PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Udoka Azubuike, Kansas
Azubuike put together one of the most dominant performances I can ever remember seeing on Saturday against Baylor. He finished with 23 points points on 11-for-13 shooting, 19 boards and three blocks, but that really doesn’t entirely reflect the impact that he had on the game.
Offensively, it was obvious. The first time that Kansas and Baylor faced off, the Jayhawks were smothered by Baylor’s defense, as the Bears completely took away Doke by, essentially, double-teaming him before a pass was even made into the post. Kansas answered on Saturday by putting Doke in ball-screen after ball-screen after ball-screen, and his ability to be a vertical spacer was something that the Bears had no answer for.
But he was just as impactful defensively. Part of the reason that Baylor’s guards struggled as much as they did was because Doke has turned into maybe the best defensive five in the game. His ability to zone up against ball-screens — keeping the ball-handler from getting past him to the rim while being enough of a deterrent to defend against a pass to the roll man — neutered Baylor’s offense and allowed Kansas to keep control over this game for 40 minutes.
I’m not sure it will be enough to truly get Azubuike put into the conversation for National Player of the Yea — or even for first-team All-American, not with Devon Dotson on his team — but it was certainly a statement.
Azubuike is as improved as anyone in college basketball even if the numbers don’t entirely show it, and Saturday was the day that the national finally realized it.
TEAM OF THE WEEK: Ohio State Buckeyes
The Buckeyes are back!
On Sunday, Ohio State picked up what is probably their best win of the Big Ten season when they knocked off No. 7 Maryland in Columbus, 79-72. Ohio State is now 18-9 on the season and have won three of their last four and six of their last eight games. They are starting to look like the team that everyone thought was the best team in the country back in December.
We’ll see how long this lasts or if this is just a function of the Buckeyes getting a couple of games in a row at home, but if there was ever a time for a team to hit their stride, the last week of February would be it.
1. SAN DIEGO STATE IS GOING TO BE JUST FINE
I’m not worried about San Diego State after the Aztecs lost to UNLV on Saturday.
I’m disappointed. In a season where the most interesting storyline seems to whether or not Kansas can win a national title with the FBI investigating, the NCAA bearing down and Snoop Dogg shooting fake money at dancers on stripper poles, I desperately wanted San Diego State to get into the NCAA tournament undefeated, blow through some East Coast juggernaut in Madison Square Garden and get to Atlanta with a shot at becoming the first team in 44 years to have a perfect season.
It would have been awesome.
But now that dream is dead, and T.J. Otzelberger killed it.
So that sucks.
But that doesn’t mean I’m worried about the Aztecs. This team is just as good now as they were before losing to the Rebels. UNLV has been one of the most improved teams in college basketball since conference play started. They caught fire early on a night where San Diego State, one of the best shooting teams in the country, didn’t actually start making shots until there were six minutes left in the game. They came out fired up and ready to make a statement on a night where the Aztecs, who have all-but locked up a No. 1 seed, celebrated their Mountain West regular season title by hanging a banner.
If anything, this was a pretty good wake-up call for the Aztecs. They got caught slipping, and while it cost them a chance at a perfect season, it might be just what they needed to actually win a national title.
And if you’re going to take a loss, it’s better to take it now than in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Ask Wichita State.
2. GONZAGA? THEY’RE GOING TO BE JUST FINE, TOO
Gonzaga also lost on Saturday, and while I’m not concerned about San Diego State, I’m even less worried about Gonzaga.
The Bulldogs went into the Marriott Center on Saturday, in front of 20,000 screaming fans and lost to a team that is quietly putting together the kind of a season that can get them into the five-seed conversation. We’ve conditioned ourselves to think that anytime the Zags lose, it’s a disaster because the WCC is the WCC, but this BYU team? …
3. BYU IS A TEAM THAT YOU DON’T WANT TO SEE IN MARCH
… This BYU team is different.
They are one of the nation’s best three-point shooting teams. They have a pair of guards in T.J. Haws and Jake Toolson that have to be guarded out to 30 feet but are also capable of exploiting defenses that sell out to stop them with their passing ability. Mark Pope is one of the more underrated coaches in the country, and watching his team run offenses is so much fun, especially when they are playing in their own building.
And should I mention that Yoeli Childs is an absolute monster?
