Reagan Lunn/@DukeMBB

College Basketball’s Impact Freshmen

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Beginning in September and running up until November 6th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2018-2019 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

This year’s freshman class is, frankly, not all that great.

There are a couple of big time talents at the top, there handful of players with all-star potential at the next level and, of course, there is the biggest social media star in the history of high school sports coming through with this class.

Where this particular recruiting class is loaded is at the wing spot, the combo-forwards that can guards twos, threes and fours and are skilled enough offensively to fit in an offensive system that spaces the court.

Those are the guys who have the long-term potential to intrigue NBA teams.

The question we probably have to ask right now is whether or not those players will impact the college game this season the way we think they could impact the NBA in three or four years.

Anyway, here are all the freshmen you should become familiar with heading into this college basketball season.

TEN NAMES YOU NEED TO KNOW

R.J. BARRETT, Duke: The Canadian wunderkind has already made himself the future of his country’s senior national team as the 6-foot-7 Barrett spent this summer training and playing against older professional players. Now, Duke is hoping that Barrett is the go-to player who can help lead them to another national title. Although Barrett is surrounded by one of the most talented, and well-known, recruiting classes in history, there is a reason he’s viewed as the potential No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft. It’s because Barrett has been a winner at all levels while showing a killer instinct for scoring and making plays. A dynamic two-way wing, who also shows a strong competitive nature, Barrett is going to have plenty of monster highlights this season. Barrett doesn’t need to be Duke’s go-to player every night for them to win. But the Blue Devils need Barrett to be elite if they want to be in Minneapolis at the end of the season.

ZION WILLIAMSON, Duke: Barrett might be the better overall player and NBA prospect, but Williamson is undoubtedly the bigger star. The brightest star at the high school level since LeBron, the 6-foot-6, 285-pound Williamson became an international sensation during the past few years. Built like an NFL defensive lineman with graceful and powerful leaping ability, Williamson is a double-double machine who has generated hundreds of millions of views thanks to his electric above-the-rim play. It’s unclear how Williamson’s role might look at Duke — will he be a small-ball big man or a wing who can push in transition? — but he looked dominant at times during the team’s summer exhibition tour to Canada. If Williamson’s inconsistent perimeter jumper improves, he could be a lethal college scorer.

ROMEO LANGFORD, Indiana: There might not be a freshman in college hoops facing more pressure than the 6-foot-4 Langford. Already a legend in Indiana since his sophomore season of high school, the shooting guard staying home gives the Hoosiers a top-five prospect and a potential go-to scorer to build around. The first Indiana Mr. Basketball to pledge to Indiana since Cody Zeller in 2011, Langford is a talented three-level scorer who is capable of getting hot and having a monster night. On the other end of the spectrum, Langford has also had questions about his intensity, as he has run hot-and-cold at times during his prep career. But when Langford’s on, there isn’t a more naturally talented freshman scorer in this class outside of Barrett.

Romeo Langford (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

NASSIR LITTLE, North Carolina: The highest-rated North Carolina recruit in years, the 6-foot-7 Little enters Chapel Hill with tons of hype this season. A late-blooming forward who morphed more into a wing during his senior season in high school, Little is a high-motor double-double threat with a developing perimeter skill level. While North Carolina doesn’t need Little to be a go-to player this season, the Tar Heels still need Little to come through with some big-time production, as they’ll likely count on him to produce right away. If Little shows consistency with his jumper, then he’ll be a menace to defend thanks to his quick leaping and ability to score at the rim.

QUENTIN GRIMES, Kansas: Reigning MVP of the 2018 FIBA Americas, the 6-foot-4 Grimes helped USA Basketball capture a gold medal at the event. With his future head coach, Bill Self, already coaching him with Team USA this summer, Kansas will have plenty of ideas on how to unleash the talented guard during the season. Grimes is an explosive scorer who is also skilled enough to have the ball in his hands to run some point. If Grimes can shoot a consistent deep ball, then he will be one of the toughest covers in the country this season.

