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Monday’s Things To Know: Baylor keeps winning, Duke dominates and Texas Tech finds Jarrett Culver some help

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There wasn’t much in the way of high-profile matchups or huge upsets Monday, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to catch up on the important action – and trash talking – from across the country. Here’s what you need to know, starting Baylor being…pretty good?

BAYLOR IS GOOD AND NO ONE KNOWS HOW

No one thought Baylor would be particularly good this season. In fact, most thought they’d be bad, having lost the two best players – Manu Lecomte and Jo Lual-Acuil – off a team that wasn’t all that good a year ago. It wasn’t just media punditry, either. The Big 12’s coaches voted the Bears ninth in the league preseason poll.

So pretty much everyone was expecting Scott Drew’s team to languish through this season, and for the select few, probably none outside Waco, Texas or without a Baylor degree framed on their wall, that actually had some hope, they certainly let go of those dreams when Tristan Clark, this year’s team’s best player, was lost for the season with a knee injury early this month. Surely, that would extinguish any hope of a meaningful season for Baylor.

Well, Baylor just absolutely stomped Oklahoma, 77-47, in Norman on Monday night to win its fifth-straight game and improve to 5-2 in the Big 12, which, would you seriously look at this, is tied for the best record in the conference. It’s honestly amazing – the team picked to finish next-to-last lost its best player and now has the best record in the league almost halfway through the schedule.

If you’re still making Scott Drew Can’t Coach jokes, you really, really need to stop. He’s the Big 12 coach of the year right now, and probably will move into the national discussion if things keep moving in the same direction.

The Bears have morphed into – I kid you not – the Big 12’s best offense during league play, per KenPom. They’re grabbing about 40 percent of their own misses to help offset so-so shooting while hoisting 41.9 percent of their attempts from 3-point range. They’re also assisting on better than 60 percent of their buckets. Makai Mason, whose foot injury made him a true mystery before the season, is shooting 38.6 percent from 3-point range during Big 12 play while King McClure and Mario Kegler have helped fill the void over the last month.

So the question here is how real is this? The offensive rebounding, which is powering the offense, seems sustainable given Drew’s teams are always great on the boards. The defense is suspect, though, with Big 12 opponents clocking in at a league-worst 53.9 percent effective field goal percentage. The Bears’ opponents are making 40 percent of their 3s. Not great. Still, though, the Bears’ schedule seems awfully well set up for them to keep the momentum. They’ve got TCU at home this weekend before a trip to Texas, which has lost five of six. Then it’s home dates with Kansas State and the Sooners again. It’s really not too hard to see them at 9-2 or 8-3 there, is it? You get there by the second week of February in the Big 12, and the NCAA tournament seems attainable with just another win or two, no problem.

We’ll see if this magic evaporates, but given what we’ve seen already from Baylor, it would almost be more surprising to see the Bears collapse than it has been to see them get here.

As for Oklahoma, not exactly an ideal way to follow up a 31-point win against Vanderbilt. The team that spent November and December piling up a great resume now has home losses to Kansas State and Baylor along with road Ls to Kansas, Texas Tech and Texas. It’s hard to make sense of the Sooners, but their upcoming stretch (at West Virginia, vs. Iowa State, vs. Texas Tech, at Baylor, at TCU) should rectify that.

DUKE ROLLS

GIven how the highlight reel dunks have become commonplace and the presumption is he’ll go No. 1 in June’s NBA draft, sometimes you can lose sight of how good Duke’s Zion Williamson is. Look at what the freshman did in the Blue Devils’ 83-61 thrashing of Notre Dame in South Bend.

Williamson made 10 of 12 shots from the floor, including his only 3-point attempt, had nine rebounds, four assists and four blocks in 36 minutes. It’s wild what he’s doing, and even wilder that games like this aren’t all that noteworthy any more.

TEXAS TECH BUILDS MOMENTUM

You could be forgiven if your faith in Texas Tech had hobbled over the last couple weeks. That 4-0 start to the Big 12 looked a whole lot less impressive after the Red Raiders dropped three-straight – at home to Iowa State and then at Baylor and Kansas State – followed by a “meh” win at home against Arkansas in the Big 12/SEC Challenge on Saturday.

Texas Tech took a step toward rebuilding that trust Monday.

The 16th-ranked Red Raiders took care of business in Lubbock against TCU with an 84-65 win in which they controlled the game essentially from start to finish.

