College Basketball Nation: John Thompson III

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WASHINGTON -- If there was any lingering doubt that Monday was Georgetown's night -- the night it would finally put a complete performance together, the night it would demonstrate how much better than its 12-5 record it really is -- Jabril Trawick wiped it away just in time for Jack the Bulldog to take his halftime skateboard run.

In retrospect, Trawick's step-back 3-pointer was preceded by one of Villanova's better defensive possessions of the half. The Hoyas forward was isolated on the wing and defended well. It was a short possession -- just 10 seconds into the shot clock. Trawick is more of a broad-shouldered battering ram than a 3-point shooter by trade: He'd attempted just 28 3s all season entering Monday night.

It was an ill-advised attempt, no doubt about it, the kind Villanova point guard Ryan Arcidiacono said the Wildcats didn't force enough. But Trawick squared up and banged home that step-back 3 anyway, and the result was a 42-19 lead over the fourth-ranked team in the country -- and, after the 78-58 final was in the books, a full look at just how good Georgetown can be when all its proverbial cylinders are firing.

"I think they're a really good team," Villanova coach Jay Wright said.

That's easy for Wright to say, given the thorough beating his top-five team suffered at the Hoyas' hands. It was diplomatic to boot. Villanova's first half was easily its worst 20 minutes of basketball of the season, and almost certainly its worst 20 minutes since the first half of the first Creighton game in 2013-14. Afterward, Georgetown coach John Thompson III readily admitted the Wildcats weren't at their best.

"As a team that puts you in a bind in so many ways, they had an off night," he said. "We had a lot to do with them having an off night, but they didn't have their best night."

[+] EnlargeGeorgetown Fans
Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY SportsGeorgetown students celebrated a win over No. 4 Villanova on Monday, though Hoyas coach John Thompson III wished they had not rushed the court.
Even so, Georgetown was at least as good as Villanova was bad, and maybe better. The Hoyas' defense held the Wildcats, who average a league-best 1.14 points per possession in Big East play, to .59 points per trip in the first half. The Hoyas were vicious in the half court, swarming any penetration with multiple defenders, poking and prodding and forcing the turnovers that fed one easy bucket after another.

In this regard, Trawick, and not center Josh Smith or guard D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, was Georgetown's best player. His hard-nosed immovability on the defensive end serves to obscure his efficient scoring and ballhandling on offense. But those aforementioned cylinders included Smith, too, the massive center experiencing a senior-year renaissance in D.C. It included Smith-Rivera, perhaps the Big East's best combo guard, and center Mikael Hopkins, a vertical force on the back line, and off-guard L.J. Peak, a spurty freshman scorer.

"The skill level at every position makes them very difficult to play," Wright said. "But also the athleticism and speed in transition makes them really difficult."

They also, after Monday, must include freshman Isaac Copeland. For most of the season, as the class of 2014's 16th-ranked incoming freshman struggled to grasp the Princeton offense, Copeland was a non-factor. Before the Hoyas' home win over Butler on Saturday -- when Copeland hit a key late 3 to help secure the win -- John Thompson III's marquee recruit was averaging just 4.3 points in 13.9 mintes per game. There were occasional flashes of immense talent, ball skills uncommon to a 6-foot-9 frame, but they were too few to trust.

On Monday, Copeland finally put it all together. He finished with 17 points and six rebounds on 5-of-6 from the field and 7-of-8 from the free throw line. His five buckets came on a mix of gliding interior drives and coolly taken jump shots. Two of his free throws came midway through the second half, when Villanova had cut the lead to 12 and looked like it might have a Syracuse-style surprise left in store. Copeland finished without an assist, but he demonstrated plenty of passing touch on a late waved-off dump pass to Smith. All of a sudden, after a mostly invisible freshman season, Copeland's bright future was easy to see.

So it was with the Hoyas generally, who have always looked better than their record this season. They nearly knocked off Wisconsin in the Bahamas in November before falling by 3, lost another close game that week to Butler, and fell just short of Kansas at home in December. All five of their losses have come against potential (or guaranteed) NCAA tournament teams, and only one (at Xavier on Dec. 31) came by double digits.

Visually, the Hoyas could be a cognitively dissonant watch. They were a physically imposing defensive team that only sporadically played good defense, and a clearly-skilled offensive team that entered Monday night ranked eighth in the Big East in points per possession.

On Monday, it all came rushing to the surface, and it ended with Georgetown students rushing the court. Afterward, Thompson said he would have preferred the students at a program that still very much regards itself as a national power hadn't celebrated like a mid-major outfit.

"The students watch a lot of TV," Thompson III said. "So they're excited, and they stormed the court. I probably wish they hadn't done that, but they watch a lot of TV."

A few minutes later, when asked if Monday's performance changed his expectations for the season in any way, Thompson was even more succinct.

"No," he said.

And why not? Yes, Villanova was bad. Yes, the Hoyas had a brilliant, everything-working, Trawick-step-back-3s-are-falling kind of night. But somewhere in that perceptual jumble is the reality of a Georgetown team finally showing more than hints of just how good it might be.

"I think you saw the best of them tonight," Wright said.

3-point shot: Georgetown scheduling

June, 11, 2014
6/11/14
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Andy Katz discusses Georgetown's nonconference scheduling, Syracuse hoping to play former Big East rivals in the future and Washington, D.C., as a tournament destination in the latest edition of the 3-point shot.

Top coaches: Biggest surprises

June, 2, 2014
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ESPN.com has decided to rank college basketball’s top coaches. On Monday, Nos. 50-25 were announced. Some might think that a few coaches were too high or too low, and there were some surprises in this batch of rankings.

