Monday Overreactions: Kansas State’s rise, Jack White’s demise, Justin Robinson’s absence

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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Jordan Bohannon, Iowa

Let’s start with the obvious one here: Bohannon scored 13 of his 15 points in the final three minutes, sparking a game-ending, 23-7 run that culminated in the Iowa point guard burying a three in the final seconds to beat Northwestern at home:

That was impressive, and it came on the heels of an even more impressive performance. Bohannon went for 25 points and six assists without committing a turnover as the Hawkeyes went into Assembly Hall and picked off Indiana. Bohannon hit a number of critical jumpers in the final minutes of that game as the Hoosiers threatened a late comeback.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Kansas State Wildcats

Entering the week, Kansas State held a share of the Big 12 lead, tied with Baylor atop the conference standings with dates against Kansas (at home) and those Baylor Bears (in Waco) on the schedule.

As of this morning — and thanks, in part, to wins from Texas and TCU — the Wildcats sit all alone in first place in the league with a two game lead in the loss column over the field and just eight games left on their regular season schedule.

It’s baffling to truly comprehend. A month ago, Kansas State was sitting at 0-2 in the Big 12, coming off of a home loss to Texas where they mustered all of 47 points. They were ranked outside the top 200 in adjusted offensive efficiency according to KenPom, and after digging themselves a 21 point second half hole against West Virginia in Manhattan, it looked like this might finally end up being the season that cost Bruce Weber his job. It sounds foolish to admit to saying that now, but it’s true. Kansas State looked like they were going to miss the NCAA tournament as a preseason top 15 team.

And now, after beating their archrival at home and then picking off the No. 2 team in the league on the road, the Wildcats are the favorite to end the Kansas reign in the Big 12.

This is what K-State’s remaining schedule looks like:

  • at Texas
  • Iowa State
  • at West Virginia
  • Oklahoma State
  • at Kansas
  • Baylor
  • at TCU
  • Oklahoma

If they go 5-3 down the stretch — which is very doable — they are going to win the Big 12.

MONDAY OVERREACTIONS

1. MARQUETTE CANNOT RELY THIS HEAVILY ON MARKUS HOWARD

Howard was absolutely sensational in No. 10 Marquette’s win over No. 14 Villanova on Saturday. He finished with 38 points on 13-for-24 shooting, hitting 5-for-11 from three and carrying the weight in a 66-65 win for the Golden Eagles. The problem is that the rest of the Marquette roster combined to score 28 points, and 18 of them came from Sacar Anim, a role player that is not known as much of an offensive threat. The Hauser brothers were a combined 2-for-10 from the floor and finished with four points.

On the one hand, this was a win that the Golden Eagles had to get if they wanted to have a shot at the Big East regular season title. Howard’s performance made that possible. On the other hand, there is no chance that they can win the league — or anything in March — if they are just going to hope Howard carries them there.

I am all in on the Markus Howard bandwagon. I think he’s sensational. But the Hausers cannot disappear like this in a big game again, because next time Marquette won’t be so lucky.

They probably should have lost this game as it is. Phil Booth, one of the best decision-makers and best players in college hoops, had a chance to win it on Saturday and did this:

Look at this screenshot:

Booth has to be able to score that. He didn’t, and it kept Marquette in the title race.

2. THE MOST IMPORTANT INJURY IN THE COUNTRY IS JUSTIN ROBINSON’S

On January 30th, in a win over Miami, Virginia Tech point guard Justin Robinson suffered a foot injury that has since left him on the Hokie bench during games wearing a boot and, on Saturday, using crutches. This is the same player that was averaging 14.4 points and 5.5 assists while shooting 41.1 percent from three. This the guy that put 35 points and eight assists on Syracuse four days before he was hurt and had 17 points in 19 minutes when he went down against the Hurricanes.

And as of now, we don’t really have an answer for his status. Buzz Williams has not been forthcoming with information about Robinson’s status, either on the record or off the record. Nickeil Alexander-Walker is the best NBA prospect on Virginia Tech’s roster, but Robinson is their most important player, arguably their best defender and the guy that makes their offense run. In the three games that he’s missed, Virginia Tech is 1-2 while averaging 54 points per game and just 0.931 points-per-possession. The one game they won came when N.C. State mustered just 24 points.

