Quite a few developments Wednesday from some of the country’s best teams in the nation’s best leagues. Here’s what you need to know:
Villanova makes this weekend interesting in the Big East
Seton Hall had a chance to do something really cool Wednesday. The Pirates, already having secured a piece of the Big East regular-season championship, could lock up an outright title at home, on a senior night honoring the likes of Quincy McKnight, Romaro Gill and the incomparable Myles Powell.
That is a stage set beautifully.
Except the Pirates were sharing it with Big East powerhouse Villanova.
The Wildcats shot 51.9 percent from the floor and 40.6 percent from 3-point range while holding Powell to 5 of 18 shooting to claim a 79-77 win in Newark and to send the Big East into some serious drama this weekend.
Seton Hall, now 13-4 in the league, still controls its own fate and can win the title outright, but the Pirates’ loss Wednesday means they’re not the only team who holds its fate in its own hands. That’s because the Pirates face Creighton on Saturday in Omaha, and the Bluejays are owners of a 12-5 mark in Big East play. If Greg McDermott’s team wins, they’re co-champs with Kevin Willard’s group.
But, that’s not all!
By virtue of knocking of Seton Hall, Villanova, too, sports a 12-5 conference mark. If the Wildcats can beat Georgetown for the second time this season on Saturday in D.C. and the Bluejays beat Seton Hall at home, it’s a three-way tie atop the Big East.
The ‘Cats tipoff a couple hours before Seton Hall and Creighton, so they’ll have the opportunity to watch their Big East title chances materialize on TV should they beat the Hoyas.
There’s intrigue in the Big East because Saddiq Bey scored 20 points while Justin Moore and Jermaine Samuels both added 19 for the Wildcats, who shot 10 of 18 from the free-throw line to keep Seton Hall hanging around for the final seconds. Sandro Mamukelashvli had 20 and 10 for Seton Hall while McKnight scored 16.
All three teams are jockeying for seed lines both in the Big East and NCAA tournaments, so how things shake out not only effect the regular-season banners that might go up in Philly, Omaha and Newark, but the likelihood if they’re joined by something a little sweeter from the postseason.
Florida State steals a win in South Bend
Raiquan Gray hit a jumper 1 minute, 23 seconds into the game to put Florida State up one in the early going against Notre Dame. On the next possession, which took a total of 16 seconds, the Fighting Irish got a triple from Prentiss Hubb to regain the lead. A lead they would hold nearly until the very end.
The nearly is doing a lot of work in that sentence, though.
From the time of Hubb’s 3-pointer to when Florida State’s Trent Forrest’s layup went through the rim with 3 seconds remaining, Notre Dame had No. 7 Florida State on the ropes, but Forrest’s bucket and the three-seconds worth of advantage it gave the Seminoles was enough for Florida State to beat Notre Dame, 73-71.
The ‘Noles led for just 19 seconds in the game and trailed by as many as 13 in the second half. They really didn’t have a whole lot of business being in this thing late, but there they were until their they went, back home with their 25th win of the year. It also keeps Florida State tied with Louisville atop the ACC standings with just a home game against Boston College this weekend between them and a conference title.
As for Notre Dame, it was a missed opportunity to land a big win in a season that appears destined to end without an NCAA tournament for the third-straight time, which will match the longest drought of the Mike Brey era. They went without a dance from 2004-06 previously.
After 12 long months, at long last, the tyrannical reign of Texas Tech and Kansas State as Big 12 champions is over. Kansas injects some much-needed fresh air into the Big 12 as its new champion.
It was a long year for the Jayhawks, who spent the previous 14 as the conference’s best. Must of been tough, I’m sure.
The top-ranked Jayhawks dispatched TCU 75-66 to win at least a piece of the conference title for the 15th time in 16 years, and they can win it outright if they can beat Texas Tech in Lubbock or if Baylor gets tripped up by West Virginia in Morgantown.
Kansas has now won 15 straight and looks to only be rolling into tip-top fighting shape with Udoka Azubuike scoring 31 against the Horned Frogs. Not only is Kansas back after a one-year hiatus atop the Big 12, it looks as though the Jayhawks are quickly becoming the national title favorite.
