COLLEGE BASKETBALL TALK TOP 25: Oklahoma or North Carolina at No. 1?

(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
0 Comments

There are a number of fascinating conversations to have about the Top 25 this week, not the least of which is who should be ranked No. 1 in the country.

If you subscribe to the idea that losing should automatically drop you down, than it would make sense to move Oklahoma out of the top spot. But consider that A) The Sooners at Iowa State in a building called Hilton Magic because of how difficult it is for opponents to win, and B) Followed that up by going into Waco and totally dismantling the team that had been in sole possession of first place in the conference.

That’s not to say that it’s wrong to rank North Carolina No. 1. They’re still my pick to win the national title. They’re the only team that was ranked in the top eight last week that didn’t lose. They’re all alone in first place in the ACC with their only two losses this season coming by a combined six points, both of which were on the road.

[MORE: The latest NBC Sports College Basketball Talk Podcast]

But that’s just the beginning.

Where do we rank Iowa? They’re the hottest team in college basketball — I don’t even think that’s arguable — but are we really ready to rank the Hawkeyes as high as the top three? What about Texas A&M? Are they truly a top ten team? What should we make of the top two (Villanova and Xavier) in the Big East losing at home this week? Kansas and SMU got pounded on the road. Maryland lost but played their best basketball in weeks at Michigan State who snapped their own three-game losing streak with the win. West Virginia played their worst game of the season against Texas.

[RELATED: New Bracketology | Team of the Week | Player of the Week]

And then there are the likes of Providence, and Virginia, and Louisville.

Don’t even get me started on the back end of the top 25.

My point is that the various rankings that you’ll see for teams this week are going to be all over the pace.

That’s what happens in a year where no one seems to be all that good. Here’s the NBC Sports Top 25:

1. Oklahoma (16-2, LW: No. 1): We’re sticking with Oklahoma as the No. 1 team in the country this week. There’s not shame in losing at Iowa State, even if Iowa State hasn’t been quite as good as we expected this season, and what the Sooners did to Baylor on Saturday afternoon is illegal in 37 states. Here’s the most impressive part: Oklahoma has the inside track to the Big 12 regular season title.

2. North Carolina (18-2, LW: No. 2): The Tar Heels are cruising along in the ACC, although they have yet to play one of the other contenders in the conference. The big question now: Getting Marcus Paige’s shooting stroke figured out. Since he went for 30 points at Florida State two weeks ago, he’s scored 15 points in the last four games while shooting 5-for-35 from the floor. That’s not good.

3. Iowa (16-3, LW: No. 8): Yeah.

I’m doing it.

I’m now all-in on the Hawkeyes, who have started out Big Ten play with a sweep of Michigan State and a sweep of Purdue. Jarrod Uthoff is playing like a first-team all-american, Peter Jok is on a roll right now and Mike Gesell looks like the kid we’ve been waiting to see for three years. They’re tough, they actually defend and they’re not blowing leads this season. Can it last?

4. Kansas (16-3, LW: No. 3): The Jayhawks lost by 19 at Oklahoma State during the week, but they regrouped and came back from an early 12-point deficit in a fairly convincing win over Texas in Phog Allen Fieldhouse. Something to watch going forward: Bill Self cut his rotation after the loss in Stillwater.

Who got benched?

Cheick Diallo.

5. Villanova (17-3, LW: No. 4): When Kris Dunn is playing well, Providence’s supporting cast is hitting threes and Ben Bentil is playing like he’s Dwight Howard, the Friars can beat anyone in any gym in America. They did all of that to the Wildcats on Sunday. For my money, Villanova is still the best team in the Big East.

6. Xavier (17-2, LW: No. 5): Getting pushed around by Georgetown at home was not exactly a good look, but A) It was just Xavier’s second loss of the season and B) It came on a night where a sophomore point guard with 15 make field goals on the season popped off for 21 points and five threes. I’m not backing off the Musketeers yet.

7. Maryland (17-3, LW: No. 6): The trend of the Terps playing up — or down — to the level of their competition continued as Mark Turgeon’s team was taken to overtime at home by Northwestern and followed that up by giving Michigan State one helluva fight in East Lansing. Consistency out of Diamond Stone and Rasheed Sulaimon will be a key moving forward.

8. Texas A&M (17-2, LW: No. 11): The Aggies are probably the most underrated team in the country right now. Not in the sense that they should be ranked higher than this but in the fact that no one seems to be talking about them. This is a balanced, veteran group that is currently the favorite to win the SEC. Stay woke, fam.

9. West Virginia (16-3, LW: No. 7): The Mountaineers were awful in their loss to Texas at home on Wednesday, but they got eight points in 56 seconds from Tarik Phillip to avoid losing to Texas Tech on the road.

10. SMU (18-1, LW: No. 9): Here’s the question about SMU moving forward: Will they still have something to play for? Their motivation, without an NCAA tournament to look forward to, was a perfect season. That’s over, thanks to Temple.

11. Michigan State (17-4, LW: No. 10)
12. Providence (17-3, LW: No. 16)
13. Miami (15-3, LW: No. 14)
14. Virginia (15-4, LW: No. 15)
15. Baylor (15-4, LW: No. 13)
16. Iowa State (15-4, LW: No. 21)
17. Louisville (16-3, LW: No. 17)
18. Arizona (17-3, LW: No. 19)
19. Purdue (16-4, LW: No. 20)
20. Indiana (17-3, LW: No. 25)
21. Kentucky (15-4, LW: No. 23)
22. Oregon (16-4, LW: UR)
23. Wichita State (14-5, LW: UR)
24. USC (15-5, LW: No. 18)
25. Duke (15-5, LW: No. 25)

DROPPED OUT: No. 12 Butler, No. 22 South Carolina
NEW ADDITIONS: No. 22 Oregon, No. 23 Wichita State

College basketball broadcaster Billy Packer dies at 82

billy packer
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
1 Comment

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

brevin galloway
John Byrum/Getty Images
0 Comments

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

purdue basketball
Junfu Han/USA TODAY NETWORK
6 Comments

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

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

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

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

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.