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2019 Mock NBA Draft: Who are the 30 best prospects in college basketball?

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Periodically, over the course of the coming seven months, we will be posting an updated mock draft here on College Basketball Talk.

This will be different than other mocks, mind you. We’re not as much projecting who is going to be picked where — that is impossible to do right now, as the NBA season is six weeks old and the NBA changed their lottery rules to flatten out the odds of who gets the first pick — as much as take a look at where, in a vacuum, a player should be picked. 

With that in mind, one of the objectives of this mock will be to take a deeper dive into a handful of the most intriguing prospects in the mock each and every week. This isn’t meant to be just a place to rank prospects, the goal is to open up the floor for some discussion about the players that need the most discussing. 

Oh, and one other note: We’re only talking about the college kids here. I could sit here and pretend like I know something about Sekou Doumbouya beyond what I Googled and found on YouTube, but the truth is I don’t know a damn thing about him.

I’ll stick to what I know for now.

And that is these prospects:

1. ZION WILLIAMSON, Duke

I’ll take the L on Zion. Prior to the start of the season, I had Zion ranked as a mid-to-late lottery pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. I didn’t know how the athleticism would translate, and I didn’t know just how good of a feel he had for the game. He’s a pretty good passer. He’s a better shooter than people gave him credit for, even if that is still the weakness in his game. He’s got some handle. He blows by defenders on the perimeter like they’re cops with a radar gun.

Oh, and the athleticism?

It translates. The rebounding, the shot-blocking, the ability to grab-and-go in transition. He’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen in the NBA, an amalgam of Julius Randle and Draymond Green, only wildly marketable and already a star with a massive brand.

The only concern that I have taking him No. 1 is the weight, and it’s not because I’m all that concerned about whether or not, at 6-foot-6 and 272 pounds, he can move around the court the way that he needs to. As long as his wind and conditioning are where they need to be, he should be fine.

My issue is the wear and tear that will come with that added weight. His vertical is somewhere in the neighborhood of four feet, give or take an inch or three. Go jump off of something that is four feet tall and see if you feel it in your knees and your ankles. Now imagine doing that over and over and over again — hundreds or thousands of times per week — with 272 pounds landing on those joints.

That’s where the concern lies for Zion. Wipe that away, and to me, he is the clear-cut No. 1 pick in this draft.

2. CAM REDDISH, Duke

3. R.J. BARRETT, Duke

This may be a bit of a controversial take, as Barrett has been the go-to guy for Duke through the first three weeks of the season while Reddish has been forced into a complimentary role. It’s something of an odd dynamic. Reddish has spent the majority of his basketball playing life as a lead ballhandler, and now he is being asked to play as the floor-spacing jump-shooter on a team with three other stud freshmen that can operate as lead ballhandlers.

What sets Reddish above Barrett for me is that I think Reddish fits seamlessly into the NBA while Barrett projects more as a guy that might have a tough time finding a position. Reddish, at 6-foot-9, is bigger with better physical tools. He’s a much better shooter and scorer in isolation — as the saying goes, he’s got some sh** to his game — and, as I mentioned, he’s played as a primary ball-handler. I can picture exactly what role he’ll play at the next level.

With Barrett, I’m not so sure. He’s not the shooter that Reddish is. He’s “only” 6-foot-7. The intrigue with him is the idea that he can play as a secondary point guard, if not a primary point guard, but he hasn’t shown any consistency with his ability to make reads and correct passes. Barrett is nearly a full year younger than Reddish, and he’s been dominant at every level of basketball to date. I don’t think you can go wrong either way, but I’d rather have the guy I know can shoot, all things considered.

4. KEVIN PORTER JR, USC

Porter is a guy that I will likely be higher on than most, and the reason for that is pretty simple: I think that he is going to end up averaging 20 points in the NBA, if not more. I don’t think that it is a stretch to say that he is the best offensive weapon in this draft. He’s got it all in his bag. He’s 6-foot-6, he’s an explosive athlete, he has the frame to be able to handle the weight that comes with an NBA strength and conditioning program and he knows how to use that strength already:

That’s all well and good, but what sets him apart from other guys in this class is his ability to create on his own. There is not a player in this draft class that is as good as Porter when it comes to getting his own shot. He’s got it all. The amount of space that he can create in isolation is ridiculous. His balance, his footwork, his handle. It’s all at an elite level right now.

I mean, just watch this:

There is no doubt in my mind that he is going to be a weapon as a scorer in the league.

The question with Porter has more to do with maturity, both on the floor and off it. The latter really depends on where he ends up and the support he gets from his organization. The former, however, manifests itself in how he operates in a team setting offensively and defensively. I think the truth of it is this simple: He’s never really been coached on how to do that stuff. In high school and AAU, he was always a ball-dominant lead guard. He didn’t need to know how to work off the ball. Defensively, he wasn’t being asked to make defensive rotations or drilled on how to help off the ball the way he will be in the NBA.

Put another way, in the right situation, those flaws can be coached out of him.

And given what his ceiling is with that scoring ability and athleticism, it’s worth the risk to reach and take him.

5. NASSIR LITTLE, North Carolina

Little is an interesting case. The 6-foot-7 wing has yet to play his way into the starting lineup for the Tar Heels, averaging just 19.5 minutes per game. He’s been productive in those minutes — 11.8 ppg and 4.8 rpg — but he has not yet been able to join fellow frosh Coby White in the starting five. There are a couple of reasons for this:

  • He’s playing behind a pair of potential All-Americans at the forward spot in Luke Maye and Cam Johnson.
  • Roy Williams has, to date, steadfastly refused to go all-in on the small-ball movement, meaning that Garrison Brooks remains a starter.
  • And, most importantly, Little is still working through how to be a team defender and learning what Williams wants out of him on the offensive end — more to the rim, less settling for deep threes.