Tuesday’s Things to Know: Kansas and K-State Brawl, TCU’s signature win, Villanova beats Butler
It overshadowed a rivalry win for the No. 3 Jayhawks. Suspensions will likely be handed out. These teams also have a return matchup at Kansas State to look forward to on Feb. 29. We’ll hear more about this fight throughout the week.
TCU picks up signature win against No. 18 Texas Tech
During a major season of turmoil where upsets are normal and road wins are nearly impossible, TCU has stayed in the mix for an NCAA tournament bid with a positive 11-5 start.
TCU still has work to do if they want to secure a bid. Only one Q1 win, one Q2 win and a combined 2-5 record in those two quadrants isn’t going to cut it.
But with a 4-2 record in the Big 12, TCU is a team to keep tabs of the next several weeks. After getting absolutely destroyed by an average of 26 points per game the last two losses to West Virginia and Oklahoma, this is a quality bounceback win for the Horned Frogs. And the type of win that can jumpstart a postseason push.
No. 9 Villanova cruises past No. 16 Butler for Big East home win
Tuesday night’s only top-25 clash was in the Big East. Villanova ran past Butler for a 76-61 home win to keep pace with Seton Hall in the Big East standings.
Jermaine Samuels paced five double-figure scorers for Villanova with 20 points.
Big East brutality continued for Butler meanwhile.
The Bulldogs have lost three straight games in conference play. All three losses have come by at least eight points. It’s not only that Butler is losing but they’re playing poorly.
It feels like the Wildcats will once again remain in the Big East title picture this season. If Butler wants to say the same, they’ll need to figure things out quickly to fix its January swoon.
FORT WORTH, Texas — Desmond Bane scored 27 points, Kevin Samuel had 11 points and 11 rebounds and TCU returned home after a miserable week on the road to upset No. 18 Texas Tech 65-54 on Tuesday night.
The Horned Frogs (13-5, 4-2 Big 12) pushed ahead to stay with a 13-2 run to start the second half. Bane had a 3-pointer and layup in the first 74 seconds after halftime, and his one-handed floater off the glass capped that spurt to put them up 40-33 with just over 16 minutes left.
Samuel, the 6-foot-11 sophomore center later had three consecutive baskets for the Frogs, with his dunk starting that stretch for the first double-digit lead. Then came two layups, the latter when after a near turnover he was able to get the putback when the ball rolled on the rim when the shot clock went off before falling through for a 51-38 lead.
Jahmi’us Ramsey had 15 points for Texas Tech (12-6, 3-3), which lost for the first time in its seven meetings as a ranked team against TCU. Terrence Shannon and TJ Holyfield each had 10.
TCU, a 2 1/2-point underdog, has won 14 of its last 19 conference home games, but was coming off losses of 32 points at No. 14 West Virginia and 20 at Oklahoma last week.
The Frogs scored the game’s first five points, but Texas Tech pushed to a 23-15 lead on a 3-pointer by Davide Moretti. After a jumper by Bane, the teams then traded turnovers before a dunk by Kyler Edwards, and the Red Raiders still led 31-27 at the break.
Texas Tech: The Red Raiders never really were able to recover after TCU’s opening spurt in the second half despite an always loud and large group of fans encouraging them with chants of “Raider Power” that at times were louder than the home fans. They were 0-for-7 on 3-pointers after halftime.
TCU: Bane was 10-of-15 shooting, including 6 of 8 on 3-pointers. When he wasn’t making deep shots, he was able to penetrate for layups and short floaters.
Texas Tech hosts No. 15 Kentucky on Saturday in the only game of the Big 12/SEC Challenge matching two ranked teams. The Red Raiders are 0-4 against the Wildcats, but haven’t played them since 1994.
TCU is on the road to play Arkansas on Saturday in the Big 12/SEC Challenge.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — TCU’s undefeated start to Big 12 play is no more while West Virginia continued to assert itself at the top of the conference.
