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Big 12 preview: Kansas on top once again

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Beginning in September and running up through November 10th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2017-2018 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the Big 12 conference.

There’s plenty to know about this year’s Big 12, but the headline remains the same as it’s been for over a dozen years: Kansas is probably going to win the league.

The Jayhawks have won at least a share of the conference title for 13-straight years. This year, they’re not only a Big 12 favorite, but a national title contender.

They aren’t, though, the only storyline in a conference that consistently fields one of the strongest groups in the country. West Virginia looks like a contender again. Texas is relevant again (probably), as is Baylor (I think) and Oklahoma (maybe). Even the perennial bottom-feeders – TCU and Texas Tech – look like they’ll be in the mix for an NCAA tournament.

That, like Kansas, is no different this season.

Big Ten Preview | ACC Preview | Atlantic 10 Preview | Mountain West Preview

Bill Self (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

FIVE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW

1. Kansas has the most talent, but the fit is odd: The Jayhawks have a first-team All-American Devonte Graham, a McDonald’s All-American in Billy Preston, a former McDonald’s All-American in Malik Newman and plenty of other talented pieces, but the Jayhawks are thin inside and don’t have an abundance of shooting. The roster construction isn’t perfect – that’s what happens when you’ve got sit-out transfers like the Lawson brothers – but Self usually figures out how to get the most out of his teams. Weird isn’t necessarily bad, but it does present a challenge.

RELATED: Kansas is stuck in a purgatory of small-ball and playing big

The other pressing question is how Graham adjusts to moving back to a more traditional point guard role. Graham and last year’s national player of the year Frank Mason shared duties the previous three years, but Mason more often than not had the ball in his hands. That led to plenty of spot-up 3-point opportunities that may have to go elsewhere this season for the Jayhawks, likely to Lagerald Vick and Svi Mykhailiuk. Graham could also be asked to be involved a lot more pick-and-roll situations, something that he is capable of but that Mason excelled at.

Most believe that Graham is a better pure point guard than Mason, but that doesn’t mean that Graham is necessarily a better player. We took a deep dive on Kansas here.

2. Havoc in Austin, Year 3: The second season of Shaka Smart’s tenure at Texas was an abject failure. The Longhorns went 11-22, lost their final seven regular season games and finished last in the Big 12. The problem was largely offensive, with the Longhorns delivering the least-efficient season a Smart team has ever had. Three-point shooting was in no small way a culprit as Texas couldn’t even crack 30 percent as a team. Not great.

Reinforcements are on the way, though, as Smart signed five top-100 recruits in the 2017, most notably center Mo Bamba and point guard Matt Coleman. Bamba is a potential program-changer as a potential No. 1 draft pick and the type of kid who attended the MIT Sloan Analytics Conference. Bamba is the kind of defensive presence that Havoc needs to anchor around. He’s an elite rim protector at 7-foot-1 with a 7-foot-9 wingspan, and his ability to erase shots at the rim when gambling perimeter defenders get beaten will make it that much easier for those guards to fly around and force turnovers. So the defense should be better, and the combination of a natural point guard in Coleman plus the return of Andrew Jones should mean the Longhorns are more effective offensively.

Bringing in this type of recruiting class to join a solid core (albeit one without Jarrett Allen after he decided to go pro) puts Texas in a spot to excel. It should also be a pretty good indication of what type of teams Smart is going to have and build in Austin as he’s unlikely to have many teams with a ton more talent than the one that will take the floor this winter.

Final Four Sleepers | Louisville | Villanova | West Virginia | USC | Wichita State | Miami

Shaka Smart (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

3. Will TCU see return on investment?: The first four seasons in the Big 12 for TCU were a disaster. The Horned Frogs proved completely overmatched in their new league, winning just eight over those four seasons. After that, it appears the school decided to get serious about hoops. They fired Trent Johnson and hired alum Jamie Dixon, reportedly to a salary of more than $3 million a year. There was also the $72 million arena renovation. TCU is investing seriously in making their basketball program something worthwhile.