Undoubtedly the best sign for Chris Beard and Co. was an offense that didn’t rely on Jarrett Culver to do literally everything. Culver, whose usage rate of 32.3 percent is the highest in the Big 12 during conference play, got a ton of help against the Horned Frogs with Matt Mooney scoring 18, Tariq Owens 17 and Davide Moretti 11. Culver still got his with 18 points but the fact that he was 0-6 from 3-point range didn’t haunt the Raiders with the rest of the team going 9-15 from distance.

Culver is going to have to do the bulk of the work for the Texas Tech offense this year – that’s just reality – but if the likes of Mooney, Owens and Moretti can chip in with regularity, that’s going to ease things on the Red Raiders and put way less pressure on Culver to be great and the Texas Tech defense to be near-perfect.

Zion Williamson powers No. 1 Duke past Notre Dame

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Zion Williamson scored 26 points, grabbed nine rebounds and blocked four shots, and fellow freshmen RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish combined for another 30 points as No. 2 Duke rolled to an 83-61 victory over Notre Dame on Monday night.

Williamson made 10 of 12 shots from the field for the Blue Devils, who were in control all the way.

Duke (18-2, 7-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) won its fourth straight game while sending the Fighting Irish (11-10, 1-7) to their sixth straight loss.

Barrett tallied 17 points for the Devils to go with nine rebounds. Reddish had 13 points.

John Mooney scored 14 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for Notre Dame. It was his seventh consecutive double-double.

Prentiss Hubb added 13 points and T.J. Gibbs 12 for the Irish.

Duke, which led by as many 24 points in the second half, was up 46-28 by halftime.

The Blue Devils roared to a 17-2 lead in the opening six minutes, with Williamson scoring nine points during the spree, and were up 26-7 by the time 10 minutes had elapsed.

Notre Dame trimmed its deficit under double digits just once, at 32-23. The Blue Devils’ immediate response to that was a 10-0 run over a span of 2:22.

BIG PICTURE

Duke: The Blue Devils moved into sole possession of the lead in the hotly contested ACC for the moment by virtue of their seventh league win. No. 3 Virginia (6-1), No. 15 Louisville (6-1) and No. 9 North Carolina (5-1) each have one league loss as well, and all were idle Monday. Duke still has road assignments remaining against each of those other three clubs, plus a home date with the Tar Heels.

Notre Dame: Teetering at just over .500, the Irish are in danger of missing out on postseason for just the second time during coach Mike Brey’s 19 years in South Bend. ND has made 12 NCAA Tournament appearances and five in the NIT under Brey. The lone time his Irish were shut out of either was in 2014, when the team closed at 15-17.

UP NEXT

Duke: The Blue Devils step outside the ACC for one last time this regular season when they host St. John’s on Saturday. The Red Storm are 15-5, but have lost four of five.

Notre Dame: The Irish visit Boston College on Saturday. The Eagles (11-7, 2-4) account for ND’s lone ACC win, 69-66 on Jan. 12 at Notre Dame.

Saturday’s Things To Know: The Big 12 rolls, Kentucky’s back, Justin Robinson breaks out

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PLAYERS OF THE DAY: Justin Robinson, Virginia Tech

Robinson had the game of his life on Saturday afternoon.

The senior point guard, who has spent much of this season overshadowed by the emergence of Nickeil Alexander-Walker, scored 24 of his 35 points in the first half, hit nine of his 13 threes and handed out eight assists as No. 10 Virginia Tech bounced back from a couple of embarrassing losses at Virginia and at North Carolina to mollywhop Syracuse in Blacksburg.

The Hokies jumped out to an early double-digit lead, pushed the lead to 19 points by halftime and ended up cruising through the second half as the Syracuse zone had no answer for their ability to pass the ball and shoot over the top of the Orange defenders.

This was exactly the kind of win that Buzz Williams’ team needed to get their confidence back and headed in the right direction.

TEAM OF THE DAY: Kentucky Wildcats

It doesn’t get much better than knocking off a top ten team and getting the nation back on your bandwagon. We wrote about about No. 8 Kentucky beating No. 9 Kansas right here.

ONIONS OF THE DAY: Braxton Beverly, N.C. State

The Wolfpack trailed 67-61 with 20 seconds left. After four missed free throws from Marcquise Reed, Braxton Beverly hit this shot to give N.C. State the win:

EXTRA ONIONS: The Hausers

And we all thought that Markus Howard was the bucket-getter for Marquette.

Well, he still is. He had 31 points today. But just as important as those 31 points were the 41 points and 14 boards that Sam and Joey Hauser combined for as No. 12 Marquette erased an 11-point deficit late in the second half on Saturday. There wasn’t a single shot that stood out, but that duo made big shot after big shot, and then hit clutch free throws down the stretch to ice the win.