Here are a few surprises from the initial set of rankings:

[+] EnlargeFerrell/Crean
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesTom Crean has proved he can recruit but has gotten criticism for his in-game coaching.
Tom Crean (unranked): Well, the Indiana coach failed to crack the top 50. And that’s surprising -- maybe. Under Crean, Indiana has reached the Sweet 16 in two of the past three years and won the Big Ten regular-season crown in 2012-13. He’s also responsible for restoring a program that fell short of a lofty legacy as it endured the post-Kelvin Sampson era sanctions. All of that after he led Marquette to the Final Four in 2003. That should count for something. But perception matters, and the perception that Crean has failed to alter is one that sees him as more of a recruiter than an X’s and O’s guy. A 4-15 record overall against Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan, one of the game’s great X’s and O’s coaches, only magnifies that notion. Crean had two future top-five NBA draft picks in 2012-13, but he couldn’t advance beyond the Sweet 16 with Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller, even though that Hoosiers squad spent a chunk of the season with the No. 1 slot. It exited the Big Dance after shooting 33.3 percent and committing 18 turnovers against Syracuse in the Sweet 16. Last season, Indiana went 7-11 in the Big Ten and failed to reach the NCAA tourney. Yes, Crean had a lot of inexperienced players on that team, but that shouldn’t happen when one of the league’s top athletes (Yogi Ferrell) and a future lottery pick (Noah Vonleh) anchor your roster. Still, Steve Alford has two Sweet 16 appearance in his entire career, and just one since 1999. And Fran McCaffery finally turned Iowa into an NCAA tourney team last season. Not sure how those guys are ranked in the 30s and Crean can’t even crack the top 50. It’s interesting.

Buzz Williams (No. 38): Marquette entered last season as the favorite to win the title in the (new) Big East’s first season. The Golden Eagles fell short of those expectations when they finished sixth and missed the NCAA tournament. Not the best regular season for Williams, who left to fill Virginia Tech’s opening a few weeks ago, but Marquette was coming off a shared league title in a much tougher version of the conference. The Golden Eagles split that 2012-13 crown with a Louisville team that won the national championship that season and a Georgetown team that looked like a Final Four squad before Dunk City ruined those plans in the opening round. Marquette made five consecutive NCAA tourney appearances (2009-2013) under Williams. That run included two Sweet 16 appearances and an Elite Eight run in 2013. Nothing against Colorado's Tad Boyle (No. 34) and Nebraska's Tim Miles (No. 32) -- both good coaches -- but they can’t match that. Seems too low for Williams.

Archie Miller (No. 26): Miller is no longer just Sean Miller’s brother; he has his own legacy now. Last season, he not only led Dayton to its first NCAA tourney appearance since 2009 but also guided the program to its first Elite Eight appearance in 30 years. It was an impressive feat. The Flyers won 26 games as Miller became one of the hottest young coaches in the game with that memorable tournament run. But No. 26 in the rankings? It’s only Miller’s third season as a head coach. Although he's done more in three seasons than other coaches with lengthier résumés have achieved in their careers, longevity has to be a factor, and it’s too early to know whether Miller will continue this success in the coming years. Plus, he has to turn Dayton into a consistent contender for the A-10 crown. He definitely has the tools to get there, but No. 26 might be premature.

John Thompson III (No. 46): Georgetown struggled in the new Big East last season. After losing key pieces from the previous season, the Hoyas finished seventh in league play. Plus, the 2012-13 Georgetown team lost in a major upset to Florida Gulf Coast in the Big Dance. But the program also has won or shared three Big East championships and reached the Final Four in 2007 and the Sweet 16 in 2006 under JTIII. Those achievements seem ancient now, though; Thompson has amassed a 2-5 record in the NCAA tournament since that Final Four appearance. That’s why JTIII barely cracked the top 50 in these rankings. But again, he has a résumé that surpasses what some of the coaches ranked ahead of him have.

[+] EnlargeScoochie Smith and Archie Miller
Rich Graessle/Icon SMIDayton's 2014 NCAA tournament made Archie Miller a bigger name in coaching circles, but now he has to back it up.
Dana Altman (unranked): These rankings emphasize a coach’s overall impact on a program. A few weeks ago, Altman dismissed three key players after a rape investigation. One of those players, Brandon Austin, had been involved in a previous rape investigation at Providence that Altman claimed he had no knowledge of when he recruited Austin. The bottom line is that Altman should have been better informed. Oregon has had four consecutive seasons of 20 wins or more under Altman, but the Ducks also have dealt with a bunch of off-the-court drama that has marred his highs. The revolving pool of transfers also doesn’t convey a sense of stability in Eugene, Oregon. He’s falling. Maybe he shouldn’t be out of the top 50, but he’s definitely falling.

Scott Drew (No. 50, tie): Drew is one of the most polarizing coaches in college basketball. Ask other coaches or media folks about him, and they’ll probably express an extreme view. The people who think he’s a bad coach think he’s a really bad coach. The folks who think those critics are just haters believe that he’s flawless. The truth, as it is with any coach, is somewhere in the middle. But here’s the reality: Drew turned Baylor into a player on the national scene after a major scandal nearly crippled the program before his arrival in 2003. Drew’s talent hasn’t always matched his team’s results. Last season, Baylor began Big 12 play with eight losses in 10 games, but the Bears recovered and reached the Big 12 tournament championship game and the Sweet 16. Drew has guided Baylor to four NCAA tourney appearances and two Elite Eight berths. Baylor had reached the NCAA tournament only four times before his arrival. He’s certainly guilty of missed opportunities and in-game coaching errors, but Tubby Smith (No. 39), Jim Crews (No. 29) and Ed Cooley (No. 41) can’t match his achievements over the past six seasons. An argument, a strong one, could be made that Drew deserves a higher ranking.
NEW YORK -- On the eve of Super XLVIII across the Hudson River, two college basketball heavyweights went toe-to-toe at Madison Square Garden.

Georgetown pulled the upset, knocking off No. 7 Michigan State 64-60, but don’t panic, Spartans fans -- you still had a pretty good week.

Playing without two of their top four scorers (Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson), who also happen to be the Spartans' two leading rebounders, Michigan State managed a split this week -- winning at No. 15 Iowa on Tuesday before losing on Saturday.

And don’t be fooled by the Hoyas’ record -- they had lost five in a row, but that includes games against No. 9 Villanova, No. 20 Creighton, at Xavier and an overtime loss to Marquette. They’re better than you might think.

[+] EnlargeGary Harris
Anthony Gruppuso/USA TODAY SportsGary Harris, who scored 17 second-half points against Georgetown, should get some help when Adreian Payne returns from a foot injury.
"Disappointing but not upsetting," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said to open his postgame news conference. "I know John Thompson [III]. I know his teams. … They’re tough, they play hard and they lost some games that I didn’t think they should have lost."

That being said, Izzo did have plenty of criticism for his own squad. "Today, we got out-toughed; we really did. We got thrown around on the boards. We got posted up," Izzo said. "I thought they manhandled us."

