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Monday’s Overreactions: Kansas is better than Gonzaga, Memphis is real, UNC is not

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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Payton Pritchard, Oregon

I’m not sure if Payton Pritchard should be the favorite for National Player of the Year, but at this point, he certainly is a favorite. On Saturday, in a 71-70 overtime win over Michigan in Ann Arbor, Pritchard had 23 points, four assists, three steals and three rebounds, but that doesn’t really do justice to the performance that he had that day.

Pritchard scored the final nine points for Oregon in regulation. He scored six of their eight points in overtime. He did it all while going toe-to-toe with Zavier Simpson, one of the best on-ball defenders in the sport, as Dana Altman opted to turn his offense into the Payton Pritchard Show.

As of today, Pritchard is averaging 19.2 points, 5.9 assists and 4.1 boards while shooting 51.1 percent from the floor and 38.6 percent from three for a top ten team that is going to climb in this week’s poll. That’s the stuff that Players of the Year are made of.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Memphis Tigers

I think it’s probably hyperbolic to say that Memphis had the most impressive win of the season on Saturday.

Stephen F. Austin won in Cameron Indoor. Evansville won in Rupp. Ohio State won in the Dean Dome by 25 points. There have been some absolutely bonkers things happening in college basketball this season, and included among them have been some truly terrific wins.

What I will say is that there has not been a result that has changed my opinion more about the winning team than the win that No. 13 Memphis just landed in Knoxville on Saturday against No. 19 Tennessee.

The reason I say that is because of everything that went wrong leading up to and during this game.

Let’s start with the obvious. Not only were the Tigers playing without James Wiseman, who might be the best player in the country this year, but they were without another starter – and their best shooter – in Lester Quinones. They started four freshmen playing in a rivalry game on the road for the first time against a top 20 team, and they got sucked into play that team’s pace. They missed 13 of their first 14 shots, trailed by 12 points in the first half and, with nine minutes left before the break, had managed to score all of five points.

Everything about the way this game played out makes me think Memphis should have lost by 20.

And they won.

Maybe these freshmen are better than we thought they would be?



I’ve made this point plenty over the years, but I was reminded of it on Saturday, as Gonzaga went into the McKale Center, knocked off No. 15 Arizona in convincing fashion and put themselves in a position to receive plenty of No. 1 votes in this week’s AP Poll: The proof of Gonzaga’s status as college basketball royalty is their ability to lose players to the NBA earlier than expected and still find a way to manage as a very legitimate contender for a national title.

Last offseason, the Zags lost Rui Hachimura, Brandon Clarke, Zach Norvell and Josh Perkins. That’s four starters, three of whom left early for the NBA draft. At least two, and maybe three, depending on your feelings on Rui, of those early entrants were something of a surprise. And yet, it hasn’t slowed Gonzaga down one bit. Like I said, they very well may be the best team in college basketball this season. This comes just two years after Mark Few pulled off a similar feat, surviving the loss of Nigel Williams-Goss and Zach Collins earlier than expected and still trotting out a team that was a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament.

This is something that Villanova has struggled with since winning the 2018 national title. This is something that Virginia is struggling with after winning the 2019 national title. Those are two of the most successful and consistent programs we’ve seen this decade.

So while I’m not exactly breaking news here, I think that it is important to point this out.

Gonzaga’s ability to maintain through the talent erosion that permeates college hoops is remarkable.


Having said all that about Gonzaga, I still think that the Jayhawks are the best team in the country.

And I know that the Zags, and arguably Ohio State, still have the better resume. I get that. But if you forced me to pick one of those teams to win on a neutral court, I think that I’m still taking Kansas. The Jayhawks may have the best point guard in college basketball in Devon Dotson. They have arguably the most unstoppable force in the sport in Udoka Azubuike. They have myriad wings – Ochai Agbaji, Marcus Garrett, Tristan Enaruna, Isaiah Moss – and the size to play with two bigs. They can give a two point guard looked with Dotson and Garrett on the floor together.

