Posts tagged with Basketball

Kansas bolts to No. 5 in Associated Press college basketball poll; Wichita State second to Florida

In the wake of his team's 85-54 loss to Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse, Texas coach Rick Barnes accused himself of being premature while at the same time saying I told you so.

"I said at the beginning of the year that Kansas is the best team in the country," Barnes said. "What I should have said was that by the end of the year they would be the best team in the country."

KU still has to prove it can bring its best effort consistently before living up to that statement, but the Jayhawks certainly look as if they have turned the corner. Andrew Wiggins and Tarik Black, to name a couple, are playing with season-high confidence and the way they attacked the rim had a contagious effect during the Texas rout.

The entire country took note of the way Kansas manhandled the Longhorns and vaulted KU to fifth in the Associated Press college basketball poll released Monday. After a week in which Syracuse fell from the unbeaten ranks with two losses, Florida moved to the top, followed by Wichita State.

The top 25 teams in the AP poll, with first-place votes in parentheses, records through Feb. 23, and total points, based on 25 points for a first-place vote through one point for a 25th-place vote and last week’s ranking:

         Record Pts Prv
  1. Florida (47) 25-2 1,606 2
  2. Wichita St. (14) 29-0 1,549 3
  3. Arizona (4) 25-2 1,494 4
  4. Syracuse 25-2 1,410 1
  5. Kansas 21-6 1,310 8
  6. Duke 22-6 1,286 5
  7. Louisville 23-4 1,152 11
  8. Villanova 24-3 1,113 9
  9. Creighton 23-4 1,103 11
  10. Saint Louis 25-2 1,047 10
  11. Cincinnati 24-4 921 7
  12. Virginia 23-5 909 14
  13. San Diego St. 23-3 886 6
  14. Wisconsin 22-5 818 16
  15. Iowa St. 21-5 709 17
  16. Michigan 19-7 653 20
  17. Kentucky 21-6 629 18
  18. Michigan St. 22-6 552 13
  19. North Carolina 20-7 440 NR
  20. Iowa 19-7 418 15
  21. Memphis 21-6 288 22
  22. Ohio St. 22-6 253 24
  23. SMU 22-6 155 NR
  24. Texas 20-7 129 19
  25. New Mexico 21-5 113 NR

Others receiving votes: UConn 81, UCLA 41, Oklahoma 35, Stephen F. Austin 11, UMass 9, Gonzaga 2, Green Bay 2, NC Central 1.

My AP top 25 ballot:

1 – Wichita State: When trying to catch up, don’t foul any of the three leading scorers because they all make their free throws. Cleanthony Early, Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet combine to shoot .844 from the line.

2 – Florida: Gators didn’t have greatest week, beating two lousy SEC teams by a combined nine points, but they’ve won 19 in a row, so why complain? First victory of the streak came at home against Kansas.

3 – Arizona: Any opponent with enough fouls to put the Wildcats in the bonus should employ a hack-an-Aaron strategy. Star freshman Aaron Gordon .308 from line in last seven games, .411 for season.

4 – Syracuse: Jim Boeheim entered week undefeated, lost twice in a row and grew even way angrier than usual with zebras. Time to reflect. Here’s a suggestion: Discourage C.J. Fair (.271) from shooting three-pointers. He’s launched 70 of them.

5 – Kansas: Tarik Black and Joel Embiid looked good together on the court in Texas blowout.

6 - Duke: Freshman Jabari Parker in victory against Syracuse: 19 points, 10 rebounds, 6 of 8 field goals, 3 of 3 three-pointers. Guy knows how to make his shots count.

7 – Creighton: Doug McDermott’s shooting the past five games: 51 of 80 (.638) from the field, 11 of 20 (.550) from three. Foul him? Not a good idea. He’s shooting .898 from the line for the season.

8 – Villanova: Deafeating St. John’s 57-54 at home doesn’t sound so hot, unless you’ve seen the Johnnies play. Wow! One of the most athletic teams in the country.

9 – Virginia: During the same week Pat Knight, son of coaching legend Bob Knight, was fired from Lamar with a 3-22 record, Tony Bennett, son of coaching legend Dick Bennett, ascended into first place in the ACC.

10 – San Diego State: Shot just .323 and scored just 44 points in loss to New Mexico in The Pit.

11 – Louisville: Finally a big victory for the Cardinals, a come-from-behind defensive tussle at Cincinnati.

12 – Cincinnati: Bearcats play such tough defense that Sean Kilpatrick doesn’t need much help in the scoring department, but during 28-point effort in 58-57 loss to Louisville, Kilpatrick needed more than 29 points of support rest of team gave him.

13 – North Carolina: Rushing is for fraternities and sororities, not basketball crowds that support perennial powerhouses.

14 – Saint Louis: Now winners of 19 in a row, the Billikens cracked the top 10 last week for the first time since 1964 and did so on what would have been the 66th birthday of Rick Majerus, who upon becoming too ill to coach passed the job onto Jim Crews. ESPN’s Paul Biancardi posted on Twitter this quote from Majerus from March, 2012: “We’ll be a Top 10 team in about three years. I did it at Ball State, did it at Utah, and we’re going to do it here.”

15 – Michigan: Completed sweep of Spartans with 79-70 victory to move into sole possession of first place in the deep Big Ten, just as everyone thought would be the case when Mitch McGary went down for the season with a back injury. And by everyone, I mean nobody.

16 – Michigan State: Not the same team with Brandon Dawson out with broken hand and Keith Appling playing with wrist injury that keeps him from being much of a scoring threat.

17 – Kentucky: freshman Julius Randle averaging a double-double with 15.7 points and 10.3 rebounds.

18– Wisconsin: Badgers have a few tough losses (Indiana, Minnesota, Northwestern), but a most impressive list of victories (Florida, Saint Louis, Virginia, Iowa twice, Michigan state, Michigan).

19 – Ohio State: Has held 11 opponents to 55 points or fewer, including a 48-39 victory at Illinois.

20 – Iowa State: Looking like the leading contender to finish in second in the Big 12, having already gotten games with Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas out of the way.

21 – Iowa: Hawkeyes makeup game at Indiana rescheduled for 8 p.m. Thursday and will be carried by ESPN. The metal beam that fell and damaged seats hours before the gates were opened for the originally scheduled game was 8 feet long and more than a foot wide, which is a little scary when you think about it.

22 - Texas: Smelling salts are in order. Then a huge raw steak over each eye to contain the swelling while taking an ice bath followed by two aspirin.

23 – SMU: Larry Brown took his team into Storrs, Conn., and walked away with a 64-55 victory. Brown’s the Bill Snyder of college basketball, an ageless wonder.
Danny Manning, the best college basketball player Brown ever coached, is having a nice season himself. Manning’s Tulsa squad has won five in a row, all by double digits, and is in a four-way tie for second in Conference USA with a 10-3 record.

