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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

Thursday’s Things to Know: Arizona can’t finish at Oregon, Wichita State takes early American lead and Michigan wins in 2OT

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Thursday night start with significant news that Washington point guard Quade Green will be academically ineligible for at least the next two months, and then things really got interesting.  Here’s what you need to know from a night of overtimes and early jockeying for conference positioning.

1. Arizona misses huge chance in Eugene

Arizona blew a massive opportunity Thursday night.

The Wildcats had a chance to firmly establish themselves as the Pac-12’s premier team, put themselves in the league’s driver’s seat and land a major NCAA tournament resume win when they led No. 9 Oregon by six with less than 2 minutes left in the game at Knight Arena. For a team whose best win was at home against Illinois in the season’s first week, that’s an opportunity you can’t miss.

Which is exactly what Arizona did.

Oregon scored six-straight points over the final 1:38 of regulation, including a game-tying jumper by Payton Pritchard with 28 seconds remaining, and the Wildcats missed two shots and then turned it over in the final possession of overtime to fall to the Ducks, 74-73, in frustrating fashion.

Arizona got a tough whistle down the stretch Zeke Nnaji maybe getting fouled on a potential game-winner with 5 seconds left without drawing a call, and then when officials blowing a play dead when it appeared Pritchard threw the ball back toward an unguarded basket before landing out of bounds. That makes it tough, but it’s a conference road game against a top-10 opponent. It’s gonna be tough.

The loss is obviously not something that’s going to hurt Arizona – a lot of teams are going to lose in Eugene over the next two months – but a win could have been monumentally helpful. Before we get into the nuts and bolts, let’s just examine it from a public perception angle. The Wildcats were ranked 24th, and, given how AP voters typically behave, will probably fall outside the top-25, even if that’s silly considering they lost on the road to a top-10 team. Arizona may have showed itself to be the best team in the Pac-12 by taking Oregon to OT and nearly winning in Eugene, but there’s a pretty good chance Arizona is playing without a number next to its name next week.

To the things that really matter. Arizona has two “good” losses – at Baylor, vs. Gonzaga – and one whatever loss, St. John’s on a neutral, and that’s why the computers like them, but their resume is pretty thin with something pretty important: Good wins. It’s been two months since they beat a perfectly fine but not particularly remarkable Illini team in Tucson, and their best win since then depends on how you feel about New Mexico State, Arizona State and Wake Forest. And no one feels that great about that trio of teams.

A win at Oregon would have not only been a statement, but a serious NCAA tournament resume builder, something that isn’t exactly in strong supply across the Pac-12.  The league once again isn’t great, and that means needle-moving wins aren’t a plentiful resource. To outplay Oregon for most of the night Thursday on the Ducks’ floor only to return home with an L is a pretty tough pill to swallow if you’re Sean Miller or his players.

Arizona’s performance made me pretty confident that they’re the best team in the Pac-12, but my opinion is worth less than the Wildcats’ Nov. 24 win against Long Beach State (KenPom No. 305).

2. Shockers knock off Memphis

Even without James Wiseman, Memphis has a roster that can compete for an AAC championship. The Tigers ripped off a series of wins without the potential No. 1 NBA draft pick, both before and after he decided to hang up his sneakers for the season. Wins against N.C. State and Tennessee are enough to believe in Penny Hardaway’s team even without the stellar freshman. These Tigers still have a chance.

But they’re not the frontrunners.

Wichita State looks to have staked a claim to that status with their 76-67 win over the Tigers on Thursday night at Koch Arena.

The Shockers led by as many as 19 points despite shooting just 32.8 percent from the floor and 36.4 percent from the 3-point line. They did it thanks to 35 trips to the free-throw line and a defense that produced 18 turnovers and held the Tigers to 35.7 percent from the floor while going a ghastly 4 of 21 from 3-point range. Gregg Marshall’s team had six players score at least eight points while Jamarius Burton led the way with 16.

Wichita State is now 2-0 in the American with the best league win across the conference to date. They’re just a little more than a week away from butting heads with another – probably their chief – AAC  contender, Houston, in Wichita.

