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Jack Freifelder | | December 5, 2016

Battles rage among AP Top 25 elites

  The Kentucky Wildcats and UCLA Bruins battled to the end in their meeting on Saturday, a 97-92 UCLA win.

As college basketball rolls into the second month of the 2016-17 season, it's beginning to become clear that parity among the AP Top 25 is going to be a staple. The conference schedule has a way of allowing things to settle back into the natural order of things, but there have been some shake-ups thanks to a few heavyweight bouts around the country.

The ACC-Big Ten Challenge series set the table for a busy week of action on the hardwood, but that paled in comparison to the social media explosion that took place when the 11th-ranked Bruins of UCLA went into Rupp Arena and knocked off the No. 1 Wildcats on Saturday.

Sunday gives fans a brief respite from the onslaught of ranked games, but don't sleep on the unranked matchups either. In the meantime, flips back through the week that was.

Top 25 teams in action:

  • No. 25: West Virginia dismantled Manhattan, 108-61; upset No. 6 Virginia, 66-57
  • No. 24: Florida breezed by North Florida, 91-60
  • No. 23: Oregon beat back Boise State, 68-63; defeated Western Oregon, 93-54; outscored Savannah State, 128-59
  • No. 22: Syracuse lost to No. 17 Wisconsin, 77-60; rebounded against North Florida, 77-71
  • No. 21: Rhode Island fell to Valparaiso, 65-62; upended by Providence, 63-60
  • No. 20: South Carolina cruised by Vermont, 68-50; bullied Florida International, 70-54
  • No. 19: Iowa State dropped by Cincinnati, 55-54 OT
  • No. 18: Butler rolled over Utah, 68-59; raced past Central Arkansas, 82-58
  • No. 17: Wisconsin bested No. 22 Syracuse, 77-60; brushed past Oklahoma, 90-70
  • No. 16: Arizona pounded Texas Southern, 85-63; faltered against No. 8 Gonzaga, 69-62
  • No. 15: Purdue lost to No. 14 Louisville, 71-64; crushed Morehead State, 90-56
  • No. 14: Louisville took out No. 15 Purdue, 71-64; survived Grand Canyon, 79-70
  • No. 13: Indiana upset No. 3 North Carolina, 76-67; toppled SIU Edwardsville, 83-60; downed Southeast Missouri State, 83-55
  • No. 12: Saint Mary's punished Stanford, 66-51
  • No. 11: UCLA outran UC Riverside, 98-56; triumphed over No. 1 Kentucky, 97-92
  • No. 10: Creighton defeated Buffalo, 93-72; bounced Akron, 82-70
  • No. 9: Baylor cruised past Sam Houston State, 79-45; upended No. 7 Xavier, 76-61
  • No. 8: Gonzaga beat Mississippi Valley State, 97-63; dropped No. 16 Arizona, 69-62
  • No. 7: Xavier bruised North Dakota State, 85-55; fell to No. 9 Baylor, 76-61
  • No. 6: Virginia survived Ohio State, 63-61 fell to No. 25 West Virginia, 66-57
  • No. 5: Duke trumped Michigan State, 78-69; bullied Maine, 94-55
  • No. 4: Kansas trounced Long Beach State, 91-61; brushed past Stanford, 89-74
  • No. 3: North Carolina lost to No. 3 Indiana, 76-67; sliced up Radford, 95-50
  • No. 2: Villanova beat down Penn 82-57; crushed Saint Joseph's, 88-57
  • No. 1: Kentucky destroyed Arizona State, 115-69; silenced by No. 11 UCLA, 97-92

Need to know:


When the Manhattan Jaspers traveled to Morgantown, West Virginia, to play the Mountaineers on Monday, many could have predicted that the home team would force some turnovers. That stands to reason as the No. 25 Mountaineers rank first in the nation in forcing turnovers and turnover margin, but did anyone really predict a new school record — 40 turnovers? Mind you, that's one turnover a minute and forty minutes for which Manhattan coach Steve Masiello would like to have a do-over. It was a heck of a start to a big week for West Virginia and head coach Bob Huggins, one that included a 66-57 road victory over No. 6 Virginia.


One of the big ticket items on the docket this past week was surely the slate of games coming to college basketball fans courtesy of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge series. The ACC would go on to win the Challenge outright (9-5) for the first time since 2008, but there was plenty to enjoy in this three-day event.

  Wisconsin forward Ethan Happ's (22) double-double helped the Badgers to a big win over Syracuse.
On Tuesday, some fans saw No. 5 Duke battle Michigan State while others tuned in for the tipoff between No. 17 Wisconsin and No. 22 Syracuse. The Badgers would handle the Orange easily behind a double-double from sophomore big man Ethan Happ (24 points, 13 rebounds), while Duke used its defensive pressure (18 forced turnovers) to help keep an upstart Michigan State team at bay. The college basketball world knows that Michigan State could have used a big win as bad as just about any squad in Division I college ball, but remember these matchups come tournament time. Teams can learn a lot about themselves through tough losses, so don't be surprised if these outcomes provide a spark for future success.


