The 15 things you need to know to get caught up on college basketball

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Now that Joe Burrow has his Heisman, his national title and his 60 touchdown passes and LSU is off to celebrate on Bourbon Street for roughly the next 64 hours, it is time for us to get you football fans caught up on the college basketball season.

Here are the 15 things you need to know:

1. THERE IS NO ELITE TEAM IN COLLEGE BASKETBALL THIS SEASON

Chew on this for a second: There have already been six teams that have held the No. 1 ranking in the AP poll this season: Michigan State, then Kentucky, then Duke, then Louisville, then Kansas, then Gonzaga. That list does not include Ohio State, who was on track to become the No. 1 team in the country before randomly losing to Minnesota on a Sunday night in December.

Michigan State, the consensus preseason No. 1 team in the country, has had some growing pains that have coincided with Cassius Winston, the preseason National Player of the Year, working through the grief of losing his brother to suicide. Kansas has shown flashes of being really good, but their point guard play has been inconsistent, they don’t really have a four-man and they haven’t been able to put enough shooting around Udoka Azubuike.

Kentucky was a mess early in the year, but they seem to have righted the ship of late. The likes of Louisville, Florida and Memphis, the trendy teams in the preseason, have all had a rough go of it through the first two months. There are some really, really good basketball teams, but no one has really set themselves a part from the rest.

That said …

2. … DUKE MIGHT ACTUALLY BE ELITE

The Blue Devils have a home loss to Stephen F. Austin on their resume, and that is something that is hard for anyone — including myself — to truly look past. But even with that loss to their name, they have started to set themselves a part from the field as Vernon Carey and Tre Jones have both played like All-Americans.

As of today, Duke is the only team ranked in the top five of both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency, according to KenPom. In fact, they are the only team to be ranked in the top ten of both. There are only three other teams ranked in the top 20 of both metrics — Baylor, Kansas and Louisville.

The key has been that Duke’s wings are starting to figure things out. Cassius Stanley has been a really solid role player for the entire season to date. Matthew Hurt and Joey Baker are starting to hit shots. Jordan Goldwire understands his role and thrives in it. The same can be said for Jack White and Javin DeLaurier.

Think about it like this: The gap between Duke and the No. 2 team in KenPom’s rankings is only slightly less than the difference between Kentucky and Wisconsin, the No. 2 team on KenPom, in the final 2015 ranking.

As odd as this feels to say, with the Blue Devils ranked third, we might actually be undervaluing them on the market. Duke could very well be this year’s elite team …

3. … BUT NORTH CAROLINA AND VIRGINIA ARE, DEFINITIVELY, NOT ELITE

Virginia, coming off of a national title, might actually be the worst offense I’ve ever seen on a college basketball court.

That is, of course, hyperbole, but the ‘Hoos are currently sitting at 229th in adjusted offensive efficiency. They are one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the country, and I am not sure that there is an end in sight. I guess losing three NBA players hurt to early entry hurt them.

The same can be said about North Carolina, who lost Coby White, Cam Johnson and Nassir Little, not to mention Kenny Williams and Luke Make, this past offseason, and while they did bring in Cole Anthony, he’s been hurt. The result of his absence? Three straight losses at home, the latter of which came against Clemson, who was 0-59 in the 94 seasons that they have played in Chapel Hill.

That’s absolutely brutal, but it’s not all Roy’s fault. And no, he should not be fired.

(Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

4. JAMES WISEMAN QUIT, COLE ANTHONY IS HURT AND ANTHONY EDWARDS IS IRRELEVANT

Another reason college basketball is weird this year is that we didn’t get the influx of elite freshmen we usually do. Anthony is one of two extremely-highly touted freshmen that has missed a significant amount of time this year, and he could end up sitting out the rest of the season like James Wiseman, who was suspended for 12 games for what turned into an absolute roller coaster of an NCAA infractions case. Wiseman eventually quit on Memphis midway through a suspension and has since signed with an agent.

Those are two of the guys that were considered must-see TV in this freshmen class. The third, Georgia’s Anthony Edwards, is still living off of that one insane half he had against Michigan State.

