Getty Images

No. 14 Villanova survives UConn, 61-55

Leave a comment

In a game with ever-changing momentum, Villanova’s Jermaine Samuels stepped up to make crucial shots as the Wildcats held on for a narrow 61-55 win over the Huskies.

In crunch time, the Wildcats turned to their experienced players — juniors Samuels and Collin Gillespie.

Samuels hit a three with 31 seconds left to give ‘Nova a four-point lead, ending the game with a team-high 19 points and going 4-of-6 from long. Collin Gillespie helped the Wildcats turn around a slow second-half start, scoring 10 straight after going scoreless for almost 27 minutes.

Jeremiah Robinson-Earl played an important role in the Wildcats’ win as well, knocking down four critical free throws to extend the lead at the end of the game. The freshman crashed the boards for a total of seven rebounds, including three huge offensive boards.

Villanova (14-3) closed the game on an 18-7 run to pull off the victory, as UConn (10-7) gave it everything they had, keeping it close to the very end.

The Huskies got out to an early lead over the Wildcats, with Akok Akok making impressive plays on both sides of the court — turning a blocked shot into a three-pointer on the other end. Akok led the team with three blocks, grabbing two of five first-half blocks. UConn made clear why it is one of the nation’s best shot-blocking teams, totaling six blocks on the game and forcing Villanova to hit perimeter shots by taking away the paint.

After getting off to a slow start, Villanova shot lights out from beyond the arc in the first half, going 6-of-11 and utilizing spacing to avoid UConn’s high-level shot blocking. Six different Wildcats sank one from deep as ‘Nova finished 11-of-23 on the day.

After the game, Villanova coach Jay Wright commented on the team’s two slow starts on the day, saying the team had to learn how to play every possession intently.

While UConn wasn’t able to keep up from beyond the arc — shooting only 2-of-15 — the Huskies took advantage down low, with a whopping 36 points coming from inside the paint compared to the Wildcats’ 12.

Turnovers also plagued the Huskies, as they lost the ball 17 times, which the Wildcats capitalized on to score 23 of their 61 points.

UConn is clearly on the rise under the coaching of Dan Hurley and made it a tough game for Villanova. The Huskies will rejoin the Big East next season, making this a rivalry to watch moving forward.

Bracketology: Baylor leads, Big Ten reigns

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Here is the latest NCAA tournament bracketology projection.

One bracket decision was easy today: Baylor as the No. 1 overall seed.  The Bears are 5-1 against Quadrant 1 teams, have a win at Kansas, and haven’t lost since dropping a close game to Washington in early November.

Elsewhere, the Big Ten reigns, filling up the field with a dozen teams.  Much of that has to do with the strength and depth of the conference, with quality wins available almost every night and home teams rarely losing.  Another contributing factor is fewer contenders in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Big 12, and even the Southeastern Conference (SEC).   Whether those trends continue remains to be seen.  Ultimately, the Big Ten is more likely to end up with nine or ten bids.

In a close call, Butler remains the final No. 1 seed, but loses its Midwest route to Kansas.  The Bulldogs depth of wins against teams in the Field was the difference.  But one could make an equally compelling and accurate case for San Diego State.

The latest look at where our NCAA tournament bracketology projection stands …

UPDATED: January 17, 2020

FIRST FOUR – DAYTON
EAST REGION Minnesota vs. Virginia Tech
WEST REGION NC State vs. Washington
MIDWEST REGION  ROBERT MORRIS vs. NC A&T
SOUTH REGION PR VIEW AM vs. NO COLORADO

