Saturday saw a terrific day of College Basketball, which of course was headlined by the Big 12/ SEC Challenge, which saw the SEC win the challenge 6-4 which marks the first time they’ve won consecutive challenges in the history of the event. Elsewhere there was plenty of action to discuss so let’s get into the daily roundup.
Kentucky handles Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse
Kansas vs Kentucky, the two winningest programs in the sport matching up inside Allen Fieldhouse. Seems like a great game, but what happened was a one-sided affair that went the way of the visitors. Kansas led 5-2, from there it was a Kentucky beatdown of epic proportions. Everything was working for the visiting Cats, they were nailing threes, they were dominating the boards, getting contributions from role players and they simply were the tougher team. The Wildcats led 51-31 and really never got a real push from Kansas in the second half Keion Brooks had 27 points in what was a career day, Oscar Tshiebwe had his ho-hum 17 points and 14 rebounds, while defensively they made life difficult for Ochai Agbaji who only had 13 points on 4-14 shooting.
Kentucky has looked the part of a legitimate title contender, especially as of late but was missing that high-end signature win, which they got here. Oscar Tshiebwe might have taken the lead in the Player of the year race, albeit Agbaji and Johnny Davis should be right there as well. What makes this team so dangerous though is the improvement of the four spot, Jacob Toppin and Keion Brooks have found a role in the offense and that has just opened everything up for them. For Kansas this is a game they need to be concerned about, it would be one thing if they lost but the way they lost is the concern. They still have questions at the point guard and center positions, which are probably the two most important positions in the sport.
Alabama continues their inconsistent play by beating Baylor
There is no team that is more confusing than the Alabama Crimson Tide, who have picked up yet another signature win against Baylor. The Tide have had wins against Gonzaga, Baylor, and Houston, while losing to Iona, Missouri, and Georgia, some resume right? The key to the Tide’s attack was getting the ball inside and scoring that way early on, Jahvon Quinerly was getting the rim with ease in the first half and that helped start this game out the right way for Alabama, as they led 38-34 despite poor shooting. The second half was much more like an Alabama-type game as they were able to speed the pace up even more and that helped open up the three, which went in at a more efficient rate in the second half. It was the key 14-2 run early in the second half in which opened the game up for the Tide and helped them dictate the game down the stretch.
Baylor still will likely get a one seed, they have a good resume but missed an opportunity to add another quadrant one opportunity. Baylor will get back in Big 12 play and hope to knock off Kansas a week from this game in a game that could help them repeat as league Champions. Alabama is still capable of making a Final Four and this game further proved it, should they have more consistent performances maybe they can get a good seed to help them make that run.
Texas escapes near-collapse in Rick Barnes return
For the first time since Rick Barnes left Texas in 2015, Rick Barnes was back in Austin hoping to lead his Tennessee Volunteers to a win in Austin. What took place was a game that sent basketball back 30 years with how bad the offense was, with Texas winning 52-51, how we got there was pure comedy. The first half was about what you would expect with Texas leading 27-25, the second half opened with Texas on a 15-4 run that took eight minutes to complete. The Longhorns led by as many as 17 and led 51-35 with five minutes left. Notice how the final score was 52-51, Tennessee followed that up by going on a 16-0 run to tie the game thanks to a comedy of errors by Texas, turnovers, missed shots, missed free throws, and everything you could imagine, while Tennessee found enough offense to tie the game at 51. Ultimately Timmy Allen got fouled on a jumper and went 1-2 at the line to give Texas that 52-51 win. Texas now finishes off a 2-0 week with their first Top-25 win in the Chris Beard era, while they may not have passed any sort of eye test in doing it, they do get the win. Neither team is a Final Four threat in my eyes at least right now, and both are brutal to watch offensively, which could lead each to an early upset.
Louisville looks better but still falls to Duke
The first game of the post-Chris Mack era took place on Saturday and it took place against the ACC favorite Duke Blue Devils. While this game came with a result of a loss, this Louisville team looked like they were playing hard for the first time all season. Sydney Curry was willing to dunk on everyone and was involved in multiple chippy incidents, Malik Williams and El Ellis were having big games and with six minutes left it was a 60-60 game. Then AJ Griffin hit back-to-back threes and Duke went on a 12-0 run to help lift Duke to the 74-65 win. Griffin continues to look more and more comfortable in the offense, which is helping his draft stock, while they won despite no Trevor Keels, which is important.
TCU gets signature victory against LSU
The SEC’s motto is “it just means more” but for TCU, this matchup against LSU meant way more for the Horned Frogs. TCU had gotten off to a 13-4 start but was lacking quality wins this season, which is why this game meant a lot. A Top-15 team at home, in front of a wild crowd, presented this team an opportunity to build upon their resumé by getting a statement win and that’s what took place. The game was a two-point game before a big run late in the first, into the second put TCU in front, Charles O’Bannon hit three threes as part of the Frogs’ 19-5 run put them in control. LSU made a run and cut the lead to one, but it was Mike Miles who showed big down the stretch, making big passes and tough shots to put the game away. LSU is in a good spot Tournament-wise and should be able to stack up wins as Xavier Pinson gets back to full health, but for TCU they now have afforded themselves some opportunity to struggle in the Big 12 gauntlet due to having this great record.
Michigan State runs away from Michigan
The battle of Michigan finally had its first game of this season, as the first one was postponed due to Covid-19. This matchup went the way of what we had seen all season as the home Spartans not only won but won handily against their rival Michigan Wolverines. It was a one-point lead, but Tyson Walker’s late three gave the Spartans momentum and they carried that into the second half and took the lead to 15. Max Christie did a good job keeping Michigan State on top in the first half scoring 14 of his 16 points in the first, while the Spartans were able to get a more balanced scoring attack in the second. Michigan again is showing themselves to be one-dimensional, Hunter Dickinson had a big game but they went 3-19 from three, which is a common theme for every Michigan loss.
Second-half charge leads Xavier past Creighton
In a battle of two teams that needed a win, Xavier to avoid a losing streak and Creighton to get a quadrant one win, the game came down to a battle of two halves. The first half went perfectly for Creighton, they moved the ball well, Ryan Nembhard and Ryan Kalkbrenner were having good performances and they led 36-19. For intents and purposes, I had thought this game was over but Xavier disagreed. The Musketeers started the second half on a 29-2 lead, yes twenty-nine to two, to not only erase their 17 point deficit but take control as well. The Musketeers closed out the second half and got the win as well, the quartet of Paul Scruggs, Zach Freemantle, Jack Nunge, and Nate Johnson all had 15 or more in the game. This comes as a big missed opportunity for Creighton as they drop to 12-7 and remain outside the Top-60 in the NET, their Tournament chances now take a hit with this loss.
ACC bubble takes a hit
We’ll ignore Miami in this in part because they’ve almost moved themselves off the bubble, but included in this are Florida State and Wake Forest who both took questionable losses. First off, Florida State lost 85-72 to a Virginia Tech team that simply isn’t that good, sure this loss won’t hurt them in the analytics but this is a game they need to win and they didn’t. As for Wake Forest, they lost to a bad Syracuse team 94-72. Sure this one was on the road but this game will both hurt them analytically in the NET, as well as on the team sheet, which could be costly come Selection Sunday.