CAM REDDISH, Duke: The 6-foot-7 Reddish is the least-famous member of Duke’s star-studded recruiting class. He’s not a YouTube sensation, or the younger brother of an NBA player, or the face of a country’s youth basketball program. But it would be really foolish to count out Reddish’s ability and act like he’s some second-fiddle player. Because this dude is a cold-blooded scorer when he gets rolling. With a developed perimeter game, and the ability to go on extended scoring runs from all over the floor, Reddish can take over a game whenever he sees fit. Reddish’s biggest problem has been maintaining consistent intensity while practicing good shot selection. The game comes easy to Reddish, so he takes plays off and challenges himself by taking difficult shots. But once (if?) Reddish figures out how to make things simple, good luck stopping him.

DARIUS GARLAND, Vanderbilt: A monster local five-star grab who should immediately have the ball in his hands, the 6-foot-2 Garland is one of the premier freshman point guards in this class. Silky with the ball in his hands, Garland has a feathery touch on his jumper to go along with a penchant for making others around him better. Garland has already made a huge difference for the Commodores as he helped convince five-star forward Simi Shittu to also sign with Vanderbilt for the 2018-19 season. If Shittu returns to health after a torn ACL suffered last season, then this Commodore freshmen duo could have Vanderbilt back in the Big Dance by the end of their first year on campus.

Bol Bol (Jon Lopez, Nike)

BOL BOL, Oregon: The son of former 7-foot-7 NBA center Manute Bol, the younger Bol has a chance to be the most unique player in college hoops this season. Standing *only* 7-foot-3 with a close-to 9-foot-7 standing reach, Bol has a chance to be one of the nation’s elite shot blockers this season — in an Oregon frontcourt that also includes another notable rim protector in sophomore Kenny Wooten. But the thing that makes Bol fascinating is his shooting touch for his size. Making nearly 50 percent of his three-pointers in the Nike EYBL during his final spring and summer on the AAU circuit, Bol is a gifted offensive weapon who can stretch the floor on offense and protect the rim on defense. Motor and lateral quickness will be the things to watch with Bol this season. He doesn’t move particularly well from side-to-side and there are times when he doesn’t play his hardest.

TRE JONES, Duke: The younger brother of former Duke point guard Tyus Jones comes in with plenty of his own accolades as the five-star point guard also won multiple gold medals during his high school career. Although Tre isn’t quite the floor leader that Tyus was as a freshman (but, really, who was?) he brings plenty of other useful intangibles to the table. Tre is a slightly better athlete and better defender than his older brother was at the same stage. But will Tre inherit the “Stones” family nickname that his brother carried? Because Tyus made some monster clutch plays during his single season at Duke and the Blue Devils are hoping for the same from Tre.

CHARLES BASSEY, Western Kentucky: Rick Stansbury finally has his five-star big man with the Hilltoppers as Bassey reclassified this summer from the Class of 2019. The 6-foot-10 Nigerian has been a known national prospect since his freshman season of high school thanks to elite hands, an ability to protect the rim and a developing post game. Expected to be perhaps the best big man in Conference USA as only a freshman, Bassey is going to carry big expectations this season for a Western Kentucky team that has NCAA tournament aspirations. If Bassey is as good as advertised, and he puts up close to double-double numbers, then the Hilltoppers could even win a game or two in March as one of the nation’s most dangerous mid-major teams.

Tyler Herro (Chet White/UK Athletics)

FIVE POTENTIAL TRAE YOUNGS

JAHVON QUINERLY, Villanova: Losing Jalen Brunson won’t be easy for the Wildcats. The addition of the 6-foot-1 Quinerly should help ease the pain. The five-star prospect is a natural floor leader who is at his best setting up others while running an offense. The Wildcats are going to have plenty of other talented guards who can play this season. But none of the others possess the natural ability to get others easy shots like Quinerly can. He’s potentially a perfect uptempo floor general to maintain Villanova’s high-octane offense.

TYLER HERRO, Kentucky: Watching Herro is going to be one of the most fascinating subplots of Kentucky’s season. The team’s leading scorer during a Bahamas exhibition trip this summer, despite coming off of the bench, the 6-foot-5 Herro should be a better three-point shooter than anyone Kentucky had on the roster last season. Perimeter shooters with size have been able to make waves in a John Calipari offense before, and with Herro’s microwave scoring ability, it might be tough to keep him off the floor — or at the very least out of the starting lineup.

