It’s only January 4th, but we already have the Game of the Year in college basketball.
Hell, we might have just been a witness to the game of the decade, and I say that without a hint of hyperbole.
Frank Mason stole an inbounds pass with 15 seconds left with the Jayhawks up one and, after two Mason free throws, Buddy Hield missed a desperation three at the buzzer, giving Kansas, the No. 1 team in the AP Poll, a 109-106 win over Oklahoma, the No. 1 team in the Coaches Poll, in triple overtime.
“That was the toughest game I’ve ever played in,” Perry Ellis, who led the Jayhawks with 27 points and 13 boards, said afterwards.
“I just need a bed right now,” Hield said on Sportscenter after the game.
To get an idea of just how wild this game was, chew on this for a second: Hield, Oklahoma’s superstar senior that entered the night averaging 24.7 points, finished with 46 points on 13-for-23 shooting, hitting 8-of-15 from beyond the arc while adding eight boards and seven assists. He scored 33 of those points in regulation, popping off for 22 in the first half, and as crazy as this is going to sound, Kansas actually did a pretty damn good job defending him.
I know, right?
I mean, just watch this play, watch the way Mason defends Hield. What else can he possibly do?
“I thought we did a really good job holding him to 46,” Bill Self said after the game.
There’s so much more to dive into as well:
Hield, the kid who played like the G.O.A.T. for the first 54:39 of this game, was the goat in the final minute, as he committed a pair of turnovers — both steals by Mason — nine seconds apart that allowed Kansas to take the lead and extend the lead to 109-106. “I just had a couple careless turnovers that cost us the game,” Hield said, taking the blame for a loss where he scored 46 points in 54 minutes. Not many kids would do that.
Kansas was up 32-21 in the first half, but Hield sparked a furious comeback at the end of the first half, a 25-8 run that was capped by Self picking up a technical foul when Mason seemingly landed a clean strip of Hield. That tech mattered because Mason, as Self was screaming profanities directly in the official’s face, slammed the ball on the ground and had to be restrained by his teammates. If it weren’t for Self’s reaction, Mason would have picked up a technical. He finished the game with four fouls, having picked up his fourth at the very end of regulation. That technical, if he had received it, would have forced Mason to miss the overtimes.
Kansas was also down by as many as ten points in the second half, as the Sooners looked, for a while, like they were getting ready to pull away from the Jayhawks.
And should I mention that Kansas very nearly lost at the end of the first overtime when they had six players on the court?
Wild nugget from Game of the Season: KU nearly committed 6-player tech on final play of OT1, but noticed at last sec pic.twitter.com/ERbpUzEiYM
There’s no question that this game lived up to the hype of being No. 1 vs. No. 1, and the timing couldn’t have been better, with this being the first Monday without Monday Night Football and the first weekday after New Year’s and essentially all of the college football bowl games. There were a lot of people paying attention to this, and it certainly delivered.
This not a game that we’re soon going to forget.
Hield’s performance is not one that we’re soon going to forget.
The best part?
The rematch in Norman is on February 13th.
Here’s to hoping the face-off in the Big 12 tournament for the rubber match.
No. 2 Kansas uses big second half to beat Oregon State 82-67
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Wayne Selden scored 22 points, Frank Mason had 18 and second-ranked Kansas used a big second half to beat Oregon State 82-67 on Saturday night in its annual trip to the Sprint Center.
Perry Ellis added 13 points and Devonte Graham had 10 for the Jayhawks (8-1), who trailed by as many as 14 in the first half before outscoring the Beavers 25-9 to begin the second.
Kansas kept drawing away to improve to 28-6 at the downtown Kansas City arena, where it has won six straight regular-season games along with four Big 12 tournament titles.
Tres Tinkle hit five 3-pointers and scored 20 points for Oregon State (6-2), which was trying to equal its best start since the 1980-81 season. Gary Payton II scored 13 and Jarmal Reid added 11.
Oregon State appeared on its way throughout the first half.
Tinkle hit his first 3-pointer with 14:12 left to give his team a 14-9 advantage, and the coach’s son proceeded to hit his next four more.
The Beavers made their first seven from beyond the arc, a big reason why Wayne Tinkle’s bunch enjoyed a double-digit lead most of the first half.
Things weren’t nearly as chipper on the Kansas bench.
With the Beavers leading 22-9 midway through the half, Jayhawks coach Bill Self grew so enraged that he slammed his right fist into his left hand, sending his pricey wristwatch flying off.