I’m not sure there is a better fit at the five for BYU than an athletic and strong 6-foot-10 center that can catch lobs, dominate defenders in the post 1-on-1 and even step out and knock down a three. There are definitely reasons to be concerned about this team making a run in the tournament — defense, mainly — but if they happen to have one of those nights, they can beat literally anyone in college basketball.
4. I HOPE YOU DIDN’T FORGET ABOUT PAYTON PRITCHARD
The Ducks fell out of the top spot in the Pac-12 this week thanks to a loss at Arizona State, and it feels somewhat like Payton Pritchard has fallen out of the national consciousness a little bit.
And that’s too bad.
Because he is an absolute killer that can take over a game in ways that 6-foot point guards shouldn’t be able to. On Saturday, he had 38 points and four assists in a 73-72 overtime win at Arizona. He was awesome. Again.
I don’t think I’d have him as the National Player of the Year at this point, but I do think that he is deserving of being in the conversation. And if there is one guy that can pull a Kemba or a Shabazz and lead a team to a national title out of nowhere, it’s him.
5. UCLA AND PROVIDENCE ARE GOING TO GET INTO THE NCAA TOURNAMENT
These are the two weirdest teams in the country.
UCLA lost to Hofstra and Fullerton at home before New Years, was sitting at 8-9 overall after starting Pac-12 play 1-3 and, as of today, is one game out of first place in the league title race. The Bruins swept the Mountain road trip and have now won nine of their last 11 games. They swept Colorado. They won at Arizona. And if they win out, they are guaranteed to win at least a share of the Pac-12 regular season title.
Almost as wild as the fact that Providence might actually be able to get into the NCAA tournament after taking four Quad 3 and 4 losses during the non-conference season. They started out the year 11-10 overall, but after winning five of their last seven games, the Friars now have seven Quad 1 wins. In the last three weeks, they have won at Butler and at Marquette and beaten Creighton and Seton Hall at home.
I would expect nothing less from this roller coaster college basketball season than for these two programs to end up in the Sweet 16. I, for one, am here for it.
It’s that time of the year again, which means that we are diving head first into our annual NCAA tournament bubble watch.
The way that it will work is simple: We’ll be looking at every team that our Dave Ommen, the best bracketologist in the business, considers in the mix for an at-large bid. In an effort to keep this somewhat manageable, we are going to assume that the top 36 teams in the field — every team that is a No. 9-seed or above — is “off the bubble”. This does not mean those teams are a lock to dance, it just means that they have given themselves enough room for error that we can take them out of the conversation until they do something dumb.
So with all that in mind, let’s get into the full NCAA tournament bubble watch:
TOP 9: Duke (NBC: 2), Florida State (NBC: 2), Louisville (NBC: 4)
VIRGINIA (NET: 50, NBC: 10): Virginia won for the fourth straight time on Saturday, knocking off Pitt (100) on the road. They only have three Quad 1 wins and a 9-6 mark against the top two Quads with home dates left against Duke (6) and Louisville (8). They can’t afford slip-ups, and could really use three or four more wins before Selection Sunday. But Virginia is starting to play much better, and as of today they are in a pretty good spot to get to the tournament.
N.C. STATE (NET: 52, NBC: 11): The Wolfpack missed out on a chance to land another elite win on Saturday, blowing a halftime lead and losing at home to Florida State (12). The big news was picking up the win over Duke (6) on Wednesday night. It was the fifth Quad 1 win for Kevin Keatts — they’ve also beaten Wisconsin (30) at home and three sub-50 teams on the road — to go along with a 9-7 record against the top two Quads. The biggest problem here is that they have three Quad 3 losses, two of which came at home. Before beating Duke, the Wolfpack lost at Boston College (143). It’s worth noting that Markell Johnson, N.C. State’s best player, did not play in one of the three Quad 3 losses — Georgia Tech (79) — so like Arkansas, this will certainly be something the committee takes into account.
TOP 9: Houston (NBC: 8)
WICHITA STATE (NET: 43, NBC: 10): Wichita State saw their three-game winning streak snapped on Sunday afternoon, losing by three at Cincinnati (53). They have beaten VCU (57) and Oklahoma (54) at home, and they don’t have any truly terrible losses, but with just one potential Quad 1 games left on their schedule — all of which are on the road — and without a top 50 win on the season, I think the Shockers are going to have an uncomfortable Selection Sunday. The fact that they are 8-7 against the top two Quads without a bad loss is something of a saving grace at this point.