KEVIN PORTER JR., USC: One of the most fascinating freshmen to watch this season will be this 6-foot-5 Seattle native. Initially an afterthought at the prestigious Nike Hoop Summit this spring, Porter was the last player invited to workout with his elite peers before putting on a show-stopping performance in front of NBA front-office personnel. Oh, and Porter wasn’t even a selected member of the actual Hoop Summit roster… He was a practice body who took the train down from Tacoma during spring break and quickly ran through the best players in his class like a hot knife through butter. Keep an eye on Porter this season at USC. When naturally talented players have a natural chip on their shoulder it makes for an enticing combination.

COBY WHITE, North Carolina: Much like Villanova with Brunson, replacing Joel Berry II is next to impossible. But North Carolina should be in good hands, again, this season as long as the 6-foot-3 White is able to step in and play right away. More of a natural scorer than floor leader, White might have to adjust how he plays a little bit at the college level. There also aren’t many players in the country who are as naturally talented at scoring the ball as he is. As long as White can control the ball and limit turnovers, he’s a major weapon who should help the North Carolina offense put pressure on opposing defenses.

NAZ REID, LSU: An intriguing LSU team is going to need the 6-foot-10 Reid to be a major factor this season if they want to live up to the preseason hype. Expected to come in and start right away, Reid has an opportunity to be one of the premier big men in the SEC. The question will be if he wants to dominate. During times in his high school career, Reid didn’t play with the highest motor, as some questioned his passion for being great. But with shooting touch, athleticism and an NBA-ready body, Reid could be a force if he’s fully engaged.

Keldon Johnson (Chet White, UK Athletics)

FIVE NAMES THAT WILL HAVE AN IMPACT IN MARCH

DEVON DOTSON, Kansas: Although Kansas has a lot of talented guards in the fold, the aggressive, downhill nature of Dotson could come in handy for the Jayhawks this season. The 6-foot-1 Dotson is an attack-minded floor general who should benefit greatly from all of the talent that he has around him in Lawrence this season. Dotson is capable of getting his own buckets, or getting others involved, as his style of play should fit in well at Kansas. If Dotson shows that he’s capable of making a perimeter jumper then Kansas might need to explore the use of more three-guard lineups.

ANDREW NEMBHARD, Florida: Mike White’s first five-star recruit as head coach of the Gators could be a vitally important piece for this season. With point guard Chris Chiozza exhausting his eligibility, Florida has question marks at point guard. Experienced pieces like Jalen Hudson and KeVaughn Allen are both back, but neither of them are natural floor leaders. If the 6-foot-4 Nembhard shows he can run an offense right away, then the Gators might be using a lot of three-guard lineups. Perhaps the best passer in this freshman class, Nembhard is a winner who has already seen time with the Canadian senior national team this summer.

KELDON JOHNSON, Kentucky: An insanely deep Kentucky recruiting class could see a number of unique players step up in March. But none of them possess the natural toughness or ability to attack the rim like the 6-foot-6 Johnson. While Kentucky is likely going to have a plethora of options, particularly on the perimeter, Johnson could force Calipari’s hand with his intensity on both ends of the floor. And since Johnson is a bit bigger and stronger than many of his Kentucky perimeter teammates, he could also be a key matchup problem for opposing teams with three- and four-guard lineups.

JALEN SMITH, Maryland: The big man known as “Stix” is one of the best recruits Mark Turgeon has landed during his time at Maryland. At 6-foot-10, Smith runs the floor very well while also showing an ability to make plays near the rim on both ends of the floor. While the Terps won’t need Smith to be a monster right away with sophomore big man Bruno Fernando returning to the lineup, they would be a very tough out if Smith showed an ability to contribute right away.

JORDAN BROWN, Nevada: Parlaying its Sweet 16 run into a McDonald’s All-American big man, the Wolf Pack will have much more size and stability on the interior this season. An expected top-10 team in the preseason with Final Four aspirations, Nevada can turn to the 6-foot-10 Brown for some post touches while also expecting him to help defend the interior and rebound. The Wolf Pack don’t need Brown to be an immediate star. But if he gives them consistent production they’ll be a very dangerous team.

NBC Sports Top 25: Kentucky beats Tennessee as injuries abound

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The big talking point this week comes with Kentucky’s win over Tennessee, which came just four days after Kentucky lost at home to LSU.

