SEATTLE — Isaiah Stewart scored 16 points and blocked five shots, Nahziah Carter scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half, and No. 20 Washington overcame an awful first half offensively to pull away for a 56-46 win over Mount St. Mary’s on Tuesday night.
Days after opening the season with an upset of then-No. 16 Baylor, the Huskies looked sluggish and at times lost at the offensive end of the floor, but they found enough scoring in the second half to shake the pesky Mountaineers.
Stewart was again a force on the interior as the freshman made 7 of 10 shots, mostly from close range, and was imposing defensively. Carter ignited a sleepy arena with a fast-break dunk midway through the second half and followed with a 3-pointer from the wing to give Washington a 43-36 lead.
The Mountaineers (1-2) wouldn’t go away, hitting five 3-pointers in the second half as they found gaps in Washington’s zone defense. Vado Morse finished with 10 points. Naim Miller and Damian Chong Qui both added nine points.
Washington had lengthy scoring droughts and struggled to run its offense without Stewart in the post. The offensive woes were an amplified version of what Washington experienced in the opener against Baylor. It took a late 21-5 run to pull off the upset, which at least for one game hid the question of how the Huskies will go about replacing 80% of its scoring from last season.
Defense won’t be the issue with Washington. It will be finding the right scoring options.
For this night, it was Stewart and Carter providing enough punch. Hameir Wright added nine points and seven rebounds.
Tied at 21-all at halftime, Washington jumped to a seven-point lead in the opening moments of the second half, but it was gone in a matter of minutes. Nana Opoku’s rebound and basket caped an eight-point run and gave Mount St. Mary’s a 34-33 lead with less than 12 minutes remaining.
It was the last lead for the Mountaineers, who were outscored 23-12 the rest of the way.
Mount St. Mary’s: The Mountaineers can be proud of their effort in two games this season on the road against power programs. The Mountaineers led Georgetown by 19 points in the second half last week before watching the lead disappear late in an 81-68 loss. Mount St. Mary’s easily could have built a substantial first-half lead against Washington if not for its shooting woes. The Mountaineers shot 21.2% in the first half and were 2 of 12 on 3-pointers.
Washington: The Huskies will need to get more out of Jaden McDaniels. The prized freshman was 2 of 9 shooting. He did have nine rebounds and four assists, but also committed five turnovers.
Mount St. Mary’s: The Mountaineers continue their early-season trip at Lamar on Friday.
Washington: The Huskies will face Tennessee in Toronto on Saturday.
As the NBA game gets smaller and quicker and more spread out, the college game can still be beaten with big guys.
Just two years ago, in between Villanova’s two national titles, was a championship game played between a Gonzaga team built around their big guys and a North Carolina team built around their big guys.
Hell, I think you can make the argument that Kansas center Udoka Azubuike is one of the five most valuable players in college basketball, even if his potential as a pro is limited.
So with that in mind, let’s take a look at the best frontcourts in college hoops.
1. KANSAS (Udoka Azubuike, Mitch Lightfoot, Silvio De Sousa, David McCormack, Jalen Wilson, Tristan Enaruna)
The Jayhawks have perhaps the best traditional big men in college hoops in Udoka Azubuike, who shot 77 percent from the floor in his last (and only) healthy season, but it’s unclear just exactly how this frontcourt will work as a whole. Silvio De Sousa is probably the most talented of this group with David McCormack and Mitch Lightfoot the most experienced. None of those three, though, have shown the ability to step out on the perimeter to help create the space that will be critical for Azubuike to operate. Lightfoot is actually largely expected to redshirt. That leaves freshmen Jalen Wilson and Tristan Enaruna, a couple of four-star recruits.
What Bill Self does with this situation could very well determine Kansas’ ceiling. Frankly, it won’t be at all surprising if we see Self try doses of Marcus Garrett, Isaiah Moss and Ochai Agbaji at the four to alleviate the spacing concerns.
