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College Basketball 2019-2020 Preseason Top 25

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There is so much that is going to happen between now and the time that next season starts that it almost seems foolish to publish a preseason top 25 today.

But we’re doing it anyway!

A couple of notes: Who is going to head to the NBA is very much in the air right now. There are still a number of freshmen that have yet to announce where they are playing their college ball. The transfer market has barely heated up. For decisions that are up in the air, you’ll see an asterisk next to their name. We’re making predictions on what certain players will do and ranking based off of them. 

So with all that said, here is the preseason top 25.

1. MICHIGAN STATE

  • WHO’S GONE: Matt McQuaid, Kenny Goins, Nick Ward
  • WHO’S BACK: Cassius Winston, Xavier Tillman, Joshua Langford, Aaron Henry, Kyle Ahrens, Gabe Brown, Foster Loyer, Marcus Bingham, Thomas Kithier
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Rocket Watts, Malik Hall, Julius Marble
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Cassius Winston, Joshua Langford, Kyle Ahrens, Aaron Henry, Xavier Tillman

2. KENTUCKY

  • WHO’S GONE: P.J. Washington, Keldon Johnson, Tyler Herro, Reid Travis
  • WHO’S BACK: E.J. Montgomery*, Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickly, Nick Richards*
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Kahlil Whitney, Tyrese Maxey, Keion Brooks, Johnny Juzang, Dontaie Allen, Nate Sestina
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Tyrese Maxey, Ashton Hagans, Kahlil Whitney, Keion Brooks, E.J. Montgomery

3. DUKE

  • WHO’S GONE: Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish
  • WHO’S BACK: Tre Jones, Marques Bolden*, Alex O’Connell, Jack White, Javin DeLaurier*, Jordan Goldwire, Joey Baker
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Vernon Carey, Wendell Moore, Matthew Hurt, Cassius Stanley
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Tre Jones, Alex O’Connell, Wendell Moore, Matthew Hurt, Vernon Carey

4. VILLANOVA

  • WHO’S GONE: Eric Paschall, Phil Booth, Jahvon Quinerly
  • WHO’S BACK: Jermaine Samuels, Cole Swider, Saddiq Bey, Collin Gillespie, Dhamir Cosby-Rountree, Brandon Slater
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Bryan Antoine, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Justin Moore, Eric Dixon
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Collin Gillespie, Bryan Antoine, Saddiq Bey, Jermaine Samuels, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl

5. LOUISVILLE

  • WHO’S GONE: Christen Cunningham, Khwan Fore, Akoy Agau
  • WHO’S BACK: Jordan Nwora*, Dwayne Sutton, Ryan McMahon, Steve Enoch*, Malik Williams, Darius Perry
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Samuell Williamson, Jaelyn Withers, Josh Nickelberry, David Johnson, Aidan Igiehom, Quinn Slazinski
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Darius Perry, Samuell Williamson, Dwayne Sutton, Jordan Nwora, Malik Williams

6. MARYLAND

  • WHO’S GONE: Bruno Fernando
  • WHO’S BACK: Anthony Cowan*, Jalen Smith, Serrel Smith Jr., Eric Ayala, Aaron Wiggins, Ricky Lindo
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Chol Marial, Makhi Mitchell, Makhel Mitchell, Donta Scott
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Anthony Cowan, Eric Ayala, Aaron Wiggins, Ricky Lindo, Jalen Smith

7. KANSAS

  • WHO’S GONE: Lagerald Vick, Silvio De Sousa*, Dedric Lawson, K.J. Lawson, Charlie Moore
  • WHO’S BACK: Devon Dotson*, Quentin Grimes*, Ochai Agbaji, Udoka Azubuike, Marcus Garrett, Mitch Lightfoot, David McCormack
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Isaac McBride, Christian Braun
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Devon Dotson, Quentin Grimes, Marcus Garrett, Ochai Agbaji, Udoka Azubuike