To be clear, I made this argument on the Monday Overreactions podcast last week as well. I’m in on this Kansas team.


Has there been anything more surprising than seeing a Georgetown resurgence come with the departure of James Akinjo, Josh LeBlanc, Myron Gardner and Galen Alexander?

The former two left the program three games ago. The latter left on Friday. In the three games that have elapsed since then, the Hoyas are 3-0 on the season with wins at Oklahoma State, at SMU and over Syracuse at home. Mac McClung is averaging 26.3 points during that stretch and Jim Boeheim is telling everyone that the Hoyas are better now that they got rid of the kid that never passed.

I think there’s a lot of truth to that statement. Akinjo was ball-dominant. From what I’ve been told by sources and people around that program is that Akinjo did not get along all that well with Patrick Ewing or with McClung, and that getting those four out of the locker room has improved the culture and the team environment.

The Hoyas are going to be shorthanded this season. There are just seven scholarship players on the roster, and while the ideal world would be that Akinjo, LeBlanc and the rest of those guys would be able to fit in with that roster – more talent is never a bad thing – I think that losing them might end up being addition by subtraction.


Look, it is going to happen a lot this season.

That’s just the way that this is going to work. The top teams are not as good as top teams in recent years. This isn’t a perfect gauge, but it does provide some context: Ohio State’s adjusted efficiency margin on KenPom right now is +27.07. There were eight teams last season that had a higher AdjEM, and last year was not exactly considered a great season for college hoops.

Would we have been all that surprised if a top ten-ish team lost on the road in league play last year?

Probably not.

And it’s the way that this is probably going to work more often moving forward. We are getting more conference games earlier in the season, as leagues push to 20 games. We are getting top teams playing tougher schedule. We are seeing a push to get some of the big time matchups on neutral courts.

Better competition earlier in the year means more teams are going to be taking losses early.

That, to be frank, is probably a good thing for the sport, even if it means the undefeated runs we see become less frequent.


The Tar Heels have now lost three in a row and four of their last five games. They are going to be playing without Cole Anthony for a while, it seems, and they have a pretty tough schedule coming up. They play at Gonzaga on Wednesday, they get UCLA on a neutral on Saturday and then they host Yale next Monday before diving into ACC play.

Without Anthony, this team simply cannot score. They are bad offensively with him. They are, frankly, not that much more talented that a mid-major without him. The win over Oregon on a neutral is going to carry some weight on Selection Sunday, but there is a lot to be worried about with this group.

John Petty Jr. returns to Alabama for senior season

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama guard John Petty Jr. is staying in school instead of entering the NBA draft.

The Crimson Tide junior announced his decision to return for his senior season Monday on Twitter, proclaiming: “I’m back.”

Petty, the Tide’s top 3-point shooter, averaged 14.5 points and a team-high 6.6 rebounds rebounds last season. He was second on the team in assists.

Petty made 85 3-pointers in 29 games, shooting at a 44% clip.

Alabama coach Nate Oats called him “one of the best, if not the best, shooters in the country.”

“He’s made it clear that it’s his goal to become a first round pick in the 2021 NBA Draft and we’re going to work with him to make sure he’s in the best position to reach that goal,” Oats said.

Fellow Tide guard Kira Lewis Jr. is regarded as a likely first-round draft pick.

McKinley Wright IV returns to Colorado

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McKinley Wright IV will be back for season No. 4 with the Colorado Buffaloes.

The point guard tested the NBA draft process before announcing a return for his senior year. It’s a big boost for a Buffaloes team that’s coming off a 21-11 mark in 2019-20 and was potentially looking at an NCAA Tournament bid before the season was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wright was an All-Pac-12 first team selection a season ago, along with an all-defensive team pick. He and athletic forward Tyler Bey declared for the draft in late March. Bey remains in the draft.

“We’ve got unfinished business,” said Wright, who averaged 14.4 points and 5.0 assists per game last season.