2. DUKE (Vernon Carey, Matthew Hurt, Javin DeLaurier, Jack White)
Coach K’s use of his frontcourt last year was one of the more scrutinized tactical decisions, with Zion Williamson, a singular force in the sport, splitting his time between power forward and center, when more time at the five probably would have unlocked a little more firepower for the Blue Devils. That won’t be the case this year with Duke’s roster flipping over, but how its frontcourt performs will go a long way in determining if it can get where last year’s team didn’t – the Final Four.
Vernon Carey and Matthew Hurt are both five-star recruits and potential one-and-done lottery picks as top-15 prospects. The pair should, well, pair well with Carey at the five and Hurt stretching the floor at the four. Javin DeLaurier got a lot of run for the Blue Devils last year, and will help provide experience and depth up front.
Just how good Penny Hardaway’s frontcourt is will go a long way in determining if the Tigers are as good as their recruiting class.
It starts with James Wiseman, the 7-foot-1 top-rated freshman and potential top-NBA draft pick come June. If he’s All-American good, then that sets Memphis up for success more than anything else. There’s that pesky ankle injury that’s kept him sidelined in the preseason, which is concerning but not cause for a full panic now.
It’s not the only thing, though. Precious Achiuwa was the other five-star Hardaway collected in his No. 1 recruiting class, which also included Isaiah Maurice, D.J. Jeffries and Malcolm Dandridge.
4. GONZAGA (Killian Tillie, Filip Petrusev, Drew Timme, Pavel Zakharov)
Killian Tillie is one of the more intriguing forwards in the country. People have been raving about his talent for years, but he’s been stuck behind great college players and future pros while also dealing with injuries. He even had knee surgery this offseason that has his immediate availability currently in question. If he’s healthy, the deck has been cleared in Spokane for him to be featured.
Six-foot-11 Filip Petrusev played in 32 games last year for the ‘Zags but wasn’t a huge piece of the rotation. He did have a big summer playing for Serbia at the FIBA U19s, putting up nearly 20 points a game and shooting 66 percent from the floor. He and Tillie could make for a dynamic duo.
Coach Mark Few also has some highly-rated freshmen he can mix in with Drew Timme and Pavel Zakharov, but they did get dinged when Oumar Ballo was forced to redshirt..
5. WASHINGTON (Jaden McDaniels, Isaiah Stewart, Naz Carter, Hamier Wright, Sam Timmins)
Memphis’ recruiting deservedly got a lot of love this summer, but Mike Hopkins got the job done, too. Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels are both top-10 recruits that will immediately make the Huskies’ frontcourt formidable. Both are 6-foot-9, but Stewart weighs in at 245 pounds and McDaniels 185. Nahziah Carter averaged 8.1 points and 2.4 rebounds while Hameir right played nearly 18 minutes per game. Sam Timmins played sparingly, but shot 62 percent.
6. LOUISVILLE (Jordan Nwora, Steve Enoch, Malik Wiliams, Aidan Igiehon, Jaelyn Withers)
The 6-foot-7, 225-pound Nwora blossomed into an All-American candidate last year, averaging 17 points and 7.6 rebounds per game while shooting 37.4 percent from the floor. He’s an ACC player of the year frontrunner, and the cornerstone to both the Cardinals’ frontcourt and their Final Four aspirations.
Steve Enoch was effective both inside and out last season while Malik Williams is a top-level shotblocker. Aidan Igiehon is a four-star, top-75 recruit while Jaelyn Withers is a top-150 prospect from 2019.
7. MISSISSIPPI STATE (Reggie Perry, Abdul Ado, Elias King, Robert Woodard II, Prince Oduro, KeyShawn Feazell, E.J. Datcher, Quinten Post)
Reggie Perry is a first-team all-SEC pick after he averaged 9.7 points and 7.2 rebounds last season while Abdul Ado is back after shooting 61.4 percent from the floor and blocking 1.8 shots per game last season. Robert Woodard played 17 minutes per game last year while Prince Oduro is eligible after a promising freshman season for Siena.