24 – New Mexico: Great quote from Lobos coach Craig Neal after Australian Cameron Bairstow scored 26 points in 58-44 victory against San Diego State: “I said it before and I said it on national TV, I’ve got the best power forward in the country playing for us.”

25 - Oklahoma: Where the wind comes sweeping down the plains.

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Who can guard Texas guard Isaiah Taylor? How about Andrew Wiggins?

Sometimes the best way to reach a decision as to how to guard a player who presents a particularly different matchup lies in trying to put yourself in the head of the player in question.

Ask yourself: If I’m Texas freshman point guard Isaiah Taylor, who’s the last guy on the Kansas basketball team I want to see crouched in front of me, charged with keeping me out of the paint?

Not Naadir Tharpe. Not Frank Mason. Not Conner Frankamp. Not even Wayne Selden.

If I’m Taylor, who scored 23 points in UT’s 81-69 victory against KU in Austin, the last guy I’d want to be guarded by at the start of the game is Andrew Wiggins. Long enough and quick enough to frustrate Taylor, Wiggins just might be the most equipped of all KU’s players to defend him.

Self is more likely to open the game with Tharpe taking his second shot at slowing down Taylor. It’s a good litmus test for Tharpe, to see if taking pride in the rematch can motivate him to play better defense. But even a motivated Tharpe might not have the physical tools to avoid landing on the wrong side of the mismatch.

A 44-37 advantage on the boards also played a big part in Texas winning the first game. Don’t be surprised if Texas coach Rick Barnes tries to win the battle of the boards again by shifting Jonathan Holmes to small forward at times and playing center Cameron Ridley and backup Prince Ibeh together. Ridley and Ibeh combined for 40 minutes and eight blocked shots in the game in Austin.

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Updated totals for KU basketball dunks, hustle plays

Lubbock, Texas — The Kansas University basketball statistics crew tracks a number of interesting categories, such as dunks and floor burns, also known as hustle plays. Here's a look at where the Jayhawks stand heading into tonight's 7:05 Big 12 tipoff against Texas Tech in United Spirit Arena, which is expected to be close to full, if not sold out by game time.

Dunks:

1 - Joel Embiid: 28
2 - Andrew Wiggins: 21
3 - Perry Ellis: 19
4 - Tarik Black: 11
5 - Jamari Traylor: 7
6 - Wayne Selden: 6
7t - Brannen Greene: 1
7t - Landen Lucas: 1
7t - Frank Mason: 1
7t - Andrew White: 1

Floor Burns:

1 - Embiid: 40
2 - Selden: 34
3 - Ellis: 33
4 - Wiggins: 26
5t - Mason: 21
5t - Traylor: 21
7t - Black: 13
7t - Tharpe: 13
9t - Greene: 6
9t - Lucas: 6
11 - White: 3
12 - Conner Frankamp: 2
13 - Justin Wesley: 1

Double-Doubles:

1 - Embiid: 6
2 - Ellis: 4
3t - Wiggins: 2
3t - Tharpe: 2

Charges drawn: 1 - Black: 5
2t - Embiid: 1
2t - Mason: 1
2t - Selden: 1

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Kansas drops one spot to No. 8 in Associated Press basketball poll; Doug McDermott shoots Creighton up to No. 11

Kansas dropped one spot to No. 8 in the Associated Press college basketball poll, released Monday, and Creighton made the biggest upward move, bolting from 18th to 11th.

The senior star system isn’t dead after all.

Creighton walk-on Doug McDermott is running away with national player of the year honors.

In leading the Blue Jays to their second blowout victory against Villanova by an average margin of 24.5 points, McDermott matched his season high with 39 points. He passed Larry Bird and moved into 13th on the NCAA Div. I all-time scoring list.

“Imagine if he had a three-point line and stayed all four years,” McDermott said in the post-game interview on Fox1 Sports. “He’d be way ahead of me.”

Typical walk-on humility. McDermott's father, Blue Jays coach Greg McDermott, is footing the bill for his son's senior year, making that decision once Grant Gibbs was granted a sixth year of eligibility.

In honor of McDermott and in case anyone else is tired of will-he-stay-or-will-he-go-to-the-NBA talk dominating college basketball, this week’s rankings blog will highlight the top senior on each team.

The top 25 teams in The Associated Press’ college basketball poll, with first-place votes in parentheses, records through Feb. 16 and total points, based on 25 points for a first-place vote through one point for a 25th-place vote and last week’s ranking:

         Record  Pts Prv
  1. Syracuse (64) 25-0 1,624 1
  2. Florida (1) 23-2 1,543 3
  3. Wichita St. 27-0 1,489 4
  4. Arizona 23-2 1,427 2
  5. Duke 20-5 1,296 8
  6. San Diego St. 22-2 1,232 5
  7. Cincinnati 23-3 1,157 10
  8. Kansas 19-6 1,129 7
  9. Villanova 22-3 1,020 6
  10. Saint Louis 23-2 1,019 12
  11. Creighton 21-4 991 18
  12. Louisville 21-4 991 13
  13. Michigan St. 21-5 788 9
  14. Virginia 21-5 752 17
  15. Iowa 19-6 721 16
  16. Wisconsin 21-5 609 21
  17. Iowa St. 19-5 597 11
  18. Kentucky 19-6 579 14
  19. Texas 20-5 577 19
  20. Michigan 18-7 421 15
  21. UConn 20-5 382 24
  22. Memphis 19-6 204 20
  23. UCLA 20-5 168 NR
  24. Ohio St. 20-6 133 22
  25. Gonzaga 23-4 112 NR
    Others receiving votes: North Carolina 54, Arizona St. 45, Pittsburgh 21, SMU 21, Stephen F. Austin 8, Oklahoma 7, New Mexico 3, VCU 2, Green Bay 1, Kansas St. 1, Louisiana Tech 1.

My AP ballot:

1 - Syracuse: Forward C.J. Fair, from Baltimore, leads the Orange in scoring (16.5) and rebounding (5.8).

2 - Wichita State: Cleanthony Early, from Middletown, N.Y., leads the undefeated Shockers in scoring (16.3) and rebounding (6.2).

3 - Florida: Hometown hero Scottie Wilbekin ranks second among Gators in scoring (13.5), first in assists (3.7), steals (1.6) and minutes (33.8).

4 - Arizona: Jordin Mayes of Los Angeles, the lone senior on the roster, has played just 104 minutes. He certainly made the most of his five minutes on Feb. 9 vs. Oregon State, scoring nine points.

5 - Duke: Andre Dawkins of Chesepeake, Va., had a four-game stretch a couple of weeks ago in which he made 17 of 29 three-pointers and scored 62 points in 77 minutes. Perimeter minutes are tougher to come by this season with the addition of two terrific newcomers, but Dawkins is playing the best basketball of his career. He’s averaging 9.3 points in 15.2 minutes, which computes to 24.5 points per 40 minutes.