3. Michigan survives 2OT to beat Purdue

I don’t know if anyone was actually worried about Michigan after Cassius Winston and Michigan State pretty well thumped them Sunday, but getting big performances from Zavier Simpson, Franz Wagner and Jon Teske to overcome 36 points and 20 rebounds from Trevion Williams and beat Purdue 84-78 in double-overtime might help calm some nerves.

Simpson had 22 and nine assists,  Teske had 18 points and nine rebounds and Wagner had 15 points and five boards to help power the Wolverines, who are still without second-leading scorer and 50-percent 3-point shooter Isaiah Livers. The junior wing has now missed three-straight games since suffering a groin injury in the early minutes of Michigan’s win against Presbyterian on Dec. 21.

Livers is a huge piece of the Wolverines’ puzzle, and without him their offense shrinks considering the importance of his 3-point shooting.

That doesn’t, however, explain how badly Michigan has gotten beaten inside throughout Big Ten play, with Williams’ huge night the latest in a line of big nights, as noted by The Athletic’s Brendan Quinn:

Michigan might not be the slumbering giant they appeared to be after winning the Battle 4 Atlantis (both Iowa State and North Carolina – Michigan’s first two wins in the Bahamas – are in free fall), but if they can get Livers back soon and figure out a way to contain opposing big men, they’ve got a chance to hang around in a Big Ten race that Michigan State is currently in solid control of.

Ten Things To Know: Recapping a wild Saturday in college hoops

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Saturday was the first full day of college basketball league play, and there is a ton of stuff to talk about.

Here are the ten things you need to know to get caught up on all the action.

1. FLORIDA STATE MIGHT BE THE SECOND BEST TEAM IN THE ACC

I’ll go on the record saying that Duke is the best team in the ACC this season, and at this point, I don’t that is a controversial opinion in the least.

They have the best point guard in the conference. They probably have the best big man in the conference. Their wings are starting to figure things out.
Hell, I think you can make a pretty compelling case right now that they are the best team in college basketball, and nothing about their blowout win at Miami changes my mind.

The question I have is who the next-best team in that conference is, and that question is not so easy to answer. We know it’s not North Carolina — more on them in a bit — and until Virginia figures out what they are doing on the offensive end of the floor, I can’t in good conscience call them the second-best team in the league. I thought it would be Louisville, but on Saturday, the 7th-ranked Cardinals lost, 78-65, to No. 18 Florida State in the Yum! Center, yet another example of the issues this team has scoring against defenses that can pressure them.

Jordan Nwora scored 32 points, shot 11-for-15 from the floor and 5-for-6 from three, and in the process answered the doubters that didn’t think he could compete against elite competition. And all it did was keep the score respectable, because the rest of the Cards were 13-for-47 from the floor, 3-for-13 from three and finished with just 33 total points.

The credit for that has to go to Florida State, because the Seminoles suddenly look really, really dangerous. They go nine-deep with versatile, positionless athletes that can switch everything, pressure full-court and just make life miserable for the teams they play. There’s a reason they’re fourth nationally in defensive turnover rate, and if they can get anything close to these kind of play from M.J. Walker, Trent Forrest and Devin Vassell moving forward, they will make plenty of noise in this league.

2. KANSAS TURNED TO FRESHMAN CHRISTIAN BRAUN AGAINST WEST VIRGINIA

The No. 3 Jayhawks’ 60-53 win over No. 16 West Virginia was just about as ugly as we expected it to be.

West Virginia shot 32 percent from the floor and had more offensive rebounds than field goals made. Kansas was 3-for-17 from three and turned the ball over 14 times, 10 of which came in a first half where they mustered all of 24 points. It was a tough, physical battle, and the guy that made all the difference was … freshman guard Christian Braun?

Braun played a career-high 30 minutes on Thursday. He started the second half. He scored six points, he grabbed five boards (second on the team to Azubuike) and he collected two steals. He provided a measure of defensive toughness — something that the likes of Tristan Enaruna and Isaiah Moss have struggled with — while giving Kansas a player on the perimeter that was a threat to make a three.