Bruno Fernando is gone, but Jalen Smith was nearly as productive as him last season as a freshman. The 6-foot-10 Smith blocked 12.5 percent of opponent shots while on the floor while shooting 56.2 percent from 2-point range. He shot just 26.8 percent from distance, but hoisted 71 attempts, at least an indication he could potentially be a floor-spacer. The Terps are also adding twins Makhi and Makhel Mitchell, the former a top-75 recruit and the later a three-star prospect. Chol Marial is a 7-foot-2 freshman that could contribute if he gets healthy.
9. BAYLOR (Tristan Clark, Mark Vital, Freddie Gillispie, Flo Thamba)
Tristan Clark was on his way to first-team all-Big 12 honors last year before his knee injury that sidelined him for the rest of the season in January. He’s back this year, and he’ll anchor one of the best frontcourts in the country. Mark Vital, Freddie Gillispie and Flo Thamba all were contributors last season, and should be more effective with Clark by their side this season.
10. MICHIGAN STATE (Xavier Tillman, Marcus Bingham, Thomas Kithier, Malik Hall, Joey Hauser*)
Nick Ward and Kenny Goins are gone, but Xavier Tillman returns after a productive sophomore campaign that has him blossom on both ends of the floor, albeit not his 3-point shooting. Marcus Bingham and Thomas Kithier will be in line for more minutes after being seldomly used as freshmen while Malik Hall is a top-75 recruit.
The wildcard here is Joey Hauser. The Marquette transfer has already seen his request for an immediate-eligibility waiver denied by the NCAA, but Michigan State has appealed. If the NCAA reverses course, the Spartans’ frontcourt will suddenly look much more formidable.
The Florida frontcourt got a massive boost when the 6-foot-10 Kerry Blackshear decided to grad-transfer over this past offseason. Blackshear averaged 14.9 points and 7.5 rebounds for the Hokies last season while also shooting 50.8 percent from the field. He’ll join Keyontae Johnson, who put up 8 and 6 last year, and Gorjok Gak, a 6-foot-11 center who missed last season with injury.
12. VIRGINIA (Jay Huff, Mamadi Diakite, Braxton Key)
The national champs lost a lot from last year’s team, but their frontcourt remains somewhat intact, although De’Andre Hunter is a major loss, no doubt. Getting Mamdi Diakite, Braxton Key and Jay Huff all to return is a help, though.
Diakite averaged 7.4 points and 4.4 rebounds in 22 minutes per game while blocking more than 10 percent of opponent shots while he was on the floor. Braxton Key and Jay Huff were smaller contributors last year, but still important ones. They’ll help Tony Bennett bridge the gap to the post-title era.
Luke Maye and Cameron Johnson are both gone, but Garrison Brooks is back from his junior season and five-star center Armando Bacot comes into the fold. So, too, is William & Mary graduate transfer Justin Pierce, a third-team all-CAA honoree who averaged 14.9 points, 8.9 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game last season as a junior.
14. UTAH STATE (Neemias Queta, Justin Bean, Diogo Brito, Kuba Karwowski, Roche Grootfaam)
Neemias Queta, a 7-foot sophomore, averaged 11.8 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game in his rookie campaign while shooting 61.4 percent, putting him among the country’s most productive centers. Justin Bean saw more time late in the season and was productive against MWC competition. Diogo Brito is a floor-spacer when he’s at the four. Kuba Karnowski and Roche Grootfaam are a pair of junior college transfers that could contribute.
Matt Painter and the Boilermakers have made a habit of having one of the nation’s best frontcourts, and that won’t be any different this year. Matt Haarms will anchor the group after the 7-foot-3 center averaged 9.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game while shooting 63.2 percent from the floor. Two freshmen that saw time last year – 6-foot-9 forwards Aaron Wheeler and Trevion Williams – will step into bigger roles up front, too.