When 87 underclassmen declare for the NBA draft in the same season that a down freshmen class has four of their top five players — Wiseman, Anthony, LaMelo Ball and R.J. Hampton — either not playing or playing outside of the college sports structure, that is going to lead to some weird things happening.

5. THERE ARE GOOD TEAMS FROM OFF THE BEATEN PATH THAT HAVE A CHANCE TO MAKE HISTORY

  • BAYLOR: The Bears are very much a national title contender this year as Scott Drew’s masterpiece has come to life. This team is just so balanced and difficult to beat. They have elite guard play — Jared Butler and MaCio Teague, specficially — and shoot as well as anyone. They absolutely pound the offensive glass. They have the size to deal with anyone inside in Freddie Gillespie and a four in Mark Vital that is, at the same time, able to guard bigs and smalls and one of the best offensive rebounders in the country. They’re elite defensively. The Bears are, legitimately, a national title favorite this season.
  • BUTLER: LaVall Jordan has certainly proved himself worthy of the Butler job. This is probably the best Bulldog team that we have ever seen, and that includes the teams that reached the national title game. Kamar Baldwin can take over games when they need to be taken over, there is size an versatility up front, they have shot-makers on the wings and Jordan has proven himself to be an elite game-planner that blows up whatever a team tries to run against him. The best team in the Big East.
  • DAYTON: I love this Flyers squad. They are loaded with shooters, they play five-out, they have a coach that spent two seasons on Billy Donovan’s staff in the NBA and they have Obi Toppin, who is absolutely the best small-ball five that anyone could ask for at the college level. The Flyers are a fun watch and they have arguably the best player in college basketball.
  • SAN DIEGO STATE: It took me a while to come around on the Aztecs, but they’re legit. Malachi Flynn is an All-American at the point, they can really get out and guard and there is enough shooting up and down the roster to create problems for teams like Iowa, Creighton, BYU and Utah. There is a real chance SDSU is undefeated entering the NCAA tournament.
  • WEST VIRGINIA: This team is not Press Virginia, but they are very, very good. It starts with a front court of Oscar Tshiebwe and Derek Culver, who make up the best offensive rebounding duo in college basketball. They’ve become the best defensive team in the sport, according to KenPom, and Miles McBride’s development into a go-to scorer has made the Mountaineers a real threat to win the Big 12.
  • SETON HALL: Myles Powell’s absence allowed Seton Hall’s supporting cast to gain the confidence they need to make the Pirates a very dangerous team moving forward. They are a top ten defense in America, they have two literal Monstars roaming the paint and there are myriad athletic perimeter players that get out and pressure defensively. They are not fun to play against, and that’s before you factor in that Powell can win a game all by himself.

6. VILLANOVA IS NO LONGER THE CLASS OF THE BIG EAST

Villanova has absolutely dominated the conference over the course of the last six seasons, but they are no longer the best team in the league. That title goes to Butler as of today, and there’s an argument to be made that Seton Hall is better than the Wildcats as well.

And that’s not a shot at Villanova. Jay Wright’s club is still young and still working through a regeneration after losing a couple of guys to the NBA earlier than expected. Collin Gillespie has low-key developed into one of the best point guards in the country, and Saddiq Bey has turned himself into a guy that is going to get plenty of NBA attention. On the nights their threes are falling, Villanova can hang with anyone.

But they are not the best team in their league.

7. THE BIG TEN IS AN ABSOLUTE BLOODBATH

The depth of the Big Ten is absolutely insane this season. As of this moment, 12 of the 14 teams in the conference are rated somewhere between 12th and 41st in the NET. In KenPom, those same teams are ranked between fifth and 38th. Road teams are just 5-32 in the 37 conference games that have been played to date. Ohio State — who ranks 16th in the NET, 17th in KenPom and who was No. 1 in KenPom on Dec. 21st — is currently sitting at 13th in the league standings after losing four straight games because none of those four losses comes even remotely close to being a bad loss.

What this means is that evaluating and differentiating between these teams is going to be a nightmare. They are all good. They are all going to win a lot of home games because winning on the road in league play is something that only elite teams do and there may not be a single elite team in the entire country, let alone in the Big Ten. Think about this: Big Ten road teams are 5-32 in league play this season.