Derek Culver scored 17 points, West Virginia’s bench provided a huge lift on the offensive end and the 12th-ranked Mountaineers stomped TCU 81-49 on Tuesday night.
The Mountaineers (14-2, 3-1 Big 12) are unbeaten in eight home games and have held 10 opponents this season to 60 points or less, including five straight.
TCU (12-4, 3-1) remains winless in Morgantown since joining the Big 12 in the 2012-13 season. The Horned Frogs missed a chance to take over sole possession of first place in the league and had their four-game winning streak snapped.
Miles McBride, Oscar Tshiebwe and Jermaine Haley added 11 points apiece for West Virginia.
RJ Nembhard led TCU with 14 points and Desmond Bane added 13.
West Virginia’s bench outscored TCU’s 39-6.
The Mountaineers’ backup guards broke open a close game midway through the first half and turned the momentum in their favor for good. Reserves Brandon Knapper and Chase Harler hit back-to-back 3-pointers not long after checking into the game to start a 14-0 run. Harler had seven points during the burst. Backup guard Sean McNeil’s 3-pointer just before halftime put the Mountaineers ahead 37-23.
TCU, the Big 12’s best 3-point shooting team with 9.8 made per game, went to its outside game to try to catch up. The Horned Frogs hit four 3-pointers in the first four minutes of the second half to cut the deficit to 44-36.
But TCU couldn’t stop the inside tandem of Tshiebwe and Culver, who made the paint their personal playground after halftime. Tshiebwe scored seven unanswered points and Culver followed with four straight of his own midway through the second half.
TCU: The Horned Frogs had no answer to a rare offensive burst for West Virginia. TCU committed 20 turnovers and was outrebounded 38-24.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers have been getting attention for their defense of late, but they shot a season-high 57.7% from the floor. Culver went 6 of 7, McBride went 5 of 7, and Tshiebwe and Haley both went 4 of 6. It was the first time in a month that West Virginia surpassed 80 points.
TCU plays at Oklahoma on Saturday.
West Virginia travels to Kansas State on Saturday.
Big 12 Season Preview: Power Rankings, Preseason Awards and a return to glory for the Kansas Jayhawks
Beginning in September and running up until November 6th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2019-20 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.
Today, we are previewing the Big 12 Conference.
It finally happened.
For the first time since President George W. Bush’s first term, Kansas did not win the Big 12 regular season title.
It was a remarkable run of 14 years, but it came to an end thanks to a roster that just wasn’t up to the task after an injury to Udoka Azubuike when combined with the ascendancy of Texas Tech and Kansas State. Those Red Raiders now look to be potentially a perennial threat to the Jayhawks after Chris Beard got them to within seconds of a national championship last April despite roster losses from the previous year that looked too large to overcome.
Despite last year’s results, Kansas is again the heavy favorite heading into this season after retooling the roster. Other 2019 contenders suffered major losses, but there is enough talent and experience across the league to think the Jayhawks will have to truly earn the start of a second streak.
FIVE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW
1. KANSAS REMAINS KING
The Jayhawks’ 14-year streak of winning at least a share of the Big 12 title came to an end last spring, but don’t get it twisted. The Jayhawks remain the class of this conference. They struck gold with Udoka Azubuike and Devon Dotson electing to return alongside Silvio De Sousa, whose impermissible benefits suspension was reduced by the NCAA to make him eligible this season. Other contributors return while Iowa sharpshooter Isaiah Moss grad-transferred in. Kansas is not only the Big 12 favorite, but a leading national title contender.
Of course, the on-court exploits is just half the story this year for Kansas. The NCAA leveled an aggressive notice of allegations on the program stemming from the FBI’s investigation into the sport, and the Jayhawks, along with Bill Self, will be facing plenty of questions – and perhaps developments from – the situation all year. There may not be, however, a program more adept at successfully dealing with controversy than Kansas.
Unless it involves Snoop Dogg. Then they’re not great at it. So just avoid Snoop for the foreseeable future, fellas.
