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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.

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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.

Bubble Banter: It’s that time of year again!

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It’s getting to be that time of year.

Bubble Banter is back, baby!

Over the course of the next three days, we are going to be diving headlong into bubble chatter right here, breaking down every single team that is on or near the bubble for the NCAA tournament Field of 68. This, of course, is according to our Dave Ommen, who sent me a list of all the bubble teams. Our cut-off, at least for this conversation, is teams that currently sit as a No. 9 seed or better in the most recent bracket that we released.

Why?

Because — with the notable exception of Ohio State — it is difficult to see how any of those teams can end up out of the NCAA tournament before our next bracket projection gets published on Monday.

So, you know, they’re not currently on the bubble.

Anyway, come back throughout the weekend to see who the winners and the losers are and what it means for their standing in regards to the cut line.

FRIDAY

Wisconsin at PURDUE, 7:00 p.m.
YALE at Brown, 7:00 p.m.

SATURDAY

VCU at La Salle, 12:00 p.m.
PITT at SYRACUSE, 12:00 p.m.
ST. JOHN’S at DEPAUL, 2:00 p.m.
VIRGINIA TECH at Boston College, 2:00 p.m.
LSU at TEXAS, 2:00 p.m.
OKLAHOMA at MISSISSIPPI STATE, 2:00 p.m.
RHODE ISLAND at St. Bonaventure, 3:00 p.m.
UNCG at Samford, 3:00 p.m.
AKRON at Ohio, 3:30 p.m.
LIBERTY at Stetson, 4:00 p.m.
Chattanooga at EAST TENNESSEE STATE, 4:00 p.m.
N.C. STATE at Georgia Tech, 4:00 p.m.
SMU at MEMPHIS, 4:00 p.m.
TENNESSEE at No. 3 Kansas, 4:00 p.m.
BYU at San Francisco, 5:00 p.m.
No. 7 Dayton at RICHMOND, 6:00 p.m.
No. 15 Kentucky at No. 18 TEXAS TECH, 6:00 p.m.
Kansas State at ALABAMA, 6:00 p.m.
Washington State at UTAH, 7:00 p.m.
NOTRE DAME at No. 5 Florida State, 8:00 p.m.
SAINT MARY’S at LMU, 9:00 p.m.
WASHINGTON at No. 23 Colorado, 9:00 p.m.
No. 22 Arizona at ARIZONA STATE, 9:30 p.m.
Colorado State at UTAH STATE, 10:00 p.m.

SUNDAY

VIRGINIA at Wake Forest, 12:00 p.m.
No. 11 Michigan State at MINNESOTA, 3:00 p.m.
Fordham at SAINT LOUIS, 3:00 p.m.
XAVIER at Creighton, 4:00 p.m.
Loyola-Chicago at NORTHERN IOWA, 4:00 p.m.
OHIO STATE at Northwestern, 6:30 p.m.

Best Bets: Previewing Baylor-Florida, Texas Tech-Kentucky

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As always, the Vegas lines are not out for the weekend games, so we will be breaking them down using KenPom, Torvik and Haslametric projections.

FRIDAY

MARQUETTE at No. 13 BUTLER, 9:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Butler 72, Marquette 66
  • TORVIK: Butler 72, Marquette 66
  • HASLAM: Butler 71, Marquette 64
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: Butler 70, Marquette 64

In theory, this is an ideal buy-low spot for Butler. They are coming off of three straight losses, the last two of which came on the road. The loss at DePaul was a bad matchup, and the loss at Villanova was a result of Sean McDermott and Jordan Tucker shooting a combined 1-for-12 from three until the final minute of a 15-point loss.

Marquette, on the other hand, is in a prime sell-high spot. The Golden Eagles have won three in a row. Two of them came at home and the third was at Georgetown, a team that is down to just seven scholarship players. Trying to predict the nights that Markus Howard doesn’t score 30-plus is more or less impossible, but I do think that it is worth noting Butler is 12th nationally in defensive three-point field goal percentage and has a couple of quality perimeter defenders they can throw at him.

BEST BET: The logic says to bet Butler here. The problem is that, at Butler (-6) or (-6.5), I don’t think we’re buying Butler low or selling Marquette high. KenPom and Torvik both have the line at (-6) while Haslam has it at (-7). I was hoping to get it at (-5) or lower, which is unfortunate. Either way, if I’m going to be betting this game — which, let’s be honest, is probably going to happen — it will be with Butler.

Oh, and Butler is unveiling Butler IV, their new puppy, tonight. Never fade the puppy play.

