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Monday’s Overreactions: St. John’s, McKinley Wright and why Kentucky and Arizona are overrated

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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: McKinley Wright, Colorado

It’s probably not a coincidence that, in the first game that the Buffaloes played where they legitimately looked like a team that could contend for the Pac-12 title, McKinley Wright was the best player on the floor.

In what will likely go down as the biggest game of Colorado’s non-conference slate, Wright finished with 29 points and 10 boards to lead the Buffaloes past No. 13 Dayton in overtime. Colorado desperately needed that win, too. Entering Saturday, the best win that the Buffaloes had this season came in the season-opener, when they picked off Arizona State. The Sun Devils are only marginally better, according to KenPom’s metrics, than Clemson.

That’s unless you want me to be impressed with wins over the likes of UC Irvine or Colorado State.

And while the Pac-12 is improved this season, there are still four teams that rank outside the top 100 on KenPom in the league and just two teams currently in the top 40. As weird as it sounds, beating Dayton gave Colorado their marquee non-conference win.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: St. John’s Red Storm

I don’t know how many coaches are the country have had a better start to the season than Mike Anderson.

He entered St. John’s without a shred of expectation this season, and while I was more bullish than the field on Anderson long term, I didn’t expect this: On Saturday, the Johnnies flew across the country to play a neutral site event against Arizona in San Francisco to honor Chris Mullin, the head coach they fired in April.

And they won despite the fact that their best player, Mustapha Heron, was injured.

It will go down as the second top 25 win of the season for the Johnnies, who also picked off West Virginia this month.

We’ve seen this St. John’s program land big wins before disappearing in recent years – anyone else remember when they won at Villanova and then beat Duke in back-to-back games after starting Big East play 0-11? – so I’m not going to overreact to this just yet, but rest assured, the Johnnies are now on everyone’s radar.

MONDAY’S OVERREACTIONS

1. IT’S OK IF YOU STILL THINK KANSAS IS THE BEST TEAM IN THE COUNTRY

On Saturday, Kansas went on the road in their last game before the Christmas break, played in front of 20,000 Villanova fans and lost, 56-55, to a program that has won two of the last four national titles because Devon Dotson missed this shot:

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Down goes No. 1!

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If you believed heading into this game that Kansas was the best team in college basketball, than you are more than justified in keeping the Jayhawks at No. 1 today. If your opinion of a team boils down to what happens on the final possession of a one point game, than you probably shouldn’t be allowed to rank teams.

That’s not to say that it shouldn’t impact the way that NCAA tournament bracket projections work.

Wins and losses should matter there. There should be some tangible impact on whether or not that last second shot goes in. It should lower Kansas a bit in the No. 1 overall seed pecking order.

But if it has an impact on the way you view Kansas in the longterm, or whether or not you buy into them as the best team in the country, you’re doing this wrong.

2. KENTUCKY IS NOT FIXABLE

Kentucky more or less invented the superteam era in college basketball, so it would be awfully ironic if the team that has thrived in the one-and-done era as much as any program in the country had their season saved by a grad transfer fro Bucknell.

And that may end up being the case this season.

Nate Sestina came back from injury on Saturday and scored a team-high 17 points while hitting five threes. That’s important for a couple reasons. For starters, the Wildcats have been just atrocious shooting the three this season. They entered Saturday making just 27.5 percent of their shots from beyond the arc, and if you take Sestina’s shooting on Saturday out of the equation, the rest of the roster was just 2-for-15 from deep against Ohio State.

Getting someone on the floor that will punish defenses for selling out on drives is pretty important. Sestina does that.

But just as important is that Sestina provides some scoring pop at the four. E.J. Montgomery and Nick Richards have had some good moments this season, but most of those moments have come against the bad teams that the Wildcats have faced. Combined, those two are averaging 10.5 points and 8.0 boards against the four high-major opponents Kentucky has faced. Keion Brooks has had some flashes of potential, but that’s about it. Kahlil Whitney has looked less like a lottery pick and more like a guy destined to be in Lexington until he transfers because he’s sick of being recruited over.