5-32!

So what you are going to see are a lot of weeks where things like this happen: Minnesota beats Michigan at home after losing at Michigan State, who got blown out in Mackey Arena by Purdue just three days after the Boilermakers lost at Michigan.

If all of these teams defend their home court and avoid too many losses to Nebraska and Northwestern, I don’t think it’s crazy to think that there are 12 Big Ten teams that can get to the NCAA tournament.

(Duane Burleson/Getty Images)

8. … BUT THERE MAY NOT BE A NATIONAL TITLE CONTENDER IN THE CONFERENCE

There are so many good big men in the Big Ten that it is astounding.

Xavier Tillman. Luka Garza. Kaleb Wesson. Daniel Oturu. Jon Teske and Isaiah Livers. Kofi Cockburn. Jalen Smith. Micah Potter and Nate Reuvers. Matt Haarms and Trevion Williams. Mike Watkins. Myles Johnson.

That is an insane level of frontcourt talent for one conference. Good luck trying to pick an all-Big Ten team.

But what is equally as insane is the fact that there really isn’t much in the way of elite guard play in the league. Cassius Winston is a beast, we all know this, but he was just put in a straight jacket by Purdue. And beyond him, who scares you? Zavier Simpson is a solid player. Anthony Cowan has some potential, but over the years he’s basically proven that he is what he is. Ayo Dosunmu isn’t really a point guard. Is there anyone else that I’m missing?

This is a big deal because, if you look at all of the teams that won titles in the last decade, only one of them didn’t start two point guards — the 2012 Kentucky team that had the top two picks in the NBA Draft, including Anthony Davis.

Does anyone in the Big Ten have that kind of lead guard play outside of Sparty?

9. THE WEST COAST IS BACK

The last time that a team west of Lawrence, Kansas, won the national title came all the way back in 1997, when Lute Olson and the Arizona Wildcats cut down the nets.

It looks like there are a couple of teams that are going to be able to make runs deep into March.

Let’s start with Oregon, who tops what is a much-improved Pac-12 this season. The Ducks, led by potential National Player of the Year point guard Payton Pritchard, are dangerous even if they are lacking the ideal pieces that Dana Altman would like on his roster. Arizona is probably the most talented team in the conference with three potential lottery picks on the floor in Nico Mannion, Josh Green and Zeke Nnaji, but they have been inconsistent this season, especially away from home. Colorado is good. Washington was good before they lost their point guard. Even USC and Stanford have enough talent to be relevant.

But here’s the kicker: the two-best teams on the West Coast are not a part of the Pac-12. Gonzaga is currently ranked No. 1 in the country, and deservedly so. Filip Petrusev, Joel Ayayi and Corey Kispert have become one of the best 1-2-3 punches in college hoops, while San Diego State has proven themselves worthy of top two-seed consideration in the NCAA tournament.

I’m not sure any of these teams will win the title, but there are (at least) four programs that are good enough to get to a Final Four.

10. KENTUCKY SHOOK OFF EARLY SEASON STRUGGLES BUT IS NOT THE FAVORITE IN THE SEC

It took a while for us to get to this point, but as Nick Richards and Immanuel Quickley continued to turn into Kentucky’s star center and sharpshooter, respectively, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that Coach Cal has worked his magic again. With Tyrese Maxey and Ashton Hagans providing the Wildcats with arguably the best backcourt in the country, this is a team that can absolutely get hot in March if, for no other reason, than the fact that they have clearly not his their ceiling yet.

But they are not the best team in the SEC.

Auburn, who is one of just two undefeated teams left in America, is, as Bruce Pearl continues to build the Tigers into a juggernaut. Isaac Okoro has been one of the top five freshmen in college basketball this season, while the likes of J’Von McCormick and Samir Doughty have both taken significant steps forward.

11. THE PLAYER OF THE YEAR RACE IS AS WIDE-OPEN AS I’VE EVER SEEN IT

Generally speaking, at this point in the season we tend to know who is going to be the favorite to win the National Player of the Year award and who is going to be the guy that has a shot to chase him down.