MEMPHIS (NET: 61, NBC: Next four out): Memphis is hanging on by a thread right now, but they are still alive after landed a critical win over Houston (25) at home. Memphis now has a pair of Quad 1 wins, and finally have a win over a team ranked in the top 50. The Tigers have also won at Tennessee (65), beaten Cincinnati at home (53) and beat N.C. State (52) on a neutral. The program? Those three Quad 2 home losses, and the fact that they are playing without D.J. Jeffries, their best perimeter weapon. With three of their last four on the road and a home date with Wichita State (43), Memphis has chances to improve their resume.
CINCINNATI (NET: 53, NBC: First four out): The Bearcats shot themselves in the foot on Wednesday, losing at home to UCF (125). They bounced back and beat Wichita State (43) at home on Saturday, which gives Cincinnati an eighth win over Quad 1 and 2 opponents. As of this very moment, Cincinnati has just two Quad 1 wins and four Quad 3 losses, all of which came to teams sitting outside the top 100. They’re in a bad spot right now, and with just one more potential Quad 1 win on their resume, I’m not sure just how much they’ll be able to do to fix it. Beating Houston (25) on the road next Sunday has become a must-win.
TOP 9: Dayton (NBC: 2)
RHODE ISLAND (NET: 36, NBC: 11): The Rams did not help themselves by losing at Davidson (76) on Saturday, which isn’t a killer but is a Quad 2 loss. They’re now 19-7 overall with just one Quad 1 win, but they are 6-6 against the top two Quads. The loss to Brown (218) is ugly, but as long as URI avoids the landmines on their schedule, I think they can get an at-large even with a loss to Dayton (5) at home in March.
RICHMOND (NET: 48, NBC: Play-in game): Richmond had their five-game winning streak snapped on the road against St. Bonaventure, which is not a bad loss in real life but is a bad loss on an NCAA tournament resume. The Spiders only have one truly terrible loss to their name — Radford (162) got them on a neutral court — but they only have two Quad 1 wins and a 4-6 record against the top two Quads. Their margin for error is completely gone.
TOP 9: Baylor (NBC: 1), Kansas (NBC: 1), West Virginia (NBC: 4), Texas Tech (NBC: 8)
OKLAHOMA (NET: 54, NBC: 10): Oklahoma lost again on Saturday, this time at Oklahoma State (67), and I’m having trouble figuring out why they are considered in the tournament safely as a 10 seed. They’ve now lost three in a row and five of their last eight games. They are 16-11 on the season and are sitting with just two Quad 1 wins and a 2-9 record against the top Quad. They do have six Quad 2 wins, but outside of a win over West Virginia (10) at home earlier this month, there really is nothing about this profile that is overly impressive. They certainly belong in the mix, but I think they are in a far tougher spot than the consensus.
Top 9: Seton Hall (NBC: 3), Villanova (NBC: 3), Creighton (NBC: 3), Butler (NBC: 5), Marquette (NBC: 7), Xavier (NBC: 9)
PROVIDENCE (NET: 46, NBC: Off the bubble): The Friars are now the official owners of the strangest resume in college basketball. On Friday, Marquette (26) paid a visit to The Dunk and lost. Providence has now won three straight games and have now won five of their last seven. All five of those wins are Quad 1 wins, and they include a road win over Butler (20), home wins against Creighton (11) and Seton Hall (17), and Saturday’s win against Marquette. The Friars now have seven Quad 1 wins. If you only look at wins, Providence is like a five seed.
The problem is the losses. There are 12 of them, and some of them are really, really bad. Providence lost to Charleston (142) and Long Beach State (288) on neutral courts, at Northwestern (164) and to Penn (154) at home. That’s three Quad 3 losses and a Quad 4 loss. It’s wild that the Friars are even in the conversation with all of that garbage on their resume, but they very much are.
GEORGETOWN (NET: 55, NBC: Play-in game): This is why Georgetown can’t have nice things. After beating Butler (20) on the road to play themselves onto the right side of the bubble, the Hoyas went out this week and lost to Providence (46) at home and at DePaul (72) on Saturday. They still get Marquette (26) and Creighton (11) on the road, and Villanova (10) at home, so they’re not dead. But they are in a bad spot.