Michigan State led 30-29 at halftime despite shooting just 11-for-27 from the field (40.7 percent). But Georgetown went in front for good less than 30 seconds into the second half on a 3-pointer by Reggie Cameron.

The Hoyas never led by more than eight, and the Spartans cut it to two at 56-54 on a Gary Harris 3-pointer with 1:32 left. But on the next possession, Jabril Trawick followed up a Markel Starks miss to push the lead back to four, and Georgetown put the game away from there.

Michigan State shot just 21-for-53 for the game (39.6 percent), 9-for-16 from the foul line and was outrebounded 37-30. The Spartans were 30th in Division I in rebounds per game coming in.

Harris agreed with his coach’s assessment. "They were out-toughing us to get rebounds," he said. "In the end, that cost us the game."

Harris scored a game-high 20 points, 17 of which came in the second half, but he did miss some wide-open looks.

"I was surprised how bad we played, myself included," he said. "I played horrible in the first half. I can’t let that happen, especially coming into a game like this."

Izzo and his players have every right to be disappointed. It was a much-hyped matchup, played on a big stage.

And Thompson had every right to be excited, though he chuckled when told about Izzo’s "manhandled" comment.

"I don’t know about that. But you’re not going to beat Michigan State, or any team in the Big East, if you aren’t physically tough," Thompson said. "Traditionally down through the years, [Izzo’s] teams have been one of the more physical teams in the country, and so I thought we met the challenge today."

Izzo’s team will be far more challenging once Payne (16.2 points per game, 7.7 rebounds per game) returns from a foot injury. Izzo said Payne is expected to return to practice Monday. He could play Thursday night against Penn State.

Getting Payne back is far more important than a nonconference game against Georgetown, even if it was Super Saturday in New York.
1. Georgetown continues to come up with creative games on the schedule. The latest is the game against Michigan State on Feb. 1 at Madison Square Garden as part of a triple header. The other games will be St. John's against a Big East school to be named when the schedule comes out in the next few weeks and then the capper of Knicks-Heat. MLive.com first reported the game early Wednesday and multiple sources confirmed Georgetown will announce the game Thursday. This is the first meeting between the two schools since the 1986 NCAA tournament second-round game, won by Michigan State. This is a one-shot deal, though. There is no return for either team. The Hoyas continue to push scheduling in a new direction under John Thompson III. Georgetown will open the season against Oregon at Camp Humphreys outside of Seoul, South Korea, in the Armed Forces Classic. Georgetown then goes to Puerto Rico for arguably the best neutral-site tournament with Michigan, VCU, Florida State and Kansas State. The Hoyas also go to Kansas, a legitimate top five team.

2. Thompson III said it's unknown when Greg Whittington will return from an ACL injury. The Hoyas are under the assumption he won't play this season, but no one is ruling out that he could return at some point. "Some people come back in six months, some take a year," said Thompson III. "You have to figure, though, nine months if everything goes well." Whittington had to sit the second semester due to academics. But there are no longer issues with his eligibility, according to JT3.

3. ESPN and the ACC and Big 12 released the new Big Monday schedule for next season. With the Big East now on Fox Sports 1, the ACC was the natural replacement. But the influx of former Big East teams into the ACC will make some nights look like the traditional Big East Big Monday. Four of the eight games include a former Big East member. And one game, Notre Dame at Syracuse on Feb. 3, is a former Big East game. Virginia got three dates, including the first two. The Cavs should be an ACC top four contender with Joe Harris and Mike Tobey. But this was clearly a sign of respect by getting the Cavaliers that many high-profile games. It will be interesting to hear how the ACC coaches deal with what the Big East coaches dealt with for years -- the dreaded Saturday-Monday turnaround. The Jan. 27 Duke at Pitt game should go down as one of the best atmospheres at the Petersen Events Center. And the Syracuse at Maryland game on Feb. 24 is quite a swan song for the departing ACC member. But this game could resurface in future years as part of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Putting Kansas and Oklahoma State on four times and Baylor twice was the right amount for the top three Big 12 contenders.

3-point shot: Howland over Altman

March, 15, 2013
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1. Oregon's Dana Altman got the Pac-12 coach-of-the-year award, but the honor should have gone to UCLA's Ben Howland. Howland has done his best coaching job since he has been at UCLA -- and that includes the three consecutive Final Four runs. Consider this: UCLA won the Pac-12 outright despite losing two rotation players, had to deal with eligibility and injury issues with Shabazz Muhammad and pieced together a team that had a mix of transfers and freshmen to win the conference. Howland was able to get Larry Drew II to play to his potential in his last season in college. Howland had to alter the way he coached. And he did all of this under the pressure and scrutiny that accompanied a perception that his job was in jeopardy. The Bruins had their moments of hard-to-fathom losses like Cal Poly early and at Washington State late -- but they still found a way to win the conference and are a real threat to make a run in March.

2. The reason the new Big East might not start out with 12 schools in the fall instead of 10 is the lack of consensus among the seven schools forming the new league. The best-case scenario would be for the new Big East to start fresh with a dozen. But if there isn't agreement on the schools beyond 10, they will wait for another year. Butler and Xavier are the locks to get first invites, with a debate raging among different factions over Creighton and Dayton for No. 10. Saint Louis is the other school that could ultimately be in the group. Having a primarily basketball-driven conference isn't a new concept. It's called the Atlantic 10. Georgetown coach John Thompson III wasn't being sentimental about the end of the Big East on Thursday. He said the Big East isn't going anywhere and neither is the tournament. He's technically right.

3. Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips has to make a decision on the fate of coach Bill Carmody in the coming week. Carmody hasn't been able to get Northwestern in the NCAA tournament, but then no one has in Evanston. Carmody has had tremendously bad luck and is a well-respected coach for a reason. He has poured all his energy into trying to get the Wildcats into the NCAA tournament. Northwestern should be able to make a cameo every so often, like Stanford. The Wildcats are always going to be in a better position than most to earn quality wins due to the strength of the Big Ten, and probably just have to finish sixth to be in the chase for a bid. That will become more difficult with 14 teams, but still doable. If Northwestern were to go in another direction, I don't see how how Duke associate head coach Chris Collins, a native of the northern Chicago suburbs, doesn't get the first call. Carmody deserves a chance to state his case for what he has done to make the Wildcats competitive and what he can still achieve.
One man’s observations from another eventful Saturday afternoon of college basketball …

1. I don’t trust Florida anymore. Sometimes, the numbers lie. Sometimes, a team with dazzling stats fails to justify the analytic mechanisms that elevate it. That could be the case with Florida. The BPI, the RPI, Ken Pomeroy and Sagarin all love the Gators. Per the film, however, I see problems. The same Florida team that amassed a plus-18.8-points-per-game scoring margin in SEC play entering Saturday’s 61-57 loss at Kentucky (more on that soon) and crushed Marquette and Wisconsin in November has suffered four road losses in February alone. The Gators were outplayed by Arizona and Kansas State off campus in the nonconference portion of their schedule. Sure, they’ve spent of a chunk of the season punching teams in the mouth, but they’re 0-5 in games decided by six points or fewer and haven't beaten a single top-50 RPI team in a road game. And we really haven’t seen that dominant version of Florida, which began SEC play with historic margins of victory, in a month. Who are the Gators now? Well, the final minutes of the Kentucky loss told their story. They’re balanced and talented, but they fumbled in the last stretch of that loss because they couldn’t find that catalyst, that Ben McLemore/Marcus Smart/Doug McDermott/Trey Burke, to lead them beyond the funk that ruined the moment. They did not score in the last seven-plus minutes of the second half. They were the veterans, but they played like freshmen. It’s tough to believe in this program’s postseason potential when it continues to suffer road losses against hungry SEC opponents that don’t match them on paper. Guess what they’ll have to do to advance in the NCAA tournament? Beat hungry underdogs outside Gainesville. Yes, Kentucky re-entered the bubble convo with this win, but Florida did little to prove that it’s worthy of its statistical hype. Again.

2. Marcus Smart and the national/Big 12 POY conversation. Listen, I think Trey Burke deserves national player of the year, but I might change my mind if Victor Oladipo outplays him tomorrow. Here’s the general Burke argument -- and it’s a convincing one -- that circulates within college basketball media circles: “If you take him off that team, there’s no way they’re top 10 and competing for a Big Ten title.” And that’s accurate. I can’t argue against that. Here’s another one to consider: “If you take Marcus Smart off Oklahoma State’s roster, you probably have the team that finished 7-11 in league play last season and not the 13-5 team that’s competed for the Big 12 title in 2012-13.” Smart is the Big 12 player of the year. I like McLemore, Jeff Withey and Rodney McGruder, but Smart deserves the honor following his performance (21 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals) in Saturday’s 76-70 win over Kansas State, a victory that jeopardized the Wildcats’ hopes of winning a Big 12 title. He should be a legit candidate for national POY, too.

3. The sad conclusion to Georgetown-Syracuse. Following his team’s 61-39 loss at Georgetown on Saturday, Jim Boeheim told reporters, “I’m pretty much ready to go play golf someplace. If I was 40 years old, I would be real upset. I’m not 40 years old. That should be obvious.” That comment and his team’s lackluster finish to the regular season (1-4 in its last five) will continue to fuel the retirement speculation that’s surrounded Boeheim for years. John Thompson III might have won national coach of the year honors with his team’s Big East title-sealing win. But the lopsided effort -- the Hoyas’ largest margin of victory against Syracuse since 1985 -- offered a melancholy ending to this classic rivalry. Georgetown will join the Catholic 7, and Syracuse will move to the ACC next season. The two may reconnect in the future, but their battles won’t be regulated by league affiliation. So this could be the end, and as a college basketball fan, I wanted to see drama, overtime, controversy in the final seconds, a buzzer-beater, a comeback … something. This rivalry deserved that. Instead, we were treated to the sight of one impressive squad smashing an opponent that failed to show up for the conclusion of this storied series.

4. Marquette wins its most crucial bizarre game of the year. The Golden Eagles love the theatrics that tend to define college basketball in March. Their 69-67 win at St. John’s was their fourth overtime game of the season in Big East competition. It was their third conference win by three points or less. Marquette hasn’t forged the prettiest path to the Big East title, but it earned a share of the crown with another gritty victory Saturday. St. John’s launched an impressive comeback in the final minutes that sent the game into overtime. Buzz Williams just smiled as his team prepared for the extra period; he’d been in that position multiple times this season, so his squad didn’t panic. With the game on the line, Vander Blue drove into the lane and beat the buzzer with the layup. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. This is what Marquette does. A team that was picked to finish in the middle of the standings earned a share of the Big East title. Wow. The Golden Eagles are clearly tough enough to make noise in the NCAA tourney, too.

[+] EnlargeJim Crews
AP Photo/Bill BoyceJim Crews guided a hurting Saint Louis squad to a share of the Atlantic 10 regular-season title.
5. Jim Crews for national coach of the year. Last season, I covered Saint Louis’ NCAA tournament appearance in Columbus, Ohio. Once Rick Majerus left the podium for a pregame media session, it took him 30 minutes to re-join his team. Fans wanted to talk to him. Other coaches wanted to talk to him. Friends wanted to talk to him. Reporters wanted to talk to him. He was an icon for that program and the entire sport. So when he took an indefinite leave of absence from the team in the months prior to his death in December, the Billikens had lost so much more than a coach. Sure, they had promise, but Crews didn’t have an easy task on his plate. He had to gain the trust of this talented group (he was an assistant in 2011-12) as it prepared for a battle in an Atlantic 10 beefed up by the additions of Virginia Commonwealth and Butler. He didn’t have one of his key players (Kwamain Mitchell injured his foot last fall) for the first two months of the season. But Crews overcame those obstacles. On Saturday, the Billikens secured a share of the conference crown with a 78-54 victory over La Salle. They’ve won 12 of their past 13. Their balance, defense (22nd in adjusted defensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy) and experience could lead to a deep run in March. Sounds like a national coach of the year effort to me.

6. Meet Derrick Marks. In the final seconds of a 69-65 win that might have pushed his Boise State squad into the field of 68, Marks made a split-second decision to contest Xavier Thames' layup with 21 seconds to go. If Thames had made that shot, the Aztecs would have cut Boise State’s lead to one point. But Marks made plays like that all afternoon. The sophomore guard is just one of the reasons that the Broncos could win a game or two in the NCAA tourney -- I’m putting them in the field, although I’m not so sure about San Diego State anymore. Leon Rice’s program is healthy now (eight guys earned minutes against the Aztecs). The Broncos possess an offense that’s ranked 24th in adjusted offensive efficiency per Pomeroy, and they’ve won five of their past six games. Watch out for the Broncos in the coming weeks. Huge victory for that team.