SOUTH Houston WEST – Los Angeles                   
Omaha Spokane
1) BAYLOR 1) GONZAGA
16) PV-AM / NC A&T 16) QUINNIPIAC
8) Illinois 8) Wisconsin
9) Florida 9) Oklahoma
Tampa St. Louis
5) Michigan 5) WICHITA STATE
12) LIBERTY 12) NC State / Washington
4) Auburn 4) Louisville
13) S.F. AUSTIN 13) NEW MEXICO ST
Albany Spokane
6) STANFORD 6) Iowa
11) Saint Mary’s 11) Houston
3) SETON HALL 3) Oregon
14) COLGATE 14) SOUTH DAKOTA ST
Greensboro Sacramento
7) Arkansas 7) Penn State
10) Purdue 10) Texas Tech
2) DUKE 2) SAN DIEGO STATE
15) NORTHERN COLORADO 15) UC-IRVINE
EAST – New York MIDWEST – Indianapolis
St. Louis Omaha
1) Butler 1) Kansas
16) ALBANY / ROB MORRIS 16) RADFORD
8) LSU 8) Marquette
9) Rutgers 9) Indiana
Sacramento Albany
5) Maryland 5) Ohio State
12) EAST TENNESSEE ST 12) AKRON
4) Colorado 4) Villanova
13) YALE 13) GEORGIA STATE
Cleveland Cleveland
6) Kentucky 6) Creighton
11) Minnesota / Virginia Tech 11) NORTHERN IOWA
3) DAYTON 3) MICHIGAN STATE
14) WILLIAM & MARY 14) WRIGHT STATE
Greensboro Tampa
7) Arizona 7) Memphis
10) Georgetown 10) BYU
2) West Virginia 2) Florida State
15) AUSTIN PEAY 15) CHARLOTTE

BUBBLE NOTES
Last 4 Byes Last 4 IN      First 4 OUT Next 4 OUT
Purdue Minnesota USC St. John’s
Texas Tech Virginia Tech Oregon State Arizona State
Houston NC State VCU Utah
Saint Mary’s Washington Xavier Georgia

Top Seed Line
Baylor, Gonzaga, Kansas, Butler
Seed List

Breakdown by Conference …
Big Ten (12)
Big East (6)
ACC (5)
SEC (5)

Big 12 (5)
Pac 12 (5)
American (3)

West Coast (3)
Atlantic 10 (1)
Mountain West (1)

Tuesday’s Things To Know: Brad Davison’s legend grows, Isaiah Moss gets hot for Kansas, Villanova has DePaul’s number

Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Thursday had suspensions, an NCAA eligibility reversal and a monster dunk. Plus, Clemson suddenly being untouchable to traditional powerhouses from the state of North Carolina.

Here’s everything else you need to know from around the country:

1. Brad Davison gets a little more unlikeable in the Big Ten

Every league has a guy that everyone just seems to despise. Everyone except his own team, of course. A player that just drives fans of opposing conference teams insane. Usually, he’s not the best player on a team, but certainly a very good one that impacts winning in annoyingly effective ways. Typically, he’s an upperclassmen, with familiarity breeding contempt. Maybe the best-known of these guys recently on a national level is Grayson Allen. Excellent player, loved by Duke and absolutely loathed by just about anyone else.

Wisconsin’s Brad Davison is absolutely one of those dudes, and he showed exactly why in helping the Badgers knock off No. 17 Maryland in Madison, 56-54.

It started with an absolutely God-awful offensive possession by the Badgers generally and Davison, specifically. Davison put the possession, with Wisconsin down one with under 20 seconds to play, in serious jeopardy when he picked up his dribble on the perimeter without a plan. A couple passes later, he got it back and had to heave an airball that resulted in a shot clock violation and putting Wisconsin in serious trouble.

That’s when Davison stepped in with a helluva couple plays that are sure to make him reviled in College Park, joining campuses across the conference in that club.

Maryland’s Darryl Morsell struggled to inbound the ball after the shot clock violation, and tried to put his pass in a small window. It got deflected back toward the baseline, where it hung up and Morsell stood watching. Davison came flying in and battled the ball at Morsell, who was, of course, standing out of bounds.

Badgers ball.

Wisconsin then inbounded the ball into the short corner to Davison, who promptly drilled an off-balanced 3-pointer to put the Badgers up two. Maryland couldn’t score on the ensuing possession, and certainly will be boarding the plane make east tonight muttering about how maddening Brad Davison is.

Davison takes a lot of heat for his, um, talent (?) for drawing charges, but the same basketball IQ, grittiness, and ruthlessness that it takes to draw all those offensive fouls are also what it takes to put together two back-to-back plays like this. The rest of the Big Ten might curse him, but they’d sure like to have him on their teams.

