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Monday Overreactions: Indiana, Kansas prove basketball is a ‘make or miss’ sport

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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Chris Clemons, Campbell

Oh boy, did Chris Clemons have himself a week.

It started on Wednesday, when the Campbell Fighting Camels went into Radford to take on the Highlanders, who sat all alone in first place in the Big South with an undefeated league record and a win at Texas to their name this season. What did Clemson do? He scored a cool 39 points, shooting 11-for-22 from the floor and 8-for-15 from three en route to a 68-67 win.

He capped it off in style as well:

That wasn’t the end of it, either.

On Saturday, Clemons followed up his first 39 point performance of the week with … another 39 point performance, one that took him past college basketball legends like Larry Bird and Tyler Hansbrough on the career scoring list. All told, Clemons finished the week with 78 points in two games, shooting 23-for-43 from the floor and 18-for-33 from three with just four turnovers.

Unreal.

For the sake of humanity, we need to find a way to get Clemons into the NCAA tournament. There isn’t a person on the planet that would not enjoy seeing Clemons go out and try to put a 50-burger on whatever No. 2 seed the Camels would draw in the first round.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Baylor Bears

Can someone please explain to me what in the hell is going on down in Waco?

Let me lay this one out for you. Playing without Jake Lindsey this season, Baylor started out the year with losses to Texas Southern, Stephen F. Austin and a bad Wichita State team before kicking off Big 12 play with two losses in three games that coincided with Scott Drew finding out that he will be without Tristan Clark, who was developing into one of the best big men in the conference, for the rest of the season.

And what has happened?

The Bears have turned around and become the hottest team in the conference. They’ve won six straight games. They are sitting in first place in the league, tied with Kansas State and a half-game in front of both Iowa State and Kansas, as a week that saw them beat Oklahoma by 30 points in Norman and then smoke TCU by 26 points at home.

So what’s the secret?

It might be as simple as this: Makai Mason, who scored 40 in the win over TCU, missed nearly two full seasons with foot injuries at Yale and then sat out the first three games of the season this year. He’s grown into his role and seems to have figured things out, as has Mario Kegler, who missed the first six games of the season and is now being asked to carry more of the load with Clark gone. Throw in freshman Jared Butler, who was supposed to be at Alabama this year, and what you get is a team that featured nine newcomers finally figuring each other out.

(Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune-Herald via AP)

MONDAY OVERREACTIONS

1. INDIANA FINALLY DECIDED THEY WANTED TO PLAY HARD

It’s hard to believe that the same team that we all watched lose seven straight games, capped by digging a 17-0 hole at home against Michigan and losing at Rutgers, could waltz into East Lansing on College Gameday and beat Michigan State, but that is now a reality that we live in.

The Hoosiers knocked off the Spartans, 79-75, in overtime despite the fact that they played without Juwan Morgan for more than two-thirds of the game; he injured his shoulder diving for a loose ball early on. He was replaced by the bigger, more physical De’Ron Davis, who has 12 points, six boards and four assists in 25 minutes, more than he played in all of January combined. Devonte Green was back from his three-game suspension as well, but that does not tell the whole story of what happened here.

Indiana played like they actually gave a damn. That’s the truth. They worked defensively. They were unselfish on the offensive end of the floor. They got back in transition and slowed down Sparty’s high-powered fast break. They pounded the offensive glass and created second-chances. They were tough, they were competitive and they played like a team with something to prove, which is what we have been waiting to see out of this group for weeks.

The truth is that the Hoosiers are not as talented as many seem to believe. Romeo Langford is a top ten pick and Juwan Morgan is a really good college player, but the rest of the roster is really young and many of them are in over their heads playing at this level, at least right now, anyway. This is not a roster full of blue-chippers that can show up and win games with their talent. They are blue-collar grinders that have to embrace playing that way.

And they did on Saturday.

2. INDIANA’S WIN ALSO PROVES BASKETBALL’S OLD AXIOM: ‘IT’S A MAKE OR MISS SPORT’

Indiana had been the worst three-point shooting team in the Big Ten entering Saturday. They had made just 25 percent of their threes in league play, a major problem for a team that often plays with four primarily perimeter pieces.