6 - San Diego State: Potential first-team All-American Xavier Thames, from Sacramento, leads Aztecs in scoring (17.7), assists (2.8), steals (1.6), free-throw shooting (.819) and three-point shooting (.409).

7 - Creighton: Four minutes into Sunday’s game, the score was Doug McDermott 11, Villanova 6 and McDermott was just getting started. His 39 points made it nine times he has reached 30 points in a game. He ranks second in the nation (25.3) in scoring, behind only Antoine Mason (26.0) of Niagara. Nobody moves better without the ball than McDermott and teammates have so much experience playing with him they know when and where he likes the ball delivered. Plus, they shoot so well they make teams pay for paying too much attention to the star.

8 - Villanova: James Bell of Orlando leads ’Nova with a 16-point average, shoots .396 from three and is tied for the team lead with 1.3 steals a game and tied for second with 5.9 rebounds.

9 - Kansas: Reserve center Tarik Black, from Memphis, has scored 26 points in 52 minutes the past three games.

10 - Cincinnati: Sean Kilpatrick from Yonkers, N.Y., averages a team-best 20.1 points and shoots .859 from the line.

11 - Michigan State: Keith Appling of Detroit scores 15 points a game, dishes a team-high 4.9 assists and shoots .405 from three.

12 - Virginia: A four-year starter from Chelan, Wash., Joe Harris has had a double-digit scoring average all four seasons. His year-by-year three-point percentages: .418, .442, .468, .464. Underrated player.

13 - Iowa: Leading scorer Roy Devyn Marble (16.4), from Southfield, Mich., made 6 of 10 three-pointers in big victory vs. Michigan and ranks 10th Iowa’s all-time scoring list (1,544 points), a list headed by his father, Roy Marble (2,116 points).

14 - St - Louis: Dwayne Evans from Bolingbrook, Ill., leads all-senior starting lineup in points and rebounds (14.8, 6.5) for Billikens team that has won 17 in a row.

15 - Texas: Longhorns don’t have a senior on the roster.

16 - Michigan: Physical presence Jordan Morgan of Detroit, lone senior on the roster, has made more than 100 career starts.

17 - Kentucky: Jarrod Polson from Wilmore, Kent., has scored 28 points this season, which by Kentucky standards isn’t so bad for a senior.

18 - Louisville: Russ Smith, pride of Brooklyn, leads defending national champion with 18.2 points and
4.6 assists.

19 - Wisconsin: Ben Brust of Hawthorn Woods, Ill., is the Badgers’ second-leading scorer (13.2), leader in minutes (34.8) and a .396 three-point shooter.

20 - UCLA: Twins David and Travis Wear of Huntington Beach, Calif., both listed at 6-10, 230, transferred to UCLA after a year at North Carolina. As so often seems to be the case with twins, their statistics are similar to each other. They never found stardom some predicted of them, but they are solid contributors to the Bruins. In a combined 41.7 minutes, they average 12.9 points, 7.0 rebounds and shoot 90 percent from the line.

21 - Connecticut: Shabazz Napier of Roxbury, Mass., leads Huskies in points (18), rebounds (5.8), assists (5.5), steals (1.9) and free-throw shooting (.872). He’s also shooting .421 from three-point range and is coming off a 34-point effort outburst in huge vcitory against Memphis.

22 - Ohio State: Point guard Aaron Craft of Findlay, Ohio, remains a huge pain in the neck for opposing point guards and is averaging 2.5 steals a game.

23 - North Carolina: Leslie McDonald of Memphis ins one of four double-figures scorers for a rebounding Tar Heels team that hwas won six in a row.

24 - Arizona State: Jordan Bachynski, a 7-foot-2 Canadian center, averages 12.2 points, 9.0 rebounds and 4.6 blocks for the Sun Devils. He recently exploded for 26 points, nine rebounds and nine blocked shots in a two-point victory against Oregon.

25 - Iowa State: Fellow Canadian Melvin Ejim torched TCU for 48 points and 18 rebounds and leads Cyclones with 18.9 points and 8.6 rebounds.

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Kansas moves to No. 7 in AP college basketball poll; Larry Brown’s SMU checks in at No. 23

No college basketball team has played better in the month of February than the one coached by a man who was 11 when Kansas won its first of three NCAA Tournament titles.

Larry Brown was 48 and coaching the Jayhawks when Kansas won its second NCAA tournament in 1988. He was in the stands in San Antonio when KU won its third title, in 2008.

Now, at the age of 73, Brown has his SMU team in the Associated Press college basketball Top 25 poll, ranked 23rd, and playing so well that it’s not out of the question he could reach a third Final Four with his third team in a span of 35 years. SMU had not been ranked for longer than that. The most recent ranking came in the second-to-last week of the 1985 poll.

By the way, Brown’s second school, Kansas, is ranked seventh.

Brown, 73, coached UCLA to the national-title game in 1980, when the Bruins lost to Denny Crum’s Louisville Cardinals, then known as the “Doctors of Dunk,” led by Dr. Dunkenstein himself, Darrell Griffith.

Brown was head coach of six different ABA teams and nine different NBA squads. And here he is now resuscitating a basketball program that had not scored a victory over a ranked opponent since 2003.

Brown’s Mustangs defeated No. 7 Cincinnati, 76-55, Saturday, their third victory in four tries against ranked opponents. They have won their three February games by an average margin of 19.7 points, the first a 15-point victory against then-No. 22 Memphis.

SMU (19-5, 8-3 in the American Athletic Conference) has won 8 of 9 and three of its losses this season (Virginia, at Cincinnati, at Louisville) have come against teams now in the top 25.

The top 25 teams in The Associated Press' college basketball poll, with first-place votes in parentheses, records through Feb. 9, total points based on 25 points for a first-place vote through one point for a 25th-place vote and last week's ranking:

         Record Pts Prv
  1. Syracuse (65) 23-0 1,625 1
  2. Arizona 23-1 1,525 2
  3. Florida 21-2 1,477 3
  4. Wichita St. 25-0 1,445 4
  5. San Diego St. 21-1 1,373 5
  6. Villanova 21-2 1,288 6
  7. Kansas 18-5 1,234 8
  8. Duke 19-5 1,130 11
  9. Michigan St. 20-4 1,025 9
  10. Cincinnati 22-3 970 7
  11. Iowa St. 18-4 925 16
  12. Saint Louis 22-2 908 13
  13. Louisville 19-4 866 14
  14. Kentucky 18-5 769 18
  15. Michigan 17-6 702 10
  16. Iowa 18-6 686 17
  17. Virginia 19-5 608 20
  18. Creighton 19-4 552 12
  19. Texas 18-5 417 15
  20. Memphis 18-5 333 24
  21. Wisconsin 19-5 242 NR
  22. Ohio St. 19-5 214 NR
  23. SMU 19-5 205 NR
  24. UConn 18-5 194 22
  25. Pittsburgh 20-4 175 25
    Others receiving votes: Oklahoma 99, Gonzaga 44, UCLA 43, New Mexico 23, Oklahoma St. 10, George Washington 6, Southern Miss. 6, Stephen F. Austin 3, Arizona St. 1, Kansas St. 1, North Carolina 1.

