-4 on the road this season. Their one win came at Northwestern in a game where they trailed by 14 points in the first half. The Terps might be the worst road team in the Big Ten, a league where road teams have been terrible this season.

BEST BET: If Indiana is getting points, take the ML. I also will be interested in betting the Indiana first half line. Fade Turgeon is in full effect this weekend.

No. 11 MICHIGAN STATE at MINNESOTA, 3:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Michigan State 72, Minnesota 71
  • TORVIK: Michigan State 72, Minnesota 71
  • HASLAM: Michigan State 72, Minnesota 70
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: N/A

This is a tough spot for me. Michigan State has not been great away from East Lansing this season and they are coming off of a road loss at Indiana on Thursday night. That said, their loss came after erasing a 16-point first half deficit in a game where Xavier Tillman missed a wide-open layup that would have forced overtime.

BEST BET: I will be staying away from this game.

Kentucky’s Kahlil Whitney is leaving school

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Kentucky will be down a five-star recruit for the rest of the season.

Kahlil Whitney, who was the No. 11 prospect in the Class of 2019, according to 247 Sports’ composite ranking, announced on Friday that he will be leaving the Kentucky program.

“My time at Kentucky has not gone as I had hoped,” Whitney wrote in a statement released on his twitter page, “and I therefore need to make a difficult decision quickly to put myself back in to the best position possible as I continue to develop and work towards my ultimate goal.

“I’ve realized since high school that the business of basketball waits for no one, and sometimes tough choices need to be made in order to progress.”

Whitney was a starter early on in the season for the Wildcats, but he has been relegated to a limited role off the bench since league play started. He’s averaged 3.3 points in less than 13 minutes. In the last seven games he’s averaging just 6.1 minutes.

Whitney’s statement does not mention transferring, but if he did opt to head to a different school, he will not be eligible to play until 2021-22 without a waiver.

Bracketology: The top seeds remain in place

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Here is the latest NCAA tournament bracketology projection.

It’s been a while since we could say this:  All four No. 1 seeds remained in place between bracket updates: Baylor, Gonzaga, Kansas and San Diego State.

Elsewhere, more than a handful of teams still have significant resume questions.  And several current bubble teams have important showdowns this weekend – including key matchups in the Big 12 / SEC Challenge.

On a closing note … remember that the Selection Committee evaluates a team’s entire profile, from beginning to end.  How a team performed in its last ten games is no longer an official criteria (although each Committee member may have his or her own perspective on its importance).  So while Ohio State and Michigan, as examples, have both struggled of late, each team’s early wins remain relevant considerations with regard to team sheet evaluation.

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

UPDATED: January 24, 2020

FIRST FOUR – DAYTON
EAST REGION Oklahoma vs. VCU
MIDWEST REGION Minnesota vs. Texas Tech
SOUTH REGION  PR VIEW AM vs. NORFOLK ST
WEST REGION MONMOUTH vs. ROBERT MORRIS

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

BUBBLE NOTES
Last 4 Byes Last 4 IN      First 4 OUT Next 4 OUT
Saint Mary’s Oklahoma Xavier Arizona State
DePaul Minnesota Richmond Alabama
Virginia Tech Texas Tech Georgetown Mississippi State
NC State VCU Rhode Island Tennessee

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Duarte’s 30 points leads No. 12 Oregon past USC 79-70 in double OT

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EUGENE, Ore. — Paying close attention paid off for Oregon’s Chris Duarte.

The junior guard had 30 points, 11 rebounds and eight steals, and the No. 12 Ducks outlasted Southern California 79-70 in double overtime Thursday night.

“I was watching the point guard’s eyes. I was watching everybody’s eyes. So I knew where they were going to pass the ball,” Duarte said. “So I took that as an advantage.”

Oregon teammate Payton Pritchard added 24 points and seven assists, becoming the first Pac-12 player to reach 1,500 career points, 600 assists and 500 rebounds. When the achievement was noted on the video scoreboard at Matthew Knight Arena in the second half, the crowd gave the senior guard a standing ovation.