On Saturday, the Hoosiers shot 10-for-20 from three. Five players made at least one three, and three hit multiple triples. During one stretch of the second half, the Hoosiers knocked down six straight three-balls. Including overtime, they were 7-for-10 from beyond after halftime. All of that was happening while Michigan State, who entered Saturday shooting 74 percent from the charity stripe, made just 8-of-22 free throws. Nick Ward shot 1-for-9 from the free throw line.

All of these things are connected. Individually, shooting is about confidence. Collectively, shooting can be contagious. And I firmly believe that the toughness and confidence that Indiana played with defensively impacted the way they were making shots no the other end of the floor. None of this happened in a vacuum, and none of it should take away from what the Hoosiers were able to accomplish.

They went into East Lansing and beat a top ten team on national television.

But pretending that their atypical three-point shooting and Michigan State’s lemon booty performance from the foul line didn’t happen would be like putting air in a flat tire while ignoring that there is still a nail in the treads.

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

3. WHICH IS WHY I’M NOT WORRIED ABOUT MICHIGAN STATE, OR MICHIGAN

I know that this is supposed to be a column where I overreact to things that happened during a college basketball weekend, but I just can’t do it with these two teams.

Indiana is better than what they were in January, and they decided to play that way for the first time in a month when they visited East Lansing as one team shot the lights out and the other might as well have let the front row of the student section shoot free throws for them.

It happens.

And the same can be said about Michigan’s loss at Iowa. The Wolverines got in early foul trouble, their backups got whooped by Iowa’s big men (shoutout to Luka Garza and Ryan Kreiner, they had themselves a day) and Michigan as a team just did not play well. Iowa did, and they got a 15 point win out of it.

If anything, this is a sign to me of why it is so difficult to make it through a Big Ten regular season without a loss regardless of how good a basketball team is. Michigan had a couple early whistles go against them, they were not playing well to begin with and Iowa — a top 25-30 team in their own right — capitalized by pounding them into submission.

That happens, too.

4. MY OPINION WON’T CHANGE ON KANSAS UNLESS THEY PROVE THIS SHOOTING WASN’T A ONE-DAY THING

Kansas is another team that found themselves on the right side of a make or miss sport.

In a 79-63 win over Texas Tech on Saturday, the Jayhawks shot 13-for-30 from three. Lagerald Vick, Devon Dotson and Quentin Grimes all made multiple three-pointers. The only perimeter starter that didn’t hit multiple threes for the Jayhawks was Ochai Agbaji, who was the best shooter of the group entering the day. The Red Raiders are as good as anyone in college hoops at running shooters off of the three-point line, and Kansas made 6-of-8 to start the game and open up a big first half lead.

I wrote a ‘What’s Wrong With Kansas?‘ column last week, and one of the points that I made was their perimeter pieces were not scoring enough. They weren’t taking the pressure off of Dedric Lawson, who had two and three defenders hounding him every time he touched the ball. The best way to force teams to guard Lawson one-on-one — a losing proposition for anyone — is to make them pay by burying threes.

I’ll buy back into Kansas as one of college basketball’s elites this season if they prove that this shooting performance was not a one-day thing.

5. BUFFALO LOSING DOESN’T MATTER

The last thing I want to point out is that Buffalo lost a road game to Bowling Green on Friday night.

Typically, a mid-major losing in league play is the kind of thing that can cost them a shot at the tournament. Bowling Green was tied for first with Buffalo in the MAC entering Friday night. They were playing at home. If we’re going to be capable of understanding that Michigan can take a loss on the road in league play because winning on the road is hard, then we have to do the same for Buffalo.

N.C. State forward Jericole Hellems released from hospital

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RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina State says sophomore forward Jericole Hellems has been released from a hospital and is in “good spirits” after an injury in Saturday’s win at Wake Forest.