8. VIRGINIA

  • WHO’S GONE: De’Andre Hunter, Ty Jerome, Kyle Guy, Jack Salt
  • WHO’S BACK: Braxton Key, Mamadi Diakite*, Jay Huff, Kihei Clark
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Casey Morsell, Tomas Woldetensae, Kadin Shedrick, Justin McKoy
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Kihei Clark, Casey Morsell, Braxton Key, Mamadi Diakite, Jay Huff

9. MEMPHIS

  • WHO’S GONE: Jeremiah Martin, Kyvon Davenport, Mike Parks Jr., Raynere Thornton, Kareem Brewton, Antwann Jones Jr.
  • WHO’S BACK: Tyler Harris, Alex Lomax, Isaiah Maurice
  • WHO’S COMING IN: James Wiseman, Rayjon Tucker, D.J. Jeffries, Malcolm Dandridge, Damian Baugh, Lance Thomas, Precious Achiuwa, Boogie Ellis
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Boogie Ellis, Rayjon Tucker, D.J. Jeffries, Precious Achiuwa, James Wiseman

10. TEXAS TECH

  • WHO’S GONE: Jarrett Culver, Matt Mooney, Tariq Owens, Brandone Francis, Norense Odiase, Khavon Moore
  • WHO’S BACK: Chris Beard, Davide Moretti, Kyler Edwards, Deshawn Corprew, Andrei Savrasov
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Jahmius Ramsey, Chris Clarke, T.J. Holyfield, Kevin McCullar, Khalid Thomas, Russel Tchewa, Terrence Shannon
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Jahmius Ramsey, Davide Moretti, Deshawn Corprew, T.J. Holyfield, Chris Clarke

11. GONZAGA

  • WHO’S GONE: Rui Hachimura, Brandon Clarke, Josh Perkins, Zach Norvell, Geno Crandall, Jeremy Jones
  • WHO’S BACK: Killian Tillie*
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Admon Gilder, Drew Timme, Oumar Ballo, Brock Ravet, Anton Watson, Martynas Arlauskas, Pavel Zahkarov
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Brock Ravet, Admon Gilder, Corey Kispert, Killian Tillie, Filip Petrusev

12. SETON HALL

  • WHO’S GONE: Michael Nzei
  • WHO’S BACK: Myles Powell*, Myles Cale, Quincy McKnight, Taurean Thompson, Sandro Mamukelashvili, Ikey Obiagu
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Tyrese Samuel, Dashawn Davis
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Quincy McKnight, Myles Powell, Myles Cale, Sandro Mamukelashvili, Ikey Obiagu

13. NORTH CAROLINA

  • WHO’S GONE: Coby White, Nassir Little, Luke Maye, Cam Johnson, Kenny Williams, Seventh Woods
  • WHO’S BACK: Leaky Black, Garrison Brooks, Brandon Robinson
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Cole Anthony, Armando Bacot, Jeremiah Francis, Anthony Harris, Christian Keeling, Justin Pierce
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Cole Anthony, Leaky Black, Brandon Robinson, Armando Bacot, Garrison Brooks

14. ARIZONA

  • WHO’S GONE: Justin Coleman, Ryan Luther
  • WHO’S BACK: Brandon Randolph*, Dylan Smith, Chase Jeter, Brandon Williams, Alex Barcello, Ira Lee, Devonaire Doutrive
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Nico Mannion, Josh Green, Max Hazzard, Terry Armstrong, Christian Koloko, Zeke Nnaji
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Nico Mannion, Josh Green, Brandon Randolph, Ira Lee, Chase Jeter

15. UTAH STATE

  • WHO’S GONE: Quinn Taylor
  • WHO’S BACK: Sam Merrill, Neemias Queta*, Diogo Brito, Brock Miller, Abel Porter
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Alphonso Anderson, Liam McChesney, Sean Bairstow
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Diogo Brito, Abel Porter, Sam Merrill, Brock Miller, Neemias Queta

