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SEC Offseason Reset: Can Florida beat out Kentucky for league title?

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The grad transfer market is still in full swing, but for the most part, we know what the meaningful parts for the majority of the teams around the country will be.

That means that it is time to start talking about what is coming instead of what was.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at key personnel changes, the impact of the coaching carousel and the most important storylines heading into the 2019-20 season for each of college basketball’s top seven conferences.

Today, we are talking SEC.

KEY OFFSEASON STORYLINES

KENTUCKY RELOADS: In typical John Calipari fashion, Kentucky lost a lot of great players this offseason only to reload with six more players who could contribute this season. Nearly any team in the country would be cooked if they had to replace three first-round picks and Reid Travis. But the Wildcats under Calipari have turned yearly roster construction into a near-science as they once again have tons of good players entering the rotation.

The five-man freshmen class is headlined by five-stars Tyrese Maxey, Kahlil Whitney and Keion Brooks. Calipari also took quality four-stars in in-state guard Dontaie Allen and reclassified guard Johnny Juzang. And grad transfer forward Nate Sestina (Bucknell) was one of the best available bigs as he averaged 16 and 8 with 38 percent three-point shooting.

Kentucky still has to figure out how all of these new pieces will fit with returning players like Ashton Hagans, E.J. Montgomery, Nick Richards and Immanuel Quickley. But almost any program in the country would love to have a roster with this many five-star talents as Kentucky again looks poised to be in the SEC and national title conversations.

Will Wade (Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

LSU SHAKES OFF A DRAMATIC END TO LAST SEASON TO STAY LOADED: Entering the offseason, LSU basketball was in an entirely uncertain place. Head coach Will Wade was suspended as the Tigers made a Sweet 16 run without him. Perhaps most importantly, the talent that took LSU to the sport’s second weekend was virtually all locked into the NBA Draft process.

Point guard Tremont Waters and big man Naz Reid opted to stay pro and leave school. But the Tigers dodged some major bullets when Javonte Smart, Skylar Mays, Marlon Taylor and Emmitt Williams all withdrew from the draft and returned to school. LSU also reloaded with the addition of McDonald’s All-American forward Trendon Watford as he should come in and start right away.

Seemingly overnight, LSU went from potential SEC doormat, looking for a new head coach, to returning many of the players that helped them win the SEC’s regular-season title last season. Smart and Mays have the potential to be All-SEC players while Williams should take a leap now that Reid and Kavell Bigby-Williams have moved on. LSU has talent, size, athleticism and some depth. Watching them play with a chip on their shoulder in light of the mess at the end of last season should be interesting.

KERRY BLACKSHEAR’S TRANSFER TO FLORIDA SHOOK UP THE WHOLE SEC: The most important transfer of the offseason returned home to Florida as former Virginia Tech big man Kerry Blackshear will finish his college hoops career with the Gators.

By adding the 6-foot-10 double-double threat into the lineup, Florida vaults into the preseason top-10 as Blackshear gives the Gators much-needed stability and scoring on the interior. Blackshear was one of the few big men in all of college basketball last season where an offense could run through him and thrive. This is a dude who dropped monster double-doubles against Virginia (23 and 13), North Carolina (19 and 17) and Duke (23 and 10 AND 18 and 16) last season.

Perhaps most importantly in Blackshear going to Florida, however, is that the Gators kept the potential All-American away from looming conference threats like Kentucky, Tennessee and Texas A&M. While Texas A&M isn’t a threat to win the SEC, there was a chance Blackshear would follow his former coach, Buzz Williams, to the Lone Star State. The Gators winning Blackshear over the Wildcats and Vols completely changes the landscape of the SEC title race.

Kentucky would have been the league’s runaway favorite with Blackshear in the middle while Tennessee was very effective with talented frontcourt players like Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield. Instead, Blackshear gives the Gators a go-to scorer as his presence makes Florida one of the nation’s most intriguing teams.

THE SEC LOADED UP IN RECRUITING: Seven McDonald’s All-Americans, and a host of other top-100 prospects, will enter the SEC this season as the league did a great job of reloading through recruiting. And while most people associate Burger Boys and five-star talents with John Calipari and Kentucky, they only brought in three of those seven McDonald’s talents.

With 16 top-100 prospects (according to Rivals) joining the SEC, the league continues to increase its talent levels while also leveling the playing field. What used to be a top-heavy conference dominated by the Wildcats has become a deep and talented league where double-digit teams should be tough outs this season. Kentucky is still the class of the conference when it comes to high-end recruiting. But Anthony Edwards (Georgia) and Scottie Lewis (Florida) are both individually ranked ahead of any single Kentucky recruit as watching all of the talented five-stars clash should be a ton of fun.

FOUR NEW COACHES ENTER THE SEC: The SEC has four new head coaches in the fold this season as the conference has done a great job of holding basketball coaches accountable to create a winning culture that is similar to football. Nate Oats (Buffalo to Alabama), Buzz Williams (Virginia Tech to Texas A&M) and Eric Musselman (Nevada to Arkansas) all have proven track records at the college level as all three coaches are coming off of multiple NCAA tournament appearances.