TOP 9: Maryland (NBC: 2), Penn State (NBC: 4), Michigan State (NBC: 5), Iowa (NBC: 6), Ohio State (NBC: 6), Michigan (NBC: 6), Illinois (NBC: 7), Wisconsin (NBC: 7), Indiana (NBC: 9)
RUTGERS (NET: 33, NBC: 10): The Scarlet Knights have one of the weirder resumes on the bubble right now after losing at Wisconsin (30) on Sunday. They’re 17-10 overall and they are 9-8 in a Big Ten that is as deep as any league I can remember. They have three Quad 1 wins, just one Quad 3 loss and a 7-9 mark against the top two Quads. Eight of their ten losses are to Quad 1 opponents. They played a tough non-conference schedule, and they have some really impressive home wins. The problem? They’ve only won a single game outside of the RAC this year, and that came at Nebraska (183), who is more or less the worst team in the Big Ten. Their season finishes like this: at Penn State (24), Maryland (7), at Purdue (37). Rutgers has some work left to do, and I really think winning one of those two road games will be the most important part.
PURDUE (NET: 37, NBC: First four out): After the Boilermakers lost to Michigan (23) at home on Saturday, they are sitting at 14-14 overall and just 7-10 in the Big Ten. They do actually have a pretty strong resume in regards to the number of good wins that they have, but the biggest issue currently facing Purdue is the number of losses, including a Quad 3 loss. The most losses an at-large team has ever had is 15. For context, Indiana last season was 17-15 with six Quad 1 wins and nine Quad 1 and 2 wins and they were left out. Purdue is 5-10 against Quad 1 opponents — three of those five wins vacillate between Quad 1 and Quad 2 — and 7-12 against the top two Quads with a 3-8 record on the road. Their best road win is at Indiana (58). They’re in a tough spot right now.
TOP 9: Oregon (NBC: 4), Colorado (NBC: 5), Arizona (NBC: 6), Arizona State (NBC: 9)
UCLA (NET: 76, NBC: Off the bubble): The Bruins are making a push to get into the NCAA tournament. On Saturday, they completed a sweet of the mountain schools — the toughest road trip in all of college basketball — and have now won five in a row and nine of their last 11 games. They own a sweep of Colorado (18), they won at Arizona (9) and while they do have a Quad 3 loss — Hofstra (114) — and a Quad 4 loss — Fullerton (261) — the Bruins are now sitting on five Quad 1 wins, three of which came against top 15 teams, two on the road. The metrics don’t love the Bruins, but today’s win will help and if the metrics love Arizona and Colorado this much, it should mean quite a bit that UCLA was able to beat them. Their resume isn’t quite as weird as Providence’s, but both of these teams are going to give the Selection Committee a headache on Selection Sunday.
With games left against Arizona, Arizona State and USC, the Bruins will have the chances to play their way in. It’s wild to think that we’re here after the way the season started, but we are.
USC (NET: 47, NBC: Play-in game): After sweeping the Washington schools in LA two weeks ago, the Trojans turned around and lost at Colorado (18) and Utah (81) last week. Suddenly, they’re in a bit of a bad spot. They only have two Quad 1 wins and are now 8-8 against the top two Quads with an 8-7 mark away from the Galen Center, including five road wins. The home loss to Temple (111) is not ideal, but it is survivable. The biggest issue may be how tough their remaining schedule is. The Trojans still get Arizona (8), Arizona State (41) and UCLA (76), who is a game out of first place in the Pac-12, at home. I think they’re still in a pretty good spot, but it’s not going to be comfortable if they don’t win at least two more games before Selection Sunday.
STANFORD (NET: 31, NBC: First four out): The Cardinal finally snapped their losing streak by going into Seattle and knocking off Washington (65) to pick up their third Quad 1 win of the season. They followed that up by winning at Washington State (121), which is tougher than it has been in the past. They are just 2-5 against Quad 1 opponents, 6-8 against the top two Quads and have a Quad 3 loss — at Cal (142) — to their name. They still get Colorado (12) at home and Oregon (19) on the road, so there will be chances to improve their resume, but the Cardinal will need to capitalize on those to feel good on Selection Sunday.
