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Bracketology: Welcome to the top line, San Diego State

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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
EAST REGION Virginia Tech vs. Georgetown
WEST REGION NC State vs. VCU
SOUTH REGION  PR VIEW-AM vs. NORFOLK ST
WEST REGION MONMOUTH vs. ST. FRANCIS (PA)

SOUTH Houston                           WEST – Los Angeles
Omaha Spokane
1) BAYLOR 1) GONZAGA
16) PV-AM / NORFOLK ST 16) MONMOUTH / ST. FRANCIS (PA)
8) Arkansas 8) Illinois
9) Memphis 9) HOUSTON
Tampa Sacramento
5) Colorado 5) Arizona
12) EAST TENNESSEE ST 12) NC State / VCU
4) Maryland 4) Iowa
13) S.F. AUSTIN 13) NEW MEXICO ST
St. Louis Greensboro
6) Marquette 6) Michigan
11) NORTHERN IOWA 11) Saint Mary’s
3) LOUISVILLE 3) Duke
14) NORTH TEXAS 14) LITTLE ROCK
Albany Spokane
7) Wisconsin 7) LSU
10) USC 10) Oklahoma
2) SETON HALL 2) Oregon
15) WILLIAM-MARY 15) UC-IRVINE
EAST – New York MIDWEST – Indianapolis
Sacramento Omaha
1) SAN DIEGO STATE 1) Kansas
16) RADFORD 16) MONTANA
8) Rutgers 8) Indiana
9) STANFORD 9) Florida
Albany Cleveland
5) Kentucky 5) Creighton
12) LIBERTY 12) YALE
4) Villanova 4) DAYTON
13) AKRON 13) VERMONT
Greensboro St. Louis
6) Penn State 6) Auburn
11) Virginia Tech / Georgetown 11) BYU
3) West Virginia 3) Butler
14) COLGATE 14) WRIGHT STATE
Tampa Cleveland
7) Ohio State 7) Wichita State
10) DePaul 10) Texas Tech
2) Florida State 2) MICHIGAN STATE
15) AUSTIN PEAY 15) NORTH DAKOTA ST

BUBBLE NOTES
Last 4 Byes Last 4 IN      First 4 OUT Next 4 OUT
USC Virginia Tech Purdue Washington
DePaul NC State Minnesota Saint Louis
Saint Mary’s Georgetown Arizona State St. John’s
BYU VCU Xavier Richmond

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

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A new college basketball top 25 is now live.

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.

Baylor won their close games.

Duke did not.

And I don’t think that’s a fluke.


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.



1. BAYLOR (15-1, Last Week: 2)
2. GONZAGA (20-1, 3)
3. KANSAS (14-3, 6)
4. FLORIDA STATE (16-2, 12)
5. LOUISVILLE (15-3, 13)
6. SETON HALL (14-4, 15)
7. DUKE (15-3, 1)
8. SAN DIEGO STATE (19-0, 8)
9. DAYTON (16-2, 9)
10. MICHIGAN STATE (14-4, 7)
11. BUTLER (15-3, 4)
12. AUBURN (15-2, 5)
13. OREGON (15-4, 10)
14. KENTUCKY (13-4, 11)
15. WEST VIRGINIA (14-3, 14)
16. TEXAS TECH (12-5, 17)
17. VILLANOVA (14-3, 18)
18. IOWA (13-5, 22)
19. ARIZONA (13-5, NR)
20. HOUSTON (14-4, NR)
21. MEMPHIS (14-3, 25)
22. MICHIGAN (11-6, 20)
23. MARYLAND (14-4, 21)
24. ILLINOIS (13-5, 24)
25. CREIGHTON (14-5, 23)

NEW ADDITIONS: No. 19 Arizona, No. 20 Houston
DROPPED OUT: No. 16 Ohio State, No. 19 Wichita State

College Basketball’s All-Decade Team

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More college basketball all-decade team content here.

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 taking a look at the best college basketball all-decade players.


Doug McDermott (Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

The criteria for picking the all-decade teams was kind of tricky with the one-and-done rule in effect.