Self must have transferred some of that fire to his team at halftime.
Beginning with two free throws by Ellis, the Jayhawks slowly began to build momentum, chewing into a 39-28 deficit. But it was still 48-41 when Graham made back-to-back baskets, starting a 14-0 run that brought actor and noted Kansas fan Rob Riggle to his feet and gave the Jayhawks the lead.
Things unraveled so quickly for the Beavers that they burned through three timeouts in 54 seconds – one when they couldn’t inbound the ball – and were left with none the final 14:03 of the game.
Meanwhile, the Jayhawks stuck with their starting lineup for much of the half. It was a clear departure from the frequent substitutions that Self made in the first half, and allowed the same group of players to get into a rhythm for the first time all night.
Oregon State: Tinkle missed his only 3-point try in the second half. … After hitting their first seven 3-pointers, the Beavers were 1 of 9 the rest of the way. … Oregon State committed 18 turnovers that the Jayhawks turned into 19 points.
Kansas: Mason also had six assists. … The Jayhawks shot 67 percent from the field in the second half. … F Landen Lucas (toe) participated in warmups but did not play. F Jamari Traylor (ankle) played two minutes in the first half.
Oregon State plays Cal State Fullerton in the Far West Classic on Friday night.
Kansas gets the week off for finals before playing Montana next Saturday.
Ranking the best lead guards in college basketball
We kick off our position-by-position rankings with the lead guards.
What is a lead guard, you ask?
It’s a loose definition, I know, but it’s the guy that we think is going to be the team’s primary ball-handler and/or playmaker. True point guards, combo-guards, shooting guards that operate best with the ball in their hands. They all count.
Dunn was an easy pick here just as he was an easy pick for No. 1 in our top 100 players countdown. As a sophomore last season, Dunn averaged 15.6 points, 7.5 assists, 5.5 boards and 2.7 steals. With LaDontae Henton graduating during the offseason and Ed Cooley’s preference to play uptempo basketball, I wouldn’t be surprised to see those stats on the uptick this year. Dunn does, however, have two major flaws in his game: he turns the ball over too much and he needs to become a more consistent and confident jump-shooter. He’s been putting in the work to improve, but we have to wait and see if it manifests in production on the court.
2. Marcus Paige, North Carolina
We had Paige pegged as the Preseason National Player of the Year last season, and that turned out to be wrong. It wasn’t necessarily because Paige wasn’t good enough. The 6-foot-3 senior spent much of last season battling foot and ankle injuries and was forced into a situation where he had to primarily play as a point guard. Well, Paige is healthy now, and with Joel Berry expected to take over the point guard role for the Tar Heels, Paige should be freed up to be in more of an attacking role.
3. Melo Trimble, Maryland
Trimble’s numbers as a freshman were impressive: 16.2 points, 3.0 assists, 41.2% 3PT, 86.3% FT. As good as those numbers were, perhaps Trimble’s true value came in his late-game demeanor. He was, for lack of a better term, one of the most clutch players in the sport, a major reason that the Terps were able to win so many close games. Losing Dez Wells is going to hurt, but with more talent around him this season, Trimble should be asked to do less offensively as a sophomore. But he’ll still have the ball in his hands late in games, which is why Maryland is a considered a favorite to win the national title.
4. Jamal Murray, Kentucky
At this point, it’s hard to imagine Murray living up to the hype he has entering the season. Anything short of Steph Curry or Jimmer Fredette will almost feel like a disappointment. That’s not to say Murray can’t play. He can. He’s the odds-on favorite to lead Kentucky in scoring and will likely be the primary handler in ball-screen actions. The key for Murray: efficiency and consistency. He has a habit of being a bit of a streaky shooter.
If this list was my own, and not a collaboration with the rest of the CBT team, Jackson would be higher. I think he’s going to have a huge year, good enough to be a second- or third-team all-american. Mike Brey loves to force-feed his lead guards, putting them in ball-screen after ball-screen and allowing them to carry the load offensively, as a scorer and a creator. Jackson has the talent to follow in those footsteps. He may not be as good as Jerian Grant, but he’s got lottery pick written all over him.
6. Fred Van Vleet, Wichita State
Fred Van Vleet is a senior. He reached the Final Four as a freshman, he led Wichita State to a 35-0 record and a No. 1 seed as a sophomore and, as a junior, he helped get the Shockers to the Sweet 16 by beating Kansas in the NCAA tournament. He’s a winner in every sense of the word, and it doesn’t hurt that he averaged 13.6 points and 5.2 assists.
