Missouri and the Big 12 highlight the hoops week in review

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Player of the Week: TyShawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson, Kansas

We all already know about what TyShawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson did against Baylor. Taylor had 28 points, six boards and five assists while T-Rob demoralized the Baylor interior for 27 points and 14 boards as the Jayhawks steamrolled Baylor 92-74. Coming into the game, Baylor was undefeated and the third ranked team in the country. They were the squad that everyone was picking to end the Jayhawks’ streak of Big 12 regular season titles. I think Taylor and Robinson put an end to that.

More impressive, however, was the way that Kansas knocked off Texas on Saturday afternoon. Kansas jumped out to a big lead on the road, but Texas made their run late in the second half. After a J’Covan Brown three with three minutes left, the Longhorns had a four point lead and all the momentum. But Kansas had an answer, using a 9-2 run to close the game and pick up a solid road win against a better-than-you-think Texas team.

More than anything, however, the most important thing to take out of the win over Texas was something that TyShawn Taylor didn’t. Its no secret that turnovers are the issue with him, but against Texas, Taylor had 22 points, five boards, four assists and not a single turnover. The scouting report on Taylor has always been that he has the talent to be an all-american but he’s as consistently inconsistent as any player in the country. He’s been sensational the past three games. Can it last?

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

G: Anthony Marshall, UNLV: The Runnin’ Rebels lost at San Diego State last week, which put them in a bit of a whole to start out Mountain West play especially when you consider that the Aztecs also knocked off New Mexico on the road. If anything, UNLV proved that the MWC may end up being just a two team race as they knocked off TCU on Wednesday before running the Lobos out of the gym in an 80-63 win on Saturday. Marshall was the catalyst, finishing with 40 points, 18 assists, 11 boards and six steals in the two games.

G: Maalik Wayns, Villanova: The knock on Villanova this season is that they didn’t have a player capable of taking control and leading this team. Early in the season, that looked to be the case as both Wayns and Mouph Yarou were inconsistent. But over the past three games, Wayns has been unbelievable. He went for 39 points, 13 boards and six assists in a loss to Cincinnati last Saturday, but rebounded with 53 points, 10 assists and seven boards in wins over St. John’s and Seton Hall.

F: Khalif Wyatt and Ramone Moore, Temple: The Owls finally have Michael Eric back, but the biggest reason they are still in the race for the Atlantic 10 has been the play of Moore and Wyatt. They are the two leading scorers in the conference and lead the Owls to a 2-0 week, combining for 69 points, 17 boards and 16 assists in wins over La Salle and Maryland.

F: Kevin Jones, West Virginia: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there are not three players in the country as underrated as KJ is. He’s averaging 20.7 ppg and 1.5 rpg for a team that may just be the second best in the Big East after their 77-74 win over Cincinnati in overtime. West Virginia also knocked off Marshall this week. Jones, in the two games, averaged 25.5 ppg, 10.0 rpg and 2.5 apg.

C: Matt Kavanaugh, Dayton: The Flyers looked like they were going to be left out of the Atlantic 10 race last month when it was announced that Josh Benson, their starting center, was out of the season with a knee injury. But as of today, the Flyers are currently sitting all alone in first place in the conference at 4-1, and Kavanaugh is one of the biggest reasons why. After going for 23 points and nine boards in last Saturday’s win over La Salle, Kavanauh had 20 points and nine boards in a 15 point win over league favorite Xavier.

Team of the Week: Missouri

Of all the teams that we can consider elite this season, I am not sure if there is any that has had their credibility questioned more than Missouri this season. Are they big enough? Can they rebound? Are they going to be able to shoot this well against “real competition”? Can they win on the road?

I think its safe to say they have answered those questions. After handling Texas A&M fairly easily at home on Monday, the Tigers went into Waco and smacked Baylor in the second half, leaving with a win that was much more impressive than the 89-88 final would indicate. There were two things that Missouri really showed on Saturday afternoon. For starters, they aren’t just a three-point shooting team. Ricardo Ratliffe looked like an all-american thanks to the penetration ability of Phil Pressey, Mike Dixon and Marcus Denmon. Missouri shot 31 free throws and dominated the much-bigger Bears on the glass.

The other thing that Missouri proved is that they aren’t just a team that wins at home. That was a question a lot of folks had after they got handled at Kansas State earlier in league play, but they followed that up with a convincing win over Iowa State in Ames and, or course, the win at Baylor. The beauty of this Missouri team is that every player has had their ability maximized in the system that Frank Haith is running. This group is the epitome of the saying “the whole is the sum of the parts.”