This could be the first season it truly pays off.

TCU looked to be tournament-bound last year when they were 17-7 overall and 6-5 in the Big 12 before a seven-game losing streak scuttled their chances. Nearly everyone is back, including all-Big 12 center Vladimir Brodziansky, promising point guard Jaylen Fisher and talented wing Kenrich Williams. TCU was solid if unspectacular on both ends of the floor last year, which means the standard growth you’d expect with a returning roster under a second-year coach (especially one as accomplished as Dixon) means TCU should see its NCAA tournament drought end at 20 years. They very well could find themselves in the upper echelon of the league, no small feat for a program that is yet to finish better than second-to-last in their new conference.

4. Cyclone rebuild: The Iowa State program didn’t fold up shop when superstar alum and program savior Fred Hoiberg left his hometown to take the head job with the Chicago Bulls in 2015. The Cyclones continued to flourish with Steve Prohm at the helm, making the Sweet 16 in his first year and winning a Big 12 tournament championship while making a program-best sixth-straight NCAA tournament last season. Those two successful seasons, though, were built with Hoiberg players like Georges Niang, Abdel Nader and Monte Morris.

This season marks the unofficial start to Prohm’s tenure as the roster has completely turned over with four starters, all of whom were all-Big 12 players, gone and eight newcomers among the ranks. Competing at the top of the league and advancing to a seventh NCAA tournament in a row seems unlikely for ISU, but the young talent – both on the roster and committed in 2018 – is plenty of reason for optimism in Ames. This year’s group will be led by Lindell Wigginton, a top-25 recruit who picked the Cyclones over the likes Oregon and Arizona State. The 6-foot-1 point guard is athletic and skilled, putting him on track to be the fourth point guard in a row that Prohm has had drafted (Morris, Cam Payne and Isaiah Canaan).

Under both Hoiberg and Prohm, ISU has been an elite offensive team, but this team has plenty of question marks on that end, especially in the shooting department. The Cyclones are due to take a step back this season, but if they can show promise, a quick return to prominence could be in the offing.

RELATED: Where is Kentucky going to get their scoring from this season?
Jevon Carter (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

5. Press on: It’s now Year 4 of Press Virginia in Morgantown, and Bob Huggins has had enough success with the scheme to think that the roster matters less than the system at this point. Thing is, though, that Huggs has a pretty dang good roster this season.
Jevon Carter may be the Big 12 player of the year when all is said and done, and he’s the engine powering the Mountaineers. He’s one of the best defenders in the country and a turnover-generating machine, with a steal rate of over 4 percent. West Virginia’s defense is built to create chaos, and Carter is an agent of chaos.

Esa Ahmad will miss the first half of the season due to academic issues, but Huggins has all the depth he needs to keep rolling out fresh bodies, a critical component of their pressing style. What has evaded West Virginia in recent years has been consistent offense when it can’t just get transition buckets. That’s probably going to be an issue again this year as shooting probably won’t be a strength. If the Mountaineers can find some reliable deep threats, that can change their ceiling dramatically.

MORE: 2017-18 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

PRESEASON BIG 12 PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Devonte’ Graham, Kansas

Taking the reins for Frank Mason is a big job in Lawrence, but Graham looks to be more than equipped to do it. He’ll be quarterbacking the conference’s best team back at his natural position. A monster year is in order for Graham, who is already a potential first round pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. This season will be the one where he proves himself.