7. Yogi Ferrell, Indiana
Ferrell is the engine that makes Indiana’s high-octane offense go. As a junior, Yogi’s numbers were quite impressive: 16.9 points, 4.9 assists, 1.9 turnovers and 41.2 percent shooting from three. But the reason that the Hoosiers lost 14 games last season was that they were ranked 214th in defensive efficiency, according to KenPom. That wasn’t all on Yogi, but he didn’t exactly solve the issue of Indiana’s sieve-like perimeter defense. I will say this: You may not find a more entertaining point guard to watch this season.
8. Monte Morris, Iowa State
Morris is a junior. He’s also the two-time national leader in assist-to-turnover ratio. Starting at the point on a team that has ranked 16th and 17th nationally in pace the last two years, Morris has a grand total of 66 turnovers. For comparison’s sake, Kris Dunn had 138 turnovers last year alone. The biggest question with Morris, like Iowa State as a whole, is how well he will adjust to Steve Prohm’s offense. Worth noting: Prohm turned Isaiah Canaan into an all-american and an early second round pick while helping Cameron Payne develop into a lottery pick.
9. Tyler Ulis, Kentucky
Murray is the guy that is likely going to put up the impressive numbers for Kentucky this season, but don’t let that blind you to just how good Ulis is. He’s everything that a coach looks for in a point guard: he’s a tough defender, he’s a leader, he’s unselfish, he protects the ball, he creates for his teammates, he can shoot it.
10. Malik Newman, Mississippi State
Newman is a tough guy to rank. On the one hand, the kid is one of the more talented scorers in the country, a combo-guard that can get hot and hit threes from deep. He’s a good bet to lead the entire SEC in scoring. But he’s also on a team that isn’t going to have that many other weapons, meaning that there are going to be times where a bad shot from Newman is a good shot for the Bulldogs. In other words, he’ll be a high-usage, high-scoring, low-efficiency player. How much do you value those offensive ratings?
11. Tyrone Wallace, Cal: Wallace is a guy that I think should be getting more attention nationally. His shooting issues are a red flag, but he’s going to be the lead guard for what should be a Pac-12 contender embracing the small-ball revolution.
12. Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Florida State: Consistency and efficiency. He went for 30-plus three times last season, but he scored in the single digits eight times, shot 28.1 percent from three and averaged 3.4 turnovers. Hopefully, the influx in talent in Tallahassee means he won’t have to do so much.
13. D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Georgetown: Arguably the most underrated player in the Big East. His decision to return to school instead of declare for the NBA Draft is the reason Georgetown is a Big East contender.
14. Nic Moore, SMU: Moore’s three postseasons at SMU: snubbed as a sophomore, goaltended as a junior and banned as a senior. It’s a shame, because he’s really, really good.
15. Frank Mason, Kansas: Mason turned into the heart and soul of last year’s Kansas team. He’s tough, he sets a tone defensively and he makes some big shots. The most popular man in Lawrence not named Bill Self.
16. Jalen Brunson, Villanova: How good is Brunson? He may end up moving the reigning co-Big East Player of the Year Ryan Arcidiacono off the ball this season.
17. Isaiah Taylor, Texas: Taylor never really seemed to get into a rhythm after injuring his wrist last November, but he should be a perfect fit at the point for new head coach Shaka Smart.
18. Cat Barber, N.C. State: The former five-star recruit should finally round into form as a junior. He’s had some big moments helping the Wolfpack reach back-to-back Sweet 16s.
19. Bronson Koenig, Wisconsin: Koenig took over for the injured Traevon Jackson midway through last season, keeping his starting spot even when Jackson returned to health. He’ll have a lot on his plate this year as the Badgers replace five of their top seven from last season.
20. Sterling Gibbs, UConn: Gibbs was impressive last season despite Seton Hall’s late season collapse. He’s a stop-gap for UConn at the lead guard spot as they wait for Jalen Adams to be ready to run the shot.
Others considered: Shaq Harrison (Tulsa) Ryan Arcidiacono (Villanova), London Perrantes (Virginia), Maodo Lo (Columbia), Bryce Alford (UCLA), Jalan West (Northwestern State)
Big 12 Preview: Death, taxes, Kansas atop the Big 12
Beginning in October and running up through November 13th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2015-2016 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.
Today, we are previewing the Big 12.