John Calipari (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Sestina has his limitations physically, but he plays hard, he provides some leadership and he does the thing none of those guys have been able to do: Provide some scoring pop.

And with him back in the fold, it does feel like Kentucky is getting closer to figuring this thing out. Tyrese Maxey’s making shots again. Ashton Hagans has really been the one guy that has consistently performed for the first seven weeks of the season. The execution wasn’t there against Ohio State – that has as much to do with Ohio State and Chris Holtmann as it does Kentucky and John Calipari – but the effort was there. The fight was there.

Editor’s note: Need tickets to Saturday’s Kentucky-Louisville game? Click here

I don’t think Kentucky is ever going to look like a top ten team, and I doubt Cal is ever going to feel comfortable about what’s going on at the five, but the good news is that given the landscape of college basketball this season, you don’t have to be great. You just have to give yourself a chance.

3. ARIZONA AND DAYTON HAVE THE MOST OVERRATED RESUMES IN THE COUNTRY

Dayton is objectively good this year. They’ve blown out Virginia Tech, they’ve blown out Georgia and they have a convincing win over Saint Mary’s on a neutral court. That’s before you consider how well the Flyers can shoot and the fact that they are built around a future lottery pick in Obi Toppin. They’re legit.

Their biggest issue is that they lost to Kansas and Colorado in overtime. Those might end up being the two best teams that they play this season, and while those losses shouldn’t affect how you view the Flyers, they assuredly will affect how they are seeded come Selection Sunday. Results matter on a resume, and right now, Dayton’s resume does not match where they (deservedly) are being ranked.

The same can be said about Arizona, but I have much less conviction about this team actually being good. Arizona has now lost three of their last four games. The losses are by a total of 12 points, but in each one of those games, Arizona rallied late to make the final score respectable. They were down double-figures in the second half of all three.

And as it stands today, their best wins are Illinois at home, New Mexico State at home and Wake Forest on a neutral. That’s not exactly worthy of a No. 1 seed.

4. SAN DIEGO STATE IS 2014 WICHITA STATE

At this point, it is undeniable that San Diego State is a good basketball team. I’m not sure why any one would argue against one of the three remaining unbeatens being good, but if you are, you’re wrong. The Aztecs are 12-0 with wins over Creighton, Iowa, at BYU and by 28 against a Utah team that, just three days earlier, beat Kentucky. They’re good. I promise.

The question, however, is just how good they actually are, and that’s somewhat up for debate. I think that Iowa and Creighton will end up being tournament teams, but there’s no guarantee that will happen. I think BYU is good, but generally speaking, WCC teams with four losses in non-conference play aren’t making runs for at-large bids. Could all three end up being NIT teams? That’s certainly in the range of outcomes.

Which leads me to my next point: There really aren’t any great wins available in the Mountain West this year, not if Utah State’s actually the 48th-best team in the country, as KenPom says they are. The only other top 100 teams in the league are New Mexico (who just lost a pair of starters) and Nevada (who may or may not have last season’s success baked into their rankings right now). Is it crazy to think that the Aztecs, like the 2014 Shockers, can climb to the very top of the polls as the nation’s last remaining unbeaten even if their body work doesn’t necessarily justify it?

5. THE STATE OF COLLEGE HOOPS IS PROVEN BY THE IRRELEVANCE OF UNC-UCLA

We spoke about this on the podcast in each of the last two weeks, so I’ll be brief here.

I never would have thought that a Saturday afternoon tip off between UNC and UCLA would be a complete afterthought nationally for college hoops, but that is precisely what it was this Saturday. This epitomizes a point that I’ve made repeatedly – and one that was backed up by both Jay Wright and Bill Self on Saturday: College basketball is down this year. The talent level is down, the quality of the teams is down and, as a result, the level of play is down.

In total, these two teams lost six players to early entry. That’s part of the problem. Cole Anthony being injured is another part of the program. UCLA going through a coaching change certainly doesn’t help.

But the simple fact of the matter is that two of college basketball’s bluebloods were playing on Saturday, and it was overshadowed by Utah State-Florida and Butler-Purdue, which tipped at the same time.