SATURDAY

No. 15 KENTUCKY at No. 18 TEXAS TECH, 6:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Texas Tech 67, Kentucky 64
  • TORVIK: Texas Tech 67, Kentucky 64
  • HASLAM: Texas Tech 69, Kentucky 63
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: N/A

The more I think about this, the more I like the Texas Tech side here. I do think that the Red Raiders have one of the best coaching staffs when it comes to developing and instituting a game-plan. That’s a problem for a Kentucky team that tends to be fairly limited in what they run offensively. Put another way, Kentucky tends to figure out what works for them and run it over and over and over again. Their playbook shrinks as the season progresses, and that’s the kind of thing that Chris Beard and Mark Adams can take advantage of.

This is also a good buy-low spot for Texas Tech, considering that they are coming home off of a loss at TCU.

On the other side of the ball, I do worry about Texas Tech’s ability to create offense. They have struggled on that end, and I don’t think they actually have the front court pieces to be able to pull Nick Richards out of the paint.

BEST BETS: I’ll be curious to see where the line opens up here. I lean Texas Tech at anything (-4) and below, and I hope that the Kentucky effect can push that line much lower. I also will be on the under. If I think Texas Tech will have trouble to score, and Kentucky will have trouble to score, it only makes sense.

No. 1 BAYLOR at FLORIDA, 6:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Baylor 65, Florida 64
  • TORVIK: Baylor 65, Florida 63
  • HASLAM: Baylor 65, Florida 64
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: N/A

Baylor feels like they’re due for a loss, right?

They needed to erase a 12-point second half deficit at Oklahoma State last weekend. On Monday night, they nearly had Austin Reaves hitting a three in the final seconds to give Oklahoma a win in Waco. And now they are heading back out on the road to take on a Florida team that has been better of late?

Here’s to hoping that this line gets inflated because of the number next to Baylor’s name.

I also believe that the under is in play here. Baylor is one of the nation’s best defensive teams. Florida has not been as good on that end of the floor of late, but they, too, have shown flashes of being able to guard. They also matchup well with the Bears. But more importantly, I don’t believe that either of these teams are going to try and push the tempo. Florida has shown a frustrating determination to play possession by possession this season, while the Bears rank 269th in average offensive possession length.

BEST BET: I’ll be targeting the Florida ML here, particularly if the Gators end up getting points, but taking the under seems like the best play in this game.

No. 8 VILLANOVA at PROVIDENCE, 12:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Villanova 70, Providence 68
  • TORVIK: Providence 70, Villanova 69
  • HASLAM: Villanova 68, Providence 66
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: N/A

It’s not going to feel comfortable, but this feels like a good spot to take Providence. Villanova has won five in a row and 11 of their last 12, but their last four games have been played at home. They’ve failed to cover in two of their last three games and are just 1-3 against the spread on the road this season.

Providence has lost back-to-back games on the road, covering the spread in both games, and have covered in six of their last eight games.

BEST BET: I’ll be on the Providence side, but whether I take the Providence ML or take the points will depend on what the line opens up at.

No. 21 ILLINOIS at MICHIGAN, 12:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Michigan 71, Illinois 68
  • TORVIK: Michigan 71, Illinois 68
  • HASLAM: Michigan 71, Illinois 69
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: N/A

The logic here is going to be exceedingly simple: Illinois is as hot as any team in the country right now. They’ve won five straight games, including wins at Wisconsin and at Purdue, the latter of which was by 17 points. Michigan, on the other hand, has not been the same team since they lost Isaiah Livers to a groin injury and, since January 1st, they’ve ranked 127th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to Torvik.

BEST BET: I’ll be all over the Illinois ML, especially if this line opens up at Illinois (+3).

TENNESSEE at No. 3 KANSAS, 4:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Kansas 68, Tennessee 54
  • TORVIK: Kansas 68, Tennessee 54
  • HASLAM: Kansas 70, Tennessee 50
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: N/A

Kansas ranks No. 1 nationally in adusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom. They’re third in Torvik’s rating system. Since Lamonte Turner saw his season come to an end, Tennessee has ranked 251st nationally if adjusted offensive efficiency. The one point guard on their roster, freshman Santiago Vescovi, is averaging 5.0 turnovers per game despite playing just 24.5 minutes — to be fair, he had 21 turnovers in his first three games and has had just nine in the last three.

BEST BETS: I think Kansas rolls here after a week of hearing how bad they are because of Tuesday night’s fight.

SUNDAY

No. 17 MARYLAND at INDIANA, 1:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Maryland 67, Indiana 66
  • TORVIK: Indiana 67, Maryland 65
  • HASLAM: Maryland 66, Indiana 64
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: N/A

Maryland is 1-4 on the road this season. Their one win came at Northwestern in a game where they trailed by 14 points in the first half. The Terps might be the worst road team in the Big Ten, a league where road teams have been terrible this season.