I’m not too worried. North Carolina was torched at Michigan on Wednesday night after losing to Texas last week, and part of the reason is their inability to guard teams that spread them out. I don’t believe the issue is Williams insistence on not playing freshman — look at the leash he’s given White — as much as it is Little’s learning curve being steeper at a position where there are veterans in front of him.

6. DE’ANDRE HUNTER, Virginia

I love De’Andre Hunter. I’m probably higher on him than anyone else that will put out a mock draft. He’s 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot-2 wingspan. He can play the three, the four or even work as a small-ball five if you’re feeling frisky. You know he can guard since he played for Tony Bennett. He’s a career 39.7 percent three-point shooter and hits 76 percent of his free throws. He may not have the ceiling of younger guys that will get drafted over him, but he’ll start in the NBA for a decade and be ready to contribute the day you draft him.

7. KELDON JOHNSON, Kentucky

I don’t see Johnson becoming a star in the NBA, but I think his floor as a role player at the next level is really, really high. He reminds me a bit of Miles Bridges in the sense that he is a perfect complimentary piece. He’s a versatile defender, he’s athletic, he can make a jumper, he can attack a closeout, he can play a role on a team. I don’t know if you want him being your best player or your go-to guy offensively, which isn’t good for Kentucky but helps to make him a better fit in the NBA.

8. JA MORANT, Murray State

Morant is the latest lottery point guard to come through the mid-major ranks. At 6-foot-3 and 175 pounds, he’s is a high-flying athlete that has been unbelievably productive through four games as a sophomore: 27.8 ppg, 9.0 apg, 7.5 rpg and 2.0 spg. The last two games that he has played have been ridiculous. He had 29 points, 13 boards and 12 assists against Missouri State before following that up with 38 points, nine boards and five assists (plus ten turnovers) in a six-point loss at Alabama with seemingly the entire NBA in attendance.

Barring a run to the NCAA tournament, that was one of just two games that Murray State will play against high-major competition this season; they’re at Auburn in December. He fared well. The turnovers are not a major concern, as he is carrying an unbelievable load offensively for a team that doesn’t have all that much talent, and a handful of them came in the final minutes, as the Racers were rushing to try and comeback late.

What pops about Morant initially is his athleticism. He has the quicks to get into the paint just about whenever he wants, he’s really good at reading ball-screens and he’s an explosive finisher off of two feet. His body control is impressive, and he’s shown a knack for being capable of finishing around (and sometimes over) the big bodies in the lane:

I’ve also been really impressed with his passing ability. He does have a habit of trying to get too flashy, but he can make those highlight reel plays along with making the right reads in ball-screen actions. He could have had 12 assists against Alabama if his teammates were able to finish at the rim.

There are still concerns about his jumper. He made 6-of-12 3s against Missouri State. He’s made two other 3s this season and has just 35 made in his college career. I also wonder about what he’ll be defensively in the NBA. He’s athletic and does have impressive anticipation in passing lanes, but he needs to get stronger and has some bad tendencies when it comes to losing track of his man off the ball and dying on screens.

Some of that can be coached out of him, and some of it will be fixed when he gets stronger and is no longer asked to expend so much energy offensively. He’ll be viewed as something of a boom-or-bust prospect, given what happened with Cam Payne coming out of Murray State after his sophomore season.

9. ROMEO LANGFORD, Indiana

Langford has mostly lived up to the hype for Indiana, becoming one of the best scorers in the Big Ten, but it’s worrisome that his jumper has not yet gotten more consistent and that he struggled as much as he did against the athletes of Duke. He has also gotten lost defensively more often than would be ideal, but freshmen will be freshmen. The big concern is the jump shot. The rest of his game is limited enough that if he’s not an efficient scorer and shooter, there isn’t much appeal.

10. DARIUS GARLAND, Vanderbilt

I really feel for Garland. After a promising start to his freshman campaign, he saw any hope of trying to play his way into the being the first point guard drafted go up in smoke after tearing the meniscus in his left knee and undergoing season-ending surgery. That’s tough. But Garland was impressive in flashes — particularly in the first half of Vandy’s win at USC — and not only should he be healthy by the time NBA teams can start bringing players in for workouts, meniscus tears are not considered to be career-altering injuries.

11. JARRETT CULVER, Texas Tech

Culver is a guy that has stood out to me as much as anyone early on this season. A 6-foot-5, 195 pound guard, Culver was not ranked among the top 300 in the Class of 2017, according to 247 Sports. As a freshman, he averaged 11.2 points, but that number has jumped to 18.8 points through six games this season.

What’s more notable, however, is that Culver has developed into a guy that can play the point for the Red Raiders. The expectation heading into the season was that he would replace the role vacated by Zhaire Smith. That hasn’t been the case. He’s the new Keenan Evans. He is the guy that Chris Beard runs his offense through. As a sophomore, nearly 25 percent of his offense is coming through ball-screens, according to Synergy, and that number bumps up to 32 percent when passes are factored in. When he was a freshman, those numbers were 9.8 percent and 14.5 percent, respectively. He’s currently in the 95th percentile in points-per-possession in ball-screen actions.

So let’s put it all together.

We have a 6-foot-5 guard that can play on the ball and operate in ball-screens. He’s shooting 39.6 percent from three on more than 160 attempts through two seasons, meaning he can play off the ball. He’s coming from a program that preaches toughness and defense, and he is a late-bloomer that is still growing into his frame.

