College Basketball Nation: Kansas

BPI Talk: Duke is not a top-25 team

December, 17, 2013
The Duke Blue Devils came into the season as a preseason Final Four contender, but after losses to Kansas and Arizona and a one-point win over Vermont, the Blue Devils are ranked No. 31 in BPI.

Duke's BPI game score in its six-point loss against Arizona (ranked No. 4 in BPI) was higher than two of its wins (vs East Carolina, vs Vermont). Other than its wins over No. 40 Michigan and No. 63 Alabama, Duke doesn't have any other wins over teams ranked in the top 180.

Duke has the best adjusted offensive efficiency according to, but its adjusted defensive efficiency ranks 101st.

Is Wisconsin the best team in college basketball?

The Wisconsin Badgers rank No. 1 in BPI after starting 12-0 with five wins over top-50 BPI teams -- St. John's, Florida, Saint Louis, West Virginia and Virginia. Their five wins against top-50 teams are the most by any team. Kansas and Davidson are the only other teams that have even faced five top-50 teams.

Wisconsin has the 11th-most difficult schedule according to BPI. Seven of their 12 wins are against top-100 opponents and none of them are against teams outside the top 175.

The Badgers have been successful playing a slow pace (17th-fewest possessions per game). Two of their three worst BPI game scores this season have come in the two games in which they played at the fastest pace (at Green Bay, vs North Dakota).

Michigan State barely cracks the top 25

The Michigan State Spartans, previously ranked No. 1 in the AP Poll, come in at No. 24 in BPI. The Spartans only have one loss, but it was by far their worst BPI game score and it came against their second-best opponent (No. 23 North Carolina).

Why else is Michigan State's BPI lacking? The Spartans have five wins against teams ranked outside the BPI top 100. Three of those wins are by 15 points or fewer, including two by single digits, and one of the five wins is against No. 338 McNeese State. Also, they haven't played a single true road game yet.

Welcome to the top 10, Saint Mary's

The undefeated Saint Mary's Gaels are ranked No. 8 in BPI, and it's not due to any wins over top-notch opponents. The Gaels haven't faced a single top-50 team yet, but five of their eight wins came against top-100 opponents and six of their eight wins are by double digits.

Saint Mary's has performed well against top-100 teams, posting a BPI game score higher than 95 in four of those five wins.

Why isn't Pittsburgh ranked yet?

The Pittsburgh Panthers are ranked No. 9 in BPI but aren't in the top 25 in the AP Poll. The Panthers are 10-0 with each of those 10 wins coming by at least nine points and nine of the wins coming by at least 17 points.

Pitt doesn't have any top-50 wins, but the Panthers do have two wins against teams just outside the top 50 (No. 51 Penn State, No. 55 Stanford). Their three best BPI game scores came against their three best opponents -- Penn State, Stanford and Texas Tech (No. 110).

Pitt is one of seven teams ranked in the top 20 in both adjusted offensive efficiency and adjusted defensive efficiency according to, along with Louisville, Oklahoma State, Arizona, Wisconsin, Kansas and North Carolina.

BPI Rankings

Daily awards: Dunham leads the way

November, 21, 2012
Player of the Night (non-Jack Taylor edition) – Jeff Withey

Withey became just the fourth player in Big 12 history with 25 points and seven blocks in a game, as Kansas topped St. Louis 73-59. It’s been 10 years Colorado’s David Harrison became the last Big 12 player to pull it off. In his case, it was a triple-double. Before Harrison, both Chris Mihm and Kelvin Cato posted at least 25 points and seven blocks.

Freshman of the Night – Kellen Dunham

Dunham scored 14 of his 17 points in the second half as Butler held off a late rally to upset UNC 82-71 in Maui. In the span of less than five minutes, he connected on four 3-pointers to keep the Tar Heels at arm’s length. Dunham showed why his ESPN 100 recruiting profile called his shooting “akin to a master craftsman applying his trade.”

Strange Stat Line of the Night – Brian Barbour

Columbia stunned Villanova 75-57, to give the Lions their first win over a Big East opponent in 27 years. It came courtesy of a bizarre game from leading senior Brian Barbour. He sunk all 12 of his free throws, but went just 1-for-12 from the field. That included missing all eight of his 3s. The last player with an even more striking disparity between free throws and field goals was Vermont’s Tony Orciari in 2000. He went 0-for-10 from the field and 14-for-14 from the line in a game against Maine.

Stat Sheet Stuffer – Anthony Hickey

Hickey had something of a breakout game in LSU’s 102-95 win over Northwestern State. The sophomore guard finished with 21 points, seven rebounds, six assists and five steals. He’s the first SEC player to reach all of those numbers since Florida’s Corey Brewer in 2006. The last LSU player with a 20-5-5-5 game was Torris Bright in 2000.

Behind the box scores: Saturday's games

February, 12, 2012
A scan of the college basketball box scores each night guarantees all kinds of statistical oddities and standout performances. Here are some we found from Saturday.

Indiana State 78, Southern Illinois 68
Indiana State made all 12 of its 3-point attempts Saturday, the most 3-pointers without a miss in a single game in NCAA history. The previous record for most 3s without a miss was nine, done by Minnesota against Penn State on Jan. 11, 2009.