Raise your hand if you saw that coming.

3. IS IT TIME TO QUESTION JUST HOW GOOD MEMPHIS IS?

No. 9 Memphis lost their second game of the season on Saturday afternoon, as they dropped a home game to a Georgia team that seems like a long shot to get to the NCAA tournament on a day when their best player – Anthony Edwards – shot 4-for-17 from the floor.

It was not a great performance by the Tigers, and that is somewhat understandable. Memphis struggles to score in the halfcourt when they are at full strength, and D.J. Jeffries — their second-leading scorer and the guy that is the best at creating for himself — did not play because of what was dubbed “an illness.”

So the fact that the Tigers struggled for 40 minutes to score should not really surprising.

But it does beg the question: Are we sure that Memphis is a team that deserves to be ranked in the top 20?

Here’s what they have done this season: They won at Tennessee, who has proceeded to fall off of a cliff and does not look like they will be making a return trip to the NCAA tournament. They beat Ole Miss at home by a point, the same Ole Miss that was drubbed by 20 at Wichita State on Saturday. They beat N.C. State on a neutral floor. N.C. State lost on Saturday to Clemson, whose only win since Nov. 24th came at home against Jacksonville.

Put another way, Memphis is really talented, enough so that blindly assuming they are a top 20 team isn’t crazy, they just haven’t really done anything on the court that would prove this to be true.

4. PENN STATE PLAYING AT THE PALESTRA IS ELECTRIC

The most exciting game of the day in college basketball was between Iowa and Penn State, a battle of top 25 teams (I know, right?) that was played at the Palestra in Philadelphia.

Penn State ended up winning, 89-86, despite the fact that Lamar Stevens was battling some foul issues and Iowa’s Luka Garza went for 34 points and 12 boards.

But what blew me away more than anything else was just how electric the Palestra was for what was essentially a Penn State home game. I don’t think there is any doubt that it was a better environment than whatever building Penn State normally plays in; I honestly don’t even know the name of it. I’d be willing to bet that this was the single wildest crowd that a Penn State team has ever played in front of in a “home” game.

I say all that to say this: That should not be the case, not this season.

The Nittany Lions are really, really good. They are really, really fun. And Penn State fans really, really should show up to watch them play.

It will be worth the money. I promise.

5. WE ALL OWE TEXAS TECH AN APOLOGY

Back in the first week of December, when Texas Tech had just finished off a three game losing streak with a 65-60 overtime loss at DePaul, we all fired off our takes on the Red Raiders. They weren’t talented enough, the newcomers weren’t as good as last year, they couldn’t guard the same way, this team will struggle to get to the tournament.

Two days later, Texas Tech beat then-No. 1 Louisville in Madison Square Garden without Jahmi’us Ramsey, their leading scorer. After that game, I spoke with Chris Beard, who told me that his team was one or two possessions away from winning each of those games, that he wasn’t worried about what he has on his roster this season.

We should have listened.

Now healthy, the Red Raiders opened up Big 12 play on Saturday with an 85-50 mollywhopping of Oklahoma State. Those three losses? They came against a ranked Iowa team, a tournament-bound Creighton team and a DePaul team that is far more talented than a typical DePaul team.

Watch out for this team the next three months.

6. SAN DIEGO STATE HAS A VERY REAL CHANCE TO ENTER THE TOURNAMENT UNDEFEATED

Malachi Flynn went for 22 points, five boards and four assists and Matt Mitchell chipped in with 19 points of his own as No. 13 San Diego State remained undefeated by going into Logan and knocking off Utah State, 77-68.

The Aztecs remain one of just two teams in college hoops with an undefeated record, and there is a very real chance that is the case when the NCAA tournament starts.

There are two reasons for this:

  1. SDSU is really, really good. Like, Final Four good. Legitimately. They are a nightmare to play against defensively, and Flynn is exactly the kind of point guard you want come March. Should I mention that they won this game at Utah State — with Neemias Queta playing — despite missing starting center Nathan Mensah?
  2. This was the toughest game that the Aztecs have left on their Mountain West schedule. There are only three other teams in the league that are in the top 100 on KenPom: Utah State (57), Nevada (86) and New Mexico (97). Anything can happen on any night in league play, but rest assured, the Aztecs will be favorites in every game they play from now until the NCAA tournament.