2. TEXAS TECH ISN’T GOING ANYWHERE
We all came to appreciate just how great Texas Tech was last year, but it’s worth revisiting how they got there. Remember back to the spring of 2018. That’s when Chris Beard and Keenan Evans being a badass and Zhaire Smith turning into a top-20 NBA draft pick as the Red Raiders made the Elite Eight. Those two then left, along with Zach Smith and Justin Gray. Those are massive losses to endure, and, yet, somehow, Texas Tech got even better. Seconds away from a national title better. Pretty insane.
So despite another spring of heavy losses, including top-10 pick Jarrett Culver, the prevailing wisdom is not only will Beard’s team be a Big 12 contender again, they’re a preseason top-10 team. Doubt them at your own peril after what they pulled off last year. Graduate transfers Chris Clarke and TJ Holyfield are probably going to be the keys to how far Texas Tech can go in replicating last year’s success.
3. BAYLOR IS A TITLE CONTENDER
Scott Drew really has done an amazing job in Waco. It’s been fascinating to watch his career progression, from being the butt of national jokes to now being nationally recognized for being a legitimately skilled coach. The Bears used to be a team that would load up on huge talent, but have been a grittier group as of late.
Now it seems like Drew has a nice mixture of both, even if it doesn’t feature the NBA draft lottery talent of yesteryear. Tristan Clark returns after a knee injury cost him the second half of last season after he had been on a tear. Much of the nucleus from last year’s team also returns while transfers MaCio Teague and Davion Mitchell are also going to contribute.
The Bears are going to be good.
4. THE BEST NBA PROSPECT IN THE LEAGUE LIVES IN AMES
Iowa State was the Big 12’s most talented team last year, and it saw two players (Talen Horton-Tucker and Marial Shayok) go in the second round of the NBA draft and a third (Lindell Wigginton) land an Exhibit 10 contract. The Cyclones’ best NBA prospect, however, returned to school for his sophomore season without so much as even testing the NBA waters.
Tyrese Haliburton is the envy of plenty NBA decision makers as a lengthy 6-foot-5 guard with high shooting percentages and an even higher basketball IQ. He was relegated to a supporting role last year on a loaded Cyclone roster, but he’ll take on a huge amount of responsibility this season. If he can show that he can shoulder it – and more of a scoring load – he could find himself in the lottery conversation.
5. TEXAS IS NOTHING IF NOT INTERESTING
I think there’s only one of two ways this goes for Texas this season. Either the Longhorns are really good, and Shaka Smart is lauded for finally having his breakthrough season in Austin despite not having the lottery picks he’s had in the past, or the Longhorns aren’t great and the only discussion anyone wants to have about them is regarding Smart’s job security.
If Texas is so-so or even just merely good, that’s probably not enough to quell the questions given the level of expectations – and piles of cash – that were heaped on Smart when he arrived from VCU. So, either win big or face a lot of questions. Either way, it’ll interesting to track from the outside.
PRESEASON BIG 12 PLAYER OF THE YEAR: UDOKA AZUBUIKE, Kansas
This will be the fourth season on campus for the 7-foot-1, 270-pound, but we’ve only seen one healthy season from him. That year was pretty dang impressive, though, as Azubuike averaged 13 points, seven rebounds and 1.7 blocks while shooting 77 percent from the floor (insert eye and flame emoji here). He missed most of last season with a bum wrist, but eschewed going pro to return to Lawrence, where he’s likely a preseason All-American. He’s a old-school, back-to-the-basket big, which while out of vogue, is incredible difficult to stop when it comes in such a large and skilled package like Azubuike. He’s a singular force in the league – and maybe the country.
THE REST OF THE BIG 12 FIRST TEAM
TYRESE HALIBURTON, Iowa State: An NBA draftnik darling, Haliburton had a strong freshman season, but will step into a much bigger role as a sophomore.
DEREK CULVER, West Virginia: West Virginia won’t have a ton of talent this year, but Culver is the exception.
DEVON DOTSON, Kansas: After a bumpy start, Dotson blossomed late last season and should be even better this season.
CHRIS CLARKE, Texas Tech: Clarke put up nice numbers at Virginia Tech, but this is a bet that Chris Beard can wring even more out of him.