That trio should also be strong on the recruiting trail. Oats deserves praise for convincing Kira Lewis, John Petty and three four-star prospects to stay with the Crimson Tide while Williams and Musselman have long been dangerous when it comes to landing premier talent.

All three will be fascinating to see at their new schools. Oats finally gets to coach at the highest level of the sport after doing so well in the MAC. Williams returns to his native Texas where he can establish a strong local recruiting pipeline. And Musselman turned Nevada into a consistent top-25 program with resources not nearly as plentiful as he’ll have in the SEC.

The wildcard of the new-coach quartet will be Vanderbilt’s hire of NBA veteran Jerry Stackhouse. While the NBA-to-college coaching game has been a dangerous one, Stackhouse brings a unique pedigree thanks to his time as an NBA assistant (Raptors and Grizzlies) and G-League head coach (Raptors 905). Stackhouse has also worked closely with his own AAU program, which produced a McDonald’s All-American and top-five pick in Brandon Ingram. So Stackhouse shouldn’t be coming into the college game completely oblivious about the expectations and work that comes in recruiting.

(AP Photo/Robert Franklin)

WHO’S GONE

  • P.J. WASHINGTON, TYLER HERRO and KELDON JOHNSON, Kentucky: The three leading scorers for the Wildcats all turned pro and got picked in the first round of the NBA Draft. Kentucky has survived this type of loss before and they’ll survive these losses as well.
  • TREMONT WATERS AND NAZ REID, LSU: Losing an elite point guard and McDonald’s All-American big man will be tough for the Tigers. Waters was an elite creator and scorer while Reid could take over a game when his motor was running high.
  • JARED HARPER, BRYCE BROWN, CHUMA OKEKE, Auburn: Following a surprising Final Four run, the Tigers lose their top three scorers and most versatile defender in Okeke. Auburn has to replace over 43 points of offense per game between these three next season.
  • ADMIRAL SCHOFIELD, GRANT WILLIAMS and JORDAN BONE, Tennessee: Losing the SEC’s best frontcourt and top three scorers will be tough to replace for the Vols. This is the main core that led Tennessee to an SEC title and Sweet 16 appearance.
  • DANIEL GAFFORD, Arkansas: Rim-running now for the Chicago Bulls, Gafford was an elite SEC big man the past two seasons. The Razorbacks will miss his rebounding and rim protection in a big way.
  • NICOLAS CLAXTON, Georgia: After leading the Bulldogs in scoring, rebound and blocked shots, Claxton parlayed a strong NBA Draft Combine appearance into being an early second-round pick.
  • DARIUS GARLAND and SIMI SHITTU, Vanderbilt: These two McDonald’s All-Americans were supposed to lead Vandy into the upper echelon of the SEC. Instead, Garland only played five games (knee injury) and became a lottery pick while Shittu didn’t live up to lofty expectations before also turning pro.

WHO’S BACK

  • ASHTON HAGANS and E.J. MONTGOMERY, Kentucky: The sophomore duo both have a chance to increase their production since Kentucky lost their top four scorers from last season. Hagans has to show more offensively while Montgomery won minutes at the end of the season.
  • SKYLAR MAYS and JAVONTE SMART, LSU: Both double-figure scorers and potential all-league players return for the Tigers as Smart and Mays will have the ball in their hands much more with Waters gone. If either of the duo improves on their 31 percent three-point shooting it would be huge.
  • LAMONTE TURNER AND JORDAN BOWDEN, Tennessee: Although the Vols lost four of their main six players from last season, the returning duo of Bowden and Turner should be very good. Both players can take over a game — particularly if the three-ball is going.
  • KIRA LEWIS and JOHN PETTY, Alabama: Both double-figure scorers nearly left before Nate Oats convinced them to stay for another season. With Lewis and Petty back, Alabama has a backcourt that is one of the most talented in the country.
  • A.J. LAWSON, South Carolina: Generating some pro buzz his freshman season, the 6-foot-6 sophomore showed flashes of brilliance last season. Capable of 20-point games on any night, if Lawson improves his efficiency he’ll be an All-SEC player.
  • RAYSHAUN HAMMONDS, Georgia: Making a big leap as a sophomore, the 6-foot-8 forward has all-SEC potential if his game continues to develop. Hammonds put up solid numbers (12.1 pts, 6.1 reb) in only 24 minutes per game.