The Pac-12 approved a measure Monday that will lighten restrictions on players that want to transfer to schools within the conference.
Players who now make an intra-conference transfer will no longer be subject to an immediate loss of a season of eligibility, the conference announced.
“This rule change removes one of the last remaining penalties associated with transferring between Conference schools,” the league said in a press release, “and is designed to provide student-athletes with a similar experience to any other student who decides to transfer.”
The league also has passed rules to beef up its non-conference schedule as programs will be required to a non-conference five-year trailing average of opponents’ NET ranking must be 175 or less, no participation in road buy games, no regular season games against non-Division I opponents and no road games versus a non-conference opponent with a five-year trailing average of 200 NET. Those requirements, along with the move to a 20-game conference schedule, come in response to continued struggles by the league in basketball, with last season seeing the league flirt with being a one-bid NCAA tournament conference. Ultimately, its league champion, Washington, received a No. 9 seed with Oregon getting a 12 and Arizona State an 11 and a First Four invitation.
Washington sophomore guard Jaylen Nowell is entering the 2019 NBA Draft, he announced on Sunday night.
The 6-foot-4 Nowell was a standout player for the Huskies the past two years as he averaged 16.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game as a sophomore. Shooting 50 percent from the floor and 44 percent from three-point range, Nowell is an intriguing scoring guard if he can shoot well from the perimeter.
The Huskies claimed the Pac-12 regular season title this season as they advanced to the NCAA tournament’s Round of 32 before falling to North Carolina. Nowell leaving means Washington likely has to replace its top four scorers since the other three behind Nowell are all seniors.
He’s not the most consistent and he may not even be the best, but it’s becoming increasingly evident that the most dangerous player on the North Carolina roster is freshman point guard Coby White.
The 6-foot-5 White put together his best week of the season in UNC’s wins over Syracuse and at Clemson, as he averaged 31.0 points, 5.0 boards and 4.0 assists while shooting 60 percent from the floor and 12-for-22 (54.5%) from three. Included in there was a career-high 34 points in the win over the Orange.
What makes this notable is that White had struggled in UNC’s previous three games, totaling 29 points and 11 turnovers while shooting just 29.7 percent from the floor and 18.8 percent from three, but the Tar Heels went 3-0 in that stretch. They beat Duke by 16 points in Cameron Indoor Stadium on a night where White had one of his worst games in Chapel Hill. They beat Florida State by 18 when he struggled. They were able to do those things because Luke Maye, Cam Johnson and Nassir Little all played great at one point or another.
On the nights they struggled, White carried the load.
That’s a long-winded way of stating the obvious: North Carolina has a half-dozen ways they can win on any given night, and considering that their best player — a streaky, shoot-first, tough-shot making freshman lead guard — is inherently inconsistent, knowing they can win on the nights where White doesn’t show up really raises the floor of what this group can be.
TEAM OF THE WEEK: UCF Knights
UCF landed what may go down as a top five win on the season on Saturday when they went into Houston and knocked off the Cougars.
Houston, as of this very moment, is ranked 6th in the NET. Kentucky, Tennessee, Duke, Virginia and Gonzaga are ranked ahead of them. Combined, those teams have lost four home games. Throw in Duke’s 34 point win over Kentucky on a neutral floor, and those are the only wins that are going to look better to the selection committee on team sheets on Selection Sunday.
1. P.J. WASHINGTON IS TO KENTUCKY AS JORDAN BONE IS TO TENNESSEE
On Saturday, Tennessee smacked around Kentucky in Knoxville, getting revenge on the Wildcats for the beatdown they suffered in Rupp Arena just two weeks prior.
And while I know that this space is typically meant to be used as a place to house wild overreactions, I am finding it hard to say anything about this beyond the obvious: Kentucky is a really good basketball team that got whipped on the road by another really good basketball team, which is exactly the way that I feel about Tennessee.