FIVE MORE NAMES TO KNOW
DESMOND BANE, TCU
OSCAR TSHIEBWE, West Virginia
TRISTAN CLARK, Baylor
DAVIDE MORETTI, Texas Tech
BRADY MANEK, Oklahoma
BREAKOUT STAR: Lindy Waters, Oklahoma State
At 6-foot-6 and 210 pounds with athleticism and a pure jumper, Lindy Waters is the type of player coaches across the country covet. He’s steadily improved all three years he’s been in Stillwater, and now looks poised to potentially be the type of star that could propel Oklahoma State into the surprise team in the league. A double-digit scorer with length that shot 45 percent from 3-point range last year, Waters has a lot of tools to be great.
COACH UNDER PRESSURE: Shaka Smart, Texas
After years of turning down big jobs, Shaka Smart finally left VCU in 2015 to take one of the plummest jobs in the country. Texas has big money and a big brand, but modest expectations. Smart’s arrival was supposed to awaken the Longhorns after years of malaise under Rick Barnes. Instead, Barnes has made Tennessee a national contender while Smart and Texas have languished in mediocrity. It, simply, just hasn’t worked out very well.
That’s not to say it’s been a catastrophe – it hasn’t been – but two NCAA tournament appearances, zero tournament wins and one last-place finish just doesn’t match the expectations of what Texas could and should be. This year’s team is probably going to be just fine, but, again, is that the goal? Texas doesn’t seem to be in a big hurry to move on from Smart – or his $10 million buyout – but if it’s another so-so year, does Smart look for the exit on his own, potentially with a lucrative landing spot that’s a better fit?
ON SELECTION SUNDAY WE’LL BE SAYING …
The Big 12 is again one of the strongest leagues in the country, but probably doesn’t have as many Final Four threats as it’s had in years past.
I’M MOST EXCITED ABOUT …
Kansas winning a national title and giving Snoop Dogg – and his acrobatic dancers? – a championship ring.
FIVE NON-CONFERENCE GAMES TO CIRCLE ON YOUR CALENDAR
Nov. 5, Kansas vs. Duke
Dec. 8, Iowa State vs. Seton Hall
Dec. 7, Baylor vs. Arizona
Dec. 10, Texas Tech vs. Louisville
Dec. 21, Kansas vs. Villanova
1. KANSAS: Last year would have been perfectly acceptable for most programs across the country, but the Jayhawks ain’t that, are they? So they’re back this season as one of the two or three best teams in the country, and not only will they likely start a new Big 12 streak, but they could get Bill Self that second national title as well.
2. BAYLOR: It’s easy to forget that Tristan Clark was one of the most productive players in the Big 12 last year before his injury, but his return to Waco makes the Bears formidable with much of last year’s core also back and transfers MaCio Teague and Davion Mitchell also in the fold.
3. TEXAS TECH: The Red Raiders are essentially trying to do this year what they did last: Replace a huge amount of talent and production without missing a beat. Given they’re projected by most as a top-10 team, there’s a lot of confidence they’ll be able to pull it off. That’s a vote of confidence in Chris Beard that few other coaches – especially with a relatively limited head-coaching track record – are given. Beard, though, is that good.
4. IOWA STATE: The Cyclones lost five of their top seven players from last year’s team, but there’s optimism in Ames with starters Tyrese Haliburton and Michael Jacobson returning, Solomon Young back from injury and the injury sophomore center George Conditt IV stepping into a bigger role. The reason to be real bullish on Iowa State, though, the newcomers who should bolster the roster in a big way. Prentiss Nixon is eligible after sitting out last season following his transfer from Colorado State while Rasir Bolton, who averaged 11 ppg as a freshman at Penn State, is immediately eligible and fills a huge scoring need on the perimeter. The Cyclones lost a ton, but probably won’t take a significant step back.