Lipscomb 99, Stetson 91 (OT)
Lipscomb scored 25 points in the extra session, one shy of the NCAA Division I record for points in an overtime period. The record of 26 was done by Vermont on Jan. 24, 1998, against Hartford.

Duke 73, Maryland 55
Duke’s Miles Plumlee had 22 rebounds in 28 minutes off the bench, the most rebounds by a bench player since Sean May had 24 against Duke on March 6, 2005 (May did not start that game because it was North Carolina’s Senior Day). Plumlee is the first player this season with at least 20 rebounds in fewer than 30 minutes of playing time.

Michigan State 58, Ohio State 48
Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger had 17 points, 16 rebounds and 10 turnovers in the Buckeyes’ loss Saturday. It’s the first "triple-double" using points, rebounds and turnovers in Division I this season. Jerrell Williams of La Salle had the last one on Jan. 19, 2011, against Duquesne.

Kansas 81, Oklahoma State 66
The Jayhawks’ Jeff Withey had 18 points, 20 rebounds and seven blocks in the win. He’s the first player to reach all three of those levels in the same game since VCU’s Larry Sanders put up the exact same line on March 9, 2009, in the CAA championship game against George Mason.

Texas 75, Kansas State 64
Texas attempted 48 free throws to Kansas State’s 12. That free throw differential of 36 is the largest in a game involving a Big Six team this season and the third-largest overall. Texas’ 48 free throw attempts are the second most by a Big Six team on the season (Washington attempted 59 on Jan. 10 against Seattle).

Texas Tech 65, Oklahoma 47
Oklahoma scored just six points in the paint, the fewest points in the paint in a game by a Big Six team this season.

St. Bonaventure 69, Duquesne 48
Florida Atlantic 86, North Texas 81 (2OT)
St. Bonaventure’s Andrew Nicholson scored 21 points and grabbed 23 rebounds in the Bonnies’ win, and North Texas’ Tony Mitchell scored 22 points and grabbed 20 rebounds in the Mean Green’s double-overtime loss. They became just the sixth and seventh players this season to record a 20-20 game. Nicholson’s 23 rebounds are the second most in a game this season, trailing only UAB's Cameron Moore, who had 24 on Dec. 28.

Seattle 100, Longwood 99 (OT)
Seattle’s Chad Rasmussen was 6-for-17 from the field in the Redhawks’ win, with all of his attempts coming from 3-point range. That is the most 3-pointers attempted in a game without attempting a 2-point field goal.

Arkansas-Pine Bluff 64, Southern 58
Trillion of the Night: Jamar Harris of Arkansas-Pine Bluff played 12 minutes without accumulating a single stat in his team’s 64-58 win over Southern.

Saddle Up: Five about Friday

March, 12, 2010
Saddle Up is our daily preview of the day's best basketball action. We're officially into that oh-so-awesome part of the season when a healthy portion of your daily hoops regimen will be happening, you know, during the day, necessitating Saddle Up's move to the morning. So let's do this.

Just like Wednesday and Thursday, let's open Friday with five themes to watch for as the conference tournaments heat up.

1. The Patriot League -- the L-ingest league in the world. Apparently, a precursor for success in the 2009-2010 Patriot League conference tournament involves a name that starts with the letter "L." Hey, I don't make the rules. I merely report them. But is there any other conclusion to draw from the Patriot League final, a matchup of No. 3 seed Lafayette and No. 1 seed Lehigh? With the exception of the various at-large bids being traded back and forth by sundry bubble teams, the Patriot League final is today's only surefire tournament bid producer, the lone automatic qualifier decided Friday. Thus far, this week's automatic qualifiers have almost uniformly survived down-to-the-wire games to get to the tournament. Let's hope the Patriot League finale is no different.

2. Don't know what I want, but I know how to get it. Anarchy in the Big East! Every top seed in the Big East tournament but West Virginia lost Thursday, which leaves us with the rather random pairings of Marquette-Georgetown and Notre Dame-West Virginia, and it's officially anyone's tournament. It's hard not to like West Virginia, which stumbled late against Cincinnati but hit a last-second Da'Sean Butler three to get past a suddenly pesky Cincinnati team. West Virginia is the most athletic team left in the bracket, and now has a clear opportunity to do what Butler said they were planning on doing when the Mountaineers finished their season-closing win at Villanova last Saturday -- win the Big East tournament and get a No. 1 seed in the NCAAs. Notre Dame is no simple matchup though; it will be interesting to see if West Virginia's length can disrupt a suddenly potent Irish offense.

3. Quick: Give me two words you hate to hear if you're either Ole Miss or a Wall Street banker. SEC and bubble. See what I did there? Really, though, the Ole Miss Fighting Admiral Ackbars had the best day of their season in a while yesterday. While other SEC teams (better ones, like Tennessee) duked it out in the first round of the tournament, geographically fortuitous Ole Miss sat back and watched the action unfold. By the end of the day, thanks to teams like Memphis and UAB helpfully losing, Mississippi was promoted into the NCAA tournament by one Mr. Joe Lunardi. Now comes the real work: Actually winning a game in the SEC tournament and holding on to that spot. The Rebels will face Tennessee today, and a win would bolster what to me looks like a pretty shaky tournament case. A loss? Say bye-bye.