But along those same lines, Kentucky needs P.J. Washington to be great if they are going to be great. The Wildcats leapt into the national consciousness as a top five team and a potential No. 1 seed right around the time that Washington’s 10-game stretch of utter dominance started, and it should come as no surprise to anyone that in the last two games — where Washington has averaged 11.0 points while shooting 4-13 from the floor — Kentucky has struggled.
Here’s to hoping we get a rubber match between these two teams in Nashville next week.
2. IF PURDUE WINS THE BIG TEN, MATT PAINTER SHOULD BE COACH OF THE YEAR
There are a number of guys out there that deserve to be in the mix for National Coach of the Year based on the way that their have performed this season. The job that Kelvin Sampson has done turning Houston into a top ten team is remarkable. Scott Drew has done a masterful job getting Baylor into the NCAA tournament picture despite the fact that he team has been decimated by injuries, and he might not even be the Big 12 Coach of the Year — Chris Beard and Bruce Weber would have a strong case if they end up snapping the Kansas streak for Big 12 titles. John Calipari has completely turned around this season for Kentucky. John Beilein should be in the mix, as should Nate Oats of Buffalo and Mike Young of Wofford. There is no shortage of nominees.
But for my money, if Matt Painter ends up winning the outright Big Ten title this season, then he will be my National Coach of the Year.
As it stands, Purdue sits all alone in first place in the Big Ten, the toughest conference in college basketball, according to KenPom, and a league where everyone has to play 20 league games. If Purdue wins at Minnesota and Northwestern this week, they’ll be outright champions despite the fact that there are two top ten teams in the conference, they lost four senior starters off of last year’s roster and that their supporting cast around Carsen Edwards is not all that impressive.
Ryan Cline is a shotmaker that can’t do all that much else. Nojel Eastern is a defender that can’t really make shots. Matt Haarms is fine. Grady Eifert is a good role player. Trevion Williams has emerged as a solid freshman, same with Aaron Wheeler, but we’re not exactly talking about Romeo Langford here. Evan Boudreaux is a transfer from Dartmouth.
And Purdue is now 14-2 in Big Ten games played in 2019.
That deserves all the recognition in the world.
For me, that would include National Coach of the Year.
3. BUT LET’S NOT FORGET LSU’S WILL WADE
The job that Will Wade has done this season is absolutely remarkable.
He has kept a team together that had a player murdered on the evening before the first practice of the season. He has managed to keep winning games despite the fact that he has a cloud hanging over him from the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball; he was subpoenaed to testify in court in April at the final trial for the people charged in this case.
And through all of that, LSU is currently two wins away from taking home at least a share of the SEC regular season title despite sharing a conference with a pair of top ten teams in Kentucky and Tennessee. Should I mention that they beat both of those teams in league play this year?
What that team has accomplished is amazing considering what those young men have gone through in the last five months.
Wade should get plenty of credit for that.
4. WHAT’S LESS LIKELY: A PAC-12 TEAM WINNING A TOURNAMENT GAME OR A BIG EAST TEAM GETTING OUT OF THE FIRST WEEKEND?
Washington, who was supposed to be the one team from the Pac-12 that might have a chance to make something happen in the NCAA tournament this season, lost at Cal on Thursday night.
Marquette, who was supposed to be the one team from the Big East that had a chance to make a run to the Final Four in March, lost twice this week, blowing leads at Villanova and at home against Creighton.
5. THERE WILL BE AT LEAST ONE BUBBLE TEAM SETTING A RECORD FOR FUTILITY
It’s baffling just how many mediocre to bad teams are still in the mix when it comes to the NCAA tournament.
Indiana is 15-14 this season, but as we detailed on Saturday, this is a program that very much has a resume that is strong enough to get into the NCAA tournament mix if they can finish the season strong. Creighton is 15-13 against Division I competition, and they are still in the bubble picture after beating Marquette on the road on Sunday evening. Arizona State has two Q3 and two Q4 losses. Texas has lost 13 games and they’re comfortably in the tournament right now. Florida and Alabama have lost 12 games apiece, and they’re likely going to be dancing. N.C. State played the second-worst non-conference schedule in the country, and they aren’t even in a play-in game in our most recent bracket update.