Five teams that deserve a shout out:

Cleveland State: The Vikings went 2-0 this week and moved into a tie for first place in a balanced and competitive Horizon League. They started out their weekend with a 10 point win over Green Bay, following that up with an 83-57 win over Milwaukee, who was leading the conference as of Thursday. The Vikings, who has been my pick to win the league since the beginning of the season, are now in the driver’s seat for the conference title. The team they are tied with — Valpo — still has to play at Cleveland State.

Washington State: No one is out of the Pac-12 race this season. No one. That’s why Wazzu’s 2-0 week, knocking off both Stanford and Cal at home, is so important. For the first time all season, Faisal Aden is playing well. He went for 33 points against Stanford and followed that up with 24 against Cal. With Reggie Moore joining Aden in the back court and Brock Motum playing well this season, who knows?

Florida State: Believe it or not, the Seminoles actually have an real chance to win the ACC this season. After knocking off Maryland at home and Duke on the road this week, FSU is currently died for first place in the conference. The better news? They don’t play North Carolina again this season, they only host Duke while the two Tobacco Road rivals still have to play each other twice. I wrote about it in more detail on Saturday, but during this three game winning streak, FSU has turned into one a powerhouse offensively. No one should be expecting them to continue shoot at that clip, but if they get more consistent offensively, this group is big enough and tough enough defensively that they are going to have a real chance to make some noise in March.

San Diego State: The Aztecs followed up their two point win over UNLV from last weekend with an impressive victory over New Mexico at the Pit and a win over Air Force. Xavier Thames had 22 points and four assists in the win over the Lobos. The Aztecs have to get put into the driver’s seat in the MWC race. Not only do they have a game lead on UNLV and a two game lead on New Mexico, but they own a victory over both teams already and still host UNM.

Central Florida: The Golden Eagles moved into sole possession of first place in the Conference USA race by going 2-0 this week. On Wednesday, they knocked off Memphis and followed that up with a 48-41 grind-it-out win at UAB.

Five Thoughts:

Tulsa’s easy road: Conference USA doesn’t have divisions on the basketball side, but the way that the conference schedule breaks down is that the teams in the “eastern division” all play each other twice while playing the teams from the “western division” just once, and vice versa. Tulsa is in the west. Memphis, UCF, Southern Miss and Marshall are all in the east. That means that Tulsa plays the top four in the league four times while the top four all play each other six times.

Depending on how it plays out, those two games could end up playing a huge role. While it will be difficult for Tulsa to win the conference outright — they already have two bad losses to teams at the bottom of the league — if they can turn things around there is a chance that the Golden Hurricane can steal one of the byes in the CUSA Tournament from one of the top four teams.

Big 12 is the best conference: At this point, it has to be considered as much. Why? Because every other league in the country is a mess. Outside of Syracuse, it looks like no one in the Big East is better than “pretty good”, and the Orange lost their first game of the season on Saturday when Fab Melo didn’t play. The Big Ten has turned into a Royal Rumble. Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin all look like they were overrated earlier this year. Michigan State has struggled on the road. Ohio State still looks like the favorite, but with the way William Buford has played of late, the Buckeyes look “vincible”. Florida State, who lost to Princeton, Harvard and Clemson by 20, has beaten UNC by 33 and Duke in Cameron. Beyond Kentucky, the next four teams in the SEC are a toss-up. The Pac-12 is a mid-major league.

At least in the Big 12, the top three teams are playing like the top three teams. Up until this week, we thought Baylor was the favorite. And now, after they got worked by both Missouri and Kansas, the Border War is going to be the coin-flip we need to determine who is the best team in this conference. Its refreshing to have question marks about a league because the teams are surpassing expectations.

Is Oregon actually a contender in the Pac-12?: They may be. After sweeping the LA schools at home, the Ducks are now 6-2 in the Pac-12 and tied with Cal for first in the conference. They’ve won four straight games and have three legitimate scoring threats on their perimeter in Devoe Joseph, Eli Singler and Garrett Sim. Who would have thought this was possible after Oregon lost Jabari Brown? And what does this say about the Pac-12?

Let’s just enjoy Murray State’s run, ok?: Yes, we all know that this team plays a weaker schedule than the rest of the country. Yes, we all know they are a mid-major. Yes, we all know they may not be as good as some of their high-major counterparts. But the bottom-line is this — the Racers are still undefeated, and they are the only team without a blemish on their record. Instead of criticizing them for what they aren’t, can we all please just sit back and enjoy what they are?

