Ten Things To Know: Recapping a wild Saturday in college hoops

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Saturday was the first full day of college basketball league play, and there is a ton of stuff to talk about.

Here are the ten things you need to know to get caught up on all the action.

1. FLORIDA STATE MIGHT BE THE SECOND BEST TEAM IN THE ACC

I’ll go on the record saying that Duke is the best team in the ACC this season, and at this point, I don’t that is a controversial opinion in the least.

They have the best point guard in the conference. They probably have the best big man in the conference. Their wings are starting to figure things out.
Hell, I think you can make a pretty compelling case right now that they are the best team in college basketball, and nothing about their blowout win at Miami changes my mind.

The question I have is who the next-best team in that conference is, and that question is not so easy to answer. We know it’s not North Carolina — more on them in a bit — and until Virginia figures out what they are doing on the offensive end of the floor, I can’t in good conscience call them the second-best team in the league. I thought it would be Louisville, but on Saturday, the 7th-ranked Cardinals lost, 78-65, to No. 18 Florida State in the Yum! Center, yet another example of the issues this team has scoring against defenses that can pressure them.

Jordan Nwora scored 32 points, shot 11-for-15 from the floor and 5-for-6 from three, and in the process answered the doubters that didn’t think he could compete against elite competition. And all it did was keep the score respectable, because the rest of the Cards were 13-for-47 from the floor, 3-for-13 from three and finished with just 33 total points.

The credit for that has to go to Florida State, because the Seminoles suddenly look really, really dangerous. They go nine-deep with versatile, positionless athletes that can switch everything, pressure full-court and just make life miserable for the teams they play. There’s a reason they’re fourth nationally in defensive turnover rate, and if they can get anything close to these kind of play from M.J. Walker, Trent Forrest and Devin Vassell moving forward, they will make plenty of noise in this league.

2. KANSAS TURNED TO FRESHMAN CHRISTIAN BRAUN AGAINST WEST VIRGINIA

The No. 3 Jayhawks’ 60-53 win over No. 16 West Virginia was just about as ugly as we expected it to be.

West Virginia shot 32 percent from the floor and had more offensive rebounds than field goals made. Kansas was 3-for-17 from three and turned the ball over 14 times, 10 of which came in a first half where they mustered all of 24 points. It was a tough, physical battle, and the guy that made all the difference was … freshman guard Christian Braun?

Braun played a career-high 30 minutes on Thursday. He started the second half. He scored six points, he grabbed five boards (second on the team to Azubuike) and he collected two steals. He provided a measure of defensive toughness — something that the likes of Tristan Enaruna and Isaiah Moss have struggled with — while giving Kansas a player on the perimeter that was a threat to make a three.

Raise your hand if you saw that coming.

3. IS IT TIME TO QUESTION JUST HOW GOOD MEMPHIS IS?

No. 9 Memphis lost their second game of the season on Saturday afternoon, as they dropped a home game to a Georgia team that seems like a long shot to get to the NCAA tournament on a day when their best player – Anthony Edwards – shot 4-for-17 from the floor.

It was not a great performance by the Tigers, and that is somewhat understandable. Memphis struggles to score in the halfcourt when they are at full strength, and D.J. Jeffries — their second-leading scorer and the guy that is the best at creating for himself — did not play because of what was dubbed “an illness.”

So the fact that the Tigers struggled for 40 minutes to score should not really surprising.

But it does beg the question: Are we sure that Memphis is a team that deserves to be ranked in the top 20?

Here’s what they have done this season: They won at Tennessee, who has proceeded to fall off of a cliff and does not look like they will be making a return trip to the NCAA tournament. They beat Ole Miss at home by a point, the same Ole Miss that was drubbed by 20 at Wichita State on Saturday. They beat N.C. State on a neutral floor. N.C. State lost on Saturday to Clemson, whose only win since Nov. 24th came at home against Jacksonville.

Put another way, Memphis is really talented, enough so that blindly assuming they are a top 20 team isn’t crazy, they just haven’t really done anything on the court that would prove this to be true.

4. PENN STATE PLAYING AT THE PALESTRA IS ELECTRIC

The most exciting game of the day in college basketball was between Iowa and Penn State, a battle of top 25 teams (I know, right?) that was played at the Palestra in Philadelphia.

Penn State ended up winning, 89-86, despite the fact that Lamar Stevens was battling some foul issues and Iowa’s Luka Garza went for 34 points and 12 boards.