With those two playing as well as they have been playing, Marquette is looking more and more like a serious Final Four threat.

SATURDAY WAS A GOOD DAY FOR …

THE BIG 12: Thanks to an impressive feat of scheduling, the Big 12 was able to cruise past the SEC in the Big 12/SEC Challenge thanks in large part to the fact that three of the top five teams in the SEC — No. 16 Auburn, No. 22 Mississippi State and No. 25 LSU — were not playing in the event. Kansas-Kentucky was a thriller, and Iowa State-Ole Miss had some intrigue even if it didn’t live up to it, but beyond that, the slate as a whole was something of a snooze.

But it worked out for the Big 12. They won the event 6-4.

THE BIG THREE: It’s not exactly surprising given the competition that they were playing, but No. 1 Tennessee, No. 2 Virginia and No. 3 Duke all cruised to blowout wins. Tennessee was challenged early by West Virginia, Duke was challenged a little longer by Georgia Tech, but overall there wasn’t much of a sweat.

QUINNDARY WEATHERSPOON: Weatherspoon finished with 27 points, scoring 20 in the second half as No. 22 Mississippi State landed a much-needed win over No. 16 Auburn, 92-84.

LINDELL WIGGINTON: It has been awhile since we’ve seen Wigginton play like the guy that was arguably the best returning guard in the Big 12 this season, but he did on Saturday. Wigginton scored 18 points in 21 minutes off the bench, shooting 7-for-10 from three and making three threes to help Iowa State land a win at Ole Miss. Getting Wigginton and Cameron Lard playing better is the key to the Cyclones reaching their season.

SATURDAY WAS A BAD DAY FOR …

KANSAS STATE: The Wildcats had won five straight games, turning their season around and setting themselves on a course as one of college basketball’s biggest sleepers, and then the SEC/Big 12 Challenge comes along and Kansas State goes and loses to Texas A&M, who entered this game with a 7-10 record having lost six of their last seven. That’s not ideal.

MISSOURI: The Tigers led No. 25 LSU by 14 points with 2:08 left, and not only did they managed to find a way to get to overtime, but they lost in overtime and failed to cover 5.5 points. This was a bad beat for Missouri and the people that bet on them.

TRAVIS STEELE: It’s bad enough that Xavier blew an 11 point second half lead and lost at home to No. 12 Marquette, but part of the reason that the Musketeers lost is that Steele, with 3:34 left in the game, was hit with a technical foul right after Marquette had regained the lead. He’s had better days.

ISAAC COPELAND: Not only did Nebraska lose at home to Ohio State, the third straight loss for the Huskers as they fight for a spot in the NCAA tournament, but they suffered a much more significant loss: Isaac Copeland is done for the year after tearing his ACL, and he tore it going up for a meaningless dunk after he was called for a travel. Just brutal.

JORDAN GOODWIN: The Billikens might have lost their chance to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament on Saturday with a 54-53 loss to Davidson, and that loss was due to Jordan Goodwin missing a pair of free throws with just 0.4 seconds left on the clock. That’s a tough one to swallow.

FINAL THOUGHT

Overall, I know the Big Ten is a good basketball conference.

There are two very real national title contenders at the top of the league in Michigan and Michigan State, and they legit.

But beyond that, what are we talking about here?

Because the further we get into the season, the more that I am starting to believe that there is a giant mass of mediocrity in the league once you get past the top two teams.

We all thought Maryland was the team that was going to emerge as the contender to the Michigan schools, but after getting worked by the Wolverines, the Terps turned around and lost to Illinois on Saturday. That’s not good. Neither is the emergence of Wisconsin as potentially the third-best team in the conference after they had a string of losing four out of five, including a home game to Minnesota and a pair of games where they couldn’t crack 15 first half points. Purdue has looked great in metrics like KenPom and NET, but that’s largely due to the number of close losses they have against the likes of Florida State, Virginia Tech and Texas. I don’t trust Iowa or Minnesota. Ohio State just snapped a five-game losing streak against Nebraska, who is on a three-game losing streak. Indiana has lost six in a row.

I fully expect at least nine teams from the Big Ten to get to the NCAA tournament because the Pac-12 is awful, the Mountain West only has one potential at-large team and the Atlantic 10 has none. The bids have to come from somewhere.

But that doesn’t mean I think that those teams are going to be great once they get there.

Hunter’s 19 points lead No. 3 Cavs in 82-55 rout of Irish

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. — De’Andre Hunter scored 19 points to lead five players in double figures as No. 3 Virginia routed Notre Dame 82-55 rout on Saturday.

