PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Marcus Garrett, Kansas
Marcus Garrett played the best game of his life on Saturday.
Oklahoma decided that what they were going to do defensively was to try and take away Udoka Azubuike by using whoever was supposed to be guarding Garrett to park in the paint and double Doke as quickly as possible. Garrett was going to have to prove that he would be good enough to make the Sooners pay, and honestly, it wasn’t a bad strategy. Entering Saturday, Marcus Garrett hadn’t made a three since January 14th. He had only attempted a single three in the month of February. In his last 14 games, he was 3-for-17 from three, combined.
On Saturday, he hit six threes en route to 24 points, adding seven assists and four steals in an 87-70 Kansas win.
We know how good Garrett can be on the defensive side of the ball. I think there’s an argument to be made that he is one of the five best defenders in all of college basketball. But when he is a threat like this offensively, it changes the dynamic of this Kansas team.
TEAM OF THE WEEK: Maryland Terrapins
After sneaking past Nebraska at home in a game that was much closer than it should have been, Maryland turned around and landed one of the best, and most unexpected, wins of the college basketball season on Saturday.
The Terps jumped out to a 39-24 lead in the Breslin Center on Saturday night, but they gave it all back and some. The Spartans responded by going on a 36-14 surge that put them in front 60-53 with just over three minutes left to play. This one was over, and everyone knew it, except for Maryland and Anthony Cowan. Maryland closed the game on a 14-0 run, hitting four straight threes to spoil what should have been a fantastic Gameday experience for everyone in the building.
Cowan scored the final 11 points during that surge, hitting three threes and capping off the run with a pair of free throws to ice the game, and suddenly the Terps — who, a month ago, couldn’t win a game on the road — are on an eight-game winning streak that has them sitting all alone in first place in the Big Ten. They’re a game up on Penn State and three games up on the rest of the field, and four of those eight wins have come away from College Park, including wins at Indiana, Illinois and Michigan State.
It’s time to take this team seriously as a national title contender.
1. LOUISVILLE IS GOING TO BE JUST FINE
Look, Saturday’s loss at Clemson was bad.
The Cardinals made five shots in the first half. They shot 15.6 percent from the floor for the first 20 minutes of the game and trailed by as many as 21 points, falling behind 42-21 midway through the second half. Combined with Wednesday’s loss at Georgia Tech, the Cardinals have torpedoed any chance they had at earning themselves a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. They went from sitting all alone in first place in the ACC regular season standings to a game behind Duke, who does not have to play either Louisville or Florida State again this season.
So yes, in terms of accomplishing everything that Louisville had a chance to accomplish this season, this week was a disaster.
But it was also one bad week for a team that does, truly, have all the pieces they need to win both the ACC and NCAA tournaments. I still believe that. We know how good Jordan Nwora can be when he’s right, and while he’s decidedly not right at the moment — in two games this week, he shot 2-for-11 from the floor, 1-for-9 from three and finished with a total of seven points while getting benched late on Wednesday and at the start of Saturday — that doesn’t mean he can’t get back to where he was. David Johnson has been a revelation even if he has his something of a freshman wall. Dwayne Sutton is still competing. Malik Williams is still competing. Chris Mack is still Chris Mack.
The season is far from over.
And hey, given the way this year has gone, there’s certainly no guarantee Duke will win out even if they don’t play anyone all that tough.
2. SETON HALL, TOO
Everything that I just said about Louisville is also true about Seton Hall, who followed up a loss where they gave up 87 points to Creighton with a loss at Providence where they trailed by 25 points in the first half.
The good news for the Pirates is that they are still leading the Big East title race, and while the rest of their schedule is brutal — they have to play at Marquette and Creighton and still host Butler and Villanova — the Pirates have already won at Butler and at Villanova and beat Marquette at home.
Their issue, according to Kevin Willard, has everything to do with attitude.
“We have some guys with bad attitudes right now to be perfectly honest with you,” Willard said in his postgame radio interview after the Providence loss. “When you have a bad attitude and you’re pouting and complaining that you’re not playing enough time yet your team is 10-2, you have issues.
“It’s amazing to me that, when we lost to Xavier I saw a team that bounced back and was hungry to go to Georgetown and get it. When we lost to Creighton the other day and we played terrible (in practice), and I’m sitting in practice and I’m thinking, I’ve got a guy moody that doesn’t want to go through practice who hardly played. I have another guy who played 25 minutes that can’t make a shot and didn’ have a rebound. I have another guy that got embarrassed defensively.
“I will make sure of it, come in 20 minutes that there will be a very large correction . . . The bench is going to get shortened. Either you’re going to show up and play or you’re not. I’m really disappointed in a few guys who, either they regain their focus or I’ll just play six.”
Willard did not name the grumpy-gus, but it’s worth noting: Myles Cale was a starter last year and played just seven minutes against Providence. Ike Obiagu played just five. Anthony Nelson played just two. Draw your own conclusions.
3. PATRICK EWING IS THE BIG EAST COACH OF THE YEAR AND IT’S NOT CLOSE
I don’t think that there is any way that Ewing will win the National Coach of the Year award because one of Scott Drew, Brian Dutcher or Anthony Grant has that covered.
He should, however, win the award for Big East Coach of the Year. Think about everything that this Georgetown program has gone through this season. They had two players transfer out of the program in December, a decision that led to NBC Sports breaking the news that one of those two players had accusations of assault and harassment hanging over his head, and that two more members of the team — both of whom would later leave the program — were involved as well.
That’s when the injuries started. Mac McClung has missed five games — including Saturday’s visit to DePaul — with a lingering foot issue. Omer Yurtseven did not play on Saturday, either, meaning that the Hoyas were down to just five scholarship players.
And they went into Indianapolis and knocked off No. 19 Butler, giving them an elite win and putting them in a position where they have a bit of room to spare when it comes to getting to the NCAA tournament.
It makes no sense.
And yet, here we are.
4. SHAKA HAS LOST THIS TEXAS TEAM
The Longhorns took on Iowa State in Ames on Saturday and got absolutely humiliated, 81-52, in a game that more or less locked Texas out of the NCAA tournament.
As one longtime Big 12 beat writer put it, “that was the worst Big 12 performance I’ve seen since a winless TCU team.”
I’ve already had plenty of conversations about who Texas will hire as their next coach, and I’m not the only one.
5. BAYLOR IS THE BEST BECAUSE THEY CAN LOSE A KEY PIECE AND STILL ROLL
MaCio Teague is Baylor’s second-leading scorer at 14.4 points. He’s one of their better three-point shooters and the best guy on the roster not named Jared Butler at creating his own shot. He did not play on Saturday against the second-best defensive team in the country in West Virginia, and it did not matter.
No. 1 Baylor rolled to their 22nd consecutive win, knocking off the No. 14 Mountaineers, 70-59, in a game that they led by 28 points in the first half.
And that, more or less, sums up everything that you need to know about this Baylor team. They are good enough, and balanced enough, that they can lose their second-leading scorer, a critical piece to their offense, and not even miss a beat against one of the nation’s very best teams.