16. SAINT MARY’S

  • WHO’S GONE: Jordan Hunter
  • WHO’S BACK: Jordan Ford, Malik Fitts, Tommy Kuhse, Tanner Krebs, Dan Fotu, Jock Perry
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Alex Ducas, Kyle Bowen
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Jordan Ford, Tommy Kuhse, Tanner Krebs, Malik Fitts, Jock Perry

17. XAVIER

  • WHO’S GONE: Ryan Welage, Zach Hankins, Kyle Castlin, Elias Harden
  • WHO’S BACK: Quentin Goodin*, Naji Marshall, Paul Scruggs*, Tyrique Jones*
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Kyky Tandy, Dahmir Bishop, Zach Freemantle, Jason Carter, Daniel Ramsey, Dieonte Miles
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Quentin Goodin, Paul Scruggs, Naji Marshall, Jason Carter, Tyrique Jones

18. CREIGHTON

  • WHO’S GONE: Sam Froling, Kaleb Joseph, Connor Cashaw
  • WHO’S BACK: Davion Mintz*, Ty-Shon Alexander, Mitchell Ballock, Martin Krampelj*, Jacob Epperson, Damien Jefferson, Marcus Zegarowski
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Shereef Mitchell
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Davion Mintz, Marcus Zegarowski, Ty-Shon Alexander, Mitchell Ballock, Martin Krampelj

19. COLORADO

  • WHO’S GONE: Namon Wright
  • WHO’S BACK: McKinley Wright IV, Tyler Bey, D’shawn Schwartz, Lucas Siewert, Evan Battey, Shane Gatling, Daylen Kountz
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Maddox Daniels
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: McKinley Wright IV, Tyler Bey, D’shawn Schwartz, Lucas Siewert, Shane Gatling

20. AUBURN

  • WHO’S GONE: Bryce Brown, Malik Dunbar, Horace Spencer, Chuma Okeke*
  • WHO’S BACK: Jared Harper*, Samir Doughty, J’Von McCormick, Danjel Purifoy, Anfernee McLemore, Austin Wiley
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Isaac Okoro, Tyrell Jones, Jaylin Williams, Babatunde Akingbola, Allen Flanigan, Jamal Johnson
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Jared Harper, J’Von McCormick, Samir Doughty, Danjel Purifoy, Anfernee McLemore

21. TENNESSEE

  • WHO’S GONE: Admiral Schofield, Kyle Alexander, Jordan Bone*, Grant Williams*
  • WHO’S BACK: Lamonte Turner, Jordan Bowden, Yves Pons, Derrick Walker Jr., John Fulkerson, D.J. Burns, Jalen Johnson
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Josiah James, Drew Pember, Davonte Gaines
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Lamonte Turner, Jordan Bowden, Josiah James, Yves Pons, John Fulkerson

22. HOUSTON

  • WHO’S GONE: Corey Davis, Breaon Brady, Galen Robinson
  • WHO’S BACK: Dejon Jerreau, Armoni Brooks*, Cedrick Alley, Brison Gresham, Fabian White, Chris Harris, Nate Hinton
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Caleb Mills, Justin Gorham
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Dejon Jerreau, Armoni Brooks, Nate Hinton, Fabian White, Brison Gresham

23. VCU

  • WHO’S GONE: Michael Gilmore
  • WHO’S BACK: Marcus Evans, Isaac Vann, Deriante Jenkins, Marcus Santos-Silva, Sean Mobley, Vince Williams, Mike’L Simms, P.J. Byrd, Malik Crawford
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Jarren McAlister
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Marcus Evans, Isaac Vann, Deriante Jenkins, Sean Mobley, Marcus Santos-Silva

24. OHIO STATE

  • WHO’S GONE: C.J. Jackson, Keyshawn Woods
  • WHO’S BACK: Kaleb Wesson*, Andre Wesson, Luther Muhammad, Duane Washington, Kyle Young, Justin Aherns, Musa Jallow, Jaedon LeDee
  • WHO’S COMING IN: D.J. Carton, Alonzo Gaffney, EJ Liddel, Ibrahima Diallo, CJ Walker
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: C.J. Walker, Duane Washington Jr., Luther Muhammad, Andre Wesson, Kaleb Wesson*