To me, Culver is a guy that is going to continue to climb up draft boards as people realize just how good Texas Tech is this season and just how influential he is in that success.

12. DANIEL GAFFORD, Arkansas

Gafford has all the tools that a player needs to really thrive as a five-man in the modern NBA. He’s a rim-protector defensively that is athletic enough where becoming a switchable defender is a real possibility. He’s a vertical-spacer offensively that will be a lob target both in transition and as the roller in ball-screen actions. He can rebound. He’s even knocking down the occasional jumper this year.

13. BOL BOL, Oregon

For my money, the son of the late Manute Bol is going to be the most difficult player to project in this draft. He is a unicorn in the sense that he is a super-skilled, 7-foot-2 center (with a 7-foot-8 wingspan) that was, quite literally, the best three-point shooter in the EYBL during his final year on the circuit. Seeing him block a shot, go coast-to-coast and knockdown a pull-up 15-footer is just not something we see people his size do. He’s also an elite shot-blocker when he is engaged, the kind of athlete that is going to be able to chase smaller defenders off of the 3-point line.

He is what I like to call a layup line scout. You don’t have to do any more than watch him during warmups to see what his potential is and what his potential can be.

The problem is that there are some very real concerns about whether or not Bol actually likes playing basketball, and if he has the toughness — or, given his slight frame and incredibly high hips, the strength — to ever be something more than an interesting physical specimen and complimentary piece.

He also has a habit of being a statue defensively. For a player that, when engaged, is one of the best shotblockers I’ve ever seen in the high school ranks, he is a horrid defender:

Bol is going to make a lot of money playing basketball. If he ever reaches his ceiling, he will be an incredible weapon. The question that teams drafting him are going to have to ask is whether or not the risk of Bol ending up being a total bust is worth the reward of the lottery ticket being a winner.

For me, the risk would be worth it at the back-end of the lottery, and if I am an NBA GM, I let someone else take that shot.

14. NICKEIL ALEXANDER-WALKER, Virginia Tech

Nickeil Alexander-Walker has been a sleeper in NBA draft circles since his senior season in high school ended. He’s an ambidextrous, 6-foot-5 combo-guard that shoots it at nearly 40 percent from three. The cousin of current Clippers point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Nickeil has all the tools to be a really effective complimentary piece in an NBA backcourt.

The physical tools are there to guard wings. He’s up to 205 pounds, according to Virginia Tech’s official site, and reportedly has a wingspan of 6-foot-9. He can play off the ball, as evidenced by the fact that, you know, he plays off the ball for the Hokies and is a career 39.3 percent 3-point shooter on more than 175 attempts.

The difference this season, and the reason that he is starting to intrigue NBA teams, is that he’s fulfilling his potential as a lead guard. Last season, less than 10 percent of his offense came in pick-and-rolls, and he averaged all of 0.657 points-per-possession in those actions.

This year, 36.4 percent of his offense has come in ball-screens — a number that jumps to over 44 percent when you factor in passes, according to Synergy — and he checks in at the 96th percentile with 1.278 PPP. He’s averaging 4.2 assists this year, up from 1.5 a season ago.

We’ll need to monitor this as Virginia Tech starts to play better competition, but the early returns are very promising for Alexander-Walker longterm.

15. QUENTIN GRIMES, Kansas

Grimes scored 21 points in his first college game, hitting six of his first seven threes, notching four assists and becoming the star of Kansas’ season-opening win over Michigan State. Since then, he’s shot 3-for-12 from three, scored a total of 24 points and got benched against Tennessee for K.J. Lawson and Charlie Moore. I think this is as much about Grimes figuring out what his role is with Kansas as much as anything, but we haven’t seen him look confident as a shooter, driver or penetrator since, really, the first half of his first game. I think he’ll get there.

16. RUI HACHIMURA, Gonzaga

Rui has been one of the breakout stars of college basketball this season, averaging 21.9 points for what is now the No. 1 team in the country. He was awesome in the win over Duke, going for 20 points, seven boards, five assists and three blocks. Maybe I’m overthinking this, but there are two reasons I’m concerned about Rui at the next level: He struggles to defend in isolation and, in three years at Gonzaga, he’s 14-for-50 (28%) from 3. Those are two very important skills to have at the position we project Hachimura to play in the NBA, and it’s why I lean heavily toward Hunter over him.

17. ERIC PASCHALL, Villanova

I’m still on the Eric Paschall bandwagon even if he hasn’t been as effective as he was last season. He’s shooting just 28.6 percent from 3 this season and six of the ten made 3s he has came in one game. But he’s also being asked to play a role that will be much different from the one he’ll be asked to play in the NBA. He’s Villanova’s All-American go-to guy this season, and that’s not what he does best. He’s a complimentary piece, and athletic and versatile defender that makes threes, attacks close-outs and understands where he fits in a system. You’re drafting him to be O.G. Anunoby, not James Harden, and he can do that.

18. JALEN MCDANIELS, San Diego State

Jalen isn’t even the best prospect in his family — his younger brother, Jaden, might end up being the No. 1 pick in 2020 — but he has developed into a player with quite a bit of potential. There’s still some work to do on his body, as he’s 6-foot-10 and just 190 pounds, but he has perimeter skills and some longterm upside. He’s a risk, but he’s a home run if it pays off.

19. LUGUENTZ DORT, Arizona State

Dort might be the biggest surprise for people that haven’t been paying attention. Arizona State’s Canadian freshman is off to a rollicking start, averaging 22.3 points, 7.3 boards, 2.7 assists and 2.3 steals while shooting 34.5 percent from three on nearly five 3s attempted per game. At 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, he’s drawing comparisons to Marcus Smart due to his competitiveness and build. The Sun Devils host Nevada and Kansas in December. We’ll have a better feel then.

