No. 18 Michigan embarrasses No. 8 Villanova in title game rematch

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VILLANOVA, Pa. — It was the toughest ticket in town.

$3,000 to sit courtside. A month or two worth of cable and phone bills just to get in the door. A student section that didn’t look safe to inhabit.

It’s about what you’d expect for a team that’s coming off their second national title in three years and unveiling the $25 million renovation to their on-campus facility while playing a rematch of their most recent national title game in a building that typically plays host to Villanova’s buy games and the dregs of the Big East.

Finneran Pavilion was electric.

And No. 8 Villanova never led.

They were tied for a grand total of 13 seconds. Jordan Poole got free on a backcut, laid the ball in with 19:47 left in the first half and the Wolverines never looked back. They led 10-2 at the first media timeout. It was 26-10 by the time the under eight timeout rolled around. When halftime mercifully arrived, Michigan held a 44-17 lead — the biggest halftime deficit that Villanova had faced since playing St. Joseph’s at the Palestra on Feb. 3rd, 2003, the infamous 40-9 Holy War beatdown. The only intrigue the second half held was whether or not Zavier Simpson would leave the Philly suburbs with Colin Gillespie’s soul or just his pride.

No. 18 Michigan’s 73-46 win won’t change the fact that Villanova has a third national title banner hanging in the arena the Wolverines now own, but humiliating the Wildcats on a night meant for celebration is not a bad consolation prize.

We knew Villanova was young, and we knew Michigan was and is one of the toughest defensive teams in the country, but no one saw this coming.

And it begs the question: Just what the hell happened on Wednesday night?


(Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Jay Wright knew.

He knew that his youngest team in years wasn’t ready, regardless of what the AP Poll says. He knew that his freshmen, getting thrown into a game like this against a team like that, were not going to handle it well. He was subdued at shootaround, far too aware of the fact that his young guys didn’t know what they don’t know.

“I can’t say I’m shocked this happened,” Wright said after the game. “I thought we could be down. I didn’t think it would be this.”

The crux of the issue, Wright explained, was the youth on his roster. As of today, Nov. 14th, this is not a Villanova basketball team. It’s a bunch of tall guys in Villanova jerseys. What I mean by that is there is a beauty in the way that Villanova plays basketball. This is not a program is relies on calling out set plays. They only have a handful of plays that they run. They are a read-and-react offense, one predicated on the simplicity that comes as a result of understanding complicated concepts. Their success, as much as anything, comes as a result of the ability of Wright and his coaching staff to teach the guys in his program how to be basketball players, not simply run a basketball play.

That takes time.

And as any coach at any level of college basketball will tell you, freshmen don’t usually arrive at college knowing how to play. There’s a reason why Wright tries to get old and stay old. There’s a reason that he redshirts players as much as any power program in college basketball. There’s a reason that the most successful program in the sport over the last half-decade has shied away from chasing one-and-done talent.

The problem is that the Villanova Way worked too quickly.

As much as anyone in college basketball, Wright intentionally tries to stagger his recruiting classes to minimize how much he loses each offseason. He’ll actively leave scholarships open to avoid years where he brings in four or five or six players. The goal is to avoid what happened this past season — watching his top four players bolt for the NBA.

Villanova expected Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges to leave.

What they didn’t expect was for Omari Spellman and Donte DiVincenzo to develop into first round picks in their own right. Those were the two guys, along with Phil Booth and Eric Paschall, that were supposed to shepherd Villanova through this season. Jermaine Samuels, Dhamir Cosby-Rountree and Colin Gillespie would be afforded another season of seasoning. Villanova’s talented four-man recruiting class would get a year of experience under their belt.

What Wright didn’t expect was to walk into this season as reigning champions with a team that, frankly, doesn’t know what they’re doing just yet.

“We didn’t have that cohesiveness that you need to have,” Wright said. That showed up offensively, as Gillespie and Jahvon Quinerly tried without little success to get Villanova into a semblance of an offense. It showed up defensively as well. One of the staples of Villanova on the defensive end is that they switch everything. They’ll deal with bad matchups if it forces the team they’re playing out of their offense. A player getting beaten one-on-one is not an uncommon sight; it’s the risk Wright takes.

What is uncommon is a total defensive breakdown, a miscommunication that results in someone being left unguarded for a three or a layup. That happened on the first play of the game. It happened at least three more times that I noticed in the first half. All told, Michigan had 16 layups on Wednesday night. They had 44 points in the paint, 26 of which came in the first half.

“We’ve got too many pieces,” Wright said, “running guys in and out. We’re not as organized as we walk to be. We were trying to find a lineup here early … throwing guys in there against an experienced team.”