25. DAVIDSON

  • WHO’S GONE: Nathan Ekwu, Dusan Kovacevic
  • WHO’S BACK: Kellan Grady, Jon Axel Gudmundson, Luka Brajkovic, Luke Frampton, Kishawn Pritchett, Carter Collins, David Czerapowics, Bates Jones
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Hyunjung Lee, David Kristensen
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Kellan Grady, Jon Axel Gudmundson, Luke Frampton, Kishawn Pritchett, Luka Brajkovic

Report: Marquette lands grad transfer center Jayce Johnson

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Marquette picked up a key graduate transfer big man on Tuesday night as former Utah center Jayce Johnson pledged to the Golden Eagles. The news was first reported by Ben Steele of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

One of the Pac-12’s most productive big men last season, the 7-footer came on strong in the final weeks of the season as Johnson became a regular double-double threat. Averaging 7.1 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game in only 21.9 minutes per contest, Johnson has a chance to become a key piece in Marquette’s rotation.

While Marquette is still trying to figure out the loss of the Hauser brothers to transfer, the Golden Eagles have solidified their frontcourt with the pickup of Johnson. Although foul trouble has been an issue with Johnson during his college career, he’s an elite rebounder (Johnson ranked top 30 in offensive and defensive rebounding rate on KenPom last season) and capable rim protector who should fit in nicely with veteran big man Theo John.

When you also add Ed Morrow into that mix and it’s not a bad group for Marquette. Although none of those guys are consistent floor-spacers like the Hausers were, this group should provide plenty of toughness and experience in what should be a tough Big East next season.

Sam, Joey Hauser to transfer from Marquette

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Marquette suffered a brutal blow on Monday as brothers Sam and Joey Hauser announced that they are transferring out of the program.

Sam, a 6-foot-8 junior, averaged 15.1 points, 7.2 boards and 2.3 assists this past season. Joey is a 6-foot-8 redshirt freshman that averaged 9.8 points and 5.2 boards. They both shot better than 40 percent from three this season.

This is the kind of loss that can cripple what was such a promising season for the Golden Eagles. Last week, Markus Howard announced that the will be returning for his senior season, which vaulted Marquette to No. 4 in the NBC Sports preseason top 25.

Without the Hausers, Marquette will be a borderline top 25 team. That’s how good they are and how important they are in allowing Marquette to play small and punish teams that throw multiple defenders at Howard.

The brothers immediately become the top transfers available.

Markus Howard’s return makes Marquette a preseason top five team

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Huge news coming out of the Big East, as reigning conference Player of the Year, Markus Howard, announced that he will be returning to school for his senior season.

Howard averaged 25.0 points, 4.0 boards and 3.9 assists while shooting 40.3 percent from three as a junior.

Marquette will return their entire starting five with Howard back, and they will also get Koby McEwen, a talented transfer from Utah State that sat out last season, eligible. The Golden Eagles are a top five team heading into next season.

Duke Freshmen Williamson, Barrett Top AP All-America Team

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The season did not end as Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett intended. The fabulous freshmen came to Duke to win a national championship and their bid came up short with a loss to Michigan State in the Elite Eight.

Williamson and Barrett still managed to make a bit of history.

The Duke duo was named to The Associated Press All-America team on Tuesday, becoming the second freshman teammates to make the first team in the same season. They were joined by Tennessee’s Grant Williams, Michigan State’s Cassius Winston and Ja Morant of Murray State.

Kentucky’s DeMarcus Cousins and John Wall were the only other freshman teammates to take first-team AP honors in 2010.

