WEEKEND PREVIEW: There are some great games to watch while you’re snowed-in

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GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 1 Oklahoma at No. 13 Baylor, Sat. 12:00 p.m.

If you want to know how wild the Big 12 has been this season, this game is the only example that you need to know. The last two teams to be ranked No. 1 in the country — Kansas and the current No. 1, Oklahoma — are both members of the league, but entering this weekend, the team that currently sits all alone at the top of the league table is Baylor.

Yes, that Baylor. The one that is coached by Scott Drew, a running internet joke for bad coaching. The one that was ruthlessly embarrassed by Kansas in Phog Allen Fieldhouse in the conference opener, a game that the Bears lost by 28 and trailed by 20 just seven minutes into the game. But if they can take care of business against the Sooners at home, the Bears will be 6-1 in league play and destined for a top ten ranking come Monday morning.

In a conference that includes the Sooners, the Jayhawks, Iowa State, West Virginia and Shaka Smart, we’re a third of the way through league play and Baylor is one win away from sitting in the driver’s seat.

This season, man.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 7 Maryland at No. 11 Michigan State, Sat. 6:30 p.m. 

The Big 12 isn’t the only league that’s whacked.

The Big Ten is, too.

Iowa is sitting in first place, Michigan State has lost three straight and already has four league losses, and Maryland took a loss at Michigan, needed a buzzer-beater at Wisconsin and got taken to overtime by Northwestern. In a weekend where the top four teams in the conference are all squaring off — more on that in a second — this is the game with the most intrigue. Can Maryland get back to playing like a national title contender? Will Michigan State get back to playing like … a tournament team?

THE OTHER, OTHER GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 22 Purdue at No. 9 Iowa, Sun. 1:00 p.m.

Maryland-Michigan State might get all the hype, but the best game in the Big Ten this weekend might actually be No. 22 Purdue paying a visit to No. 9 Iowa on Sunday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. The Hawkeyes are the most surprising team in the conference, having already swept the Spartans and erased a 19-point deficit in a win at Purdue. The Boilermakers, who may have the best front line in college basketball, will be out for revenge this weekend. The key story line here: Iowa, the last couple of years, has earned the reputation of being choke artists that are better off shooting themselves with Papa Doc’s handgun. It looks like they’ve kicked that habit, and a win on Saturday would give them a sweep of both Michigan State and Purdue.

Iowa forward Jarrod Uthoff (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Iowa forward Jarrod Uthoff (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

THESE WILL BE GOOD, TOO

  1. There’s another great game this weekend, as the best team in the Big East — No. 4 Villanova — will host No. 16 Providence and the best player in the Big East — Kris Dunn. One thing to keep an eye on: The massive storm that is expected to pound the east coast this weekend. Providence will be flying in on Thursday to beat the snow, but there could be as much as two feet of snow dumped on the city. It’s already been rescheduled until Sunday afternoon. How many fans will make it to the game?
  2. No. 21 USC fell at Oregon on Thursday night, and it wasn’t really all that close. On Sunday afternoon, the team that has looked like the Pac-12’s biggest challenger to Arizona will look to right the ship at Oregon State. Dunk City West will be squaring off with a team that features Gary Payton II. There will be highlights.
  3. On Wednesday, No. 6 West Virginia found out what happens when their press doesn’t work, as they lost at home to Texas in spectacularly ugly fashion. On Saturday, the Mountaineers will look to bounce back from that loss at Texas Tech, which has been a tough place for visitors to get a win this season.
  4. No. 8 SMU will put their perfect record on the line at Temple on Saturday night in an 8:00 p.m. tip. The Owls have been a tough out in AAC play, having swept Cincinnati, won at UConn and lost at Memphis by two points. This will be one of the toughest stops left on SMU’s slate.
  5. N.C. State snapped a four-game losing streak in ACC play this week as they went into Pittsburgh and blew out the Panthers. No. 20 Duke, on the other hand, is still skidding, as they lost their third straight game on Monday night to Syracuse. On Saturday, the Blue Devils will head to Raleigh to take on the Wolfpack, a game that both teams desperately need to win.
  6. There will be two games shown on NBCSN and the NBC Live Extra App on Saturday, as Davidson visits Richmond at 12:30 p.m. and St. Bonaventure heads down to VCU at 2:30 p.m.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET?: No. 18 Butler at Creighton, Sat. 7:30 p.m.

Creighton has proven to be a tough out this season. They beat Georgetown. They won at Seton Hall. They came within one banked-home jumper of taking Providence to overtime. They’re a team that still has an outside chance of making a run at the NCAA tournament, but they desperately need some quality wins on their résumé. Butler would qualify as that, and the Bulldogs have been anything but impressive through Big East play. They’re 2-4 in league play, but all five of their losses this season have come against quality competition. Creighton needs this, but Butler needs it, too.