Three Things To Know: Memphis embarrassed; Luka Garza shows out again

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The story of the night in hoops was Zion Williamson’s return to the basketball court.

But there was plenty of action in the college ranks that is worthy of talking about.

Here are the three things that you need to know:

1. No. 20 MEMPHIS LOST BY 40 TO TULSA

That is not a typo.

The 20th-ranked team in the country went into Tulsa, Okla., and lost to the Golden Hurricane, 80-40. Tulsa was up 40-17 at halftime. This was a butt-whooping that was so bad that all Tulsa needed to do was score a single point in the second half and they would have been able to get the win.

Memphis shot 28 percent from the floor. They were 2-for-21 from three. They finished the night with more turnovers (20) and fouls (22) than field goals (16). This was the worst loss that a top 25 team has suffered against a ranked team in 27 years, since UConn beat then-No. 12 Virginia by 41 points.

For Tulsa, this is a massive, massive win. They are currently sitting all alone in first place in the American standings, a half-game up on Houston.

So good for Frank Haith.

But the story here is Memphis, because the Tigers, considered title contenders before the season began, look anything-but right now.

“We let our defense dictate our offense,” head coach Penny Hardaway told reporters after the game. “We didn’t play any defense today. I think today was the first day we’ve done that ll year. I don’t know if guys overlooked Tulsa because of the name. We did our due diligence as a coaching staff to let them know what was going to happen with the matchup zone and how hard they play.

“It’s pretty embarrassing.”

2. LUKA GARZA WENT NUTS AGAIN

If it seems like Garza is putting up monster numbers every games, it’s because he is.

On Wednesday night, the Hawkeyes welcomed newly-ranked Rutgers to campus and sent them home with an entertaining, hard-fought, 85-80 win. And Garza was the star of the show. He finished with 28 points, 13 boards, four blocks and two steals in the win, anchoring the paint as Iowa out-scored Rutgers 47-37 in the second half.

The big fella is now averaging 23 points and 10.5 boards.

Iowa has now won four straight games to move into a tie for third in the Big Ten standings — with Rutgers, among others — and they have won eight straight games in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. They are a third of the way through a three-game homestand as well.

3. VIRGINIA TECH TAKES DOWN NORTH CAROLINA

Virginia Tech kept up their push to finish as the fourth-best team in the ACC with a 79-77 double-overtime win over North Carolina.

The Hokies are now 14-5 overall and 5-3 in the ACC, but the more interesting story might actually be the Tar Heels.

They are 8-10 on the season and 1-6 in the ACC. They have been a disaster for the last month, but there may be some reinforcements on the way in the shape of Cole Anthony. If he returns and the Tar Heels, who are 2-7 in his absence but have wins over Alabama and Oregon with him, get things back on the right track, they are likely going to find themselves in an incredibly awkward situation on Selection Sunday.

Big 12 hands down Kansas-Kansas State fight suspensions

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The Big 12 handed down suspensions to four Kansas and Kansas State players for their role in the fight that occurred in Phog Allen Fieldhouse on Tuesday night.

Silvio De Sousa, who tried to fight three different Kansas State players and picked up a stool during the melee, received a 12 game suspension from the conference. David McCormack, who went into the stands to confront James Love III, received a two game suspension. Love was given eight games for part in the fight, while Antonio Gordon, the freshman that turned a messy situation into a fight, was hit with a three game suspension.

“This kind of behavior cannot be tolerated and these suspensions reflect the severity of last evening’s events,” said Commissioner Bob Bowlsby.  “I am appreciative of the cooperation of both institutions in resolving this matter.”

In the final seconds on Tuesday night, after DaJuan Gordon stole the ball from him at halfcourt, De Sousa blocked Gordon’s shot and towered over him. That sparked an incident that turned into a full-fledged brawl, as De Sousa threw punches at three different players on Kansas State before picking up a stool as the fight spilled into the handicapped section of Kansas seating.

Self called the fight “an embarrassment” after the game, adding on Wednesday that “we are disappointed in [De Sousa’s] actions and there is no place in the game for that behavior.”