But what blew me away more than anything else was just how electric the Palestra was for what was essentially a Penn State home game. I don’t think there is any doubt that it was a better environment than whatever building Penn State normally plays in; I honestly don’t even know the name of it. I’d be willing to bet that this was the single wildest crowd that a Penn State team has ever played in front of in a “home” game.

I say all that to say this: That should not be the case, not this season.

The Nittany Lions are really, really good. They are really, really fun. And Penn State fans really, really should show up to watch them play.

It will be worth the money. I promise.

5. WE ALL OWE TEXAS TECH AN APOLOGY

Back in the first week of December, when Texas Tech had just finished off a three game losing streak with a 65-60 overtime loss at DePaul, we all fired off our takes on the Red Raiders. They weren’t talented enough, the newcomers weren’t as good as last year, they couldn’t guard the same way, this team will struggle to get to the tournament.

Two days later, Texas Tech beat then-No. 1 Louisville in Madison Square Garden without Jahmi’us Ramsey, their leading scorer. After that game, I spoke with Chris Beard, who told me that his team was one or two possessions away from winning each of those games, that he wasn’t worried about what he has on his roster this season.

We should have listened.

Now healthy, the Red Raiders opened up Big 12 play on Saturday with an 85-50 mollywhopping of Oklahoma State. Those three losses? They came against a ranked Iowa team, a tournament-bound Creighton team and a DePaul team that is far more talented than a typical DePaul team.

Watch out for this team the next three months.

6. SAN DIEGO STATE HAS A VERY REAL CHANCE TO ENTER THE TOURNAMENT UNDEFEATED

Malachi Flynn went for 22 points, five boards and four assists and Matt Mitchell chipped in with 19 points of his own as No. 13 San Diego State remained undefeated by going into Logan and knocking off Utah State, 77-68.

The Aztecs remain one of just two teams in college hoops with an undefeated record, and there is a very real chance that is the case when the NCAA tournament starts.

There are two reasons for this:

  1. SDSU is really, really good. Like, Final Four good. Legitimately. They are a nightmare to play against defensively, and Flynn is exactly the kind of point guard you want come March. Should I mention that they won this game at Utah State — with Neemias Queta playing — despite missing starting center Nathan Mensah?
  2. This was the toughest game that the Aztecs have left on their Mountain West schedule. There are only three other teams in the league that are in the top 100 on KenPom: Utah State (57), Nevada (86) and New Mexico (97). Anything can happen on any night in league play, but rest assured, the Aztecs will be favorites in every game they play from now until the NCAA tournament.

Does that mean that they will pull a Wichita State and enter the NCAA tournament undefeated?

Of course not.

But there is a real chance — 2.7%, according to KenPom — that this group can make that happen. For comparison’s sake, the other undefeated team in college hoops, Auburn, has a 0.1% chance of going undefeated.

7. WICHITA STATE IS OFFICIALLY BACK

The Shockers improved to 13-1 on the season, their only loss coming against a very good West Virginia team, with a 74-54 win over Ole Miss on Saturday.

Erik Stevenson led the way with 29 points while Jamarius Burton chipped in with 16 points of his own.

The Shockers don’t necessarily have any great wins this season, but they have put together a handful of wins that are impressive enough that we need to take note. They won at Oklahoma State, they beat Oklahoma, they beat VCU and this Ole Miss team they whooped up on is pretty good.

The Shockers may turn out to be the class of the American this year.

On Thursday, they host Memphis. We’ll know then.

8. ASHTON HAGANS HURT HIS ANKLE

Ashton Hagans, Kentucky’s starting point guard, second-leading scorer and leading in both assists and steals, hurt his ankle near the end of their win over Missouri. And yes, it appears to be his ankle, and not his achilles, but Hagans may not be available on Tuesday, when the Wildcats take on a Georgia team that just won at Memphis.

9. KAMAR BALDWIN, WE ARE ALL WITNESSES

Baldwin shot 0-for-9 in the first half and went scoreless against Creighton on Saturday afternoon.

He scored 20 points in the second half, including three straight buckets in the final minutes to stretch out what was just a four-point lead as the No. 11 Bulldogs won, 71-54.

10. NORTH CAROLINA GOT EMBARRASSED

North Carolina played arguably the worst game that we have ever seen that program play on Saturday night. The final score wasn’t awful — they lost 96-83 at home against Georgia Tech, which is not as bad as the loss UNC suffered against Ohio State earlier this year — but that score doesn’t do the performance justice. UNC trailed 30-6 at one point. They didn’t make a field goal for the first 13:10 of the game.

I’ll let Roy Williams sum it all up.