5. OKLAHOMA STATE: Last year was a total and complete train wreck for the Cowboys. Players got kicked off the team, and the team mostly got kicked around the Big 12. Here’s guessing that changes this year. All five starters are back, including the aforementioned Lindy Waters. Isaac Likekele was one of the standouts at the FIBA U19s for Team USA. Yor Anei is one of the best shot blockers in the country. Thomas Dziagwa and Cameron McGriff are proven Big 12 players. That’s a great foundation.
And on top of that, Mike Boynton welcomes a top-25 recruiting class and UMass grad transfer Jonathan Laurent, who shot 46.7 percent from 3-point range last year. They could easily be the surprise contender in the conference this season.
6. TEXAS: There are a lot of nice pieces in Austin, but probably no lottery pick, which is something Shaka Smart has had the benefit of early in his tenure. You could argue this might be Smart’s least-talented team. Again, plenty of solid players, but are there any true gamechangers?
7. OKLAHOMA: Kristian Doolittle and Brady Manek return from last year’s NCAA tournament team while Long Kruger also gets Wichita State transfer Austin Reaves and top-50 recruit De’Vion Harmon, but the rest of the roster looks thin.
Kruger is one of the country’s best coaches, so he could get enough out of this group to get another tourney appearance, but it’ll be tough sledding against the rest of the Big 12. Luckily for them, flirting with .500 in this league keeps you in the Selection Sunday discussion.
8. KANSAS STATE: Barry Brown, Kamau Stokes and Dean Wade are gone, ending an era in Manhattan that saw an Elite Eight and a Big 12 title. Those three, particularly Wade, were really the face and heart of the program in its recent run of success. Their losses will be hard to overcome.
The Wildcats do, though, return Xavier Sneed, a bona fide NBA prospect along with Makol Mawein, Carter Diarra and Mike McGuirl. That’s a solid group, but is there enough scoring there? And can they be as excellent defensively as the last two years?
9. TCU: By many accounts, Jamie Dixon would be the coach at UCLA in his native southern California if the Bruins would have ponied up the $8 million it would have cost to buy him out of Fort Worth. That didn’t happen, though, and Dixon remains with his alma mater, albeit with a weaker roster than he’s had the past couple seasons.
The Horned Frogs suffered quite a bit of attrition, but still have Desmond Bane, one of the league’s best shooters, and Kevin Samuel, one of the conference’s promising young big men. RJ Nembhard, who has shown promising flashes, steps into a bigger role and George Mason transfer Jaire Grayer will help, but it’s hard to see this TCU team competing near the upper-half of the conference.
10. WEST VIRGINIA: Bob Huggins didn’t hide his disdain for his team throughout last year’s last-place finish, but the Mountaineers did show some signs of life late in the year after booting a couple players. Still, Huggins called last year’s campaign “miserable” as losses mounted.
West Virginia could be in line for a similar season despite bringing in McDonald’s All-american Oscar Tsheibwe, a center with a 7-foot-5 wingspan that could remind those in Morgantown of Sagaba Konate. It’s usually not a good idea to doubt what Huggins can get out of his teams, but looking at his roster relative to the rest of the Big 12, it looks like another last-place finish is in order.
Grand Canyon landed an impact transfer on Tuesday as the school announced the addition of former TCU point guard Jaylen Fisher.
A starter for the Horned Frogs, the 6-foot-2 Fisher is a former top-100 prospect who has battled knee injuries the past two seasons. Playing only 17 games as a sophomore in 2017-18 and limited to nine games in 2018-19, Fisher’s health will be something to monitor during his time at Grand Canyon.
But, when healthy, Fisher is a double-figure scorer and noted perimeter threat who can really play. The Antelopes are adding a key piece here as Fisher could quickly become one of the league’s best players. Averaging 12.1 points and 2.7 assists last season, Fisher shot 44 percent from three-point range before a season-ending injury and transfer.
Fisher will seek a waiver to immediately play this season as he’s hoping to get back on the court after missing time with injury. If Grand Canyon is able to have the point guard right away then it’ll be a major addition for the upcoming season as they return double-figure scorers Alessandro Lever and Carlos Johnson from last season. Head coach Dan Majerle has done well recruiting former high-major transfers as the program seeks its first NCAA tournament appearance.