7. Get ready for drama in Nashville. Next week, the SEC tournament will take place in Nashville. This league is packed with bubble squads, and I think that will add to the drama in what could be the most exciting conference tournament of them all. Proof? On Saturday, Alabama beat Georgia on a half-court buzzer-beater, Tennessee overcame a late deficit to secure a key win over Missouri and Kentucky kept its NCAA tournament dreams alive with a victory over Florida. The chaos will continue in Nashville.

8. Florida Gulf Coast becomes first team to dance. The Eagles earned the field’s first automatic NCAA tournament berth with an 88-75 victory over Mercer in the Atlantic Sun tourney championship. This is an Eagles squad that finished 8-10 (tied for sixth) in the conference last season, but their first victory of the 2012-13 season came against a top-10-bound Miami team. Kudos to Andy Enfield’s program.

9. Creighton-Wichita State III. The two Missouri Valley Conference power players split their season series this season. Despite their respective struggles, they were still the league’s top two programs. Their most recent matchup, which the Bluejays won, determined the regular-season champion. Creighton’s 64-43 victory over Indiana State and Wichita State’s 66-51 win over Illinois State in Saturday’s semifinals of the MVC tournament guaranteed a third matchup between the league’s top two teams in Sunday afternoon’s final.

10. Louisville makes statement without five overtimes. So the rematch between Louisville and Notre Dame didn’t match the hoopla of the first game. We didn’t get five overtimes. We didn’t even see one. But the Cardinals continued to support the notion that they’re going to be a very dangerous program in the NCAA tournament with a 73-57 victory over Notre Dame. It was the seventh consecutive victory for a team that’s ranked first in adjusted defensive efficiency, per Pomeroy. As a team, the Cardinals shot 51 percent from the floor against the Fighting Irish, and Gorgui Dieng registered 20 points (8-11 FG) and 11 rebounds. The Cards are playing like a Final Four team.

O'Neil: Thompsons get last laugh

March, 9, 2013
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WASHINGTON D.C. -- The two bookends sat in the front and back of the room, one tucked behind the television cameras, the other before them.

It's been that way for some time for John Thompson Jr. and John Thompson III, though the roles have reversed over the years. The son used to hang in the background, the little kid watching his dad at work.

Now it's his father in the shadows, propped on a table, while his son prowls the sidelines and later talks into the microphone to earn his paycheck. Except there is and always been an inherent difference between the two.

No one puts John Thompson Jr. in a corner.

"He's calm, more like his mother,'' Thompson the elder said of his son. "I let you know how I'm feeling.''

And so on this day where history, tradition, realignment and championships hit the intersection of past, present and future college sports, Thompson Jr. was the one not only able, but willing, to speak the truth.

While John Thompson III tried to explain what Georgetown's 61-39 win over Syracuse -- the last conference game in the storied rivalry between the two teams, the victory that clinched at least a share of the Big East regular-season title and a top seed in the Big East tournament -- meant with polite deference, his father interrupted from his back corner seat at the press conference.

"Kiss Syracuse goodbye,'' Thompson Jr. said.

After the chuckles died down, he deadpanned, "Oh, excuse me."

For Dana O'Neil's full column, click here.

Video: Thompson on Georgetown's win

March, 9, 2013
3/09/13
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Coach John Thompson III talks about Georgetown's victory over Syracuse and the end of the Big East Conference rivalry.
PHILADELPHIA -- Jay Wright was sitting at J.D. McGillicuddy’s doing his radio show Monday night when the Villanova coach glanced up at one of the television screens in the restaurant.

He looked right in time to see the most popular graphic of the season -- Joe Lunardi’s updated Bracketology information.

"It said we were in," Wright said. "I was like, ‘We’re in? Really?'"

That was then.

This is now.

It’s time to stop worrying about popping bubbles and instead pop the champagne on the Main Line.

Villanova is in the NCAA tournament.

No, I am not Mike Bobinski, nor did I stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, but I feel fairly confident speaking on behalf of the NCAA tournament selection committee chair on this one.

Barring something apocalyptic (and if the apocalypse can happen in any college basketball season, I suppose it would be this one), Villanova is in the NCAA tournament.

How could it be otherwise for the Wildcats?

Villanova beat Georgetown on Wednesday night 67-57, stopping one of the hottest teams in the country in its tracks. Depending on your point of view, Villanova may or may not have gotten a little assistance from a favorable whistle (42 free throws attempted to eight) -- "I’ll keep my issues to myself," Hoyas coach John Thompson III said when asked -- but the Wildcats won, and at this time of year, that’s all that matters.

[+] EnlargeJayVaughn Pinkston
Howard Smith/USA TODAY SportsJayVaughn Pinkston's game-high 20 points led Villanova to its third win over a top-five team.
The victory over the No. 5 Hoyas gives Villanova three W's against top-five teams and makes it 4-1 against teams in the Top 25. The Wildcats finish the regular season 10-8 in the Big East, 19-12 overall.

That is an NCAA tournament résumé.

Kentucky, Ole Miss, Southern Miss and Alabama, the crop of first-four-out teams that would be chasing the Wildcats, can’t say that. Of that quartet, in fact, none has a single win against a team with an RPI of 25 or better.

"You know what, I would think so," Wright said with surprising candor when asked if he thought Villanova was in. "… We’ve got 10 wins in this league and some of those wins are high-caliber wins. Even the losses, like Providence, that’s supposed to be a bad loss, but they’re going to win 10 games in this league so that’s not a bad loss. I like where we are right now. I think we’re in a good spot."

Yes, there are blemishes, but let he among the bubble dwellers who does not have a blemish cast the first stone.

To Villanova’s Columbia loss, Virginia offers Boston College and losses to three teams from the dreadful Colonial Athletic Association. To the Wildcats’ ill-timed defeat at the hands of Seton Hall, Tennessee gives you Georgia.

The fact is, there’s a lot of ugly out there, but the Wildcats have enough good to counter it.

As for Georgetown, this isn’t exactly a deal-breaker. Figuring out who is a No. 1 seed is as difficult as figuring out who the No. 1 team is. The Hoyas' grip on a top seed is slipping, but not entirely through their fingers. Not yet, anyway, with Syracuse still on tap Saturday to finish out the regular season.