WHO’S COMING

  • KERRY BLACKSHEAR, Florida: The nation’s top graduate transfer becomes an immediate candidate to win SEC Player of the Year after his transfer from Virginia Tech. The 6-foot-10 Blackshear is a nightly double-double threat who can take over a game.
  • ANTHONY EDWARDS, Georgia: Some believe this in-state, five-star shooting guard is the best prospect in the country and a future top-five pick. The 6-foot-4 Edwards reclassifying into 2019 gives Georgia a potentially elite scorer with big expectations.
  • SCOTTIE LEWIS and TRE MANN, Florida: This McDonald’s All-American duo should earn major PT right away. The ultra-athletic 6-foot-5 Lewis immediately becomes one of the team’s better defenders while he’s no slouch on offense either. The 6-foot-4 Mann can get buckets in a hurry as he helps Florida’s recent inconsistent perimeter shooting.
  • TYRESE MAXEY, KAHLIL WHITNEY and KEION BROOKS, Kentucky: Among Kentucky’s five-man freshman class, these are the three players who could come in and start right away. Maxey’s penchant for scoring makes him a nice counterpart to Hagans, Whitney’s athleticism should be used on both ends of the floor and Brooks is a productive frontcourt player with upside.
  • TRENDON WATFORD, LSU: Dynamic offensively, the 6-foot-9 Watford should be able to score, rebound and help with his passing right away. Watford is a different type of player than Naz Reid but he could be more of a consistent impact.
  • ISAAC OKORO, Auburn: A five-star prospect who is physically ready right away, the 6-foot-5 Okoro should defend multiple spots, help on the glass and aid the offense in transition. Okoro is a year of skill development away from being a potential monster.
  • JOSIAH JAMES, Tennessee: The McDonald’s All-American will be asked to play big minutes right away as he’s a physical lefty who can finish at the rim and defend multiple spots. The 6-foot-6 James has pro upside if he improves his perimeter jumper.
  • JAMES BOLDEN, Alabama: Helping Alabama on both ends of the floor will be this West Virginia grad transfer guard. “Beetle” was a double-figure scorer last season while he’s also experienced in Press Virginia’s turnover-focused approach on defense.
  • ARKANSAS TRANSFERS: The graduate transfer duo of shooting guard Jimmy Whitt (SMU) and forward Jeantal Cylla (UNC Wilmington) should come in and help right away as both averaged double-figures last season.
  • DRU SMITH, Missouri: The Evansville transfer is expected to come in and make a huge impact in the Tiger backcourt. As a sophomore, Smith put up 13.7 points, 4.6 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game on ridiculous shooting splits (57% FG, 48% 3PT, 86% FT).

WAY-TOO-EARLY ALL-SEC TEAM

KERRY BLACKSHEAR, Florida (SEC PLAYER OF THE YEAR)
SKYLAR MAYS, LSU
ANTHONY EDWARDS, Georgia
KIRA LEWIS, Alabama
JAVONTE SMART, LSU

Ashton Hagans (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

WAY-TOO-EARLY POWER RANKINGS

1. KENTUCKY: Once again the class of the SEC, Kentucky has more top-to-bottom talent than any roster in the country. Figuring out the rotation and how everyone gets along will once again be one of the things to watch with the Wildcats. The fit of returning guard Ashton Hagans and incoming freshman Tyrese Maxey is a good one as Maxey can go on scoring bursts while Hagans can continue to be a lockdown defender and floor leader. Kahlil Whitney showed flashes of brilliance late in his high school career and could thrive in Kentucky’s system. And the group of bigs remains as deep as ever as E.J. Montgomery and Nick Richards are joined by Nate Sestina and Keion Brooks. As we’ve seen on some Kentucky super teams in the past, sometimes the pieces just don’t properly fit. But this group seems like they could play well together and do some serious damage.

2. FLORIDA: Things changed dramatically for Florida once Kerry Blackshear committed to the Gators. Without Blackshear, the Gators were a fringe top-25 team with major question marks inside. With Blackshear, Florida adds a go-to scorer and major factor on the interior. Returning guards Andrew Nembhard and Noah Locke also gain the benefit of adding two five-star talents in Scottie Lewis and Tre Mann into the rotation while Keyontae Johnson remains a promising wing forward. Perimeter shooting still needs to become more consistent. And Florida is asking a lot out of a young perimeter rotation. But the talent is in place for this team to compete for an SEC title and beyond.

3. LSU: Avoiding potential disaster, LSU still finds itself in the thick of another SEC race after winning last season. The Tigers will try to avoid the drama that surrounded the end of last season as Will Wade is back at the helm and many of last season’s key players return. The perimeter group of Javonte Smart, Skylar Mays and Marlon Taylor is strong and the addition of Trendon Watford means the Tigers have two former five-star prospects in the frontcourt as he joins Emmitt Williams. Shooting is something to watch for with this team as LSU only shot 32 percent from distance last season while losing a key shooter in Tremont Waters. This could be another special season for LSU. Or will the NCAA come down on Wade and change everything?

4. AUBURN: Although the Tigers made the Final Four last season and find themselves in the NBCSports.com Preseason Top 25, it will be a very different outfit for Bruce Pearl this season. Gone are the team’s top three scorers as the Auburn offense will need to find new go-to players. Thankfully, there’s a lot to like with returning role players. Samir Doughty, J’Von McCormick, Danjel Purifoy, Anfernee McLemore and Austin Wiley are all experienced upperclass players who averaged double-figure minutes. Five-star guard Isaac Okoro leads a six-man recruiting class that includes three additional top-100 prospects. Auburn needs to find a star but they’re deep, talented, experienced and athletic.

5. TENNESSEE: It will be a transition period in Knoxville as the Vols learn to play without the frontcourt of Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield. Jordan Bone and Kyle Alexander leaving also means Tennessee needs to replace four of their top six. But the backcourt of Lamonte Turner and Jordan Bowden should excel in new roles while Josiah James is a worthy freshman who should play right away. Tennessee needs more development out of big man John Fulkerson and uber athlete Yves Pons, and perimeter shooting could be a question mark, but there’s still a lot to like about Tennessee returning to the Big Dance.