20. JALEN SMITH, Maryland

Smith is off to a productive start as a freshman, scoring, rebounding and creating at a respectable level — 12.1 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 2.1 apg. He needs to get stronger (although it was impressive to seem him big boy Virginia’s bigs) but the key to his future lies in his ability to become a floor spacer and rim protector. He’s 1-for-9 from three with just five blocks in seven games.

21. JAYLEN HOARD, Wake Forest

Hoard is a 6-foot-8 forward with impressive mobility that profiles as the kind of athletic wing that NBA teams are looking for. He’s putting up impressive counting stats for a bad Wake Forest team, so it will be interesting to see how his efficiency holds up. Can he ever become a threat from the perimeter? Whoever gets convinced that he’ll be able to make NBA 3s will likely be the team that ends up taking him.

22. BRANDON CLARKE, Gonzaga

Clarke is just such an exceptional athlete that it is getting hard to ignore. He’s proven himself as a rim protector, blocking 4.1 shots per game for the Zags after being known as a rim protector while as San Jose State. He’s a finisher around the basket as well, shooting 78 percent from the floor on the season while averaging 15.9 points and 7.4 boards. I could see him end up doing what Jordan Bell is doing in the league.

23. TRE JONES, Duke

Jones is never going to get the attention that he deserves this season because of his vaunted teammates, but I think he’s fine with that and I also don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing when projecting his future in the NBA. He’s not going to be Chris Paul. He’s going to be piece, and as long as he continues to defend, avoid turnovers (41 assists to eight turnovers), knockdown threes (46.2 percent) and make his floaters, he should have success.

24. CARSEN EDWARDS, Purdue

For me, the end of the first round should be a place where good teams can pick up players that will be contributors and thrive in a role on the cheap. That’s precisely what Edwards can and will do. He’s a bowling ball of a lead guard, a 6-foot-1 lightening bolt that is averaging 25.1 points and 4.1 assists this season. I think he’s a great fit as a spark plug off the bench and can operate as a microwave scorer against NBA second teams.

25. TALEN HORTON-TUCKER, Iowa State

With Lindell Wigginton on the mend, Horton-Tucker has been the Cyclone who has stood out early on this season. The weight is a bit of a concern — he’s 238 pounds at just 6-foot-4 — but he has an awkward game that might just be unique enough to work in the league. He has a 7-foot wingspan. He can play as a creator or off the ball, although it would be nice to see his shooting percentages come up. He’s tough, and he’s very young; his 18th birthday was Nov. 25th. The 26 points, 14 boards, six assists and three blocks he had against Illinois in Maui put him on the map.

26. JONTAY PORTER, Missouri

Porter tore his ACL and MCL in October, which means we won’t have a chance to see what he can be as a sophomore. What we do know is this: He’s young for his grade, he can make threes, he’s a good passer and his has the kind of high hips and slow feet that make people wonder what he’ll be defensively. Here’s to hoping he gets healthy.

27. TY JEROME, Virginia

Jerome is, to me, a guy that will play point guard for 10 years in the NBA. He has the IQ, the toughness, the competitiveness, the leadership. He’s a career 39.5 percent three-point shooter on more than 250 attempts. There are, of course, question marks when it comes to Jerome’s athleticism at the next level. He’s capable of creating space with step-backs, and he’s shown flashes of being able to get to the rim, but mostly I’m not overly concerned. Tony Bennett teaches his guys to guard, Jerome has positional size and he can play off the ball. Fred VanVleet had some of these same question marks, and he’s doing fine as a backup point guard.

28. KILLIAN TILLIE, Gonzaga

The concern with Tillie is that he is currently battling a stress fracture. The upside with Tillie is that he is a 6-foot-10 former volleyball player (read: bouncy) that shoots it at 48 percent from three. Let’s see how the ankle holds up this season.

29. IGGY BRAZDEIKIS, Michigan

Brazdeikis is just so tough. At 6-foot-7 and 215 pounds, he’s built in the mold of a player that can guard up in the NBA with the perimeter skills to be able to take advantage of slower defenders. He’s a dog. I’m not totally sold on the jumper yet, but he’s making 38.9 percent of his threes and 78.6 percent of his free throws, and if he’s going to be Julius Randle lite at the next level, he’ll need to get a bit stronger. Is he a four that can guards fives or a three that can guard fours?

30. JAXSON HAYES, Texas

This pick would be entirely based on upside, but given his size, athleticism, length, hands and the simple fact that he’s a late-blooming blank canvas, he’s got a chance.

College Basketball Top 25 Power Rankings: Some changes to the top ten

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A new college basketball top 25 is now live.

We talked about this a bit on Friday’s podcast, but I want to put it into print form.

One of the narratives of this season is that there are no great teams in college basketball. It was one of the biggest storylines back in November and December as so many of the teams that we thought would be really good this season went through struggles, and the fact that we rolled through seven No. 1 teams in the AP poll only drove that point home.

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.

Now that we’re in mid-February, things have started to shake themselves out, and what we’ve learned is that early in the season we just didn’t actually know who the best teams in the sport were. Now that we do, there are some teams that have started to gain separation on the field. It’s pretty clear that Baylor, Gonzaga, Kansas and San Diego State are the heavy favorites to earn the four No. 1 seeds, and that point is driven home by the fact that the only loss any of those teams have suffered since Christmas came when Kansas played Baylor. Duke is rolling. Maryland is rolling. Dayton is rolling. Up until this past week, Louisville and Auburn were rolling, too.