What we desperately need to happen is for all hell to break loose in certain one-bid leagues. Gonzaga has to get picked off by someone in the WCC tournament. Nevada and Utah State need to get beaten in the Mountain West tournament. Wofford needs to lose in the SoCon tournament. Buffalo needs to get upset in the MAC tournament. Murray State needs to pick off Belmont in the OVC tournament title game. And, as weird as this sounds, we need someone other than Washington and Arizona State to win the Pac-12 tournament.
If all of those things happen, we’re looking at six at-larges bids going up in smoke.
So let’s raise a glass to all those big thieves out there.
This is your year to shine.
Get it done and save us from a 15-loss at-large bid.
We’re just under two weeks away from this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Selection Show, and the race is on for the coveted spots along the No. 1 seed line.
Gonzaga seems like a lock to lead the West Region. At this point, a loss in the West Coast Conference tournament will do little to change the Zags’ overall profile. What it would do, however, is send ripples along the bubble, because as we stand now, the WCC appears to be a one-bid league.
Tennessee earns the final No. 1 seed today. Kentucky and North Carolina are equally strong contenders. And let’s not sleep on Michigan if the Wolverines win their rematch against Michigan State and surge to a Big 10 tournament title. We also have another matchup between Duke and UNC as we await news about the availability of Zion Williamson.
On a housekeeping note … with conference tournaments beginning this week, we’ve eliminated the CAPS referring to automatic bids; those will be reserved now as teams officially punch their tickets (exceptions made for teams traditionally known by their acronym – such as VCU).
UPDATED: March 4, 2019
FIRST FOUR – DAYTON
Temple vs. Seton Hall
Minnesota vs. Arizona State
Iona vs. Norfolk State
Prairie View vs. St. Francis (PA)
EAST – Washington, DC
WEST – Anaheim
Salt Lake City
16) Iona / Norfolk St
16) Prairie View / St. Francis
9) St. John’s
5) Mississippi State
5) Kansas State
12) Temple / Seton Hall
12) Minnesota / Arizona St
4) Florida State
3) Texas Tech
14) Texas State
10) Utah State
2) Michigan State
MIDWEST – Kansas City
SOUTH – Louisville
16) Sam Houston St
9) Ole Miss
5) Virginia Tech
13) New Mexico St
13) Old Dominion
Salt Lake City
6) Iowa State
11) NC State
14) South Dakota St
10) Ohio State
2) North Carolina
15) Wright State
Last 4 Byes
Last 4 IN
First 4 OUT
Next 4 OUT
TOP SEED LINE: Virginia is the No. 1 overall seed, followed by Gonzaga, Duke, and Tennessee
Breakdown by Conference …
ACC (8): VIRGINIA, Duke, North Carolina, Florida State, Virginia Tech, Louisville, Syracuse, NC State
Big East (4): MARQUETTE, Villanova, St. John’s, Seton Hall
American (4): HOUSTON, Cincinnati, UCF, Temple
Pac 12 (2): WASHINGTON, Arizona State
Mountain West (2): NEVADA, Utah State
Southern (1): WOFFORD
Atlantic 10 (1): VCU
Mid American (1): BUFFALO
West Coast (1): GONZAGA
ONE BID LEAGUES:Loyola-Chicago (MVC), Iona (MAAC), Old Dominion (C-USA), Texas State (SBELT), Yale (IVY), Montana (BSKY), Wright State (HORIZON), Sam Houston State (SLND), UC-Irvine (BWEST), Lipscomb (ASUN), Belmont (OVC), Hofstra (CAA), Campbell (BSO), Norfolk State (MEAC), South Dakota State (SUM), New Mexico State (WAC), Vermont (AEAST), Colgate (PAT), St. Francis (PA) (NEC), Prairie View (SWAC)