MOREThe Enigma of Miles Bridges | NBC Sports Preseason All-American Team

THE REST OF THE BIG 12 FIRST TEAM

  • Jeffrey Carroll, Oklahoma State: The 6-foot-6 wing has taken himself from three-star recruit to NBA prospect
  • Vladimir Brodziansky, TCU: A force inside, on the boards and on defense, Brodziansky is the league’s best returning big man
  • Jevon Carter, West Virginia: Just a prototypical Bob Huggins player with grit and production.
  • Mo Bamba, Texas: The league’s best freshman will be in a spot to put up big numbers.
Mohamed Bamba and Trae Young, Jon Lopez/Nike

FIVE MORE NAMES TO KNOW

  • Trae Young, Oklahoma
  • Zach Smith, Texas Tech
  • Svi Mykhailiuk, Kansas
  • Malik Newman, Kansas
  • Manu Lecomte, Baylor

BREAKOUT STAR: Malik Newman, Kansas

A disappointing freshman year at Mississippi State and a year sitting out in Lawrence has many forgetting that Malik Newman was one of the top players in the 2015 class. Kansas is the conference’s most talented team, but there’s a spot for a big role for Newman.

COACH UNDER PRESSURE: Bruce Weber, Kansas State

Bruce Weber got a two-year extension after Kansas State snuck into the NCAA tournament, but the Manhattan faithful are still not sold on Weber’s future there. This may not be a make-or-break year, but it’ll certainly be setting up one if Kansas State struggles.

ON SELECTION SUNDAY WE’LL BE SAYING …

Kansas, West Virginia and Texas will all have chances at deep runs.

I’M MOST EXCITED ABOUT

The freshman of the year race between Mo Bamba and Trae Young.

FIVE NON-CONFERENCE GAMES TO CIRCLE ON YOUR CALENDAR

  • Nov. 14, Kansas vs. Kentucky
  • Dec. 5, Texas vs. VCU
  • Nov. 10, Iowa State vs. Missouri
  • Dec. 2, Baylor vs. Wichita State
  • Jan. 27, West Virginia vs. Kentucky

ONE TWITTER FEED TO FOLLOW: @FakeBobHuggins

POWER RANKINGS

1. Kansas: Jayhawks have won 13 league titles in a row, and this isn’t the season the streak comes to an end.
2. West Virginia: The style isn’t always pretty, but the results are for Bob Huggins’ crew.
3. Texas: The Longhorns add serious pieces to an already talented core that should make it the best year of Shaka Smart’s short tenure.
4. TCU: Jamie Dixon’s has a dynamic group at his alma mater, which likely means the first NCAA tournament in Fort Worth since 1998.
5. Baylor: Johnathan Motley left a year early for the NBA, but Scott Drew’s cupboard isn’t bare.
6. Texas Tech: Chris Beard nearly got the Red Raiders into the dance in his first season, but the second won’t likely end short of it.
7. Oklahoma: A lot of the Sooners’ season will rest on how quickly freshman phenom Trae Young adjusts to the college game.
8. Kansas State: Without Wesley Iwundu, who will get buckets for the Wildcats?
9. Iowa State: Eight newcomers means the Cyclones will go through plenty of growing pains.
10. Oklahoma State: Jeffrey Carroll is a pro, but how much talent is around him remains to be seen – as does how much the FBI corruption investigation impacts the program.

Bubble Banter: N.C. State, Indiana land massive wins

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There is plenty of action happening on the bracketology bubble watch despite it being a relatively slow night for college hoops.

Dave Ommen’s latest bracketology can be found here. Rob Dauster’s Bubble Watch can be found here. The full NET rankings can be found here.

Here is everything you need to know to.

THE BUBBLE WATCH WINNERS

N.C. STATE (NET: 60, NBC: First four out): The Wolfpack are easily the biggest bubble winners of the week, as they blew out Duke (6) at home on Wednesday. It’s the fifth Quad 1 win for Kevin Keatts — they’re also beaten Wisconsin (30) at home and three sub-50 teams on the road — to go along with an 8-6 record against the top two Quads. The biggest problem here is that they have three Quad 3 losses, two of which came at home. As of today, I would have N.C. State on the right side of the cutline and in a play-in game.