On the one hand, some of the very best players that we have ever seen in the collegiate ranks spent all of six months playing college basketball. How do we weigh that against guys that had sensational three or four year careers without ever reaching the heights that some of those one-and-dones reached.

It was difficult to balance, and after spending too many hours thinking about it, I’ve come to the decision that there is no right answer.

And that that is OK.

So without further ado, here is college basketball’s All-Decade team for the 2010s.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL ALL-DECADE SECOND TEAM

ALL-DECADE FIRST TEAM

PLAYER OF THE DECADE: Doug McDermott, Creighton

McDermott’s path to becoming one of the greatest college basketball players of a generation, not just the decade, was not typical.

He played his high school ball in Ames, Iowa, where he was completely overshadowed by his teammates, Harrison Barnes. His father, Greg, was the head coach at Iowa State at the time, but Doug committed to play for his dad’s old school, Northern Iowa. He eventually left Iowa State and took the head coaching gig at Creighton. Ben Jacobson let McDermott out of his letter of intent so that he can play for his pops at a league rival, and that turned out to be a costly decision.

Doug played in the Missouri Valley for three season. He averaged 14.9 points and 7.2 boards as a freshman, seeing that number jump to 22.9 points and 8.2 boards as a sophomore and 23.2 points and 7.7 boards as a junior. As a senior, when the Bluejays made the jump to the Big East, he led the nation by averaging 26.7 points.

He left Creighton as the fifth-best scorer in Division I history, amassing 3,150 points; he’s since been surpassed by Chris Clemons from Campbell. He was the first player in 29 years to be named a first-team AP All-American for three consecutive seasons. He is one of just three players in the history of men’s basketball to record 3,000 points and 1,000 rebounds, and he owns an NCAA record by scoring in double figures in 135 games. He only played in 145 games for the Bluejays.

Not bad for a kid that was the second-best player on a public high school team in Ames.

Jalen Brunson (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

JALEN BRUNSON, Villanova

If things had gone the way that the Brunson family had wanted them to go, Jalen never would have ended up at Villanova. He would have played for their city rival, Temple. That’s where his father, Rick, played, and where he was going to get a job as an assistant before a legal issue ended that dream.

So Jalen went to Villanova, where he would become a starter that averaged 9.6 points and 2.5 assists, an integral piece of a team that won the 2016 national title. He was a first-team all-Big East player as a sophomore, but it was his junior season that is the real reason he is a first-team All-Decade player. Brunson would average 18.9 points and 4.6 assists, putting together one of the most efficient seasons in college basketball history en route to a National Player of the Year award and a second national title in three seasons for the team we named as the best in college basketball this decade.

In three seasons with Villanova, Brunson went 103-13 with a 45-9 record in the Big East. He won two Big East regular season title, two Big East tournament titles and two national titles. That’s decent.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL ALL-DECADE THIRD TEAM

Kemba Walker (Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

KEMBA WALKER, UConn

“Cardiac Kemba does it again!”

That is the line that I will always remember about Kemba Walker’s 2010-11 season, which is wild when you really do think about it.

Because that line was delivered by Dave Pasch in the quarterfinal of the Big East tournament. Granted, the line was justified. Kemba had just dropped Pitt’s Gary McGhee to give UConn, the No. 9 seed in the Big East tournament, their third win in three days over the league’s regular season champs. He would go on to lead UConn to eight more wins in a row, taking home not only the Big East tournament title but the national title as well.

Which leads me to one of the most incredible information nuggets that I’ve come across in my years as a college basketball writer: After averaging 23.5 points, 5.4 boards and 4.5 assists for a team that became the first to win a major conference tournament title by winning five games in five days before leading that same team to a national title as a No. 3 seed, Walker did not win any Player of the Year awards.

There are six major college basketball Player of the Year awards, mind you. And not a single one of them determine that Kemba was the best college basketball player that season.

In hindsight, I think that was a miss.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL ALL-DECADE LEGACY TEAM

Zion Williamson (Lance King/Getty Images)

ZION WILLIAMSON, Duke

Zion makes this list despite playing just 33 games in his college career thanks to Duke’s Elite Eight exit and a knee injury that stemmed from a shoe that exploded in the middle of a game against North Carolina. No one on any of these teams will have played fewer games.