2. Kansas gets big contribution from Isaiah Moss

If you’re going to criticize Kansas and start finding reasons why the Jayhawks might not win the Big 12 or get to a Final Four, you could do worse than starting at their 3-point shooting. The Jayhawks shoot a good-but-not-great 36.1 percent from deep while only taking 32.7 percent of their shots from distance, which is 280th in the country.

Isaiah Moss looked like a real answer to that issue.

The Iowa transfer made 6 of 11 from distance to help the Jayhawks keep Oklahoma at bay, 66-52, in Norman and bounce back from Saturday’s home loss to No. 2 Baylor.

The Jayhawks were without Devon Dotson, who is ailing with a hip injury that Kansas is calling a hip pointer and a deep bruise.  That made Moss’ emergence even more important.

Kansas has just three players that have attempted at least 50 3-pointers in Dotson (29.8 percent), Ochai Agbaji (38.6 percent) and Moss, who was shooting 33.9 percent before his outburst against the Sooners. Moss shot 42.1 percent from 3-point range as a junior in Iowa City, and came to Lawrence with the hope he could provide the boost that his shooting could provide – both on the scoreboard and from a spacing perspective with Udoka Azubuike needing all the relief he can get from double- and triple-teams.

Moss, who has been hampered by injury, hasn’t been fully able to do that for the Jayhawks, but if this performance is a sign of things to come and not a flash in the pan – and Moss’ historical numbers suggest this is something he’s capable of – than it could go a long way in making what is already a dynamic Kansas offense even better.

3. DePaul’s tumble continues

Think back to late November and early December, when DePaul was beating Iowa, Minnesota and Texas Tech. Could the Blue Demons, in Year 5 in the return of coach Dave Leitao, be on track for a return to the NCAA tournament? It sure looked like it.

Now, not quite as much.

DePaul lost its fourth-straight game to start Big East play with a 79-75 overtime loss to Villanova on the road. It was the Blue Demons’ 19th-straight loss to the Wildcats.

DePaul’s hot start to the season now seems awfully long ago with its offense seriously faltering and a defense that’s not much better. Those NCAA tournament dreams now seem to be fading fast.

No. 14 Villanova outlasts DePaul in overtime

Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
Leave a comment

VILLANOVA, Pa. — DePaul  nearly got over the hump, only to come falling back down

Collin Gillespie made four straight free throws in overtime and scored 21 points, and No. 14 Villanova survived a scare to beat DePaul for the 19th straight time, 79-75 on Tuesday night.

The Wildcats (13-3, 4-1 Big East) trailed by 13 early and got a fight few expected from one of the perennial worst teams in the conference. DePaul’s Charlie Moore made one free throw and intentionally missed the second with about a second left in OT, but the Blue Demons failed to score — or complete the comeback.

DePaul (12-5, 0-4) trailed by 11 points with 2:14 left in regulation, one more loss against one of the nation’s elite a mere formality. But the Blue Demons showed grit down the stretch they rarely played with in the series against the Wildcats. Moore buried a 3 to start the rally and Jalen Coleman-Lands connected on a corner 3 with 31.5 seconds to go that made it 67-65 and silenced the Villanova crowd.

Moore scored the tying basket after Villanova threw away the ball on the inbound play, and Villanova missed a shot to win at the buzzer.

Gillespie steadied the Wildcats in OT and they won for the 10th time in 11 games. Saddiq Bey scored 18 points, and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl had 13 points and 13 rebounds.

The Wildcats could not shake the pesky Blue Demons and were stuck tied 40-all midway through the second half. Moore hit five 3s and scored 29 points for DePaul and Paul Reed had 18 points and 15 rebounds.

The Wildcats were 10½-point favorites for a reason, undefeated against DePaul since Jan. 3, 2008. To put that in perspective, that was two national titles and a renovated arena ago for the Wildcats.

DePaul showed a flicker of improvement with a 12-1 start to the season, highlighted by an overtime victory against national title game finalist Texas Tech, only to drop the first three games of the Big East play.

Against the Wildcats, DePaul came ready for an upset. The Blue Demons stunned Villanova early, and when Moore buried a 3 from the top of the arc and Nick Ogenda followed with a second-chance layup, they led 21-8 and forced Nova to call timeout. DePaul used a 9-0 run and Villanova missed nine of 10 shots over a 3-minute span to make this one a ballgame.

