Rob Dauster (click on the brackets to enlarge):
JOE POSNANSKI: Picking a bracket in 68 seconds
Rob Dauster (click on the brackets to enlarge):
JOE POSNANSKI: Picking a bracket in 68 seconds
Sunday afternoon gave us another early-season instant classic, as No. 7 Tennessee ended Gonzaga’s unbeaten run and likely knocked them out of the No. 1 spot in the polls with a thrilling, 76-73 win in Phoenix.
In a back-and-forth affair that featured some unbelievably athletic plays and some high-level shot-making coming from unexpected sources, the Vols set themselves up as the early favorite in the SEC and made a statement to the rest of the college basketball world that they are for real.
There is a lot to take away from this game.
Let’s dive into it:
Schofield had a career-high 30 points on Sunday afternoon. He scored 25 of those 30 points in the second, including the final 11 points of the game for the Vols. His three with 22.1 seconds left was the game-winner. Those points were made all the more important because Tennessee was without Lamonte Turner for this game and lost Grant Williams with three minutes left to his fourth foul of the game.
There is so much to like about the way that Schofield plays, and like Grant Williams, he is the guy that sets the tone for Tennessee. He’s an undersized wing that can defend up and down, he can make threes and there isn’t a possession that goes by where Schofield does anything other than play his tail off. Tennessee has proven themselves to be one of the best programs in the country at developing talent, but that’s something that is helped by the fact that the two best players on the roster — Schofield and Williams — also happen to be the two hardest workers.
The other thing that this performance does is shoot Schofield up NBA draft boards. Playing against Gonzaga means that there are going to be plenty of NBA scouts with their eyes on the game, and there should be little doubt that playing like this is going to garner Schofield — who was already a potential second round pick — more attention. He does all the things that we look for out of a role-playing wing in the NBA. He shoots it. He’s versatile defensively. He plays hard. He knows that, at his core, he’s a role player.
What else are you looking for?
There is a clear-cut top tier in college basketball this season.
Duke is part of that group. Gonzaga, too. Michigan probably belongs in that conversation, as does Virginia. Kansas is in the mix. Nevada is in the mix. And, yes, Tennessee belongs there as well.
The reason for that is Tennessee just doesn’t have many holes. If they need to play big, they can put Kyle Alexander out there with Williams and Schofield and they have enough size to matchup with anyone. If they need to play small, they can put Lamonte Turner in the backcourt with Jordan Bone and Jordan Bowden. If they want to go with a switchable lineup, they can play Yves Pons with Williams and Schofield. They have good guards. They can make threes. They have a guy in Williams that can score on the block and who Kansas head coach Bill Self said could end up being the best player that the Jayhawks face all season long.
That makes them a very, very dangerous basketball team.
Rui Hachimura is the guy that gets all the plaudits, and it’s certainly deserved. He’s the leading scorer for the No. 1 team in the country. He is the guy that made the game-winning shots against both Duke and Washington. He’s a future lottery pick and a player that is an icon in his home country of Japan. He deserves all the recognition that he gets, and going for 21 points and eight boards on Sunday doesn’t change that fact.
That said, Clarke is the best player for the Zags for the simply fact that he is arguably the best defensive player in the country. He’s an unbelievable athlete and rim protector that can switch onto smaller defenders and jumps passing lanes. He’s going to be a first round pick in the NBA because of it.
He also averages 16.4 points and 8.2 boards. On Sunday, he led Gonzaga with 21 points and nine boards. He had what may go down as the best block of the college basketball season:
The thing that makes Gonzaga so good is that picking their best player is like picking your favorite flavor of ice cream. They’re all good. Hachimura is an all-american. Zach Norvell Jr. makes more big shots that anyone in college basketball and will, by the end of the season, become known for what he does in the second half of games. Corey Kispert is an elite role player. Josh Perkins will finish among the league leaders in assists.
But for my money, Clarke is their best player.
The irony, however, is that Clarke isn’t the most important player on Gonzaga.
That title belongs to Josh Perkins, the only point guard currently on Gonzaga’s roster and a guy that just so happens to have a reputation for being consistently inconsistent.