My top 25 AP ballot:

1 - Syracuse: Teams in foul trouble often shift to zones to slow down their rate of fouls, so it’s no surprise that Syracuse, which plays a 2-3 zone, averages just 15.9 fouls per game, eighth-lowest number in the country.

2 - Arizona: Power forward Brandon Ashley (11.5 points per game, 5.8 rebounds) suffered a broken foot that sidelined him for the season, a big loss, but not as big as it would be for less talented teams. Not many schools could replace Ashley with a freshman as talented as Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, a McDonald’s All-American averaging 15 points and 7.5 rebounds in two starts since the injury.

3 - Wichita State: Trivia question: What does Shockers coach Gregg Marshall have in common with Jud Heathcote, who coached Michigan State team led by Magic Johnson to 1979 national title, and Phil Jackson, coach of 11 NBA champions? They all are members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. Or would calling them fraternity “brothers” be the correct terminology? Or do they have to live in same house to be considered “brothers?” It’s all Greek to me.

4 - Florida: Coach Billy Donovan bringing along slowly 6-10 freshman Chris Walker, ineligible the first 12 games for receiving impermissible benefits. Two games into his college career, he has played 11 minutes and totaled eight points, three rebounds and two blocked shots and has made 4 of 5 shots. He’s doing his best to speed up the coach’s plan.

5 - San Diego State: Point guard Xavier Thames big reason Aztecs, winners of 20 in a row, close games so well. For one thing, he makes his free throws and has made 30 of 32 of late.

6 - Villanova: Four of the top seven schools on my ballot have either an Ennis or Wiggins in the rotation. Syracuse’s Tyler Ennis and Villanova’s Dylan Ennis of Brampton, Ontario, Canada, combine to average 17.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 7.3 assists. KU’s Andrew Wiggins and Wichita State’s Nick Wiggins of the same Canadian province combine to average 20.8 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists.

7 - Kansas: In the 14 games since his rough performance at Florida, freshman Frank Mason has 33 assists and 11 turnovers and for the most part has played tough defense.

8 - Michigan State: Games lost to injury by top four players: Adreian Payne (seven), Branden Dawson (six), Gary Harris (three), Keith Appling (two).

9 - Duke: Quietly, Blue Devils playing terrific basketball. Only loss in past eight games came at Syracuse in overtime. Last six victories by average margin of 22.3 points.

10 - Iowa: Roy Devyn Marble made 6 of 10 three-pointers to lead rout of Michigan.

11 - Michigan: Spike Albrecht averaged 2.2 points a game last season, 3.5 this season and neither number can change his remarkable storybook moment. He played 11 minutes and scored 17 points in the first half vs. Louisville. Nobody can ever take that away from him.

12 - Cincinnati: Bearcats suffered 21-point loss to SMU, but can take comfort in knowing they won’t face coaching legend every time they lace up their sneakers.

13 - St. Louis: Once upon a time, this wasn’t such a shocking sentence: Five senior starters.

14 - Kentucky: Best victory: Louisville. Second-best: At Missouri. Needs another big victory to ensure high seed.

15 - Louisville: Best victory: At UConn. Second-best: Home game vs. SMU. Needs another big victory to ensure high seed.

16 - Creighton: No shame in losing to very talented, just-now-jelling St. John’s team that has won six of past seven games.

17 - Texas: Jonathan Holmes left Kansas State loss with knee injury after just nine minutes of action.

18 - Iowa State: UCLA’s Bill Walton in 1973 national-title game vs. Memphis: 21 of 22 field goals, 2 of 5 free throws, 44 points, 13 rebounds. . Melvin Ejim 41 years later in Big 12 game vs. TCU: 20 of 24 field goals, 6 of 6 free throws, 2 of 2 threes, 48 points, 18 rebounds.

19 - Oklahoma: Give sophomore Buddy Hield any breathing room and he’ll give you three reasons to regret that. Has made 17 of 34 threes in Sooners past five games, increasing his season accuracy rate to .399.

20 - Virginia: Two leading scorers are three-point marksmen: Malcolm Brogdon (12. 1 points, .405 from three), Joe Harris (11.3, .424). Their coach, Tony Bennett, shot .497 on 584 long-ball attempts in four years playing for his father, Dick Bennett, at Wisconsin-Green Bay.

21 - Ohio State: Toss out January and Buckeyes might be No. 1. Record by month: November: 6-0; December: 8-0; January: 2-5; February: 3-0.

22 - SMU: Nick Russell, in his second season playing for Brown after two seasons at Kansas State, scored season-high 15 points in blowout victory vs. Cincinnati.

23 - UCLA: Coach’s son Bryce Alford shoots better percentage from three (.400) than two (.393). He plays 22.3 minutes per game.

24 - New Mexico: Australian Cameron Bairstow, the 6-foot-9, 250-pound senior forward from Australia who scored 24 points in loss to KU, averages 20.2 points and 7.1 rebounds and shoots .561 from the field, .740 from the line. He never averaged double figures in scoring before this season, which makes him one of the nation’s most improved players.

25 - Wisconsin: Traevon Jackson, the junior point guard who hit a jumper with 2.1 seconds left to defeat Michigan State, is son of Ohio State two-time All-American Jim Jackson, who now does color commentary for the Big Ten Network. The elder Jackson wore the uniform of 12 different NBA organizations. Father and son would have made a good backcourt tandem since son is a pass-first guard, father a gunner.

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Marcus Smart needs professional help

Let's hope Marcus Smart, spiraling dangerously out of control, gets the suspension he deserves and the counseling help he clearly needs.

Something — perhaps the decision to turn down probable guaranteed millions by returning to Oklahoma State for a sophomore season back-firing with each missed three-point shot that easily could have been an assist for a better shooter — clearly is eating at the projected lottery pick of a year ago.

Smart's decision to shove a Texas Tech fan in the stands, supported by nobody in the building, maybe even the planet, will qualify as the bottom for the point guard who is hurting his team and his draft stock in a louder way every day.

The saddest aspect of Smart's night came after his unbelievable shove of a man who appeared to be in his late '50s or so. He barked at teammate Markel Brown, who tried to restrain him, yelled at the ref and his coach and everyone else in his path, hoping to hear words of support from somewhere.

He was escorted off the court by a man from the Oklahoma State bench who clearly was concerned Smart was capable of making a horrible situation worse. Smart probably feels as if he doesn't have a friend in the world right now. It's his No. 1 enemy who should concern him most. That would be himself.