Last season, it was Zion. We knew the first game of the season that he would be battling R.J. Barrett for the award, and by the third week of the season, we knew who was going to be winning the award. The year before that, Trae Young established himself as the clear-cut favorite with a torrid November before Jalen Brunson’s play down the stretch earned him the consensus Player of the Year title. In 2017, Frank Mason moved to the front of the line with two terrific performances in the first five days of the season and never relinquished his hold on the award.

And on and on and on.

This year, none of that has happened. We released a preliminary Player of the Year update last week, and it mostly holds true today. Obi Toppin and Payton Pritchard are probably the two leaders as of this moment. Vernon Carey has a chance to win the award because he is the best player on the best team in the country. Markus Howard is putting up insane scoring numbers, but he may not even be the best player in his own league.

Someone is going to have to win the award at the end of the day, and I have feeling that when the time comes to make the decision, it is going to be nowhere near consensus.

12. AND THE COACH OF THE YEAR RACE IS GOING TO BE JUST AS BONKERS

There are so many really, really good candidates for Coach of the Year this year.

Take, for example, Scott Drew, who lost three starters from last year’s team, has yet to get Tristan Clark back to full health and may end up having the best team in college basketball. Bob Huggins has a chance to go from worst to first in the Big 12, and he’s the clear No. 2 in that league’s Coach of the Year pecking order.

Butler’s LaVall Jordan, who was picked eighth in the Big East and is trending towards a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Anthony Grant has done wonders at Dayton, as has Brian Dutcher at San Diego State. Bruce Pearl deserves serious consideration for the award considering what he lost this offseason. Leonard Hamilton has surprised everyone with how good Florida State has been. Mark Few lost four pros from last year’s team and has a chance to win a national title this year.

I cannot remember a season with this many really good Coach of the Year candidates.

13. THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENED IN A COLLEGE BASKETBALL GAME

14. THIS DID, TOO

15. THINGS ARE GOING TO GET WEIRD

So buckle up and enjoy the ride.

Jackson-Davis, No. 21 Indiana beat Edey, No. 1 Purdue 79-74

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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Trayce Jackson-Davis returned to Indiana so he could celebrate a banner season.

On Saturday, the fourth-year forward added another big piece to his legacy.

He scored 25 points and then watched Jalen Hood-Schifino break free for the clinching dunk with 2 seconds left to give No. 21 Indiana a 79-74 victory over No. 1 Purdue – and a quick storming of the court.

It’s the fourth time the Hoosiers have beaten the nation’s top-ranked team at Assembly Hall, and the first since upsetting Michigan almost exactly 10 years earlier.

“I just think it’s a toughness factor,” Jackson-Davis said, explaining why this team is different. “I feel like teams in the past that I’ve been on just weren’t that tough, honestly. We’ve kind of played with a chip on our shoulders since we got punked by Rutgers and we’ve kind of found our niche and that’s what we’re doing.’

The only guy that’s been even close to Jackson-Davis’ productivity over the past month has been Purdue’s Zach Edey, who had 33 points and 18 rebounds.

But it was Jackson-Davis who walked away with his sixth win in seven games by moving within 16 points of becoming the first Indiana player to ever score 2,000 and grab 1,000 rebounds. He finished with seven rebounds and five blocks, becoming the first player to have 25 points and five blocks against a No. 1-ranked team since Marcus Camby in November 1995 against Kentucky.

Fittingly, Jackson-Davis and the Hoosiers (16-7, 7-5 Big Ten) celebrated with their fellow students, who rekindled memories of Christian Watford’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer to beat No. 1 Kentucky in December 2010. And this time, the fans lingered on the court long after the final buzzer as they pumped fists and danced to the sweet sounds emanating from the pep band.

It marked the first time in the 216-game series Purdue (22-2, 11-2) was ranked No. 1.

“They were our sixth man honestly and we fed off of it,” Jackson-Davis said. “That was the most electric crowd since I’ve been here. They really helped us.”