I wrote all about the top five battle on Saturday. Without taking anything away from what Kentucky did, I think that the way that game played out had as much to do with situation — Kentucky, at home, coming off a brutal loss against a team that hadn’t been tested in two months — and matchup as it did with what each of those two teams are.

Put another way, I still buy the idea that this Tennessee team can win it all, just like I still believe Virginia can win it all despite losing to Duke twice in the last month.

Beyond that, the toughest thing to do with ranking teams this week was figure out what to do about injuries. I dropped Michigan State to No. 17 because it appears that they have lost Nick Ward for an extended period of time. The Spartans were not all that talented to begin with and now they are down their top two scorers. I also dropped Kansas State over the uncertainty surrounding Dean Wade’s health. If he’s not 100 percent — and if Cartier Diarra isn’t playing — then Kansas State is a bad basketball team offensively.

Anyway, here is the rest of the top 25:

1. Duke (23-2, Last Week: 1)
2. Gonzaga (25-2, 3)
3. Virginia (22-2, 4)
4. Kentucky (21-4, 5)
5. Tennessee (23-2, 2)
6. Michigan (23-3, 6)
7. North Carolina (20-5, 7)
8. Marquette (21-4, 9)
9. Nevada (24-1, 11)
10. Iowa State (19-6, 15)
11. Texas Tech (21-5, 16)
12. Houston (25-1, 13)
13. Kansas (20-6, 17)
14. Villanova (20-6, 10)
15. LSU (21-4, 20)
16. Purdue (18-7, 12)
17. Michigan State (21-5, 8)
18. Virginia Tech (20-5, 18)
19. Kansas State (19-6, 14)
20. Wisconsin (17-8, 19)
21. Louisville (18-8, 21)
22. Iowa (20-5, 22)
23. Buffalo (22-3, 23)
24. Florida State (20-5, 24)
25. Wofford (23-4, 25)

Dropped Out: None
New Additions: None

St. John’s rallies from 14-point deficit to stun No. 13 Villanova

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NEW YORK (AP) — A 70-foot shot just before halftime gave St. John’s momentum, and LJ Figueroa and the Red Storm used a strong defensive effort in the second half to surprise No. 13 Villanova.

Figueroa scored 22 points and St. John’s rallied to beat the Wildcats 71-65 on Sunday night. It was the first win for the Red Storm at Madison Square Garden against Villanova in 17 years, and they accomplished the feat in front of an energetic sellout crowd of nearly 20,000 fans.

“It was as loud as I can remember, maybe louder,” St. John’s coach Chris Mullin said. “I’m happy for them they got to experience that too. There’s nothing like that. There are some great places to play college basketball, but when you get a full Madison Square Garden against a championship team like Villanova there’s nothing like that. It’s awesome. It helped us. It kept us in the game and took us to another level.”

Trailing by 17 late in the first half, the Red Storm scored the final six points, including Justin Simon’s shot from the opposite 3-point line that banked in just before the buzzer and made it 37-26.

“We were screaming the whole way into the locker room,” said Mustapha Heron, who added 19 points. “We had to do it on the defensive end (in the second half).”

The Red Storm (19-7, 7-6 Big East) were down 48-34 with 12:30 left. They scored 20 of the next 25 points to take their first lead on Figueroa’s 3-pointer from the corner.

During that run, Villanova coach Jay Wright was hit with a technical foul for arguing a call.

“Their half-court defense went to another level after they pressed us and the crowd got going,” Wright said. “We had it to 11-12 in the second half there and they started pressing us. They got that turnover at half court and we got the technical that really got them going. That was the turning point in the game.”

The teams traded the lead over the next few minutes before Figueroa hit another 3-pointer that gave the Red Storm a 58-57 advantage with 3:12 left and started an 8-0 run.

The Red Storm led 63-57 with 50 seconds left when Villanova’s Phil Booth was fouled shooting a 3-pointer. He made two free throws to get the Wildcats within four.

That’s as close as they could get as St. John’s converted its free throws down the stretch to complete the biggest comeback since the team rallied from a 20-point deficit against DePaul in 2010.

Joe Cremo scored 14 points for Villanova (20-6, 11-2), and Eric Paschall added 11 points and 14 rebounds.