Junior guard Kyle Guy, Indiana’s 2016 Mr. Basketball at Lawrence Central near Indianapolis, scored 15 points, all in the first half on 6-of-8 shooting. The Cavaliers (18-1, 6-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) earned their second straight victory since a 72-70 loss at Duke on Jan. 19.

Ty Jerome had 13 points, Kihei Clark 12 and Mamadi Diakite 10 for Virginia, which shot 52.2 from the field, including 44.4 percent on 8 of 18 3-pointers. The Cavaliers dominated the boards 45-33 and made just two turnovers.

John Mooney had his ACC-leading 12th double-double of the season with 15 points and 10 rebounds for struggling Notre Dame (11-9), which dropped its fourth in a row and fell deeper into the ACC cellar at 1-6.

Virginia began with a 12-0 run as Notre Dame missed its first nine shots before Mooney’s layup with 13:36 left. The Cavaliers, who hit 16 of their first 26 shots and had just one turnover in the first 20 minutes. They built a 20-point lead, 37-17, on a jumper by Hunter, who had 10 points, with 2:32 left. It was 42-25 at halftime on Guy’s third 3-pointer and 15th point.

An 11-4 Irish run to start the second half, highlighted by two Mooney 3-pointers and one by D.J. Harvey, closed the Virginia lead to 54-42. Cavaliers coach Tony Bennett called a 30-second timeout with 13:24 to go, and a 14-3 run afterward put them ahead 68-45 with 7:09 left. That sent many of the sellout crowd of 9,149 at the Purcell Pavilion out early into the chilly northern Indiana weather.

BIG PICTURE

Virginia: The Cavaliers have held 16 of their opponents under 60 points and 11 of those to 52 or fewer points. Offensively, they were 47.8 percent from the field (second best in the Bennett era), 39.4 on 3-pointers (second best in school history) and 77.2 percent at the free-throw line (best in school history) coming into the game.

Notre Dame: Fighting Irish had been competitive in their last three league losses before late cold spells doomed them in losses to then-No. 13 North Carolina, No. 17 NC State and Georgia Tech. Virginia’s helping man-to-man defense limited the Irish to 10-of-27 shooting (37 percent) in the first half.

Little, No. 13 North Carolina hold off Notre Dame 75-69

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — Once Nassir Little got rolling, No. 13 North Carolina didn’t have to worry much about yet another home loss.

Little scored all 11 of his points in the final 11 minutes, and the Tar Heels beat Notre Dame 75-69 on Tuesday night.

“It was just a matter of time,” Little said. “Everybody was just waiting for me to do what I do, to help the team be as good as we can be.”

Coby White had 17 points while Luke Maye added 14 points and 10 rebounds and Cameron Johnson finished with 11 points for the Tar Heels (13-4, 3-1 Atlantic Coast Conference). UNC used a late 12-1 run to bounce back from its most lopsided home loss under Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams.

“I got my wish — I wanted to win one ugly,” Williams said.

Prentiss Hubb scored 18 points, John Mooney had 16 points and 19 rebounds, and D.J. Harvey added 15 points for the Fighting Irish (11-6, 1-3). Hubb put Notre Dame up 58-57 with a layup with just under seven minutes remaining, but the Irish missed their next six shots while North Carolina took control.

“Everything was just right for us,” coach Mike Brey said. “We just needed a few more plays, and we probably needed another scorer.”

White started the key run with a 3-pointer with the shot clock winding down with 6½ minutes to play, and Little, a freshman, ended it with a twisting layup on the break that gave the Tar Heels their first double-figure lead, 69-59, with less than 90 seconds left.

The Irish didn’t get closer than seven until Hubb’s 3 with 4.7 seconds left made it 73-69.

BIG PICTURE

Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish have lost three of four to begin conference play and haven’t cracked the 70s in scoring in any of those games. They aren’t afraid to pull the trigger from 3-point range — no team in the ACC has taken more of them this season, and roughly half their shots in this one were from beyond the arc — but they didn’t quite hit enough of them to pull off the upset: Notre Dame was just 4 of 15 from long range in the second half.

North Carolina: The Tar Heels will hear less about that embarrassing 83-62 loss to Louisville. They also haven’t lost three straight home ACC games in nearly a decade. Perhaps the most encouraging sign: They had only two turnovers in the second half.

STAR WATCH

T.J. Gibbs, who averages a team-best 18.5 points for Notre Dame, was held to five points on 1-of-9 shooting in his return after an illness that forced him to miss a game for the first time in his career. “My trainer said, ‘You can’t play him as usual, 35 minutes, because he’s ill,'” Brey said. “And then I played him 35 minutes, because he was our only option. … We need to kind of get him back to 100 percent by Saturday.”