Murray State plays a fun style. They shoot a lot of threes, they get up and down the floor and they score a lot of points. They have a superstar that will be loved by both the efficiency gurus and the guys that study box scores with a name that is perfect for a sharp shooter (Isaiah Canaan, pronounced the same way as “cannon”). How often does a team actually have a legitimate chance to go undefeated in the regular season? Not often. So kick back, grab a brew and have fun with it.

Can Loyola Marymount throw a wrench in the WCC race?: For most of the season, the thought has been that the round-robin between St. Mary’s, Gonzaga and BYU is going to be what determines the WCC conference race. But LMU is proving to be a thorn in the side of the big boys. After losing by just four at Gonzaga last Saturday, the Lions went into BYU and handled the Cougars pretty solidly. The difference is that they now have Drew Viney healthy. He had 21 points against a very good BYU front line and Anthony Ireland went for 27 points, five assists and five steals.

The win avenged an earlier loss to BYU, meaning that the Lions haven’t lost to anyone that isn’t a part of the “big three”. They are only two games off the pace right now with two games left against the leader St. Mary’s. If they can beat the Gaels at home next week, it may be time that we start considering this team as a sleeper.

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

College basketball broadcaster Billy Packer dies at 82

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Billy Packer, an Emmy award-winning college basketball broadcaster who covered 34 Final Fours for NBC and CBS, died Thursday. He was 82.

Packer’s son, Mark, told The Associated Press that his father had been hospitalized in Charlotte for the past three weeks and had several medical issues, and ultimately succumbed to kidney failure.

Packer’s broadcasting career coincided with the growth of college basketball. He worked as analyst or color commentator on every Final Four from 1975 to 2008. He received a Sports Emmy for Outstanding Sports Personality, Studio and Sports Analyst in 1993.

“He really enjoyed doing the Final Fours,” Mark Packer said. “He timed it right. Everything in life is about timing. The ability to get involved in something that, frankly, he was going to watch anyway, was a joy to him. And then college basketball just sort of took off with Magic Johnson and Larry Bird and that became, I think, the catalyst for college basketball fans to just go crazy with March Madness.”

Packer played three seasons at Wake Forest, and helped lead the Demon Deacons to the Final Four in 1962, but it was his work as an analyst that brought him the most acclaim.

He joined NBC in 1974 and called his first Final Four in 1975. UCLA beat Kentucky in the title game that year in what was John Wooden’s final game as coach.

Packer was also part of the broadcast in 1979 with Dick Enberg and Al McGuire when Magic Johnson’s Michigan State team beat Larry Bird’s Indiana State squad in the title game. That remains highest-rated game in basketball history with a 24.1 Nielsen rating, which is an estimated 35.1 million viewers.

Packer went to CBS in the fall of 1981, when the network acquired the rights to the NCAA Tournament. He remained the network’s main analyst until the 2008 Final Four.

In 1996 at CBS, Packer was involved in controversy when he used the term “tough monkey? to describe then-Georgetown star Allen Iverson during a game. Packer later said he “was not apologizing for what I said, because what I said has no implications in my mind whatsoever to do with Allen Iverson’s race.?

Sean McManus, the chairman of CBS Sports, said Packer was “synonymous with college basketball for more than three decades and set the standard of excellence as the voice of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.”

“He had a tremendous impact on the growth and popularity of the sport.” McManus said. “In true Billy fashion, he analyzed the game with his own unique style, perspective and opinions, yet always kept the focus on the game. As passionate as he was about basketball, at his heart Billy was a family man. He leaves part of his legacy at CBS Sports, across college basketball and, most importantly, as a beloved husband, father and grandfather. He will be deeply missed by all.”

Packer was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008.

ESPN broadcaster Dick Vitale took to Twitter as word of Packer’s death spread. “So sad to learn of the passing of Billy Packer who had such a passion for college basketball,” Vitale tweeted. “My (prayers) go out to Billy’s son Mark & the entire Packer family. Always had great RESPECT for Billy & his partners Dick Enberg & Al McGuire-they were super. May Billy RIP.”

College basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla tweeted: “We fell in love (with) college basketball because of you. Your voice will remain in my head forever.”

Packer was viewed as a controversial figure during his broadcasting days, often drawing the ire of college basketball fans, particularly on North Carolina’s “Tobacco Road.”

“As a kid, I was a big NC State fan growing up, and I would watch a game and the next day I’d be like, `Boy you sure have it out for NC State, don’t you?’ And he would just laugh,” Mark Packer said.