McCormack will be eligible to return for Kansas on Feb. 1st when they play Texas Tech at home. De Sousa will be available to play in the final game of the regular season at Texas Tech. Gordon can return on Feb. 3rd, when the Wildcats host Baylor, while Love will be out until late February. But he has played just one game and two minutes on the season, so there is no clear indication of when he will actually put on a Kansas State jersey again.

The four most important questions after Kansas-Kansas State fight

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Very other sport can treat brawls like comedy, and I think it’s about time that we did the same for basketball.

So let’s take a look at the four funniest moments from last night’s Kansas-Kansas State fight. Shouts to Jomboy:

1. IS THE KANSAS MASCOT OK?

Throughout the entire fight, the mascot is just in utter disbelief. He cannot believe what he just saw, and he certainly cannot be consoled:

2. CAN JEREMY CASE START AT LINEBACKER FOR KU’S FOOTBALL TEAM?

Case is the video coordinator for Kansas. He’s also a former Kansas point guard. He knows what this rivalry is all about, and he also is not going to be afraid to get in the middle of it.

Case starts out on the wrong side of the melee:

But when he sees De Sousa and Love squaring up and throwing punches, he intervenes by throwing himself into a player six inches taller than him:

3. WHAT HAPPENED TO JAMES LOVE III’S SHOE?

James Love the third has played in exactly one game this season. He has spent more time on the court fighting that he has actually playing, but he still found a way to get into the middle of this fight and, in the process, lost his shoe:

He’s not dressed for the game.

Did he bring an extra pair of shoes? Did he have to head back onto the bus without a shoe on this right foot? So many questions, so few answers.

4. WHO IS THE MAN IN THE ORANGE HAT?

He’s some kind of photographer.

He got his shot, that’s for sure:

Kansas-Kansas State fight: Nuance, context the key in Silvio De Sousa discussion

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So I wanted to elaborate on a point that I made on twitter this morning because 280 characters just is not enough to be able to parse through the nuance of this situation.

If you missed it, the thread is here.

First and foremost, everyone involved in this needs to be punished. Silvio De Sousa needs to be suspended. Antonio Gordon needs to be suspended. James Love III needs to be suspended. David McCormack, and potentially Marcus Garrett, probably need to be suspended, although I’m not sure either of them actually through a punch. Point being, anyone else that threw a punch needs to be suspended.

Full stop.

I am not saying otherwise.

But I think that it is important to add some context to the conversation, and I also think that it is important to say this: This doesn’t make any of the young men involved in this fight bad people. Silvio De Sousa is not inherently a bad person because he picked up a stool, and the faux-trage of people calling for him to get booted out of school, arrested or even deported are, at best, completely over-reacting and, at worst, showing off a bit of their racial bias.

Before I get into this, one more thing: I am not condoning any of it. Fights like this should not happen.

But the reality of hyper-competitive athletics is that in emotionally charged situations, fights are going to happen. And if you’ve ever been in a fight like this, you know that things happen incredibly quickly. You’re not thinking, you’re reacting. You can’t call a 20 second time out to come up with a way to defend yourself when someone is throwing haymakers, you just do what you can in the moment.

So let’s talk about the moment, shall we?

De Sousa is the guy that set this entire thing in motion with the way that he reacted to DaJuan Gordon’s steal and layup attempt. The reason the Kansas State bench rushes over to the scene is because De Sousa is towering over one of their freshman teammates, and the reason the Kansas sideline runs over is because the Kansas State sideline does. What turned this incident into a full-fledged brawl was Antonio Gordon flying in and shoving De Sousa over the back of the basket stanchion. De Sousa reacts by throwing punches at two different Kansas State players when a third player — James Love III, in the black polo — comes flying in and squares up with him. They both throw a few punches at each other, knocking De Sousa back over the stanchion again as Kansas staffer Jeremy Case comes flying in to break them up.

Put yourself in De Sousa’s shoes here. In the span of 10 seconds, he’s fought three different Kansas State players, sees nothing but purple in front of him and just got knocked to the ground. Is he getting jumped? Does he have to fight them 1-on-3? That’s when he grabs the stool, to defend himself, and when he sees that no one is coming after him anymore, he drops it:

Context.