WHAT WE’LL BE TALKING ABOUT ON MONDAY: I have absolutely no idea.

Seriously.

No clue.

I could guess — we’ll probably end up talking about Iowa and Villanova and why Baylor is for real and if Michigan State is even a Final Four team these days — but I don’t even know if it would be an educated guess at this point. That’s the way this season has been. West Virginia looked like the best team in the Big 12 … then they lost at home to Texas. Duke and Kentucky are barely top 25 teams. Providence and Michigan State were both ranked in the top ten with a National Player of the Year candidate, and neither has played well since it became 2016.

That’s a long-winded way of saying that this season makes absolutely no sense, and that’s what makes this season so much fun.

When I recorded a podcast with Mark Titus of Club Trillion fame, he said he loved watching this year’s Ohio State team because, good or bad, he had no idea what was going to happen on a given night. It’s like that from a national perspective as well. You have to pay attention every night because, at this point, nothing is a given.

And that’s fun.

Right?

Houston reaches No. 1 in AP poll for first time since 1983

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Make some room, Phi Slama Jama. Another Houston team has reached the top of men’s college basketball.

Nearly four decades after Clyde Drexler and Akeem Olajuwon took the Cougars to No. 1, the latest bunch led by Marcus Sasser and star freshman Jarace Walker took over the top spot in the AP Top 25. They received 45 of 63 first-place votes from the national media panel, easily outdistancing second-place Texas and third-place Virginia.

“It’s not like we went online and applied for it and waited for a response back. We’ve been working for this,” said Houston coach Kelvin Sampson, whose team is coming off a Final Four and Elite Eight trip the past two seasons. “But remember, it’s a rental. You don’t own it. You’re just renting it because someday somebody else is going to be No. 1.”

North Carolina had been No. 1 all season, but the Tar Heels lost to Iowa State and in a four-overtime thriller to Alabama at the Phil Knight Invitational to cede the top spot to Houston, which beat Kent State in its only game last week.

The last time the Cougars ascended to No. 1 was the final poll of the 1982-83 season, when “The Glide” and “The Dream” along with coach Guy Lewis were the favorites to win it all. They rolled through the NCAA Tournament before falling to Jim Valvano and North Carolina State in an iconic championship game in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

“I’ve never been ranked No. 1,” said Sampson, now in his 34th season as a college basketball coach. “We were ranked all 12 years at Oklahoma. I’m sure we were ranked at Indiana. Then we’ve been ranked five or six straight years. We’re used to having a high level of success.”

Texas received eight first-place votes and Virginia received two. Arizona climbed from 14th to fourth after emerging from a stacked field to win the Maui Invitational. Purdue jumped from 24th all the way to fifth and scooped up eight first-place votes after beating West Virginia, Gonzaga and Duke at the Phil Knight Legacy tourney.

“Our guys are competitive. They’re fun to coach. They get along. They’re out there playing with purpose and that’s what you have to have,” said Boilermakers coach Matt Painter, whose team was briefly No. 1 about this time last season.

“Early in the season, very few teams play with the purpose collectively,” he said. “I thought our guys played with a purpose.”

Baylor was sixth, Creighton seventh and U Conn climbed from 20th to eighth after beating Oregon, Alabama and Iowa State to win the Phil Knight Invitational. Kansas fell from third to ninth after losing to Tennessee in the championship game of the Battle 4 Atlantis, while Indiana rounded out the top 10.

There was a tie for 11th between SEC rivals Alabama and Arkansas with the Volunteers, another conference foe, right behind them. Gonzaga dropped from sixth to 14th, its first time outside the top 10 since Feb. 5, 2018, and Auburn was 15th.

Illinois was next followed by Duke and North Carolina in a tough week for Tobacco Road. The Blue Devils fell from eighth after their 75-56 loss to the Boilermakers.

Kentucky and Michigan State joined UCLA, Maryland, Iowa State, San Diego State and Ohio State in rounding out the poll.

RISING AND FALLING

Purdue made a rare 19-spot jump as the poll underwent a massive shakeup. UConn climbed 12 spots, Arizona moved up 10, Tennessee climbed nine and Alabama seven. On the flip side, the Tar Heels tumbled 17 spots, Duke dropped nine, Gonzaga fell eight and San Diego State fell seven.

IN AND OUT

Despite all the movement, Iowa State was the only newcomer this week, checking in at No. 23 after beating Villanova and North Carolina before falling to UConn. The Cyclones replaced Iowa, which dropped out after a one-week stay following its loss to TCU in the title game of the Emerald Coast Classic.