But I didn’t think I could justify have the best player that I have ever seen in the college ranks not on the list. He finished the year averaging 22.6 points, 8.9 boards, 2.1 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.8 blocks. No one has done that since at least 1992-93, which is as far back as basketball reference’s database goes, and he was a freshman playing in the ACC. He holds the record for the highest PER in college basketball since 2009-10, which is as far back as that data goes.

We’ll never see anything like Zion Williamson ever again, so I have no problem making an exception to get him on this list.

Anthony Davis (Robert Willett/Getty Images)

ANTHONY DAVIS, Kentucky

I love the Anthony Davis story because I love the trajectory of his career.

When he was a sophomore in high school he was a goofy, 6-foot-2 guard that wore rec specs and was completely inconsequential. When he was a junior he grew to 6-foot-6 and got an offer from Cleveland State, but he was only part way through his growth spurt, as he eventually sprouted to 6-foot-11 without losing any of those guard skills while adding a 7-foot-5 wingspan, making him just an absolutely perfect player for modern basketball.

Suddenly, the dude that looked like this when he was a sophomore is the No. 1 recruit in the country and putting up 14.2 points, 10.4 boards and 4.7 blocks to lead Kentucky to their first national title since 1998 before becoming the No. 1 pick in the draft and, eventually, LeBron’s running buddy in LA.

But that’s jumping ahead.

Because in college, Davis was an absolute game-changer to the point that everyone that saw the Wildcats play immediately knew who their best player was despite the fact that he took the fourth-most shots on the team.

Best Bets: Previewing Louisville-Kentucky and West Virginia-Ohio State

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The Vegas lines for these games were not released at the time of this publishing. Score projections from KenPom, Torvik and Haslametrics were used in their stead. 

No. 3 LOUISVILLE at No. 19 KENTUCKY, Sat. 3:45 p.m. (CBS)

  • KENPOM: Louisville 66, Kentucky 65
  • TORVIK: Louisville 66, Kentucky 63
  • HASLAMETRICS: Louisville 69, Kentucky 62

It’s going to feel pretty gross, but I think the smart money here will be on Kentucky.

We’ve seen this story before with the Wildcats. They struggle throughout the first two months of the season before they put together one, statement performance that lights a fire under the program and turns the season around.

I think this is going to be the performance.

Kentucky is coming home after five days and two losses in Vegas. They are going to be playing their first meaningful game in Rupp Arena this season, and it just so happens to come against their arch-rival Louisville.

I also think this is going to be a tough matchup for the Cardinals. They struggled against Texas Tech when the Red Raiders were able to get out and pressure Louisville’s ball-handlers. They beat Michigan at home, but that win was a product of Louisville’s defense. They only managed to score 58 points on 66 possessions. This is also going to be their first road game since the first game of the season, a win over Miami.

BEST BET: I’m hoping to be able to get this at Kentucky (+3), in which case I’d probably just end up on the Kentucky ML. What will worry me is if the line ends up around a pick-em or with Kentucky laying points. The major concern here is that the Cardinals are the second-best defensive team in the country, according to KenPom, and Kentucky has not exactly proven to be good offensively this year.

No. 22 WEST VIRGINIA at No. 2 OHIO STATE, Sun. 12:00 p.m. (FS1)

  • KENPOM: Ohio State 72, West Virginia 65
  • TORVIK: Ohio State 70, West Virginia 66
  • HASLAMETRICS: Ohio State 74, West Virginia 60

West Virginia has quietly put together a pretty impressive resume this season. They sit at 10-1 overall with wins over Pitt, Northern Iowa, Wichita State and Rhode Island, all of which are top 100 wins on KenPom. They are top 25 in the AP Poll and on KenPom.

The strength of this team is their frontcourt, where Oscar Tshiebwe and Derek Culver are both threats to go for a double-double on a nightly basis. They pound the offensive glass, they erase the paint defensively and they are as good as anyone in the country at running opponents off of the three-point line.

This matters in this matchup, because the Buckeyes are a team that ideally wants to have four shooters on the floor surrounding Kaleb Wesson, who also happens to be a 46 percent three-point shooter. The trouble this causes is that this will pull one of their big men away from the bucket, and they can do it even if they are forced to play with Wesson and Kyle Young for the majority of the game.