The Big 12 has been arguably the best conference in the country the last few seasons but their play in the postseason last year leaves a lot to be desired. While 70 percent of the league’s membership made the NCAA tournament last season, nobody in that group of seven advanced past the Sweet 16.
FIVE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW:
1. Kansas remains atop the league until proven otherwise, with or without Cheick Diallo: Kansas has won at least a share of 11 consecutive Big 12 regular season conference titles, and they return plenty of talent from last year’s team. While one-and-done freshmen Kelly Oubre and Cliff Alexander are gone, experienced players like Frank Mason, Wayne Selden and Perry Ellis return as the Jayhawks appear to be even deeper this season. One thing to monitor in terms of Kansas potentially being an elite team: the NCAA situation with freshman big man Cheick Diallo. The McDonald’s All-American was one of the best players during the senior all-star games last spring and his high motor and ability to defend the rim could put the Jayhawks over the top. He has yet to be cleared to play this season as the NCAA is looking into his high school, Our Savior New American in New York.
2. Iowa State is transitioning from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, but they still have title aspirations: Fred Hoiberg and his innovative offensive attack has moved on to the Chicago Bulls, but Iowa State is returning nearly its entire roster from a team that was a No. 3 seed last season. Now enters former Murray State head coach Steve Prohm, who is letting an experienced group do a lot of what they were doing before while also adding some of his own new wrinkles. Senior forward Georges Niang is an All-American candidate and point guard Monte Morris remains as steady as any floor leader in the nation. If the Cyclones have enough depth and their defense improves, they are also potentially an elite team.
3. Texas is moving from Rick Barnes to Shaka Smart. Can they adjust to “Havoc”?: Texas has moved on from the Rick Barnes era as they made the decision to pursue VCU’s Shaka Smart instead of Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall. Now that the popular Smart is in the fold, Texas is hoping to become a perennial power in basketball, and the most intriguing part of Shaka taking the job is how he’ll incorporate his “Havoc” style of play into the equation. Many believe that “Havoc” can’t work at the highest level of college basketball, but at the same time Smart hasn’t had this kind of talent at his disposal. Junior point guard Isaiah Taylor is back and the Longhorns have plenty of size and senior leadership.
4. Oklahoma returns Buddy Hield and plenty of talent: Reigning Big 12 Player of the Year Buddy Hield returned for his senior season and gives the Sooners a chance to be in the Big 12 title picture. While the Sooners will miss the play of TaShawn Thomas inside, they return most of the roster. Dependable big man Ryan Spangler is back along with the backcourt of upperclassmen Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard. Cousins has drawn rave reviews from scouts and coaches this fall and could be poised for a big senior season as Hield’s second banana.
5. Baylor and West Virginia are still lurking: Baylor and West Virginia both took some lumps this offseason with key losses, but they both still have plenty of talent to win a lot of games and potentially make the NCAA tournament. The Bears still have the tremendously talented duo of Taurean Prince and Rico Gathers to work with and a team that has a lot of length on the defensive end. West Virginia has to replace Juwan Staten, but Bob Huggins has a roster that completely bought into the press that he was selling last season as they made the Sweet 16.
Favorite: “You can certainly make a strong case for a few teams, but until proven otherwise, it’s probably Kansas.”
“West Virginia lost Juwan Staten but they’ll have just another chip on their shoulder. Their style of play will help them with the shorter shot clock.”
“Most of the guys in our office believe that Baylor has the length and talent to be a factor.”
Best player: “It’s close between Buddy Hield and Georges Niang but Hield gets it done on both ends of the floor. Plus, Buddy is more of an emotional leader and his big plays seem to lift his teammates.”
Most underrated player:
“Isaiah Cousins seems to be getting a lot of attention this fall — and deservedly so. He can really play.”
“I haven’t seen Johnathan Motley’s name in a lot of preseason stuff, but he could be a problem.”
PRESEASON BIG 12 PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Buddy Hield, Oklahoma
He won this award for real last season, so it’s only right that Hield starts the season atop this list as well. A dynamic scorer, Hield can hit 3-pointers in bunches and also got to the free-throw line 130 times last season. In addition to his scoring, Hield also led Big 12 guards in rebounding last season.
THE REST OF THE BIG 12 FIRST TEAM:
Georges Niang, Iowa State: As versatile as any forward in the country, Niang is looking to close out his career by knocking Kansas out of the top spot. Watching Niang play for Prohm should be a fascinating early-season study.