With Robinson, the Hokies are one of the best shooting teams in the country and among the nation’s elite offensively. They are dangerous because of what they can do shooting the ball.

Without him, they are thoroughly average and do not have a point guard on the roster.

3. VIRGINIA IS GOING TO BE JUST FINE

Duke does everything well on a basketball court. They are elite defensively. They are maybe the best team in transition in college hoops history. They will clobber you on the glass. They are always going to have the two or three best players on the court. The equalizer for teams playing against them is that they have not been able to make threes this season.

To beat them, you have to pack in your defense, dare R.J. Barrett and Zion Williamson to make shots and go from there. That’s exactly what Virginia did on Saturday in Charlottesville, and Duke hit 13 of their first 18 threes and left with a dominating win.

There’s not much the Wahoos can do about that.

Hell, I’d argue that they played well enough on Saturday to win.

Zion stuffed the stat sheet, but the Wahoos did about as good of a job of keeping him in check as you can. Barrett didn’t do much of anything on the offensive end of the floor after he made those five threes to open the game. Cam Reddish did score 17 points, but his damage was done as a spot-up shooter. Those are the shots that you have to live with as a coach.

Virginia, as a team, shot 46.7 percent from the floor. They were 10-for-24 from three. They forced 15 Duke turnovers and limited the Blue Devils to just eight offensive rebounds. They more or less kept Duke from getting out in transition and beating their defense down the floor. I think Tony Bennett will be able to go to sleep tonight knowing that there wasn’t much else he could have done. It was just one of those nights.

4. MARQUES BOLDEN IS EATING UP JACK WHITE’S MINUTES

Earlier in the season, I made the point repeatedly that I thought Duke’s best lineup came with Jack White on the floor and Zion playing the five.

And while I still think that is their best lineup in theory, two things have changed since then:

1. White has forgotten how to play basketball. Since hitting a career-high four threes against Clemson on January 5th, White is 1-for-23 from beyond the arc. He has scored 13 points in the last 10 games. He started three of those games and played at least 24 minutes is five of of them. He was one of just two players to play all 40 minutes against Virginia. He’s averaged 12.4 minutes in the last five games.

2. That can coincided with Marques Bolden proving himself to be capable defending in a system where Duke switches everything. We know he can protect the rim, that he’s a vertical spacer and that he can rebounder the ball fairly well, but the reason that he has been unable to get consistent minutes during his time at Duke is that he has been a mess on the defensive end of the floor.

That’s not so much the case anymore, and while he’s hardly been a guy that is going to draw comparisons to, say, Clint Capela or Jordan Bell or another player of that ilk, he’s been fine when asked to switch onto guards. He can stay in front for a couple of dribbles, and his length allows him to contest jumpers.

It’s not ideal, but it has worked for Duke this month.

5. THE BUBBLE IS THE WORST IT’S EVER BEEN

I know you hear this every year, and I have been trying to avoid writing this for as long as possible, but I can’t do it anymore.

The bubble is just absolutely atrocious this year, as bad as it has ever been.

The reason I am bringing it up now is because two more at-large spots opened up in our latest bracket projection — the team in first place in the league standings is granted the auto-bid, and with VCU and Buffalo moving back into first place, the Atlantic 10 and MAC once again morphed into one-bid leagues.

This is where we stand: Georgetown, who ranks 78th in the NET, who has beaten just a single top 50 team (St. John’s, who is 49th, on the road) and who has three Q1 wins, a 7-7 record against Q1 and Q2 and two Q3 losses, is our first team out. UCF, who is 0-2 against Q1 teams and whose best win is Alabama (43) at home, is an at-large team. Oklahoma, who is 15-9 overall, 3-8 in the Big 12 and has lost four in a row and six of eight, is in the tournament largely due to the fact that a home win over Wofford is a Q1 win.

Indiana, Providence, Florida, Creighton. These teams are all somehow still in the tournament conversation, and it is baffling.

We have to get to 68 teams somehow.

And it is going to get ugly.

No. 22 Tennessee beats No. 3 Kansas 64-50 for Atlantis title

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
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PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas – Tennessee’s players proved to be determined defenders and relentless rebounders, along with having the kind of toughness to ensure the reigning national champions would have little chance to get comfortable.