INDIANA (NET: 63, NBC: 10): Indiana picked up their fifth Quad 1 win of the season on Wednesday, going into Minnesota (44) and knocking off the Golden Gophers. This one was particularly important because of the fact that the Hoosiers only had a single road win entering the night — at Nebraska (175). They are 7-9 against the top two Quads, and their worst loss is at home to Arkansas. The Hoosiers are in a better spot than people realize.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (NET: 53, NBC: First four out): After beating South Carolina (62) at home on Wednesday night, the Bulldogs have now won two straight games and five of their last seven games. Those two Quad 3 losses are not going away, but with a pair of Quad 1 road wins and a 6-7 mark against the top two Quads, Mississippi State has themselves in a spot where they cannot afford to slip-up given that they have just a single Quad 1 opportunity left on their schedule.

VIRGINIA (NET: 54, NBC: 11): The Wahoos have now won three in a row and six of their last seven after picking off Boston College (151) at home. They have three Quad 1 wins and an 8-6 mark against the top two Quads with home dates left against Duke (6) and Louisville (10). They’re in a good spot right now.

UTAH STATE (NET: 41, NBC: Play-in game): After beating Wyoming, the Aggies have won five in a row and eight of their last nine games, ensuring they are still in the NCAA tournament mix and fully turning around a season that looked like it was lost as recently as four weeks ago. Wins over LSU (31) and Florida (35) are nice, but with three road losses to sub-90 teams and no more chances to land marquee wins, how are they going to make up for those losses? They don’t play another top 100 team the rest of the season. I don’t see how they can get in without beating San Diego State (1) in the MWC tournament.

MEMPHIS (NET: 59, NBC: Next four out): Memphis is hanging on by a thread right now, but they are still alive after knocking off a bad East Carolina (208) team at home. Memphis has just one Quad 1 win and they don’t have a win over a team inside the top 50; their best win is Cincinnati (50) at home. Throw in a pair of quad 3 losses, and the Tigers have plenty of work to do. The good news? They still get two games against Houston (27), a trip to SMU (67) and a home date with Wichita State (43).

RICHMOND (NET: 46, NBC: Play-in game): The Spiders are still in a good spot for an at-large bid after beating up on George Mason (167) at home. They’re sitting at 20-6 overall with a pair of Quad 1 wins — Wisconsin (30) on a neutral and at Rhode Island (32) — as well as two Quad 2 wins. The trouble with their resume is a a pair of Quad 3 losses, but in a year where so many bubble teams look destined to amass 11 or 12 losses, Richmond will be in the mix. They cannot truly improve their resume until the A-10 tournament.

EAST TENNESSEE STATE (NET: 42, NBC: 11): After beating Furman (71) on Wednesday night, the Buccaneers have gotten through the toughest part of their schedule. They have a win at UNCG (55) and a win at LSU (31). With a 21-4 record and a loss to Mercer (205) at home, the Buccaneers have to win out and lost to only UNCG or Furman in the SoCon tournament to have a chance, and even that might be a bit of a longshot.

STEPHEN F. AUSTIN (NET: 87, NBC: 12): Stephen F. Austin is 23-3 on the season and 20-3 against Division I competition. Their losses came at Rutgers (28), at Alabama (38) and at home to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (316) by a single point. That’s the worst loss that anyone on the bubble is going to take this season. But they also own a road win at Duke (6), which will go down as one of the very best wins that anyone gets this season. I’m not sure what else they can do.

… AND LOSERS

CINCINNATI (NET: 48, NBC: Play-in game): The Bearcats shot themselves in the foot on Wednesday, losing at home to UCF (125) in the fourth straight overtime game that they have played and their sixth one possession game in a row. Cincinnati have just two Quad 1 wins and four Quad 3 losses. They’re in a bad spot.