The team announced the news Sunday on Twitter. Hellems had fallen on a rebound attempt and banged the back of his head on the court with 28 seconds left. He was alert but had to be carried from the court on a stretcher. Then he was taken to a hospital for precautionary reasons to rule out a possible lower back injury as well as to be evaluated for a possible concussion.

The team says Hellems will meet with NC State doctors in the coming days, while coach Kevin Keatts will address his status later in the week.

NC State travels to UNC Greensboro next Sunday.

AP Poll: Louisville remains No. 1, Ohio State jumps to No. 3

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Louisville and Kansas finally provided some consistency to what has been a volatile Top 25 poll this season, while perennial bluebloods Michigan State and North Carolina continued to tumble after another wave of defeats.

The Cardinals solidified thier place at No. 1 in the AP Top 25 released Monday by routing then-No. 4 Michigan in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge and breezing past Pittsburgh over the past week. The Jayhawks stayed at No. 2 after returning from their Maui Invitaitonal title to thump former Big 12 member Colorado.

“I think it’s two games in a row, where we got stops,” Louisville coach Chris Mack said. “We didn’t allow second shots. We ran the clock on offense. We got great looks. We got layups, and that’s a killer.”

Ohio State jumped from sixth to third following its 74-49 rout of then-No. 7 North Carolina and a Big Ten blowout of Penn State. Maryland dropped one spot to fourth despite continuing to pile up wins, while Michigan slid one spot to round out the top five after Juwan Howard’s bunch ran into the Louisville buzzsaw for their first loss of the season.

The Spartans continued their fall from preseason No. 1 after losing to Duke, this time dropping from 11th to No. 16. The Tar Heels tumbled 10 spots to No. 17 after getting crushed by Ohio State and losing to No. 9 Virginia.

San Diego State joined the rankings at No. 25.

1. Louisville (55)

2. Kansas (4)

3. Ohio St. (5)

4. Maryland

5. Michigan

6. Gonzaga

7. Duke

8. Kentucky

9. Virginia

10. Oregon

11. Baylor

12. Auburn

13. Memphis

14. Dayton

15. Arizona

16. Michigan St.

17. North Carolina

18. Butler

19. Tennessee

20. Villanova

21. Florida St.

22. Seton Hall

23. Xavier

24. Colorado

25. San Diego St.

Others receiving votes: Utah St. 160, Washington 144, Purdue 130, Indiana 13, Marquette 11, Liberty 9, Saint Mary’s (Cal) 8, Texas 6, Florida 5, Penn St. 5, Georgetown 4, West Virginia 3, Richmond 3, LSU 2, Duquesne 1, DePaul 1, VCU 1.

Monday’s Overreactions: Naji Marshall owns Cincinnati, Ohio State is No. 1, Joel Ayayi

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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Naji Marshall, Xavier

Marshall has lived up to the hype through the first month of the season, but the biggest and best game that he has played in 2019 happened on Saturday. Squaring off with archrival Cincinnati, Marshall went off for 31 points, eight boards, five steals and three assists, hitting four threes and totally outplaying his Bearcat counterpart, Jarron Cumberland.

As a team, Xavier has been a little bit up and down this season. Their issues shooting the ball have been prevalent all season long, and as good as the likes of Tyrique Jones, Quentin Goodin and Paul Scruggs – hell, and Marshall himself – can be, there has been some inconsistency to date.

There was not any on Saturday.

Marshall took over and led Xavier to their biggest win of the season.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Ohio State Buckeyes

Can we even consider anyone else?

On Wednesday, the Buckeyes went into Chapel Hill and ran North Carolina out of their own gym, leaving with a 74-49 win. On Saturday, Chris Holtmann’s club hosted Penn State, and that did not go well for the Nittany Lions, who lost by 32 points while giving up 106.

This team is starting to look scary, and there’s a valid argument to make that they should be sitting at No. 1 in the AP poll this morning.

Speaking of which …

OVERREACTIONS

1. OHIO STATE HAS THE MOST IMPRESSIVE RESUME IN THE COUNTRY

If we ranked teams solely based on resume at this point in the season, I don’t think there is any way to leave the Buckeyes out of the top spot.