Pritchard is the sixth player in Pac-12 history with 1,500 points and 600 assists, joining Oregon State’s Gary Payton, Arizona’s Damon Stoudamire and Jason Gardner, USC’s Jordan McLaughlin and UCLA’s Tyus Edney.

Oregon (16-4, 5-2) led by 11 in the second half but USC rallied with a 17-2 run to take a 62-58 lead, capped by Jonah Mathews’ 3-pointer with 1:24 left.

C.J. Walker and Pritchard hit consecutive layups to tie it at 62 and send the game to overtime.

Pritchard’s 3-pointer in the first extra period gave the Ducks a 65-64 lead, but Ethan Anderson’s layup and free throw put the Trojans up by two. Duarte made free throws for the Ducks to tie it again, and Mathews and Pritchard both missed shots down the stretch.

Duarte and Pritchard each hit a pair of free throws that gave Oregon a four-point advantage to open the second overtime. Duarte’s 3-pointer put the Ducks up 74-68, and USC couldn’t catch up.

Duarte’s eight steals were one shy of the school record.

“He was the difference in the game,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “No doubt about it.”

Onyeka Okongwu had 23 points and 14 rebounds for the Trojans (15-4, 4-2).

“You’ve got to take care of the ball. Some ill-timed passes that went to the other guys. We just have to make the right basketball play,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. “Give them credit, they’re a good defensive team.”

It was Oregon’s third overtime game in league play.

Oregon was coming off a 64-61 overtime win at Washington last weekend. The Ducks overcame a 16-point deficit and won it on Pritchard’s 3-pointer with 3.4 seconds left. But Oregon lost to Washington State 72-61 last Thursday, resulting in a fall from No. 8 to No. 12 in the AP Top 25.

USC had won nine of its last 10 games and three straight, including last Saturday’s 82-78 overtime victory against Stanford. The Trojans came back from a 21-point deficit in the second half to beat the Cardinal.

The Ducks built an early 15-7 lead after Duarte’s fast-break layup and 3-pointer. Oregon stayed in front, but USC closed to 24-23 on Daniel Utomi’s jumper.

The teams went to the break with Oregon ahead 32-30. Utomi led all scorers with 10 points.

Okongwu’s layup for USC tied it at 32 to start the second half but the Ducks responded with a 10-0 run, capped by Duarte’s jumper off a dish from Pritchard. Okongwu’s dunk ended the Trojans’ scoring drought.

Okongwu made consecutive baskets to pull USC to 56-53, and Matthews tied it with a 3-pointer to top off an 11-0 Trojans run. Pritchard answered with a layup for Oregon.

Freshman forward Chandler Lawson’s layup stretched the Ducks’ lead to 49-38 midway through the second half.

“A lot of things we’ve got to work on. But we got some defensive stops when we needed it, we got some big rebounds when we needed it, and just found a way to win the game,” Altman said. “We’ve been doing that too much, though. We’ve got to find a way to get our offense cranked a little bit.”

Lawson made his first start for the Ducks after he had 16 points and 12 rebounds against Washington. Oregon was without center N’Faly Dante, who was questionable for the game after hurting his knee against the Huskies.

Pritchard was one of just two Division I players averaging at least 19 points, five assists and four rebounds per game, joining Pepperdine’s Colbey Ross.

BIG PICTURE

USC: The Trojans started 4-1 in conference play for the first time since 2016. USC went 5-0 to open conference play in 2002. … Enfield said afterward that this loss stung. “We’ve played a few close games this year. We won three or four close ones,” he said. “We were right there and we lost. It hurts when you lose a game and have a chance.”

Oregon: Pritchard is closing in on Oregon’s career record of 614 assists held by Kenya Wilkins. … Pritchard has won 96 games as a Ducks player, one shy of Oregon’s career leader, Johnathan Lloyd. … Sabrina Ionescu, star guard for the No. 4 Oregon women, was at the game and was interviewed by the Pac-12 broadcast team during the first half.

UP NEXT

USC visits Oregon State on Saturday.

Oregon hosts UCLA on Sunday.