PLAY OF THE NIGHT

Seventh Woods earned some hustle points for his blocked shot that brought the crowd to its feet with about 12 minutes left. Nate Laszewski was headed for an easy open-court dunk after stealing the ball from Johnson. But Woods raced in to block the attempt at the rim.

BATTLE ON THE BOARDS

The ACC’s top two rebounders — Maye (10.1 rpg) and Mooney (9.8) — went at it in this one. Those two combined for 29 of the 83 total rebounds in the game.

UP NEXT

Notre Dame: Plays host to No. 17 North Carolina State on Saturday.

North Carolina: Visits Miami on Saturday.

Tuesday’s Three Things To Know: It was a surprisingly wild night in college hoops

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While Golden State was busy putting up 50 points in a quarter, the college basketball world had themselves a wild night that featured a pair of top 25 teams winning in the final seconds, some big dogs rolling and a couple of trendy teams taking ugly losses.

Here is what you need to know from Tuesday night:

1. THE BIG BOYS ROLLED

The biggest game of the night ended up being one of the most boring games of the night, as No. 4 Virginia put away No. 9 Virginia Tech before we reached the under eight media timeout. The Wahoos hit nine of their first 11 threes, finished 13-for-24 from beyond the arc on the evening and took a 44-22 lead into halftime, eventually knocking off the Hokies, 81-59. It was an utterly dominant performance from Tony Bennett’s club, and one that had our Travis Hines convincing himself that this is the year for UVA.

The Cavs weren’t the only big dog to handle their business in impressive fashion on Tuesday. No. 3 Tennessee jumped out to a 23-6 lead on Arkansas and never looked back, beating the Razorbacks 106-87 in a game where the Vols never seemed to get out of third gear. While that was happening, No. 12 Kentucky was in the midst of going into Stegeman Coliseum and dropping a hammer on Georgia, 69-49. Ashton Hagans — who was previously committed to the Bulldogs — put a career-high 23 points on the board.

And lastly, while the Tar Heels didn’t run away with this win, they did manage to hold off Notre Dame, 75-69. This win was notable because of the second half performance from Nassir Little. He scored just 11 points, but all of them came in the final 11 minutes, and he had nine in a 14-6 run that turned a deficit into a 65-58 lead.

2. SAM HAUSER SAVES No. 15 MARQUETTE, No. 17 N.C. STATE IS NOT SO LUCKY

Hauser put up a career-high 31 points to go along with eight boards in a 74-71 win at Georgetown as he was forced into point guard duties as Markus Howard was dealing with a lower back issue and Joseph Chartouny has apparently forgotten how to be a point guard. The Hoyas are not exactly a powerhouse these days, but they are a dangerous team offensively that has won some games we did not expect them to win, and going into Washington D.C. and winning this game without the Big East Player of the Year is, frankly, really impressive.

And important.

The Golden Eagles remain the only team that is one game behind Villanova in the Big East regular season title race.

N.C. State was not as fortunate. Playing without starting point guard Markell Johnson, the Wolf Pack found themselves down by 15 points at the half and by as many as 22 points in the second half at Wake Forest. A 29-7 run tied the game at 58 with about seven minutes left in the game, but Wake Forest did enough down the stretch to get the win, 71-67.

This is not a great loss for N.C. State, who has now lost two of their last three games and no longer looks like a top 25 basketball team.

3. THE OLE MISS HYPE TRAIN DERAILS

The trendy team this week was Ole Miss, and deservedly so — in the span of 96 hours, they beat No. 11 Auburn by 15 points and went into Starkville and picked off No. 14 Mississippi State. They were 13-2 on the season and 3-0 in the SEC at that point. They deserved to be trendy.

And it all came crashing down with a visit from LSU. Tremont Waters scored 20 points and added nine assists as the Tigers knocked off No. 18 Ole Miss, 83-69, in Oxford. Now 3-0 in the league, it may be time that we start looking at LSU as the new Ole Miss.

AND I NEED TO MENTION …

That a pair of top 25 teams survived at the last second. In Starkville, Mississippi State survived Florida, 71-68, thanks to a three-point play from Quinndary Weatherspoon with 3.6 seconds left on the clock. And out in Boise, No. 10 Nevada knocked off Boise State, 72-71, thanks to a three with 4.5 seconds left from Cody Martin, who had not made a three since Dec. 15th and was shooting 19.5 percent from beyond the arc entering the night.