Put it all together, and as of today, it’s pretty clear who the best teams in the country are, and it’s made doing a top 25 every week much easier than it has been in the past. I haven’t had to think all that hard about the top ten in about six weeks. I will say, that has been nice. Doing a top 25 every week can be a drag.

Having said all that, while there are some great teams in the context of this season, I don’t think that there are any teams here that we are going to be talking about as one of the best college basketball teams of *enter arbitrary cut-off point here.*

Part of the reason I say that is the lack of NBA talent on these rosters. Take, for example, the 2018 Villanova team that won the title. For my money, they are the best college basketball team that I have seen since I started doing this, and four of the five guys that started on that team are now starting in the NBA. That doesn’t include Omari Spellman, either.

Or how about this: Compare this Gonzaga team to last year’s Gonzaga team. Last year, they had two first round picks in Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke, a top 40 pick in Zach Norvell and an All-American point guard in Josh Perkins. All of them were upperclassmen. This year’s team is really good, but their best NBA prospect — Killian Tillie — can’t stay healthy and their second-best NBA prospect — Joel Ayayi — was enough of a question mark entering the season that Mark Few felt the need to go out and recruit two grad transfers to provide insurance at his position.

Don’t get me wrong, this Gonzaga team is very, very good.

And when compared to the rest of the country this year, we can probably call them great. The same can be said about Baylor, and Kansas, and maybe even San Diego State.

But as much fun as they have been to watch this season, putting them in the same conversation as the great teams from past season is a step too far.

Anyway, here is the rest of the NBC Sports college basketball top 25.



NBC SPORTS COLLEGE BASKETBALL TOP 25

1. BAYLOR (23-1, Last Week: 1)
2. GONZAGA (26-1, 2)
3. KANSAS (22-3, 3)
4. DUKE (22-3, 5)
5. SAN DIEGO STATE (26-0, 7)
6. DAYTON (23-2, 8)
7. MARYLAND (21-4, 10)
8. FLORIDA STATE (21-4, 6)
9. PENN STATE (20-5, 19)
10. LOUISVILLE (21-5, 4)
11. AUBURN (22-3, 11)
12. KENTUCKY (20-5, 12)
13. OREGON (20-6, 13)
14. SETON HALL (18-7, 9)
15. VILLANOVA (19-6, 15)
16. CREIGHTON (20-6, 21)
17. WEST VIRGINIA (18-7, 14)
18. IOWA (18-8, 16)
19. COLORADO (20-6, 20)
20. MICHIGAN (16-9, 24)
21. HOUSTON (20-6, 17)
22. ILLINOIS (16-9, 18)
23. MARUQETTE (17-7, 23)
24. BYU (21-7, NR)
25. OHIO STATE (17-8, NR)

NEW ADDITIONS: No. 24 BYU, No. 24 Michigan
DROPPED OUT: No. 22 LSU, No. 25 Michigan State

Saturday’s Things To Know: Louisville’s a mess, Seton Hall’s messier, Maryland rallies, Baylor rolls

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It was yet another wild Saturday in college basketball, complete with crazy comebacks, top ten upsets and a career-high from the best defender on Kansas.

Here is everything you need to know from a fun day of college hoops.

1. LOUISVILLE IS A TOTAL MESS RIGHT NOW

No. 5 Louisville eliminated any and all chance that they might end up being a No. 1 seed on Selection Sunday this week. After suffering what we all thought was going to be their worst loss of the season on Wednesday, losing at Georgia Tech, the Cardinals came out on Saturday and … made five first half field goals at Clemson?

Louisville trailed 31-14 at the break. They shot 15.6 percent in the first half. They were down by as many as 21 points to a team that entered the afternoon 12-12 on the season. Both Josh Pastner and Brad Brownell entered this week on the hot seat, and if they do keep their jobs this season, one of the reasons why will be that they beat Louisville this year. Wouldn’t that be ironic.

The crux of the issue seems to be Jordan Nwora, who was benched at the start of Saturday’s game after being benched down the stretch on Wednesday. He did not score his first points until late in the second half, when the game was already out of reach, and is now 2-for-11 from the floor and 1-for-9 from three in the last two games. He’s scored a total of seven points during that stretch.

So much for that All-American season.

“I don’t have all the answers right now,” head coach Chris Mack. “I just don’t. It’s my job. We’ll watch film. I’m going to have a lot of one-on-one conversations, and we’ll figure out a way to be better against Syracuse on Wednesday.

“It looks like we’re not playing for anything. Really frustrating. But it’s my job to figure it out, and I’ve failed so far.”

The fact of the matter is that this is not a talent issue for Louisville. It’s not a coaching problem, it’s not a problem with their scheme, or their personnel, or anything of the sort. The Cardinals has all the pieces that they need to get this thing right. I’m not ready to sell on them just yet.

2. SETON HALL IS, TOO

The only team in the country that had a worse Saturday that Louisville was No. 10 Seton Hall. The Pirates lost their second straight game on Saturday, falling behind by 25 points in the first half at Providence before rallying to cut the lead to two in a 74-71 loss.

Seton Hall lost at home to Creighton on Wednesday — a game where they gave up 87 points — and pulled the same stunt at home against Xavier just two weeks ago, falling behind by 22 points in the first half before rallying and making the final score respectable.

The Pirates are still sitting in first place in the Big East standings, but they have to play at Marquette and Creighton and still host Butler and Villanova before the Big East tournament starts. A league title is certainly a possibility, but given how tough their remaining schedule is, I’m not sure they are even the odds on favorite.

That’s what makes this stretch so baffling.