TOP 9: Kentucky (NBC: 4), Auburn (NBC: 5), LSU (NBC: 8), Florida (NBC: 9)
ARKANSAS (NET: 45, NBC: Off the bubble): The Razorbacks snapped a five-game losing streak on Saturday by beating Missouri (87) at home. They have a pair of Quad 1 wins and a 4-10 mark against the top two Quads, but the more important record is this: They are 16-5 on the season with a healthy Isaiah Joe, who returned to action and scored 21 points on Saturday. It will be very interesting to see how the selection committee handles Arkansas.
MISSISSIPPI STATE (NET: 56, NBC: First four out): Mississippi State significantly dinged their at-large chances by losing at Texas A&M (117) on Saturday. That’s the third bad loss on their resume, and with a win at Florida (34) and a sweep of Arkansas (45) the only notable accomplishments to date, the Bulldogs find themselves in a tough spot. What’s worse is that they only get one more Quad 1 opportunity in the regular season, and that’s a game at South Carolina (62).
ALABAMA (NET: 40, NBC: Off the bubble): The Crimson Tide did what they could on Saturday, blowing out Ole Miss (94) on the road. It’s the fourth road win for Alabama, which is relevant for a team that doesn’t have all that much else going for it. They’re 15-12 overall. They have just two Quad 1 wins compared to a pair of Quad 3 losses. They have no margin of error left.
SOUTH CAROLINA (NET: 63, NBC: Next four out): The Gamecocks had a chance to play themselves into a really good spot on Saturday, but they lost to LSU (29) at home. At 16-11 overall with a Quad 3 and a Quad 4 loss, the Gamecocks have plenty of work left to do and not all that many great chances left for wins. They’re in trouble.
TOP 9: Gonzaga (NBC: 1), San Diego State (NBC: 1), BYU (NBC: 7), Saint Mary’s (NBC: 8)
UTAH STATE (NET: 39, NBC: Play-in game): After beating Wyoming (301), the Aggies have won five in a row and eight of their last nine games, ensuring they are still in the NCAA tournament mix and fully turning around a season that looked like it was lost as recently as four weeks ago. Wins over LSU (30) and Florida (33) are nice, but with three road losses to sub-85 teams and no more chances to land marquee wins, how are they going to make up for those losses? They don’t play another top 100 team the rest of the season. I don’t see how they can get in without beating San Diego State (1) in the MWC tournament.
NORTHERN IOWA (NET: 46, NBC: 12): Northern Iowa snapped a two-game losing streak on Sunday, beating Southern Illinois (139) and maintaining a hold on first place in the Missouri Valley. UNI has a win at Colorado (18) and they beat South Carolina (63) on a neutral court, but they are 5-3 against the top two Quads with a pair of Quad 3 losses. I want to see them get an at-large — every one of their non-Quad 1 losses is a road game in league play — but I’m not sure they have done enough to beat out some of these power conference teams.
EAST TENNESSEE STATE (NET: 38, NBC: 11): After beating Furman (76) on Wednesday night, the Buccaneers have gotten through the toughest part of their schedule. They have a win at UNCG (62) and a win at LSU (30). With a 22-4 record and a loss to Mercer (197) at home, the Buccaneers have to win out and lose to only UNCG or Furman in the SoCon tournament to have a chance, and even that might be a bit of a longshot.
A new college basketball top 25 is now live.
The narrative of this college basketball season has been that there are no great teams in the sport, that the loss of 87 underclassmen to the NBA draft and the lack of a dominant freshman class has turned this season into on chock full of something between parity and mediocrity.
And for the most part, I think that’s probably a pretty reasonable take.
Oregon is a pretty good team considering the fact that you need to use google to figure out where their missing piece, Kenny Wooten, is currently playing. Tennessee is a point guard away from being competitive in the SEC title race, and their best point guard, Jordan Bone, left school to be the 57th pick in last year’s draft. Georgia would probably be pretty good with Nic Claxton joining Anthony Edwards on this year’s roster. Michigan has looked like a top ten team with a healthy Isaiah Livers this season. Imagine how good they would be if just one of Charles Matthews, Jordan Poole or Iggy Brazdeikis had stayed in school.
Throw in the fact there is no Zion, no Ja Morant, not even a guy as good as, say, R.J. Barrett, and this is what you get.