4. Three cheers for chalk! Don't get me wrong -- I enjoy a good conference tournament upset as much as the next person who loves college basketball with a deep, burning, passionate, unquenchable love. But it's also nice to see the de facto best teams in a conference duke it out in that conference tournament's semifinals. That's what we've got in the Big 12 today, where No. 1 seed Kansas will take on No. 4 seed Texas A&M and No. 2 seed Kansas State gets No. 3 seed Baylor. Look out for the Bears here -- no team has inspired quite so many "I think this team is dangerous!" comments in our last two days of live-chatting, and the Bears' late-night win over Texas proved why. Baylor is deep, athletic, balanced and smart. They score. This tournament is still Kansas' to win, and unlike its Big East counterpart, there is no parity to discuss here. Just dominance at the top. Refreshing, huh?

5. You're watching the Mountain West tournament, right? Because you should be watching the Mountain West tournament. Unfortunately for those of us who don't live in America's most beautiful 1,000 square miles or so and thus don't get The Mtn., the Mountain West's take on the Big Ten Network, watching the early rounds of the Mountain West tournament has been a challenge. HOWEVA, if you have CBS College Sports -- which comes on a sports tier package with cable providers and DirecTV -- you can watch the rest of the tournament, as Mountain West games have switched over to the more available network. This is a good thing. Why? Because Jimmer Fredette is doing ridiculous things with the ball in his hand, for one. He scored 45 points in Thursday night's win over TCU. (That's almost half of his team's 95, by the way.) On the other side of the bracket, New Mexico and San Diego State will duke it out, the Aztecs with an NCAA tournament bid on the line. So, yeah, find a TV, and make sure that TV has plenty of channels.

Bonus thing, per the usual: In just a few minutes, I'll be chatting from 12 p.m. ET to 6 p.m., right here, same as Wednesday and Thursday. These chats are a great time. Be there.

Today's Big 12 tournament games

March, 11, 2010
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A few quick hitters before the quarterfinals Thursday:

Texas Tech vs. Kansas, 12:30 p.m. (ET): The Red Raiders had lost seven in a row before beating Colorado in the first round. Colorado had just put 101 points on the Red Raiders last Saturday in a win at Boulder. So clearly Pat Knight’s defensive message got through as the Red Raiders held the Buffaloes to 67 points. But can the Red Raiders pull off the upset of the week by beating top-ranked Kansas? Well, the last time they met, KU stomped on Tech by 26 points. This will be an interesting test for the Jayhawks. This is a game they should win by double figures. If the focus is there, KU should walk to the semifinals. I’d like to see how Sherron Collins steps up his leadership role with the postseason now at hand. I don’t see how the Red Raiders can keep the KU bigs, notably Cole Aldrich off the backboard.

Nebraska vs. Texas A&M, 3 p.m.: The Huskers pulled the stunner of the first day with a crushing win over Missouri. The Huskers ran with Missouri and sprinted past the Tigers. But will Nebraska be able to get out against Texas A&M? Would they want to do such a thing? The Aggies probably were prepping to face Mizzou in a high-octane affair. That won’t be the case now in what could be a grinder of a game. I’m not sure the Aggies would allow Nebraska to shoot over 50 percent the way it did against Missouri. I’m looking forward to seeing how Brandon Richardson and Ryan Anderson, who went off for the Huskers against Missouri get free against the Aggies. Donald Sloan and B.J. Holmes for the Aggies are two of the better guards in the conference and Bryan Davis’ ability to board will prove vital.

Oklahoma State vs. Kansas State, 7 p.m.: The Cowboys were able to easily beat Oklahoma with a mortal 11 points from James Anderson. OSU got quality production out of Keiton Page, who went for 24 points and Obi Muonelo’s 15. The Cowboys also made 11 3s. Oklahoma State was one of three teams to win at Kansas State during the season. So the Cowboys go into this game with a lot of confidence. The more intriguing storyline will be how K-State handles its role as a favored player in the field. Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente are coming off a disappointing home loss to Iowa State. There has to be some pride in play to get going on a high note heading into next week.

Texas vs. Baylor, 9:30 p.m.: This may be the best game of the quarterfinals. It pits two teams that when they play to their potential could be playing in the championship game Saturday night, or, at the very least, the second weekend in the NCAA tournament. Damion James went back to being an all-American in the win over Iowa State in the first round with a 28-point, 16-rebound performance. The Longhorns got key play from Gary Johnson, Avery Bradley and Jai Lucas. J’Covan Brown only played three minutes as Justin Mason got the start at the point. The best news for Texas was the high percentage of shooting from Dexter Pittman, finishing 7-of-9 with five boards. Baylor crushed Texas last Saturday 92-77. The key will be whether LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter can get free against the Longhorns, and who wins the tussles inside between Baylor's Ekpe Udoh and Quincy Acy and Texas' Pittman and Johnson. This should be an up-and-down affair at the Sprint Center.