BEST BET: If Indiana is getting points, take the ML. I also will be interested in betting the Indiana first half line. Fade Turgeon is in full effect this weekend.

No. 11 MICHIGAN STATE at MINNESOTA, 3:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Michigan State 72, Minnesota 71
  • TORVIK: Michigan State 72, Minnesota 71
  • HASLAM: Michigan State 72, Minnesota 70
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: N/A

This is a tough spot for me. Michigan State has not been great away from East Lansing this season and they are coming off of a road loss at Indiana on Thursday night. That said, their loss came after erasing a 16-point first half deficit in a game where Xavier Tillman missed a wide-open layup that would have forced overtime.

BEST BET: I will be staying away from this game.

Kentucky’s Kahlil Whitney is leaving school

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Kentucky will be down a five-star recruit for the rest of the season.

Kahlil Whitney, who was the No. 11 prospect in the Class of 2019, according to 247 Sports’ composite ranking, announced on Friday that he will be leaving the Kentucky program.

“My time at Kentucky has not gone as I had hoped,” Whitney wrote in a statement released on his twitter page, “and I therefore need to make a difficult decision quickly to put myself back in to the best position possible as I continue to develop and work towards my ultimate goal.

“I’ve realized since high school that the business of basketball waits for no one, and sometimes tough choices need to be made in order to progress.”

Whitney was a starter early on in the season for the Wildcats, but he has been relegated to a limited role off the bench since league play started. He’s averaged 3.3 points in less than 13 minutes. In the last seven games he’s averaging just 6.1 minutes.

Whitney’s statement does not mention transferring, but if he did opt to head to a different school, he will not be eligible to play until 2021-22 without a waiver.

Bracketology: The top seeds remain in place

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Here is the latest NCAA tournament bracketology projection.

It’s been a while since we could say this:  All four No. 1 seeds remained in place between bracket updates: Baylor, Gonzaga, Kansas and San Diego State.

Elsewhere, more than a handful of teams still have significant resume questions.  And several current bubble teams have important showdowns this weekend – including key matchups in the Big 12 / SEC Challenge.

On a closing note … remember that the Selection Committee evaluates a team’s entire profile, from beginning to end.  How a team performed in its last ten games is no longer an official criteria (although each Committee member may have his or her own perspective on its importance).  So while Ohio State and Michigan, as examples, have both struggled of late, each team’s early wins remain relevant considerations with regard to team sheet evaluation.

The latest look at where our NCAA tournament bracketology projection stands …

UPDATED: January 24, 2020

FIRST FOUR – DAYTON
EAST REGION Oklahoma vs. VCU
MIDWEST REGION Minnesota vs. Texas Tech
SOUTH REGION  PR VIEW AM vs. NORFOLK ST
WEST REGION MONMOUTH vs. ROBERT MORRIS

SOUTH Houston                  WEST – Los Angeles 
Omaha Spokane
1) BAYLOR 1) GONZAGA
16) PV-AM / NORFOLK ST 16) MONMOUTH / ROB MORRIS
8) USC 8) Wichita State
9) Michigan 9) Arkansas
St. Louis Sacramento
5) Butler 5) Arizona
12) EAST TENNESSEE ST 12) AKRON
4) Maryland 4) Iowa
13) S.F. AUSTIN 13) NEW MEXICO ST
Albany Greensboro
6) Wisconsin 6) Marquette
11) Virginia Tech 11) NC State
3) Villanova 3) West Virginia
14) COLGATE 14) LITTLE ROCK
Tampa Spokane
7) Rutgers 7) Indiana
10) Memphis 10) BYU
2) Florida State 2) Oregon
15) AUSTIN PEAY 15) UC-IRVINE
EAST – New York MIDWEST – Indianapolis
Sacramento Omaha
1) SAN DIEGO STATE 1) Kansas
16) WINTHROP 16) MONTANA
8) STANFORD 8) HOUSTON
9) Florida 9) Ohio State
Tampa Cleveland
5) Penn State 5) Creighton
12) LIBERTY 12) YALE
4) Kentucky 4) DAYTON
13) VERMONT 13) NORTH TEXAS
Greensboro St. Louis
6) Auburn 6) Colorado
11) Oklahoma / VCU 11) Minnesota / Texas Tech
3) Duke 3) LOUISVILLE
14) WRIGHT STATE 14) LOYOLA-CHICAGO
Albany Cleveland
7) Illinois 7) LSU
10) Saint Mary’s 10) DePaul
2) SETON HALL 2) MICHIGAN STATE
15) WILLIAM & MARY 15) SOUTH DAKOTA ST

BUBBLE NOTES
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Duarte’s 30 points leads No. 12 Oregon past USC 79-70 in double OT

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EUGENE, Ore. — Paying close attention paid off for Oregon’s Chris Duarte.