Does that mean that they will pull a Wichita State and enter the NCAA tournament undefeated?

Of course not.

But there is a real chance — 2.7%, according to KenPom — that this group can make that happen. For comparison’s sake, the other undefeated team in college hoops, Auburn, has a 0.1% chance of going undefeated.

7. WICHITA STATE IS OFFICIALLY BACK

The Shockers improved to 13-1 on the season, their only loss coming against a very good West Virginia team, with a 74-54 win over Ole Miss on Saturday.

Erik Stevenson led the way with 29 points while Jamarius Burton chipped in with 16 points of his own.

The Shockers don’t necessarily have any great wins this season, but they have put together a handful of wins that are impressive enough that we need to take note. They won at Oklahoma State, they beat Oklahoma, they beat VCU and this Ole Miss team they whooped up on is pretty good.

The Shockers may turn out to be the class of the American this year.

On Thursday, they host Memphis. We’ll know then.

8. ASHTON HAGANS HURT HIS ANKLE

Ashton Hagans, Kentucky’s starting point guard, second-leading scorer and leading in both assists and steals, hurt his ankle near the end of their win over Missouri. And yes, it appears to be his ankle, and not his achilles, but Hagans may not be available on Tuesday, when the Wildcats take on a Georgia team that just won at Memphis.

9. KAMAR BALDWIN, WE ARE ALL WITNESSES

Baldwin shot 0-for-9 in the first half and went scoreless against Creighton on Saturday afternoon.

He scored 20 points in the second half, including three straight buckets in the final minutes to stretch out what was just a four-point lead as the No. 11 Bulldogs won, 71-54.

10. NORTH CAROLINA GOT EMBARRASSED

North Carolina played arguably the worst game that we have ever seen that program play on Saturday night. The final score wasn’t awful — they lost 96-83 at home against Georgia Tech, which is not as bad as the loss UNC suffered against Ohio State earlier this year — but that score doesn’t do the performance justice. UNC trailed 30-6 at one point. They didn’t make a field goal for the first 13:10 of the game.

I’ll let Roy Williams sum it all up.

“I want to apologize to all the North Carolina fans, the people that care about our basketball program, former players, everyone that cares about us,” Williams said. “We stunk it up tonight, and it’s got to me my responsibility. It’s the most negative I’ve ever felt about myself. The most negative I’ve ever felt about any team. We weren’t ready to play.

“If I had any idea what caused that I would have already changed it. It’s the most disappointed and most upset I’ve ever been in my life coaching a basketball game, and it’s not even close.”

Wright takes over late, Colorado beats No. 4 Oregon 74-65

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BOULDER, Colo. — McKinley Wright IV scored 11 of his 21 points in the final 5 minutes, and Colorado beat another ranked team, taking down No. 4 Oregon 74-65 on Thursday night.

Tyler Bey added 15 points and grabbed 14 rebounds as the Buffaloes (12-2, 1-0 Pac-12) improved to 9-0 all-time against the Ducks (11-3, 0-1) in Boulder.

Colorado also moved to 2-1 against ranked teams this season. The Buffaloes are 19-32 under coach Tad Boyle versus teams in the AP Top 25 since he took over in 2010-11. He accounts for 30% of Colorado’s 63 wins over ranked opponents since 1949-50.

This was a matchup between the teams picked to finish first (Oregon) and second (Colorado) in the Pac-12 preseason media poll. Round 1 went to Colorado, which despite being unranked was a 1 1/2-point favorite. The noise level was at a frenzied level despite the students being on winter break, and the fans ran onto the court after the final buzzer.

The Buffs held Oregon to 3 of 18 shooting from 3-point range.

Colorado built a 15-point lead early in the second half on an alley-oop, fast-break dunk by Bey. But Oregon began to steadily chip away.