“It was a tale of two halves,” Wright said. “We were really dominant in the first half, the second half they matched up the intensity.”

The game was a little bit of revenge for the Red Storm, who lost to Villanova by five after blowing an 11-point second-half lead on Jan. 8.

The Wildcats jumped all over the Red Storm early on, outscoring them 29-10 over the first 12 minutes. During that stretch, the Red Storm went without a basket for 7:39.

Bubble Banter: All of the weekend’s bubble action in one spot

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There is now just under a month left in conference play, so it is time for us to go all-in on the “who’s-in-who’s-out” discussion. Bubble Banter has never been more important!

Some quick housekeeping before we dive into it:

  • This page will be updated throughout the weekend, so be sure to check back on Friday, Saturday and Sunday as the games get played. 
  • We’ll update them best that we can, but the NET rankings will be accurate through Friday morning. 
  • If you see something we missed, if you have an issue with a team we left out or if you want to congratulate us on a job well done, drop a comment below or hit us up here: @RobDauster.
  • The cut-off we will be using this year for teams that are “on the bubble” is the No. 9 seed line. If your favorite team is seeded as a No. 9 or better in our most recent bracket, they will not be discussed below. This does not mean that those teams are locks, but it means they need to do something dumb before they are in danger of missing out on the tournament. 
  • On Thursday, our Dave Ommen released an updated bracket, and these eight teams were placed in an 8-9 game: Buffalo, Alabama, Baylor, Syracuse, St. John’s, Auburn, Washington and TCU.

Onto the weekend’s action.

WINNERS

OKLAHOMA (NET: 41, SOS: 12): The Sooners finally snapped a five-game losing streak by going into Fort Worth and picking off TCU, 71-62. I still think that the Sooners are in a tough spot as it stands, but they now how four Q1 wins and just one loss to a team outside the top 35 in the NET — at West Virginia (115), a Q2 loss. A 4-8 mark against Q1 is not great, and neither is their 16-10 record or 4-9 mark in the Big 12, but OU does have three more shots at Q1 wins, and that doesn’t count Texas at home. Their bid is in their hands.

SETON HALL (NET: 61, SOS: 36): Seton Hall may have just about punched their ticket to the NCAA tournament on Sunday afternoon. They landed their third Q1 win of the season by going into Omaha and picking off Creighton (59), but making it all the more impressive is the fact that their first two Q1 wins came against Kentucky (6) on a neutral and at Maryland (21). They do have three unimpressive losses — they were swept by DePaul (91) and lost at home to Saint Louis (123) — but they are now 10-7 against Q1 and Q2 opponents. They end the season like this: Xavier (104), at St. John’s (49), at Georgetown (79), Marquette (20), Villanova (19). Win three more games and they’re in. Win two more and they’re probably feeling pretty good.

MINNESOTA (NET: 58, SOS: 60): The Golden Gophers got screwed on a bad foul call in the final seconds of a loss on Wednesday night, which cost them a Q1 win. They bounced back by absolutely humiliating Indiana at home, a win that won’t carry quite as much weight on Selection Sunday but that will keep the Gophers heading in the right direction. I personally think Minnesota is in really good shape right now given their win at Wisconsin and a win over Washington on a neutral. The 3-7 record in Q1 games isn’t ideal, but their worst loss is only a Q2 loss at Boston College. They close the season like this: Michigan (8), at Rutgers (118), at Northwestern (72), Purdue (11), at Maryland (21). If they go 3-2 in that stretch, they’re dancing, and 2-3 might even be enough to get the job done.

FLORIDA (NET: 42, SOS: 43): The Gators are not going to let us quit them. They picked up their best win of the season on Saturday, going into Tuscaloosa and pounding Alabama (45). That’s just Florida’s second Q1 win of the season. They are now 2-9 against Q1 opponents with a Q3 home loss to South Carolina in the mix. Their 14-11 overall record is not good, and their metrics are floated by the fact that they’ve played a lot of good teams close. Mike White’s team still has some ground to make up, but with two games against LSU (14) and a trip to Kentucky (6) on the schedule, they’ll have chances.