Another big tilt in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge came on Wednesday night when No. 13 Indiana hosted No. 3 North Carolina. And what many believed to be the "game of the week" did not disappoint as the Hoosiers took down the Tar Heels — with all five IU starters scoring in double figures. Some pundits feel that North Carolina could be even better than the team that finished as the National Runner-Up a year ago, so this loss will give UNC naysayers some fodder to sustain their gripes.

Perhaps most importantly, as Mike Lopresti of notes, scheduling a trip to play Indiana at Assembly Hall is beginning to look like a bit of a bad idea for ranked ballclubs.

"North Carolina’s belly flop Wednesday night means the Hoosiers have won their last six games in Bloomington against teams in the top four of the polls." — Mike Lopresti,, Dec. 1, 2016


  Cincinnati's Troy Caupain (10) played tough defense in Cincy's 55-54 overtime win against Iowa State.
A Thursday night bout in Ames, Iowa, meant it was Cincinnati's rough-and-tumble defense going up against No. 19 Iowa State's high-octane offense. A battle of conflicting styles saw defense win out, as the Bearcats tipped the hometown Cyclones in a tight 55-54 overtime affair. Cincy head coach Mick Cronin got a couple of double-doubles from a pair of junior forwards — Kyle Washington and Gary Clark — to help steer the visitors to victory.


A rivalry between Duquesne and Pittsburgh in the City Game has really just become a formality, with the Panthers taking the last 15 meetings between the two schools — not to mention bragging rights in the process. But something was different this year, and the Dukes would not just roll over.

Senior guard Emile Blackman scored 21 points to lead the Dukes, while Pittsburgh was limited to just 33.3 percent from the field. It may only be for one year, but for now the City Game belongs to Duquesne.


Go on the road and beat the No. 1 team in the nation, the Kentucky Wildcats: Check. Shoot better than 50 percent from the field while breaking a 42-game home winning streak at Rupp Arena: Check. Score the most points against a Kentucky team coached by John Calipari: Check.

  UCLA Bruins guard Isaac Hamilton (10) led a balanced Bruins attack in the team's defeat of Kentucky.
Just a normal day at the office for the UCLA Bruins, who have now beaten Kentucky two years in a row (last year's game was also played on Dec. 3), thanks to a 97-92 victory on Saturday

Senior guard Isaac Hamilton led six Bruins in double digits with 19 points, while freshman forward T.J. Leaf had a double-double (17 points and 13 rebounds) and a number of key rebounds late to help out his team's cause. Freshman guard Lonzo Ball also helped out with a stat-stuffing night of his own (14 points, seven assists and six rebounds).


A seemingly sleepy Sunday on the college basketball front had its hidden gem of a game when Eastern Washington defeated Seattle in double overtime, 93-88, behind 31 points from junior Bogdan Bliznyuk (the name gets more fun to say as you learn to pronounce it). It was the second time in a 12-day span that the two teams met. Not only that, but it was also the second game that needed double overtime. No need for a double take, you read that right. Not only did the Eagles and Redhawks link up twice in two weeks, but both games needed a pair of extra sessions for a final. Bliznyuk, the forward for Eastern Washington, has now gone over the 30-point mark three times this season.

In other action:

Virginia Tech travels to Michigan and wins

A matchup that was likely overlooked in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge series was the trip the Virginia Tech Hokies made to the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It may not have been the most high-profile crossmatch on the day, but it was definitely one of the more entertaining ballgames on a busy evening. Most college basketball faithful would revel in the opportunity to watch Buzz Williams and John Beilein match X's and O's, but before long the Hokies found themselves trailing by 15 points midway through the first half.

Virginia Tech would work their way back into the game before dropping Michigan 73-70, but only after a game-tying 3-point attempt from Michigan's Duncan Robinson clanked off the rim. Not a bad outcome for the Hokies first trip to Ann Arbor since 1974. Odds are Michigan won't let that long go by before they play Virginia Tech again.

Being ranked for URI: Not all it's cracked up to be

If the Rhode Island Rams are looking to find a way into the NCAA Tournament this year, scheduling some tough nonconference opponents to bolster their Atlantic 10 schedule is a good start. A defeat of Cincinnati and a close 10-point loss to Duke have helped toughen up head coach Dan Hurley's squad, but a pair of narrow, three-point losses to Valpo and in-state rival Providence have eaten away at some of that momentum.

  Rhode Island was a step too slow in a pair of three-point losses to Valparaiso and Providence.
Both games sting a bit less because the matchups came on the road, but Rhode Island has now lost its battle against their in-state rival Providence seven years in a row. Coach Hurley can live with a loss, but the hangover can't last long.

Villanova out to prove it rules the Big Five

Apparently, Villanova's status as the defending National Champions is not enough to lord over college basketball. The Wildcats also seem intent on controlling the conversation around basketball in the Philadelphia area — AKA Big 5 country. For those that don't know, the Big 5 is a group of schools that includes the University of Pennsylvania, La Salle University, Saint Joseph's University, Temple University, and Villanova.

Two wins over Penn and Saint Joe's in the same week put the Wildcats in pretty good stead heading into matchups with LaSalle and Temple later this month. Temple has been playing some very solid basketball though, and the last two legs of the Big 5 swing bookend a bout with Notre Dame. Head coach Jay Wright would be wise to keep his team focused.

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