Saturday's winners and losers

March, 7, 2010
Winners from Saturday

Notre Dame: The Irish gave the selection committee another reason to put them in the dance with yet another road win, this time with Luke Harangody and at Marquette -- a team in the tournament field. The Irish are earning their way into the field.

Duke: The Blue Devils likely earned the fourth No. 1 seed with a hammering of North Carolina on Saturday night. Duke also clinched a share of the ACC regular-season title. The Blue Devils passed the eye test of a team that could get to Indy.

Saint Louis: The Billikens won at Dayton, completing a season sweep of the Flyers and finishing in fourth place in the Atlantic 10. Rick Majerus has done an outstanding job with a club that is void of upperclassmen. The Billikens could be a sleeper to win the A-10 in Atlantic City next week.

Baylor: If you’re looking for a sleeper in the Big 12 tournament, it could be Baylor. The Bears ran away from Texas and looked like a team ready to get busy in the postseason.

Kansas: The Jayhawks may have locked up the No. 1 overall seed after winning at Missouri on Saturday. Kansas got inspired play from its key contributors and once again heads into the conference tournament on a high.

Louisville: The Cardinals had to win two of there games this week and did. Louisville beat Connecticut, then lost at Marquette before beating Syracuse on Saturday. That gave the Cardinals a sweep of Syracuse and a likely bid to the Dance in the final game at Freedom Hall.

Tennessee: The Vols did something Lane Kiffin couldn’t do, taking a 17-0 lead on the road in the SEC. Tennessee lit up Mississippi State and had the look of a team that could be a major factor in an SEC tournament that they'll play in their home state just a few hours away in Nashville.

Virginia Tech: The Hokies didn’t have their second-leading scorer in Dorenzo Hudson, survived a nasty moving screen by Gani Lawal on Malcolm Delaney and gutted out a win over Georgia Tech in Atlanta. The Hokies dismissed any doubt about their candidacy with a win.

Washington: The Huskies kept alive their chances of an at-large berth by winning at Oregon State. That win doesn’t get them in the dance, but a loss would have been crushing.

Arizona State: The Sun Devils are in Joe Lunardi’s bracket and they had to beat UCLA to stay in the field. They did, sweeping the L.A. schools this week. But here’s the deal: ASU and Washington are heading for a showdown in the semifinals of the Pac-10 tourney. Loser is out, winner has a pulse.

Memphis: The Tigers had a great week, winning at UAB and crushing Tulsa at home. The Tigers get the sweep of the Blazers. If you’re looking for a second C-USA team to go along with league champ UTEP, it could be the Tigers. They may get a third shot at UAB in the semifinals.

Maryland: The Terps won at Virginia. Yes, UVA was playing without Sylven Landesberg, who has been suspended for the season due to academics, but the Terps still won a road game. That means Maryland gets a share of the ACC title. That’s an outstanding accomplishment for this squad.

Pitt: The Panthers lost to Indiana early in the year without Jermaine Dixon and Gilbert Brown. Pitt could have lost to Providence at home, but when it mattered most the Panthers have come up huge. They beat Rutgers as expected Saturday but that meant Pitt got the No. 2 seed after beating West Virginia and Villanova at home in February. Jamie Dixon has done a phenomenal job with the Panthers. There is no reason Pitt should be No. 2 in the Big East with what it lost.

Losers from Saturday

Rhode Island: Had a shot to convince the selection committee that it was worthy, but lost at UMass a week after losing at St. Bonaventure. The Rams didn’t beat the top three teams in the A-10 (Xavier, Temple or Richmond). URI must win the conference tournament.

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs started a must-win game down 17-0. Mississippi State has blown two chances to win a key home game – to Kentucky and now Tennessee. The Bulldogs didn’t do anything Saturday to convince the selection committee.

Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets may still get into the field. But they gave the selection committee a reason to pause after losing at home to Virginia Tech, sans Dorenzo Hudson, who was hurt. The Yellow Jackets finished seventh in the ACC and had only one conference road win.

Connecticut: The Huskies had an awful week, losing at Notre Dame and then losing at South Florida on Saturday. The Huskies now probably have to get to the Big East semifinals to crawl back into the conversation.

Dayton: The Flyers were teetering on the bubble before the Billikens bulldozed the Flyers late and stole a win. Dayton now probably has to win the A-10 tournament to get a bid.

Villanova: The ‘Cats may have played themselves out of a No. 2 seed by losing at home to West Virginia. Villanova also fell to the No. 4 seed in the Big East tournament. ‘Nova can still make a magnificent run, but it made the journey more difficult.

Kansas State: The Wildcats lost their third home game in the Big 12 by falling to lower-level Iowa State (also lost to Kansas and Oklahoma State). The Wildcats blew a No. 2 seed with the home loss Saturday.

LaSalle: The Explorers were supposed to be a sleeper in the A-10. They won’t even make the tournament in Atlantic City. The Explorers will join winless Fordham in sitting out the conference tourney.

Oklahoma: The disaster season came to a conclusion with a sad effort against Texas A&M. The atmosphere was awful and the Sooners sunk.

North Carolina: The Tar Heels were handed the second-worst loss under Roy Williams. The Tar Heels were embarrassed by Duke and limp into the ACC tournament. It was just awful.