Monte Morris, Iowa State: The nation’s leader in assist-to-turnover ratio the last two seasons, now Morris gets to work with a new head coach who put Isaiah Canaan and Cameron Payne in the NBA.
Taurean Prince, Baylor: Arguably the nation’s best sixth man a year ago, Prince is incredibly versatile on both ends of the floor. Not many forwards around can knock down nearly 40 percent of 3-pointers and defend multiple positions the way Prince can.
Perry Ellis, Kansas: Before getting hurt during the tail end of Big 12 play, Ellis was playing at an incredibly high level. The Jayhawks are hoping that version of their senior forward comes to play every night this season.
FIVE MORE NAMES TO KNOW:
Rico Gathers, Baylor
Frank Mason, Kansas
Isaiah Taylor, Texas
Devin Williams, West Virginia
Phil Forte, Oklahoma State
BREAKOUT STAR: Jevon Carter, West Virginia
With the departure of Juwan Staten, the sophomore will be tasked with taking over full-time point guard responsibilities. After leading West Virginia in both steals and 3-pointers as a freshman, Carter is ready to be one of the focal points for the Mountaineers.
COACH UNDER PRESSURE: Travis Ford needs to have a solid year at Oklahoma State in order to keep the heat off of him from fans. You know things are getting a little testy when both the athletic director and the school’s largest donor, T. Boone Pickens, have to publicly show signs of support.
ON SELECTION SUNDAY WE’LL BE SAYING … : The Big 12 regular season was exciting, but did these teams beat each other up too much for big tournament runs?
I’M MOST EXCITED ABOUT: Seeing how “Havoc” is going to work with the Texas players and against Big 12 defenses. This debate has been raging among college basketball types for a long time and now Shaka gets to see if his system can translate to the highest level.
FIVE NON-CONFERENCE GAMES TO CIRCLE ON YOUR CALENDAR:
1. Kansas: This won’t be like the Kansas team we’ve seen the past two seasons with jumbo wings in Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Oubre. The Jayhawks plan to go smaller with Frank Mason and Devonte Graham in the backcourt while Wayne Selden will likely slide over to the three.
2. Iowa State: We already know Iowa State can put points on the board but how will they look defensively during the final year this core group is together?
3. Oklahoma: Oklahoma seems to be flying a bit under-the-radar nationally this preseason. Remember when TaShawn Thomas became eligible and the Sooners turned into a darkhorse national title contender last preseason? Essentially the same team is back, minus Thomas, and college basketball is weaker this season.
4. Baylor: Baylor’s imposing frontline is well-established but the backcourt is the key question for the Bears this season. With the loss of Kenny Chery, who does Drew pair with Lester Medford?
5. West Virginia: This West Virginia roster perfectly fits what Huggins wants to do — especially with toughness and defense — but without Juwan Staten, scoring is going to be a major concern. The new focus on officiating could also hurt the way the Mountaineers like to defend, but the 30-second shot clock should help them.
6. Texas: The (multi) million dollar question is whether Havoc works against the likes of Monte Morris and Frank Mason? How do big men like Cameron Ridley and Shaquille Cleare fit in Shaka Smart’s system? One thing will be certain: Texas will play hard and bring a lot of energy under its new coach and there’s a lot of upperclass leadership on the roster.
7. Oklahoma State: Oklahoma State’s backcourt will be among the Big 12’s most talented, as Phil Forte returns and McDonald’s All-American point guard Jawun Evans enters Stillwater. Replacing the front court of LeBryan Nash and Michael Cobbins is the bigger issue. The Cowboys have size on the roster, but not many have produced highly at the Big 12 level.
8. Texas Tech: There weren’t a lot of positives from last season’s 3-15 Big 12 showing, but the Red Raiders return 85 percent of its scoring and 86 percent of its rebounding. With some of the other teams in the league adding a lot of new pieces, Texas Tech should be more cohesive out of the gate.
9. Kansas State: Kansas State’s roster was gutted this offseason and it’s hard to say if it will be a good or a bad thing entering this season. While a lot of talent left the Wildcats, a lot of bad apples walked out the door as well. Can improved chemistry lead to a better season for Bruce Weber’s ballclub? Almost the entire roster is unproven.
10. TCU: TCU started 13-0 last season, but played a cupcake schedule, as a 4-14 conference mark brought them back down to Earth. After losing Kyan Anderson, Trey Zeigler and Amric Fields, it’s difficult to say that the Horned Frogs will be much better.