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Saturday’s Things To Know: A recap of all of the day’s college hoops action

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PLAYER OF THE DAY: Tyus Battle, Syracuse

Without looking at the big picture, Tyus Battle had the kind of game that he — and Syracuse fans — will remember for a long time.

The resident All-American in Upstate New York, Battle went for 26 points on 8-for-18 shooting and hit a game-winning jumper with 2.5 seconds left as the Orange knocked off their archrival, Georgetown, 72-71, in the Carrier Dome on Saturday. He scored 21 of his 26 points after halftime, a performance that helped dig the Orange out of a 13 point hole that they had dug for themselves.

(As an aside, all that talk of Battle starting the season slow can officially be deaded. He’s popped off for 20 points in four of the five games during this five-game winning streak for the Orange, including 20 points in the win at Ohio State.)

Then there is the importance of this win for the Orange, both in terms of where their season is heading and what this means for their non-conference resume. Syracuse already has two questionable losses to their name, falling to both UConn and Oregon in Madison Square Garden in November. A home loss to a Georgetown team from a down-Big East that probably isn’t tournament bound isn’t the kind of thing that they need.

But a come-from-behind win in a rivalry game?

That’s a nice way to change the momentum of a season.

TEAM OF THE DAY

Tulsa students got a chance to storm the court on Saturday night, as the Golden Hurricne knocked off No. 16 Kansas State, 47-46.

(Yes. That score is correct.)

Good for Frank Haith. Good for Tulsa. Good for the American.

Very, very bad for Kansas State.

This is the second straight Saturday where Bruce Weber’s club has dropped a road game. Last week, they fell at Marquette. This week Tulsa. I think that it is time for us to truly question just how good this team actually is, and it’s not an answer that Kansas State fans are going to like. The problem? They can’t score. The Wildcats rank 99th in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to KenPom, and are shooting 28.2 percent from three, but you didn’t really need me to explain to you that this team can’t score after they put up 46 points on Tulsa.

Before the season, I made the point that Bruce Weber has quite a bit of pressure on him because of the overloaded expectations he had coming into the year, and this certainly isn’t going to help matters. It’s not a secret that Kansas State fans haven’t exactly been thrilled with his tenure, and struggling to find a way to win games like this is going to be a bad thing for him in the long-term.

ONIONS OF THE DAY

You tell me which shot was the Onions Of The Day.

Was it Myles Cale hitting the game-winner with 9.5 seconds left as Seton Hall upset No. 9 Kentucky, 84-83?

Was it Myles Powell burying a ridiculous step-back three to put the Pirates up three with 1.5 seconds left in regulation?

Or was it Keldon Johnson hitting the halfcourt shot to answer Powell, forcing the extra frame where Cale hit the game-winner?

SATURDAY’S BIGGEST WINNERS

SETON HALL AND MARQUETTE: The Big East badly needed to pick up some impressive non-conference wins, and they got two of them on Saturday: Seton Hall knocked off No. 9 Kentucky in overtime and Marquette knocked off No. 12 Wisconsin in overtime. For a conference that doesn’t have a clear second-best team when the best team is a reloading Villanova, these are the kind of wins that can turn a four-bid league into a five-bid league or a five-bid league into a six-bid league.

I don’t think I’m overstating that, either.

This was really important not just for these two teams, but for the league in general.

And at some point, I should probably mention that the Golden Eagles have now beaten Louisville, Kansas State and Wisconsin over the last two weeks. That’s pretty good.

INDIANA: The Hoosiers got 21 points from Romeo Langford and came from behind at home to land a win over Louisville in Assembly Hall. Indiana has had some struggles early on this season, as a young team built around a freshman and a banged-up Juwan Morgan has had their share of difficulties, but they’re getting the wins they need. Indiana is now 3-1 in games decided by one possession, and their only loss came at Arkansas, when they missed a layup and a tip-in before committing a foul on the ensuing rebound in a tie game. They should be fine in the long run.