The younger Packer, who is the host of ACC PM on the ACC Network, said it didn’t matter what school – most fans felt the same way about his father.

“He would cover North Carolina game and Tar Heels fans would be like, `you hate North Carolina,”‘ Mark Packer said. “Wake (Forest) fans would be like, `you hate us.’ And Billy just sort of got a kick out of that.”

Mark Packer said that while most fans will remember his father as a broadcaster, he’ll remember him even more for his business acumen. He said his father was a big real estate investor, and also owned a vape company, among other ventures.

“Billy was always a bit of a hustler – he was always looking for that next business deal,” Packer said.

Clemson starter Galloway will miss time after surgery

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CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson starter Brevin Galloway is expected to miss games for the 24th-ranked Tigers after having surgery on his groin area Thursday.

The 6-foot-3 Galloway has started 20 of 21 games after transferring from Boston College this past offseason.

Galloway posted on social media that he’d had the surgery. Clemson coach Brad Brownell confirmed in a text to The Associated Press that Galloway had the operation.

Galloway said in his post he will be in uniform soon. He is not expected to play at Florida State on Saturday.

A fifth-year player, Galloway has averaged 10.6 points a game this season. He’s second on the Tigers with 55 assists and 18 steals.

The Tigers (17-4) lead the Atlantic Coast Conference at 9-1 in league play.

Clemson is already down two experienced players due to injury.

Point guard Chase Hunter, who started the team’s first 18 games, has missed the past three with a foot injury.

Guard Alex Hemenway, in his fourth season, has missed the past nine games with a foot injury. Hemenway was the team’s leading 3-point shooter (27 of 54) before getting hurt.

Zach Edey has 19 points, No. 1 Purdue beats Michigan 75-70

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Zach Edey had 15 of his 19 points in the first half and Fletcher Loyer finished with 17 points to help No. 1 Purdue hold off Michigan 75-70 on Thursday night.

The Boilermakers (20-1, 9-1 Big Ten) had a 15-0 run to go ahead 41-28 lead in the first half after there were 10 lead changes and four ties, but they couldn’t pull away.

The Wolverines (11-9, 5-4) were without standout freshman Jett Howard, who missed the game with an ankle injury, and still hung around until the final seconds.

Joey Baker made a 3-pointer – off the glass – with 5.9 seconds left to pull Michigan within three points, but Purdue’s Brandon Newman sealed the victory with two free throws.

Purdue coach Matt Painter said Michigan slowed down Edey in the second half by pushing him away from the basket.

“They got him out a little more, and got him bottled up,” Painter said.

The 7-foot-4 Edey, though, was too tough to stop early in the game.

“He’s one of the best in the country for a reason,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “He’s very effective, especially if he’s 8 feet and in.”

With size and skills such as a hook shot, the junior center from Toronto scored Purdue’s first seven points and finished the first half 7 of 12 from the field and 1 of 2 at the line.

“He did a great job in the first half, going to his right shoulder and using his left hand,” Painter said. “He made four baskets with his left hand which is huge.”

Freshman Braden Smith had 10 points for the Boilermakers.

Purdue’s defense ultimately denied Michigan’s comeback hopes, holding a 22nd straight opponent to 70 or fewer points.

Hunter Dickinson scored 21, Kobe Bufkin had 16 points and Baker added 11 points for the Wolverines, who have lost four of their last six games.

Dickinson, a 7-1 center, matched up with Edey defensively and pulled him out of the lane offensively by making 3 of 7 3-pointers.

“Half his shots were from the 3, and that’s a little different,” Painter said. “His meat and potatoes are on that block. He’s the real deal.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Boilermakers got the top spot in the AP Top 25 this week after winning six games, a stretch that followed a loss to Rutgers on Jan. 3 that dropped them from No. 1 in the poll. Purdue improved to 7-2 as the top-ranked team.

BIG PICTURE

Purdue: Edey can’t beat teams by himself and he’s surrounded by a lot of role players and a potential standout in Loyer. The 6-4 guard was the Big Ten player of the week earlier this month, become the first Boilermaker freshman to win the award since Robbie Hummel in 2008.

“Fletcher is somebody who has played better in the second half, and on the road,” Painter said.

Michigan: Jett Howard’s health is a critical factor for the Wolverines, who will have some work to do over the second half of the Big Ten season to avoid missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015. Howard averages 14.6 points and is the most dynamic player on his father’s team.