BEST BET: Without knowing what the line is this is tough to project. If it is Ohio State (-4), as Torvik projects, then the value is on Ohio State. If it’s West Virginia (+14), as Haslam projects, then the value is on the Mountaineers. And if it is Ohio State (-7), than I’d lean the Buckeyes, but it will probably be a stay-away for me.

No. 5 KANSAS at STANFORD, Sun. 3:00 p.m. (ABC)

  • KENPOM: Kansas 69, Stanford 64
  • TORVIK: Kansas 70, Stanford 63
  • HASLAMETRICS: Kansas 70, Stanford 60

This is a sneaky game for the Jayhawks, who played on the road in their final pre-Christmas game – a loss at Villanova – and will start out their post-holiday run with a road game on the other side of the country.

The Cardinal have not exactly played a loaded schedule this season, but they’ve looked really good in the games that they have played. Their best win is over Oklahoma on a neutral, and they played Butler to a one-possession game in Kansas City, but those are the only two high-major programs they’ve faced. In the week before Christmas, the Cardinal had closer-than-expected wins over San Francisco and San Diego.

The key here is going to be how well you think the Cardinal can score against Kansas and whether or not Marcus Garrett plays. Let’s start with the latter: Garrett practiced on Thursday and, at this point, the Jayhawks staff believes they are going to have him available on Saturday afternoon. That’s big, He is not only the secondary playmaker and the best perimeter defender on the Stanford roster, but he is one of the guys that lets them play small.

He’s one of the biggest reasons the Jayhawks have been a top five defense in the country this season, which brings me to the other point: Stanford’s strength this season has been on the defensive end. They have not been great offensively despite shooting the ball really well because they turn the rock too much and fade the offensive glass.

BEST BET: It’s hard to make a pick here without knowing what the line is going to be. Assuming it is Kansas (-5), which is what KenPom’s projections list, I lean the Kansas side but will personally be staying away. If the line is Stanford (+10), as Haslametrics projects, then there is value on the Cardinal and I’ll be on Stanford.

WISCONSIN at TENNESSEE, Sat. 1:30 p.m. (CBS)

  • KENPOM: Tennessee 62, Wisconsin 57
  • TORVIK: Tennessee 59, Wisconsin 56
  • HASLAMETRICS: Tennessee 59, Wisconsin 56

I’ve included Wisconsin-Tennessee here because I think that it is worth noting that this is the first game that the Vols have played since losing point guard Lamonte Turner. He has not been healthy for the majority of the season when he has played, and his ineffectiveness was a major reason why the Vols had been struggling to score of late.

The Vols have a freshman point guard from Uruguay coming in, Santiago Vescovi, but he only just enrolled and will not arrive in Knoxville until Saturday morning. That means that the only player that can even pretend to be a point guard on the Tennessee roster is five-star freshman Josiah-Jordan James.

That’s not an ideal situation.

And neither is betting on a Wisconsin team that has lost four of their last six games and is 0-5 in games away from the Kohl Center.

BEST BET: If the line ends up being Wisconsin (+5), which is where KenPom has it, I think that’s where the value is. But I’m going to assume that this will open lower and get bet towards the Wisconsin side, at which point I’ll be on Tennessee, hopefully somewhere around a pick-em.

I also think the under is in play if the total opens at 119. The Vols already were a really good defensive team that is only going to get better now that they’ll be playing five guys 6-foot-6 or taller.

LIBERTY at LSU, Sun. 1:30 p.m. (SECN)

  • KENPOM: LSU 70, Liberty 66
  • TORVIK: LSU 68, Liberty 66
  • HASLAMETRICS: LSU 69, Liberty 66

Wherever this line opens up, I think I am going to be on Liberty here. This is a chance for the Flames to really make a statement. They are currently undefeated on the season, but they only have one win over a high-major opponent, and it came against Vanderbilt, which may not even count. Ritchie McKay is one of the best x’s and o’s coaches in the sport – ask Mississippi State, who lost in last year’s NCAA tournament to Liberty – and while I do respect Will Wade’s coaching acumen, he does not exactly have the most disciplined team.