CONFERENCE WATCH

There are six difference conferences represented in the first seven teams in the poll. The Big Ten leads the way with six in the Top 25 while the SEC has five and the Big 12 has four, though three of them are in the top 10.

South Carolina tops women’s AP Top 25; Stanford, UConn next

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South Carolina remained the unanimous No. 1 choice in The Associated Press women’s poll, as the Gamecocks keep close watch on the foot injury of reigning Player of the Year Aliyah Boston.

The Gamecocks received all 29 first-place votes in the poll, a day after Boston left a game with her injury. Coach Dawn Staley said Boston was “questionable” going forward but added that the “team doctor wasn’t too, too concerned.”

South Carolina’s next game is at home against No. 15 UCLA.

Stanford remained No. 2 after cruising through a tournament in Hawaii. It’s the 618th appearance for Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer, tying the late Pat Summitt for most all-time. Summitt’s teams only missed being in the poll 14 times during her Hall of Fame career at Tennessee.

UConn, Ohio State and Indiana rounded out the top five.

The Huskies are one of four Big East teams to be ranked this week as Marquette entered the poll at No. 24. It’s the first time the Big East has four ranked teams since the conference realigned in 2014. The league is 56-14 so far this season, including going 8-2 against ranked teams.

“We’ve been trying to earn a little more respect,” Marquette coach Megan Duffy said of the Big East. “Tried to schedule tougher non-conference (games). ‘Nova’s playing people. Us going to the Bahamas was great. Creighton’s doing what they’ve been doing since last season. Getting some of those quality wins is everything.”

North Carolina moved up two spots to No. 6 after rallying to beat then-No. 5 Iowa State in the Phil Knight tournament. The Cyclones fell to eighth.

The Tar Heels visit the Hoosiers on Tuesday in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Indiana returns home after winning two games in Las Vegas at a subpar venue that lacked basic necessities.

Notre Dame remained No. 7 while Virginia Tech and Iowa finished off the top 10. At No. 9, Virginia Tech has matched its best ranking ever and is in the top 10 for the first time since 1999.

Tennessee fell out of the poll this week marking the 56th time in the 827-week history of the poll that the Lady Vols weren’t ranked. Kansas State also fell out with Gonzaga moving in at No. 23.

FALLING CARDINALS

Louisville dropped to 18th in the poll this week after falling to South Dakota State in the fifth place game at the Battle 4 Atlantis last week. It’s the Cardinals lowest ranking since Jan. 11, 2016.

Louisville entered the top 10 in the preseason poll in 2017 and hadn’t been out since, a span of 98 consecutive weeks. It was the longest active streak.

“It’s a compliment to the consistency that we built here,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said of being ranked in the top 10 for so long. “Obviously are goal would have been to stay in the top 10, but it’s a new team and growing.”

Edey scores 21 as No. 24 Purdue beats No. 8 Duke 75-56

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PORTLAND, Ore. – Zach Edey and No. 24 Purdue shook off a slow start. When No. 8 Duke tried to rally in the second half, the Boilermakers finished strong.

Edey had 21 points and 12 rebounds, and Purdue beat Duke 75-56 on Sunday in the championship game of the Phil Knight Legacy men’s tournament.

Fletcher Loyer scored 18 points for Purdue (6-0), and reserve Caleb Furst finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

“I feel like we weren’t getting the looks we wanted early. As we settled into the game, we kept our poise and kept getting the shots that we wanted,” Edey said. “They were making some tough twos at the beginning of the game, shots we’re OK with all season.”

The 7-foot-4 Edey was 7 for 13 from the field and 7 for 8 at the line. He was named tournament MVP.

“They have the most unique player in the country,” Duke coach Jon Scheyer said of Edey. “He’s a hard guy to prepare for because there’s nobody else like him.”

Duke (6-2) shot 36.2% (21 for 58) from the field. Tyres Proctor scored 16 points for the Blue Devils. Kyle Filipowski and Jeremy Roach each had 14.

Ethan Morton had a steal and a dunk to help Purdue open a 58-41 lead with 15:37 left in the second half.

Duke countered with an 8-0 run, capped by two foul shots by Dariq Whitehead. But Furst made a layup and a jumper to help hold off the Blue Devils.

A hook by Edey and a 3-pointer by Loyer made it 68-56 with 5:03 remaining.

Duke got off to a 14-7 start before Purdue worked its way back into the game.

“I don’t feel like we came out bad today, but they matched our energy,” Edey said.

A 3-pointer by Brandon Newman pushed the Purdue lead to 46-28. A late run by Duke cut the Boilermakers’ lead to 46-35 at halftime.

