PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Tre Jones, Duke
Tre Jones went for 18 points, four assists and three boards in a win at Boston College on Tuesday night last week, a game that is both a referendum on just how inconsistent Duke has been this season and something that has been more or less erased from the consciousness of the American public. That’s because Jones went out and became the first player since Michael Jordan to go for 28 points, six assists and five boards in the Duke-North Carolina rivalry as the Blue Devils erased a 13-point deficit in the first 4:31 of regulation, a 10-point deficit in the final 2:06 of regulation and a five-point deficit in the final 21 seconds of overtime to knock off the Tar Heels.
Jones scored 15 straight points at the end of regulation and the start of overtime. He was unbelievable. More on him in a second.
TEAM OF THE WEEK: Auburn Tigers
I don’t think Auburn is all that good of a basketball team, at least not in comparison to the rest of the teams that are in the top 10-15 teams in the country. At KenPom, the most highly-regarded site when it comes to evaluating how good a team is, the Tigers currently rank 30th nationally. The reason for this, despite sitting at 21-2 on the season, is because Auburn has developed a habit of doing just enough to win a game on the nights when they don’t actually play all that well.
On Saturday, they erased a 15 point deficit with a wild comeback at home against No. 18 LSU, winning in overtime. On Tuesday, they did the same thing at Arkansas, again winning in overtime. They rallied to land a come-from-behind win over Kentucky the weekend before that, and last Tuesday, it took them two overtimes and another pair of wild comebacks to beat Ole Miss on the road.
Overall, Auburn just is not all that good. They are not a great shooting team. They don’t force turnovers the way they have in the past. They don’t have the star power they’ve had in the past. Austin Wiley is useful playing a certain way and Anfernee McLemore is useful playing a certain way, but both of those guys really limit how Auburn plays when they are on the floor.
LSU was the better team for roughly 40 of the 45 minutes on Saturday and lost, because this is who Auburn is. They do just enough to keep a game close, waiting for the three-minute avalanche of threes from the likes of Samir Doughty and J’Von McCormick that they know is coming and that will bury whoever they are playing.
It’s stressful, but it’s hard to argue with 21-2.
1. THE MOST IMPORTANT NEWS OF THE WEEKEND WAS ISAIAH LIVERS’ RETURN
With Auburn-LSU going off the rails in the same time slot, Bobby Knight returning to Indiana immediately after it ended and a Saturday that included Seton Hall beating Villanova and the absurdity of Duke-North Carolina, it was easy to overlook the fact that Michigan beat No. 16 Michigan State pretty easily on Saturday.
And it’s easy to forget that coincided with the return of Isaiah Livers.
Livers is Michigan’s leading scorer. He is their best three-point shooter by a country mile. He’s the pice on the roster that allows Juwan Howard a measure of lineup versatility, and, in turn, he may actually be the most valuable defensive piece on the Wolverines. With Livers healthy for an entire game, Michigan is now 9-3 with wins over Creighton, Iowa, North Carolina, Michigan State and Gonzaga by 18 points in the only game the Zags have lost this season. Their “worst” lost was in overtime at home against Oregon.
Without Livers, Michigan is 5-6.
On Saturday, Livers scored 14 points, made a couple threes, blocked a couple shots and, most importantly, played 31 minutes as a starter.
The Wolverines are going to be a serious threat in March with him back.
2. THE SECOND MOST IMPORTANT PIECE OF NEWS WAS SETON HALL’S WIN
No. 12 Seton Hall did something they haven’t done since 1994 — win at No. 10 Villanova — and, as a result, they are now in a position do to something they haven’t done since 1993 — win the Big East regular season title.
Myles Powell scored 19 points, Sandro Mamukelashvili went for 17 and the Pirates, who now own a three-game lead over the rest of the field in the Big East standings with just seven games left of the regular season.
Perhaps the most impressive and important part of this win was the play of Mamukelashvili. The 6-foot-11 native of Tbilisi, Georgia, has been maligned this season. He was knocked out the lineup with a broken hand back in December, right before the Pirates went on the run that changed the course of their season, and it wasn’t hard to connect those dots. Playing without Mamu forced Kevin Willard to go small, playing four perimeter weapons around Romaro Gill, and his team has not looked back since.
This game proved just how valuable Mamu is to this team. When Villanova took away Gill, it forced Mamu into action.
And he shined.
3. VIRGINIA MAY HAVE FIXED THEMSELVES, MAYBE?
The Cavaliers entered Saturday ranked a ridiculous 276th in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency metric despite having the nation’s best defense. The biggest reason for that? They are one of the ten-worst three-point shooting teams in all of college basketball.
Well, they went into the Yum! Center and shot 11-for-22 from beyond the arc … and still lost! That has a lot to do with how good Louisville (and David Johnson) is.
But we knew that already.
What’s more interesting to me is what happens if this kind of shooting becomes a trend for the Wahoos. Now, I’m not saying that they are going to start making 50 percent of their threes the rest of the season, or that Tomas Woldetensae is going to be hitting seven per game the rest of the way. But part of the issue that Virginia has been dealing with this year is confidence, and one way to start building confidence in your shooting is to actually see the ball go through the basket.
I’m not betting on it.
Sometimes teams just get hot, even teams that are full of really bad three-point shooters.
But it will be something to keep an eye on next week.
4. COLORADO IS THE BEST TEAM IN THE PAC-12, MAYBE?
We spoke about the Pac-12 at length on today’s podcast. It starts at the 31:20 mark right here. I’ll go ahead and urge you to listen to that.
5. TRE JONES AND WENDELL MOORE WILL NEVER BE FORGOTTEN
This isn’t even an overreaction.
In 25 years, when Jay Bilas has turned into Dickie V and a bald Sean Farnham is trying to convince us that he’s not actually a UCLA fan while calling Duke-North Carolina in between rips from a hand-me-down weed pen he got from Bill Walton, Tre Jones hitting this shot:
and Wendell Moore hitting this shot:
will be shown right after Jeff Capel’s halfcourt buzzer-beater in 1996, right before Austin Rivers’ in 2012 and in the same highlight montage as Gerald Henderson opening up a gaping hole in Tyler Hansbrough’s nose as Jerry Stackhouse is going right around Cherokee Parks to dunk on Erik Meek’s head.