Smart needs professional help. After he gets it and is allowed to return to the court at some point, his road map back to a spot in the NBA draft is not all that difficult to follow: 1. Break down the defense with drives to the hoop and pass the ball to one of three more skilled scorers on the floor with him: Brown, Le'Bryan Nash, Phil Forte; 2. Stop flopping; 3. Stay on the court.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFUj4YCKMyM

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Kansas ranked No. 8 in Associated Press college basketball poll

Parity was the big winner in college basketball last week, when 15 of the 25 teams ranked in the Associated Press college basketball poll lost at least once. Top 25 teams combined for a 27-20 record. Voters didn't punish Kansas too badly for its first Big 12 loss, 81-69, at Texas. The Jayhawks moved down two spots, to eighth.
Teams that defeat Kansas usually take a big leap in the poll and the Longhorns were no exception. They moved from 25th to 15th after the KU victory, the fourth in a row against a ranked opponent.
The top 25 teams in the AP poll, with first-place votes in parentheses, records through Feb. 2 and total points, based on 25 points for a first-place vote through one point for a 25th-place vote and last week's ranking:

          Record Pts Prv
  1. Syracuse (65) 21-0 1,625 2
  2. Arizona 21-1 1,517 1
  3. Florida 19-2 1,482 3
  4. Wichita St. 23-0 1,447 4
  5. San Diego St. 19-1 1,370 5
  6. Villanova 19-2 1,252 9
  7. Cincinnati 21-2 1,182 13
  8. Kansas 16-5 1,141 6
  9. Michigan St. 19-3 1,136 7
  10. Michigan 16-5 949 10
  11. Duke 17-5 940 17
  12. Creighton 18-3 790 20
  13. Saint Louis 20-2 728 19
  14. Louisville 18-4 723 12
  15. Texas 17-4 719 25
  16. Iowa St. 16-4 717 16
  17. Iowa 17-5 669 15
  18. Kentucky 16-5 653 11
  19. Oklahoma St. 16-5 420 8
  20. Virginia 17-5 364 NR
  21. Oklahoma 17-5 361 23
  22. UConn 17-4 252 NR
  23. Gonzaga 20-3 237 NR
  24. Memphis 16-5 114 22
  25. Pittsburgh 18-4 110 18
    Others receiving votes: Wisconsin 79, Ohio St. 45, VCU 44, SMU 15, New Mexico 12, California 9, UCLA 9, Harvard 4, George Washington 3, LSU 3, Tennessee 2, American U. 1, Southern Miss. 1.

My top 25 AP ballot:

1 - Syracuse: Orange senior C.J. Fair (28 points) was a lot better than Duke freshman Jabari Parker (15 points), but in the overtime, Syracuse Jerami Grant was the best player on the floor in a classic matchup between the game’s two winningest coaches in Division I history.
2 - Arizona: Superstar guard Nick Johnson (1 for 14, 0 for 5 from three) couldn’t get anything to drop and neither could Aaron Gordon (4 for 14), yet the Wildcats still almost remained undefeated, losing to Cal, 60-58.
3 - Wichita State: If the Shockers can win two tough road games this week, only a big upset could keep them from finishing the regular season undefeated. They play at Indiana State on Wednesday and at Northern Iowa on Saturday.
4 - Florida: Gators have won 27 in a row at home and have the same record (19-2) that they had after 21 games when they won back-to-back national titles last decade.
5 - San Diego State: Think Steve Fisher’s experience might give him an advantage late in games? The Aztecs have won 110 consecutive games when leading with five minutes remaining.
6 - Villanova: Bounced off the deck after blowout loss to Creighton by picking up three consecutive road wins.
7 - Kansas: Quick, feisty Longhorns made Jayhawks look slow by comparison. They’ll make a lot of teams look slow.
8 - Michigan State: Not the same team without injured forwards Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson.
9 - Cincinnati: Sean Kilpatrick moved to third on Bearcats career scoring list, trailing only the great Oscar Robertson and Steve Logan. UConn visits Thursday in what should be an interesting one.Parity was the big winner in college basketball last week, when top 25 teams combined for a 27-20 record. Fifteen of the 25 teams, including Kansas, lost during the week.
10 - Michigan: Nik Stauskus’ three-point shooting in five losses: 6 for 22 (.272); Stauskus’ three-point shooting in 16 victories: 44 for 87 (.506).
11 - Duke: Blue Devils had impressive week on the road, pounding Pittsburgh and then taking Syracuse to overtime in a two-point loss. With more weeks like that out of sophomore center Amile Jefferson (averaged 14 points and 8.5 boards, made 11 of 15 field goals), Duke will continue to climb back up rankings.
12 - Iowa: Eleven players average double-figures minutes in the running, pressing Fran McCaffery system.
13 - Kentucky: Young Wildcats split road games, losing to LSU and defeating Missouri. In the victory at Missouri, freshmen combined for 77 of Kentucky’s 84 points. Mizzou, by the way, started 41-1 at home under Frank Haith, but are 2-2 in the last four.
14 - Louisville: Don’t blame Russ Smith for Cardinals’ inconsistent play. He has scored in double figures every game and in nine American Athletic Conference games is shooting .548 from three.
American who, what, when, where, why?
Who: Cincinnati (10-0), Louisville (7-2), Memphis (6-3) SMU (6-3), Connecticut (5-3), Houston (3-6), South Florida (2-7), Central Florida (1-7) and Temple (1-7) form the first-year conference.
What: A geographic hodgepodge of schools seeking a temporary home. When: Formed in July 1, 2013, although its official roots reach to May 31, 1979, when the Big East was formed.
Where: It’s headquarters are in Providence, R.I., and its members come from eight states, but not Rhode Island. After this school year, Rutgers will depart for the Big Ten, Louisville for the ACC. East Carolina, Tulsa and Tulane will join the conference next year.
Why: Seven catholic universities departed the old Big East to join Butler, Creighton and Xavier to form what is called the Big East.
15 - Texas: Junior Jonathan Holmes coming up huge for Longhorns. He does a little bit of everything. He leads team in scoring (13.4), is second in rebounds (7.3), is third in blocks (1.4), third in field-goal percentage (.517), first in free-throw pct. (.793) and tied for first in three-point pct. (.385). He runs the floor hard and plays unselfishly, so do his teammates.
16 - Creighton: Team’s three top scorers — Doug McDermott (25.0), Ethan Wragge (12.0) and Jahenns Manigat (8.4) — combine for stunning .469 three-point percentage. The three Blue Jays combine to average 17.5 three-point attempts per game. All but six of Wragge’s 163 field-goal attempts have come from beyond the arc.
17 - Iowa State: The loser of tonight’s game in Stillwater falls to seventh place with a losing record midway through the Big 12 season and qualifies as the biggest first-half disappointment and leading contender for most-improved team in the second half of conference play.
18 - Oklahoma: Sooners have five players averaging in double figures and center Ryan Spangler is averaging a double-double (11.1 points, 10.2 rebounds). When I lived in California (1981-89), I averaged roughly a double-double per day, frequenting various In-’N-Out Burger locations.
19 - St. Louis: Almost suffered what would have been one of the biggest upsets of this college basketball season. But the Billikens prevailed in overtime against George Mason, which is seven games behind SLU seven games into the Atlantic 10 season. Now comes the tough stretch of the schedule: At St. Joseph, at Lasalle, at home against second-place VCU.
20 - Virginia: Cavaliers woke up after getting slapped silly at Tennessee, 87-52, in final nonconference game. Only ACC loss was at Duke in a game Virginia led with 20 seconds remaining. Aside from that, Cavs are 4-0 in conference road games with an average margin of victory of 15.3 points.
21 - Oklahoma State: Efforts to trace the origin of Marcus Smart’s family name to shot selection were unsuccessful. In the Cowboys’ past four games, Smart has made 3 of 28 three-pointers. Repeat: 3 of 28 three-pointers. Wow.
22 - UConn: DeAndre Daniels, the 6-foot-9, 195-pound junior who considered Kansas, is averaging 13.4 points and shooting .478 from three.
23 - UCLA: Point forward Kyle Anderson has reached double figures in assists three times. Not many players who have a wingspan of 7-2 can say the same.
24 - New Mexico: Cameron Bairstow, the 6-9, 250-pound forward who dropped 24 points in loss to Kansas, is averaging 20 points and 6.9 rebounds for Lobos, winners of 10 of last 11.
25 - Ohio State: Buckeyes had lost 5 of 6 before winning at Wisconsin, which has lost 5 of 6.