“I want to apologize to all the North Carolina fans, the people that care about our basketball program, former players, everyone that cares about us,” Williams said. “We stunk it up tonight, and it’s got to me my responsibility. It’s the most negative I’ve ever felt about myself. The most negative I’ve ever felt about any team. We weren’t ready to play.

“If I had any idea what caused that I would have already changed it. It’s the most disappointed and most upset I’ve ever been in my life coaching a basketball game, and it’s not even close.”

No. 6 UConn star Azzi Fudd out 3-6 weeks with knee injury

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STORRS, Conn. — Sixth-ranked UConn’s top scorer, Azzi Fudd, is expected to be out three to six weeks because of a right knee injury she suffered during her team’s weekend loss to No. 5 Notre Dame, a university athletic spokesperson said.

The sophomore guard was injured in the first half of the game when a teammate collided into her. She returned midway through the second period to play four hobbled minutes, but sat the rest of the way.

“I think she’ll be all right,” coach Geno Auriemma said afterward.

Fudd entered the game averaging 24.0 points but finished scoreless on two shots over 13 minutes in the team’s first loss of the season.

The athletic spokesperson didn’t specify the type of knee injury Fudd sustained.

She underwent evaluation and an MRI confirmed the injury, the spokesperson said.

The Huskies host Princeton next.

New Mexico State suspends player after shooting

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LAS CRUCES, N.M. — New Mexico State’s athletic director says power forward Mike Peake has been suspended indefinitely from the basketball team in connection with last month’s fatal shooting of a student from a rival university.

Mario Moccia also told reporters that neither he nor the school could comment on Peake’s enrollment status as a student. The 21-year-old Peake has not been charged in the Nov. 19 pre-dawn shooting on the University of New Mexico’s campus in Albuquerque hours before the host Lobos were to play the Aggies. That game was canceled along with the Dec. 3 rematch in Las Cruces.

“Mike is suspended from our basketball team until the completion of the university’s investigation and the investigation of the proper authorities,” Moccia said. “When those investigations will be complete, I can’t say.”

State police investigators said 19-year-old Brandon Travis conspired with two other UNM students and a teenage girl to lure Peake onto campus.

The subsequent shootout left Travis dead at the scene and Peake hospitalized with a leg wound that has required several surgeries.

A brawl at an Oct. 15 UNM-NMSU football game in Las Cruces was a precursor to the shooting, police said.

First-year NMSU men’s basketball coach Greg Heiar was not made available to talk to media until 10 days after the shooting.

He expressed his condolences for Travis and his family and said he took full responsibility for the actions of multiple players who sneaked out of the hotel on that morning of the game.

But until Monday, NMSU officials had not spoken publicly about any specific discipline for Peake related to the shooting.

“If there is criticism over this decision, I am in a position to take it on myself,” Moccia said. “I’ve known this player for years and I know what kind of person he is. I didn’t feel a need to rush to judgment. I wanted to give the investigation time to play out before making any decisions.”

Peake, a 6-foot-7 junior from Chicago, played one season at Georgia before transferring to Austin Peay. He joined New Mexico State in 2021 and averaged 4.1 points and 2.4 rebounds last season, helping the Aggies reach the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

No. 18 Gonzaga withstands scare from Kent State for 73-66 win

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SPOKANE, Wash. – Drew Timme scored 29 points and grabbed 17 rebounds, and No. 18 Gonzaga closed the game on an 11-0 run to rally past Kent State 73-66 on Monday night.

The nation’s longest home win streak was extended to 69 games but not without a major scare by the Golden Flashes. Kent State led 66-62 with 3:38 left after Miryne Thomas’ 3-pointer, but the Bulldogs tightened on the defensive end and got a handful of big plays offensively to hold off the Flashes.

Julian Strawther added 14 points, including a 3-pointer with 3:19 left that started Gonzaga’s decisive run. Timme’s spinning basket in the lane with 2:29 left gave Gonzaga (6-3) the lead, and he added a key defensive play blocking Sincere Carry’s layup attempt at the other end.

Timme was fouled and split free throws with 1:55 left, but Malachi Smith grabbed the offensive rebound and his three-point play gave the Bulldogs a 71-66 lead. It was Smith’s first basket of the game.

“(Timme) was heroic. He wasn’t really looking for the ball much early and wasn’t demanding it . he was splitting the defense and scoring in a variety of ways like he does,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “To end up with 17 boards is monster and we needed every one of them.”

Nolan Hickman added 10 points and seven rebounds for the Bulldogs, who held a 43-30 advantage on the boards. It was just the second home game inside the McCarthey Athletic Center for Gonzaga and first since Nov. 7 against North Florida.