“When you get in that mode against good teams,” he added, “with young guys going in and out, rarely does that work.”

While it’s easy to pin blame on Villanova’s youth, the credit for exploiting that mismatch has to be given to Michigan, who has turned into an absolute defensive juggernaut.

Simpson is a monster on that end of the floor. He’s owned better point guards than Gillespie in the past. He’ll own better point guards than him in the future. And he’s just one half of a backcourt that thrives on a defensive mentality that we’ve never seen out of a John Beilein-coached team before, maybe ever.

“Charles Matthews is relentless when given a matchup like this,” Beilein said. “These two guys, this is what they love to do. They have a defensive mindset. They want to know that they’re guarding Phil Booth out there. They want to know that they’re guarding Gillespie out there. That’s what makes them go.”

We knew that.

What we learned today was just how dangerous and matchup proof Michigan can be.

Some of that is because of the improvement of Isaiah Livers, a 6-foot-8, 230 pound athletic monster that can play the five in Michigan’s offense. The Wolverines made their big first half run when Livers was at the five on Wednesday — it was a 27-9 surge over about a 10 minute stretch, and Livers buried two threes in the middle of that surge — but the difference-maker might actually be the freshman that we’ve been hearing about for months.

Iggy Brazdeikis.

At 6-foot-7, Brazdeikis is skilled enough that he can play the two in Michigan’s offense. He’s athletic enough that the first of his 18 points on Wednesday came via a powerful tip-dunk in the first two minutes of the game. And he’s tough enough that he’s already earned the respect of Michigan’s defensive stalwarts.

“The thing about Iggy,” Matthews said, a wry smile peeking out, “is he has a lot of pride. Defensively, that’s half the battle. He’s ready to compete on the big stage.”

“He’s a mini-pitbull,” Simpson said of his much larger teammate. “He’s not scared of anything. He took the challenge against Paschall.”

That right there is where the difference for this team is made.

Beilein went out of his way to praise the defensive work of Jon Teske on Wednesday night, and while I’m not one to quibble with a man that is on his way to the Basketball Hall of Fame, it’s hard not to get excited about what Michigan can do when they put Brazdeikis and Livers on the floor together. Suddenly, you have two players big and strong enough to hang with the biggest players in the Big Ten, yet athletic and mobile enough to guard a future first round pick in Paschall.

Livers is the guy that can space the floor.

Brazdeikis is the animal on the glass.

And both of them, thrown out there with Simpson and Matthews, are going to give opposing offenses nightmares.


Ignas Brazdeikis (Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

So where do these two teams go from here?

Michigan appears destined for a fight to the top of a Big Ten that suddenly looks far more formidable than any of us imagined. With Indiana blowing out No. 24 Marquette and Nebraska pounding Seton Hall on Wednesday, we’re nine days into the season and the only losses anyone in the league has suffered came when Illinois was beaten by Georgetown and Michigan State lost to Kansas.

A team with an elite defense, coming off of a trip to the national title game, that is coached by a Hall of Famer whose track record suggests his teams play their best in March, not November, just beat a top ten team by 27 points on their home floor.

I’d say the future is pretty bright.

It’s a bit different for Villanova.

“Getting beat by 30 is a wake-up call,” Wright said, “but you try not to do that.”

He knew his team did not play great in their wins over Morgan State and Quinnipiac, but when you’re winning by 30, those youngsters don’t always hear what their coach is saying. Talent allows team to get away with more against overmatched competition.

Against Michigan?

Not a chance.

“Theres a lot of things you talk about when you win by 30, and you try and get them to listen,” Wright said. “Hopefully, this is a great learning experience.”

When your team has everything left to learn, every moment becomes a teachable moment.

No. 9 Kansas blows lead, then holds off No. 5 Texas, 88-80

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LAWRENCE, Kan. – Dajuan Harris Jr. was willing to acknowledge that Kansas was facing something rare when fifth-ranked and Big 12-leading Texas arrived at Allen Fieldhouse.

The defending national champs played like it.

Gradey Dick scored 21 points, Harris had 17 points, six rebounds and five assists, and the ninth-ranked Jayhawks held on after blowing a 14-point first-half lead to beat the Longhorns 88-80 and tighten the league race.

Kevin McCullar Jr. added 16 points, Joseph Yesufu scored 14 off the bench and KJ Adams finished with 10, helping the Jayhawks (19-5, 7-4) overcome an off night from Jalen Wilson. The league’s leading scorer at 21.5 points per game battled foul trouble and was held to just two, ending his streak of 25 straight double-figure games.

