It’s that time of the year again, which means that we are diving head first into our annual NCAA tournament bubble watch.
The way that it will work is simple: We’ll be looking at every team that our Dave Ommen, the best bracketologist in the business, considers in the mix for an at-large bid. In an effort to keep this somewhat manageable, we are going to assume that the top 36 teams in the field — every team that is a No. 9-seed or above — is “off the bubble”. Thisdoes not mean those teams are a lock to dance, it just means that they have given themselves enough room for error that we can take them out of the conversation until they do something dumb.
TOP 9: Duke (NBC: 2), Florida State (NBC: 2), Louisville (NBC: 4)
VIRGINIA (NET: 55, NBC: 11): Tomas Woldetensae hit a three with a second left on the clock to beat North Carolina (95) in Chapel Hill on Saturday. The Wahoos are now 17-7 overall with a 7-6 mark against the top two Quads thanks to this win. They do have three Quad 1 wins, but just one of them — Florida State (15) at home — is a surefire Quad 1 win to go along with a Quad 3 loss at Boston College (143). Perhaps the biggest issue is that UVA has just two potential Quad 1 wins left on their schedule. They can’t afford slip-ups, and could really use a win over Duke (6) or Louisville (7) next month. But as of today they are in a pretty good spot.
N.C. STATE (NET: 61, NBC: First four out): The Wolfpack landed their third Quad 1 win of the season by going into the Carrier Dome and picking off Syracuse (69) on Tuesday night, but they followed that up with their third Quad 3 loss, a 71-68 loss at Boston College (143). N.C. State has just one win over a top 50 team — a home win over Wisconsin (33) — but they do have those three Quad 1 road wins. Three Quad 3 losses weigh things down quite a bit, but if they’re going to get to the NCAA tournament, they can earn it this week when they host Duke (6) and Florida State (14).
AMERICAN BUBBLE WATCH
TOP 9: Houston (NBC: 8)
WICHITA STATE (NET: 46, NBC: 10): The Shocker shook off a recent three-game losing streak with back-to-back impressive wins against the bottom of the AAC. They have beaten VCU (52) and Oklahoma (47) at home, and they don’t have any truly terrible losses, but with just three potential Quad 1 games left on their schedule — all of which are on the road — the Shockers need to get hot, and soon. I think they need to win two of at Cincinnati (51), at SMU (67) and at Memphis (60)
MEMPHIS (NET: 59, NBC: NExt four out): The Tigers are now in the midst of a three-game losing streak after losing yet another nailbiter at UConn (71). They’ve now lost their last three games by a total of 11 points, one of which came in overtime. In total, they have lost five of their last eight and seven of their last 12 games, and they are playing without D.J. Jeffries, their second-leading scorer. They have more Quad 3 losses (two) than Quad 1 wins (one) and the two best teams that they have beaten on the season are on the bubble. I don’t think this ends well for Memphis.
CINCINNATI (NET: 48, NBC: Play-in game): Cincinnati avoided disaster by beating East Carolina in overtime on Sunday. It’s their third straight overtime game: they beat Memphis (60) and home and lost at UConn (71). They’ve won seven of their last eight games and nine of their last 11, but that doesn’t change the fact that there are two major problems with Cincinnati’s resume right now: They don’t have an elite win and the best win available to them during league play is at Houston (29) in two weeks. They do have a pair of Quad 1 wins and an 8-5 mark against the top two Quads, but with three Quad 3 losses to their name, there is still some ground for them to makeup if they want to feel comfortable. They need to keep on winning, but the Bearcats are probably in the NCAA tournament as of today. My gut says they do enough to get there.
ATLANTIC 10 BUBBLE WATCH
TOP 9: Dayton (NBC: 2)
VCU (NET: 42, NBC: Off the bubble): The Rams are in a terrible spot after losing three of their last four games, including a blowout loss at Richmond (45) on Saturday. Ig they do not beat Dayton (5) on Tuesday next week, than discussing the rest of their resume will not matter. They will not be a tournament team. We’ll talk Wednesday.
RHODE ISLAND (NET: 34, NBC: 11): URI did what they needed to do and picked off St. Joseph’s (237) at home on Saturday. They’re 19-6 overall and they have just one Quad 1 win, but they are 6-5 against the top two Quads. The loss to Brown (219) is ugly, but as long as URI avoids the landmines on their schedule, I think they can get an at-large even with a loss to Dayton (5) at home in March.
RICHMOND (NET: 52, NBC: Play-in game): The Spiders picked up a win in the toughest game they have left on their schedule, beating VCU (52) by 18 points at home. For my money, the Spiders’ at-large hopes are a longshot. I cannot see how they are going to be able to get enough wins to stay on the right side of the cutline without a win over Dayton (5). But stranger things have happened, and they could end up getting another shot at the Flyers in the Atlantic 10 tournament.
BIG 12 BUBBLE WATCH
TOP 9: Baylor (NBC: 1), Kansas (NBC: 1), West Virginia (NBC: 5), Texas Tech (NBC: 8), Oklahoma (NBC: 9)
GEORGETOWN (NET: 43, NBC: Play-in game): Without question, the biggest bubble winner the week is Georgetown, who landed their fifth Quad 1 of the season and by far their best win of the year by going into Indianapolis and knocking off Butler (20). There are two major problems with Georgetown’s NCAA tournament profile: The first is that they already have ten losses, but some of that is explainable: They are 5-9 against Quad 1 opponents and 9-10 against Quad 1 and 2 opponents. They have played 19 games against top 75 teams. That’s a lot of good games, and a 9-10 record against them is hardly a bad thing. The other issue was a lack of elite wins, but they already had a win over Creighton (13) in their back pocket, and now they can add a road win over a top 20 team to the mix.
BIG TEN BUBBLE WATCH
TOP 9: Maryland (NBC: 2), Penn State (NBC: 4), Michigan State (NBC: 5), Iowa (NBC: 6), Ohio State (NBC: 6), Illinois (NBC: 7), Michigan (NBC: 7), Wisconsin (NBC: 8), Rutgers (NBC: 9)
INDIANA (NET: 63, NBC: 10): Indiana is 16-9 on the season and 6-8 in the Big Ten, which is not ideal. Neither is their 1-6 record on the road. But the Hoosiers do have four Quad 1 wins and are sitting at 6-9 against the top two Quads without a single loss to a team that ranks outside the top 50. They’ve beaten three top 20 teams at home. Indiana fans are losing their minds, but they are in a better spot right now than they realize. Beating someone other than Nebraska (175) on the road would certainly make a different.
PURDUE (NET: 33, NBC: FIRST FOUR OUT): The biggest issue currently facing Purdue after losing at Ohio State (18) is that they now have 12 losses on the season, including a pair of Quad 3 losses, and the rest of their schedule is absolutely brutal. The most losses and at-large team has ever had is 15. For context, Indiana last season was 17-15 with six Quad 1 wins and nine Quad 1 and 2 wins and they were left out. Purdue is 3-9 against Quad 1 opponents and 7-10 against the top two Quads with a 3-7 record on the road. Their best road win is at Indiana (58). They’re in a tough spot right now.
MINNESOTA (NET: 40, NBC: Off the bubble): After blowing a late, eight point lead to Iowa (28) at home, the Gophers have lost four of their last five and five of their last seven games. They are 4-10 against Quad 1 opponents and sit at 6-12 against the top two Quads. Their 12-11 record on the season is certainly a problem, but their “worst” loss is DePaul (67) at home. The biggest red flag with Minnesota is that they have just one win away from home on the season — at Ohio State (15). They need to start winning, but they are in a place where getting hot for two weeks will be enough to get them up as high as a No. 8 seed. But they need to start winning now.
USC (NET: 49, NBC: 10): I think USC is in a pretty good spot after sweeping the Washington schools in LA this week and doing so without Onyeka Okongwu. They only have two Quad 1 wins, but they are 8-6 against the top two Quads. The home loss to Temple (106) is not ideal, but it is survivable. They should be OK as long as they don’t do anything stupid down the stretch.
STANFORD (NET: 37, NBC: NEXT four out): The Cardinal lost their fourth straight game on Saturday night at home against Arizona (8). It was their seventh loss in the last eight games. They have an ugly Quad 3 loss to Cal (155) and just two total Quad 1 wins. Stanford will have chances down the stretch, but should we actually trust them to take advantage of those chances?
ARIZONA STATE (NET: 50, NBC: 10): The Sun Devils won their fifth straight game on Saturday night, winning at Cal (155) three days after they beat Stanford (37) on the road, their fourth Quad 1 win. They’re now 4-6 against Quad 1 opponents with three of those wins coming on the road. They are 7-8 against Quad 1 and 2 opponents and their “worst” loss is a Quad 2 loss at Washington State (107). Should I mention that they are tied for the lead in the Pac-12 with four other teams? Arizona State is in a good spot right now.
ARKANSAS (NET: 48, NBC: Next four out): The Razorbacks fell at the buzzer on Saturday when Mississippi State’s (53) Abdul Ado tipped in a missed shot with less than a second left. They ave now lost four straight games, are sitting with a 4-9 recorded against the top two Quadrants with just two Quad 1 wins — at Alabama (36) and at Indiana (63). They desperately need to get Isaiah Joe back.
MISSISSIPPI STATE (NET: 53, NBC: First four out): Abdul Ado made the biggest player of the year for the Bulldogs, tipping home a game-winning bucket with less than a second left on the clock in a 78-77 win at Arkansas (48) on Saturday. The enormity of this win cannot be overstated. For starters, Mississippi State only had one Quad 1 entering the day, and adding a second Quad 1 win means they now have the same number as their Quad 3 losses. But the bigger issue is that MSU’s schedule down the stretch features precisely one top 65 opponent. This was their last chance at a good win for their resume until the SEC tournament, and they got it.
ALABAMA (NET: 36, NBC: First four out): The Crimson Tide picked up an enormous win on Saturday, as they knocked off LSU (29) in Tuscaloosa for their second Quad 1 win of the season. Alabama is now 14-11 overall and while their 6-10 record against Quad 1 and 2 opponents is solid, a 3-6 mark on the road, a home loss to Penn (153) and just two Quad 1 wins is not a good sign. At this point, I think Alabama needs to win out during the regular season for the simple fact that their schedule is not all that strong. But they have a shot if they do.
SOUTH CAROLINA (NET: 65, NBC: Next four out): Suddenly, South Carolina is in the mix for the bubble. They are 7-7 against Quad 1 and 2 opponents with a trio of Quad 1 wins — Kentucky (24), at Arkansas (48), at Virginia (55). They do have a Quad 3 loss — Boston (152) — and a Quad 4 loss — Stetson (290) — so they do have some more work to do. With a schedule that includes a pair of games against Mississippi State and dates with LSU and at Alabama, they’ll have a chance to build.
BUBBLE WATCH FOR EVERYONE ELSE
TOP 9: Gonzaga (NBC: 1), San Diego State (NBC: 1), BYU (NBC: 7), Saint Mary’s (NBC: 9)
UTAH STATE (NET: 41, NBC: Play-in game): After beating Fresno State, the Aggies have won four in a row and seven of their last eight games, ensuring they are still in the NCAA tournament mix and fully turning around a season that looked like it was lost as recently as three weeks ago. Wins over LSU (27) and Florida (38) are nice, but with three road losses to sub-85 teams and no more chances to land marquee wins, how are they going to make up for those losses? They don’t play another top 100 team the rest of the season. I don’t see how they can get in without beating San Diego State (1) in the MWC tournament.
NORTHERN IOWA (NET: 40, NBC: 11): The Panthers lost at Loyola (94), which is hardly a bad loss, especially in the MVC, but I’m not sure that it is a loss they can afford. Their strong NET and wins at Colorado (17) and over South Carolina (66) on a neutral keep the Panthers in the conversation, but losses at Southern Illinois (151) and Illinois State (203) are killers. UNI cannot lose another game unless it is against Loyola-Chicago in the MVC tournament if they really want a chance at an at-large, and even then, it will be tough.
EAST TENNESSEE STATE (NET: 41, NBC: 11): ETSU has a win at UNCG (61) and a win at LSU (27). With a 20-4 record and a loss to Mercer (205) at home, the Buccaneers have to win out and lost to only UNCG or Furman (73) in the SoCon tournament to have a chance, and even that will be a bit of a longshot. They went 2-0 this week.
Bracketology: How many teams will make it from the Big Ten?
Here is today’s updated NCAA tournament bracketology projection.
Heading into January, a good over-under line for how many Big Ten teams would make the NCAA tournament field felt like 9.5. It still does. If you were hedging your bet today, which way would you go?
Here’s what we do know about some potential Big Ten bubble teams:
Minnesota is an even 12-12 on the season.
Purdue is 14-12 with a trip to Wisconsin up next (then three of four at home).
Indiana has lost five of six games and three of its next four are away from Bloomington.
Illinois has lost four straight and heads to Penn State this week with Ayo Dosunmu’s status as day-to-day.
Rutgers is 1-8 in games played outside the RAC with three of its final five away from home.
Today’s biggest beneficiaries of a chaotic bubble are Utah State and Richmond. Whether the Aggies and Spiders can hold their at-large spots may depend as much on those behind them as it does on their own performance.
Anyway, here is today’s updated NCAA tournament bracketology projection. If you’re looking for the NBC Sports Bubble Watch, it can be found here.
The latest look at where our NCAA tournament bracketology projection stands …
UPDATED: February 17, 2020
FIRST FOUR – DAYTON
Utah State vs. Richmond
Cincinnati vs. Georgetown
RIDER vs. NC CENTRAL
PR VIEW-AM vs. ROB MORRIS
SOUTH – Houston
MIDWEST – Indianapolis
16) RIDER / NC CENTRAL
16) PV-AM / ROB MORRIS
9) Saint Mary’s
12) Georgetown / Cincinnati
12) Utah State / Richmond
13) NORTH TEXAS
6) Ohio State
11) NORTHERN IOWA
14)NEW MEXICO ST
14) WRIGHT STATE
10) Arizona State
10) Wichita State
15) AUSTIN PEAY
EAST – New York
WEST – Los Angeles
1) SAN DIEGO STATE
8) Texas Tech
5) West Virginia
5) Michigan State
12) S.F. AUSTIN
11) Rhode Island
11) EAST TENNESSEE ST
3) Penn State
3) SETON HALL
14) SOUTH DAKOTA ST
2) Florida State
15) LITTLE ROCK
Last 4 Byes
Last 4 IN
First 4 OUT
Next 4 OUT
Top Seed Line
Baylor, Kansas, Gonzaga, San Diego State Seed List
Breakdown by Conference … Big Ten (10) Big East (7) Pac 12 (5) Big 12 (5) SEC (4) ACC (4) West Coast (3) American (4) Atlantic 10 (3) Mountain West (2)
College Basketball Top 25 Power Rankings: Some changes to top 10
We talked about this a bit on Friday’s podcast, but I want to put it into print form.
One of the narratives of this season is that there are no great teams in college basketball. It was one of the biggest storylines back in November and December as so many of the teams that we thought would be really good this season went through struggles, and the fact that we rolled through seven No. 1 teams in the AP poll only drove that point home.
Now that we’re in mid-February, things have started to shake themselves out, and what we’ve learned is that early in the season we just didn’t actually know who the best teams in the sport were. Now that we do, there are some teams that have started to gain separation on the field. It’s pretty clear that Baylor, Gonzaga, Kansas and San Diego State are the heavy favorites to earn the four No. 1 seeds, and that point is driven home by the fact that the only loss any of those teams have suffered since Christmas came when Kansas played Baylor. Duke is rolling. Maryland is rolling. Dayton is rolling. Up until this past week, Louisville and Auburn were rolling, too.
Put it all together, and as of today, it’s pretty clear who the best teams in the country are, and it’s made doing a top 25 every week much easier than it has been in the past. I haven’t had to think all that hard about the top ten in about six weeks. I will say, that has been nice. Doing a top 25 every week can be a drag.
Having said all that, while there are some great teams in the context of this season, I don’t think that there are any teams here that we are going to be talking about as one of the best college basketball teams of *enter arbitrary cut-off point here.*
Part of the reason I say that is the lack of NBA talent on these rosters. Take, for example, the 2018 Villanova team that won the title. For my money, they are the best college basketball team that I have seen since I started doing this, and four of the five guys that started on that team are now starting in the NBA. That doesn’t include Omari Spellman, either.
Or how about this: Compare this Gonzaga team to last year’s Gonzaga team. Last year, they had two first round picks in Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke, a top 40 pick in Zach Norvell and an All-American point guard in Josh Perkins. All of them were upperclassmen. This year’s team is really good, but their best NBA prospect — Killian Tillie — can’t stay healthy and their second-best NBA prospect — Joel Ayayi — was enough of a question mark entering the season that Mark Few felt the need to go out and recruit two grad transfers to provide insurance at his position.
Don’t get me wrong, this Gonzaga team is very, very good.
And when compared to the rest of the country this year, we can probably call them great. The same can be said about Baylor, and Kansas, and maybe even San Diego State.
But as much fun as they have been to watch this season, putting them in the same conversation as the great teams from past season is a step too far.
Anyway, here is the rest of the NBC Sports college basketball top 25.
NBC SPORTS COLLEGE BASKETBALL TOP 25
1. BAYLOR (23-1, Last Week: 1)
2. GONZAGA (26-1, 2)
3. KANSAS (22-3, 3)
4. DUKE (22-3, 5)
5. SAN DIEGO STATE (26-0, 7)
6. DAYTON (23-2, 8)
7. MARYLAND (21-4, 10)
8. FLORIDA STATE (21-4, 6)
9. PENN STATE (20-5, 19)
10. LOUISVILLE (21-5, 4)
11. AUBURN (22-3, 11)
12. KENTUCKY (20-5, 12)
13. OREGON (20-6, 13)
14. SETON HALL (18-7, 9)
15. VILLANOVA (19-6, 15)
16. CREIGHTON (20-6, 21)
17. WEST VIRGINIA (18-7, 14)
18. IOWA (18-8, 16)
19. COLORADO (20-6, 20)
20. MICHIGAN (16-9, 24)
21. HOUSTON (20-6, 17)
22. ILLINOIS (16-9, 18)
23. MARUQETTE (17-7, 23)
24. BYU (21-7, NR)
25. OHIO STATE (17-8, NR)
NEW ADDITIONS: No. 24 BYU, No. 24 Michigan DROPPED OUT: No. 22 LSU, No. 25 Michigan State
Wednesday’s Things to Know: Creighton claims another top-10 win, Auburn keeps winning OT games and Villanova stops its skid
Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
We’re probably not talking enough about Creighton. After Wednesday’s 87-82 win over No. 10 Seton Hall, the 23rd-ranked Bluejays are now tied for second in the Big East and have quietly assembled a resume that’s going to moving up to top-four NCAA tournament seed territory here shortly. Creighton is very much for real, and has a real chance of making the first Sweet 16 in school history next month.
It’s the offense that makes the Bluejays go, and Seton Hall learned that Wednesday. Creighton shot 46 percent from the field, 38 percent from 3-point range and grabbed 11 offensive rebounds while playing at a blistering 76-possession pace. Ty-Shon Alexander, Marcus Zegarowski, Denzel Mahoney and Damien Jefferson all had 18 points for coach Greg McDermott on the night. Creighton’s offensive night was almost even more impressive considering Mitchell Ballock, their best 3-point shooter and a consistent offensive threat, was 0-7 from the floor. Take that out, and Creighton was 51.8 percent from the floor and 44.4 percent from 3.
They’re now up to sixth nationally in offense on KenPom, thanks strong 3-point shooting, good work inside the arc and their ability to take care of the ball. The rotation is thin, but every player McDermott sends out on to the floor is a capable offensive presence. There’s something to be said for the power of simply not having a liability on the floor to help make an offense excellent. The defense isn’t much to lean on, but the Bluejays get buckets.
The loss is the second in four games for Seton Hall, with both Ls coming at home. There’s certainly no reason to start wondering about the Pirates now – they’re probably not winning on nights when Myles Powell goes an atypical 3 of 16 from the floor – but they’re missing on opportunities to push their resume up a notch.
2. Auburn wins in OT…again
What in the world do you make of Auburn?
The Tigers improved to 22-2 on the year and 9-2 in SEC play with their seventh-straight win, a 95-91 victory over Alabama at home. It was the third-straight extra-time victory for the Tigers, and their fourth in five games.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but winning is, obviously, the thing that’s most important in a basketball game. When you’re trying to evaluate just how good Auburn is, though, all these close games make it awfully difficult. Does it say anything all that much different about a team if they win or lose an overtime game? It’s five minutes of basketball, and in five minutes of basketball anything can happen. Are they clutch? Lucky?
When a game comes down to such a small sample size, it’s hard to assign credit. The average KenPom ranking of these teams that are playing Auburn even for 40 minutes is 42. Not cupcakes, but hardly national title contenders, either. Making things even more difficult to judge is that the one game in this stretch that didn’t take OT was Auburn’s win against Kentucky.
I don’t really know what to make of Auburn, but I imagine they don’t care too much. They’re too busy winning.
Side note: Alabama shot 59 times from 3-point range tonight. The Tide are one of the fastest-playing teams and highest-volume 3-point shooting teams in the country. If Nate Oats starts loading up on skilled players that can maximize that style of play, they’re going to be a ton of fun.
3. Villanova gets back on track
Villanova’s three-game losing streak is no more.
The Wildcats salvaged their last chance in a tough four-game stretch by beating Marquette, 72-71.
It was the first victory in two weeks after losses to Creighton, Butler and Seton Hall. Even with two of the three coming at home, those are schedule losses as much as anything. Getting this one against Marquette, even if it came down to the wire, helps build a little momentum and confidence heading into a regular-season finale stretch of seven games when a rematch against Seton Hall is the only KenPom top-45 opponent on the slate.
Villanova has a real chance to stack victories over the next month.
Marquette, meanwhile, has a huge game against Creighton next week before a similarly light finish to Big East play that features a rematch with the Pirates.
And, to be frank, the top of this 2020 NBA mock draft doesn’t have all that much to do with the top of college basketball this season.
The top pick plays for a Georgia team that is not going to get to the NCAA tournament. The No. 2 pick skipped college altogether. The No. 3 pick quit in the middle of the season. The No. 5 pick is done for the season and wasn’t on a tournament team either way. The No. 9 pick skipped college. The No. 10 pick was hurt and had his season derailed. Picks 13-17 are all going to miss the NCAA tournament.
It’s a very, very weird year for NBA fans that watch college basketball.
Last thing: I don’t know that I’m actually an expert on anything, but I’m certainly not an expert on European hoops. So for now, this is less a mock draft and more a power ranking of the best prospects in the NCAA with LaMelo Ball and R.J. Hampton sprinkled in. I’m sure Deni Avdija is awesome. Until he plays in the EYBL, I won’t have any feel for what he can do beyond watching the same YouTube videos you watch.
Edwards is the best scorer in this draft. At 6-foot-4 with a 6-foot-8 wingspan and explosive athleticism, he’s proven himself to be a dangerous three-level scorer that can get hot and do things like score 33 points in a half. He also has the physical profile of a guard that can defend two or three different positions in the NBA. It’s all there.
But Edwards is still learning how to play and how to be consistent. Far too often he settles for deep, contested threes. They looked great when he hits a couple in a row, but he is shooting 32 percent from three this season. That speaks for itself. There are also too many stretches where he looks disengaged in the game, whether it’s due to his lack of focus on the defensive end of his passivity offensively. He’s developed a reputation dating all the way back to his high school days for being a guy that starts slow and puts up huge second half numbers in a losing effort.
I know what you’re going to think when you hear LaMelo Ball’s name. The reaction is going to be thinking back to the little 5-foot-11 kid with braces and a blonde mohawk launching shots from halfcourt and cherry-picking against overmatched competition to try and get to 100 points in a game. You’re going to immediately think of all the things you hated about Lavar Ball, and I get it.
But Melo grew up. He’s not just the baby brother anymore. He’s now a 6-foot-6 lead guard that has all of the tools that would lead you to believe that he can be a star lead guard in the NBA. He’s a terrific passer that can make every pass you want a point guard to make out of ball-screens with either hand, and he has the size to see those passes over the defense. His feel for the game and basketball IQ are elite. He’s been an inconsistent and inefficient shooter throughout his career, but he’s always been a good free throw shooter and while he certainly needs to tweak his mechanics, some of those low percentages can be explained away by the degree of difficulty of the shots he is taking.
Which leads me to what may be the most important point here: Not only is Melo one of the youngest players in this draft, he is also a late-bloomer. He’s still growing into his frame, and while I doubt he’s ever be on par with someone like Russell Westbrook, he’s definitely going to get stronger as he matures physically. When that happens, it should help his explosiveness and ability to handle physicality.
The bigger issue is the off-the-court stuff. He has a reputation, fairly or unfairly, of being a lazy defender with a lacking work ethic. Teams picking at the top of the draft will have to do their due diligence, but I think it’s fair to say Melo has the highest-upside of anyone in this draft class. If it all works out, he could end up being the second-coming of Luka Doncic.
Wiseman has all the physical tools that you want out of a five in the modern NBA. He’s 7-foot-1 with a 7-foot-6 wingspan, an exceptional athlete that can really get up and down the floor and finish above the rim. He has all the tools to be a rim protector that can guard in ball-screens and switch on the perimeter if needed. He’s not Dirk Nowitzki but he’s not Clint Capela, either — he’s shown some flashes of being capable on the perimeter.
The red flags with Wiseman are two-fold. For starters, his competitiveness has been questioned throughout his career. He hasn’t always controlled games the way someone his size should be able to. He isn’t as tough or as physical as some would like, and he seems to have a habit of trying to prove that he can play away from the basket instead of overpowering anyone that gets between him and the rim. None of these concerns were helped by his decision to leave Memphis in December.
My gut feeling on Wiseman is that if he decided he wanted to be, say, the next Myles Turner, he could end up one of the eight-to-ten best centers in the NBA. If he decides that he wants to be the next Giannis, I don’t think it will go as well.
Toppin is one of three guys in this draft that I want to definitively be higher than the field on, and the reason for that is two-fold: On the one hand, Toppin is one of just a handful of players in this draft that I believe can make a significant impact in the NBA as a rookie, and given that the top of this draft class is made up of players that are going to be drafted on their potential without having the upside of being a franchise-changing talent, I think there is value in drafting a guy with a rock-solid floor.
The reason that Toppin’s floor is so high is because of how well he fits as a role player at the next level. Anthony Grant’s offense at Dayton is as close to a modern NBA scheme as you are going to find in the college game, and the reason he is able to play that way has everything to do with Toppin’s skill set. At 6-foot-9, he’s an explosive leaper that has a versatile offensive skill-set — he can hit a three, he can score off the bounce, he has a pretty good feel for the game. He also has the size and physical tools where it is conceivable that he can play the four or the five in small-ball lineups, although he’ll need some development here; he has high hips and a slender waist which casts some doubt on how well he’ll be able to put on weight and how well he can sit in a stance and guard on the perimeter.
I do think that will come with time spent in the right NBA strength and conditioning program, and the fact that he’s a late-bloomer that was just 6-foot-2 as a high school junior is relevant here as well.
I broke down why Toppin is such a good fit for Dayton’s offense last month, and all of that applies to why he’ll be such a good fit at the next level as well:
Haliburton’s numbers jump off the page. At 6-foot-5, he’s a lead guard with terrific vision that can throw every pass a point guard is going to be asked to make. He’s an excellent three-point shooter that has positional size and has shown himself to be, at the very least, adequate as an on- and off-ball defender. He was the best player on the floor for Team USA at the U-19 World Championships over the summer. All of that adds up.
If there is a concern with Haliburton, it’s his physical tools. He’s not an explosive athlete and, at 175 pounds, there are valid concerns about how well he is going to handle the rigors of getting to the rim in the NBA. He also has a slow, funky release on his jumper — think Shawn Marion. Will he be able to get that shot off at the next level? I’m not that worried about the fractured wrist he suffered last week. He’ll be just fine.
I’m high on Haliburton because, after seeing the way that elite passers like Luka Doncic, Ja Morant and Trae Young have thrived early in their NBA career, I’m willing to take the risk on a 6-foot-5 point guard in a year where the opportunity of rolling the dice at the top of this 2020 NBA mock draft is relatively low.
Taking a risk on Maxey this high in the draft means betting on the fact that his 29 percent three-point shooting as a freshman has more to do with adjusting to the college level than it does his actual shooting ability. Coming through high school, Maxey had the reputation for being a big-time scorer because of his ability to make deep jumpers off the bounce and because of the way that he can finish around the rim with a variety of floaters and layups.
He needs to make those threes because the rest of Maxey’s game is somewhat limited. He’s not a natural creator, he’s wired to score more than anything else, and he certainly isn’t an elite athlete by NBA combo-guard standards, although he is a pretty good on-ball defender. He’s also a worker, and by all accounts a great kid and competitor. I think there’s a real chance his ceiling is as a second-unit scorer, but if it all comes together I can see him putting together a career on par with Lou Williams.
Okoro is another guy that I want to be higher than consensus on, because I think he has a chance to be a really good starter on an NBA team for the next 12 years. I’m not sure there is anything more valuable in the modern NBA than a wing that is a multi-positional defender, that can guard in space and that is capable of creating against a close out or in isolation, but I am sure that there is no one in this draft that better fits that role than Okoro.
I don’t think it’s crazy to say that Okoro is the best perimeter defender in college basketball this season. He can guard up, he can guard down, he can move his feet, he’s already built like a pro, he’s shown the ability to block shots as a help-side defender. It’s what he hangs his hat on. But he’s also proven to be particularly adept off the dribble, where he’s a nightmare to stop once he gets a step. He can finish above the rim, but perhaps his most underrated skill is his ability to read defenses and pass the ball.
The one question mark is the shooting, but in conversations I’ve had with people that know Isaac, both at the collegiate and high school levels, the consensus is that he’s a worker. He’ll put in the hours that he needs to in order to make himself a threat from three.
I’m not sure whether or not Mannion will actually get drafted this high, but I’m willing to rank him this high because of what his floor is in a draft where there are a number of prospects that could end up being total busts. To me, Mannion has the same kind of prospect profile as the likes of Jalen Brunson, or Fred VanVleet, or T.J. McConnell, or Ryan Arcidiacono. He’s a guy that, at worst, will spend a decade playing in the NBA as a backup point guard because of his basketball IQ, his ability to makes threes and the fact that he can operate in a pick-and-roll.
My concern with drafting him this high is that he doesn’t really have an NBA skill. He’s a good athlete but not a great athlete, and that isn’t helped by the fact that his wingspan is reportedly 6-foot-2.5. He’s not great at beating defenders off the dribble in the halfcourt. He’s a good shooter but he’s not a great shooter. He’s a high-level passer but he’s not Trae Young or Luka Doncic. He tries defensively but he just doesn’t have the physical tools to be a lockdown defender. I’m just not sure what the ceiling is.
Hampton is a kid that has quite a bit of potential, but he’ll need time to develop at the next level. He’s a 6-foot-5 guard that can play on or off the ball, but needs to continue to develop his ball-handling and his perimeter jumper to be able to do either at the NBA level. He has the length, quickness and athleticism to be able to defend either backcourt spot in time, but he is something of a late-bloomer that needs to put on some weight and strength. He’ll try defensively, too, but he needs to be coached up. That will come with time.
The biggest concern I have with Hampton is that I’m not sure if he has an elite skill yet, but he’s still young; he just turned 19 last week.
I’m torn on Cole as a prospect. On the one hand, I love everything about the way he is wired. He’s tough, confident and competitive, the ultimate alpha. He’s a worker that will put in the hours in the gym. Given the way he grew up, he’s not going to be intimidated by anything. In an era where draft prospects are quitting their teams, what they call “shutting it down”, midseason once they’ve earned a spot near the top of the lottery, Cole fought back from a knee injury that required surgery to get back on the court and fight with his team despite the fact that they really don’t have much left to play for this season.
I respect that. If I’m an NBA GM, I want players wired that way.
The problem with Cole is the way that he plays. He’s tough and athletic, but given his average height and length, he’s more or less going to have to guard point guards at the next level. I’m not sure he’s quite good enough to be the guy in the NBA that he has been throughout his career. He’s basically Russell Westbrook, a hyper-kinetic athlete that is a streaky, sometimes inefficient shooter with a limited passing range that has a habit of dribbling the air out of the ball and shooting his team out of games on off nights. He’ll be 20 years old by the time he’s drafted. How much more room is there for him to change?
11. ONYEKA OKONGWU, USC
Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-9, 245 lbs Key Stats: 16.4 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 3.0 bpg, 1.1 spg, 74.2% FT
For me, the intrigue with Okongwu is pretty simple. He is a 6-foot-9 five that is an explosive athlete with an already-sturdy frame. He produces at the college level, both as a scorer and a rebounder, and has shown some pretty solid post moves for a 19-year old. He can defend the rim. He’s athletic enough that being a switchable five is in the range of outcomes. He has a soft touch around the basket, and while he’s shooting just 12-for-29 on jumpers this season, according to Synergy, he’s 9-for-17 on jumpers inside 17 feet and shooting 74 percent from the free throw line on 124 free throws. Worst-case scenario, Okongwu turns into an off-the-bench big that provides energy, rebounding and defense, and if the jumper comes along, he can be more than that. How much is there to really think about?
Saddiq Bey is the third guy that I want to be higher than anyone on, because I think that he has a chance to be one of the best players to come out of this draft. Bey is something of a late-bloomer. He’s was a 6-foot-1 guard when he was a sophomore, and according to the Villanova coaching staff, he has actually grown an inch or two since he arrived on campus. He’s listed at 6-foot-8 and may be closer to 6-foot-9 by the time it’s all said and done.
Bey’s shooting ability speaks for itself. He’s knocking down 47.5 percent of his threes while shooting more than five per game. He has shown some playmaking ability, and as we have seen with the wings that have come out of the Villanova program of late, they just know how to play. You won’t see the floor there if you don’t, and given the fact that Bey was asked to be the do-it-all point guard on his high school team, he has experience being more than just a scorer.
But the thing that has really stood out about Bey since he arrived on the Main Line is his ability to defend. He’s the best defender in the program, and while Villanova has not always been known for how they guard, they are the second-best defensive team in the Big East behind Seton Hall, who is a top-eight defense nationally. They’ve put him on lightening quick point guards like Devon Dotson and Kamar Baldwin, and Villanova’s tendency to switch means that Bey has spent plenty of time guarding bigs as well.
So what we have here is a multi-positional defender that shoots the cover off the ball and can be a playmaker off the bounce. I think he’s just as good of a prospect as Mikal Bridges, Donte DiVincenzo, Eric Paschall and Josh Hart, and all three of those guys have turned into players that will last in the NBA for a while. Bey is next in line.
13. ISAIAH STEWART, Washington
Details: 18 years old, 6-foot-9, 250 lbs Key Stats: 17.4 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 2.0 bpg, 75.3% FT
What you see is what you get with Stewart. He’s a tireless rebounder that, at 250 pounds of solid muscle, is ready to compete in the paint against NBA bigs right now. He’s a good post scorer that has shown some glimpses of being able to make threes — the Washington staff will tell you he’s lights out in practice. That’s the good. The bad is that he is an undersized center at 6-foot-9 that doesn’t have the length or explosiveness to be able to protect the rim at the NBA level, and while he’ll put in the effort to guard on the perimeter, he has never really shown that ability. Playing in that Washington zone hasn’t helped quell those concerns, either. He’s tough, he has a motor, he’s really good at the things that he does well, but if he’s not going to protect the rim or guard on the perimeter, where does he fit in the modern NBA?
The biggest question mark for me when it comes to Achiuwa is whether or not he is going embrace what he actually is. For my money, he’s something of a poor man’s Bam Adebayo, a big man that can be used at the four and, ideally, as a small-ball five. He plays hard, he has a 7-foot-2 wingspan and he’s proven himself as a rebounder. He also has some perimeter skill, and he is 8-for-20 from three this season. There’s a market for that in the NBA, and it’s a role Achiuwa should be able to thrive in.
But is that what he wants to be? Or does he think that he’s a three? The potential is there for Achiuwa to be effective as a face-up forward against bigger, slower centers. I’m not sure the same can be said for him as a three. Remember, Achiuwa will turn 21 years old before he plays in his first NBA game. He’s two months younger than Kaleb Wesson, who is a junior. If Achiuwa embraces who he is, he has a long and profitable basketball career in front of him.
On the one hand, it is very easy to see why McDaniels is such a tantalizing prospect. Players with his size and his length aren’t supposed to be able to do the things that he does on the perimeter. He has impressive handle, he can knock down tough perimeter jumpers and every once in a while he will do something during a game that will make it to the House of Highlights page.
On the other hand, McDaniels is 200 pounds soaking wet. He hasn’t handled contact all that well this season, and he is not all that explosive of an athlete. And of late, his decision-making has come into question. He leads the Pac-12 in both fouls and turnovers. He’s second nationally with five technical fouls this season. He’s been benched in two of the last four Washington games, and the Huskies are sitting in dead last in the Pac-12.
He’s a lottery ticket in this 2020 NBA mock draft.
Again, this one is pretty simple for me. Nesmith is a 6-foot-6 wing with a 6-foot-10 wingspan that was shooting a ridiculous 52.2% from three while taking more than eight threes per game before suffering a foot injury that ended his season. He’s not the most explosive athlete, but he was one of the most improved players in the country before he got hurt. I’m willing to take a bet on a guard with those measureables when he’s a hard enough worker to go from 33.7 percent shooting as a freshman to this.
Here’s what you need to know about Paul Reed right now: Since Shane Battier left school in 2001, there have been three high-major players that have averaged at least 2.0 blocks and 2.0 steals in the same season: Matisse Thybulle, Nerlens Noel and Paul Reed. While Reed is shooting just 13-for-46 from three this season, he shot 40.5 percent from beyond the arc as a sophomore and has been a 77 percent free throw shooting the last two years. Size, length, athleticism, defensive playmaking, defensive versatility and a shot at being a shooter, too? I’m in.
In a league where seemingly every team has a dominant interior player, Daniel Oturu has been arguably the best two-way center to date. The numbers that he is putting up speak for themselves. He’s one of the most improved players in the country. He doesn’t have the greatest feel for the game, and he’s something of a blackhole when he does get the ball in his hands, but he has shown off a bit of three-point range and is actually able to put the ball on the floor and make things happen off the bounce. I like him slightly more than Jalen Smith simply because of the physicality. I think his fit as a five in the NBA is better.
Stix Smith has been one of the best players in college basketball over the course of the last month. He’s a pogo-stick athletically that is starting to make threes on a consistent basis. I’m worried about his frame — he checks in at 225 pounds, but looks like he’s closer to 200 pounds — and I’m not sure how much of a weapon he is offensively beyond being a spot-up shooter. And while he is a terrific athlete, he plays stiff and upright. I’m not sure how well he will use that athleticism without a runway for takeoff.
Green is a consistent jumper away from being a guy that can stick in the league as a role player for a decade. He’s really athletic, he’s terrific in transition and he’s a willing defender that gives effort. He can be coached up on that end. But he has been somewhat limited scoring in halfcourt settings this season — some of which, admittedly, can be attributed to the tempo Arizona is trying to play at — and much of that is due to a lacking jumper.
The numbers look fairly pedestrian, admittedly, but putting them in context is important: Williams is coming off the bench for a Florida State team that goes 11 deep and gives everyone pretty equal minutes. At 6-foot-8, he’s a terrific athlete and a burgeoning defender and can protect the rim and guard out on the perimeter when needed.
Carey has proven himself as a terrific low-post scorer and has actually shown off a nice touch from the perimeter. He is left-hand dominant, but that’s something that can be worked on. The biggest issue for Carey is that he is not all that explosive and he is not all that quick, even with the weight he shed during the offseason. He’s struggled in ball-screen coverages and he does not profile as a rim protector at the NBA level. If you can’t guard the rim and you can’t guard ball-screens, where do you fit defensively in the NBA?
I had no expectation for Ayayi coming into the season. He had been great in Europe over the summer, but Gonzaga went out and recruited a pair of grad transfers at his position during the offseason. That’s never a good sign. Yet here we are in February, and Ayayi has been arguably the most important player for the Zags. He’s their best handler in ball-screens, he’s a terrific rebounder for a guard and, at 6-foot-5, he has the size and length to be a multi-positional defender. He’s also young for a redshirt sophomore; he enrolled at Gonzaga when he was 17.
Lewis checks a lot of boxes. He’s young for a sophomore, having enrolled at Alabama as a 17-year old, and he’s putting up huge numbers for an Alabama team that is built to run, run, run and shoot nothing but threes and layups. The problem is that he’s making just 32 percent of his threes, down from 36 percent a season ago.
Winston has regressed from where he was last season. He has not lived up to the hype he had coming into the year — understandably — and that’s the biggest reason by Michigan State has fallen short of expectation. But he’s still the highest IQ player in college basketball. He’s still the best ball-screen point guard in college basketball. And I still think that he’ll spend the next decade being a positive presence in an NBA locker room and a rock solid backup point guard.
Vassell has been one of the breakout stars in the ACC, as he is leading a good Florida State team in scoring and doubles as their best three-point shooters. He’s got the size and the length to be a good defender at the NBA level, and playing for Leonard Hamilton, you can be sure he is getting plenty of reps switching defensively and guarding bigger and smaller players. He’s not much of a playmaker, and at 180 pounds, he definitely needs to add some weight to his frame. But he’s a really interesting prospect with a chance to be a first round pick this year, and is one in this NBA mock draft.
I’ve gone through stages with Ramsey. I loved him in high school. I was frustrated by him early on in his college career, as Texas Tech worked through figuring out what the best way to use him is. What they’ve settled on is as a scorer and an elite shot-maker. The big red flag for me is that I expected Ramsey to play the Jarrett Culver-Keenan Evans role for Texas Tech, but he’s not that guy because he is not on their level at creating out of ball-screens or as a passer. Since he is only 6-foot-4, that’s something to monitor in the longterm.
On the one hand, Joe is one of the most prolific shooters in this draft class and, at 6-foot-5, has the size to be able to guard NBA wings. On the other hand, his percentages have dipped to 34 percent this season, his slight frame is worrisome defensively and he is dealing with a knee injury that required surgery. There are certainly justifiable concerns.
Some recent struggles with his ability to finish around the rim are somewhat concerning, but I am beginning to think that Tillman is worth a first round pick. There’s really two reasons for this: He’s a really good defender and he is a terrific passer. No one in college basketball is better than making the right play in a 4-on-3 scenario when the defense traps a pick-and-roll ball-handler than Tillman.
Talked a bit about Tillman’s value as a passer last week/on the pod today. Where this is the most important is his ability to create open shots when defenses double Cassius Winston. This is what I was referring to: https://t.co/qoBu4yfDqdpic.twitter.com/diH6T1k2jm
Nnaji is the most explosive big in this draft class. He’s really, really athletic, and his second jump is something to behold. His production speaks for itself, even if some of it has to due with Arizona’s pace and the play of Nico Mannion. That said, I’m down on Nnaji compared to the rest of the field because I think that he’s somewhat limited defensively. He has a tendency for getting lost guarding ball-screens and he is not a very good rim protector. Can those things be coached up enough to make him worth being picked over the likes of Daniel Oturu, Isaiah Stewart or Jalen Smith?
Jones is a really good passer, a terrific defender and the kind of point guard that checks all the cliche boxes about being a winner, a leader and a facilitator. If he figures out the jumper to the point that he is a threat from distance, he could end up being an NBA starting point guard. What’s more likely is that he follows a similar career arc to his brother.
Nwora has the size, the length and the shooting ability to make it as a wing in the NBA. He’s a better leaper than he gets credit for because of his reputation for being a subpar athlete, but where that lacking athleticism is seen functionally is in his ability to defend. He’s not that quick laterally, and that’s a concern for a guy that will theoretically be twos and threes in the NBA.
33. LAMAR STEVENS, Penn State
Details: 22 years old, 6-foot-8, 225 lbs Key Stats: 17.6 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.2 apg
Stevens that prototypical, combo-forward that is big and strong enough to guard up with having the physical tools to play out on the perimeter on both ends. The thing with him is going to be his jumper. He’s terrific in transition and he’s at his best when he’s slashing to the bucket, and if he’s able to shoot — if he forces defenders to close out hard — he suddenly becomes that much more dangerous.
Hagans is never going to be a great shooter, but the truth is that you’re not drafting him for his ability to shoot the ball. You’re drafting him because he’s a junkyard dog, a competitor that is a terror as a defender at the point of attack, a playmaker in the passing lanes and a much-improved passer. There’s a job for him in the NBA as a poor man’s Patrick Beverly, and if the shooting every does come around, maybe he works his way into a starting job.
Powell’s efficiency numbers are down this year, but he has dealt with some injuries. I’m mostly buying on him the way I bought on Carsen Edwards — whose efficiency suffered before exploding in the NCAA tournament — last season. He’s tough as nails, he can shoot off the dribble or off the catch, and he’ll put in the effort defensively.
Scottie Lewis is a major question mark because of the complete lack of offensive threat that he brings to the table, but he is an elite athlete with a 7-foot wingspan and the desire to be a great defensive player. He’s also a worker that is, by all accounts, a great kid. He’s worth gambling a second round pick on.
I’m still in on Wiggins as a potential pro despite some of the struggles he’s had this season. He’s got the size and the athleticism to be a really good 3-and-D wing, but the fact that he has dipped down to being a 32 percent three-point shooter this year is cause for concern.
Livers is a lights out three-point shooter that can guard either forward spot and has been the difference between Michigan being a team that beat No. 2 Gonzaga by 18 points and a team that went 5-6 in his absence. How much more do you need to know?