The 6-foot-7, 285-pound Williamson electrified college basketball with an array of thunderous dunks and soaring blocks, occasionally having to tilt his head to avoid hitting it on the backboard. He was selected unanimously by 64 voters as a first-team All-American. He averaged 22.1 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.2 blocked shots and 1.8 steals per game while leaving everyone wondering what he would do next.

“He’s got the most incredible first step,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “That’s why he’s getting all those steals. He can take one dribble and cover more space than most human beings that I know can do. And so then he has the strength to finish at the end. So he’s not Superman, but he’s damn close.”

Barrett arrived at Duke as the higher-rated recruit and while everyone fawned over his high-flying teammate, the athletic 6-7 guard quietly had a superb season in Durham. Barrett led the Blue Devils with 22.9 points, grabbed 7.5 rebounds and dished 4.1 assists per game on a team that came a game short of the Final Four.

Williams was the SEC player of the year a season ago and may have been even better while winning the award this year.

The 6-7 junior averaged 19 points per game while shooting 57% and had 7.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists and lead the Vols to the Sweet 16 for the first time in five years.

Morant was the most exciting player in college basketball not named Zion, lighting up highlight reels with emphatic dunks and no-look passes.

The 6-3 point guard may have turned himself into an NBA lottery pick his sophomore season, leading the nation with 10 assists per game and averaging 24.6 points to become Murray State’s first first-team All-American.

“He’s one of the most exceptional players that I’ve had a chance to watch play,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. “He’s kind of a throwback to guys who have the ability to score points. But also has the passion and the excitement about creating opportunities for his teammates.”

Winston is not the most athletic player, even on his own team. He is heady, ultra tough and a big reason the Spartans are in the Final Four.

He averaged 18.9 points, 7.6 assists and was Michigan State’s go-to guy when a big shot was needed.

___

Statistics through March 17

First Team

Zion Williamson, Duke, 6-7, 285, freshman, Spartanburg, S.C., 22.1 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 2.1 apg, 69.3 fg pct, 1.8 blocks, 2.2 steals (64 of 64 first-place votes, 320 points).

Grant Williams, Tennessee, 6-7, 236, junior, Charlotte, N.C., 19.0 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 3.1 apg, 56.5 fg pct, 82.6 ft pct, 1.4 blocks, 1.1 steals (49, 286).

RJ Barrett, Duke, 6-7, 202, freshman, Mississauga, Ontario, 22.9 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 4.1 apg (44, 275).

Ja Morant, Murray State, 6-3, 175, sophomore, Dalzell, S.C., 24.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 10.0 apg, 50.3 fg pct, 81.0 ft pct, 1.8 steals (43, 272).

Cassius Winston, Michigan State, 6-1, 185, junior, Detroit, 18.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 7.6 apg, 40.4 3-pt fg pct, 84.0 ft pct (42,268).

Second Team

Rui Hachimura, Gonzaga, 6-8, 230, junior, Toyama, Japan, 20.1 rpg, 6.6 rpg, 60.9 fg pct, 1.0 steals (25, 207).

Jarrett Culver, Texas Tech, 6-6, 195, sophomore, Lubbock, Texas, 18.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 3.7 apg, 1.4 steals (15, 188).

Markus Howard, Marquette, 5-11, 175, junior, Chandler, Ariz., 24.8 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 4.0 apg, 40.6 3-pt fg pct, 3.5 3-pt fg/game, 88.7 ft pct, 1.1 steals (11, 186).

Ethan Happ, Wisconsin, 6-10, 237, senior, Milan, Ill., 17.5 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 4.6 apg, 53.1 fg pct, 1.3 blocks, 1.1 steals (6, 139).

Carsen Edwards, Purdue, 6-1, 200, junior, Atascocita, Texas, 23.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.0 apg, 84.3 ft pct, 3.3 3-pt fg/game, 1.4 steals (6, 133).

Third Team

De’Andre Hunter, Virginia, 6-7, 225, junior, Philadelphia, 15.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.1 apg, 53.0 fg pct, 45.7 3-pt fg pct (3, 125).