6. GEORGIA: The addition of Edwards gives the Bulldogs a very intriguing team for next season. A known developer of talent, head coach Tom Crean has to get a leap from veteran forward Rayshaun Hammonds and one of the two senior returning guards in Tyree Crump or Jordan Harris. And besides for Edwards, Georgia recruited four additional four-star prospects. The Bulldogs have talent but can they put it all together?

7. MISSISSIPPI STATE: There’s still a lot to like about the Bulldogs despite losing the top two scorers in Quinndary Weatherspoon and Lamar Peters. Plenty of talent and scoring potential remains as Tyson Carter, Reggie Perry and Nick Weatherspoon should all step up. Robert Woodard and Abdul Ado give additional length and athleticism as Mississippi State’s entire starting lineup should be former top-150 prospects. If Perry can have a big year then this team might be even better than last season.

8. ALABAMA: The perimeter-oriented Crimson Tide will have to find some inside help if they want to be among the league’s top teams. The backcourt trio of Kira Lewis, John Petty and James “Beetle” Bolden are all known commodities who can score and make plays. Junior wing Herb Jones also has intriguing capabilities. But help has to arrive in an unproven frontcourt that features young or unproductive returning players. If Alabama figures out a four-guard lineup and gets some contributions inside they will be dangerous.

9. OLE MISS: Kermit Davis stunned the nation by taking Ole Miss from worst to NCAA tournament berth in his first season. The Rebels bring back some potential all-league guys and should remain feisty. Breein Tyree is a potential All-SEC first-teamer as he can put up points in bunches while Devontae Shuler is an adequate second option. Rising sophomores Blake Hinson and KJ Buffen also return and should bring more production. Replacing Terence Davis will be tough and Ole Miss needs to shore up a shaky defense.

10. ARKANSAS: New head coach Eric Musselman won with unique rosters at Nevada as he inherits some talent with the Razorbacks. The sophomore core led by Isaiah Joe is promising and junior Mason Jones and graduate transfer Jimmy Whitt (SMU) are proven double-figure scorers. Finding suitable frontcourt players to help offset the loss of Daniel Gafford will be something to watch for early. This team looks like it might be a year away from being a contender.

11. MISSOURI: The Tigers might be the hardest team to peg in this whole conference. They return some solid SEC contributors like big man Jeremiah Tilmon, guard Mark Smith and a host of role players. Transfer guard Dru Smith is expected to make a huge impact right away. It’s still hard to love this team without a go-to player and a struggling offense.

12. SOUTH CAROLINA: Outside of talented sophomore A.J. Lawson and wing Keyshawn Bryant, there isn’t a lot of proven SEC talent on the roster for the Gamecocks. After sitting out a season, George Washington transfer Jair Bolden will help on the perimeter. Senior center Maik Kotsar is one of the SEC’s most experienced players. It’s just hard to say how this roster will look since they’re relying on so many unproven guys.

13. TEXAS A&M: Buzz Williams returns to his native Texas as he hopes to bring the Aggies back to the postseason. The return of Savion Flagg is huge for Texas A&M as he was great to end last season. The Aggies also have some promising returning players around Flagg in Wendell Mitchell, Jay Jay Chandler and TJ Starks. But this group is probably a year away from being a major threat as Williams hopes to build with a positive spring recruiting haul.

14. VANDERBILT: Losing their two most talented players (Garland and Shittu) from an 0-18 team in the SEC means last place is likely inevitable for the Commodores. New head coach Jerry Stackhouse convincing double-figure scorers Saben Lee and Aaron Nesmith to return is positive news for the future while freshman forward Dylan Disu is a young piece to track.

College Basketball Top 25 Power Rankings: Baylor and Gonzaga lead the way

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A new college basketball top 25 is now live.

Baylor is not the No. 1 team in my poll, and I suspect that they are going to be the No. 1 team in the country when the AP poll is released on Monday morning. The only reason they weren’t No. 1 last week is because four people (like me) had Duke at No. 1, stealing votes from the Bears. That … did not go well, so here we are.

I also want to talk through something else: Last week, I wrote extensively about why I think that it’s foolish to allow the result of one possession games to have a significant impact on the way that you view a team. One shot in a 70 possession game that is just one of more than 30 games that will be played this season is insignificant when determining the quality of a team, and I truly believe that.

But I also think it is important to consider how and why teams are winning close games, not just games that are one-possession games.

So let’s use Duke and Baylor for this example once again.

One thing that the Bears have proven over and over this season — at Texas Tech, at Kansas, at Oklahoma State — is the ability to close out a tough game, particularly on the road. That’s because they have a number of players on the roster that are capable of taking and making clutch shots. Against Tech, it was Jared Butler. Against Oklahoma State, it was Devonte Bandoo. The Bears may not look as good in the metrics because they haven’t obliterated the mediocre teams they have played, but they are 15-1 because they come through in the clutch.