Villanova’s Cole Swider hit a 3 that ended the scoring drought and kickstarted a 22-7 run to close the half. Gillespie hit back-to-back 3s, sank two free throws and buried a 3 after DePaul was whistled for an offensive foul, and suddenly the Wildcats were within two. Swider tied it on two free throws and Bey sent the Pavilion into a frenzy with a big bucket down low that sent the Wildcats into halftime with a 30-28 lead.

BIG PICTURE

DePaul: Reed had his 12th double-double, tops in the Big East.

Villanova: Coach Jay Wright is 21-2 vs. DePaul, and the Wildcats lead the series 29-8.

RETIRED JERSEYS

Former Wildcats Kyle Lowry (2004-06) and Ryan Arcidiacono (2012-16) will have their jerseys retired in separate ceremonies this season. Lowry, an NBA champion with the Toronto Raptors, will be honored on Feb. 26 and Arcidiacono on Feb. 12. Villanova will now have retired 23 former jerseys, including 18 players, three coaches and long-time trainer Jake Nevin. Paul Arizin’s No. 11 is the only retired number in program history.

UP NEXT

DePaul continues its rugged Big East stretch Saturday against No. 5 Butler.

The Wildcats play former Big East rival UConn on Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center.

College Basketball Top 25 Power Rankings: Duke, Baylor, Gonzaga round out top three

Emilee Chinn/Getty Images
1 Comment

A new college basketball top 25 is now live.

And in lieu of going through and talking about every single team my college basketball top 25 today, I have something that I want to say about rankings. The genesis of this stems from a conversation that popped up last week. Gary Parrish of CBS Sports and Poll Attacks fame brought to light the fact that the people that produce the AP poll have started releasing the individual ballots of voters on Tuesday morning instead of Monday afternoon, thus eliminating the relevance of the column.

This led to a discussion about whether or not Parrish was right to go after AP voters and eventually brought us to a place where I was having multiple conversations about the process when it comes to voting.

And that is what I want to discuss today.

Full disclosure: I am an AP voter this year. The top 25 that you see in this space is the ballot that I submit every week, and it frustrates me to no end when people don’t vote with the same goal in mind as I do. I’m looking to list out the top 25 teams in college basketball, full stop. Not the top 25 teams with the best wins, not the top 25 resumes. The best 25 teams in college basketball, in order, and for me, the thinking goes like this: The best team in the country is the team that would be favored on a neutral court against every other team in the country. The second best team is the one that would be favored against all but one team in the country, and so on and so forth.

Fundamentally, I do not believe that the outcome of a one possession basketball game should influence how good you think that a basketball team is. There are two prime examples of that this season. The first is Duke. The Blue Devils are sitting at 15-1 on the season, which is really good except for the fact that they lost at home to Stephen F. Austin in what was, at the time, one of the biggest upsets that we have ever seen in the sport. That game was decided by a coast-to-coast layup that was released with 0.1 seconds left on the clock; it had to be reviewed to determine whether or not the shot would count.

Now, the Lumberjacks have proven to be much better than anyone expected in the preseason, but this was still a very disappointing performance from the Blue Devils. Because of that loss, which happened two months ago, Duke could very well end up getting dropped out of the No. 1 spot in this week’s AP poll for Baylor. There is absolutely no chance that would happen if Nathan Bain’s game-winner in Cameron was waved off and Duke won in overtime.

You really think there are people that would be willing to drop one of the three remaining undefeated teams out of the top spot in the poll when they have wins over Kansas and at Michigan State when the gap between them and the No. 2 team in KenPom’s rankings is almost as big as the gap was between Kentucky and the No. 2 team in the country in 2015?

There wouldn’t be.

And the proof is what’s happening with San Diego State.

Back in December, the Aztecs played an absolutely horrid game at home against a San Jose State team that is significantly worse that the SFA team that beat Duke. Malachi Flynn hit a three with less than a second left so that the Aztecs avoided a humiliating loss that would be their only loss of the season. There is no chance that the Aztecs would be inching closer to the top five if they had a home loss to a sub-250 team on their resume. Absolutely none.

The point here is that the perception of just how good teams like Duke and San Diego State are should never, ever be impacted one possession in one 70-possession game when these teams have played 16 games and more than 1,000 possessions this season. Put another way, we knock Duke for losing to a lesser team at home in a game they played like crap but ignore the fact that San Diego State did the exact same thing.