Thomas led Kent State (6-3) with 16 points, including four 3-pointers. Malique Jacobs added 11 points and Carry, who was averaging 18.5 points per game, was held to 10.

“I think in the second half we moved the ball well, we got some turnovers, got some easy shots and was able to give us a lead playing a great team and great program. . Unfortunately we couldn’t finish it off. Give them a lot of credit for that,” Kent State head coach Rob Senderoff said.

Kent State nearly pulled off a surprising upset on the road for the second time in two weeks but couldn’t withstand Gonzaga’s late surge. Kent State led No. 1 Houston by one-point with less than a minute to go nine days ago in Houston but couldn’t make the plays in the closing seconds to finish off the upset in a 49-44 loss.

“Coach Few has told us all week that this is a great team that could go to the Sweet 16. . We knew what they were capable of and we weren’t taking them lightly and we knew it was going to be a dog fight,” Strawther said.

JERSEY RETIRED

Kelly Olynyk’s No. 13 jersey number was retired in front of a sellout crowd. Olynyk played for Gonzaga from 2009-13 and led the Bulldogs to its first ever No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament while earning first team AP All-American status as a senior.

“You’re almost speechless,” Olynyk said. “It’s just such an honor, especially with the names that you’re up beside. They’re unbelievable players.”

BIG PICTURE

Kent State: The Golden Flashes lost their third game of the season and their second against a ranked opponent. Kent State has three non-conference games left before beginning Mid-American Conference play at home against Western Michigan.

Gonzaga: The Bulldogs bounced back from a one-point loss to No. 12 Baylor last week with the win. All three of Gonzaga’s losses are to teams ranked in the top 12 of the AP Top 25.

UP NEXT:

Kent State: At Cleveland State on Saturday.

Gonzaga: Host in-state rival Washington on Friday.

Preseason No. 1 North Carolina drops out of AP Top 25

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Houston and Texas remain firmly entrenched atop The Associated Press men’s college basketball poll, while preseason No. 1 North Carolina has dropped out entirely after a fourth straight loss.

The Cougars earned 37 of 62 first-place votes in the poll, extending the program’s first stay at No. 1 since the “Phi Slama Jama” days in the 1980s for another week. Houston (8-0) beat Norfolk State and Saint Mary’s in its first week at the top.

“I don’t dwell on it,” coach Kelvin Sampson said last week about the No. 1 ranking. “We’re not running around here pushing our chest out, thinking we’re something we’re not.”

The Longhorns received 14 first-place votes. No. 3 Virginia got three votes and No. 4 Purdue got the remaining eight.

Connecticut (9-0) climbed to No. 5, the program’s highest ranking since early in the 2011-12 season. Other than the top five, there are three other teams in the AP Top 25 that entered Monday undefeated (No. 11 Auburn, No. 13 Maryland and No. 23 Mississippi State).

SWIFT FALL

North Carolina is only the sixth team to go from preseason No. 1 to unranked since at least the 1961-62 season, most recently with Michigan State during the 2019-20 season.

Of that group, the Tar Heels had the swiftest exit from the poll to start the season (four weeks) excet for UCLA in 1965-66. The Bruins fell out of the poll after just three weeks back when only 10 teams were ranked.

Ranked No. 18 last week, the Tar Heels (5-4) l ost their fourth straight game over the weekend at Virginia Tech while playing without banged-up big man Armando Bacot. They appeared on a single ballot this week from the 62-member panel that votes on the AP Top 25.

“I told them also that I’m not panicked, I’m not any of that,” coach Hubert Davis said afterward. “I’m convinced we’re going to be a great basketball team by the end of the season.”

Last year’s Tar Heels were on the bubble to even make the NCAA Tournament well into February in Davis’ debut season. They went on a final-month tear all the way to the NCAA championship game before falling to Kansas.

THE TOP TIER

Kansas climbed to No. 6, followed by three Southeastern Conference teams in Tennessee, Alabama and Arkansas. For the Volunteers and Crimson Tide, it marked their first appearances inside the top 10 this year. Arizona rounded out the top 10, falling six spots after a loss at Utah.

RISING

No. 13 Maryland had the biggest jump of the week, vaulting nine spots after wins against Louisville and Illinois last week in the Terrapins’ first year under Kevin Willard. That marks the program’s highest ranking since pushing into the top 10 during the 2019-20 season.

Tennessee was next up with a six-spot climb, while No. 11 Auburn rose four spots.

In all, 13 teams climbed from last week.

SLIDING

Creighton had the week’s biggest fall, tumbling 14 spots to No. 21 after losing at Texas and at home to Nebraska last week.