NEBRASKA (NET: 40, SOS: 70): I just can’t quit you, Nebraska. The Cornhuskers won their second straight game on Saturday, adding another Q2 win by picking off Northwestern (72) at home. I know that they lost seven straight earlier this year, but the Huskers are now 8-11 in Q1 and Q2 games with a pair of Q1 road wins. That’s enough to keep them in the mix, and with a schedule that is just absolutely brutal in the final three weeks of the season — at Penn State (70), Purdue (11), at Michigan (8), at Michigan State (7), Iowa (28) — they’ll get five more chances to notch Q1 wins.

WOFFORD (NET: 28, SOS: 167): Wofford absolutely beat the brakes off of the second-best team in the SoCon, UNC Greensboro. They won by 30 points. It’s not a Q1 win because it’s at home, but it is their fourth Q2 win to go along with a 2-4 mark against Q1. As long as the Terriers avoid losing at Chattanooga and at Samford, they are an at-large team in my mind. A 15-0 league record against a conference with more top 60 NET teams than the Pac-12 deserves to get in.

ARIZONA STATE (NET: 72, SOS: 67): Arizona State has one of the strangest resumes in college hoops this season. They are 4-1 in Q1 games and have another Q2 win at UCLA (107). But they’ve lost four Q3 games — Princeton (90), Utah (101), at USC (145), at Vanderbilt (189) — and that doesn’t court their worst loss of the year, at home to Washington State (230) by 21 points.

TEMPLE (NET: 55, SOS: 58): Here is the catch-22 for life on the bubble: Entering Saturday, Temple winning at USF (76) would have been a Q1 win. The Owls went out and they beat the Bulls in overtime. The problem? That loss dropped USF to 76th in the NET, meaning that it is now a Q2 win and Temple’s resume is still a win over Houston (5) and not much else. The reality is that won’t matter all that much. The committee will take into account that winning South Florida, whether it’s Q1 or Q2, is not a game-changer, which is why I’m still of the mindset that Temple needs to win at least four of their final five regular season games and avoid an AAC tournament loss to one of the teams at the bottom of the league.

BUTLER (NET: 53, SOS: 25): The Bulldogs beat DePaul on Saturday night, getting the win they needed to set themselves up for a shot at an at-large. Butler plays at Marquette on Wednesday and at Villanova in two weeks. With just one Q1 win to date, Butler might need to get both to really feel comfortable.

VCU (NET: 43, SOS: 40): The Rams were up by 22 points at Dayton (82) early in the second half and blew the lead, but thanks to a late Marcus Evans bucket, they were able to get out of Dayton Arena with a win. The win at Texas (35) continues to look better and better, a 3-2 mark against Q2 teams is solid and with just one bad loss — a Q3 home loss to Charleston (113) — the Rams are the Atlantic 10’s best chance at an at-large.

BELMONT (NET: 60, SOS: 166): For the Bruins to have a chance at an at-large, they need to win out and lost to Murray State and only Murray State in the OVC tournament. On Saturday night, they smacked around Tennessee Tech. So far so good.

UTAH STATE (NET: 38, SOS: 126): The Aggies probably couldn’t afford a loss to Air Force, and they did what they needed to win — win. There are two things that Utah State needs to do in they truly want to get an at-large bid to the tournament: 1. Beat Nevada at home, and 2. Hope that Fresno State cracks the top 75 in the NET. If they two, that’s one less Q3 loss and one more Q1 win on their resume.

UCF (NET: 45, SOS: 83): UCF won against Memphis in Orlando, which gives them a sixth Q2 win but doesn’t do much to change the biggest flaw in their profile: A total lack of Q1 wins. The Knights play at Cincinnati on Thursday. That will be the game-changer.

TEXAS (NET: 35, SOS: 6): The Longhorns did what they needed to do on Saturday, knocking off Oklahoma State in Austin to avoid picking up their second Q3 loss of the year. The Longhorns are now 15-11 overall and just 7-6 in the Big 12, but they have the No. 6 SOS and No. 11 non-conference SOS nationally. Combine that with a neutral court win over UNC (9), home wins over Purdue (11) and Kansas (18) and a win at Kansas State (26), and the Longhorns are in a pretty good spot.

LIPSCOMB (NET: 30, SOS: 188): Losing to a three-win Kennesaw State team would have been a dream-killer for the Bisons. They won and live to fight another day.