GEORGETOWN (NET: 43, NBC: Play-in game): The Hoyas fell to 15-11 on the season with a home loss to Providence (58). It snapped a two-game losing streak and put the Hoyas in a very difficult spot. With road trips to DePaul (70), Marquette (23) and Creighton (11) and home dates with Xavier (39) and Villanova (15), Georgetown has a tough, tough schedule remaining. They do have five Quad 1 wins and a 9-11 mark against the top two Quads, so they are in a good spot.

MINNESOTA (NET: 44, NBC: Off the bubble): The Gophers are below .500 after losing to Indiana (63) at home. This is the last time they’ll be in this space until they start winning a few games.

SOUTH CAROLINA (NET: 65, NBC: Next four out): The Gamecocks had a chance to play themselves into a really good spot on Wednesday, but they lost a close game at Mississippi State (53). At 16-10 overall with a Quad 3 and a Quad 4 loss, the Gamecocks have plenty of work left to do and not all that many great chances left for wins.

ALABAMA (NET: 36, NBC: First four out): Alabama fell to 14-12 overall with a loss to a bad Texas A&M (134) on Wednesday. They now have just one Quad 1 win compared to a pair of Quad 3 losses. Throw in their overall record and the fact that they don’t have a road win over a team ranked in the top 95, and they are in serious trouble.

No. 12 Villanova wins 20th-straight over DePaul

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CHICAGO (AP) — Saddiq Bey and Collin Gillespie each made five of Villanova’s 18 3-pointers, and the 12th-ranked Wildcats used their long-range shooting to beat DePaul 91-71 on Wednesday night.

Villanova went 18 for 26 from deep in its 20th straight victory against DePaul. The Wildcats (20-6, 9-4 Big East) have made at least nine 3s in their last five games, including 17 during Sunday’s 76-56 victory at Temple.

Bey finished with 22 points and seven assists. Gillespie and Justin Moore had 17 points apiece.

DePaul (13-13, 1-12) dropped its eighth straight game. The Blue Demons took the Wildcats to overtime in a 79-75 loss on Jan. 14, but the rematch was a blowout.

While Villanova was taking aim from deep, DePaul went 4 for 12 from 3-point range. Jalen Coleman-Lands scored 17 points, and Paul Reed finished with 13 points and seven rebounds.

RELATED: WEDNESDAY’S THINGS TO KNOW

During one telling sequence in the second half, Coleman-Lands made a nice steal before missing a jam for DePaul. Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree then slammed it home at the other end, giving Villanova its biggest lead of the game at 77-46 with 8:21 left.

Cosby-Roundtree finished with 11 points and seven rebounds.

The Wildcats grabbed control when they closed the first half with a 15-2 run for a 46-26 lead at the break. They had 10 3s at halftime; the Blue Demons had 10 made field goals.

BIG PICTURE

Villanova improved to 15-1 this season when it wins the rebounding battle. Cosby-Roundtree led the Wildcats to a 35-28 advantage on the glass.

DePaul dropped to 1-4 against ranked opponents this season. The Blue Demons got off to a great start this year, but the Big East slate has been a disaster.

UP NEXT

Villanova visits Xavier on Saturday. The Wildcats beat the Musketeers 68-62 in their Big East opener on Dec. 30.

DePaul hosts Georgetown on Saturday night. The Blue Demons lost 76-72 to the Hoyas on Feb. 8.

Second-half surge powers No. 22 Houston past Tulsa

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HOUSTON — Caleb Mills scored 22 of his 27 points in the second half to lead No. 22 Houston to a 76-43 win over Tulsa on Wednesday night.

Mills shot 9 of 16, including hitting 5 of 9 on 3-pointers. Nate Hinton added 15 points for Houston (21-6, 11-3 American), which shot 41%.

The Cougars moved into sole possession of first place in the American with the win combined with Cincinnati’s loss to Central Florida on Wednesday. The Cougars rebounded after losing to SMU, 73-72, in overtime on Saturday and avenged a 63-61 loss at Tulsa on Jan. 11.