They are undefeated. They have beaten Villanova by 25 at home. They have beaten North Carolina by 25 on the road. They have beaten Penn State by 32 at home. Those are three of the top 24 teams in the country, according to KenPom. No one else can match that. Hell, the Buckeyes are currently sitting at No. 1 in KenPom’s rankings.

To put those wins into context, consider this, via Jordan Sperber of Hoop Vision: There have been six instances this season of a top 50 KenPom team losing by 20 or more points. Ohio State is responsible for three of them.

To be honest, I’m not ready to actually call Ohio State the best team in college basketball – I explain why in the podcast below at the 11:20 mark – but they are certainly playing like it.

2. WE FINALLY SAW THE ANTHONY COWAN WE NEED TO SEE FOR MARYLAND TO REACH THEIR POTENTIAL

Look, I know how ridiculous this is going to sound.

Coming off of a performance where Anthony Cowan shot 6-for-14 from the floor in a game where Maryland needed something bordering on a miracle to erase a 15 point second half deficit at home against unranked Illinois, I’m finally convinced?

Well, kinda?

Here’s my logic: I am not sold on Mark Turgeon being the best coach in college basketball, and I am hardly alone in that sentiment. But he does have a roster with some talent, and it is always a good sign when a team’s talent takes over and wins a game where, frankly, they played like crap. That’s exactly what happened on Saturday. In the past, Cowan would not have taken over. In the past, he would not have put the team on his back, scored 20 points in the final 23 minutes and finished with seven boards, six assists and the game-tying and winning points in the final 20 seconds.

All-Americans bail their team out in games they are not supposed to win. Final Four teams win games where they don’t show up until they are getting thoroughly embarrassed. The Terps did both of those things.

Now, would I like to see them finally figure out how to win without sleepwalking through the first half of games?

Absolutely!

But it’s hardly a bad sign to be sitting at 10-0 as you’re still figuring things out.

3. BUTLER IS THE MOST UNDERRATED TEAM IN THE COUNTRY

After taking down Florida in Indianapolis on Saturday afternoon, Butler has a surprisingly impressive crop of wins this season. They beat Minnesota at home. They beat Missouri in Kansas City. They beat Stanford on a neutral. They won at Ole Miss. And now they have that win over the Gators, who we just can’t quite seem to quit.

Either way, the Bulldogs play at Baylor on Tuesday night and then take on Purdue in the Crossroads Classic next Saturday.

We’ll know more about them then, but for now, this is a team that we have to talk about.

That said …

4. … NO ONE HAS MADE US A BELIEVER IN MORE TEAMS THAN FLORIDA

Florida State beat Florida in Gainesville?

The Seminoles must be awesome!

UConn beat Florida in Storrs?

The Huskies are back, baby!

Butler knocks off the Gators in Hinkle?

The Bulldogs are the most underrated team in the country?

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5. JOEL AYAYI IS THE X-FACTOR THAT WILL MAKE GONZAGA A TITLE CONTENDER

Listen, I’m not saying that Ayayi is the best player on this Gonzaga roster.

I think that he’s probably their third-best player, and even that might be generous.

What he is, however, is a guy that fills a role that the Zags didn’t have anyone to fill. The issue with this Gonzaga team heading into the season was in their backcourt. We wondered if they had enough point guard play, perimeter shooting and playmaking to be able to compete with the best teams in the country. It’s one thing to have a great frontline with guards that can get them the rock where they need it. It’s another thing to have a great frontline and no one that an initiate offense or keep defenses honest.

Ayayi has done those things to date this season. He’s averaging 10.1 points, 6.6 boards and 3.8 assists, which is second on the team to Ryan Woolridge, who is quietly having a solid start to the season as well. He provides length, athleticism, floor-spacing, a second ball-handler and creator. He takes the pressure off of Woolridge to carry the lead guard load.

He is more or less everything that Gonzaga fans were hoping Admon Gilder would turn into.