BEST BET: I like the Liberty side, and anything less than (+2.5) I’ll be betting the money line.

Monday’s Overreactions: Vernon Carey, Baylor and UConn is back!

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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Vernon Carey, Duke

We may only be three weeks into college basketball season, but at this point I think that it is safe to say that Carey is better than any of us expected him to be. Through three games, he is averaging 18.3 points, 9.2 boards and 1.8 blocks in just 24 minutes. In two games last week in Madison Square Garden, Carey averaged 25.5 points, 11.0 boards and 2.5 blocks as the Blue Devils knocked off Cal and Georgetown en route to the 2K Classic title.

When Carey is playing this well, it changes what Duke is able to do offensively. He’s an absolute monster on the block, and he proved that as he carried the Blue Devils in the first half against a Georgetown team that looked like they were ready to run Duke out of New York City. We were questioning just how Duke was going to be able to score this season, and it turns out, running things through Carey is probably the answer.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Baylor Bears

It’s really hard not to be impressed with what Baylor was able to do this week in Myrtle Beach, and it’s not simply who they were able to beat. Other than Villanova, Baylor didn’t really beat anyone of note. What made their run so impressive was how they did it, but we’ll get into that in a minute.

MONDAY’S OVERREACTIONS

1. UCONN IS BACK, BABY

This week felt like a turning point for the UConn program under Dan Hurley.

And not just because they got James GOATKnight, I mean Bouknight, back from his early season suspension.

The Huskies bounced back from an ugly home loss to St. Joseph’s by beating then-No. 15 Florida at home. Then, in a letdown spot against a solid Buffalo team, they put together a fairly easy win before taking Xavier to double-overtime and smacking around Miami like they were still mad at Jim Larranaga for 2006. Bouknight was awesome. Josh Carlton more than held his own. Akok Akok blocked everything. Tyler Polley and Brendan Adams hit big shots.

The guy that didn’t play well was Alterique Gilbert, but even that mattered. Hurley ripped into criticism of him in a press conference, putting himself on the line for a player that, to be frank, missed a couple of big shots in the Xavier loss.

Hurley told me in October that the most difficult part of this job has been teaching these kids, who lost so much with the previous coaching regime, to expect and demand winning. He had to change the culture, and the first signs of change appeared this weekend.

2. FLORIDA IS BACK, TOO

It’s time for a victory lap.

Last week, I said that Florida’s issue was simple: They weren’t making shots. They are a team that is built to play small-ball, and when you are built to play small-ball and you shoot 24 percent from three, you’re probably going to do things like go 2-2.

But when you’re built for small-ball and shoot better than 40 percent from three – like Florida did in Charleston – you do things like win the Charleston Classic.

The Gators play eight players. Four are freshmen. Three are sophomores. One is a graduate transfer. We should have known that it was going to take a little bit of time for them to gel heading into the season. The mistake wasn’t predicting they have a ceiling of a top ten team, the mistake was thinking they’d be at that ceiling from Day 1.

3. GEORGETOWN IS PROBABLY BACK

I do not think the Hoyas are back just yet.

But I do think they have the chance to be a top 25 team this season.

As I wrote on Friday night from Madison Square Garden, Georgetown has all the pieces you need for a team that will be dangerous. They have a talented playmaker at the point in James Akinjo. They have a hoss on the block in Omer Yurtseven. And they have what seems like 20 tough, aggressive, athletic wings that allow the Hoyas to create all kinds of problems defensively.

There are kinks that still need to be worked out – specifically, Yurtseven’s fouling issues and Akinjo’s ball-dominance – but for the most part, the Hoyas have the horses to make some noise when it matters. They haven’t hit their ceiling yet, but it is within reach.

4. VILLANOVA IS DEFINITELY BACK BECAUSE COLLIN GILLISPIE HAS ARRIVED

The most important player on Villanova’s roster is Collin Gillispie.

To understand why, you need to understand what Villanova is trying to do offensively. If you listened to Fran Fraschilla and Rich Hollenberg on the broadcast of the loss to Baylor, you heard them refer to Villanova’s “concepts” at least a half-dozen times. Villanova’s offensive is not built on set plays but instead built on a way to play, and while figuring out how to do it is sometimes tricky, what they are doing is really not all that complicated.