FLORIDA STATE: The Seminoles knocked off UConn in the Never Forget Classic in Newark, landing another solid win and improving to 8-1 on the season. Like Indiana, Florida State has yet to truly click this year, but they now have wins over UConn, Purdue, Florida and LSU. That’s a pretty good resume for the first month of the season.

JORDAN POOLE: The concern with Michigan this season was always going to be whether or not they could find enough perimeter shooting to be able to keep the floor spaced, and Poole looks like he is providing the Wolverines with an answer. He had 26 points on Saturday in a win over South Carolina, and has now hit for at least 14 points in the last five games and six of the last seven games. He’s shooting 45.2 percent from three on the season and, after missing nine of his first 10 threes, he’s made 18 of the last 32 threes he’s attempted.

MISSISSIPPI STATE: I’ve been a doubter of Mississippi State this season, but after knocking off Clemson on Saturday afternoon, the No. 22 Bulldogs are 8-1 on the season, thanks in large part to the 28 points and eight threes that they got from Lamar Peters. Clemson is not a great team this season. Hell, I’m not sold they are actually a good team, especially when they are playing without Marcquise Reed. But a win is a win is a win, and Mississippi State got one that they needed on Saturday.

OKLAHOMA: Is Oklahoma actually better this year than they were with Trae Young last season? I don’t know if I fully believe it — they’ve beaten Florida, Notre Dame, Dayton and now Wichita State, albeit by 32 points while losing to Wisconsin by 20 — but I will say this much: They are better than I thought they would be this year. An NCAA tournament bid is within reach if they can do what they need to do in Big 12 play.

WESTERN KENTUCKY: The Hilltoppers are just 5-4 on the season, but after beating Arkansas on Saturday, they have two wins over high-major competition — the Razorbacks and West Virginia. You don’t want to see this group as a No. 15 seed in your bracket.

SATURDAY’S BIGGEST LOSERS

THE BIG EAST NOT NAMED SETON HALL OR MARQUETTE: We mentioned earlier how important it is for this league to go out and land some big wins during the remainder of non-conference play.

Well, Creighton got smoked at Nebraska. DePaul lost at Northwestern. Xavier got drummed by Cincinnati. Georgetown blew a 13 point halftime lead at Syracuse. Yes, all of those games came on the road, but all of those losses are going to hurt.

FLORIDA: The Gators lost their fourth game of the season, and this one might have been the most frustrating, as Mike White’s team had a shot at picking off No. 10 Michigan State slip through their fingers. Kyle Ahrens, of all people, scored the final seven points for the Spartans in a 63-59 victory.

NEW MEXICO STATE: The Aggies had a second half lead on No. 2 Kansas in Lawrence and blew it. Dedric Lawson scored 19 of his 21 points in the second half, including the last 14 points of the game for the Jayhawks, as Kansas eked out a 63-60 win.

FINAL THOUGHT

It is perfectly reasonable to drop Kentucky out of the top 25 come Monday morning.

Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the Wildcats are not one of the top 25 teams in college basketball at this moment, and it certainly doesn’t mean that they can’t find a way to make themselves a favorite to get to the Final Four by the end of the season.

But as of today, after losing to an OK Seton Hall on a neutral court, Kentucky has not won a game against a high major opponent. They have not won a game away from Rupp Arena. They have not beaten a top that ranks in the top 75 on KenPom and have just two wins against teams that are in the top 150.

That’s just not a good resume.

And, frankly, they have not looked great in the games they have won, either. They struggled with Southern Illinois and UNC Greensboro. It was more difficult than it should have been to beat VMI and Winthrop.

This has happened before with Kentucky teams — Do you remember last season? — and it will happen with Kentucky teams again. It’s the way of the world when you deal with freshmen, and I don’t doubt that Cal will figure this thing out.

But as of right now, if you don’t think that Kentucky is one of the 25 best teams in college basketball, you’re probably right.