We’ll see if this lasts, but his performance against Washington on Saturday was really promising. Ayayi didn’t play or shoot particularly well, but he stepped up with 20 seconds left and buried the biggest shot of the game, a three to give the Zags a 82-76 lead and bury U-Dub.

Mamukelashvili breaks wrist as No. 16 Seton Hall loses to Iowa State

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AMES, Iowa — No. 16 Seton Hall lost much more than a game in Ames, as starter Sandro Mamukelashvili broke his right wrist in the first half of a loss at Iowa State.

Tyrese Haliburton scored 17 points, George Conditt had a season-high 17 off the bench and the Cyclones knocked off Seton Hall 76-66 on Sunday for its second straight victory.

Rasir Bolton scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half to help the Cyclones avenge an 84-76 loss on Nov. 29 to the Pirates (6-3) in the Bahamas. The rematch was part of the Big East/Big 12 Alliance series.

Mamukelashvili, a 6-foot-11 forward and a facilitator who averaged 12.3 points and 5.3 rebounds a game entering play, went down hard with 15:14 to go in the first half and didn’t return.

Coach Kevin Willard said after the game that it was too soon to know how long Mamukelashvili might be out.

“I don’t know for sure. It’s definitely broken. But we … have to go get an MRI tomorrow and let our doctors and radiologists read it,” Willard said. “There’s definitely a break in there, it’s just that we don’t know where it is.”

Conditt’s free throws pushed Iowa State’s lead to 59-53 with 2:56 left. Haliburton then drew an offensive foul and freed himself for a wide-open 3 at the top of the key. Haliburton drilled it, making it a nine-point game at the 2:23 mark.

Seton Hall fouled Prentiss Nixon from beyond the arc with 1:27 left. Nixon hit all three from the line to push Iowa State back up by nine, and Conditt’s transition dunk sealed the win.

Iowa State won despite shooting just 4 of 19 on 3s.

“Every good team needs a signature win and this was the first one for us,” Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said. “It felt really good beat a ranked team, but also a team that beat us before.”

Myles Powell scored 19 points with eight rebounds for Seton Hall. But Powell was 7 of 20 shooting, had five turnovers and fouled out with 54.4 seconds to go on an offensive foul. The Pirates’ previous defeats came against Michigan State and Oregon by just five combined points.

Seton Hall committed 20 turnovers and was outrebounded 43-40 despite having a major size advantage. The Pirates also gave Iowa State 33 tries from the line, and Cyclones made 26 of them.

“We turned the ball over too much and we fouled,” Willard said. “You can’t go on the road against a good team and turn the basketball over and foul.”

THE BIG PICTURE

Seton Hall: On losing Mamukelashvili, Willard said that “it changes things a lot. But the good thing is, we have some guys that need to get comfortable in that role and step up in that role…we’re going to need everyone to step up.”

Iowa State: The Cyclones have been strangely awful at times this season shooting jump shots — even though they supposedly have enough shooters. It’s a problem that Iowa State will need to get sorted out before it threatens to sink their season. On the plus side, the Cyclones were active with their hands in forcing Seton Hall’s bigs to turn it over, and Haliburton delivered yet another signature performance.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Losing on the road to a Big 12 team that had the opportunity to play them 10 days ago shouldn’t cost the Pirates too much. Iowa State’s Hilton Coliseum can be a brutal place for opponents — especially one that didn’t necessarily know what it was walking into.

HE SAID IT

“It’s a hell of a win for us.” —- Prohm said.

UP NEXT

Seton Hall: At Rutgers on Saturday.

Iowa State: Hosts Iowa on Thursday night.

Monday Overreactions Podcast: Ohio State’s the best, Travis Steele’s the GOAT, is Anthony Cowan good?

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Rob Dauster and Bobby Reagan are back to walk through everything that happened in college basketball this weekend. Is Ohio State the best team in college basketball? Is it actually Maryland? Just how good is Anthony Cowan? Just how bad is Florida? And did Travis Steele do the greatest thing in the history of coaching on Saturday night? He might have.