But Indiana also played pretty well, forcing 16 turnovers and shooting 52.6% from the field against a defense that had held 24 consecutive opponents to 70 or fewer points. It won despite getting outrebounded 38-22 and nearly blowing a 16-point lead.

The 7-foot-4 Edey positioned Purdue for the charge by scoring eight of Purdue’s first 10 second-half points to cut a 15-point deficit to nine. He then added the final six points in a 12-4 spurt that make it 67-65 with 5:40 to play. And when Braden Smith’s layup made it 71-70 with 2:03 left, even Boilermakers coach Matt Painter sensed the fans’ angst.

“If you can flip that or tie it or take the lead there, it’s just a different feeling,” he said. “It’s really hard to overcome that, the air kind of goes out of it, things get quiet in your own arena.”

Instead, the Hoosiers forced three turnovers and eventually closed it out with four free throws, a layup from Hood-Schifino and the dunk off a perfectly designed inbound pass from second-year coach Mike Woodson, who has won both home meetings against Indiana’s archrival.

“I didn’t know the play was going to go that way, obviously,” said Hood-Schifino, who had 16 points. “But in the last timeout, I told coach I’m going to get this last bucket, so I was happy.”

BIG PICTURE

Purdue: Even on an uncharacteristic day, the Boilermakers showed why they are the nation’s top team. The matchup with Edey is so difficult, Purdue can exploit it at will.

Indiana: The Hoosiers did everything they needed early – making shots, ramping up the pace and making life generally difficult for the Boilermakers. And down the stretch they showed the mettle of a team that was the preseason conference favorite.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Purdue entered the day with a nine-game winning streak and as the only one-loss team in Division I, so another loss may not knock them out of the top spot. Indiana, which reappeared Monday in the Top 25, has solidified its spot despite losing earlier this week at Maryland.

SPECIAL MOMENTS

Indiana Athletics Hall of Fame radio announcer Don Fischer was honored at halftime for calling his 50th season of play-by-play. He’s tied for the fourth-longest active tenure in Division I basketball with Kevin McKinney of Wyoming. Then during the final media timeout, the Hoosiers thanked ESPN color analyst Dick Vitale with a video tribute to his career. Vitale stood and waved to the crowd in appreciation.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Returns home Thursday against Iowa.

Indiana: Hosts Rutgers on Tuesday.

Alabama coach Nate Oats gets new 6-year, $30 million deal

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama coach Nate Oats has agreed to a new six-year, $30 million contract amid the program’s best regular season in decades.

Oats will average $5 million plus incentives over the deal running through the 2028-29 season under a deal approved by the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees Compensation Committee.

It makes him the fourth-highest paid basketball coach in the Southeastern Conference and among the Top 10 nationally, athletic director Greg Byrne said.

Oats, who is in his fourth season, will make $4.5 million for the first year with $200,000 annual raises. The fourth-ranked Crimson Tide (19-3, 9-0 SEC) has the team’s highest ranking this deep into a season since 1976-77.

“I am honored and humbled to receive a contract extension from the University of Alabama,” Oats said in a statement. “As I have said many times, my family and I love this community, the city of Tuscaloosa and the university.

“I am incredibly proud of what we have been able to build during our time at UA which is a direct reflection of the student-athletes, coaches and staff who have all played a big part in our success. I am excited for what’s happening in the future of our program and the direction we are heading.”

Alabama has gone 80-39 under Oats, winning the 2021 SEC regular season and tournament championships.

“Coach Oats has done an outstanding job leading our men’s basketball program, and we want him to continue doing so for many years to come,” Byrne said in a statement. “He and his staff have lifted the program back to national prominence and built a product that is exciting to be a part of for our team and for our fans.

“We were confident Nate was going to be an outstanding coach for us when we hired him, and he is not only that, but also a great leader of our young men.”

The new contract comes nearly three weeks after Alabama basketball player Darius Miles and another man were charged with capital murder following a fatal shooting near campus. Miles, a reserve forward, was removed from the team and suspended from the university following his arrest.

Duke women’s coach Kara Lawson says men’s ball used vs. FSU

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Duke coach Kara Lawson said her team played with a men’s basketball for the first half of a loss to Florida Stated.