UAB: The Blazers had a huge week with games against UTEP and Memphis. They lost them both and pushed themselves onto the wrong side of the bubble.

Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane got hammered by Memphis and limp into hosting the conference tournament next week. Tulsa was the preseason favorite to win Conference USA.

A few nuggets:
  • Georgetown coach John Thompson III said late Saturday night that Austin Freeman felt fine after the game, his first since being diagnosed with diabetes. Freeman scored 24 points in the win over Cincinnati. Freeman missed the West Virginia game last Monday. Thompson told me that the Hoyas will continue to monitor Freeman’s blood-sugar level and don’t anticipate any problems going forward this season.
  • Notre Dame got Luke Harangody back for the win at Marquette. Harangody played 11 minutes off the bench. Irish coach Mike Brey told me late Saturday night that Harangody will continue to come off the bench this season. He said ‘Gody told him to use him however he wants to ensure the team wins. Brey said the Irish have become mentally tougher in the past few weeks. The Irish were 4-2 without Harangody, beating Pitt and Connecticut at home and winning at Georgetown.
  • KVAL-TV reported that Oregon coach Ernie Kent has been fired and that he was told on Feb. 22 by Oregon athletic director Mike Bellotti. No one will be surprised if this does occur, but Kent told me in a text late Saturday night that this is the same story he has heard the past four years. Meanwhile, Bellottti sent this statement out late Saturday night after Oregon’s win over Washington State: "Ernie and I have talked, and we will continue to talk through the Pac-10 Tournament."

Here's my latest attempt at video blogging, a hopefully shorter and less blabby version. Thanks to everyone who sent questions on Twitter, especially @MizzouHoops, @torymaynard, @WillBrinson and @RyanCorazza. And thanks to you for watching, for not making fun of my large cranium, and for leaving the feedback you are totally going to leave in the comments section right now. To have questions answered in future Twitter mailbags, hit me up here.
As always, follow me on Twitter to send me links and tips.

Video: Kansas wins Big 12 title

March, 3, 2010

No. 2 Kansas routs its rival, No. 5 Kansas State, 82-65 to win its sixth straight Big 12 title.
Jacob Pullen & Sherron CollinsIcon SMIJacob Pullen and Sherron Collins figure to play prominent roles in Wednesday night's showdown.
Saddle Up is our daily preview of the hoops your TV wants you to watch. The big nights are coming faster and more furious than at any point during the season -- I've barely recovered from Saturday -- and Wednesday night is no exception. Here's the rundown.

No. 5 Kansas State at No. 2 Kansas, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN360: This one doesn't need much by way of explanation. The in-state rivalry. The Big 12 title implications. The seeding possibilities. The two-point Kansas win at Bramlage on Jan. 30. A freaky Frank Martin. Sherron Collins' senior night. The packed Allen Fieldhouse crowd.

Yeah, It's safe to say this is going to be a big game. A very, very big game.

Martin's team can secure a shot -- an outside shot, but a shot -- at a share of the Big 12 title if it wins tonight, but that's probably less of a concern for K-State than A) Beating its hated, abusive basketball big brother on the brother's own floor in Collins' last home game and B) Making a case for a No. 1 NCAA tournament seed. A win would without question put Martin's team on the selection committee's top line. First, though, the Wildcats have to figure out a way to do what they do best -- get to the free throw line -- while preventing the Jayhawks from doing the same. Kansas State is one of the best teams in the country at getting to the line. This is the sort of offensive attribute (alongside great outside shooting from Jacob Pullen) that gives the Wildcats hope against anyone, including a Kansas defense designed to keep opponents out of the lane. In the first meeting, Kansas won the battle of the freebies. The Wildcats can't let that happen again.

Oh, and as you've probably noticed, no, tonight's game isn't being televised. It stinks, I know. But look at the bright side: You get to test out ESPN360. It's actually pretty awesome, so don't knock it until you try it. And no, I'm not just saying that because I work here. Promise. Though I would totally say that anyway. I'm completely shameless. Which brings me to my next point: If you can't watch the game, come here for our live chat from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. I'll be here, as will a bunch of your favorite college hoops heads, answering questions and live-blogging throughout the evening. Don't miss it.

No. 4 Duke at No. 23 Maryland, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN: Speaking of big games, well, ahem. This qualifies. It would mean as much in College Park even if the Terrapins didn't have so much riding on the game, for there is little hatred in the country -- in college basketball or elsewhere -- quite like the purely distilled brand Maryland fans brew for all things Duke. And anytime Greivis Vasquez gets this sort of spotlight, you can expect sparks to fly. It's going to be rowdy.

There are more than taunts on the line here, though. With a win, Gary Williams' team could pull even with Duke at 12-3 in the ACC with one game each left to play. It won't be easy. After occasional stumbles, most of them on the road, Duke has quietly morphed into the most efficient offense in the country, and the Devils are finally starting to play the sort of defense that anchored them in last year's campaign. After a 1-4 start on the road, Duke has won its last four away from Cameron. Maryland's is no easy task. But the Terps have been underrated all year, though, and tonight is the perfect opportunity to showcase -- to the tournament committee, especially -- just how far perception lags behind reality.