The only difference was the way the last possession played out.

One, single possession.

To me, that is not a sharp way of thinking about the sport of basketball.

Now, there are two things I want to be crystal clear on here:

1. The point of this stream of consciousness is not to say that Baylor doesn’t deserve to be the No. 1 team in the country this week. If that’s the way you feel, you’re not wrong. The Bears have very much earned it. Picking who was No. 1 in my poll was not easy to do, and I think there are valid arguments to make for any one of Duke, Baylor and Gonzaga for the top spot.

The point is to say that if you’re picking Duke, who is the only team on KenPom with a top 10 offense and defense, to drop from the No. 1 spot because they lost on a buzzer-beater in November while keeping San Diego State in the top five because they won on a buzzer-beater in December, you’re being silly.

2. The fact that Duke lost and San Diego State won absolutely should factor into the things that actually matter. You can check the receipts. I was one of the people banging on the loudest about the fact that whatever metric the NCAA developed to replace the RPI must keep some kind of results-based influence in the algorithm. We cannot have the most important metric in our sport be a fully-predictive metric.

The reason for this is simple: What is the point of watching sports if the win doesn’t actually matter? What is the point of getting excited about a buzzer-beater if that buzzer-beater doesn’t have outsized influence on the season at-large? Duke absolutely, 100 percent should have that home loss to Stephen F. Austin ding them as the bracket is put together. And San Diego State should 100 percent be allowed to go up to the Selection Committee and point out how it’s January 12th and they still have not lost a basketball game.

Wins have to matter when seeding teams.

They have to.

But they should not matter in weekly rankings. Those are supposed to determine who are the best teams in the sport at this very moment. By definition, the best team is the one that would be favored to win a game played on a neutral court against every other college basketball team in the country. Anyone with any analytical sense or basketball IQ will understand that the outcome of a game that comes down to a final possession will have a negligible impact on spreads, KenPom projections and the things that are infinitely smarter than some person with an opinion.

I’m reminded of one of my favorite Brad Stevens moments, seen in the clip below. Watch him at the end of this insane finish. As Roosevelt Jones is making the game-winning shot, he’s calmly turning and walking up the floor to shake Mark Few’s hand.

Butler guard Rotnei Clarke was asked about this.

“The outcome is irrelevant if [Stevens] thinks you played as well as you can,” Clarke said.

If you’re not going to listen to me, maybe you’ll listen to him.

Anyway, here is the rest of the NBC Sports college basketball top 25.



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

DROPPED OUT: 18. Arizona, 21. Penn State
NEW ADDITIONS: 23. Creighton, 24. Illinois

Howard leads Marquette to 71-60 upset of No. 10 Villanova

Dylan Buell/Getty Images
Leave a comment

MILWAUKEE — Markus Howard scored 29 points and Marquette started the New Year with a 71-60 upset of 10th-ranked Villanova on Saturday.

Howard, who entered the day as the nation’s top scorer at more than 25 points a game, added eight rebounds before fouling out to lead the Golden Eagles (10-3, 1-1 Big East).

Cole Swider and Justin Moore each had 14 points for Villanova (10-2, 1-1), which had won its last six games.

The difference came at the foul line — Marquette made 26 of 30, Villanova 3 of 5. The Golden Eagles also had seven blocks — four by Theo John.

Marquette shot more than 55% from the field in the first half and was 13-for-13 from the line before the break. Marquette led by as many as 20 before holding a 46-30 advantage at halftime.

Howard scored 12 points in the first seven minutes and finished the first half with 17. Howard and Koby McEwen combined for 30 of the Marquette’s 46 first-half points. McEwen finished with 22.

Swider kept the Wildcats respectable early. The sophomore forward hit all four of his 3s in the first half and had12 points at intermission.

BIG PICTURE

After losing to Creighton 92-75 in its conference opener, the Golden Eagles picked up a big victory at home and have now won six of their last seven games.

Villanova, which has won two of the last four national championships, now must quickly pick up the pieces after getting dominated on the road.

UP NEXT

Villanova: Plays at Creighton on Tuesday.

Marquette: Hosts Providence on Tuesday.