Now, some of that may eventually regress. I believe in the clutch gene because I think life — not just sports, but everything every human being does — is confidence. Baylor has confidence in clutch situations, as much as anyone in the country. They do not get rattled by the moment, and they have a number of different options they can go to down the stretch.

Duke, on the other hand, does not. Their three losses this season have all been close games where the Blue Devils have struggled to find an outlet for offense in the final minutes. Maybe that will come with more experience — Duke is loaded with freshmen, Baylor is as old as anyone in the country — but as it stands, that’s the difference between these two teams.

Baylor won their close games.

Duke did not.

And I don’t think that’s a fluke.


The other thing that I want to discuss in this space is where I have San Diego State and Dayton ranked in the college basketball top 25. They are currently sitting and eighth and ninth in my poll, exactly where they have been for a couple of weeks now. And that is where they are going to stay for the foreseeable future.

The reasoning for me is simple: I don’t want to fall into the trap where I’m bumping a team up in the rankings simply because they keep winning in a league that is not as tough as the leagues where the rest of the teams in consideration for the top ten are playing, and losing.

I’m sure there are going to be people in San Diego and Dayton that call me a hater for this, and that’s fine. Maybe I am being a hater.

But the truth is this: I love both of these teams. SDSU is so tough defensively and Malachi Flynn has proven himself to be a flat-out winner at the point, while Dayton runs a pro-style, aesthetically-pleasing offense heavy on three-balls and Obi Toppin.

I just don’t believe they are one of the top six or seven teams in the country, and beating the likes of Nevada and Saint Louis is not going to change my mind.

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



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

NEW ADDITIONS: No. 19 Arizona, No. 20 Houston
DROPPED OUT: No. 16 Ohio State, No. 19 Wichita State

Ten Things You Need To Know: Catch up on all of Saturday’s college hoops action

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College basketball went insane on Saturday.

Well, it was insane all week.

But Saturday was really nuts.

Here’s everything you need to know.

1. NO. 3 DUKE LOST THEIR SECOND GAME THIS WEEK

David Johnson exploded on to the scene with 19 points, seven assists, four boards, three steals and two blocks.

Louisville exorcised some demons.

Duke looked like a team that is banged up, can’t guard the four and lacks a go-to scorer.

A full breakdown of this game can be found here.

2. NO. 4 AUBURN LOST THEIR SECOND GAME THIS WEEK, TOO

Auburn entered this seek as one of just two undefeated teams left in college basketball, but there were question marks.

The Tigers don’t have a single win over a team ranked in the top 40 on KenPom. They have only played three Quad 1 games this season. Their only Quad 1 win is barely a Quad 1 win: It came at Mississippi State, who currently ranks 70th in the NET; the cutoff for Quad 1 road wins is top 75.

The other two Quad 1 games that Auburn has played this season?

They were both this week.

And they were both ugly losses.

On Tuesday, it was Alabama that ran over Auburn in the basketball version of the Iron Bowl, 83-64. On Saturday, it was Florida doing the damage, as they held Auburn to 25.5 percent shooting from the field, 4-for-23 shooting from three (17.4%) and to just a single point during an eight-minute stretch late in the second half that saw the Gators push their lead from 47-43 to 69-44. They won 69-47.

Suddenly, those concerns look prescient.

The truth is this: Auburn is dangerous. They are a team that can make a lot of threes, that can force turnovers and play in transition and has the ability to play big (with Austin Wiley) or small (without Austin Wiley). They have a lottery pick in Isaac Okoro and they have a couple of guards on their roster capable of taking games over in J’Von McCormick and Samir Doughty.

But they haven’t consistently played up to the level of a top five team, and their 15-0 record was inflated by feasting on teams that are just good enough to make us believe.

Auburn is still good.

They’re just not a top five team.

3. OH, AND NO. 5 BUTLER LOST THEIR SECOND GAME THIS WEEK AS WELL!

But this game said a whole lot more about DePaul than it did about Butler.

I explained why right here.

4. PAYTON PRITCHARD REALLY WANTS TO BE NATIONAL PLAYER OF THE YEAR

The reason Payton Pritchard is one of the frontrunners for National Player of the Year is the fact that he is putting up terrific numbers this season for a top ten team and doing so while putting together some incredibly impressive performances in crunchtime.

Saturday might have been his statement game.

Oregon erased a 13-point second half deficit thanks in large part to Pritchard, who hit a huge three with a minute left to tie the game. In overtime, he hit a floater to give the Ducks the lead before burying this insane three to win the game with 3.2 seconds left:

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Payton Pritchard called game!!!!!!

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No. 8 Oregon avoided going 0-2 on the Washington road trip with a 64-61 win. Pritchard finished with 22 points. The Ducks are now 3-0 in overtime games this season largely due to the fact that Pritchard is arguably the most clutch player in college basketball.

Is there anyone that you would want taking a big shot in a big game more than him?

5. BUT SO DOES MYLES POWELL

Seton Hall capped off an absolutely stellar week by going into Madison Square Garden and knocking off their biggest regional rival, St. John’s, on the road despite trailing by 13 points at the half.

That’s a big time win.

And Powell was, as you might expect, once again a big time player.