Thompson, though, wasn’t too interested in tourney talk or fretting. Blessed with the luxury of knowing his team is in, he was more concerned about a more immediate prize -- the Big East regular-season title.

The Hoyas, once in control, now drop into a tie with Louisville and Marquette at 13-4 in the league.

"We needed this game also," said Thompson, whose team fell to 23-5 as its 11-game win streak came to a crashing halt. "We’re trying to win a championship and that’s just as important. We felt like we were just as desperate."

At this time of year, though, there is desperate, and then there is last-chance desperate. Villanova was last-chance desperate.

When the Wildcats lost to Columbia -- and not just lost, they lost by 18 -- Wright called it plainly.

"We were bad," he said.

The unhappy hecklers in and around Philly found their voices, frustrated with what looked like yet another Villanova season gone south.

Administratively, Wright was never on the hot seat; publicly, he was not exactly the golden child he once was.

But this team is the sort that Wright likes. The players are blue-collar and hard workers, grit sprinkled in with their talent. The Wildcats got better steadily, if not consistently and overwhelmingly.

That said, they still threatened more than once to be their own worst enemy. Villanova followed its unbelievable week of beating Syracuse and Louisville (putting Nova in the tournament) with back-to-back losses to Notre Dame and Providence (out).

Two weeks later, the Wildcats regrouped again, stringing together three consecutive victories, including one against Marquette (in), before losing not only to Seton Hall and Pittsburgh, but losing games they should have won (bubble at best).

"You can’t say don’t look at it or don’t pay attention to it because it’s everywhere," Wright said of the tourney talk. "They’re going to see it. After we lost to Marquette and Pittsburgh, they all heard people saying, ‘Oh you’re out,’ so we just tell them to control what they can control."

Turns out Villanova actually controlled its destiny, too.

3-point shot: Hold Emmert accountable

February, 19, 2013
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1. Miami president Donna Shalala is right. Leave the university alone at this point and let the self-imposed sanctions on the football team and the individual hits to the basketball players stand as punishment from the case. The NCAA case is already tainted by the admission of wrongdoing by the enforcement staff in soliciting information by paying the attorney who was representing the key accuser in the case. The NCAA has lost all its credibility on this case, and for that matter in enforcement, now that at least three members of the staff have been fired over the past year. NCAA president Mark Emmert called the episode embarrassing but stopped short of saying he should be personally responsible for what occurred under his watch. He said if the board of directors wanted to discipline him then they will. Well, they should. He has failed to lead whether he has a say or not, the NCAA membership has lost faith in the organizational headquarters. The breakup of conferences is done by presidents and conference commissioners but Emmert has also been rendered useless in trying to stop or mediate any of it from occurring. The Miami mess occurred under his watch. He owns it. And if the board of directors cares about the perception of the office then he should be held accountable.

2. Georgetown coach John Thompson III and Maryland coach Mark Turgeon both said there is a chance the Georgetown-Maryland series will resume in the future during our ESPNU college basketball podcast Monday. They stopped short of going further, indicating this could be in the works in some form. Of course, the issue of when and where to play the game will have to be cleared. The best solution probably would be a straight home-and-home series since putting the game in the Verizon Center and splitting the tickets may not work for Maryland considering it is still Georgetown’s home court. If this ever happens it could become the Beltway's version of Xavier-Cincinnati.

3. I would love to see four of the top five in the AP poll make it to Atlanta. Having Indiana, Miami, Gonzaga, Michigan State or Florida would provide plenty of terrific storylines, history -- mostly modern -- and drama. I’m also pleased to see the respect growing for teams outside the "power six" in the polls that will factor in March: Butler (15), New Mexico (16), Memphis (21), Colorado State (22), VCU (24) and teams nearly in the poll in Saint Louis, Louisiana Tech and a bit further away in Akron and Middle Tennessee State.

Podcast: JT3 and Turgeon talk latest wins

February, 18, 2013
2/18/13
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Andy Katz and Seth Greenberg discuss Cal coach Mike Montgomery pushing a player and talk to Georgetown head coach John Thompson III and Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon.

How far will Porter lead Georgetown?

February, 11, 2013
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Otto PorterEvan Habeeb/USA TODAY SportsBehind Otto Porter's strong play the Hoyas have lost only once in their past nine games.
WASHINGTON D.C. -- The play, done with authority and even a bit of panache, was so pretty, so well executed that even the usually stoic Markel Starks couldn't help himself.

He just had to dance.

"I’m not saying I’m a guy who plays on emotion, but it’s kind of like dancing," Starks said. "Sometime you just get into it."

This, then, is what Otto Porter can do -- he can inspire an on-court wallflower to jig.

The bigger question: What can Porter do for Georgetown?

With their 63-55 win over Marquette on Monday night, the Hoyas have now won six in a row and eight of their past nine -- the lone hiccup an inexplicably out-of-place loss to South Florida -- and stand a half-game behind Big East-leading Syracuse.

In theory and on paper, the Orange and Louisville are still the favorites to win this league.

But if you’ve been paying even a little attention this season, you know theories written on paper tend to fly out the window without much of a breeze.

So in a wide-open season and a fairly close league, are the Hoyas a team waiting in the Big East weeds?

Perhaps. It’s really up to Porter.

Georgetown is not going to overwhelm anyone with its offense. In Big East play, the Hoyas have topped the 70-point threshold twice -- against Seton Hall and Providence, and that probably shouldn’t really count.

Georgetown is built on its defense, which is more suffocating than swarming. The Hoyas forced 19 turnovers against Marquette, but as many were unforced yips as coerced errors. Truth be told this wasn’t their finest effort. They allowed the Golden Eagles to shoot 43 percent for the game, well above the 36 percent they typically give up.

"We have to tighten some things up a little bit," John Thompson III said.

Even if Georgetown ratchets up tension, and even in this offensively offensive season, teams do still have to score a few buckets to win games.

That's where Porter comes in.

He doesn’t have a nickname. His game is more methodical and surgical than reckless or Russdiculous. He ranks as his team’s leading scorer, but not by an overwhelming fashion -- 15.2 points per game to Starks' 12.3.

His numbers are staggeringly consistent if not wildly overwhelming. He shoots 51 percent from the floor, he’s scored double figures in all but two full games this season (he left early against Duquesne with a concussion).