Bey had a big block with 4:34 remaining, but was given a technical foul for taunting. Anthony Mathis made both free throws to make it 57-53. Wright hit a 3-pointer to restore some breathing room and then took over down the stretch. He also had eight assists.

The Ducks had their five-game winning streak halted on a night when they struggled at times to run their offense.

Payton Pritchard had 21 points to lead Oregon, while Chris Duarte added 10.

BIG PICTURE

Oregon: Boulder, Colorado, continues to haunt the Ducks, who were out-rebounded 36-34.

Colorado: Defense has been the Buffs’ calling card all season. They fed off of it all evening as they led for over 30 minutes.

THIS & THAT

D’Shawn Schwartz finished with 13 points. … Former Colorado football standout and current Denver Broncos tailback Phillip Lindsay was in attendance and given a round of applause when he was introduced. … The attendance was 10,770.

ELITE COMPANY, PART I

The Ducks have their men’s basketball, women’s basketball and football teams all currently ranked in the top seven of the AP polls.

ELITE COMPANY, PART II

Oregon’s appearance at No. 4 matches its highest ranking in the AP poll, although the Ducks are likely to drop next week. The team also was No. 4 in the Nov. 14, 2016, version of the poll. That team went on to reach the Final Four.

UP NEXT

Oregon: At Utah on Saturday.

Colorado: Hosts Oregon State on Sunday.

Player of the Year Power Rankings: Is Payton Pritchard the favorite?

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It has been a weird year for college basketball and college basketball Player of the Year.

Not only is there no clear-cut best team in the country, but there is anything-but a favorite for National Player of the Year at this point. That is unusual. Recent seasons have seen one player emerge in November as the favorite to win the award. Zion Williamson stepped into that role after a monstrous performance in a blowout win over Kentucky in the Champions Classic. The year before, Trae Young’s ridiculous November made him the obvious favorite. Frank Mason led the charge in 2017 starting from, quite literally, the first game of the season. The year before that, it was Buddy Hield and Denzel Valentine in a two-horse race all season. The year before that, Jahlil Okafor emerged as the early favorite.

Sometimes, those early favorites end up winning all the Player of the Year awards. Sometimes, they get chased down. That’s what Frank Kaminsky did to Okafor and what Jalen Brunson did to Young.

But either way, there always was a guy to chase.

This year, there is not.

Here is the definitive college basketball Player of the Year rankings:

1. PAYTON PRITCHARD, Oregon

STATS: 18.5 PPG, 6.2 APG, 4.3 RPG, 39.7 3PT%

At this point, I think that Pritchard has to be considered the favorite to win the National Player of the Year award. He’s putting up numbers that are on par with what Jalen Brunson posted the year he won Player of the Year. He’s doing so on a team that is the favorite to win the Pac-12 and currently sitting in the top five of the AP poll and the top ten at KenPom.

And he’s had College Basketball Player of the Year moments. Like roasting Zavier Simpson down the stretch in an overtime win at Michigan. Or the big shots that he hit late in a win over Memphis when they still had James Wiseman. There are a lot of really good point guards around America this season, but Pritchard, to date, has been the best.

2. OBI TOPPIN, Dayton

STATS: 19.8 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.4 bpg, 1.0 spg, 35.1 3PT%

Toppin has been this year’s breakout star. He entered the season as the best player in the Atlantic 10 and a potential first round pick, but he’s gone on to become a candidate to go in the top ten while being the anchor for one of the most surprising teams in the sport. Dayton is a ton of fun to watch, and so much of that is because of the way that they have built around Toppin, both offensively and defensively. There is a very strong case for him as the National Player of the Year right now. Who saw that coming?

3. DEVON DOTSON, Kansas

STATS: 18.8 ppg, 4.6 apg, 4.0 rpg, 2.3 spg

I still think that Udoka Azubuike is the single-most dominant force in college basketball this season, but what Dotson has done this year has helped mitigate the fact that some teams are going to sell out to stop the big fella. His ability to beat teams down the floor in transition is a game-changer for a Kansas program that has had some lulls offensively, and he is the guy that can create in the halfcourt when Bill Self isn’t able to scheme up a way to get shots. He’s far from a perfect player right now, but what he’s provided Kansas this season has been close to that.