He scored 23 of his 29 points in the second half and made big shot after big shot down the stretch. This came just three days after he went for 29 points as Seton Hall erased a 10 point halftime deficit on the road against No. 5 Butler.

In fact, the Pirates are currently sitting at 6-0 in the Big East after a slow start to their season, and they already have won at DePaul, at Xavier, at Butler and at St. John’s.

And now they get three straight home games.

Kevin Willard’s club has put themselves in a great position to make a run at the 2020 Big East regular season title.

6. KENTUCKY RALLIES AFTER COACH CAL GETS TOSSED

This was awesome.

Coach Cal was ejected on Saturday in the most mild-mannered way I’ve ever seen.

He was arguing with the refs about the way they were implementing the flop rule against his team, and — I think — he was given two technicals for being out of the coach’s box and staying out of the coach’s box to curse at the refs. Look at this:

The best part?

Kentucky was up 11 early in the first half, but they blew that lead. After going 3-for-4 on technical free throws, Arkansas held a 47-44 lead on a coach-less Kentucky team.

And how did the Cats respond?

A cool 17-2 run to put the game to bed in a 73-66 win.

7. HOUSTON BLEW OUT WICHITA STATE TO TAKE CONTROL OF THE AMERICAN

The Houston we expected to see all season long showed up in Wichita on Saturday night.

The Cougars beat the No. 16 Shockers in their own building, 65-54, and it wasn’t really that close. Wichita State was down 49-27 at one point, allowing just one player to crack double-figures.

The Shockers lost two games this week and now sit a game off the pace in the American, behind Houston and Tulsa, who are tied for first.

8. WEST VIRGINIA SOMEHOW GAVE UP 84 POINTS TO KANSAS FREAKIN’ STATE

Kansas State entered Saturday ranked 198th in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency metric. James Madison, the 275th-best team in college basketball, and VMI, the 291st-best team in college basketball, ranked directly behind them. The only “high-major” players worse than Kansas State offensively this season?

Temple, South Florida, Virginia, East Carolina and Boston College.

West Virginia, on the other hand, entered Saturday ranked as the single-best defensive team in the entire sport. They were playing defense at a level that would rank among the very-best defensive teams that we have ever seen. Their four Big 12 opponents were averaging 51 points against them.

Kansas State had 42 points at halftime. They scored 84 points on the night. They won 84-68 to drop the Mountaineers two games out of first place in the Big 12 title race, because …

9. … BAYLOR ERASED A 12 POINT DEFICIT ON THE ROAD

The Bears looked like they were going to be the top five team to blow a win they should not be blowing on Saturday.

Oklahoma State threw a 2-3 zone on the Bears, doing the exact same thing that Washington did to Baylor late in the only game that they lost thus far this season, and Baylor was lost for the first half. They trailed 36-24 at one point late in the half before slotting MAtthew Mayer at the high post and thwarting all of Oklahoma State’s plans.

In the end, however, the Cowboys still had a shot to win late, but that was until Devonte Bandoo banged home three threes in the final eight minutes, including two in a one minute span after the final TV timeout, to secure a 75-68 win.

Bandoo scored 14 points off the bench. He is the fourth-best guard on this Baylor roster.

Put another way, this team is deep, they are loaded, and the guys all the way down their bench can make the shots that beat you.

That’s scary.

10. SAN DIEGO STATE IS STILL UNDEFEATED

The Aztecs trailed at the half but ran Nevada off the court after halftime, taking home a 68-55 win.

David Johnson shines as No. 11 Louisville beats No. 3 Duke, 79-73

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David Johnson scored all 19 of his points in the first half and added seven assists, four boards, three steals and a pair of blocks off the bench as No. 11 Louisville went into Cameron Indoor Stadium and knocked off No. 3 Duke, 79-73.

The Cards jumped out to a 25-10 lead in the first 10 minutes of the game as Duke struggled to protect the ball. The Blue Devils slowly chipped away at the lead and got within one point with three minutes left before Louisville put the game away.

Jordan Nwora finished with just six points on 3-for-12 shooting as he dealt with Duke’s best defender in Stanley, while Dwayne Sutton took advantage of a mismatch at the four and chipped in with 13 points.

Stanley led the way for the Blue Devils with 24 points and 11 boards. Tre Jones was 5-for-16 from the floor and Vernon Carey struggled with fouls, finishing with just 12 points and six boards to go along with six turnovers.

Here are three things that we learned in Louisville’s win:

1. DAVID JOHNSON HAS ARRIVED, BUT IS HE HEALTHY?

First things first: Johnson says he’s OK. He told reporters after the game that the injury he suffered to his surgically-repaired left shoulder is nothing more than a bump or a bruise. Chris Mack was not worried about he while speaking at his postgame press conference. For those that missed it, Johnson took an awkward fall on his left shoulder with three minutes left in the game. He stayed on the ground behind the play, went to the bench with his left arm dangling by his side and headed back to the locker room before returning to Louisville’s bench for the final minutes. He did not return to the game.

So it sounds like he is going to be OK.

And that is incredibly important news for a Louisville team that has desperately been searching for a guy to do all of the things that Johnson did on Saturday night.