The junior guard had 30 points, 11 rebounds and eight steals, and the No. 12 Ducks outlasted Southern California 79-70 in double overtime Thursday night.

“I was watching the point guard’s eyes. I was watching everybody’s eyes. So I knew where they were going to pass the ball,” Duarte said. “So I took that as an advantage.”

Oregon teammate Payton Pritchard added 24 points and seven assists, becoming the first Pac-12 player to reach 1,500 career points, 600 assists and 500 rebounds. When the achievement was noted on the video scoreboard at Matthew Knight Arena in the second half, the crowd gave the senior guard a standing ovation.

Pritchard is the sixth player in Pac-12 history with 1,500 points and 600 assists, joining Oregon State’s Gary Payton, Arizona’s Damon Stoudamire and Jason Gardner, USC’s Jordan McLaughlin and UCLA’s Tyus Edney.

Oregon (16-4, 5-2) led by 11 in the second half but USC rallied with a 17-2 run to take a 62-58 lead, capped by Jonah Mathews’ 3-pointer with 1:24 left.

C.J. Walker and Pritchard hit consecutive layups to tie it at 62 and send the game to overtime.

Pritchard’s 3-pointer in the first extra period gave the Ducks a 65-64 lead, but Ethan Anderson’s layup and free throw put the Trojans up by two. Duarte made free throws for the Ducks to tie it again, and Mathews and Pritchard both missed shots down the stretch.

Duarte and Pritchard each hit a pair of free throws that gave Oregon a four-point advantage to open the second overtime. Duarte’s 3-pointer put the Ducks up 74-68, and USC couldn’t catch up.

Duarte’s eight steals were one shy of the school record.

“He was the difference in the game,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “No doubt about it.”

Onyeka Okongwu had 23 points and 14 rebounds for the Trojans (15-4, 4-2).

“You’ve got to take care of the ball. Some ill-timed passes that went to the other guys. We just have to make the right basketball play,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. “Give them credit, they’re a good defensive team.”

It was Oregon’s third overtime game in league play.

Oregon was coming off a 64-61 overtime win at Washington last weekend. The Ducks overcame a 16-point deficit and won it on Pritchard’s 3-pointer with 3.4 seconds left. But Oregon lost to Washington State 72-61 last Thursday, resulting in a fall from No. 8 to No. 12 in the AP Top 25.

USC had won nine of its last 10 games and three straight, including last Saturday’s 82-78 overtime victory against Stanford. The Trojans came back from a 21-point deficit in the second half to beat the Cardinal.

The Ducks built an early 15-7 lead after Duarte’s fast-break layup and 3-pointer. Oregon stayed in front, but USC closed to 24-23 on Daniel Utomi’s jumper.

The teams went to the break with Oregon ahead 32-30. Utomi led all scorers with 10 points.

Okongwu’s layup for USC tied it at 32 to start the second half but the Ducks responded with a 10-0 run, capped by Duarte’s jumper off a dish from Pritchard. Okongwu’s dunk ended the Trojans’ scoring drought.

Okongwu made consecutive baskets to pull USC to 56-53, and Matthews tied it with a 3-pointer to top off an 11-0 Trojans run. Pritchard answered with a layup for Oregon.

Freshman forward Chandler Lawson’s layup stretched the Ducks’ lead to 49-38 midway through the second half.

“A lot of things we’ve got to work on. But we got some defensive stops when we needed it, we got some big rebounds when we needed it, and just found a way to win the game,” Altman said. “We’ve been doing that too much, though. We’ve got to find a way to get our offense cranked a little bit.”

Lawson made his first start for the Ducks after he had 16 points and 12 rebounds against Washington. Oregon was without center N’Faly Dante, who was questionable for the game after hurting his knee against the Huskies.

Pritchard was one of just two Division I players averaging at least 19 points, five assists and four rebounds per game, joining Pepperdine’s Colbey Ross.

BIG PICTURE

USC: The Trojans started 4-1 in conference play for the first time since 2016. USC went 5-0 to open conference play in 2002. … Enfield said afterward that this loss stung. “We’ve played a few close games this year. We won three or four close ones,” he said. “We were right there and we lost. It hurts when you lose a game and have a chance.”

Oregon: Pritchard is closing in on Oregon’s career record of 614 assists held by Kenya Wilkins. … Pritchard has won 96 games as a Ducks player, one shy of Oregon’s career leader, Johnathan Lloyd. … Sabrina Ionescu, star guard for the No. 4 Oregon women, was at the game and was interviewed by the Pac-12 broadcast team during the first half.

UP NEXT

USC visits Oregon State on Saturday.

Oregon hosts UCLA on Sunday.