Midway through the season, the Buffaloes were looking like a lock for their first NCAA Tournament appearance since ’15-16. Then, the team hit a five-game skid, including a loss to Washington State in the Pac-12 tournament. Simply put, they hit a defensive rut they just couldn’t shake out of, Wright said. It drove him to work that much harder in the offseason.

“This is my last go-around and I’ve got big dreams,” the 6-footer from Minnesota said. “I want to take CU to a place they haven’t been in a while. We want to go back to the tournament and win high-level games.”

The feedback from NBA scouts was reaffirming for Wright. He said they appreciated his transition game, movement away from the ball and his defensive intangibles. They also gave Wright areas he needed to shore up such as assist-to-turnover ratio and shooting the 3-pointer with more consistency.

He took it to heart while training in Arizona during the pandemic. He recently returned to Boulder, Colorado, where he’s going through quarantine before joining his teammates for workouts.

“The work I put in and the time I spent in the gym compared to all my other offseasons, it’s a big gap,” Wright said. “Last offseason, I thought I worked hard. But it was nothing compared to the time and different type of mindset I put myself in this year.”

Another motivating factor for his return was this: a chance to be the first in his family to earn his college degree. He’s majoring in ethnic studies with a minor in communications.

“My grandparents are excited about that. My parents are excited about that,” Wright said. “I’m excited about that as well.”

Wright also has an opportunity to take over the top spot on the school’s all-time assists list. His 501 career assists trail only Jay Humphries, who had 562 from 1980-84. Wright also ranks 13th all-time with 1,370 career points.

NOTES: Colorado announced the death of 95-year-old fan Betty Hoover, who along with her twin sister, Peggy Coppom, became fixtures at Buffs sporting events and were season ticket holders since 1958. Wright used to run into them not only on the court, but at the local bank. “I’ve never met anyone as loving and supporting and caring as those two,” Wright said. “They hold a special place in my heart. It sucks that Betty won’t be at any games this year. Maybe we can do something, put her name on our jersey. They’re two of the biggest fans in CU history.”

Jared Butler returns to Baylor

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Baylor got some huge news on Monday as potential All-American Jared Butler announced that he will be returning to school for his junior season, joining MaCio Teague is pulling his name out of the 2020 NBA Draft to get the band back together.

Butler was Baylor’s leading scorer a season ago, averaging 16.0 points and 3.1 assists for a team that went 26-4, spent a portion of the season as the No. 1 team in the country and was in line to receive a 1-seed had the 2020 NCAA Tournament taken place.

With Butler and Teague coming back to school, the Bears will return four starters from last season’s squad. Starting center Freddie Gillespie is gone, as is backup guard Devonte Bandoo, but those are holes that can be filled. Tristan Clark, who was Baylor’s best player during the 2018-19 season before suffering a knee injury that lingered through last year, will be back, and there is more than enough talent in the program to replace the scoring pop of Bandoo. Matthew Mayer will be in line for more minutes, while transfer Adam Flagler will be eligible this season.

Baylor will enter this season as a consensus top three team in the country. They will receive plenty of votes as the No. 1 team in the sport, making them not only a very real contender for the Big 12 regular season crown but one of the favorites to win the national title.

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As MaCio Teague returns, Baylor now awaits Jared Butler’s NBA draft decision

Butler is the key.

Baylor was one of college basketball’s best defensive teams last year. They finished fourth nationally in KenPom’s defensive efficiency metric, a ranking that dropped after they Bears lost two of their last three games to TCU and West Virginia. Where they struggled was on the offensive end of the floor. The Bears would go through droughts were points were at a premium and their best offense was a missed shot. Butler’s intrigue for NBA teams was his ability to shoot and to create space in isolation. He’s the one guy on the roster that can create something out of nothing for himself.

And now he is back to try and lead Baylor to a Final Four.

Arizona State’s Martin to return for senior season

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TEMPE, Ariz. (–Arizona State guard Remy Martin is withdrawing from the NBA draft and will return for his senior season in the desert.