We saw the full Josh Perkins Experience on Sunday. He had a number of flashy assists, finishing with nine in total against just a single turnovers, but he was 0-for-6 from the floor, scoreless and nowhere to be found down the stretch when Gonzaga needed some big buckets.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome combined to score 29 points as No. 4 Virginia held off Virginia Commonwealth 57-49 on Sunday.
Guy scored 13 of his 15 points in the first half, while Jerome put up 11 of his 14 after the break.
Virginia (9-0) missed 13 of its first 15 shots after the break and VCU (7-3), coming off its road upset of Texas on Wednesday, led 37-36 midway through the second half.
Isaac Vann led the Rams with 10 points as VCU played its closest contest with Virginia since its 59-56 victory in 2013. Since then, the Cavaliers have won three straight.
Kihei Clark played with a cast on his injured left wrist but still started the game and logged 33 minutes, scoring nine points and dishing out four assists for Virginia.
Coming off its upset of Texas and former coach Shaka Smart, VCU impressed again, sticking close to Virginia for much of the afternoon. While the Rams lost for the third straight time to the Cavaliers, this was the closest of those matchups. … Virginia struggled offensively, but its defense and two stars lifted it to what should be considered a quality win on its NCAA resume come March.
PHOENIX — Admiral Schofield hit a 3-pointer with 24 seconds left and scored 25 of his 30 points in the second half, helping No. 7 Tennessee knock off top-ranked Gonzaga 76-73 in the Colangelo Classic on Sunday.
Tennessee (7-1) jumped on Gonzaga early and fought back from a nine-point, second-half deficit.
Reigning SEC player of the year Grant Williams fouled out with 2:30 left, but the Vols went up two when Schofield banked in a 3-pointer with 80 seconds left.
After Rui Hachimura tied it with two free throws, Schofield hit a long 3 and Tennessee held on for its first win over a No. 1 team — fifth overall — since beating Kansas in 2010.
Gonzaga (9-1) had two shots at a tying 3-pointer, but Zach Norvell Jr. and Hachimura missed.
Hachimura and Brandon Clarke had 21 points each for the Bulldogs.
The Zags passed every previous test despite playing without injured forward Kevin Tillie.
Gonzaga blew out Texas A&M in Spokane, then knocked off Illinois, Arizona and then-top-ranked Duke to win the Maui Invitational. The Bulldogs beat Washington in their last game on Hachimura’s last-second jumper.
Tennessee, a popular preseason Final Four pick, took No. 2 Kansas to overtime before losing and beat Louisville by 11 in its closest win of the season.
Hachimura had no trouble against one of the nation’s best defensive frontcourts, effectively using his mid-range jumper to score 14 points by halftime.
Williams had 12 and the Vols led 34-33 after Jordan Bowden hit a last-second jumper.
Gonzaga built a quick seven-point lead in the second half, let Tennessee claw back, then went up 58-50 on a pair of Norvell 3-pointers as he traded baskets and trash talk with Schofield.
Schofield brought the Vols back, tying it at 68l with a 3-pointer from the wing with just over three minutes left.
Tennessee looked every bit a Final Four contender, knocking off the nation’s No. 1 team with its best player on the bench the final 2:30.
Gonzaga had passed all its previous tests, but not having Tillie hurt the Zags against the talented Vols.
Without looking at the big picture, Tyus Battle had the kind of game that he — and Syracuse fans — will remember for a long time.
The resident All-American in Upstate New York, Battle went for 26 points on 8-for-18 shooting and hit a game-winning jumper with 2.5 seconds left as the Orange knocked off their archrival, Georgetown, 72-71, in the Carrier Dome on Saturday. He scored 21 of his 26 points after halftime, a performance that helped dig the Orange out of a 13 point hole that they had dug for themselves.
(As an aside, all that talk of Battle starting the season slow can officially be deaded. He’s popped off for 20 points in four of the five games during this five-game winning streak for the Orange, including 20 points in the win at Ohio State.)