He’s unfailingly polite, if a slightly boring quote (although there’s a very good chance Thompson offers clinics on that). He might not win Big East Player of the Year, yet he might very well be the best player in the Big East.

Yet because he lacks flair and because his game is more reliable than flashy, he flies under the radar nationally and even in his own conference.

“Why? Because you guys don’t talk about him," Thompson said. “He’s one of the best players in the country and he’s consistently shown that. He takes pride in and excels at every aspect of the game. He’s not just thinking about my touches or my shots, and all of it is under the umbrella of how to put the team in the best position to win.

“Winning is important to him and because winning is important, he understands that getting that deflection is important. He understands that communication on defense is important and that going after rebounds is important."

For Georgetown to become more than a Big East threat or March tease, Porter has to be all that and more. The little things always matter, but the big ones do, too.

It’s not that he needs to single-handedly carry the Hoyas -- Starks is good enough to share a good deal of the load -- but the Hoyas have a slim margin for error and an even thinner bench. Without Greg Whittington, they essentially go six deep.

So it’s up to Porter to be the guy, even if he doesn’t necessarily care if he is the guy.

Asked if he was offended that people didn’t talk about him much, he smiled and said, "No. Not at all."

Which is fine. People don’t need to talk about him.

Porter just needs to play so well he makes them want to dance.

Saddle Up: Can Kansas figure it out?

February, 11, 2013
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Saddle Up is our semi-daily preview of the night's best basketball action. It was really weirded out by Taylor Swift.

No. 24 Marquette at No. 20 Georgetown, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

This wasn't supposed to be a vintage year in the Big East. Vintage, in this usage, is basically synonymous with "brutal"; it harkens to 2009, when the league dominated the landscape for months, staged an utterly awesome Big East tournament, and placed three No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament bracket. This wasn't supposed to be that year. This year, the Big East was supposed to be tame.

In some ways, that's true; this league isn't going to be placing three teams on the top seed line come mid-March, that's for sure. But in other ways, the Big East has been much better than anyone expected. Alongside Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, Marquette and Georgetown are the reasons why.

This is primarily because while both teams lost veterans, they've both managed to stay not only relevant but dangerous. Georgetown waved farewell to brilliant passer Henry Sims and fellow senior Jason Clark; Marquette bid adieu to not one but two Big East player of the year candidates in Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom. Both teams were expected to fall off, at least slightly. Instead, both are in the Top 25, and both are playing the type of high-quality basketball that should provide for a fascinating game tonight.

That's because that basketball poses a battle of strengths. Marquette is an offensive team. The Golden Eagles aren't as fast as they were a year ago, but they're playing the most efficient offense in the Big East to date, making 52 percent of their 2s and scoring 1.09 points per trip. Center Davante Gardner in particular has been a revelation. The spread-perimeter offense of a year ago has been rebuilt around the big fella. Georgetown, meanwhile, has frequently played some of the ugliest offense you'll ever see, but they back it up with the type of stifling athletic D that keeps them in games all the season. Forward Otto Porter might be the ideal Georgetown player under John Thompson III; he does everything well.

Whatever the outcome, it is important to recognize that these teams, along with a still-underrated Pitt and a steady Cincinnati have formed a really nice second-tier group in the putatively "down" Big East. It's not all about Louisville and Syracuse anymore.

No. 13 Kansas State at No. 5 Kansas, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN

I am not a grizzled veteran of this college hoops writing game. I am actually still kind of young, to the point where there has never been a point in my career wherein I didn't, at least on some level, take Bill Self's Kansas teams for granted.

Last year was the real wake-up call: That's when Self coached his eighth straight KU team to at least a share of the Big 12 title, a streak unmatched not only in other "power six" conferences but in every other college hoops league full stop. The Big 12 is a good league! It has had a lot of pros -- Kevin Durant, Michael Beasley, Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge, Acie Law, Tristan Thompson, James Anderson, Tony Allen, D.J Augustin -- stop by during Self's tenure. And every year Self has won.

That's why it has been so baffling to see these current Jayhawks struggle so mightily. Let's keep it in perspective. In this case, struggling mightily means losing three games in a row, one of which came to a good team at home, one of which came to a good team on the road, while the one in the middle, the loss at TCU, was the product of the worst offensive performance in the history of Kansas basketball. (With the possible exception of Dr. James Naismith's early games against the Topeka YMCA, according to Self's hilarious postgame news conference). Most coaches at most programs see three losses as the occasional unfortunate cost of doing business. At Kansas under Self, three straight losses is cause for a full-fledged existential meltdown.

Is it really that bad? I actually don't think so. Yes, the Jayhawks have had their struggles on the offensive end, and senior guard Elijah Johnson is in a major shooting slump, one that seems to have caused a crisis of confidence. But as SI's Luke Winn pointed out last week, Johnson always slumps this time of year before turning it on in the spring. He'll probably be fine. The offense was atrocious when it played against Kansas State in January, but that felt like more of an aberration than anything else.

If anything, the biggest cause for concern is on the defensive end. The Jayhawks scored 1.11 PPP against Oklahoma State and 1.0 against Oklahoma; they allowed 1.18 to the Cowboys and 1.09 to the Sooners. That's the bigger problem. The Kansas defense is always been its biggest strength this season, and if it suddenly becomes porous for any reason, the Jayhawks suddenly become -- gasp -- vulnerable.

That's why you can't consider a win at Allen Fieldhouse automatic against Kansas State. The Wildcats defend and rebound and grind with the best of them, but in Big 12 play they've actually been the league's best offense, scoring 1.09 points per trip. Bruce Weber goes deep into his bench and spreads minutes around, and all the pieces -- Angel Rodriguez's perimeter ballhandling, Rodney McGruder's scoring, Thomas Gipson and Jordan Henriquez's interior strength -- fit together. You watch K-State play long enough and you start to think of them as a strictly defensive team, but they can really score. And if Kansas wants to avoid a fourth straight loss, and a real statewide freakout, it will have to stop that offense Monday night.

It's going to be a good one.

Elsewhere: I wonder if TCU and Oklahoma are going to get together before the game and swap stories about beating Kansas. Maybe they can make a burn book or something. … The CAA and MAAC are in action, but the real team to keep an eye on is Weber State. Even with former point guard Damian Lillard tearing it up for the Portland Trail Blazers, Weber State is actually better. Does the Ewing Theory apply to the NBA draft?