4. TRE JONES, Duke

STATS: 14.6 ppg, 7.4 apg, 3.9 rpg, 2.0 spg

5. VERNON CAREY, Duke

STATS: 17.9 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 2.2 bpg, 61.3 FG%, 57.1 3PT%

I’m lumping these two together because I can already tell the debate about who the best player is on Duke is going to rage all season long.

I think there is a valid argument for both. Tre Jones is Duke’s leader. He is the guy that sets the tone defensively by smothering opponents at the point of attack. He is the leader is the locker room. He is their second-leading scorer, third nationally in assists among high-major players and an improved three-point shooter.

Carey, on the other hand, has been better than anyone thought. He’s hardly a great defender, but he’s been good. He’s made threes. He’s been able to play away from the rim. And, most importantly, he’s been just a dominant force on the block. He’s as much of a reason for Duke sitting at No. 1 on KenPom as anyone.

So you tell me.

Who is the best player on the Duke roster?

6. FILIP PETRUSEV, Gonzaga

STATS: 17.1 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 1.4 bpg, 55.1 FG%

I’m honestly not even sure if Petrusev is the best player on Gonzaga, but I think that he needs to be on this list. He’s the leading scorer, rebounder and shot-blocker on the No. 1 team in the country, but more importantly, he is the best post scorer on a team that survives off of post touches as much as any high major team in the country.

7. KALEB WESSON, Ohio State

STATS: 14.2 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.4 bpg, 44.2 3PT%

Wesson’s counting stats don’t really show it, but he has been one of the most improved players in college basketball this season. Not only has he developed into one of the best frontcourt shooters in college hoops, he’s also worked to improve his body and his athleticism to make himself really good on the defensive end of the floor. He’s not only the fulcrum of the Ohio State offense, but he’s become the piece that allows them to be as good defensively as they have been.

8. MARKUS HOWARD, Marquette

STATS: 25.6 ppg, 3.3 apg, 47.1 3PT%

I’m not convinced yet that Marquette is going to end up being good enough for Howard to truly get considered for a spot as a first-team All-American, but he’s averaging 25.6 points and shooting 47.1 percent from three on more than eight attempts per game. That should never stop being wildly impressive.

9. MYLES POWELL, Seton Hall

STATS: 21.7 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 37.0 3PT%

It’s tough to know where to slot Powell on this list. On the one hand, he has had some of the most impressive individual performances of the season and is arguably the most dangerous player in college basketball. He put 37 points on Michigan State, 32 points on Oregon, 24 points on Iowa State, 27 points on DePaul. But his two best games of the year came in losses, he has missed time with an ankle injury and a concussion, and he did not play in Seton Hall’s best win of the year.

10. JORDAN NWORA, Louisville

STATS: 20.2 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 39.5 3PT%

Nwora is another player that is tough to slot. He’s averaging 20.2 points and 7.2 boards for a top five team in the country. He was a Preseason All-American that is putting up the numbers you would expect from a player of that caliber. But he has also been invisible in Louisville’s two losses, shooting 6-for-26 from the floor and 2-for-13 from three against Texas Tech and Kentucky. He was a decoy in the second half against Kentucky, and that was certainly not something the Louisville staff planned.

ALSO CONSIDERED FOR COLLEGE BASKETBALL PLAYER OF THE YEAR

JARED BUTLER, Baylor; ANTHONY COWAN, Maryland; MAMADI DIAKITE, Virginia; SAMIR DOUGHTY, Auburn; LUKA GARZA, Iowa; COLLIN GILLESPIE, Villanova; TYRESE HALIBURTON, Iowa State; MASON JONES, Arkansas; NICO MANNION, Arizona; TYRESE MAXEY, Kentucky; MAC MCCLUNG, Georgetown; JAHMI’US RAMSEY, Texas Tech; PAUL REED, DePaul; LAMAR STEVENS, Penn State; ISAIAH STEWART, Washington; TRES TINKLE, Oregon State; CASSIUS WINSTON, Michigan State; MARCUS ZEGAROWSKI, Creighton