It was all enough to give the 22nd-ranked Volunteers a title of their own, along with the blueprint that coach Rick Barnes hopes they follow the rest of the year.

Santiago Vescovi scored 20 points while Tennessee locked down on third-ranked Kansas in a 64-50 win Friday night in the championship game at the Battle 4 Atlantis, snapping the Jayhawks’ 17-game winning streak.

Vescovi hit five 3-pointers as the tournament’s most valuable player for the Volunteers (5-1), who dominated the glass, overcame their own turnover troubles and made the Jayhawks work for clean looks. And for the third time in as many days, Tennessee won without leading scorer Josiah-Jordan James (knee soreness).

Perhaps that’s why reserve guard Zakai Zeigler, who had 14 points and four steals, showed up wearing sunglasses to the postgame news conference after the Volunteers had danced and hollered through the on-court trophy ceremony.

“We know if you can’t stop the man in front of you, then you’ll have no shot at winning the game,” Zeigler said, adding: “We just like to play defense, and we just happen to be good at it.”

The Vols held the Jayhawks to 32.1% shooting, bothering them with size and length around the rim. They also took the ball right at the Jayhawks with 5-foot-9 Zeigler leading the way, down to him refusing to let go of a jump ball and trading words with 6-8 forward Jalen Wilson.

Zeigler’s night included a 3-pointer to beat the shot clock at the 7-minute mark to push Tennessee’s lead to 56-38. He followed with another big one from the right wing with 4:42 left after Kansas had closed within 11.

Wilson and Joseph Yesefu each scored 14 points to lead the Jayhawks (6-1), who shot 28.6% in the first half and never warmed up. They made 5 of 21 3-pointers in what was an all-around rough night, from losing starting guard Dajuan Harris to fouls with 9 minutes left to failing to keep the Vols off the glass (45-27).

“We played a team tonight that was older and more mature and obviously played stronger and tougher,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “We didn’t handle the situation near as well as what I would hope a poised team would.”

BIG PICTURE

Tennessee: The Volunteers opened the tournament with a win over Butler, then grinded through an overtime win against Southern California in Thursday’s semifinals. This time, Tennessee played in front the entire way en route to its first title in three tries at the Atlantis resort.

“I think the main thing from the whole week was stay together through tough times, that’s what you’ve got to do,” Vescovi said.

Kansas: The Jayhawks didn’t have an easy first two days in the Bahamas. First came a battle to the final minutes with North Carolina State. Then came Thursday’s overtime win against Wisconsin on Bobby Pettiford Jr.’s last-second putback. But they never looked in any type of offensive flow this time with their smaller lineup.

“I feel like if we were able to get them out of place and not just have them standing there, waiting to contest a layup, that could’ve gave us some better chances at finishing at the rim,” Wilson said.

STRONG RUN

Tennessee held its three Atlantis opponents to 36.9% shooting and 15 of 59 (25.4%) from 3-point range. The Volunteers also averaged a +9 rebounding margin, ending with having Jonas Aidoo (nine) leading five players snagging at least six rebounds against Kansas.

“You can be a good defensive team but if you can’t be a great one if you give them second and third shots,” Barnes said.

SIDELINED

Beyond Harris’ foul trouble, the Jayhawks played most of the way without Pettiford, who exited midway through the first half grabbing at his right leg.

Afterward, Self said he would be out “for a while” with a hamstring strain.

UP NEXT

Tennessee: The Volunteers return home to host McNeese State on Wednesday.

Kansas: The Jayhawks host Texas Southern on Monday.

BYU erases 23-point deficit, beats Dayton in overtime 79-75

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
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NASSAU, Bahamas – Gideon George scored 21 points and combined with Jaxson Robinson and Rudi Williams for BYU’s 15 overtime points as the Cougars came back from a 23-point deficit to beat Dayton 79-75 in overtime Friday.

BYU’s victory came in the seventh-place game in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament.

George’s 3-pointer with 2:19 left in regulation gave BYU (4-3) its first lead after Dayton scored the first 10 points of the game and led 32-9 with six minutes left in the first half.

Mike Sharavjamts’ basket gave the lead back to Dayton but George’s free throw with a minute left sent the game into overtime.