Dedric Lawson, Kansas, 6-9, 235, Memphis, Tenn., 19.1 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 82.4 ft pct, 1.1 blocks, 1.3 steals (3, 110).

Brandon Clarke, Gonzaga, 6-8, 215, junior, Phoenix, 16.5 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 69.3 fg pct, 3.1 blocks, 1.2 steals (4, 92).

PJ Washington, Kentucky, 6-8, 228 sophomore, Dallas, 14.8 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 51.5 fg pct, 41.9 3-pt fg pct, 1.2 blocks (1, 79).

Kyle Guy, Virginia, 6-2, 175, junior, Indianapolis, 15.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.2 apg, 46.3 3-pt fg pct, 83.6 ft pct (1, 44).

Honorable Mention (alphabetical order)

Keith Braxton, St. Francis (Pa.); Ignas Brazdeikis, Michigan; Tookie Brown, Georgia Southern; Chris Clemons, Campbell; RJ Cole, Howard; Jeremy Combs, Texas Southern; Jarron Cumberland, Cincinnati; Mike Daum, South Dakota State; Jordan Davis, Northern Colorado; Cameron Delaney, Sam Houston State; Lamine Diane, Cal State Northridge; Daniel Gafford, Arkansas; Jon Axel Gudmundsson, Davidson; Rapolas Ivanauskas, Colgate; Ty Jerome, Virginia; Cameron Johnson, North Carolina; Anthony Lamb, Vermont; Fletcher Magee, Wofford; Caleb Martin, Nevada; CJ Massinburg, Buffalo; Garrison Mathews, Lipscomb; Luke Maye, North Carolina; Drew McDonald, Northern Kentucky; Sam Merrill, Utah State; Jaylen Nowell, Washington; Miye Oni, Yale; Shamorie Ponds, St. John’s; Myles Powell, Seton Hall; Admiral Schofield, Tennessee; Marial Shayok, Iowa State; B.J. Stith, Old Dominion; Matisse Thybulle, Washington; Jake Toolson, Utah Valley; Marques Townes, Loyola of Chicago; Tremont Waters, LSU; Coby White, North Carolina; Justin Wright-Foreman, Hofstra; Cameron Young, Quinnipiac.

Monday Overreactions: Recapping first weekend; looking ahead to Final Four

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FIRST WEEKEND MVP: Payton Pritchard, Oregon

Oregon’s point guard was the best player on the floor for the Ducks in both of their games as the Pac-12 tournament champions became the only team seeded lower than fifth to get to the second weekend of the tournament. In wins over Wisconsin and UC Irvine, Pritchard averaged 18.5 points, 7.5 assists and 4.5 boards while also sparking late runs that turned close games into blowouts.

And frankly, Pritchard has been terrific for a month at this point. He’s averaging 19.0 points and 7.0 assists over his last five games and has looked like one of the best point guards in all of college basketball as Oregon has reeled off a ten game winning streak, eight of which have come on the road or on neutral courts.

ALL-FIRST WEEKEND TEAM

CARSEN EDWARDS, Purdue: After putting up 26 points for the Boilermakers in the first round of the tournament, Edwards followed that up with 42 point explosion against Villanova in the second round, the most points scored in an NCAA tournament game since 2004. In total, Purdue has scored 148 points in two games in this even, and Edwards and 68 of them.

NASSIR LITTLE, North Carolina: Little averaged 19.5 points in the first two games of his first (and only?) NCAA tournament. We wrote a column yesterday on why that is so important for the Tar Heels.

ZION WILLIAMSON, Duke: Williamson was, as you might expect, the best player for Duke over the course of the first weekend. He finished with 25 points and three boards in the opening round win over North Dakota State and followed that up with 32 points, 11 boards and four assists in the win over UCF.