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Kansas moves to No. 6 in AP college basketball poll, eyes fifth No. 1 seed in eight years

Kansas moved up two spots to No. 6 in the Associated Press college basketball Top 25 poll, released Monday.

The Jayhawks are gunning for a remarkable fifth No. 1 seed in the past eight seasons. They are ranked No. 1 in the nation in the flawed RPI, which puts far too much weight on schedule, At this rate, KU will have enough going for it on Selection Sunday that it will merit a top seed without even looking at the RPI, a crutch that bad selection committee members use.

It’s easy to envision a scenario in which two schools from the state of Kansas earn No. 1 seeds, Wichita State being the other.

The AP top 25, with first-place votes in parentheses, records through Jan. 26 and total points based on 25 points for a first-place vote through one point for a 25th-place vote, plus last week’s ranking:

        Record Pts Prv
  1. Arizona (63) 20-0 1,623 1
  2. Syracuse (2) 19-0 1,561 2
  3. Florida 17-2 1,436 6
  4. Wichita St. 21-0 1,435 5
  5. San Diego St. 18-1 1,337 7
  6. Kansas 15-4 1,272 8
  7. Michigan St. 18-2 1,251 3
  8. Oklahoma St. 16-3 1,067 11
  9. Villanova 17-2 1,063 4
  10. Michigan 15-4 1,050 21
  11. Kentucky 15-4 896 14
  12. Louisville 17-3 891 12
  13. Cincinnati 19-2 793 15
  14. Wisconsin 17-3 763 9
  15. Iowa 16-4 722 10
  16. Iowa St. 15-3 684 16
  17. Duke 16-4 549 18
  18. Pittsburgh 18-2 517 20
  19. Saint Louis 18-2 464 19
  20. Creighton 17-3 445 NR
  21. UMass 17-2 353 13
  22. Memphis 15-4 262 23
  23. Oklahoma 16-4 203 25
  24. Ohio St. 16-4 143 17
  25. Texas 16-4 142 NR

Others receiving votes: UConn 67, Gonzaga 51, UCLA 39, Virginia 18, George Washington 5, Green Bay 5, Kansas St. 5, Minnesota 5, SMU 3, American U. 1, Harvard 1, Louisiana Tech 1, New Mexico 1, Southern Miss. 1.

My AP top 25 ballot:

1 - Arizona: Sophomore center Kaleb Tarczewski, a 7-footer who chose the Wildcats over Kansas, is coming along nicely. He’s averaging 9.8 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. If Tarczewski had gone to Kansas, that might have deterred Joel Embiid from coming a year later, so it’s worked out well for everybody.

2 - Syracuse: The stereotype of a zone defense — pack it in and make the opponent try to beat you from the outside — never has fit Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone and certainly doesn’t this season. Orange are tied for fifth in the country with 9.5 steals per game.

3 - Wichita State: I don’t believe in letting undefeated teams climb the rankings while others that play in tougher conferences knock off each other. That doesn’t apply to Wichita State. The Shockers are just that good, as they showed a year ago by their winning four NCAA tournament games by double-digits en route to Final Four, where they gave Louisville more trouble than anybody else.

4 - Florida: Whether forcing Kansas into 24 turnovers or frustrating Tennessee into 1-for-19 three-point shooting, Gators certainly know how to bring out worst in visitors in the O’Connell Center, where they have won 26 in a row.

5 - San Diego State: I’m not of the belief that the Aztecs beating Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse was all about KU playing poorly. The Aztecs know how to make teams play poorly. Were all 17 games during San Diego State’s active winning streak because they happen to catch teams on bad days? Best illustration of how clutch and composed Steve Fisher teams are lies in 15-1 record in past 16 overtime games.

6 - Kansas: Brannen Greene in his last three games: 21 minutes, 14 points, three rebounds, 5 of 7 from the field, 3 of 4 from three. That’s very bad news for the rest of the Big 12.

7 - Michigan: An amazing 7-0 in the Big Ten with the last three victories coming against top 10 teams, Wolverines doing it all without Mitch McGary, lost for season with back injury. Nik Stauskas averaging 18.5 points, shooting .462 from three and a perfect fit for coach John Beilein’s system, strong All-American candidate.

8 - Michigan State: At the moment Spartans aren’t best team in the state, but when all the games have been played they might stand alone as the best team in the country.

9 - Kentucky: Former Olathe Northwest wide receiver/center Willie Cauley-Stein, aka Billy Idol, leads Wildcats in blocked shots and steals and ranks second to Julius Randle in rebounds. Cauley-Stein seventh in nation with 3.37 blocks a game.

10 - Villanova: Where oh where has the ’Nova defense gone? Cats surrendered average of 66 points in first five Big East games, 90.5 in past two.

11 - Iowa: Michigan State visits for a 6 p.m. Tuesday can’t-miss game on ESPN.

12 - Wisconsin: Trip to West Lafayette to beat up on Purdue was just what Badgers needed to end three-game losing streak.

13 - Oklahoma State: Marcus Smart in his past two games: 4 of 21 from the field, 0 for 10 from three-point range.