Dayton got the first points in overtime but Robinson’s 3-pointer gave BYU the lead for good halfway through the extra period.

Robinson had 14 points, Dallin Hall 12 and Williams 11 to join George in double figures for BYU.

DaRon Holmes II scored 21 points and Sharavjamts 15 for Dayton (3-4). The Flyers lost starting guards Kobe Elvis and Malachi Smith to lower-body injuries in the second half, Smith with with just seconds left in regulation.

Portland beats Villanova 83-71 in Phil Knight Invitational

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PORTLAND, Ore. – Moses Wood scored 16 points and Portland beat Villanova 83-71 on Friday in the Phil Knight Invitational.

Villanova (2-4) has lost three straight games, including an overtime loss to Iowa State on Thursday to drop below .500 for the first time since March 7, 2012.

Vasilije Vucinic’s layup with 4:16 remaining in the first half gave Portland the lead for good. The Pilots had an eight-point lead at halftime and scored the first 10 points of the second half.

Wood added six rebounds and three blocks for the Pilots (5-3). Tyler Robertson scored 15 points while shooting 6 for 12 (1 for 5 from 3-point range) and added seven rebounds and eight assists. Kristian Sjolund recorded 14 points and shot 5 for 7 (2 for 3 from 3-point range).

Caleb Daniels finished with 18 points and seven rebounds for the Wildcats. Villanova also got 14 points from Jordan Longino. Brandon Slater had 11 points.

Caleb Grill, Iowa State topples No. 1 North Carolina 70-65

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PORTLAND, Ore. – Caleb Grill has followed T.J. Otzelberger from South Dakota State to UNLV and now back to Iowa State hoping the pair could share a moment like they did Friday.

Taking down the No. 1 team in the country was another bookmark moment in a long journey for the pair.

“I’m actually really enjoying sitting next to him from this moment right now just thinking about how long we’ve known each other and how cool this really was,” Otzelberger said.

Grill hit seven 3-pointers and scored a career-high 31 points and Iowa State rallied in the final five minutes to stun No. 1 North Carolina 70-65 in the semifinals of the Phil Knight Invitational.

Iowa State (5-0) picked up just its third win over a team ranked No. 1 in the AP Top 25. The Cyclones are 3-22 against No. 1 teams, with the other wins coming against Kansas in 1957 and Oklahoma in 2016.

The Cyclones can now add North Carolina (5-1) to the list.

“I was just staying the course of the game. I never really thought about it and the game just kind of came to me,” Grill said.

Grill was averaging 7.3 points and had made just 4 of 24 3-point attempts for the season entering Friday. But he couldn’t be stopped from beyond the arc, hitting a pair of big 3s to spark Iowa State’s late rally. His deep fadeaway jumper just inside the 3-point line with 1:40 left gave Iowa State a 63-61 lead and the Cyclones did just enough at the free throw line in the final minute to close out the upset victory.

Grill’s previous career high was 27 points while playing for UNLV in the 2020-21 season against Alabama. He also hit seven 3-pointers in that game.

Grill originally signed with South Dakota State when Otzelberger was the coach there. He was released from his commitment when Otzelberger took the head job at UNLV and started his career at Iowa State before deciding to join his coach in Las Vegas.

When Otzelberger returned to Ames, Grill followed again.

“Just having him be the first person that really had belief in me, it’s just really special what he’s done for me and my family and everything we’ve done,” Grill said.

Jaren Holmes added 22 points and the Cyclones withstood off shooting games from Aljaz Kunc and Gabe Kalscheur, who combined for three points and missed all eight of their shot attempts. Both were averaging double figures scoring for Iowa State.

RJ Davis led North Carolina with 15 points, Armando Bacot added 14 and Caleb Love scored 12. But the Tar Heels will lament a series of mistakes in the closing minutes that allowed Iowa State to rally.

“We had wide open threes. We were able to get to the basket. We were able to get whatever we wanted, we just didn’t make those shots,” North Carolina coach Hubert Davis said.

North Carolina led 57-49 after Leaky Black’s layup with 5:43 left, but missed four of its final six shots and had four turnovers during that span.