Seton Hall is playing for a regular season title and three times in five games they aren’t even close to ready to play?

“We have some guys with bad attitudes right now to be perfectly honest with you,” Kevin Willard said in his postgame radio interview. “When you have a bad attitude and you’re pouting and complaining that you’re not playing enough time yet your team is 10-2, you have issues.

“It’s amazing to me that, when we lost to Xavier I saw a team that bounced back and was hungry to go to Georgetown and get it. When we lost to Creighton the other day and we played terrible (in practice), and I’m sitting in practice and I’m thinking, I’ve got a guy moody that doesn’t want to go through practice who hardly played. I have another guy who played 25 minutes that can’t make a shot and didn’ have a rebound. I have another guy that got embarrassed defensively.

“I will make sure of it, come in 20 minutes that there will be a very large correction . . . The bench is going to get shortened. Either you’re going to show up and play or you’re not. I’m really disappointed in a few guys who, either they regain their focus or I’ll just play six.”

Willard did not name the grumpy-gus, but it’s worth noting: Myles Cale was a starter last year and played just seven minutes against Providence. Ike Obiagu played just five. Anthony Nelson played just two. Draw your own conclusions.

3. BAYLOR IS THE BEST BECAUSE THEY CAN LOSE A KEY PIECE AND STILL ROLL

MaCio Teague is Baylor’s second-leading scorer at 14.4 points. He’s one of their better three-point shooters and the best guy on the roster not named Jared Butler at creating his own shot. He did not play on Saturday against the second-best defensive team in the country in West Virginia, and it did not matter.

No. 1 Baylor rolled to their 22nd consecutive win, knocking off the No. 14 Mountaineers, 70-59, in a game that they led by 28 points in the first half.

And that, more or less, sums up everything that you need to know about this Baylor team. They are good enough, and balanced enough, that they can lose their second-leading scorer, a critical piece to their offense, and not even miss a beat against one of the nation’s very best teams.

4. THERE’S NO REASON TO DOUBT MARYLAND ANYMORE

If you are still among the doubters that does not believe that Maryland is capable of getting to a Final Four and winning a national title, what else do the Terrapins need to prove?

On Saturday, Maryland went into the Breslin Center and knocked off Michigan State, 67-60. They led by as many as 15 points in the first half and used a 14-0 run over the course of the final three minutes of the game to escape with a win. They are now 11-3 in the Big Ten, a game in front of Penn State and three games in front of the rest of the field in first place in the conference, and sitting on an eight-game winning streak. During that streak, they have won at Illinois, at Indiana and, on Saturday, at Michigan State.

Jalen Smith has played like an All-American over the course of the last six weeks. Aaron Wiggins is starting to re-discover his shooting stroke. Darryl Morsell has done all of the little things. Most importantly, Anthony Cowan has continued to play the role of the closer. He scored the final 11 points for Maryland on Saturday, including banging home three threes in the final two minutes.

So tell me.

If you are still one of the people that doubts Maryland, why?

And short of actually getting to Atlanta, what can they do to prove it to you?

5. YOU’RE GONNA HAVE TO GUARD MARCUS GARRETT

Entering Saturday, Marcus Garrett hadn’t made a three since January 14th. He had shot just a single three in the month of February. In his last 14 games, he was 3-for-17 from three, combined.

On Saturday, Oklahoma decided to defend No. 3 Kansas by using whoever was “guarding” Garrett to double-team Udoka Azubuike.

Garrett responded by scoring a career-high 24 points, making six threes and handing out seven assists. The Jayhawks rolled, 87-70.

6. PATRICK EWING SHOULD BE THE BIG EAST COACH OF THE YEAR

I don’t think that there is any way that Ewing will win the National Coach of the Year award because one of Scott Drew, Brian Dutcher or Anthony Grant has that covered.

He should, however, win the award for Big East Coach of the Year. Think about everything that this Georgetown program has gone through this season. They had two players transfer out of the program in December, a decision that led to NBC Sports breaking the news that one of those two players had accusations of assault and harassment hanging over his head, and that two more members of the team — both of whom would later leave the program — were involved as well.

That’s when the injuries started. Mac McClung has missed five games — including Saturday’s visit to DePaul — with a lingering foot issue. Omer Yurtseven did not play on Saturday, either, meaning that the Hoyas were down to just five scholarship players.

And they went into Indianapolis and knocked off No. 19 Butler, giving them an elite win and putting them in a position where they have a bit of room to spare when it comes to getting to the NCAA tournament.

It makes no sense.

And yet, here we are.

7. TEXAS HAS QUIT ON SHAKA SMART.

The Longhorns took on Iowa State in Ames on Saturday and got absolutely humiliated, 81-52, in a game that more or less locked Texas out of the NCAA tournament.

As one longtime Big 12 beat writer put it, “that was the worst Big 12 performance I’ve seen since a winless TCU team.”

Yikes.

8. AUBURN LOST WITHOUT ISAAC OKORO

The Tigers went into Missouri and got dropped, 85-73, playing without Isaac Okoro, who is their best player.

He was out with a hamstring injury that shouldn’t keep him out of the lineup for too long.

9. ILLINOIS LOST WITHOUT AYO DOSUNMU

The Illini lost at Rutgers, which is, apparently, the most difficult place in the country to play. Dosunmu did not play after hurting his knee against Michigan State.

10. FLORIDA STATE WON WITHOUT DEVIN VASSELL

The Seminoles needed a late rally to do it, but they held off Syracuse, 80-77. Devin Vassell didn’t play, and we don’t really know why.