RELATED: WEDNESDAY’S THINGS TO KNOW

Martins Igbanu had 15 points, and Jeriah Horne added 12 points and seven rebounds for Tulsa (17-9, 9-4). The Golden Hurricane shot 35% but were 4 of 20 on 3-pointers.

Houston opened the second half by outscoring Tulsa, 30-8, to take a 56-28 lead with 11½ minutes remaining behind Mills, who scored 20 points in the run.

With just under 13 minutes remaining in the game, Tulsa’s frustrations and tensions between the two teams heated up.

Tulsa coach Frank Haith was ejected with 12:50 left in the second half after receiving two technical fouls within two seconds.

After Igbanu was called for traveling on the ensuing possession, Igbanu shoved his shoulder into Fabian White Jr, who fell to the ground. The two teams had to be separated, and Igbanu and White were issued technical fouls on the play, while Elijah Joiner was ejected for an unsportsmanlike flagrant two technical foul for running up on to the play and needing to be held back by the official.

BIG PICTURE

Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane has lost five straight to the Cougars in Houston, with their last win coming on Feb. 5, 2015. … Tulsa fell to 2-1 against ranked teams this season, with wins over Wichita State and Memphis coming at home. Tulsa last beat a ranked opponent on the road on Feb. 10, 2016 when it won at SMU.

Houston: The Cougars improved to 12-2 at home this season and have won eight straight at home. … Houston forced Tulsa in 16 turnovers and converted it into 18 points. … The Cougars are 6-0 this season after a loss and 16-0 after a loss over the last three seasons.

UP NEXT

Tulsa hosts SMU on Saturday.

Houston travels to Memphis on Saturday.

Wednesday’s Things to Know: NC State blows out Duke, Auburn loses again and a halfcourt 2OT buzzer-beater gets waved off

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The biggest news of the night came out of Newark, where Seton Hall got a buzzer-beater to defeat Butler, but that wasn’t the only action across the country. Here’s what else you need to know:

Wolfpack pick up huge resume win in blowout of Duke

The headline is going to that Duke lost, because Duke is Duke and the Blue Devils are the sixth-ranked team in the country. And when Duke, being Duke, gets throttled by an unranked team, as the Blue Devils did in an 88-66 loss to NC State, that goes double.

Really, though, this is a much bigger result for the Wolfpack than it is for Coach K’s team.

Kevin Keatts and Co. entered a monumental week with a resume that wouldn’t measure up to an NCAA tournament berth with losses to Georgia Tech (twice), Memphis, Clemson, Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Boston College (on Sunday) outweighing a number of good-but-not-great victories.

They’ve taken the first step in changing that reality with their thumping of the Blue Devils, who had won seven-straight coming into the evening.

Markell Johnson scored 28 points while Devon Daniels had 25 and DJ Funderburk 21. The Wolfpack converted at a 45.1 percent clip overall from the floor and made 8 of 13 from 3-point range (61.5 percent). They had just 10 turnovers and grabbed 15 offensive rebounds. Perhaps most impressively they took a couple of big punches from Duke in the early part of the second half that many an ACC foe has been staggered by, but NC State found its footing and punched back to earn a 22-point win.

Wednesday, though, was just half of the Wolfpack’s big week. On Saturday, Florida State will visit PNC Arena in Raleigh, giving Keatts a second shot at another resume-bolstering win. The victory against Duke makes this week a win regardless for NC State, but if the Wolfpack can go 2-0, it’ll be absolutely massive for them. This week is especially important for the Wolfpack because of what comes next – just one more shot at a marquee victory, at Duke to start March. That’s a hard ask. It’s less of a must now because of the way they were able to take care of business on their home car. That goes double if they can do it again Saturday.

Meanwhile, it was a pretty miserable night for Duke if you weren’t Vernon Carey, who had 27 points and 12 rebounds. Tre Jones had 17 points, but was 6 of 18 from the floor, though he did also have nine rebounds. The Blue Devils shot just 37.7 percent from the field, and were 4 of 17 from 3 (23.5 percent). They assisted on just six of their 26 field goals.