14 - Cincinnati: Bearcats make short trip to Louisville to face Cardinals on Thursday. Wonder who Pete Rose likes and by how many in that one?

15 - Louisville: Two 39-point victories (South Florida and Houston) in past three games. Talented reserve Wayne Blackshear made a combined 8 of 10 threes in the blowouts.

16 - Pittsburgh: Two losses all season, to Cincinnati and Syracuse by a combined six points and still no respect. Chance at first victory against ranked opponent comes today at 6 p.m. vs. Duke in Pittsburgh.

17 - Duke: Freshman Semi Ojeleye from Ottawa High, has played 65 minutes. His stats: 25 points, 50 percent from the field, 50 percent from three, .909 from the line, 14 rebounds, two assists, four blocked shots, three steals, five turnovers.

18 - Iowa State: Georges Niang and Matt Thomas buried four three-pointers apiece vs. Kansas State to end losing streak at three games.

19 - Memphis: A Saturday trip to Dallas to play SMU won’t be an easy one because the amazing Mustangs coach Larry Brown is working his magic again. Brown’s team takes five-game losing streak to Tampa to face South Florida on Tuesday.

20 - Creighton: Ethan Wragge scored all 27 points in 96-68 drubbing of Villanova on three-pointers. He hit seven of the threes in the first 6:03 of the game. Bobby Nightengale, the Lawrence Journal-World’s lead high school reporter, played the role of Wragge on the scout team for Jefferson HIgh in Bloomington, Minn. Nightengale never made five threes in six-plus minutes against the starters. So much for Scout Team Player of the Week honors.

21 - St. Louis: Billikens coach Jim Crews played for and coached under Bob Knight at Indiana. Crews has his team playing the sort of suffocating man-to-man defense for which Knight’s teams were noted. SLU ninth with .429 effective field goal percentage (national average .494) and 16th with .223 turnovers-per-possession percentage (.185 national average), according to kenpom.com.

22 - Oklahoma: Big Monday Bedlam in the Noble Center, 8 p.m. today, a huge game in the race for second place in the Big 12.

23 - UCLA: Kyle Anderson, a 6-foot-9 point-forward, has 11 double-doubles, one of which was a triple-double (13 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists vs. Morehead State).

24 - Ohio State: Loss at Nebraska was fourth in a row, a streak that ended with home victory against Illinois. Wish I could credit the first person to notice amazing fact, but it went viral so quickly it’s tough to say who came up with it first: Iowa State, Ohio State, Oregon and Wisconsin started season a combined 58-0 and then went 0-14, a nice little lesson in the dangers of reading too much into anything until conference play starts.

25 - Texas: Victories against three consecutive ranked teams a school first and establishes legitimate contender in crowded race for second place in Big 12.

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KU’s Joel Embiid, Wichita State’s Fred VanVleet shafted by Wooden watch list

I box my ears and make the motor-boat sound every time someone gripes about an athlete being excluded from a Hall of Fame, mid-season watch list, etc., without first making room for him or her by citing who deserves to be removed. Don’t just say who belongs, say who doesn’t, then I’ll unbox my ears and stop motor-boating.

The Wooden Award released its 25-man mid-season watch list and in general did a nice job with it.

There were two egregious omissions, however. It’s time to take one out, put one in, take another out, put another in to call attention to the deserving dissed duo.

Ohio State’s Aaron Craft, just about every announcer’s favorite point guard, hustles his way to big defensive plays, crashes into basket standards, scorer’s tables, etc. According to what teammate Lenzelle Smith Jr. once told me, Craft steals more than the basketball.

“I’ve seen him steal so many souls out there on the court,” Smith said two years ago, the day before Kansas faced Ohio State in a national semifinal.

OK, but he hasn’t been one of the 25 top players in the nation in the first half of his senior season.

Craft doesn’t keep defenders honest enough with his three-point shooting, which can lead to extra attention being paid to the Buckeyes’ big men. Unlike most college basketball players, Craft’s three-point shooting touch gets worse by the year: .377, .359, .300, .286.

Craft’s solid 2-to-1 assists/turnover ratio pales in comparison to that of Fred VanVleet, sophomore point guard for undefeated Wichita State. VanVleet has a 4.4 ratio, slightly more rebounds and assists than Craft, higher shooting percentages overall, on three-pointers and from the line. Craft has a slight edge in steals.

Ohio State has lost four in a row. VanVleet has been the Shockers’ best clutch performer.
Kansas basketball fans don’t need another reason to resent Missouri star Jordan Clarkson.

First, he plays for Missouri. Second, he didn’t give Danny Manning a chance to talk him into staying at Tulsa when Manning took his first job as a head coach. Clarkson transferred to Missouri and ranks second on the Tigers with an 18.7 scoring average. His free-throw touch (.804) made the trip from Tulsa, but his three-point shooting (.281) did not.

After a loss to Georgia, Clarkson’s coach, Frank Haith, said: “Jordan’s got to pass the ball more.”

Exit Clarkson, enter Kansas freshman center Joel Embiid. Compare what Clarkson’s coach said about him to what Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said about KU's stellar center: “I think Embiid’s the best player in the country.”

The nice thing about mid-season watch lists: It helps the folks making them correct their mistakes by the time the next one is released.

The Wooden Award watch list:

Kyle Anderson, UCLA; Keith Appling, Michigan State; Cameron Bairstow, New Mexico; Jordan Clarkson, Missouri; Aaron Craft, Ohio State; Sam Dekker, Wisconsin; Cleanthony Early, Wichita State; Tyler Ennis, Syracuse; C.J. Fair, Syracuse; Aaron Gordon, Arizona; Rodney Hood, Duke; Nick Johnson, Arizona; DeAndre Kane, Iowa State; Doug McDermott, Creighton; Shabazz Napier, Connecticut; Jabari Parker, Duke; Adreian Payne, Michigan State; Casey Prather, Florida; Julius Randle, Kentucky; Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State; Russ Smith, Louisville; T.J. Warren, North Carolina State; Andrew Wiggins, Kansas; Chaz Williams, Massachusetts; Joseph Young, Oregon.

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AP college basketball poll: Kansas No. 8, first among six ranked Big 12 schools

Kansas moved up to No. 8 in the Associated Press college basketball Top 25 poll, released Monday.

The Big 12 has by far the biggest presence of any conference in the rankings, with six of its 10 teams making an appearance, a remarkable 60 percent of its members. The only other league with half as strong a penetration as that is the newly formed American Conference, which has 30 percent (Louisville, Cincinnati and Memphis) of its members in the top 25.