No. 5 Michigan stays unbeaten, tops South Carolina 89-78

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Jordan Poole scored 19 of his 26 points in the second half, and No. 5 Michigan remained unbeaten with an 89-78 victory over South Carolina on Saturday.

The Gamecocks (4-5) scored more points than any team all season against Michigan. But the Wolverines (10-0) were ahead by six at halftime, and they led comfortably for most of the second half.

Iggy Brazdeikis scored 17 points and Jon Teske added 15 for Michigan. Chris Silva led South Carolina with 18.

Michigan was coming off its first close game of the season — a two-point win at Northwestern on Tuesday night. The Wolverines were uncharacteristically careless against South Carolina, turning the ball over 11 times in the first half.

Still, Michigan went on a 13-2 run near the end of the first and led 42-36 at halftime.

Poole went to work in the second half with a pair of 3-pointers and a dunk, putting the Wolverines up 56-45. The sophomore guard scored 15 points in the first 10 minutes of the half.

BIG PICTURE

South Carolina: No opponent had shot better than 45 percent from the field against Michigan. The Gamecocks finished at 52 and also won the turnover battle against the Wolverines. South Carolina was done in by fouls. Michigan shot 23 of 30 on free throws while the Gamecocks were just 9 of 14.

Michigan: The Wolverines had held every opponent under 40 percent from the floor until their last two games, when Northwestern and South Carolina eclipsed that. So Michigan hasn’t been as dominant this week at the defensive end, but the Wolverines had five players score at least 12 points Saturday and won without much drama.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Nobody ahead of Michigan lost this week, although Sunday’s matchup between No. 1 Gonzaga and No. 7 Tennessee could affect where the Wolverines end up in the next ranking.

No. 5 Michigan holds off Northwestern for 62-60 win

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EVANSTON, Ill. — Ignas Brazdeikis scored 13 of his 23 points in the second half and Jordan Poole made two big plays in the last 2 1/2 minutes to help No. 5 Michigan hold off Northwestern for a 62-60 victory Tuesday night.

Poole finished with 15 points as the Wolverines (9-0, 2-0 Big Ten) added to their best start since they opened the 2012-13 season with 16 straight victories. Zavier Simpson scored 10 points, and Jon Teske had eight points and 10 rebounds.

The game was tied at 58 when Poole fed Teske for a dunk with 2:30 left. After Ryan Taylor made a jumper for Northwestern, Poole drove inside for another dunk that made it 62-60 with 1:53 left.

Michigan had a shot-clock violation with 14 seconds to go, giving Northwestern one last chance. Taylor was long on a desperation 3-pointer as time expired.

Dererk Pardon led the Wildcats (6-3, 0-2) with 20 points on 9-for-10 shooting. Vic Law shook off a slow start and finished with 19.

It was a second straight tough defeat for Northwestern, including a 68-66 loss at Indiana on Saturday.

Michigan appeared to be in control after opening the second half with a 9-0 run to make it 45-30 with 17:19 left. But Northwestern came roaring back.

Pardon’s driving layup sparked a 15-2 spurt for the Wildcats. A.J. Turner’s three-point play sliced Michigan’s lead to 47-45 with 13:16 remaining, sending a charge through the crowd at Welsh-Ryan Arena and prompting the Wolverines to take a timeout.

Brazdeikis helped Michigan settle down, converting a layup to make it 51-45 with 11:30 left. The freshman, who exited for a brief moment in the first half due to a back issue, went 9 for 18 from the field.

BIG PICTURE

Michigan: The Wolverines had some defensive issues in the second half but helped themselves with a 33-26 rebounding advantage for the game.

Northwestern: Law sparked the Wildcats in the second half, scoring 11 points.

UP NEXT

Michigan stays home for the next month, beginning Saturday against South Carolina. The Wolverines’ next road game is Jan. 10 at Illinois.