It might take away from the sport’s appeal for someone that doesn’t have a vested interest in college basketball, but it has all but assured us of getting a program from out of left field that will win the national title. Baylor? San Diego State? Dayton? Gonzaga? They are all very real title contenders.
But I’m starting to think that the idea that there isn’t a great team in the sport might be a fallacy.
And this is where we start talking about Kansas.
The Jayhawks are really, really good. Devon Dotson is having a season that is good enough to jettison him to the top of KenPom’s Player of the Year ranking, and I think there is a very calid argument to make that Udoka Azubuike is actually the MVP of this Kansas roster; his improvement on the defensive side of the ball combined with his utter dominance of the paint offensively is unparalleled in the college game and allows Bill Self to use that four-guard lineup as much as he does.
Marcus Garrett is one of the nation’s best defensive players. Christian Braun, Isaiah Moss and Ochai Agbaji have been all been somewhere between serviceable and #actuallygood for the duration of the season, and the presence of David McCormack has allowed Bill Self to play a jumbo lineup when he has needed to. Hell, they’re 24-3 on the season, and their only loss since Christmas came against the team that spent the last six weeks at No. 1 in the AP poll. As it stands, the gap in adjusted efficiency margin — the metric that KenPom uses to rank teams — between Kansas and the rest of the field is bigger than the gap between Kentucky and the field in 2015, the year they went 38-1.
Now, if you want to tell me that there is no where near enough NBA talent on the roster to be considered a historically great team, I don’t think I’d argue with you. Take, for example, Villanova’s 2018 title team. They had five starters that were drafted, and four of those five are currently starters for an NBA team. Kentucky’s 2015 featured Devin Booker coming off of the bench. This Kansas team might not have a single player that ever starts a game in the NBA. As good as Dotson is, NBA teams aren’t exactly scrambling for 6-foot point guards that are right-hand dominant, just OK shooting the three and turnover prone. While Doke sometimes plays like he’s a dinosaur being guarded by mere men, he’s also a dinosaur in the sense that the NBA has long since gone away from bruising bigs that are total non-factors more than five feet from the rim.
So I get it.
But I will say, Louisville’s 2013 national title team was one of the best teams of the last decade. I’m not sure there is a legitimate argument to say they were actually the best, or even one of the top three, but they’re very much in that conversation. And like this year’s Kansas team, there really wasn’t a surefire pro on that roster. Montrezl Harrell has turned himself into a monster since getting to the league, and Gorgui Dieng has managed to carve out a nice career, but for the most part those guys are good role players that found the right organizational fit. Hell, they weren’t even one of the top two players on that team — Peyton Siva and Russ Smith were — and Luke Hancock was actually the guy that was the Final Four MOP.
I say all that to say this: that Louisville team was arguably the best defensive team of the last decade. That’s how they won. This Kansas team is the best defensive team in college basketball this season. That’s how they are going to win a title.
And if we consider that Louisville team someone in the vicinity of great, why won’t we do the same with this Kansas team if they can find a way to cut down the nets?
Anyway, here is the rest of the NBC Sports college basketball top 25.
NBC SPORTS COLLEGE BASKETBALL TOP 25
1. KANSAS (24-3, Last Week: 3)
2. BAYLOR (24-2, 1)
3. GONZAGA (27-2, 2)
4. DUKE (23-4, 4)
5. SAN DIEGO STATE (26-1, 5)
6. DAYTON (25-2, 6)
7. MARYLAND (22-5, 7)
8. FLORIDA STATE (23-4, 8)
9. LOUISVILLE (23-5, 10)
10. KENTUCKY (22-5, 12)
11. CREIGHTON (22-6, 16)
12. SETON HALL (20-7, 14)
13. VILLANOVA (21-6, 15)
14. OREGON (21-7, 13)
15. PENN STATE (20-7, 9)
16. MICHIGAN (18-9, 20)
17. IOWA (19-8, 18)
18. BYU (23-7, 24)
19. ILLINOIS (17-9, 22)
20. AUBURN (23-4, 11)
21. COLORADO (21-7, 19)
22. OHIO STATE (18-9, 25)
23. HOUSTON (21-7, 21)
24. ARIZONA STATE (19-8, NR)
25. WEST VIRGINIA (19-8, 17)
NEW ADDITIONS: No. 24 Arizona
DROPPED OUT: No. 23 Marquette
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) Payton Pritchard scored a career-high 38 points, Shakur Juiston added all of Oregon’s points in overtime and the 14th-ranked Ducks rallied to beat No. 24 Arizona 73-72 on Saturday night.