Everywhere else: While you're futzing around with your laptop -- and totally chatting with us, remember! -- Connecticut and Notre Dame will be slugging it out on ESPN for a spot in the NCAA tournament. Neither team is guaranteed a berth, but both teams can nary afford a loss, and both teams would surely benefit from the win. ... Kentucky will face a test at Georgia, where the pesky Bulldogs have taken down Vanderbilt, Florida, Georgia Tech and Illinois this season. ... Indiana travels to No. 6 Purdue, which should be a nice break from the post-Robbie Hummel meat-grinder Purdue is facing these days. ... Memphis and UAB will duel for bubble considerations. ... Oklahoma State at Texas A&M is an interesting battle between two tourney-worthy Big 12 squads. ... A-10 leader Temple will visit a St. Louis team that has streaked into the tourney-sphere in the last half of the season. ... The fading Demon Deacons have another battle on their hands at Florida State tonight. ... and lowly Fordham, the last team in Division I without a conference win to its name, will try to get that first win over Xavier tonight.
March is an awesome month. The weather in my adopted town has a lot to do with this; in many ways, March 1 is a huge mental marker for the imminent return of days when you don't have to encase your body in 30 pounds of Gore-Tex just to step outside the house. But forget the weather: March is really awesome for the basketball it promises -- the final week of conference play, the 31 conference tourneys, and the rapturous glory that is the NCAA tournament. Welcome, one and all. The next 30 days are going to rule.

To celebrate, how about some links? OK then:
  • Hoyas fans are none too pleased with the effort Georgetown gave in Saturday's not-really-all-that-competitive loss to Notre Dame, a loss that will likely hurt Georgetown's seed and has put Notre Dame right back in the bubble conversation.
  • Georgetown's shame had a lot to do with the suddenly off-the-charts play of Ben Hansbrough, who, yes, is Tyler Hansbrough's brother and who, yes, heard plenty about being Tyler Hansbrough's brother throughout his first season for the Irish. Hansbrough doesn't have the sheer talent or raw strength of his older sibling, but on Saturday he displayed several of those vaunted Hansbrough-y qualities: basketball intelligence, will, and boundless energy. Oh, and it helps that he can stroke the outside shot; that's at least one thing Tyler never quite mastered.
  • If you were a Kansas fan, would you be upset about Saturday's loss at Oklahoma State? The Jayhawks are 27-2, after all, and the loss doesn't demonstrably effect Kansas' accomplishments this season -- they'll still be the Big 12 regular season champs and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Still, though, something more was lost on Saturday, as the Kansas City Star's Martin Manley wrote this weekend: "If you stop and think about it, this is one of the most disappointing regular season losses in KU’s 500 years of basketball. How can I make such a radical statement? Well, first of all I don’t care about a loss. For crying out loud, they are 27-2. But, here is what got flushed down the toilet Saturday. 1) They probably will not beat North Carolina to 2,000 wins. 2) They will not make 2,000 wins on March 6th, the last regular season game and on the road against their primary rival – Missouri. 3) They will not hit 30 wins on March 6th. 4) They will not be 16-0 in the conference. 5) They are no longer chasing the best beginning in KU history of 34-1. 6) They no longer have a chance at 39 wins – which would be an NCAA record. 7) They likely will not be #1 in the polls. 8) It was only the second game in the last 103 that a KU opponent has hit over 50% from the field and they were at 60.4%!..." OK, so none of these are reasons to freak out -- but for fans interested in historical markers and statistical quirks, the loss will still be disappointing.
  • For now, though, Rock Chalk Jayhawk is more concerned with honoring Sherron Collins, who will play his final game at Allen Fieldhouse when Kansas State comes to town on Wednesday.
  • Ballin' Is A Habit praises Tennessee's win over Kentucky Saturday, and asks the question: Just how good are the Volunteers? Here's my short answer: Good, not great, but with Bruce Pearl at the helm, the Vols will always be a dangerous tourney team. Fair?
  • Meanwhile, John Calipari claims that two of his players "sleepwalked" against Tennessee, though he wouldn't name names. The Lexington Herald-Leader's Jerry Tipton does a quick elimination process and comes up with Darnell Dodson and DeAndre Liggins -- and perhaps forward Patrick Patterson -- as the prime suspects of Cal's postgame scorn.
  • The Only Colors takes a long look at Durrell Summers' inconsistency, finding that Summers is actually pretty peerless on offense so long as he stays inside the three-point line. Defensively? That's a slightly less complimentary story.
  • As is the case every March, there's been plenty of discussion lately about the methods the selection committee uses to pick its field of 65; I could link all of these posts separately, but since Mike Miller went ahead and rounded them all up, head over and peruse accordingly.
  • Adam Zagoria asked former Pitt players whether they were surprised at the success of the star-less 2009-10 team. The answer is unlikely to surprise.
  • The New York Times' Pete Thamel remains on top of the Binghamton beat, where there is concern the school hasn't entirely shifted its focus from the win-at-all-costs attitude that got Kevin Broadus suspended and upended the team in the offseason. The key graph: "Even though the university president, Lois B. DeFleur, has announced she will retire in July; the athletic director, Joel Thirer, has resigned; and the men’s basketball coach, Kevin Broadus, has been placed on paid administrative leave, faculty members and administrators are concerned that those who carried out the orders in building a big-time basketball program remain. They worry that when the SUNY chancellor, Nancy L. Zimpher, makes recommendations to the board March 23, she will focus on Binghamton’s athletic problems, not its academic troubles."
  • Are officials overworked? They would tell you no. The reality seems otherwise.
  • The Big 5 title -- the yearly championship awarding the Philadelphia area's best team -- will go to Temple for the 26th time in 2009-10.
  • Finally, everyone's probably familiar with the basketball odyssey taken by Wes Johnson before he ended up at Syracuse, but this story from the Post-Standard lays out the recruiting pitch given to Johnson and his brother by assistant coach Rob Murphy: “I said ‘OK, if you guys want to waste time, go ahead, but I’m telling you in the next couple days, you’ll call me back and say I’m going to Syracuse,’” Murphy said, recalling the final conversation of the trip. “‘You’re not going to find any place like this. We’ve got everything you want. You want to be a professional. You’ll work hard and play against Paul Harris and all these guys next year in practice and then next year, you’ll probably start for us, we’ll have a good year and you’ll go pro. It’s just that simple.’" Not bad, right?