It’s far from a catastrophic loss for the Blue Devils, but it does do damage to an already weak argument for a No. 1 seed. With a weak schedule to finish out ACC regular season play, there probably isn’t a whole lot Duke can do other than hold on to a No. 2 seed.

Auburn drops second-straight

Auburn hasn’t done much to dissuade the considerable amount of people that aren’t buying the Tigers as among college basketball’s best this week. Even if this past week comes with a considerable asterisk.

Georgia defeated Auburn, 65-55, to give the Tigers their second-straight road defeat after they lost over the weekend to Missouri.

That’s two pretty tough losses to a team that previously only had two losses on the whole season. Auburn shot 31 percent from the field and 15 percent from 3-point range. Of course, their performances against Mizzou and the Bulldogs comes with the pretty notable absence of Isaac Okoro, who is dealing with a hamstring injury. It’s probably not surprising that being down your most efficient offensive player is going to make winning on the road in the SEC pretty tough.

Still, a difficult two games for Bruce Pearl’s group.

Cincy’s would-be halfcourt buzzer-beater waived off

Cincinnati is getting well-acquainted with overtime. The Bearcats are also now well-acquainted with some heartbreak.

Down two in double-overtime to UCF, the Bearcats’ Jarron Cumberland let fly a halfcourt heave that that found nothing but net…but was too late.

Maybe the saddest thing about this – unless you’re a UCF fan – is that Cumberland seemed to know the minute the shot fell that it was too late. No celebration. Just dejection.

The Bearcats, who played in three-straight OT games in November, have now played four-straight overtime games, and sport a 2-2 record over that span. There’s a decent chance it stretches to five, with Wichita State coming to the Queen City this weekend.

No. 11 Louisville stops skid with rout of Syracuse

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Jordan Nwora scored 17 points, Dwayne Sutton added 16 and No. 11 Louisville routed Syracuse 90-66 on Wednesday night to end a two-game losing streak.

The Cardinals (22-5, 13-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) never trailed the Orange after losses at Georgia Tech and Clemson dropped them six spots in the rankings and out of the conference lead. They stretched a 41-34 halftime lead to double digits early in the second half before an 18-2 run made it 69-44.

Nwora shot just 5 of 18 from the field and 2 of 7 from beyond the arc but regrouped from scoring just seven points the past two games. Louisville shot 47% with 10 3-pointers and controlled the boards 45-36.

Sutton had three 3-pointers and eight rebounds, McMahon had four 3s for 13 points and 6-foot-11 Malik Williams 14 points while matching a career high with 13 rebounds in his first start this season.

Buddy Boeheim had 15 points and Quincy Guerrrier for Syracuse (14-12, 7-8), which shot 38% and lost its fifth in six games.

BIG PICTURE

Syracuse: After losing four of their last five by a total of 17 points, the Orange stayed within reach in the first half. Things steadily slipped away in the second as they struggled to limit Louisville’s offensive options, especially from long range. Bourama Sibide (five rebounds, two points) fouled out with 10 minutes left, leaving them more vulnerable inside and the Cardinals…

Louisville: After shooting 34% and 35% respectively in the two losses, the Cardinals were patient and worked the ball around Syracuse’s trademark 2-3 zone defense for looks. They initially succeeded from deep with Sutton and McMahon before working it down low for chances. Nwora struggled from deep despite good looks but created chances elsewhere.

UP NEXT

Syracuse: Hosts Georgia Tech on Saturday in search of a season sweep of the Yellow Jackets. The Orange won the first meeting 97-63 in December.

Louisville: Hosts struggling North Carolina on Saturday. The Cardinals won last season’s meeting 83-62 in Chapel Hill before the Tar Heels answered by winning 83-70 in the ACC Tournament.