Bubble Banter: Georgetown lands massive win over No. 19 Butler

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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

GEORGETOWN (NET: 55, NBC: First four out): Without question, the biggest bubble winner of the day is Georgetown, who landed their fifth Quad 1 of the season and by far their best win of the year by going into Indianapolis and knocking off Butler (12). There are two major problems with Georgetown’s NCAA tournament profile: The first is that they already have ten losses, but some of that is explainable: They are 5-9 against Quad 1 opponents and 9-10 against Quad 1 and 2 opponents. They have played 19 games against top 75 teams. That’s a lot of good games, and a 9-10 record against them is hardly a bad thing. The other issue was a lack of elite wins, but they already had a win over Creighton (19) in their back pocket, and now they can add a road win over a top 15 team to the mix. My guess would be that they slide up to a 10 seed when Dave updates our bracket on Monday morning.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (NET: 51, NBC: First four out): Abdul Ado made the biggest player of the year for the Bulldogs, tipping home a game-winning bucket with less than a second left on the clock in a 78-77 win at Arkansas (43) on Saturday.

The enormity of this win cannot be overstated. For starters, Mississippi State only had one Quad 1 entering the day, and adding a second Quad 1 win means they now have the same number as their Quad 3 losses. But the bigger issue is that MSU’s schedule down the stretch features precisely one top 65 opponent. This was their last chance at a good win for their resume until the SEC tournament, and they got it.

ALABAMA (NET: 39, NBC: Off the bubble): The Crimson Tide picked up an enormous win on Saturday, as they knocked off LSU (27) in Tuscaloosa for their second Quad 1 win of the season. Alabama is now 14-11 overall and while their 6-10 record against Quad 1 and 2 opponents is solid, a 3-6 mark on the road, a home loss to Penn (177) and just two Quad 1 wins is not a good sign. At this point, I think Alabama needs to win out during the regular season for the simple fact that their schedule is not all that strong. But they have a shot if they do.

VIRGINIA (NET: 55, NBC: 11): Tomas Woldetensae his a three with a second left on the clock to beat North Carolina (95) in Chapel Hill. The Wahoos are now 16-7 overall with a 6-6 mark against the top two Quads thanks to this win. They do have three Quad 1 wins, but just one of them — Florida State (14) at home — is a surefire Quad 1 win to go along with a Quad 3 loss at Boston College (145). Perhaps the biggest issue is that UVA has just two potential Quad 1 wins left on their schedule. They can’t afford slip-ups, and could really use a win over Duke (6) or Louisville (7) next month.

FLORIDA (NET: 38, NBC: 10): Florida blew out Vanderbilt at home on Saturday. Whoop dee doo. Florida’s resume is more or less built on a home win over Auburn (13) and a neutral court win over Xavier (44). They are 5-9 against the top two Quads without a Quad 3 or 4 loss, but this is still not a very strong resume. With two games left against Kentucky (24) and a home date with LSU (27), the Gators are not as comfortable is it may seem, but they will have chances to improve.

RHODE ISLAND (NET: 34, NBC: 11): URI did what they needed to do and picked off St. Joseph’s (237) at home. They’re 19-6 overall and they have just one Quad 1 win, but they are 6-5 against the top two Quads. The loss to Brown (236) is ugly, but as long as URI avoids the landmines on their schedule, I think they can get an at-large even with a loss to Dayton at home in March.

RICHMOND (NET: 52, NBC: Next four out): The Spiders picked up a win in the toughest game they have left on their schedule, beating VCU (42) by 18 points at home. For my money, the Spiders’ at-large hopes are more or less dead. I cannot see how they are going to be able to get enough wins to jump six or seven teams that play in tougher leagues with a schedule that includes a bunch of bad teams. But stranger things have happened, and they could end up getting another shot at Dayton (5) in the Atlantic 10 tournament.

UTAH STATE (NET: 46, NBC: First four out): After beating Fresno State, the Aggies have won four in a row and seven of their last eight 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 three weeks ago. Wins over LSU (27) and Florida (38) are nice, but with three road losses to sub-85 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.

EAST TENNESSEE STATE (NET: 41, NBC: 11): ETSU has a win at UNCG (61) and a win at LSU (27). With a 20-4 record and a loss to Mercer (205) at home, the Buccaneers have to win out and lost to only UNCG or Furman (73) in the SoCon tournament to have a chance, and even that will be a bit of a longshot. They won today.

… AND LOSERS

NORTHERN IOWA (NET: 35, NBC: 11): The Panthers lost at Loyola (102), which is hardly a bad loss, especially in the MVC, but I’m not sure that it is a loss they can afford. Their strong NET and wins at Colorado (17) and over South Carolina (66) on a neutral keep the Panthers in the conversation, but losses at Southern Illinois (148) and Illinois State (202) are killers. UNI cannot lose another game unless it is against Loyola-Chicago (102) in the MVC tournament if they really want a chance at an at-large, and even then, it will be tough.

TEXAS (NET: 71, NBC: Off the bubble): Texas lost their fourth straight game on Saturday. It was their seventh loss in nine games. They were beaten by 29 points by an Iowa State (80) team that didn’t have Tyrese Haliburton. The dream is over.

VCU (NET: 42, NBC: Next four out): The Rams are going to find themselves in a very tough spot after getting worked over at Richmond (55) on Saturday. They have now lost two in a row and three of their last four games, and if they do not beat Dayton (5) on Tuesday next week, than discussing the rest of their resume will not matter. They will not be a tournament team. We’ll talk Wednesday.