“We knew we had to come in here and get a win,” said Dick, who had the Jayhawks’ only two 3-pointers. “The big thing, just in preparation for the week, was coming out with energy. When we do that, we’re a scary team.”

The Jayhawks needed everyone’s help holding off the Longhorns’ Marcus Carr.

The Minnesota transfer, who had a game-high 29 points, kept answering Kansas baskets down the stretch. His 3-pointer got the Longhorns within 77-68 with 2:25 left, three free throws made it 78-71 with 1:31 to go, and his three-point play got the Longhorns (19-5, 8-3) within 86-80 with 23.5 seconds remaining.

Texas quickly fouled Dick at the other end, and his free throw with 18 seconds left helped to put the game away.

“It was as close to a must-win as you could have this early in the season to win the league,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “You go down three games with seven left, you’d have to win out and get a lot of help from others. Now, we still have as hard a schedule as everybody, but we can kind of control our own destiny where if we play well, we have a shot.”

Timmy Allen finished with 18 points for the Longhorns. Sir’Jabari Rice had 12 before fouling out.

“It was their night tonight in terms of what they got done,” Texas interim coach Rodney Terry said.

The Longhorns have made a habit of overcoming double-digit deficits: 18 down to beat TCU, 12 down to beat Texas Tech and 14 down to beat No. 12 Kansas State last Saturday in a game played just down the road.

So it wasn’t that surprising when Texas dug another 14-point hole Monday night.

Just like the Longhorns did in Manhattan, though, they began to rally. Texas shook off 10 first-half turnovers to get within 42-35 by the break, then kept coming in the second half. Hunter hit a 3-pointer, Carr added a couple of buckets and it was 43-all when Self called a timeout to slow Texas’ momentum.

Unlike the Horned Frogs, Red Raiders and Wildcats, the Jayhawks rose to the challenge.

McCullar’s three-point play while they were clinging to a 49-48 lead gave them a boost, and Dick added a couple of free throws. But it was back-to-back buckets by Harris, who is known more as a distributor than as a scorer, that pushed the lead to 58-50 with about 12 minutes to go.

Texas closed within 66-60 but, after the Jayhawks pulled down two offensive boards, Dick hit another 3-pointer. And when Yesufu bookended a couple of free throws by Harris, the lead had stretched to 75-62 with 3 minutes to go.

The Jayhawks were able to fend off Carr and the Longhorns from there.

“Give those guys credit. They came in and played at a very high level,” Terry said, “and we knew that would be the case.”

BANGED-UP BIRDS

The Jayhawks were missing several backups. Zack Clemence has a hurt knee, Bobby Pettiford Jr. is dealing with a hamstring injury and Zuby Ejiofor a foot injury. Kyle Cuffe Jr. (knee) and Cam Martin (shoulder) also were out.

“I thought the bench was great. As good as they’ve been all year,” Self said. “We had nine guys we could put in the game.”

BIG PICTURE

Texas has struggled to get off to good starts this season, and it seemed the energy the Longhorns expended climbing back into Monday night’s game was missing by the end. Carr tried to carry them but he needed more help.

Kansas got the production it needed from the bench. Yesufu provided the scoring pop but big man Ernest Udeh Jr. and guard MJ Rice, both seldom-used freshmen, also provided important minutes for the Jayhawks.

UP NEXT

Texas heads home after its Sunflower State swing to play West Virginia.

Kansas has a two-game trip next with Oklahoma on Saturday and Oklahoma State.

No. 19 Miami rolls past Duke 81-59, moves to 13-0 at home

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
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CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Miami guard Isaiah Wong pointed to the crowd, waving his arms, asking for noise, asking for the celebration to start.

The lead, at that point, was 3-0.

Didn’t matter. From start to finish, the Hurricanes were in total control — and got a rare rout over Duke.

Norchad Omier had 17 points and 10 rebounds, Jordan Miller added 16 points and No. 19 Miami never trailed on the way to a 81-59 win over Duke on Monday night.

Wooga Poplar scored 14 and Wong scored 11 for Miami (19-5, 10-4 Atlantic Coast Conference). The Hurricanes led by as many as 26 and improved to 13-0 at home.

“That was a great performance, from start to finish,” Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. “There was a lot of energy. And all I can tell you is, everybody who came tonight’s game is invited back – because that’s the kind of environment that we’d love to have every night.”

Ryan Young and Dereck Lively II each scored 11 points for Duke (17-7, 8-5), which saw its three-game winning streak snapped. Jeremy Roach added 10 points for the Blue Devils, who were outrebounded 38-31 and committed 21 turnovers.