Villanona wants to create closeout situations. They want to get a touch in the paint, draw a second defender, kick the ball out and put the defense into rotation, creating a closeout. They then move the ball until they can get a clean drive or an open look. When Villanova struggles is when they are unable to get the penetration they need to draw that first help defender.

In Myrtle Beach, Gillispie was that guy. He was awesome, there’s really no other way to put it. The 27 points and six assists that he had against Baylor is the performance that people took notice of, but in the three games in South Carolina he averaged 20.3 points and 7.3 assists.

I’m not expecting him to average 20 and seven the rest of the season, but if he can be a guy that puts up 15 points and five assists, shoots 40 percent from three and initiates their offense the way he did this week, the Wildcats’ ceiling is as one of the best teams in the country.

5. BAYLOR NEVER LEFT, BUT THEY’RE THE SECOND BEST TEAM IN THE BIG 12

Heading into the season, it was fair to assume that Baylor was going to be a team built on their ability to defend, their ability to get on the glass and the fact that they had one of the biggest and best frontlines in college basketball. That’s what happens when you lose your starting guards from a team that finished second nationally in offensive rebounding percentage.

But that’s not who this team is in reality.

As surprising as this may sound, in a win over Villanova in the Myrtle Beach Invitational title game, it was the Bears that had the best guards on the floor.

Davion Mitchell and MaCio Teague sat out last season and they have more than lived up to expectations. Jared Butler took over in the final minutes of the Villanova game and has been the best player for Baylor this season; he’s averaging 19.3 points and 3.5 assists while shooting 52.5 percent from three. As a team, Baylor is shooting 40.6 percent from three.

They’re still really good on the glass and their defense is able to force turnovers, but the truth is that the strength of this roster is their backcourt, which has proven themselves to be one of the best in the country this season.

No. 15 Utah State rallies from 19-point deficit to beat LSU

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MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica — Sam Merrill made a go-ahead 3-pointer with 57 seconds left and No. 15 Utah State overcame a 19-point deficit in the second half to beat LSU 80-78 on Friday night at the Jamaica Classic.

Down 54-35 with 16:32 remaining, Utah State (6-0) chipped away by making its first five 3-pointers of the second half. Alphonso Anderson’s 3 cut it to 71-67.

Anderson missed a 3-pointer with 13 seconds left, and LSU grabbed the defensive rebound, but Skylar Mays had it poked away and the Aggies passed it around to run out the clock. LSU had 11 second-half turnovers.

Merrill and Anderson each scored 24 points. Merrill, the Mountain West player of the year last season, was 5 of 9 from 3-point range, made 9 of 10 free throws and had eight assists. Justin Bean had 14 points and 12 rebounds, and Diogo Brito scored 12 points.

Mays scored a career-high 30 points for LSU (3-2). He was 10-of-13 shooting with five 3-pointers. Darius Days and Emmitt Williams each scored 14 points.

LSU shot 47% from the field, snapping Utah State’s run of holding its last four opponents to less than 40%.

LSU made six 3-pionters in the first 8 minutes, using a 14-2 run to build an early 28-13 lead. The Tigers finished the half 9 of 18 from distance and shot 52% overall. Days led the way for LSU with 14 points to help build a 44-30 lead.

Utah State’s starters were held to 14 points in the first half, but Anderson kept them within reach with nine points off the bench, including a tip-in at the buzzer.

BIG PICTURE

Utah State: The Aggies improved to 62-18 as an AP-ranked team after extending their run to six straight games with 80-plus points. USU’s ranking is the highest for the program since the 1970-71 season when it was as high as No. 9.

LSU: The Tigers barely missed out again on an opportunity to pad their resume with a nonconference win against a ranked opponent. They lost 84-82 at then-No. 23 VCU on Nov. 13. Just like against the Aggies, LSU had an opportunity to tie or go ahead in the final seconds, but Mays turned it over to the Rams with one second left.

UP NEXT

Utah State will play North Texas on Sunday.

LSU will play Rhode Island on Sunday.