Then there is the importance of this win for the Orange, both in terms of where their season is heading and what this means for their non-conference resume. Syracuse already has two questionable losses to their name, falling to both UConn and Oregon in Madison Square Garden in November. A home loss to a Georgetown team from a down-Big East that probably isn’t tournament bound isn’t the kind of thing that they need.
But a come-from-behind win in a rivalry game?
That’s a nice way to change the momentum of a season.
Tulsa students got a chance to storm the court on Saturday night, as the Golden Hurricne knocked off No. 16 Kansas State, 47-46.
(Yes. That score is correct.)
Good for Frank Haith. Good for Tulsa. Good for the American.
Very, very bad for Kansas State.
This is the second straight Saturday where Bruce Weber’s club has dropped a road game. Last week, they fell at Marquette. This week Tulsa. I think that it is time for us to truly question just how good this team actually is, and it’s not an answer that Kansas State fans are going to like. The problem? They can’t score. The Wildcats rank 99th in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to KenPom, and are shooting 28.2 percent from three, but you didn’t really need me to explain to you that this team can’t score after they put up 46 points on Tulsa.
Before the season, I made the point that Bruce Weber has quite a bit of pressure on him because of the overloaded expectations he had coming into the year, and this certainly isn’t going to help matters. It’s not a secret that Kansas State fans haven’t exactly been thrilled with his tenure, and struggling to find a way to win games like this is going to be a bad thing for him in the long-term.
You tell me which shot was the Onions Of The Day.
Was it Myles Cale hitting the game-winner with 9.5 seconds left as Seton Hall upset No. 9 Kentucky, 84-83?
Was it Myles Powell burying a ridiculous step-back three to put the Pirates up three with 1.5 seconds left in regulation?
Or was it Keldon Johnson hitting the halfcourt shot to answer Powell, forcing the extra frame where Cale hit the game-winner?
SETON HALL AND MARQUETTE: The Big East badly needed to pick up some impressive non-conference wins, and they got two of them on Saturday: Seton Hall knocked off No. 9 Kentucky in overtime and Marquette knocked off No. 12 Wisconsin in overtime. For a conference that doesn’t have a clear second-best team when the best team is a reloading Villanova, these are the kind of wins that can turn a four-bid league into a five-bid league or a five-bid league into a six-bid league.
I don’t think I’m overstating that, either.
This was really important not just for these two teams, but for the league in general.
And at some point, I should probably mention that the Golden Eagles have now beaten Louisville, Kansas State and Wisconsin over the last two weeks. That’s pretty good.
INDIANA: The Hoosiers got 21 points from Romeo Langford and came from behind at home to land a win over Louisville in Assembly Hall. Indiana has had some struggles early on this season, as a young team built around a freshman and a banged-up Juwan Morgan has had their share of difficulties, but they’re getting the wins they need. Indiana is now 3-1 in games decided by one possession, and their only loss came at Arkansas, when they missed a layup and a tip-in before committing a foul on the ensuing rebound in a tie game. They should be fine in the long run.
FLORIDA STATE: The Seminoles knocked off UConn in the Never Forget Classic in Newark, landing another solid win and improving to 8-1 on the season. Like Indiana, Florida State has yet to truly click this year, but they now have wins over UConn, Purdue, Florida and LSU. That’s a pretty good resume for the first month of the season.
JORDAN POOLE: The concern with Michigan this season was always going to be whether or not they could find enough perimeter shooting to be able to keep the floor spaced, and Poole looks like he is providing the Wolverines with an answer. He had 26 points on Saturday in a win over South Carolina, and has now hit for at least 14 points in the last five games and six of the last seven games. He’s shooting 45.2 percent from three on the season and, after missing nine of his first 10 threes, he’s made 18 of the last 32 threes he’s attempted.
MISSISSIPPI STATE: I’ve been a doubter of Mississippi State this season, but after knocking off Clemson on Saturday afternoon, the No. 22 Bulldogs are 8-1 on the season, thanks in large part to the 28 points and eight threes that they got from Lamar Peters. Clemson is not a great team this season. Hell, I’m not sold they are actually a good team, especially when they are playing without Marcquise Reed. But a win is a win is a win, and Mississippi State got one that they needed on Saturday.