LOSERS

N.C. STATE (NET: 37, SOS: 239): The Wolfpack lost at Duke on Saturday, which is what we all expected to see happen. The chink in N.C. State’s armor is that they played the worst non-conference schedule in the country, and when combined with A) just one Q1 win and B) a Q3 loss, Kevin Keatts is not in a place where he can feel comfortable yet. The most troubling part: N.C. State’s season ends like this: Boston College, Wake Forest, at Florida State, Georgia Tech, at Boston College. They have one Q1 opportunity left. They really, really need to win it.

UNC GREENSBORO (NET: 46, SOS: 191): The Spartans were whipped at Wofford, losing by 30 to the SoCon leaders. It’s their second loss this week and probably takes them out of serious bubble consideration. We’ll keep them around, but they’re probably not going to have enough good wins.

ARKANSAS (NET: 63, SOS: 45): I don’t get the appeal of Arkansas as a bubble team. They won at LSU, which is nice, but that is their only Q1 win in seven tries and they are 3-10 against Q1 and Q2 opponents. They’ve also lost at home to both Georgia Tech (118) and Western Kentucky (121), which are Q3 losses. What is the appeal here? What am I missing?

INDIANA (NET: 49, SOS: 36): Indiana is off the bubble at this point. They went into Minnesota and got absolutely poleaxed. The Hoosiers have now lost 10 of their last 11 games to fall to 13-12 on the season and 4-10 in the Big Ten. If they can somehow find a way to put together a winning streak late in the year, they have some great wins — at Michigan State (7), Louisville (16), Marquette (20) — and no bad losses, but that feels like saying if I can lose 30 pounds and get my six pack back I could be an underwear model.

CLEMSON (NET: 42, SOS: 33): The Tigers had a shot to land their second Q1 win of the season, but after erasing and eight point lead in the final minute and forcing a turnover with 3.5 seconds left, the Tigers had a layup blocked with that would have won the game. The result doesn’t really hurt their profile other than the opportunity cost — this is the kind of win that, on this year’s bubble, can jump Clemson up four or five spots in the seed list. That’s a tough miss.

No. 11 Michigan State’s win over Ohio State overshadowed by Nick Ward injury

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No. 11 Michigan State used a 20-2 run over the course of the final eight minutes on Saturday afternoon, sending Ohio State back to Columbus with a 62-44 loss to keep pace with Purdue and Michigan atop the Big Ten standings, but no one is going to be talking about that today.

They’re going to be talking about Nick Ward.

The 6-foot-9 junior center for the Spartans emerged from halftime with his left hand — shooting hand — heavily bandaged and played just four second half minutes because of the injury. Michigan State announced after the game that Ward suffered a hairline fracture in his left hand towards the end of the first half. The injury occurred when Ward hit his hand on the rim, a source close to the program said.

Michigan State is already down their second-best scorer with Josh Langford injured. Losing Ward would mean losing their best low-post scorer and a guy that gets them a couple of easy buckets every night because of his ability to run the floor and the way Cassius Winston can find him in transition.

With Langford out of commission, Michigan State is going to have a tough enough time with Michigan in two of their last four game.

Without Ward?

It’s hard to see the Spartans winning much if Ward cannot return in time for the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.

Saturday’s Things To Know: Barrett shines, Kentucky rolls, Kansas’ time is a flat circle

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PLAYER OF THE DAY: R.J. Barrett, Duke

Barrett has been something of a disappointment this season considering what the expectations for him were coming into the year. He was the No. 1 prospect in the class, the guy we thought was going to the No. 1 pick, and he’s been … just an all-american?

Heavy is the head that wears the crown, I guess.

One of the knocks on Barrett throughout the year has been that he can be too selfish and that he’s an inefficient gunner. Well, on Saturday, as Zion Williamson poured in 32 points while battling foul trouble in a 94-78 win over N.C. State, Barrett completed just the fourth triple-double in the history of the Duke program. He had 23 points (8-for-16 shooting), 11 boards and 10 assists, and he did it without committing a turnover.

Not bad.

TEAM OF THE DAY: Kentucky Wildcats

No. 5 Kentucky smacked around the No. 1 team in the country on Saturday, beating Tennessee, 86-69, in Lexington. It was their ceiling game. We wrote 1,000 words all about it here.