Observations from Saturday afternoon

February, 9, 2013
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Kansas coach Bill Self was in the postgame handshake line after his team’s 72-66 loss to Oklahoma when he looked up and saw hundreds of students rushing the Lloyd Noble Center court.

His lips didn’t move, but as he tilted back his head and rolled his eyes, it was obvious what Self must’ve been thinking.

“Are you serious?”

A victory over Kansas hardly seems like a big deal these days -- or at least not monumental enough for a court-storming. Saturday’s setback against the Sooners marked the third consecutive loss for the Jayhawks. And it came just three days after a defeat against last-place TCU that some are calling one of the biggest upsets in decades.

KU certainly played better Saturday than it did against the Horned Frogs, but this is still a team that looks mentally frazzled and out of sorts, which is almost unthinkable for a Self-coached team. Point guard Elijah Johnson missed a pair of easy layups in the waning minutes, and small forward Travis Releford shot a 3-pointer that barely nicked the front of the rim.

Even worse was that a KU squad known for its defense allowed a good-but-not-great Oklahoma team to shoot 45 percent from the field. Because of it the Jayhawks -- who have won eight straight Big 12 titles -- are now toting three losses in a row for the first time since 2005.

[+] EnlargeGeron Johnson
Chuck Cook/USA TODAY SportsGeron Johnson's 25 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists led Memphis to its 14th win in a row.
Things won’t get any easier for Kansas on Monday, when No. 13 Kansas State visits Allen Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks defeated the Wildcats 59-55 in Manhattan on Jan. 22, but the two programs have gone in opposite directions since then.

Here are a few other observations from Saturday’s afternoon games:

1. It might be time to consider putting Memphis back in the top 25. Josh Pastner’s squad picked up a huge victory Saturday by defeating Southern Miss on the road 89-76. The Golden Eagles are considered the second-best team in Conference USA behind Memphis, which hasn’t lost since falling to Louisville on Dec. 15.

The Tigers are 20-3 overall and 9-0 in Conference USA. I realize Memphis doesn’t have a ton of quality wins. But Pastner can’t control what league his team is in -- and at least the Tigers haven’t lost games they’re not supposed to lose, like seemingly every other team in the country. There’s something to be said for avoiding upsets, especially when everyone is gunning for you as the top team in your conference. Memphis’ only three losses are to Minnesota, VCU and Louisville. The Tigers host the conference’s other top team (UCF) on Wednesday.

2. The teams that pulled the two biggest upsets in the country this week didn’t exactly capitalize on the momentum. Arkansas, which whipped No. 2 Florida 80-69 on Tuesday, got embarrassed at Vanderbilt, 67-49. Three days after toppling Kansas, TCU was back to its old ways in a 63-50 home loss to West Virginia.

3. Georgetown coach John Thompson III doesn’t get nearly enough credit. The Hoyas’ 69-63 victory over Rutgers marked their seventh win in their past eight games. Included in that stretch are wins against Notre Dame and Louisville and two victories over a red-hot St. John’s squad.

Each year, Georgetown seems to lose stars to the NBA draft or seasoned veterans to graduation. But Thompson always responds. He always has guys ready to step in. Heck, this Georgetown team lost its second-leading scorer and rebounder (Greg Whittington) to academics midway through the season -- and the Hoyas got better. The man is an excellent coach, plain and simple.

4. Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan needs to send Ben Brust a thank-you card -- or, at the very least, he could ease up on him during the next round of conditioning drills.

Brust’s desperation 3-pointer from just past half court forced overtime against No. 3 Michigan on Saturday, and the Badgers capitalized with a 65-62 win. Brust also saved Ryan from what would’ve been a slew of criticism for not fouling on the previous possession with the score tied. Michigan guard Tim Hardaway Jr. made the Badgers pay with a 3-pointer that made it 60-57 with less than three ticks remaining. Wisconsin had fouls to give. If the Badgers would’ve lost that game, Ryan would’ve been crucified.

But Brust saved his coach moments later with the heave that gave his team new life. Wisconsin has now won four of its past five games. Its past two victories have come in overtime. Another great stat: Wisconsin has won six of its past seven home games against top-five opponents. Amazing.

5. Texas point guard Myck Kabongo will take the court for the first time Wednesday after a 23-game suspension for illicit dealings with an agent. At this point I’m not sure Kabongo will make much of a difference for a Longhorns squad mired in its worst season in recent memory.

Rick Barnes’ team shot just 39 percent from the field in its 72-59 home loss to Oklahoma State and missed 17 of its 18 attempts from beyond the arc. Texas also went 12 of 21 from the foul stripe. Barnes has been questioning the Longhorns’ effort all season, and it will likely take more than the return of Kabongo -- who was mediocre as a freshman -- to get things right.

At 10-13 overall and 2-8 in the Big 12, Texas is almost certain to miss the NCAA tournament for the first time in Barnes’ 15 seasons.

6. Less than 48 hours after losing at Texas A&M, Missouri turned in its best performance of the season in a 98-79 victory over Ole Miss.

My initial reaction is, so what?

The Tigers have been winning home games all season. But they’ve looked like a completely different team on the road, where their lack of toughness and poor decision-making (particularly by point guard Phil Pressey) have been alarming. Losses at LSU and Texas A&M are flat out inexcusable considering the talent gap between Missouri and those two teams.

Still, I saw things Saturday that made me think the Tigers’ victory over Ole Miss was more than just another home win. Three players (Pressey, Alex Oriakhi and Keion Bell) scored 20 or more points, and Oriakhi had 18 rebounds against a Rebels squad that spanked Missouri less than a month ago in Oxford. Missouri had only nine turnovers and shot 47 percent from the field.

If Bell becomes a bigger contributor and if Pressey (only one turnover Saturday) turns the corner, we may look back on Saturday’s Ole Miss win as a pivotal moment in Missouri’s season. Frank Haith’s squad should be high on confidence after this one.

7. During his time at Kansas and North Carolina, Roy Williams has rarely had teams that built their reputation on defense. But the 2012-13 Tar Heels have been particularly bad on that end of the floor.

Miami shot 54.4 percent from the field in Saturday’s 87-61 victory and went 15 of 26 from 3-point range.

North Carolina has allowed an average of 79.6 points per game in its seven losses. In five of those games, the opponent scored more than 80 points. The Tar Heels need to get tougher.

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