ROAD WARRIORS

The Boilermakers were away from home for 12 of 23 days, winning all five of their road games. They won at Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan for the first time since the 1997-98 season and beat the Spartans and Wolverines on their home court in the same season for the first time in 12 years.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Hosts Michigan State on Sunday, nearly two weeks after the Boilermakers beat the Spartans by a point on Edey’s shot with 2.2 seconds left.

Michigan: Plays at Penn State on Sunday.

Miller scores 23, No. 10 Maryland tops No. 13 Michigan 72-64

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Diamond Miller scored 23 points, and No. 10 Maryland closed the first quarter with a 13-2 run and led the rest of the way in a 72-64 victory over No. 13 Michigan on Thursday night.

Abby Meyers contributed 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Terrapins (17-4, 8-2), who won for the 10th time in 11 games. Lavender Briggs scored 14 points and Shyanne Sellers added 13.

Maryland gained a measure of revenge after losing twice to Michigan last season – including a 20-point rout in College Park.

Leigha Brown led the Wolverines with 16 points.

Michigan (16-5, 6-4) led 13-9 in the first quarter before a three-point play by Miller started Maryland’s big run. Briggs and Faith Masonius made 3-pointers during that stretch.

The Terps pushed the lead to 16 in the third quarter before the Wolverines were able to chip away. Miller sat for a bit with four fouls, and Michigan cut the lead to seven in the fourth quarter, but the Wolverines still wasted too many possessions with turnovers to mount much of a comeback.

Michigan ended up with 24 turnovers, and Maryland had a 25-5 advantage in points off turnovers.

Miller fouled out with 2:19 remaining, but even after those two free throws, the Terps led 65-57 and had little trouble holding on.

Michigan lost for the second time in four days against a top-10 opponent. No. 6 Indiana beat the Wolverines 92-83 on Monday.

BIG PICTURE

Michigan: Whether it was against Maryland’s press or in their half-court offense, the Wolverines turned the ball over too much to score consistently. This was a lower-scoring game than the loss to Indiana, but the margin ended up being similar.

Maryland: While Miller clearly led the way, the Terps had plenty of offensive contributors. They also held Michigan to 13 points below its season average entering the game.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Wolverines have appeared in 48 straight AP polls, and although a two-loss week could certainly drop them, the quality of their opponents could save them from a substantial plunge.

Maryland is tied for 10th with an Iowa team that beat No. 2 Ohio State on Monday night. Now the Terps can boast an impressive victory of their own.

UP NEXT

Michigan: The Wolverines play their third game of the week when they visit Minnesota on Sunday.

Maryland: The Terps host Penn State on Monday night.

 

Boum, Jones lead No. 13 Xavier over No. 19 UConn, 82-79

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STORRS, Conn. – Souley Boum scored 21 points, Colby Jones added 20 and No. 13 Xavier went on the road and held off No. 19 Connecticut 82-79 Wednesday night.

The win was the 13th in 14 games for the Musketeers (17-4, 9-1 Big East) and it gave them a season sweep over the struggling Huskies (16-6, 5-6).

Jack Nunge had 12 points and Jerome Hunter added 11 for Xavier, which led by 17 in the first half and 39-24 at halftime.

Jordan Hawkins scored 26 of his 28 points in the second half for UConn, leading a comeback that fell just short.

Tristen Newton added 23 points for the Huskies, who won their first 14 games this season but have dropped six of eight since.

The Musketeers never trailed but had to withstand UConn runs that cut the lead to a single point four times in the second half.

A three-point play from Hawkins made it 78-77 with 2:40 left. But a second-chance layup from Nunge put the lead at 80-77 just over a minute later.

Newton was fouled with two seconds left by Desmond Claude, but his apparent attempt to miss his second free throw went into the basket.

Boum then hit two free throws at the other end, and Newton’s final attempt from just beyond halfcourt was well short.

Xavier jumped out to a 9-0 lead as UConn missed its first nine shots.

A 3-pointer from Zach Freemantle gave the Musketeers their first double-digit lead at 20-9, and another from Jones pushed it to 35-18.

BIG PICTURE

Xavier: The Musketeers lead the Big East, and the win over UConn was their ninth conference victory this season, eclipsing their total from last season.

UConn: The Huskies came in with a 17-game winning streak at Gampel Pavilion dating to February 2021. They fell to 1-4 against the four teams in front of them in the Big East standings. The lone win came at Gampel against Creighton.

UP NEXT

Xavier: The Musketeers continue their road trip with a visit to Creighton on Saturday.

UConn: Doesn’t play again until next Tuesday, when the Huskies visit DePaul.