BRANDON CLARKE, Gonzaga: Clarke didn’t do much in Gonzaga’s first round win over Fairleigh Dickinson because he didn’t need to do much. But in a second round date with a Baylor team that actually showed up and gave the Zags a fight, Clarke put together one of the best performances in the tournament this season: 36 points, eight boards, five blocks, three assists and two steals.

MFIONDU KABENGELE, Florida State: How many teams can say that their best player comes off of the bench? That’s the case for Florida State and Kabengele, who was simply terrific in two wins this weekend. He had 21 points and 10 boards against UVM and followed that up with 22 points, seven boards and three blocks in a blowout win over Ja Morant and Murray State.

MOST IMPRESSIVE TEAM: Texas Tech

Every one of the top two seeds got pushed at some point in the first weekend of the tournament. Virginia and North Carolina trailed at the half of their first round games. Duke came a couple of inches away from losing to UCF. Gonzaga was pushed by Baylor in the second round. Tennessee nearly blew not one, but two huge leads. Kentucky was in a dogfight with Wofford. Michigan State nearly lost to Bradley while Florida made it difficult for Michigan to get to the Sweet 16.

Texas Tech, however, didn’t really have those problems. Northern Kentucky kept it close for 15 minutes before Jarrett Culver went nuts and the Red Raiders ran away with it. Buffalo had one run late in the first half that seemed like it was going to make the most intriguing matchup of Sunday’s second round action worth watching, but that only last about five minutes.

This Texas Tech team has a real shot to make a run through Anaheim to get to Minneapolis. They are the nation’s best defensive team, but with the way they have been shooting the rock of late, they are also a threat to put up 90 points on any given opponent. On a weekend where every other title contender was pushed, Tech cruised, and that should tell you something.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: The Big East

So it turns out the Big East was pretty bad after all.

Their run in the NCAA tournament ended on Saturday evening, with Carsen Edwards dropping 42 points in a rout that saw Purdue lead 59-24 at one point. It was an embarrassment, really, but one that we all probably should have seen coming.

Villanova won the Big East regular season title, but it never felt like they actually were trying to win. They lost five of their last eight regular season games and only managed to take home the league title because Marquette, the only other team in the league that we thought was any good, lost their last four games. That same Marquette team was run out of the first round by Murray State, who looked every bit the part of a mid-major in their loss to Florida State on Saturday.

There’s more.

Villanova beat Seton Hall in the Big East tournament title game, and the Pirates got drubbed by 16 points by Wofford in the first round. The only other Big East team to get into the tournament was St. John’s, and they got smoked in a play-in game by an Arizona State team that proceeded to lose to Buffalo by 17.

The league should be better with the amount of talent that they have coming back.

And they’re going to need to be.

Because this was not the kind of season that the conference will want to be known for.

FIVE OVERREACTIONS MOVING FORWARD

1. A DISMAL FIRST WEEKEND SETS US UP FOR THE PERFECT FINISH TO THE TOURNAMENT

That first weekend sucked.

We got a thriller with Duke and UCF on Sunday, Maryland played a couple of barn-burners against Belmont and LSU and Tennessee’s inability to protect a lead made for a couple of interesting games, but there wasn’t a true buzzer-beater in the first 52 games of the NCAA tournament. All of the Cinderellas have seen their carriages turn into pumpkins unless, of course, you consider No. 12-seed Oregon — who was a top 15 team in the preseason, reached the 2017 Final Four and is currently in their third Sweet 16 in the last four years — a Cinderella.

What we have right now is a tournament that still features all four No. 1 seeds, all four No. 2 seeds and all four No. 3 seeds. One of the two No. 4 seeds that was knocked out get sent home by a No. 5 seed. This has only happened once before in the NCAA tournament, in 2009, and that was the year that Tyler Hansbrough and North Carolina cruised to the national title.

So yeah, the first weekend of the tournament sucked.

But what that means is that the final 15 games of this event are set up to be absolutely magical.