Jayhawks fall on wacky Saturday

February, 27, 2010
The stars -- or at least the schedules -- had aligned. One look at today's hoops schedule and it was clear this was, at least on paper, the best Saturday of college hoops we've had all year. All we needed was for the games to live up to the hype.

They did. It was. And we're not done yet.

The insanity that will be Syracuse-Villanova is still minutes away from tipoff, but look how far we've come already: Notre Dame won at No. 13 Georgetown to reinvigorate its tournament hopes. No. 12 New Mexico beat No. 11 BYU in Provo to clinch a share of the Mountain West title (and make a pretty clear argument as to who the best, most tourney-ready MWC team really is).

[+] EnlargeJames Anderson
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiOklahoma State's James Anderson scored 27 points against Kansas on Saturday.
No. 17 Tennessee knocked off No. 2 Kentucky in Knoxville, building a big lead in the first half before succumbing to Kentucky's inevitable onslaught ... only to score the last nine points of the game, seal a thrilling win over a hated rival, and hand UK its second loss of the season.

Then, of course, there was Kansas. Anyone who thought we'd end the day with not one but both of our top two teams in road losses deserves some sort of clairvoyance award and a lucrative late-night cable infomercial. Just a few hours after Kentucky fell, the Jayhawks lost their first conference game of the season at Oklahoma State.

If the loss itself wasn't shocking -- playing on the road in conference play is always hard, even for great teams like Kansas -- the way Oklahoma State thoroughly handled Kansas was. The Cowboys dominated Sherron Collins and company almost from the opening tip. By halftime, the lead had ballooned to 47-29. James Anderson was scoring at will against Kansas' typically impenetrable defense, and when the Cowboys didn't make shots -- which was rare; they posted a 69.8 percent effective field goal rate -- they were able to grab the offensive rebounds that Cole Aldrich and the Jayhawks almost never allow.

Much like their compatriots at the top of the polls, Kansas fought back late, eventually closing the lead to nine with over two minutes to play. Unlike Kentucky, though Kansas wasn't able to get any closer than that, thanks in large part to 5-foot-9 OSU sharpshooter Keiton Page's four late 3s. And that was that: Just like No. 2 before them, No. 1 had fallen, and any dreams of a perfect Big 12 season would be deferred.

All of which sounds very dramatic, of course. And it was. Still, let's not overplay KU's loss. The Jayhawks would never admit it, but they had nothing substantial on the line in Saturday's game. They'll still be the Big 12 regular season champs. They'll still be the No. 1 seed in the Big 12 tournament.

Most important of all, they'll still be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament -- probably the No. 1 overall seed, barring a Big East tournament title by Syracuse. We should take notes from last year's eventual champs, the North Carolina team that blitzed the NCAA tournament from start to finish. In the regular season, sometimes the best team doesn't win. Sometimes the best team seems downright disinterested. Kansas' loss felt a lot like that today, and while that's not exactly the best excuse for a loss -- eh, we didn't have anything to care about, right? -- it shouldn't affect the way we look at the Jayhawks going forward. Make no mistake: Bill Self's team is still the favorite.

Want to know the most awesome thing about today? All of that already happened ... and the day's best, most important game is still minutes away from tipoff. (Which is not to mention Mizzou-Kansas State, a very good Big 12 matchup currently in progress.) Syracuse-Villanova should be everything everybody (including the record crowd currently packed inside the Carrier Dome) hoped. But if it isn't? Oh well. Saturday was still the best day of college basketball we've had all season. It was the perfect way to welcome March, the very best month of the year.

Show of hands: Who's ready for the tournament? Yep. Thought so. Me too.
As always, send me your links and tips by following me on Twitter.

The Morning After: Kansas gets muddy

February, 16, 2010
The Morning After is our semi-daily recap of last night's best hoops action. Try not to make it awkward.