Northwestern hosts DePaul on Saturday and doesn’t play another Big Ten game until Jan. 2 at Michigan State.

Wednesday’s Things to Know: Florida State, Michigan earn big home wins

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Wednesday’s college basketball slate was mostly dominated by the ongoing ACC/Big Ten Challenge as road wins turned out to be a big theme of the night. While No. 7 Michigan and No. 15 Florida State made major statements, it was road teams who made the most of the annual non-conference showcase.

1. No. 15 Florida State comes back to beat No. 19 Purdue

The most compelling finish to any game on Wednesday night was Florida State’s back-and-forth win over Purdue in a fun nightcap. The Seminoles had the game-winning bucket from guard Trent Forrest with 5.6 seconds left as they went from up 12 at halftime to being down by two possessions for much of the second half.

This is the kind of comeback win that should give the Seminoles a lot of confidence. On a somewhat weird night where they squandered a lead, Florida State was still able to forge a comeback against a top-25 team playing arguably its best stretch of ball during the season.

The Seminoles had eight different players score at least seven points in this one as they remain one of the most deep and athletic teams in the country. Even if someone doesn’t go bananas for Florida State, they have enough in the rotation to wear you down over the course of 40 minutes.

2. No. 7 Michigan makes a big statement in win over No. 11 North Carolina

Another major statement from Michigan as the Wolverines knocked off another potential Final Four team by double-digits. Even after going down early, the Wolverines quickly rallied to fly by the Tar Heels behind 24 points from freshman Iggy Brazdeikis and 21 points from junior guard Charles Matthews.

We know that Michigan’s defense is going to be nearly elite on most nights. But if Michigan is shooting 11-for-22 from behind the three-point line, they’re going to be nearly impossible to beat this season.

CBT’s Rob Dauster has more on this one here.

3. Syracuse, Virginia, Rutgers earn important road wins

The ACC/Big Ten Challenge had a lot of road teams picking up wins on Wednesday night. The biggest one of note is Syracuse taking down No. 16 Ohio State to earn an important victory. The Orange dominated most of the second half of this one as I have more takeaways on this game here.

Elsewhere, No. 4 Virginia held off No. 24 Maryland to earn another solid win. Although the Terps put up a valiant effort with a good offensive effort, the Cavaliers earned the win thanks to solid nights from Kyle Guy (18 points) and Ty Jerome (17 points).

And Rutgers quietly picked up one of its biggest wins in years by knocking off Miami for a road win. The Scarlet Knights defense held the Hurricanes to 34 percent shooting as Geo Baker led the way with 16 points. This win is important for Rutgers as they have back-to-back games against ranked Big Ten teams within the next week.

The only home team to win in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge besides Michigan on Wednesday was Northwestern. The Wildcats put together a 67-61 win over Georgia Tech.

College Basketball’s Best Wings

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As the game has moved more and more to prizing versatility and positional flexibility, the amorphous “wing” designation has perhaps never been more important.

Coaches prize players that can guard one-through-four (and sometimes five) thanks to length and athleticism while still being skilled enough stretch the floor with shooting and attacking defenses with penetration.

How in demand those skills are is reflected at the top of our list.

It is dominated by freshmen who almost surely will spend one year in college basketball before being among the first players NBA commissioner Adam Silver announces at the NBA draft come June.

The players on this list will not only make up the top of mock drafts all winter and spring long, they’ll perhaps be the most impactful in determining who is the last team standing in Minneapolis come April.

Could the top four picks in the draft be on this list?

It’s very possible.



1. R.J. BARRETT, Duke

The 6-foot-7 Blue Devils freshman is the universal projection to be the top pick in the NBA draft come June. He’s been heralded as a potential top pick for years, certainly since as a 17-year-old he put 38 points on Team USA en route to a FIBA U19 World Cup crown.