It was the second game this season where Duke never led, and the 22-point loss was its second-worst this season. The Blue Devils lost to N.C. State by 24 on Jan. 4.

“Congratulations to Miami. There’s a reason they haven’t lost here at home,” Duke coach Jon Scheyer said. “They’re really good. They obviously had it clicking on all cylinders right away.”

It was the second-biggest Miami victory margin in the series between the schools, topped only by the Hurricanes’ 90-63 win over then-No. 1 Duke on Jan. 23, 2013. Miami also enjoyed huge edges in points off turnovers (23-9), second-chance points (24-9) and fast-break points (17-7).

And Miami got payback for a 68-66 loss at Duke earlier this season.

“We had something to prove,” Miller said. “They beat us last time. We were revved up for this game and we got it done.”

Duke fans started leaving with 4:24 left and Miami up by 26, the Hurricanes’ student section serenading them as they departed.

Miami ran out to a 13-1 lead and stretched it to 34-17 later in the first half, putting Duke in unfamiliar territory quickly. The Blue Devils had trailed by more than 15 in just two other games – by 29 to N.C. State, and by 19 to Purdue.

“When you have 21 turnovers, you can’t expect yourself to have a good game,” Lively said.

It was 40-26 at the half. When Miami opened the second half on a 9-0 run to build a 23-point lead, the outcome quickly became academic.

“The crowd fueled us to keep it going,” Larranaga said.

BIG PICTURE

Duke: Maybe it’s too difficult to quickly reset after a rivalry game. This is the third consecutive year the Blue Devils have lost the game immediately following their first matchup of the season with North Carolina. “It’s tough. It’s not easy. But it’s what you have to do. … It’s part of playing in the ACC,” Scheyer said.

Miami: The Hurricanes remained one of six teams from major conferences to be unbeaten at home – the others being Alabama, UCLA, Providence, Iowa State and Duke. Across Division I, 20 teams entered Monday with perfect home marks.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Miami has been in the poll for nine straight weeks, the program’s longest such run since being ranked in each of the first 11 polls of the 2017-18 season – and figures to stay there if it tops Louisville on Saturday. Duke has been out of the AP Top 25 for the last four weeks; the Blue Devils were two slots away in the poll released Monday, behind only Florida Atlantic on the “also receiving votes” list.

BARRY HONORED

Basketball Hall of Famer Rick Barry, Miami’s all-time leading scorer, was presented with a customized basketball during a first-half stoppage of play.

UP NEXT

Duke: Visits No. 8 Virginia on Saturday.

Miami: Hosts Louisville on Saturday.

Minnesota-Illinois postponed for COVID-19 in Gophers program

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MINNEAPOLIS – Minnesota’s game at Illinois that was scheduled for Tuesday has been postponed because of COVID-19 health and safety protocols within the Gophers’ program.

The announcement was made Monday by Minnesota, which didn’t specify how many players would have been unable to play.

The Gophers (7-15, 1-11) had only eight available scholarship players for their last game, an 81-46 loss to Maryland on Saturday. Dawson Garcia (ankle) has missed the last four games, and Braeden Carrington (leg) has missed the last six. Parker Fox and Isaiah Ihnen will not play this season while recovering from knee injuries.

The game will be rescheduled by the Big Ten, with input from both schools.

Minnesota is next scheduled to host Iowa on Sunday. Illinois (16-7, 7-5) will host No. 24 Rutgers on Saturday.

Purdue stays No. 1 in AP Top 25; NC State in at No. 22

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Purdue’s unquestioned grip on No. 1 in The Associated Press poll is gone after a weekend loss. That didn’t stop the Boilermakers from remaining at the top anyway.

The Boilermakers earned 38 of 62 first-place votes in the poll to remain at No. 1 for a third straight week and seventh time this season. Purdue was the unanimous choice last week, the first for any team this season, before falling at Indiana over the weekend for only its second loss.

The Boilermakers (22-2, 11-2) have a leading candidate for national player of the year in Zach Edey and KenPom’s No. 1-ranked offense (121.1 points scored per 100 possessions) to go with a top-25 defense. But they got down big, committed 16 turnovers and allowed the Hoosiers — up to No. 18 this week — to shoot nearly 53% in a 79-74 loss Saturday.

“When we go to Zach and we make some perimeter shots, the defense gets better sometimes when the offense flows,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said at his postgame news conference. “And you can’t do that. You can always rebound, you can always take care of the ball, you can always make your free throws, those things there.”

The loss meant Houston collected 22 first-place votes as it rose one spot to No. 2, followed by No. 3 Alabama and No. 4 Arizona in each claiming one.