OKLAHOMA: Is Oklahoma actually better this year than they were with Trae Young last season? I don’t know if I fully believe it — they’ve beaten Florida, Notre Dame, Dayton and now Wichita State, albeit by 32 points while losing to Wisconsin by 20 — but I will say this much: They are better than I thought they would be this year. An NCAA tournament bid is within reach if they can do what they need to do in Big 12 play.
WESTERN KENTUCKY: The Hilltoppers are just 5-4 on the season, but after beating Arkansas on Saturday, they have two wins over high-major competition — the Razorbacks and West Virginia. You don’t want to see this group as a No. 15 seed in your bracket.
THE BIG EAST NOT NAMED SETON HALL OR MARQUETTE: We mentioned earlier how important it is for this league to go out and land some big wins during the remainder of non-conference play.
Well, Creighton got smoked at Nebraska. DePaul lost at Northwestern. Xavier got drummed by Cincinnati. Georgetown blew a 13 point halftime lead at Syracuse. Yes, all of those games came on the road, but all of those losses are going to hurt.
FLORIDA: The Gators lost their fourth game of the season, and this one might have been the most frustrating, as Mike White’s team had a shot at picking off No. 10 Michigan State slip through their fingers. Kyle Ahrens, of all people, scored the final seven points for the Spartans in a 63-59 victory.
NEW MEXICO STATE: The Aggies had a second half lead on No. 2 Kansas in Lawrence and blew it. Dedric Lawson scored 19 of his 21 points in the second half, including the last 14 points of the game for the Jayhawks, as Kansas eked out a 63-60 win.
It is perfectly reasonable to drop Kentucky out of the top 25 come Monday morning.
Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the Wildcats are not one of the top 25 teams in college basketball at this moment, and it certainly doesn’t mean that they can’t find a way to make themselves a favorite to get to the Final Four by the end of the season.
But as of today, after losing to an OK Seton Hall on a neutral court, Kentucky has not won a game against a high major opponent. They have not won a game away from Rupp Arena. They have not beaten a top that ranks in the top 75 on KenPom and have just two wins against teams that are in the top 150.
That’s just not a good resume.
And, frankly, they have not looked great in the games they have won, either. They struggled with Southern Illinois and UNC Greensboro. It was more difficult than it should have been to beat VMI and Winthrop.
This has happened before with Kentucky teams — Do you remember last season? — and it will happen with Kentucky teams again. It’s the way of the world when you deal with freshmen, and I don’t doubt that Cal will figure this thing out.
But as of right now, if you don’t think that Kentucky is one of the 25 best teams in college basketball, you’re probably right.
DURHAM, N.C. — Freshman RJ Barrett had 30 points, seven rebounds and six assists, and No. 3 Duke blew the game open in the second half to beat Yale 91-58 on Saturday.
Fellow rookie Zion Williamson had 20 points for the Blue Devils, who led 41-32 at halftime but hit their first six shots after the break to finally stretch out the lead. Duke (9-1) shot 57 percent after halftime and 49 percent overall for its fourth straight win.
Duke also got a scare when freshman point guard Tre Jones came up limping with an apparent left leg injury, which sidelined him for nearly all of the final 14 minutes. Coach Mike Krzyzewski said Jones took a hit in the quad and might have also banged knees with someone but should be OK.
Miye Oni had 12 points and nine rebounds for the Bulldogs (4-3) before fouling out.
Yale: The Bulldogs already had two power-conference wins, first by beating California in the Pac-12 China game to open the season and then by beating Miami on Dec. 1. But they couldn’t add another win to that total despite hanging within reach throughout the first half. Yale shot just 35 percent and finished with 23 turnovers that the Blue Devils converted into 24 points.
Duke: The Blue Devils head into an extended exam break off yet another lopsided win. They had their only true tests in the Maui Invitational, where they beat No. 8 Auburn by six before losing to now-No. 1 Gonzaga in the title game. Otherwise, they haven’t played a game closer than 21 points, including that dazzling opening-night romp against Kentucky. The Blue Devils also put up another big offensive total despite making just 5 of 21 3-pointers.