He finished with 19 points, but the way he scored those points is the most significant part of the equation. He broke down defenses. He dribbled right past Jordan Goldwire and drove the lane for a dunk. He created out of ball-screens. He handled Duke’s ball-pressure like he was playing against high school opponents.

This is what the Cardinals have been waiting for. It’s been a talking point all season long, and every time I have mentioned it, I have also mentioned that Louisville was just waiting to see if Johnson would ever get healthy. That staff believed he was a pro after getting him on campus, and anyone that watched him play on Saturday night would be inclined to agree.

If he can remain healthy and play somewhere close to this level for the rest of the season, then this Louisville team is much, much more dangerous.

2. THIS FELT LIKE A TURNING POINT FOR LOUISVILLE

I try to avoid the content in this space to be entirely narrative-based, but I’m not going to be able to avoid it here.

So indulge me for a minute, OK?

This game really felt like a turning point in Louisville’s season. It felt like they rid themselves of quite a few demons by going into Cameron Indoor Stadium and winning the way that they won, and the biggest reason that I say that is because of what happened last year. I’m sure every Duke and Louisville fan will remember this quite clearly: The Cardinals blew a 23 point lead at home in the final 10 minutes and lost to the Blue Devils.

This year, the game was starting to look like it might play out the same way. Louisville led by 15 points in the first half, by 10 at halftime and had a cushion of at least three possessions for what felt like the entire second half before Matthew Hurt capped off a 9-0 run by hitting three free throws to tie the game at 58. What happened? Fresh Kimble immediately answered with an and-one bucket to take the lead back. Duke tied things up against at 63, and on the next possession Kimble hit a three to, against, take the lead back. Duke made multiple runs in front of the Crazies, and Louisville had an answer every single time.

And on the road, no less.

Louisville has not been great playing away from the Yum! Center, and they have not played tough against elite competition all that often this season. It sometimes felt like they didn’t realize just how good they can be when they actually play with some heart.

That it happened in a game where they blew a lead and still won against Duke while getting elite play out of the point guard spot just feels like everything coming together.

The Cards head home to face Georgia Tech and Clemson next week.

We’ll see if that take ends up being true.

3. DUKE’S TWO MAJOR FLAWS WERE ON DISPLAY ON SATURDAY

The two biggest issues that there are on this Duke roster are that they lack someone that can truly lock up at the four, and they don’t have a go-to scorer in crunch-time if teams are going to collapse on Vernon Carey.

Hurt is who Louisville went after on Saturday night. It wasn’t Jordan Nwora, who was being guarded by Cassius Stanley for much of the night, but instead the likes of Dwayne Sutton, or Samuell Williamson, or whoever Hurt ended up guarding on a switch. The three that I mentioned Fresh Kimble hitting in that last section? That came against Matthew Hurt.

And Hurt was really good on the offensive end tonight. He finished with 16 points. He hit three threes. He had a tip-dunk. He also didn’t get a single defensive rebound, steal or block. If he added 16 points, how many was he responsible for giving up?

The other issue is one that we knew Duke was going to face this season. Tre Jones has definitely gotten better this season, and he definitely is still not a guy that you want being the player you’re calling up a play for in crunch time. Neither is Cassius Stanley, who is elite in transition and has proven himself a capable floor-spacer that can make things happen with his athleticism, but you’re not drawing up a play to get him the ball when you need a bucket against a set defense.

Carey is the answer, but between the foul trouble and the size that Louisville had inside, he was never able to get it going. And that could be a problem considering how many good teams around the country have plenty of size inside.

In a vacuum, I don’t think a road loss to Clemson and a home loss to Louisville is the kind of thing that should scare you off of thinking that the Blue Devils are the best team in the country. But a vacuum doesn’t take into account the matchup issues that those teams — who play two different styles — both exposed in Duke.

I’m worried.

If you’re a Duke fan, getting Wendell Moore healthy and Tre Jones back to 100 percent should be your biggest priority.

Diarra, Gordon lift Kansas State over No. 12 West Virginia

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MANHATTAN, Kan. — Cartier Diarra tied a career high with 25 points, Xavier Sneed added 16, Dujuan Gordon had a career high 15, and Kansas State held off No. 12 West Virginia 84-68 for their first win in Big 12 play this season on Saturday.

Kansas State (8-9, 1-4 Big 12) went up by as many as 23, but a 15-0 run by the Mountaineers cut the lead to eight in the second half, thanks in part to seven turnovers in four minutes by the Wildcats.

West Virginia (14-3, 3-2) would get as close as six, but the Wildcats held on and won by 16.

Miles McBride and Chase Harler paced the Mountaineers with 11 points each, Gabe Osabuohein had 10 as West Virginia lost their first game when the trailed at halftime.

Turnovers proved costly for West Virginia as they committed 18 and Kansas State scored 28 off those mistakes.

Kansas State shot 59% from the field and held the Mountaineers to 45%. The Wildcats hit nine 3’s while West Virginia had 41 bench points.

With two minutes left in the first half, it was a fastbreak dunk by Antonio Gordon assisted by Dujuan Gordon that got the crowd on their feet pushing the Wildcat lead to 11.