“We turned the ball over a couple of times and you just can’t do that in late-game situations,” Davis said. “You have to be sound and discipline and you have to do that on both ends of the floor and we just didn’t do it.”

NO. 1 LOSSES

North Carolina lost as the No. 1 team in the country for the first time since Nov. 21, 2015 when it lost 71-67 at Northern Iowa. The Tar Heels also lost as No. 1 to UNLV in 2011 at a Thanksgiving tournament.

BIG PICTURE

North Carolina: Pete Nance wasn’t able to contribute in the same way he did in Thursday’s opening round. Nance, who tied his career high with 28 points against Portland, didn’t score for the first 27 minutes and finished with seven points.

Iowa State: The Cyclones were playing a No. 1 team from outside their conference for the first time since 1999 when they faced Cincinnati in the championship game of the Big Island Invitational.

UP NEXT

Iowa State will face either No. 18 Alabama or No. 20 UConn in the championship game while the Tar Heels will face the loser for third place.

No. 8 Duke locks down late, holds off Xavier 71-64

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PORTLAND, Ore. – After a shaky offensive performance in the opening round of the Phil Knight Legacy tournament, Duke coach Jon Scheyer wanted to see Jeremy Roach get back to playing more instinctively, especially at the offensive end of the floor.

Roach responded with a season-high 21 points, Mark Mitchell added 16 and No. 8 Duke withstood Xavier’s second-half comeback for a 71-64 win on Friday.

The Blue Devils (6-1) advanced to the championship game thanks to the play of their standout guard and another strong defensive effort. Roach came one point shy of matching his career high, and the Blue Devils rebounded after an unexpectedly tight victory over Oregon State in the opening round of the event.

Roach was 3 of 14 shooting against Oregon State as the Blue Devils scored a season-low 54 points. He made 9 of 15 shots and had five assists against Xavier.

“There’s a lot that falls on your shoulders so you can end up overthinking it a little bit,” Scheyer said. “The thing that I love for him today is he just was him. And when he’s that way, he is to me the best guard in the country.”

The Musketeers (4-2) were held to two points over the final five minutes and missed their last four shot attempts. Souley Boum scored 23 points and Adam Kunkel had 13. Kunkel didn’t play the last 11 minutes after taking a hard fall committing a foul.

Xavier leading scorer Jack Nudge was 1 of 13 shooting and finished with five points.

“Jack played a great effort. He really did. He was ready for the game. He just had one of those nights where the ball didn’t go in the basket,” Xavier coach Sean Miller said.

At the same time, Miller was disappointed in what he called the “fracturing” he saw from his team.

“There were spurts and segments of the game where I thought we reflected our style, how we’re trying to play, whether it be defense and offense. But there were way too many segments of the game, if not most of the game, where we were at times in our own way,” Miller said.

Mitchell scored seven points in the opening minutes of the second half, including a pair of layups, and he hit a 3-pointer from the wing that gave Duke a 49-36 lead, its largest of the game.

That’s when Xavier’s comeback started. The Musketeers pulled within three points on several occasions, but Duke answered each time. Desmond Claude’s driving layup pulled Xavier within 63-60 with 5:51 left, but Ryan Young scored for Duke and Xavier didn’t make another basket.

Roach’s jumper with 2:40 left pushed Duke’s lead to 69-62.

“We like to play inside out but I mean, when guys are hitting shots it just opens up for everybody else,” Roach said. “Just try to continue to be consistent hitting shots and I think we’ll be fine.”

Kyle Filipowski had 12 points and was not Duke’s leading scorer for the first time in five games.

BIG PICTURE

Duke: The Blue Devils’ dominance on the backboards finally came to an end. Duke had outrebounded each of its first six opponents by double figures, the longest such stretch in school history. But Xavier’s interior size limited Duke to a 33-32 advantage on the glass. The Blue Devils had 12 second-chance points.

Xavier: The Musketeers played an Atlantic Coast Conference team for the first time since beating Virginia Tech in last year’s NIT Season Tip-Off. Xavier dropped to 0-2 against ranked opponents this season, having lost to Indiana last week. The Musketeers will play another ranked foe in Sunday’s third-place game.

UP NEXT

Duke will face the Gonzaga-Purdue winner in the championship game on Sunday, while Xavier will play the loser.