The AP top 25, with first-place votes in parentheses, records through Jan. 19 and total points based on 25 points for a first-place vote through one point for a 25th-place vote and last week's ranking:

         Record Pts Prv
  1. Arizona (61) 18-0 1,621 1
  2. Syracuse (4) 18-0 1,559 2
  3. Michigan St. 17-1 1,497 4
  4. Villanova 16-1 1,377 6
  5. Wichita St. 19-0 1,368 5
  6. Florida 15-2 1,303 7
  7. San Diego St. 16-1 1,211 10
  8. Kansas 13-4 1,117 15
  9. Wisconsin 16-2 1,074 3
  10. Iowa 15-3 1,041 14
  11. Oklahoma St. 15-3 971 9
  12. Louisville 16-3 804 18
  13. UMass 16-1 781 16
  14. Kentucky 13-4 769 13
  15. Cincinnati 17-2 736 19
  16. Iowa St. 14-3 644 8
  17. Ohio St. 15-3 549 11
  18. Duke 14-4 447 23
  19. Saint Louis 17-2 421 24
  20. Pittsburgh 16-2 419 22
  21. Michigan 13-4 362 NR
  22. Kansas St. 14-4 221 NR
  23. Memphis 13-4 201 17
  24. Baylor 13-4 170 12
  25. Oklahoma 14-4 111 25

Others receiving votes: Creighton 98, UConn 62, Gonzaga 59, California 44, Colorado 26, UCLA 23, Harvard 12, George Washington 8, Missouri 6, Texas 5, Xavier 4, SMU 2, New Mexico 1, Virginia 1.

My AP top 25 ballot:

1 - Arizona: Former Phoenix Suns and Boston Celtics great Dennis Johnson, who died of a heart attack in 2007 while coaching a D-League practice, was known as a great defender, good scorer and terrific leaper. Just about every time his leaping ability came up during telecasts, one of the announcers would bring up stories about the jumping ability of his brother, Joey Johnson, who played at Arizona State. Joey once had his vertical leap measured at 52 inches and once dunked on an 11-foot-7 hoop to win a contest. Nick Johnson, Joey’s son and Dennis’ nephew, leads the Wildcats in scoring, and like the rest of the team’s key players is known as an excellent defender.

2 - Syracuse: Having one of the top freshmen (point guard Tyler Ennis) and seniors (C.J. Fair) is such a nice place to start for any team. Ennis, Fair and sophomore Jerami Grant all played 40 minutes in 59-54 victory against Pittsburgh, a Big East retro game played in the ACC. The Orange bench scored just two points. Grant’s uncle, Harvey Grant, played 11 years in the NBA after playing at Clemson and then Oklahoma.

3 - Michigan State: The most interesting numbers column on the Spartans' statistics page is GP, games played. That might be the first time anyone has ever typed that sentence, but it happens to be true. Gary Harris and Denzel Valentine are the only Spartans to appear in all 18 games, thanks to injuries and illnesses. Yet, the Spartans keeping winning, their only loss coming at the hands of giant-killer North Carolina.

4- Wichita State: Indiana State entered Saturday’s road game against Wichita State unbeaten in Missouri Valley League play and Sycamores guard Dawon Cummings had a big day, scoring 19 points. Good thing Cummings made the trip because the rest of the team made 9 of 37 field goals (.243) and 2 of 13 three-pointers (.154).

5 - Villanova: Coach Jay Wright is one of the most universally well-liked college basketball coaches by alumni, students, strangers who recognize him in public, etc. Not only that, he dresses like a sportswriter.

6 - Florida: Victory against Kansas started Gators on a nine-game winning streak next put to test Thursday at Alabama.

7 - San Diego State: Legitimate national-title contenders, the Aztecs have won 15 in a row after suffering lone loss, to Arizona.

8 - Iowa: Fran McCaffery was 26 when he became head coach at Lehigh University. He left there to become an assistant to Digger Phelps at Notre Dame (1988-99) and has been a head coach ever since leaving ND. I tried interviewing him after the press conference announcing Digger’s ouster, or was it a "resignation" or "retirement"? McCaffery was too ticked to talk. Couldn't blame him. Notre Dame forced Phelps into retirement too early. As if to honor the son of an undertaker, my car died on the way back to Chicago that day.

9 - Kansas: Strangest play during a 2-0 week: Conner Frankamp, blessed with best shooting range on the team, has the ball 25 feet from hoop with shot clock dwindling and passes it to a center 22 feet from the hoop in the Oklahoma State game. He’ll have a nice career for KU and some day he’ll be able to look back on that play and laugh.

10 - Kentucky: Julius Randle, team’s leading scorer and rebounder, has not had a turnover-free game, averages 3.3 a contest and 4.8 in Wildcats’ four losses.

11 - Oklahoma State: Marcus Smart won’t miss any time with wind burn caused by the breeze of Wayne Selden’s elbows swinging close to Smart’s face.

12 - Wisconsin: Great unbeaten ride while it lasted. Losses at Indiana and at home to Michigan have the Badgers on a streak of another kind.

13 - Cincinnati: Sean Kilpatrick is one of those college basketball players who seems as if he’s been playing for his school for 10 years. Maybe that’s because Kilpatrick has hit 10 years worth of big shots. His scoring averages, starting with freshman season: 9.7, 14.3, 17.0, 18.6.

14 - Louisville: The nice thing about the name Richard is it comes with so many options. Cards coach Pitino goes by Rick. His son, distinguishing himself as a separate person and coach, goes by Richard, a nice touch. But the full name just doesn’t seem the right fit for outspoken NFL Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. He could choose from one of the many of the nicknames that stem from Richard: Dick, Rich, Richie, Rickey. Any suggestions on which might be most fitting?

15 - Pittsburgh: Throw-back Panthers play at slow pace and seldom shoot three-pointers. That might frustrate some ACC teams.

16 - Duke: As Jabari Parker hit the freshman wall, Rodney Hood continued to shoot great: .517 overall, .847 from the line, .457 from three.

17 - Michigan: Since Mitch McGary’s season-ending injury, Wolverines have gone 7-0, making John Beilein candidate for national coach of the year honors. Why should this year be any different?

18 - Ohio State: Buckeyes take three-game losing streak into Lincoln, Neb., tonight.

19 - Iowa State: Cyclones try to end three-game losing streak Saturday in Hilton Coliseum against Kansas State.

20 - Massachusetts: Year of living dangerously continues. Minutemen have average margin of victory of five points during active six-game losing streak.

21 - St. Louis: Billikens doing it all without a single player from the state of Missouri on the roster.

22 - Memphis: Ten-point home loss to UConn not the Tigers’ finest two hours.

23 - Kansas State: Since taking over for departed Frank Martin, Bruce Weber has a 20-2 record against Big 12 schools located outside the state of Kansas.

24 - Oklahoma: The only coach ever to lead five different schools to the NCAA Tournament, Kruger has Sooners on course for second consecutive tourney appearance.

25 - UCLA: Bruins lost at Utah despite monster game from 6-foot-9, 230-pound sharp-shooter Kyle Anderson (28 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, 5 for 5 three-point shooting).

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