The 16th-ranked Blue Devils lost to the Seminoles 70-57 in Tallahassee, Florida – the team’s second Atlantic Coast Conference loss of the season.

After her team beat Pittsburgh 53-44 , Lawson ended her news conference by speaking animatedly.

“This would never happen in a men’s game. This would never happen. It’s embarrassing for our sport,” she said.

The circumference of a women’s ball is about an inch smaller than a men’s ball and it is typically 2 ounces lighter. While it may not seem like a lot, that’s a big difference.

Lawson said throughout the first half, Duke players were “complaining about the ball.” The Blue Devils were 7 for 34 from the field in the opening 20 minutes of that game. They were 12 for 38 in the second half. Florida State made 10 of its 30 shots in the first two quarters and 14 of 31 in the second half.

“To have a game that, at the end of the season, could be the difference between a seed, between a title, my players don’t deserve that and neither do their players,” Lawson said. “It’s a complete failure. And you can figure out who the people I’m talking about that failed the sport and our players and both teams.”

Lawson said assistant coach Winston Gandy went to the scorer’s table at the half to check on the ball when he realized what the problem was. She said the game officials changed the ball to start the second half.

“We have concluded through our investigation that it was a men’s ball,” Lawson said. “The conference and Florida State is saying that it wasn’t.”

The ACC said it did a comprehensive review talking with game officials, administrators, the table crew and both schools.

“Following the thorough and objective review process, there was no evidence found to support the claim,” the conference said in a statement. “Per NCAA playing rules, there is no appeal or protest process.”

The ACC has instituted a procedural change that the game ball will be brought to the pregame meeting with the captains for approval.

“It’s very frustrating that (the game) … was not treated with the utmost respect that players on both teams deserve,” she said.

This wasn’t the first time this has happened in women’s basketball. In 2017, the College of Charleston played home games and practiced with men’s balls for most of its season until the error was was discovered.

“Let me be clear: Florida State beat us. They beat us playing with a men’s ball in the first half and a women’s ball in the second half. But I can’t say if we’d have played with a women’s ball in the first half and the second half that we would have won. But they can’t say that either,” Lawson said.

No. 1 South Carolina wins 28th straight 87-69 over ‘Cats

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COLUMBIA, S.C. — Dawn Staley’s pleased South Carolina had made its once-lopsided series with UConn more competitive the past few years.

She hopes her top-ranked team can accomplish another milestone when the teams meet for a top-five showdown on Sunday.

“It still stands true that we haven’t won up there,” Staley said.

Aliyah Boston had 14 points and 14 rebounds as South Carolina prepared for the top-five showdown with an 87-69 victory over Kentucky on Thursday night.

The Gamecocks (10-0 Southeastern Conference) improved to 22-0 and won their 28th straight, a run that included a 64-49 victory over the Huskies in Minneapolis last April to win the national championship.

Staley had lost her first seven games as South Carolina coach against UConn. The Gamecocks have won three of the past four matchups since.

“This particular class committed to each other,” Staley said. “When you have that type of commitment and you just want to win, you find yourself winning some games that you haven’t won before.”

Against Kentucky, reigning AP player of the year Boston extended her school mark with her 75th career double-double and moved within 11 of the SEC record of 86 games with a double-double held by LSU great Sylvia Fowles.

Things weren’t perfect for South Carolina, which fell behind early, then had its 15-point halftime lead cut to 54-48 midway through the third quarter.

Still, its dominant inside game – South Carolina outscored the Wildcats 62-14 in the paint – was more than enough to shut down Kentucky (10-12, 2-8), the last team to defeat the defending national champions at the SEC Tournament last March.

The Wildcats went on top 16-15 after a pair of baskets by Adebola Adeyeye.

That’s when South Carolina, fueled by its bench, took control with a 17-2 run. Ashlyn Watkins had three inside shots and Kamilla Cardoso scored four points during the surge.

The Wildcats used a 13-4 burst to start the third quarter to give South Carolina a few uncomfortable moments. But the Gamecocks got going once more with an 11-0 run to extend their margin.