Kansas State held a 17-point lead at halftime and shot 58% in the first 20 minutes of play.

BIG PICTURE

Kansas State: This was the best game played by the Wildcats all season. They needed a win like this one before taking on their in-state rival up next.

West Virginia: The Mountaineers had way too many turnovers and didn’t shoot the ball very well.

UP NEXT

Kansas State travels to Kansas on Tuesday.

West Virginia hosts Texas on Monday.

Payton Pritchard three caps come-from-behind win for No. 8 Oregon at Washington (VIDEO)

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Oregon point guard Payton Pritchard hit one of the shots of the year on Saturday, as he buried this ridiculous, step-back three with the game tied in overtime to deliver a 64-61 win over Washington:

“They can put the blame on me. I can take all the criticism, but I will be right there to take that last shot, take that pass, make that play whether it goes good or bad,” Pritchard said.

Pritchard hit his sixth 3-pointer of the game with 3.4 seconds left in overtime and Oregon rallied from a 16-point second-half deficit to stun Washington 64-61 on Saturday.

The Ducks (15-4, 4-2 Pac-12) avoided being swept on their trip north by overcoming a 48-32 deficit with 10:22 remaining in the second half and handed Washington (12-7, 2-4) its third loss in four games.

Pritchard was the extent of Oregon’s offense, finishing with 22 points on 7-of-16 shooting. He hit a floater with 1:08 left to give Oregon the lead and provided the winning 3-pointer despite tough defense from Washington’s Jamal Bey. Pritchard was able to get just enough space to get the shot clear before the shot clock expired.

The Ducks rallied from 19 down to beat Seton Hall earlier this season. But this one felt a bit sweeter getting the better of one of their rivals.

“I don’t think the length really bothers me. If you don’t have a hand up I’m going to let it fly,” Pritchard said.

Chandler Lawson added 16 points and 12 rebounds for the Ducks, who rebounded from an ugly loss to Washington State on Thursday. Lawson had not scored more than eight points in a game this season and played just seven minutes in the loss to Washington State.

“If you don’t get started right, you’ve got to keep battling,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “I was really disappointed Thursday night. We didn’t compete. We got outworked. … I thought we played a lot harder. We didn’t play well, but we did play a lot harder.”

Isaiah Stewart led Washington with 25 points and 19 rebounds. The freshman was dominant on the interior but didn’t get the help he needed from others. Marcus Tsohonis had 12 of his 14 points in the first half, but the Huskies were 0 of 11 on 3-pointers in the second half and overtime, and 14 of 23 at the foul line.

Washington scored just 24 points in the second half and overtime combined.

“It was like he was going to will us to the game,” Washington coach Mike Hopkins said of Stewart. “He’s just special. … I wish we could have got that one for him today.”

Stewart opened overtime with a baseline reverse, but it turned out to be Washington’s only basket of the extra period.

Lawson scored in the lane with 2:10 left and Pritchard followed with a runner to give Oregon a 61-59 lead, its first since it was 9-7 in the opening minutes. Stewart hit a pair of free throws to tie the game with 49 seconds left. Pritchard forced another deep 3-pointer and missed, but Chris Duarte got the offensive rebound and Pritchard didn’t miss given a second opportunity.

THE COMEBACK

Washington led by 12 at halftime after perhaps its best first half of the season. The Huskies led 48-32 with 10:22 remaining in regulation after a pair of free throws by Stewart. Oregon then went on a 15-2 run to get back into the game, triggered by a change in its defense. The Ducks went to a full-court press and it flustered the Huskies. Washington scored just eight points the rest of regulation.

Meanwhile, Pritchard was the catalyst at the offensive end. He hit Oregon’s first 3-pointer of the second half to get the Ducks within 50-45 and then left a perfect pass for Lawson’s dunk to pull them within 50-47 with 4:26 left.

Pritchard later hit a 3 from about 35 feet with 1:08 left to pull Oregon even at 54. Stewart hit a pair of free throws, but Shakur Juiston scored underneath for the Ducks with 17.8 left to tie the game at 56.

Washington’s final possession was rushed and Jamal Bey’s 3-pointer at the buzzer hit the back rim.

“The press changed the tempo of the game. … Got them on their heels a little bit,” Altman said.

STEWART’S DAY

Stewart is the third player this season to have at least 25 points and at least 19 rebounds in a game, joining Purdue’s Trevion Williams (36 points, 20 rebounds) and Rider’s Tyere Marshall (28 points, 20 rebounds). All three performances ended up coming in losses.

BIG PICTURE

Oregon: The Ducks changed the starting lineup with Will Richardson getting his first start of the season and Anthony Mathis coming off the bench for the first time. The switch didn’t work and Oregon lacked the scoring punch Richardson had provided coming off the bench. Richardson had one point. Mathis scored just two.

Washington: The Huskies got Jaden McDaniels back in the lineup after missing Thursday’s win over Oregon State with an ankle injury. McDaniels struggled with his shot, hitting 1 of 9 from the field, and finished with five points.

UP NEXT

Oregon: The Ducks return home to host USC next Thursday.

Washington: The Huskies travel to Utah next Thursday.

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25