ONIONS OF THE DAY: Joe Wieskamp, Iowa

After Geo Baker hit a go-ahead three with 3.3 seconds left, Iowa answered with one of the wildest shots of the season. Check this out:

EXTRA ONIONS: David Jenkins, South Dakota State

Jenkins capped off a comeback from 17 points down in the second half as the Jackrabbits knocked off North Dakota State with a buzzer-beater from halfcourt:

WINNERS

MICHIGAN: The Wolverines kept a hold on first place in the Big Ten race by rolling over No. 24 Maryland in Ann Arbor on Saturday.

AVERY BENSON AND ANDREW SORRELLS: No. 15 Texas Tech steam-rolled another Big 12 opponent on Saturday, beating Baylor by 25 points. And while the win didn’t make all that much noise, Texas Tech did make some headlines thanks to a pair of walk-ons who through an alley-oop in the final seconds of a blowout win. Chris Beard was not happy:

My take?

Whatever the punishment ends up being — the suicides, the wall-sits, whatever it is — it was worth it. Walk-ons only get so many shots at glory. If you have a chance to throw a lob or catch a lob and dunk it as a walk-on, you take it. Those two already are legends on campus.

Like I said, it was worth it.

LSU: The Tigers hung on to beat Georgia on the road, their second road win of the week. This is significant because Kentucky knocked off Tennessee on Saturday as well, and that Wildcat win means that LSU is now tied with Tennessee for first place in the league standings. The best news? Four of LSU’s final six games are at home, including hosting a game against the Vols. And the Vols also have to play Kentucky against. Is … is LSU the odds-on favorite to win the SEC now?

LOSERS

INDIANA: This has to be rock bottom for the Hoosiers, right?

Not only have they now lost 10 out of their last 11 games, but this loss was a total and complete humiliation. The Hoosiers lost by 21 points at Minnesota. They trailed by as many as 30. With an NCAA tournament bid still up in the air, Indiana played as if they didn’t even want to make the trip up to Minneapolis. This has not been the sophomore season that Archie Miller wanted.

DEAN WADE’S FOOT: No. 18 Kansas State lost to No. 23 Iowa State at home on Saturday, which cost them the cushion they had in the Big 12 title race, but that might not be their biggest loss of the day. Preseason Big 12 Player of the Year Dean Wade suffered another foot injury. It does not appear to be all that serious, but for a guy that has missed long stretches of each of the last two seasons with foot injuries, everything is serious.

CLEMSON: The Tigers lost their second straight game in demoralizing fashion on Saturday. Against Louisville, the Tigers erased a seven point deficit in less than 15 seconds and, with 3.5 seconds left in a one-point game, forced a turnover and had two shots two win it at the buzzer. Spoiler alert: They didn’t. On Wednesday, it was Miami — one of the worst teams in the ACC — hitting a last-second jumper that bounced off the backboard twice before going in. There’s only a bid to the NCAA tournament on the line here.

FINAL THOUGHT

Kansas is always going to find a way to win the Big 12.

Right?

I mean, it’s proven to be true for 14 straight years, regardless of what disaster or obstacle gets put in their way.

And after what transpired on Saturday, it looks like we’re heading down that same road again.

Kansas State entered the day holding a two game lead in the loss column in the league title race. But they lost at home to Iowa State and, in the process, lost Dean Wade. The injury does not appear to be serious, but it does appear to be something that will, at the very least, bother him for a little while. We know what Kansas State is without Wade on the floor at 100 percent (not very good), which opens the door for Kansas.

The standings, as of today, look like this:

  • Kansas State (9-3)
  • Texas Tech (9-4)
  • Kansas (9-4)
  • Iowa State (8-4)

Kansas still has to play at Texas Tech next Saturday in the game that appears to be the most likely to keep Kansas from calling themselves Big 12 champions one again. The Jayhawks also host Kansas State while Texas Tech pays a visit to Iowa State on the last day of the regular season.

Those are the games that will decide the Big 12 regular season title.

And despite starting four freshmen, one of whom was supposed to redshirt this season, while playing without Udoka Azubuike, Marcus Garrett and Lagerald Vick, Kansas is very much in the thick of the race.

One win in Lubbock next week, and they might even be the favorites.

Someone once told me, time is a flat circle. Everything we’ve ever done or will do, we’re going to do over and over and over again.