Think about it like this: The only two teams in the Sweet 16 that weren’t considered top 16 teams by the selection committee on Selection Sunday were both preseason top 15 teams. If you were going to build the perfect 16 team tournament from scratch, the only change that anyone would make is dropping Oregon for someone, but I’m not sure that the Ducks, given the way that they have been playing of late, aren’t actually a top 16 team in college basketball right now.

I’ve always said the ideal NCAA tournament has upsets early and chalk late. We didn’t have the upsets this year, but we do have the chalk.

So be ready. Every game from here on out is going to be a heavy-weight fight.

2. THE UCF PERFORMANCE SAID MORE ABOUT THE MATCHUP THEN IT DID DUKE

I tried to warn you guys on Sunday morning.

UCF was the perfect matchup for this Duke team. They are traditionally a really good defensive team that has big, athletic wings to guard Duke’s lottery picks and one of the world’s 40 largest humans to stand at the rim and make it difficult for R.J. Barrett and Zion Williamson to finish. They also have a bunch of shot-makers on their perimeter, and all they needed to do to keep this thing close was for one of Aubrey Dawkins or B.J. Taylor to get into a rhythm while Tacko Fall stayed out of foul trouble.

Dawkins went off.

Fall stayed out of foul trouble for the most part.

And the end result was that Duke should have been knocked out of the NCAA tournament.

They are incredibly lucky to still be alive in this event, and I don’t think that they are going to face a team that will be able to challenge them the way that UCF did until the Final Four.

Look, we’ve known what the key to beating Duke is all season long. You need to pack in your defense, you need size at the rim and you need to be willing to let Tre Jones and Jordan Goldwire shoot as many threes as they want to shoot. There aren’t many team that actually have the players to execute that game-plan as well as UCF did.

Duke certainly isn’t unbeatable, but this was the bullet they needed to dodge.

And they did.

3. THE BEST SPOT TO BE NEXT WEEKEND IS …

  1. KANSAS CITY: The North Carolina-Auburn matchup has a chance to be one of the most entertaining games in the history of college basketball — if you like run-and-gun hoops, this is for you — while a Sunday evening matchup between UNC and Kentucky is very much in the cards.
  2. ANAHEIM: This is the most unpredictable region left in the field. Texas Tech and Michigan might be the two best defensive teams left in the tournament, and they will be battling it out for a spot in the Elite 8 in what might as well be a street fight. On the other side of the bracket, we get a rematch from last year’s Sweet 16, when Florida State upset Gonzaga. Is this the revenge game?
  3. WASHINGTON D.C.: I have a sneaking suspicion that Duke is going to have a pretty easy time making their way through this region, but remember: Virginia Tech has already beaten the Blue Devils this season, and they did it without Justin Robinson. On the other side of the bracket, LSU has somehow morphed into a team of destiny, and they will face off with Michigan State in a battle between two of the best point guards in the country in Cassius Winston and Tremont Waters.
  4. LOUISVILLE: Virginia-Oregon is a battle between two really good teams, but there’s a real chance that game goes under the total of 118.5. On the other side of the bracket is Purdue-Tennessee, and as good as both of those teams are, that matchup just doesn’t have the pop of some of the others. That said, should this turn into a Virginia-Tennessee Elite 8 matchup, there’s a chance that ends up being the weekend’s best game.

The fact that Louisville is fourth on this list should tell you all you need to know about just how good the games are this weekend.

4. AN ALL-ACC FINAL FOUR CAN STILL HAPPEN

We’ll dive into this more during the week, but the chance of getting a Final Four that features Duke (or Virginia Tech), Virginia, North Carolina and Florida State is a very real possibility. The biggest reason for that is that three of the No. 1 seeds are from the conference. They’re obviously, then, the favorites to get to the final weekend out of their region.

But the other part of this is that Florida State seems like a good bet to knock off Gonzaga in the Sweet 16.

I’ll have a full breakdown on why later in the week.

5. AND YOUR FINAL FOUR IS …

My Final Four is still alive! Duke vs. Texas Tech and Virginia vs. North Carolina.