“I’m blessed to have the opportunity to coach Remy Martin for one more season,” Sun Devils coach Bobby Hurley said in a statement Sunday. “Remy will be one of the best players in college basketball this year and will be on a mission to lead Arizona State basketball in its pursuit of championships.”

A 6-foot guard, Martin is the Pac-12’s leading returning scorer after averaging 19.1 points in 2019-20. He also averaged 4.1 assists per game and helped put the Sun Devils in position to reach the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year before the season was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Martin’s return should put Arizona State among the favorites to win the Pac-12 next season.

Martin joins fellow guard Alonzo Verge Jr. in returning to the Sun Devils after testing the NBA waters. Big man Romello White declared for the draft and later entered the transfer portal.

Hurley has signed one of the program’s best recruiting classes for next season, headed by five-star guard Josh Christopher.

Michigan State forward Xavier Tillman will remain in the 2020 NBA Draft

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In the end, Xavier Tillman Sr.’s decision whether or not to return to remain in the 2020 NBA Draft for his senior season came down to security.

A 6-foot-8 forward that averaged 13.7 points, 10.3 boards, 3.0 assists and 2.1 blocks this past season, Tillman was an NBC Sports third-team All-American a season ago. He’s projected as the No. 23 pick in the latest NBC Sports mock draft. He was the best NBA prospect that had yet to make a decision on his future until Sunday.

That’s when Tillman announced that he will be foregoing his final season of college eligibility to head to the NBA.

In the end, it’s probably the right decision, but it’s not one that the big fella made easily.

Tillman is unlike most college basketball players forced to make a decision on their basketball future. He is married. He has two kids, a three-year old daughter and a six-month old son. This is not a situation where he can bet on himself, head to the pro ranks and figure it out later on.

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He needs something stable, particularly given the fact that we are living in the midst of a pandemic that has put the future of sports in doubt, at least for the short term.

He needs security.

He needed to know that there would be a job for him in the NBA. Not a two-way contract. Not a spot on a camp roster or a chance to develop in the G League. Hell, there might not even be a G League next season. That was an option at Michigan State. He was living in an apartment with his family that was covered by his scholarship and stipend. He had meals paid for. He was able to take food from the training room home and have dinner with his family. He was able to get to class, to the gym, to practice and back home in time to do the dishes at night. He told NBC Sports in March that the school was able to provide him with $1,200-a-month to help pay for things like diapers high chairs. That was all going to be there if he returned to school. It was a great situation, one that lacked the uncertainty that comes with the professional level.

Because as much as I love Tillman as a role player at the next level, NBA teams do not all feel the same. The tricky thing about the draft is that it makes sense to swing for the fences on the guys that can be locked into salaries for the first four years of a contract. The Toronto Raptors took Pascal Siakam with the 27th pick and have paid less than $7 million in total salary in his first four years for a player that made an all-star team. Kyle Kuzma is averaging 16.0 points through three seasons and is on the books for $3.5 million in year four.

Tillman’s ability to defend, his basketball IQ, his play-making and his professional demeanor means that he can step into the modern NBA and do a job as a rotation player for just about any team in the league. But he doesn’t have the upside that other bigs in the same projected range have — Jalen Smith, Daniel Oturu, Jaden McDaniels, Zeke Nnaji — so there are teams that are scared off.

I don’t get it.

But Tillman’s decision to head to the professional ranks indicates that he does, indeed, feel confident in the fact that he will have gainful and steady employment next season. Since he would have walked at Michigan State’s graduation in May had it been held, that doesn’t leave much to return to school for.

The Spartans will now be left in a tough spot. There are quite a few pieces to like on this roster. Rocket Watts had promising moments as a freshman, as did Malik Hall. Gabe Brown and Marcus Bingham are both talented players. Joey Hauser had a good season at Marquette, and the early returns on freshman Mady Sissoko are promising. But this is going to be a young and unproven group.

Izzo has had less at his disposal before, but this is certainly not an ideal situation for Michigan State.