He should be suspended for 8-10 games.

He set this entire thing in motion.

But maybe, just maybe, tone down the rhetoric.

Women’s Wednesday: A new column dedicated to the women of college basketball

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Welcome to CBT’s first ever weekly women’s basketball column. I’m here to help provide you with some insight into the world of women’s college hoops.

Women’s sports are reaching new heights, especially in basketball. The WNBA announced a new collective bargaining agreement starting in the 2020 season that includes a 53 percent raise, maternity benefits, a base salary and performance-based bonuses. This year’s NCAA women’s basketball tournament will be broadcasted in its entirety on ESPN, with the semifinals and championship game premiering in primetime.

Female athletes are beginning to garner the attention they deserve. Sabrina Ionescu is drawing national attention for a historic senior season, as she has 22 career triple-doubles and became Oregon’s all-time leading basketball scorer in her career-high 37-point performance against Stanford last week. In the WNBA, women such as Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, and more are shattering gender stereotypes and proving that women can play basketball at a high level, just as men can.

While women’s sports have made a push into the public eye, there is still quite a way to go. It’s important to place an emphasis on the women who excel in their sport and give them the spotlight they deserve. Too many times women are only given credit through a masculine lens, whether that’s only getting attention after receiving praise from men, being compared to a male counterpart, or being a footnote in a male athlete’s story. Female athletes deserve to be their own story.

That’s what I’m hoping to do with this column over the rest of the season — give women a place to shine. I’d like to use this space to highlight some of the amazing women that play in the NCAA and hear from them about their experiences, the records they’re setting and their basketball journey. While I won’t even begin to make a dent in the breadth of talent available in women’s college basketball, I hope to use this column each week to take a deeper dive into some incredible women, as well as give you an idea of what’s happening around the country that week.

WEDNESDAY’S NEWS AND NOTES

South Carolina sits atop the world of college hoops, earning 22 first-place votes from the AP panel to nab the No. 1 spot. The Gamecocks have an 18-1 record with wins over ranked opponents such as Maryland, Baylor, Kentucky and most recently Mississippi State.

Baylor — the reigning national champs —- sits in the No. 2 spot in the rankings after dethroning UConn and ending its dominant 98-game winning streak at home. The Lady Bears received six of the first-place votes from the AP committee.

The rest of the top five is filled out by UConn at No. 3, Oregon at No. 4 after beating then-No. 3 Stanford, and Louisville rounds it out at fifth, receiving the last two first-place votes.

In a monster performance against Stanford, Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu had a career-high 37 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. She has four triple-doubles on the season and has a chance to become the NCAA’s first player to eclipse 2,000 career points, 1,000 career rebounds and 1,000 career assists. As of Jan. 18, she has 2,265 points, 904 rebounds and 928 assists.

DePaul remains unbeaten in the Big East, with Chante Stonewall leading the team with 17.9 ppg while Kelly Campbell has 102 assists on the season, ranking No. 8 in the country.

Baylor’s 40-point victory over then-No. 17 West Virginia is their 45th consecutive Big 12 win.

Mississippi State’s JaMya Mingo-Young and Aliyah Matharu combined for 24 points and four steals off the bench in a close 79-81 loss to South Carolina on Monday.

Star freshman and No. 1 recruit Haley Jones suffered an apparent right knee injury and left Stanford’s Sunday win over Oregon State. She is scheduled to have an MRI but the team has given no further updates.

North Carolina State’s Elissa Cunane has 20+ points in four of her last six games and 10 double-doubles on the season, helping the Wolfpack to a dominant win over Florida State last week.

UCLA became the last undefeated team to fall with a double overtime loss to USC — who hadn’t yet won a Pac-12 matchup —  on Friday.

Northwestern made its debut this season in the Top-25, coming in at No. 22 — its first ranking since the 2015-2016 season.

No. 3 Oregon faces rival No. 7 Oregon State on Friday in a crucial Pac-12 matchup.

Stanford freshman Fran Belini threw down a one-handed dunk in pregame warmup before facing Oregon that you HAVE to see: