Here is the latest NCAA tournament bracketology projection.
Welcome to the top line, San Diego State. The Aztecs join Baylor, Gonzaga, and Kansas as No. 1 seeds in our latest bracket update. SDSU remains the only unbeaten team in college hoops, buoyed by wins over tournament teams Iowa, Creighton and BYU.
The West-leaning geographical slate of top seeds means someone has to go East. As SDSU is the fourth overall seed, that adventure belongs to them. Several additional power conference teams are pushing for the top line, too – including Florida State, Michigan State and surging Seton Hall. And let’s not forget about Louisville, a preseason top seed. The Cardinals put together an impressive road win at Duke on Saturday.
The latest look at where our NCAA tournament bracketology projection stands …
UPDATED: January 20, 2020
FIRST FOUR – DAYTON
Virginia Tech vs. Georgetown
NC State vs. VCU
PR VIEW-AM vs. NORFOLK ST
MONMOUTH vs. ST. FRANCIS (PA)
SOUTH – Houston
WEST – Los Angeles
16) PV-AM / NORFOLK ST
16) MONMOUTH / ST. FRANCIS (PA)
12) EAST TENNESSEE ST
12) NC State / VCU
13) S.F. AUSTIN
13) NEW MEXICO ST
11) NORTHERN IOWA
11) Saint Mary’s
14) NORTH TEXAS
14) LITTLE ROCK
2) SETON HALL
EAST – New York
MIDWEST – Indianapolis
1) SAN DIEGO STATE
6) Penn State
11) Virginia Tech / Georgetown
3) West Virginia
14) WRIGHT STATE
7) Ohio State
7) Wichita State
10) Texas Tech
2) Florida State
2) MICHIGAN STATE
15) AUSTIN PEAY
15) NORTH DAKOTA ST
Last 4 Byes
Last 4 IN
First 4 OUT
Next 4 OUT
Top Seed Line
Baylor, Gonzaga, Kansas, San Diego State Seed List
Breakdown by Conference … Big Ten (10) Big East (7) ACC (5) SEC (5) Big 12 (5) Pac 12 (5) American (3) West Coast (3) Atlantic 10 (2) Mountain West (1)
College Basketball Top 25 Power Rankings: Baylor and Gonzaga lead the way
Baylor is not the No. 1 team in my poll, and I suspect that they are going to be the No. 1 team in the country when the AP poll is released on Monday morning. The only reason they weren’t No. 1 last week is because four people (like me) had Duke at No. 1, stealing votes from the Bears. That … did not go well, so here we are.
I also want to talk through something else: Last week, I wrote extensively about why I think that it’s foolish to allow the result of one possession games to have a significant impact on the way that you view a team. One shot in a 70 possession game that is just one of more than 30 games that will be played this season is insignificant when determining the quality of a team, and I truly believe that.
But I also think it is important to consider how and why teams are winning close games, not just games that are one-possession games.
So let’s use Duke and Baylor for this example once again.
One thing that the Bears have proven over and over this season — at Texas Tech, at Kansas, at Oklahoma State — is the ability to close out a tough game, particularly on the road. That’s because they have a number of players on the roster that are capable of taking and making clutch shots. Against Tech, it was Jared Butler. Against Oklahoma State, it was Devonte Bandoo. The Bears may not look as good in the metrics because they haven’t obliterated the mediocre teams they have played, but they are 15-1 because they come through in the clutch.
Now, some of that may eventually regress. I believe in the clutch gene because I think life — not just sports, but everything every human being does — is confidence. Baylor has confidence in clutch situations, as much as anyone in the country. They do not get rattled by the moment, and they have a number of different options they can go to down the stretch.
Duke, on the other hand, does not. Their three losses this season have all been close games where the Blue Devils have struggled to find an outlet for offense in the final minutes. Maybe that will come with more experience — Duke is loaded with freshmen, Baylor is as old as anyone in the country — but as it stands, that’s the difference between these two teams.
The other thing that I want to discuss in this space is where I have San Diego State and Dayton ranked in the college basketball top 25. They are currently sitting and eighth and ninth in my poll, exactly where they have been for a couple of weeks now. And that is where they are going to stay for the foreseeable future.
The reasoning for me is simple: I don’t want to fall into the trap where I’m bumping a team up in the rankings simply because they keep winning in a league that is not as tough as the leagues where the rest of the teams in consideration for the top ten are playing, and losing.
I’m sure there are going to be people in San Diego and Dayton that call me a hater for this, and that’s fine. Maybe I am being a hater.
But the truth is this: I love both of these teams. SDSU is so tough defensively and Malachi Flynn has proven himself to be a flat-out winner at the point, while Dayton runs a pro-style, aesthetically-pleasing offense heavy on three-balls and Obi Toppin.
I just don’t believe they are one of the top six or seven teams in the country, and beating the likes of Nevada and Saint Louis is not going to change my mind.
Anyway, here is the rest of the NBC Sports college basketball top 25.
The 2010s are coming to an end, which should make you feel incredibly old.
We’ve now gone a full decade with John Calipari in charge of the Kentucky Wildcats. We’re more than a decade removed from the existence of Psycho T on a college basketball campus. In the last ten years, we’ve seen Kentucky and Duke win titles by playing as young as possible, Virginia win by playing as slow as possible, Villanova win by shooting as many threes as possible and UConn win a pair of titles by hoping a star point guard can carry them through a six-game tournament.
We’ve experienced Jimmermania. We survived Zion Williamson’s Shoegate. We watch Louisville win a national title and then had the NCAA erase it from our collective memory because an assistant coach like to turn dorm rooms into the Champagne Room.
It’s been a wild ride.
And over the course of the next two weeks, we will be taking a look back at some of the best parts of the decade.
Today, we are talking about the wildest ‘What ifs?’ in college basketball this decade. The first five are in this story, and the top five can be found here.
I think everyone in the state of Indiana, or at least in West Lafayette, remembers the exact moment that this happened.
There were just over seven minutes left in the first half of Purdue’s game at Minnesota. It was something of a look-ahead game, a Wednesday night fixture before a massive Sunday afternoon tip against Michigan State that would put the Boilermakers two wins from clinching their first outright Big Ten title in 14 years. Hummel drove into the middle of the paint, came to a jump-stop and had his right knee buckle.
At the time, Purdue was the No. 3 team in the country, a stifling defense that relied on their three-headed monster of E’Twaun Moore, JaJuan Johnson and Hummel to put enough points on the board to get them wins. With Hummel, they looked like one of the few teams that would have a shot at winning the title. Without him, they lost that game to Michigan State, got dropped in the second round of the Big Ten tournament and ended up with a No. 4 seed, getting drubbed by Duke in the Sweet 16.
But the story gets worse.
Just eight months after he initially tore the ACL, he tore it again, in his first practice back. So not only did Purdue miss out on a chance to win a title in 2010, they never got to see what Hummel could have done playing alongside Johnson and Moore in their senior seasons.
Purdue has not been to the Final Four since 1980. Last year’s Elite Eight run was their first since 2000 and just their second since 1994. I have a feeling those numbers would be different had Hummel’s right ACL been less disagreeable.
9. WHAT IF JOHN WALL GOES PRO INSTEAD OF GOING TO KENTUCKY, OR IF JODIE MEEKS RETURNS TO KENTUCKY INSTEAD OF GOING PRO?
I’m not quite sure how many people are actually going to remember this, but there was a time where it was unclear if John Wall would actually end up in college. In was in April after his senior season in high school and before he committed to Kentucky to play his college ball. There was a chance that Wall was eligible to go straight to the NBA draft like Anfernee Simons did and Hamidou Diallo tried to do.
You see, Wall had spent five years in high school. He spent two years at Garner Magnet school before transferring to Broughton High as a junior. Midway through that school year, he again transferred, this time to Word Of God Christian Academy, where he enrolled as a sophomore. Combine that with the fact that he was 19 years old at the time, and he could have made a pretty compelling case.
Ultimately, it never came to that because he never declared, instead enrolling at Kentucky.
But what if he didn’t?
What if Wall had been determined to be eligible for the 2009 NBA Draft and went straight to the pros out of high school? Where would the Kentucky program be? Would the Wildcats have still been in a position to send five players to the first round of the NCAA tournament? Would Coach Cal still have been posted at the NBA draft talking about the most important day in the history of their program? Would Kentucky still have been able to change the way that college basketball programs built super teams with recruiting arms races?
But that’s not the only interesting ‘What if?’ surrounding the 2010 Kentucky team.
What if Jodie Meeks returned to school for his senior season?
When Billy Gillispie was fired following the 2008-09 season, there were two key players who had their future up in the air. One was Patrick Patterson, who opted to return to school and play alongside Wall, Cousins and Bledsoe for a season. Meeks, who averaged 23.7 points as a junior, did not. He went pro, was picked 41st and found a way to carve out a 10-year NBA career.
So it worked out for him.
But that Kentucky team had one fatal flaw, and it was their ability to shoot. I don’t need to remind Kentucky fans this, but those Wildcats, as a team, shot 33.1 percent from three. They were 4-for-32 from beyond the arc in the Elite Eight loss to West Virginia. What would have happened if they had an All-American that, the year before, had shot 40.6 percent from three on eight attempts per game on the floor? Do you think there’s any chance that a team with a starting five of Wall, Bledsoe, Meeks, Patterson and Cousins loses?
With Meeks back, does 2010 Kentucky become the first 40-0 team in college basketball history? Does John Calipari actually get an NBA job after he wins a second title in three seasons? Is there an alternate reality where Cal gets hired by the Celtics and it’s actually Brad Stevens that is currently coaching the Wildcats and winning national titles with nothing but three-star prospects from Kentuckiana? I like to think there is.
8. WHAT JALEN BRUNSON WENT TO TEMPLE?
There are so many ‘What ifs?’ surrounding this Villanova dynasty that would be fun to dive into.
What if Kris Jenkins missed that buzzer-beating three? You know the one that I’m talking about. Does Villanova hang on to win that game in overtime? If they don’t, if the Tar Heels take home the 2016 national title, do they bring back everyone and become the first team to win back-to-back titles in 2017, or do the likes of Justin Jackson, Joel Berry and Kennedy Meeks turn pro?
Or how about this one: What if Omari Spellman isn’t ruled ineligible for the 2016-17 season? If he isn’t forced to redshirt, does he ever put in the work he needed to in order to change his body and become a first round draft pick? What if Phil Booth doesn’t miss that season with an injury, either? Might we actually be looking at a situation where the Wildcats win three straight national titles?
And if you want to play the inception game, what if Villanova’s higher-ups decide to fire Jay Wright when he followed up the 2009 trip to the Final Four with a 25-win season, a 21-win season and then a 13-19 season in 2011-12?
But those are not the most interesting ‘What ifs?’ involving this Villanova dynasty. This is: What if Jalen Brunson had actually ended up at Temple?
Because that’s what the plan was. Brunson’s father, Rick, is a Temple alum. Fran Dunphy was going to use a spot as an assistant coach to hire Rick and bring along his McDonald’s All-American offspring until Rick went and got himself into a bit of legal trouble. Hiring him became untenable, which meant that Brunson had to find elsewhere to play. Just so happens that Philly’s intracity rival needed a point guard, and the rest is history.
Would Villanova have found the same amount of success if Brunson had not ended up on the Main Line? He was a starter for two teams that won national championships, the second of which came in a season where he won National Player of the Year. That’s a pretty big loss to overcome.
At the same time, it is fair to wonder if he would have had the same amount of success had he not ended up playing for Villanova. Brunson has carved out a nice little role for himself in the NBA, operating as a part-time starter for the Dallas Mavericks and averaging 9.0 points and 3.2 assists in two seasons as a pro. He probably gets there either way, but given that he was still a second round pick after three sensational years at Villanova, would he have actually gotten a chance at the NBA if he hadn’t cut down so many nets while a Wildcat?
I think there’s a very real chance that, were it not for the fact that he ended up at Villanova, Brunson ends up being a four-year player at Temple that has to go through Europe to get to the NBA, a la Nigel Williams-Goss.
7. WHAT IF BRANDON ASHLEY DOESN’T BREAK HIS FOOT IN 2014?
One of the fun little tools that Ken Pomeroy has added to his website, KenPom.com, is a way to look at archived ratings. If I wanted to go back and see who was considered to be the best team in college basketball on, say, Sat., Feb. 1st, in 2014, I can do that.
On that morning, the Arizona Wildcats were sitting pretty as one of just three undefeated teams left in college basketball. They were the No. 1 team in the country, receiving 63 of a possible 65 first-place votes in the AP poll, and they were No. 1 in KenPom’s rankings. At that moment in time, the gap between Arizona and the team in second (Duke) was only slightly smaller than the gap between 2015 Kentucky and the team that finished second (Wisconsin) on the final day of the season.
Put another way, on February 1st in a season where a No. 7 seed and a No. 8 seed played in the national title game, Arizona was very clearly the best team in college basketball.
And then Brandon Ashley broke his foot.
It happened early in a game at Cal that would go down as Arizona’s first loss of the season. Without Ashley in the lineup, Arizona would go on to lose three of their final 10 regular season games in a watered down Pac-12. They lost in the Pac-12 tournament title game to UCLA. They lost to Wisconsin in the Elite Eight in overtime.
It’s that last loss that I want to discuss.
At the time, Ashley was a sophomore averaging 11.5 points and 5.8 boards while shooting 37.9 percent from three. He was a really good player on a team that had quite a few really good players. But the real value Ashley carried was evident in the game against Wisconsin, when the quicker Frank Kaminsky was able to exploit Kaleb Tarczewski to the tune of 28 points and 11 boards on 11-for-20 shooting. Ashley’s health would have allowed Sean Miller to be able to play a more fleet-a-foot big at the five without going to a small lineup.
That doesn’t sound like much, but in a game that went to overtime when only one guy on the winning team had a good game, slowing him down even a little bit would have been the difference.
Maybe Sean Miller still winds up without a title. Maybe Kentucky’s 2014 team was just a team of destiny that ran into Shabazz Napier and another team of destiny in the title game. Or maybe, with Ashley in the fold, the best team in college basketball goes out and wins themselves a national title in a down year.
We’ll never know, but it may go down in history as Miller’s best chance at a ring.
6. WHAT IF BRANDON DAVIES DOESN’T GET AN HONOR CODE VIOLATION?
On the same day that a then-27-2 BYU team was ranked No. 3 in the AP poll for the first time ever, Brandon Davies was in the process of learning that he would no longer be a part of that team.
On Monday, Feb. 28th, just two days removed from beating San Diego State and Kawhi Leonard by 13 points on the road in a top ten showdown, the school was made aware of an honor code violation that was committed by Davies – he reportedly had sexual relations, something that is not allowed by the school. Davies admitted it, and the next morning the school announced that he was suspended for the rest of the season. On that Wednesday, they got blown out at home by New Mexico and would never be the same team.
San Diego State got their revenge in the Mountain West title game with an 18 point win. The Cougars would bow out of the NCAA tournament with an overtime loss to Florida in the Sweet 16. And that was the end of Jimmermania.
Davies was the most athletic member of BYU’s frontcourt that season. He was their third-leading scorer, their leading rebounder and one of just two players on that roster that would go on to play in the NBA. His loss was a devastating blow, one that cost us a chance to see if Jimmer could play his way into the final weekend of the season.
In a year where the Final Four consisted of a three-seed, a four-seed, an eight-seed and an 11-seed, anything could have happened.
Just imagine a national title game that featured Jimmer vs. Kemba.
It definitely would have been more exciting than this.
I think it’s probably hyperbolic to say that Memphis had the most impressive win of the season on Saturday.
Stephen F. Austin won in Cameron Indoor. Evansville won in Rupp. Ohio State won in the Dean Dome by 25 points. There have been some absolutely bonkers things happening in college basketball this season, and included among them have been some truly terrific wins.
What I will say is that there has not been a result that has changed my opinion more about the winning team than the win that No. 13 Memphis just landed in Knoxville on Saturday against No. 19 Tennessee.
The reason I say that is because of everything that went wrong leading up to and during this game.
Let’s start with the obvious. Not only were the Tigers playing without James Wiseman, who might be the best player in the country this year, but they were without another starter – and their best shooter – in Lester Quinones. They started four freshmen playing in a rivalry game on the road for the first time against a top 20 team, and they got sucked into play that team’s pace. They missed 13 of their first 14 shots, trailed by 12 points in the first half and, with nine minutes left before the break, had managed to score all of five points.
Everything about the way this game played out makes me think Memphis should have lost by 20.
And they won.
Maybe these freshmen are better than we thought they would be?
2. PAYTON PRITCHARD IS HAVING A SEASON DESERVING OF FIRST-TEAM ALL-AMERICA
The most impressive performance by a player on Saturday was quite possibly the first game of the night. Oregon point guard Payton Pritchard scored 15 in the final 4:14 of regulation and overtime as the No. 10 Ducks found a way to survive a thrilling comeback by No. 5 Michigan in Ann Arbor, 71-70.
He finished with 23 points and four assists. He had 15 of Oregon’s final 17 points. He did all of that while being defended by one of the best on-ball defenders in college basketball in Zavier Simpson. It’s not the first time that he has taken a game over down the stretch to lead Oregon to a win.
Entering Saturday, Pritchard was averaging 18.8 points, 6.1 assists and 4.2 boards for a team that now has wins over Memphis, Seton Hall, Houston and at Michigan. This is not the first time that he’s made big plays late to win a game (Memphis) or to get his team to overtime (Gonzaga). He’s going to be the guy that carries this Oregon team as far as they go, and given what he’s proven that he can do, I think that’ll be pretty far.
I’m not sure who the Player of the Year favorite would be as of today, but I know for a fact that there is no way to talk about who it should be without including Pritchard in that conversation.
3. FRANZ WAGNER AND BRANDON JOHNS WAKING UP MATTERS
On a night where Zavier Simpson struggled, Jon Teske forgot to show up and Isaiah Livers was non-existent outside of a six-minute heater at the start of the second half, the Wolverines got massive production from a couple of guys that haven’t shown the ability to do it just yet.
Wagner was Michigan’s leading scorer on Saturday. He finished with 21 points, he hit four threes and he made a number of plays down the stretch that kept Michigan from getting run. This was the guy that the Wolverines thought they were getting when Wagner committed. He was terrific.
Johns’ numbers are not as impressive, but his impact was just as important. He finished with eight points, nine boards, two assists and two blocks – solid production from a five coming off the bench – but it was the fact that he allowed Michigan to play small without losing any of their defensive mettle. Johns is a former top 50 recruit, a burly, 6-foot-8 forward with tantalizing athleticism, but he has struggled finding the confidence to allow him to tap into that potential.
We’ve seen it in flashes. This was more than that.
4. GONZAGA SHOULD BE A TOP THREE TEAM COME MONDAY
The Zags made a statement on Saturday night.
I don’t know how many of you stayed up to watch a game that tipped off after 10 p.m. on the east coast, but if you did, you saw the Zags put a whooping on the Wildcats. Arizona jumped out to a 19-10 lead, but Gonzaga slowly chipped away, take the lead into halftime and them pulled away in the second half. It was a slow, methodical dismantling — one that probably should have ended with the Zags winning by significantly more than the 84-80 final that we saw.
You might not realize this, but Gonzaga probably has the best resume in college basketball outside of Columbus, Ohio. They beat Oregon on a neutral floor. They won at Washington. They won at Arizona. They won at Texas A&M by 30. Their only loss came against Michigan in the Battle 4 Atlantis. And they’re doing all of this while dealing with a banged up Killian Tillie.
Don’t take for granted just how good and consistent this program has become. On Monday, they should be the No. 3 team in college basketball, if the AP pollsters get this right. That’s despite the fact that they lost their top four players from last season – three of whom were early entries, two of which were unexpected – and they haven’t skipped a beat.
That program is a machine.
5. THE TALKING POINT SHOULD BE RUTGERS, BUT IT’S GOING TO BE MYLES POWELL
No. 22 Seton Hall went into the RAC on Saturday and got absolutely manhandled. Rutgers jumped out to a 14-0 lead and never looked back. Seton Hall never cut the lead back to single digits, and coming just a few days after the Scarlet Knights beat up on Wisconsin in that same building, what we should be talking about is that this team looks to be pretty good, that Ron Harper Jr. and Geo Baker can really play, that Steve Pikiell can really coach and that they would be a tournament team if they still had Eugene Omoruyi.
But that’s not what anyone is going to be talking about.
Because Myles Powell, Seton Hall’s All-American scoring guard, played just 15 minutes after suffering a nasty concussion. He didn’t see the floor after halftime and asked head coach Kevin Willard “why are we practicing at Rutgers?” during the game. Not only is that a scary injury, but it’s one that could end up having ramifications for the Big East as a whole.
Seton Hall played No. 5 Maryland at home on Thursday. There is no word on whether or not Powell will suit up.
6. XAVIER’S LOSS CAPPED AN UNDERWHELMING DAY FOR THE BIG EAST
It was hardly a banner day for No. 23 Xavier. They went on the road to Winston-Salem and lost to a Wake Forest team that just about everyone has given up on. Chaundree Brown had 26 points and Brandon Childress chipped in with 22 as the Musketeers nearly stole the came at the end. Paul Scruggs finished with 30 points in the loss, and Quentin Goodin missed a pretty good look at a three at the buzzer that would have given Xavier a win. Instead, they lost 80-78.
And head coach Travis Steele was not happy about it.
“We lost because of the first 20 minutes,” he said after the game. “The first 20 minutes we were complete bull-crap,” adding that, “We need an alpha dog to emerge. A leader. We need a guy to step up when we’re at a low point, when we need to come together. Not just from a scoring perspective, but on both ends. I believe we have that guy, but I’ve got to find him.”
7. JARRON CUMBERLAND MIGHT HAVE GIVEN UP ON THE SEASON
Cumberland entered the season as an All-American candidate and the biggest reason why Cincinnati fans were bullish this year.
Since then, a pair of mysterious injuries and a feud with head coach John Brannen has torpedoed the year. It came to a head on Saturday night. Colgate tied the game at Cincinnati with less than ten seconds left. Cumberland took the in-bounds pass and fired up a shot from the other side of half court with more than five seconds left on the clock. Colgate drew a foul on the rebound, hit a free throw and won.
I would love to know what Cumberland was thinking in this situation. Did he hear someone yelling shoot from the bench? Did he hear the Colgate bench counting down the clock? Did he forget to put his contacts in so that a five on the clock above the basketball looked like a zero?
We might never know.
But at this point, does it even matter?
8. KENTUCKY SHOULD CONSIDER STARTING KEION BROOKS
At what point do we start asking whether or not E.J. Montgomery is the answer for No. 8 Kentucky at the four?
In theory, he makes the most sense. He’s the best option offensively. He’s probably the most skilled big that the Wildcats have on the roster. He’s big enough to provide some rim protection and he’s enough of a threat on the perimeter tp force defenses to have to make a decision when he’s beyond the arc.
But it just hasn’t worked against good teams, and his scoreless performance against Georgia Tech stood out.
Freshman Keion Brooks played 26 minutes on Saturday. He had 10 points, four boards, a block and a steal. He looked more energetic. He looked like a better fit defensively. And this was on the heels of scoring 15 points in 16 minutes against Fairleigh Dickinson.
I don’t think there’s an easy answer here, but I do think that Coach Cal has a decision he’s going to need to make with games coming up against Utah, Ohio State and Louisville.
9. BYU IS DANGEROUS
I know that they lost, 68-64, on Saturday, but I still think Utah State is probably a better team than BYU, especially once Neemias Queta gets back up to full speed.
That said, I think that BYU is just as, if not more dangerous, than the Aggies, especially in the month of March.
The Cougars have now won at Houston and beaten UCLA and Virginia Tech in Maui in addition to this win over Utah State. They beat both UNLV and Nevada by 33 points. They shooting better than 40 percent from three, and that’s while taking more than 44 percent of their field goal attempts from beyond the arc. Oh, and they happen to have an NBA player at the five in Yoeli Childs.
The Cougars are going to need to land a win or two against Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga if they want to be in the mix for an at-large bid, but I do think that they have put themselves in a position where that is very much a possibility.
10. HOW MANY GAMES WILL ANTHONY EDWARDS PLAY THAT MATTER?
Anthony Edwards is an unbelievable talent and, as he showed when he dropped 33 points on Michigan State in one half out in Maui, one of the most entertaining players in the country to watch.
But how many games is he going to play this season that actually matter?
Did you know that the potential No. 1 pick in the NBA draft was playing on Saturday night? Did you know that he had 13 points on 5-for-11 shooting in a sleepy performance as his Georgia team lost by 20 at Arizona State?
We discussed the criteria for picking the players on the all-decade teams in the intro to this series.
You can find that, and the All-Decade First Team, right here. The All-Decade Third Team is here, while the decade’s All-Legacy Team is at this link.
ALL-DECADE SECOND TEAM
JIMMER FREDETTE, BYU
Jimmer Fredette became an absolute sensation by his senior season at BYU. A native of Upstate New York, Jimmer was fine as a freshman and good as a sophomore, when he averaged 16.2 points for the Cougars. He exploded nationally when he set a McKale Center record for point scored by putting up 49 on Arizona. He finished the year averaging 22.1 points and .7 assists, setting the stage for an unbelievable senior season.
Jimmer became a national sensation as a senior. It really started in mid-December, when he scored 33 points in a win over that same Arizona team. Three weeks later, in the Mountain West opener on the road at UNLV (who was good at the time), he had 39 points and hit seven threes. Six days later, he scored 32 points in the first half and finished with 47 on the night in a win over BYU’s archnemesis, Utah.
Then things really got crazy.
He had 42 at Colorado State in late January and, just four days later, he put up 43 points on Kawhi Leonard’s San Diego State game in a battle of top ten teams.
From that point forward, he was appointment viewing despite the fact that you needed to find grainy, choppy internet streams to be able to watch him. He was Trae Young, but A) his team was good, and B) you could only watch him by digging through reddit for feeds that would, quite often, crash midway midway through the game.
His crowning achievement probably came during the Mountain West tournament, when Jimmer scored 52 points against New Mexico (who, again, was good at the time). We never got a chance to see what that BYU team could accomplish thanks to an honor code violation that ended Brandon Davies’ season, but for four months, Jimmer Fredette was the single biggest story in college basketball.
Coming from BYU, that’s saying something.
JOHN WALL, Kentucky
John Wall was the start of a new era of Kentucky dominance.
The 6-foot-4 North Carolina native was John Calipari’s first elite point guard recruit at Kentucky, and he turned in a season for the ages. He averaged 16.6 points, 6.5 assists and 4.5 boards while leading a loaded roster to SEC regular season and tournament titles. If Kentucky doesn’t end up shooting 4-for-32 from three in the Elite Eight against West Virginia, than there is a very real chance that we never have to ask ourselves the question, “What if Gordon Hayward’s 50-foot prayer actually went in?”
I think what’s more interesting, however, is that Wall almost didn’t make it to Kentucky. When he was in high school, there was speculation that he actually would be eligible for the 2009 NBA Draft the same way that high schoolers like Anfernee Simons and Hamidou Diallo have been eligible. He was a fifth-year senior that turned 19 before the cut-off.
How different would Calipari’s tenure at Kentucky have been if Wall had never made it to campus?
BUDDY HIELD, Oklahoma
Hield’s career arc as a college player is fascinating.
As a freshman, he was considered something of a role player, a guy that would be a piece on a good team. As a sophomore, Buddy had his breakout season, and for the next two years, he put up right around 17 points per game as a good, all-Big 12 caliber player that looked to be on the fringes of the NBA’s radar.
Hield declared for the draft after his junior season and was told that he needed to improve on his handle, his ability to be more than just a set shooter. So he did. A notoriously hard worker who lives in the gym, Hield turned himself from Buddy Hield into #BuddyBuckets. As a senior, he averaged 25.0 points and 5.7 boards while shooting 46.5 percent from three on more than eight attempts per game while leading the Sooners to a 29-win season that culminated with a trip to the Final Four.
That hasn’t been the end for Hield, who has outperformed everyone’s expectations in the NBA – he’s averaging 21.4 points for the Kings this season – but none of us should be surprised by now.
We’ve saw, up close, the amount of work that Hield puts in and how he can change his game to fit what his team needs from in.
This is no different.
JARED SULLINGER, Ohio State
Sullinger entered college basketball as a top five prospect in the Class of 2010, and he sure did live up to the hype.
As a freshman, Sullinger was one of the very best players in the sport. He averaged 17.2 points and 10.2 boards while anchoring an Ohio State team that was, far and away, the best team in college basketball during the 2010-11 season. Imagine trying to guard Sullinger and his ample backside 1-on-1 in the post before snipers like Jon Diebler, William Buford and David Lighty were sitting beyond the arc, just waiting for a clean look at the rim.
That Ohio State team went 34-3. They were the last team to lose a game that season, going undefeated until a trip to a top 10 Wisconsin team in mid-February, and took down both the Big Ten regular season and tournament titles before earning the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament and promptly losing to Kentucky in the Sweet 16.
Sullinger was a first-team All-American and, surprisingly, opted to return to school for his sophomore year. He was just as good that season, and while Ohio State was not, the Buckeyes still managed to win 31 games and get to the Final Four. They’ll always be remembered as the team that lost the other semifinal the year an Anthony Davis-led Kentucky team played Louisville.
FRANK KAMINSKY, Wisconsin
Kaminsky is quintessential Bo Ryan.
An under-recruited, three-star big man from Chicago, Kaminsky get to Wisconsin as a freshman and proceeds to spend two seasons buried on their bench behind the likes of Jared Berggren and Mike Bruesewitz. No one expects much of anything out of his junior season until, four games in, he goes off for 43 points against North Dakota.
From that point on, Kaminsky’s a star.
He helps lead the Badgers to the Final Four that season, where they lost to Kentucky in the national semifinals, and follows that up with a Player of the Year season as a senior in which he averaged 18.8 points, 8.2 boards and 2.6 assists while shooting 41.6 percent from three for a team that ended Kentucky’s pursuit of a 40-0 season with one of the most memorable and fun Final Four games of the decade.
Kaminsky would go on to be a top ten pick in the draft and has carved himself out a nice little NBA career. He’s currently averaging 10.5 points and 5.3 boards for the Phoenix Suns and will end up making more than $25 million in his professional career when it’s all said and done.
Not bad for a kid that couldn’t play over this guy for two years.
No. 4 Kansas beats BYU 71-56 for spot in Maui title game
LAHAINA, Hawaii — Kansas had a hard time keeping up with Brigham Young’s motion offense early in the Maui Invitational semifinals. The Cougars move fast, cut hard and shoot well, so it was no surprise.
Once the Jayhawks were able to measure what BYU was doing, they clamped down and earned a shot at another tournament title.
David McCormack scored 16 points, Ochai Agbaji added 14 and No. 4 Kansas turned a huge second half into a trip to the Maui championship game with a 71-56 victory Tuesday night.
“I told our guys, after about the 10-minute mark, I don’t know if I can remember us locking in and being any better defensively until about the eight-minute mark of the second half,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “From a coaching standpoint, that was fun for me to watch from a defensive standpoint.”
The Jayhawks (5-1) dominated inside against the smaller Cougars and did a good job of rotating out to their shooters to earn a shot at their third Maui Invitational crown.
Kansas opened the second half with a big run to build a double-digit lead and outscored BYU 42-18 in the paint.
The Jayhawks will face Dayton in Wednesday’s title game.
“We were just using our size to our advantage, playing to our height,” McCormack said. “That’s what we do.”
BYU (4-3) was bothered by Kansas’ length on defense, finishing 9 for 33 from behind the 3-point line and turning it over 20 times.
TJ Haws had 16 points and Kolby Lee 13, but Cougars leading scorer Jake Toolson was held to seven on 3-of-9 shooting.
“They do a really good job of keeping you on one side of the floor, and they have a lot of length,” BYU coach Mark Pope said. “We had a really tough time passing it against their length. The frustration mounted in the second half and we didn’t handle that.”
Kansas overwhelmed Division II Chaminade 93-63 in its Maui opener by utilizing its massive size advantage.
The also-undersized Cougars used ball movement and perimeter shooting to blow past UCLA 78-63 in their opener.
Neither team was particularly efficient offensively early in the semifinals, trading turnovers and clanks on the soft Lahaina Civic Center rims.
The Jayhawks found a small semblance of rhythm late in the first half and locked on the Cougars defensively, holding them scoreless for 7½ minutes.
BYU finally hit a few shots late and was within 29-27 at halftime.
Kansas got on a roll to start the second period by getting the ball inside, opening with a 13-2 run to go up 42-31.
The Jayhawks piled on after that with a 19-4 spurt and hit 17 of 32 shots in the second half.
“I thought we did a good job of trying to work it, get our players in position to make plays, and unfortunately there were some times we got good looks and didn’t make shots, shots you need to make to beat a top-5 team,” BYU’s Dalton Nixon said.
BYU pulled off one upset by knocking off UCLA in its opener, but had a hard time matching Kansas’ size in the semifinals.
The Jayhawks shook off some early ugliness on offense with a dominant second half to earn a shot at adding to the 1996 and 2015 Maui titles in their trophy case.