[+] EnlargeCole Aldrich
Aaron M. Sprecher/Getty ImagesCole Aldrich had at least 10 points, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots for the sixth time this season.
No. 1 Kansas 59, No. 23 Texas A&M 54: There's a common belief that if teams want to win NCAA titles, they have to learn how to win ugly in the tournament. This is not always true: 2008-09's champs, the North Carolina Tar Heels, were never forced to win ugly in March or April; Tyler Hansbrough & Co. rolled through their six tourney games like they were playing in the Maui Invitational rather than the NCAA tourney. Wouldn't you rather dominate? It keeps things simple. Still, though, it can't hurt a dominant team to get punched in the mouth from time to time, to face a rowdy away crowd on a night when the shots aren't falling and to come away with a victory in a hard-fought, low-scoring slugfest. That's what the Jayhawks did last night.

On a night when Sherron Collins scored a mere seven points and committed five turnovers -- and a night when Kansas hit only one 3-pointer in 10 attempts -- Cole Aldrich was the key. Big surprise, right? Aldrich had 12 points, 10 rebounds, five blocks, and countless other altered shots in the interior. The Aggies, meanwhile, completely shut down in the last few minutes of the game -- Donald Sloan disappeared, as did the Aggies' offensive rebounds and free throws, while Kansas was able to get to the line at a high (56.5 percent FTR) rate.

After the game, Bill Self said his team won "muddy," and that's about as good an adjective as you can use for what we saw from both teams last night. It was muddy. Self wouldn't want them to wallow in it, but maybe it's good for the Jayhawks to get a little mud on their shoes from time to time.

Connecticut 84, No. 3 Villanova 75: Can someone please explain the Connecticut Huskies? (Wait, that's kind of my job? Oh, right.) Actually, Andy's explanation last night is as good as any: The Huskies pretty clearly have talent, they've just not always played up to it. This team has Kemba Walker, Stanley Robinson and Jerome Dyson in its backcourt, a hyperathletic threesome that should compete with anybody in the country. It also helps that UConn played much the same Monday night as they played in a close loss at Syracuse last week: Walker and Dyson used their strength to get in the lane, refusing to force outside jumpers. The Huskies flew around on their own defensive end, using their one main advantage -- a proficiency at blocking shots -- frequently. And UConn got to the line. They got to the line a lot. Jim Calhoun's team shot 44 free throws to Villanova's 20, a product mostly of athleticism and Villanova's inability to stop anyone on defense.

Oh, and make no mistake: Villanova can't stop anyone on defense. The Wildcats are one of the country's best offenses, but their defensive efficiency numbers aren't pretty: Nova doesn't turn opponents over and doesn't force them into particularly bad shots, which is why they have the No. 66-ranked defense in the country and aren't in Pomeroy's top 10 despite the high level of respect afforded to them nationally. Nova is a good team with flaws, and a suddenly organized and viable UConn team exposed nearly every one of them.

Saddle Up: Kansas faces real test

February, 15, 2010
Saddle Up is our daily look at the hoops your TV wants you to watch tonight. It'll thank you later.

No. 1 Kansas at No. 23 Texas A&M, 9 p.m., ESPN: Last week, Kansas went to Texas in what for months preceding seemed as though it would the game of the year. It, um, wasn't. Kansas' deep and talented squad had little problem with a Texas team that's still trying to figure itself out. Texas A&M, meanwhile, is in the ascendancy -- the Aggies have won their last four games and six out of their last seven, and A&M is a perfect 13-0 at home in 2009-10. In many ways, this is Kansas' real Big 12 road test. If the Jayhawks are going to roll through the Big 12 without losing a single game, tonight is likely their biggest obstacle.

How do the two teams stack up? A&M's biggest strength is their ability to get to the free throw line. Much like Kansas State, the only team that shoots more free throws per possession than the Aggies, A&M thrives on getting into the lane, getting easy two-point buckets, and -- failing that -- drawing contact and getting fouled. That is a significantly more difficult task against the Jayhawks than against most teams, because Kansas doesn't allow penetration, and when teams do get past the Jayhawks, they have to contend with Cole Aldrich, arguably the game's most dominating interior defender. We know the Jayhawks' story by now. If you can keep the game close, slow the pace, force them to take outside shots and get them to ignore Aldrich on the offensive end, you can win.

It's very, very, very difficult to do those things to Kansas. But it's not impossible. A&M will get its shot tonight.

Connecticut at No. 3 Villanova, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN: This would seem like a pretty straightforward game for Villanova. When Connecticut isn't inconsistent, it's mediocre, and Jim Calhoun's return to the sideline this weekend didn't seem to have much effect on the Huskies. Villanova should win easily, right? Right.

Of course, things are never that simple: It was just yesterday that a mediocre Big East team on the wrong side of the bubble went to a dominant Big East competitor's house and won in front of its crowd of 30,000. That was Louisville, which beat Big East leader Syracuse, and if Villanova didn't think it was capable of losing a random Big East game to a desperate team, yesterday's upset should have warmed them to the possibility. It can happen, and it will be Jay Wright and Scottie Reynolds' job to make sure it doesn't.

Everywhere else: It's a quiet non Big-Monday night tonight; check out our scoreboard to get the full download.