THE TOP TIER

Texas jumped five spots to No. 5, shooting past Tennessee, which fell four spots to No. 6 after losing last week at Florida.

UCLA, Virginia, Kansas and Marquette rounded out the top 10, with Shaka Smart’s Golden Eagles cracking the top 10 for the first time since 2019.

RISING

The Longhorns’ jump marked the biggest of the week, followed by Marquette and Miami each rising four spots. No. 13 Xavier, No. 15 Saint Mary’s and No. 21 UConn joined Indiana in each moving up three positions.

In all, 12 teams rose from last week’s rankings.

SLIDING

Kansas State took the week’s biggest tumble, falling five spots to No. 12 after losing at Kansas and at home to Texas last week. No. 16 Gonzaga joined Tennessee in falling four spots after its overtime loss at Saint Mary’s.

In all, nine teams fell from last week’s rankings.

STATUS QUO

Purdue was the only team to remain in the same position this week.

WELCOME

North Carolina State earned its first AP Top 25 ranking in four years, checking in at No. 22.

The Wolfpack (19-5, 9-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) spent six weeks in the poll during the 2018-19 season. N.C. State already has surpassed the win total for each of the last two seasons and is in contention for the program’s first NCAA Tournament berth since 2018.

Creighton and Rutgers joined N.C. State as this week’s new additions to the poll, though both were ranked earlier this season. The Bluejays were No. 9 in the preseason poll and peaked at No. 7 before falling out by mid-December, while the Scarlet Knights spent a week at No. 23 in mid-January.

FAREWELL (FOR NOW)

Florida Atlantic (No. 19), Clemson (No. 20) and Auburn (No. 25) fell out of this week’s poll.

CONFERENCE WATCH

The Big 12 leads all leagues with six ranked teams, including No. 11 Iowa State, No. 14 Baylor and No. 17 TCU. The Big East is next with five ranked teams, followed by the Big Ten and ACC with three each.

The Pac-12, Southeastern and West Coast conferences each have two ranked teams, while the American Athletic and Mountain West each have one.

Indiana reaches No. 2 in women’s AP Top 25; South Carolina still No. 1

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South Carolina beat a top opponent to remain No. 1 in the women’s poll and now has a showdown with another one looming this weekend.

The Gamecocks (23-0) topped then- No. 5 UConn 81-77 to remain unbeaten and stay the unanimous choice atop the poll from the 28-member national media panel. After facing Auburn, South Carolina will play No. 3 LSU in a matchup of the last two unbeatens in Division I women’s college basketball.

Dawn Staley’s team has won 29 consecutive games and has been No. 1 in the poll for 33 consecutive weeks. That’s one week short of tying the Huskies for the third-longest streak atop the poll. Only UConn (51 weeks) and Louisiana Tech (36) have had longer runs at No. 1.

While South Carolina has had a stranglehold on No. 1 for more than a year, Indiana is making its first appearance ever at No. 2 after Stanford lost to Washington.

“I’m going to relish this for a minute, knowing where the program was to where it is,” Indiana coach Teri Moren said. “We’ve made a lot of history since we’ve been here in our nine seasons and it’s one of the more historical things we’ve been able to accomplish. Give our players credit, I don’t want to discount what a big achievement this is. We’re more than humbled to be No. 2.”

Indiana has won 10 straight since suffering its lone loss of the season to Michigan State. The Hoosiers have a tough stretch coming up, starting with a home game against No. 5 Iowa. Indiana, which hadn’t been ranked higher than fourth, then plays No. 13 Ohio State and 12th-ranked Michigan.

“That’s why we take it one game at a time, but you understand the magnitude of what’s ahead of us. I tell the kids all the time we’re in control of our own destiny,” Moren said.

LSU remained at No. 3 after close wins over Tennessee, Georgia and Texas A&M. The Tigers have a week to prepare for the Gamecocks.

UConn moved up one spot to fourth after its close loss to the Gamecocks and Iowa was fifth.

The Cardinal fell to sixth with Utah, Maryland, Duke and Notre Dame rounding out the top 10. The Blue Devils beat the Irish to take over sole possession of first in the ACC and vault up six spots in the poll. It’s Duke’s best ranking since the team finished the 2017 season ranked ninth.

FALLING CYCLONES

It was a rough week for Iowa State, which lost to Kansas by one point and Baylor by six. The Cyclones fell nine spots in the poll from 12th to 21st.

RE-ENTRY

Colorado came back into the poll at No. 25 after beating Oregon and Oregon State over the weekend. The Buffaloes were ranked for four weeks before falling out last week. Middle Tennessee dropped out of the poll after losing both its games last week.