This season, he’ll be leading the way for an ultra-talented Duke team that will once again lean heavily on freshmen. Barrett is a lot of pundits’ bet to be on the shortlist for National Player of the Year come March, and there’s little doubt that there are few that can match Barrett’s ceiling. He’s a top-tier scorer, an excellent rebounder and a gifted distributor.

2. ZION WILLIAMSON, Duke

There are few people in the world with the physical gifts Zion WIlliamson possesses. He’s 6-foot-7 and 285 pounds, which is a frame built for bruising, yet Williamson is a high-flyer. Whatever happens for the rest of his career, he’s a mixtape legend. It’s also worth mentioning he’s got 1.8 million followers on Instagram. Williamson isn’t the best player – not even the best freshman or wing, according to this list – on his team, but he might be the most-watched college basketball player this year.

The challenge for Williamson this season will be to shed the “just a dunker” label, even though that sounds like an awesome label. It’ll also be interesting to see what his role is with a team featuring Barrett, Cam Reddish and Tre Jones.

3. NASSIR LITTLE, North Carolina

Are you noticing a trend here? Little makes for three freshmen among the top of these rankings, an indication of the strength of the 2018 class, but also how integral wings are in the pace-and-space era. Not many of the good ones are spending much time in the college ranks.

Little may not have the Q-Score of Barrett or Williamson, but he’s going to rival both in impact on winning. The 6-foot-6 Florida product has a wingspan that measures more than 7 feet and was the MVP of the McDonald’s All-American game this past spring. He’ll also have the luxury of a veteran offensive focal point in Luke Maye to allow him a little more room to operate.

4. DE’ANDRE HUNTER, Virginia

Hunter had a shot of being a first-round pick in June’s draft, but instead opted to return to Virginia following a freshman season in which he averaged 9.2 points and shot 38.2 percent from 3-point range in fewer than 20 minutes per game.

The 6-foot-7 Philadelphia native probably – almost certainly – won’t put up overly impressive raw numbers given Virginia’s pace of play, but if he’s given more time on the floor, which is expected, his usage rate and efficiency numbers from his rookie campaign suggests he could be in for a big season.

5. ERIC PASCHALL, Villanova

Paschall might have the best chance to overperform this ranking as he steps into a major role at Villanova following the departure of the Wildcats’ top four players from last year’s national championship team to the NBA. As a junior, Paschall averaged 10.6 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game.

What suggests he may be on the path to stardom, though, is he led the conference in Big East play in offensive rating with a monster 134.2 number thanks to shooting 45.7 percent from 3-point range during league play that helped translate to a true shooting percentage of 72.4 He may not be able to maintain those efficiency numbers with a bigger workload and an intensified defensive focus, but a small hit will probably be outweighed by an increase in volume.

Eric Paschall (Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

6. CAM REDDISH, Duke

Hey, look, another Duke freshman. And another McDonald’s All-American. The top-five recruit averaged 23.8 points, 7.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.5 steals in EYBL play ahead of his senior season in 2017 and makes up one fifth of the Blue Devils’ top-ranked 2018 class.

Reddish is ultra-talented, even if he’s behind his new teammates Barrett and Williamson. How Mike Krzyzewski makes the pieces fit will be one of the more interesting things to see unfold this season, but there’s no doubting the amount of talent Duke is going to have on the wing this season.

7. CHARLES MATTHEWS, Michigan

The 6-foot-6 Chicago native had a breakthrough sophomore season for the Wolverines last season, averaging 13 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.4 assists while playing 30 minutes per game, all after barely cracking the Michigan lineup as a freshman.

Matthews’ ability to ratchet things up once again will be key in Michigan’s encore season after last year’s NCAA tournament title game appearance. The show will be more of his to run without Mo Wagner and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, and how he is able to handle a bigger role will help determine the Big Ten pecking order.

8. JAMES PALMER, Nebraska

Palmer went from an afterthought at Miami to a budding star at Nebraska. He averaged 3.5 points in 11.9 minutes per game as a sophomore with the Hurricants, but after sitting out the 2016-17 season upon transferring to Lincoln, the 6-foot-6 swingman put up 17.2 points in 31 minutes per game.