Cardoso, the 6-foot-7 reserve, had 14 points and five of South Carolina’s 14 blocks. Defensive ace Brea Beal had 10 including both of the Gamecocks’ 3-pointers.

Beal thought the team held together well to blunt Kentucky’s runs and regain control. “I think it’s our mental aspect of the game and us believing in each other,” she said.

Robyn Benton had 24 points to lead Kentucky, which has lost three of its past four games.

Wildcats coach Kyra Elzy said South Carolina is difficult to match up with because of its deep bench. “They have depth after depth after depth,” she said. “They keep coming.”

BIG PICTURE

Kentucky: The Wildcats are the not the same team that featured two-time SEC player of the year Rhyne Howard the past few seasons. They have 10 newcomers – and six freshmen – who are still learning how to play against the SEC’s top teams like South Carolina.

South Carolina: Forgive the Gamecocks if their focus wasn’t fully on this one at first with a big week ahead. In an eight-game span, South Carolina will face No. 5 UConn and No. 3 LSU, a pair of high-profile games could expose any flaw – or show how powerful the Gamecocks are in chasing a second straight NCAA crown.

UCONN KARMA

South Carolina has opened 22-0 twice under coach Dawn Staley, in 2014-15 and the following year. Both runs ended against UConn. Next up for Gamecocks are the Huskies, although South Carolina has won three of the past four games over UConn including last April’s 64-49 victory to win the NCAA Tournament title.

UP NEXT

Kentucky returns home to face Alabama on Feb. 9.

South Carolina heads to No. 5 UConn on Sunday.

Miles, Citron lead No. 9 Irish past Boston College 72-59

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BOSTON — Olivia Miles and Sonia Citron had already scored 10 straight points to put away Boston College when they turned their attention to other things.

“I told Sonia I needed two more assists for the double-double. And she was like, `All right, I’ve got you,”‘ Miles said after helping No. 9 Notre Dame beat BC 72-59 on Thursday night.

“That’s just kind of our communication on the court,” said Miles, who found Citron for baskets on the next two Irish possessions to complete a 14-0 run – with all 14 points from Miles and Citron. “We just really play off each other really well.

Miles scored 22 points with 10 assists and eight rebounds, and Citron scored 23 for the Irish (18-2, 9-1 Atlantic Coast Conference).

Maria Gakdeng scored 16 points, T’Yana Todd had 13 and Andrea Daly scored 10 with eight rebounds for BC (14-11, 4-8). The Irish beat BC at home 85-48 on New Year’s Day but hadn’t won in Chestnut Hill since 2019.

“This is such a tough place to play,” said Notre Dame coach Niele Ivey, whose team faces No. 16 Duke next. “We’ll celebrate it until about 12:30, and then we’ve got film. Tomorrow we start focusing on Duke.”

BC came within five points, 55-50, before the Irish ran off 14 points in a row – nine by Citron, and five by Miles. That put an end to what had been a back-and-forth game in which the Irish opened big leads and then frittered them away.

“I always feel like we’re close,” BC coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee said. “They’re young; I think consistency comes with experience.

“I think it’s a big improvement from the first time we played Notre Dame,” she said. “I still want to see more, and I want to see us grow up as fast as humanly possible because I think we do have a dangerous team when we going well.”

Notre Dame led by 11 in the first quarter and held a 38-30 lead with two minutes gone in the third. BC scored 13 of the next 18 points, capitalizing on back-to-back Irish turnovers to tie it 43-all with three minutes left in the quarter.

But Natalija Marshall put back the rebound of her own miss, Miles drove to the basket, Maddy Westbeld added a pair of baskets and then Miles stole the ball and found Citron on the fast break to make it 53-43.

BIG PICTURE

Notre Dame bounced back from their first league loss of the season, a 69-65 defeat at North Carolina State on Sunday. Now they face No. 16 Duke.

The Eagles, who beat Pittsburgh on Sunday to snap a five-game losing streak, were looking for their second victory over a Top 25 team this season, having also beaten then-No. 10 N.C. State on Jan. 5.

UP NEXT

Notre Dame: Hosts No. 16 Duke on Sunday.

Boston College: Visits Syracuse on Sunday.