PURDUE (NET: 29, NBC: 10): The biggest issue currently facing Purdue after losing at Ohio State (23) is that they now have 12 losses on the season, including a Quad 3 loss at Nebraska (167), and the rest of their schedule is absolutely brutal. The most losses and at-large team has ever had is 15. For context, Indiana last season was 19-16 with six Quad 1 wins and nine Quad 1 and 2 wins and they were left out. Purdue is 4-9 against Quad 1 opponents and 7-11 against the top two Quads with a 3-7 record on the road. Their best road win is at Indiana (58). They’re in a tough spot right now.

ARKANSAS (NET: 43, NBC: Play-in game): The Razorbacks fell at the buzzer on Saturday when Mississippi State’s (51) Abdul Ado tipped in a missed shot with less than a second left. They ave now lost four straight games, are sitting with a 4-9 recorded against the top two Quadrants with just two Quad 1 wins — at Alabama (39) and at Indiana (58). They desperately need to get Isaiah Joe back.

STANFORD (NET: 33, NBC: First four out): The Cardinal lost their fourth straight game on Saturday night at home against Arizona (9). It was their seventh loss in the last eight games. They have an ugly Quad 3 loss to Cal (155) and just two total Quad 1 wins. Stanford will have chances down the stretch, but should we actually trust them to take advantage of those chances?

TENNESSEE (NET: 65, NBC: Next four out): The Vols fell to 14-11 on the season when they lost at South Carolina (66) on Saturday. That’s the fifth loss in the last seven games for the Vols, who still have some chances to get themselves onto the right side of the bubble but have enough work left to do that this is the last time you will see them in this space unless they get hot.

No. 11 Auburn falls at Missouri without Isaac Okoro

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COLUMBIA, Mo. — Guards Dru Smith and Xavier Pinson each scored 28 points and Missouri beat No. 11 Auburn 85-73 on Saturday night.

Smith and Pinson repeatedly drove into the lane and scored for Missouri (12-13, 4-8 Southeastern Conference). Kobe Brown added 10 points and nine rebounds.

Austin Wiley led Auburn (22-3, 9-3) with 22 points and 10 rebounds, J’Von McCormick added 21 points and Samir Doughty scored 16. Auburn made just 1 of 17 3-point attempts.

Smith and Pinson combined to score 33 points on 12-of-15 shooting in the first half. Pinson freed himself with a crossover dribble and sank a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer, giving Missouri a 45-32 lead.

RELATED: CollegeBasketballTalk’s latest bracketology

Missouri’s foul trouble mounted early in the second half, with Pinson and Mitchell Smith each picking up their fourth in the first eight minutes.

Momentum swung back to Missouri when Auburn’s Devan Cambridge was ejected with 10:01 remaining. He was called for Flagrant 1 and 2 fouls on the same play. Cambridge pulled Missouri’s Javon Pickett down and then stepped on his leg while he was sitting on the court. Pickett and Dru Smith combined to make 3 of the 4 free throws. Missouri got possession of the ball, and Torrence Watson hit a 3-pointer. The total damage from the play was six points, giving Missouri a 62-46 lead.

Two minutes later, Auburn coach Bruce Pearl was hit with a technical and had to be restrained by assistants. He was angered when McCormick was called for a foul while trying to get around a screen. Auburn couldn’t get the deficit below 10 points the rest of the way.

BIG PICTURE

Missouri: The Tigers are showing signs of a late-season surge. After beating Arkansas in overtime on Feb. 8, they led 25th-ranked LSU on the road for most of the game Tuesday before losing 82-78. The victory over Auburn was Missouri’s first win over a ranked team in five tries this season.

Auburn: Freshman star Isaac Okoro, who injured his hamstring Wednesday against Alabama, didn’t make the trip to Missouri. Okoro averages 13.1 points and 4.8 rebounds. He was replaced in the starting lineup by fellow freshman Allen Flanigan, who finished with five points and six rebounds.

UP NEXT

Missouri: Host Mississippi on Tuesday.

Auburn: At Georgia on Wednesday.

Cowan closes game on 11-0 run as No. 9 Maryland beats Michigan State

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EAST LANSING, Mich. — Anthony Cowan scored 11 of his 24 points in the final two-plus minutes, helping No. 9 Maryland beat Michigan State 67-60 with a strong finish Saturday night.

The Terrapins (21-4, 11-3 Big Ten) scored the final 14 points of the game after trailing by seven with 3:24 left. Cowman had the last 11 points on three 3-pointers and two free throws.

The Spartans (17-9, 9-6) trailed by as much as 15 points in the first half and by eight early in the second half before making a surge to take the lead.

RELATED: CollegeBasketballTalk’s latest bracketology

Michigan State’s Xavier Tillman had 18 points and 11 rebounds, but he gave Jalen Smith enough space to make a 3-pointer with 3:08 remaining to start Maryland’s game-closing run. Tillman caught the wrath of coach Tom Izzo after making the mistake on defense.

Smith finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds.

Cassius Winston had 14 points for the Spartans.

DRAWING A ROAR

Michigan State’s new football coach, Mel Tucker, fired up fans during the first half in a timeout break. The crowd roared again during halftime when Michigan State honored its 2000 national championship team.

BIG PICTURE

Maryland: With eight straight wins, the Terrapins have a one-game lead over No. 13 Penn State in the conference standings.

Michigan State: The team is simply struggling, losing four of five games and two straight at home.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Terrapins may move up a little in the poll. The Spartans became the first preseason No. 1 to drop out of the poll since Kentucky did it during the 2013-14 season and they will be unranked for at least another week.

UP NEXT

Maryland: Hosts last-place Northwestern (6-18, 1-13 Big Ten) on Tuesday night.

Michigan State: Plays at Nebraska (7-18, 2-12) on Thursday night.