What holds Palmer back from being further up this list is his shooting. He converted just 30.9 percent of his shots from 3-point range and a pedestrian 51.3 percent on shots inside the arc for an effective field goal percentage of 49.6. If he can bump those numbers up – and the Huskers can get back to the tournament for the first time since 2014 – Palmer will find himself making a few more waves.

Keldon Johnon (Chet White, UK Athletics)

9. KELDON JOHNSON, Kentucky

The Oak Hill Academy grad is also an alum of the McDonald’s All-American and Jordan Brand Classic games, Johnson isn’t necessarily the most highly-regarded of Kentucky coach John Calipari’s 2018 recruiting class, but he’ll provide the firepower on the wing that none of Cal’s other five-star can. The 6-foot-6 freshman, who is also an NBPA Top 100 Camp MVP, averaged 20.7 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists in EYBL play ahead of his senior season.

10. JORDAN CAROLINE, Nevada

The Martin brothers might draw the most attention for the Wolf Pack, but the 6-foot-7 Caroline shouldn’t be overlooked on one of the country’s best teams (we’ve got Nevada sixth in the preseason). The Southern Illinois transfer averaged 17.7 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game as a junior.

He’s a high-usage player for the Wolf Pack, and a high-rate rebounder as well. If the ‘Pack are going to max out – and make one “expert” look pretty smart – Caroline is going to be a massive reason why.

Michigan coach Beilein reflects on offseason heart surgery

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — John Beilein wasn’t all that enthused about taking his annual stress test this year. The procedure already had been put off for a bit because of the Michigan coach’s busy schedule.

“I actually wasn’t going to do it, because it’s no fun,” Beilein said. “They get you on the treadmill. They run you.”

Now Beilein can vouch for the importance of such tests, after doctors discovered he needed a double-bypass heart operation. Beilein had the surgery in early August at the University of Michigan’s Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center, and he looked and sounded like his normal self when he met with reporters Tuesday before the Wolverines started practice.

The 65-year-old coach is ready for the upcoming season, and although he’s still dealing with some soreness, the lingering effects of surgery are relatively minor at this point.

“I can’t throw a chest pass. I can’t yell yet,” Beilein said. “But I expect to be able to do that.”

It already had been an eventful year for Beilein. He led Michigan to the Final Four, where the Wolverines reached the national title game before losing to Villanova. Then he was in the mix for the Detroit Pistons’ coaching opening but ended up staying at Michigan .

Then came his health issue and all that entailed.

“This has been as unique a nine months as anybody could have,” Beilein said.

Beilein described the initial shock of realizing he needed the operation — and the immediate aftermath of such a serious procedure.

“When you wake up, and you realize what just happened to you: Your heart’s been stopped, for a long period of time, and you’ve been carved open,” Beilein said. “The doctors were incredible, but you realize, that was literally life-changing.”

Beilein had surgery shortly before the Wolverines went to Spain. There was some thought that maybe he could wait and have surgery after that trip, which he skipped, but he went ahead with the operation Aug. 6, giving himself plenty of time to recover before the season.

Assistant Saddi Washington served as interim coach in Beilein’s absence. Beilein, meanwhile, had a chance to do some reading and watch baseball’s postseason races.

Beilein said he started rehab this week.

“They want to do to me what I do to my team,” he said. “My first workout was yesterday, all wired up, and that’s how they do it.”

Michigan has an exhibition game on Nov. 2, and the season opener against Norfolk State is Nov. 6. So Beilein still has plenty of time before he needs to be on the sideline for an actual game. After a jarring offseason, Beilein says he appreciates health a lot more.

“For a guy who doesn’t feel old — I hope I don’t look old — I continue to learn like crazy,” he said. “Just embracing whatever journey God plans for you.”