Pritchard had a terrific game in regulation and Juiston was the unlikely hero in overtime, scoring nine points, including a layup with 1.4 seconds left that was the winner. Arizona had one more great opportunity but Christian Koloko missed two free throws with one second left that could have tied or won the game.
Arizona led 64-58 with 3:27 left in regulation but the Wildcats went cold and Pritchard hit six straight free throws to pull the Ducks (21-7, 10-5 Pac-12) even with 15 seconds left. Arizona’s Josh Green missed two free throws with 2.5 seconds remaining that would have put the Wildcats ahead.
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Dylan Smith led Arizona (19-8, 9-5) with 18 points. Zeke Nnaji and Nico Mannion both scored 13. The Wildcats had a rough night at the free-throw line, making just 10 of 21 and missing the four crucial ones by Green and Koloko.
Oregon’s offense revolved around the great shooting of Pritchard. He gave the Ducks a huge boost by making several difficult 3-pointers, shooting over Arizona defenders who were right in his face.
The rest of the team didn’t have a particularly good night until Juiston’s clutch play in the final minutes. Oregon snapped a three-game road losing streak. Juiston finished with 14 points.
Pritchard scored 20 points in the first half as Oregon pushed to a 36-33 halftime lead. He hit 7 of 11 shots – including 4 of 8 from behind the 3-point line – before the break. Nnaji had eight points and five rebounds for the Wildcats in the first half.
Oregon: The Ducks were competitive on the road and finally broke through with a big win. Oregon’s offense was stagnant outside of Pritchard and too many possessions consisted of four players watching the senior guard try to work his shot-making magic. Juiston’s overtime scoring was sorely needed.
Arizona: The Wildcats are playing well at the right time of the year but this one stings. Their newfound confidence will get a big test when they head to California and face USC and UCLA next week.
Oregon: Hosts Oregon State on Thursday night.
Arizona: At Southern California in Thursday night.
PROVO, Utah (AP) Yoeli Childs scored 28 points to help No. 23 BYU upset second-ranked Gonzaga 91-78 on Saturday night and end the Bulldogs’ 19-game winning streak.
Jake Toolson added 17 points and T.J. Haws had 16 points. BYU (23-7, 12-3 WCC) never trailed after halftime en route to winning its eighth straight game.
Killian Tillie scored 18 points and Corey Kispert added 16 to lead the Bulldogs. Filip Petrusev added 14 points and Admon Gilder chipped in 13. Gonzaga (27-2, 13-1) won the previous five meetings in Provo before Saturday.
Gonzaga trailed by 14 points early in the second half before mounting a comeback. The Bulldogs cut the deficit to 70-68 on a jumper from Drew Timme with 7:52 remaining. BYU did not let Gonzaga erase the lead entirely.
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Zac Seljaas made back-to-back baskets to give the Cougars a little breathing room again. Then Childs bookended a string of four straight BYU baskets with a layup and a jumper to put the Cougars up 87-76 with 3:15 left.
BYU got a big lift from Childs in the first half. The senior forward crashed the boards and made several critical baskets to provide a much-needed spark for the Cougars on offense.
Childs capped a 13-4 run that gave BYU a 21-18 lead with back-to-back baskets. Gonzaga briefly regained a 25-24 lead on back-to-back baskets from Kispert and Petrusev. The Cougars surged back ahead before halftime thanks to Childs.
He accounted for three buckets on a run of five straight possessions that ended in baskets for BYU. It helped the Cougars claw out a 38-32 lead.
Gonzaga struggled to keep pace with BYU after going without a field goal over the final 4:36 of the first half.
The Cougars kept building on their momentum early in the second half. 3-pointers from Kolby Lee and Toolson highlighted a run of four straight baskets that put BYU up 58-44.
A win over a Gonzaga team that spent part of the season ranked no. 1 overall will go a long way to helping the Cougars lock up an NCAA Tournament bid in March.
Gonzaga hosts San Diego on Thursday.
BYU visits Pepperdine on Saturday.