No. 12 Baylor fell six spots after a loss to Marquette, though the Bears responded by beating Gonzaga on Friday in a rematch of the 2021 NCAA championship game won by Baylor.

The Zags, now No. 18, fell four spots to their lowest ranking since checking in at No. 20 on Christmas Day in 2017.

In all, four teams slid from last week.

STATUS QUO

Beyond the top three, No. 25 Ohio State remained in place after a tough loss at No. 15 Duke last week.

WELCOME

No. 23 Mississippi State and No. 24 TCU were the new additions to the poll, with the Bulldogs (8-0) earning their first AP Top 25 ranking under first-year coach Chris Jans since January 2019.

The Horned Frogs were ranked 14th and 15th, respectively, in the first two polls before falling out for two weeks.

FAREWELL (FOR NOW)

In addition to UNC, Michigan State (No. 20) fell out after losses to Notre Dame and Northwestern.

CONFERENCE WATCH

The SEC led the way with six ranked teams, including No. 16 Kentucky. The Big Ten and Big 12 each had five ranked teams, followed by two each for the Atlantic Coast, Pac-12 and Big East conferences.

The American Athletic, West Coast and Mountain West conferences each had one.

Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer tops women’s AP Top 25 appearances

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Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer stands atop The Associated Press women’s basketball poll with the most appearances all time, breaking a tie with the late Pat Summitt.

VanDerveer’s Cardinal remained No. 2 behind top-ranked South Carolina, giving her 619 weeks with one of her teams in the AP Top 25: 592 weeks with Stanford and 27 with Ohio State when she was in charge of that program. Summitt’s 618 weeks in the poll all came with Tennessee.

The Hall of Fame coach downplayed the achievement.

“Fortunate to be here for 36 years. We have great players and have been successful,” VanDerveer said. “I don’t pay attention to (records). People bring it up and I’m like `OK, great.”‘

Louisville fell out of the Top 25 for the first time since 2016, a span of 127 weeks. That was the fifth longest active streak. The Cardinals (5-4) started the season ranked seventh and have struggled to find consistency this year, dropping their last two games to Ohio State and Middle Tennessee.

They are the third preseason top 10 team to fall out of the poll, joining Texas (this week) and Tennessee (last week). Before this year, only 10 preseason top 10 teams had fallen out of the rankings at some point during the year since the AP Top 25 became a writers’ poll in 1994-95.

Even more rare has been a preseason top five school dropping out. Only five teams had done that prior to this year and none before January. Tennessee was the last to do it, starting the 2015-16 season at No. 4 before falling out of the rankings Feb. 22.

Now Texas and Tennessee are both out before the New Year.

“Two factors are at play here. One of them is more parity with more good teams,” said Rebecca Lobo, the former UConn star, ESPN analyst and Top 25 voter. “The other factor at play is the transfer portal. I think those three teams all have multiple players who start who weren’t in their program a year ago. It’s a reflection that you can’t just assemble teams and right away expect them to be good. I think all those teams will in the poll by the end of the season.”

Ohio State moved up to No. 3 after, the Buckeyes’ best ranking since Nov. 30, 2009, when they also were third. Indiana and Notre Dame round out the top five.

UConn fell three spots to sixth with Virginia Tech seventh, the best ranking ever for the school. North Carolina and N.C. State were tied in eighth and Iowa State is 10th.

RANKED RAZORBACKS

Arkansas (10-0) vaulted into the poll at No. 21. The Razorbacks have a difficult month ahead with games against No. 18 Creighton and a tournament in San Diego that has Oregon, South Florida and Ohio State.

“I do think we know a lot about our team,” Arkansas coach Mike Neighbors said.

He was also happy his team made the poll as every sports team on campus that has played this year has been ranked, including football, men’s basketball, soccer and cross country.

“We didn’t want to be the team that stops that streak,” he said..

FALLING LOUISVILLE

The Cardinals had been ranked ever week since Jan. 11, 2016. That was the same season they started the year at No. 8 before falling out on Nov. 30, the earliest a top 10 team had fallen out of the poll until last week. Things got better for Louisville as the Cardinals finished that regular season 24-6 and went 15-1 in the ACC.

HISTORIC WEEK

With Louisville, Texas and Tennessee all out of the Top 25, it marks only the second time in the poll’s history that none of those three teams were ranked. The only other time was the first-ever poll in 1976.

COMING AND GOING

Oklahoma and Kansas State also returned to the Top 25 this week, coming in at No. 23 and No. 24. Marquette dropped out after losing to Seton Hall.