BIG PICTURE

Duke: It looked as if Roach had an issue with his left foot at one point, but he went back into the game. Scheyer said Roach had hurt his toe.

Purdue: Although neither team had great offensive games, Purdue was the better team from range. Purdue made seven 3-pointers to just two for Duke.

UP NEXT

Duke: Hosts Ohio State on Wednesday.

Purdue: Visits Florida State on Wednesday.

No. 18 Alabama beats No. 1 North Carolina 103-101 in 4 OTs

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PORTLAND, Ore. – Mark Sears had 24 points, five rebounds and five assists, and No. 18 Alabama sent top-ranked North Carolina to a second straight loss with a 103-101 victory in a quadruple-overtime thriller on Sunday in the third-place game of the Phil Knight Invitational tournament.

Jahvon Quinerly added 21 points off the bench for the Crimson Tide (6-1), who knocked off the top-ranked team for the first time since upsetting Stanford in the 2004 NCAA Tournament.

“I was losing track of how many overtimes we were in there at the end,” Crimson Tide coach Nate Oats said. “A lot of credit to our guys. I thought they showed a lot of character when we could have folded.”

Charles Bediako had 14 points, 16 rebounds and three blocks, while Brandon Miller also scored 14 points.

Caleb Love led the Tar Heels (5-2) with 34 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three steals. Armando Bacot contributed 20 points and 10 rebounds, and R.J. Davis had 19 points and nine rebounds in the second four-overtime game in North Carolina history. The other was a victory over Tulane in 1976.

“At the end of the day, Alabama made one more play than we did,” North Carolina coach Hubert Davis said. “I walked in the locker room and a number of the guys had their head down and I told them to pick their head up. I’m just as disappointed (as the players) in terms of the final outcome, but I couldn’t be any more proud about the way they competed.”

Bediako gave the Crimson Tide the lead for good on a layup with 26 seconds remaining in the fourth overtime.

The Tar Heels, who lost to Iowa State in the semifinals, led by as much as eight in the second half before Alabama came back to tie it. The Crimson Tide retook the lead on a pair of free throws from Gurley with 2 minutes remaining, and later tied with another free throw from Sears with 51 seconds remaining in regulation.

Alabama starting forward Noah Clowney took a hard fall on a dunk attempt four minutes into the first half and had to be helped off the court. He did not return.

The Crimson Tide were 16 for 38 (42.1%) from 3-point range, with Sears making seven.

BIG PICTURE

North Carolina: The Tar Heels figure to take a deep drop in the Top 25 poll.

Alabama: The Crimson Tide bounced back nicely following their loss to No. 20 UConn in the semifinals, beating a top-ranked team in the regular season for the first time since a 66-64 victory over eventual national champion Arkansas on Jan. 8, 1994.

UP NEXT:

North Carolina: The Tar Heels travel to Bloomington to face No. 11 Indiana on Wednesday.

Alabama: The Crimson Tide return home to face South Dakota State on Saturday.

Clingan lifts UConn past Iowa State for Phil Knight title

Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
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PORTLAND, Ore. – Donovan Clingan had 15 points and 10 rebounds to power No. 20 UConn to a 71-53 win over Iowa State in the championship game of the Phil Knight Invitational on Sunday night.

Tristen Newton scored 13 points for the Huskies (8-0), who went 20 for 25 at the free-throw line. Alex Karaban and Andre Jackson, Jr. each had 10 points.

Osun Osunniyi led Iowa State (5-1) with 14 points. Tamin Lipsey had 12 points and Jaren Holmes finished with 11.

“They were the more aggressive team,” Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger said. “We wanted a physical game. We didn’t want a physical game with them getting the rebounds and then also us putting them on the foul line. Lesson that we’ve got to learn is we need to embrace being the aggressor at both ends of the floor at all times.”

The Huskies had more offensive rebounds (20) than the Cyclones had total rebounds (19), and capitalized on that disparity with 20 second-chance points.

“Those guys are tough,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said. “T.J.`s an excellent coach. They grind people up. To outrebound them, it just speaks to how tough we were.”

Clingan, who was named tournament MVP, scored eight points to help UConn to a 38-28 lead at the break.

Iowa State closed to 53-48 on Holmes’ 3-pointer midway through the second half. But Karaban made a 3 and a dunk, and Newton’s jumper made it 60-48 with 7:13 remaining.

BIG PICTURE

UConn: The Huskies couldn’t have asked for a better showing in Portland, winning all three of their games.

Iowa State: The Cyclones picked up nice wins over Villanova and top-ranked North Carolina in the earlier rounds but ended with their first loss of the season.

UP NEXT

UConn: The Huskies return home to face Oklahoma State on Thursday.

Iowa State: The Cyclones return home to face North Dakota on Tuesday.