Diakite is 23 years old, he’s not overly physical, he has never been a great rebounder and he’s a better rim protector in theory than in practice, so I get it. But also understand that he has been Virginia’s best three-point shooter this season, the guy that is being used in actions that Tony Bennett ran for Kyle Guy last year, and he’s a 6-foot-9 switchable four. I’ll forever be on the Mamadi bandwagon.
Wesson is the guy that has been helped the most by testing the waters of the NBA draft last year. He shed some weight, he’s gotten much better as a defender in ball-screen actions and he’s still a bully on the block that can really pass and knockdown threes. He’s got a shot to stick.
Monday’s Overreactions: Isaiah Livers return, Tre Jones the legend, Auburn isn’t that good?
Tre Jones went for 18 points, four assists and three boards in a win at Boston College on Tuesday night last week, a game that is both a referendum on just how inconsistent Duke has been this season and something that has been more or less erased from the consciousness of the American public. That’s because Jones went out and became the first player since Michael Jordan to go for 28 points, six assists and five boards in the Duke-North Carolina rivalry as the Blue Devils erased a 13-point deficit in the first 4:31 of regulation, a 10-point deficit in the final 2:06 of regulation and a five-point deficit in the final 21 seconds of overtime to knock off the Tar Heels.
Jones scored 15 straight points at the end of regulation and the start of overtime. He was unbelievable. More on him in a second.
TEAM OF THE WEEK: Auburn Tigers
I don’t think Auburn is all that good of a basketball team, at least not in comparison to the rest of the teams that are in the top 10-15 teams in the country. At KenPom, the most highly-regarded site when it comes to evaluating how good a team is, the Tigers currently rank 30th nationally. The reason for this, despite sitting at 21-2 on the season, is because Auburn has developed a habit of doing just enough to win a game on the nights when they don’t actually play all that well.
On Saturday, they erased a 15 point deficit with a wild comeback at home against No. 18 LSU, winning in overtime. On Tuesday, they did the same thing at Arkansas, again winning in overtime. They rallied to land a come-from-behind win over Kentucky the weekend before that, and last Tuesday, it took them two overtimes and another pair of wild comebacks to beat Ole Miss on the road.
Overall, Auburn just is not all that good. They are not a great shooting team. They don’t force turnovers the way they have in the past. They don’t have the star power they’ve had in the past. Austin Wiley is useful playing a certain way and Anfernee McLemore is useful playing a certain way, but both of those guys really limit how Auburn plays when they are on the floor.
LSU was the better team for roughly 40 of the 45 minutes on Saturday and lost, because this is who Auburn is. They do just enough to keep a game close, waiting for the three-minute avalanche of threes from the likes of Samir Doughty and J’Von McCormick that they know is coming and that will bury whoever they are playing.
It’s stressful, but it’s hard to argue with 21-2.
1. THE MOST IMPORTANT NEWS OF THE WEEKEND WAS ISAIAH LIVERS’ RETURN
With Auburn-LSU going off the rails in the same time slot, Bobby Knight returning to Indiana immediately after it ended and a Saturday that included Seton Hall beating Villanova and the absurdity of Duke-North Carolina, it was easy to overlook the fact that Michigan beat No. 16 Michigan State pretty easily on Saturday.
And it’s easy to forget that coincided with the return of Isaiah Livers.
Livers is Michigan’s leading scorer. He is their best three-point shooter by a country mile. He’s the pice on the roster that allows Juwan Howard a measure of lineup versatility, and, in turn, he may actually be the most valuable defensive piece on the Wolverines. With Livers healthy for an entire game, Michigan is now 9-3 with wins over Creighton, Iowa, North Carolina, Michigan State and Gonzaga by 18 points in the only game the Zags have lost this season. Their “worst” lost was in overtime at home against Oregon.
Without Livers, Michigan is 5-6.
On Saturday, Livers scored 14 points, made a couple threes, blocked a couple shots and, most importantly, played 31 minutes as a starter.
The Wolverines are going to be a serious threat in March with him back.
2. THE SECOND MOST IMPORTANT PIECE OF NEWS WAS SETON HALL’S WIN
No. 12 Seton Hall did something they haven’t done since 1994 — win at No. 10 Villanova — and, as a result, they are now in a position do to something they haven’t done since 1993 — win the Big East regular season title.
Myles Powell scored 19 points, Sandro Mamukelashvili went for 17 and the Pirates, who now own a three-game lead over the rest of the field in the Big East standings with just seven games left of the regular season.
Perhaps the most impressive and important part of this win was the play of Mamukelashvili. The 6-foot-11 native of Tbilisi, Georgia, has been maligned this season. He was knocked out the lineup with a broken hand back in December, right before the Pirates went on the run that changed the course of their season, and it wasn’t hard to connect those dots. Playing without Mamu forced Kevin Willard to go small, playing four perimeter weapons around Romaro Gill, and his team has not looked back since.
This game proved just how valuable Mamu is to this team. When Villanova took away Gill, it forced Mamu into action.
And he shined.
3. VIRGINIA MAY HAVE FIXED THEMSELVES, MAYBE?
The Cavaliers entered Saturday ranked a ridiculous 276th in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency metric despite having the nation’s best defense. The biggest reason for that? They are one of the ten-worst three-point shooting teams in all of college basketball.
Well, they went into the Yum! Center and shot 11-for-22 from beyond the arc … and still lost! That has a lot to do with how good Louisville (and David Johnson) is.
But we knew that already.
What’s more interesting to me is what happens if this kind of shooting becomes a trend for the Wahoos. Now, I’m not saying that they are going to start making 50 percent of their threes the rest of the season, or that Tomas Woldetensae is going to be hitting seven per game the rest of the way. But part of the issue that Virginia has been dealing with this year is confidence, and one way to start building confidence in your shooting is to actually see the ball go through the basket.
I’m not betting on it.
Sometimes teams just get hot, even teams that are full of really bad three-point shooters.
But it will be something to keep an eye on next week.
4. COLORADO IS THE BEST TEAM IN THE PAC-12, MAYBE?
We spoke about the Pac-12 at length on today’s podcast. It starts at the 31:20 mark right here. I’ll go ahead and urge you to listen to that.
5. TRE JONES AND WENDELL MOORE WILL NEVER BE FORGOTTEN
This isn’t even an overreaction.
In 25 years, when Jay Bilas has turned into Dickie V and a bald Sean Farnham is trying to convince us that he’s not actually a UCLA fan while calling Duke-North Carolina in between rips from a hand-me-down weed pen he got from Bill Walton, Tre Jones hitting this shot:
will be shown right after Jeff Capel’s halfcourt buzzer-beater in 1996, right before Austin Rivers’ in 2012 and in the same highlight montage as Gerald Henderson opening up a gaping hole in Tyler Hansbrough’s nose as Jerry Stackhouse is going right around Cherokee Parks to dunk on Erik Meek’s head.