College basketball: What we learned about Villanova, Purdue, Oklahoma and more on another crazy Saturday
Here's what we learned Saturday in college basketball:
1. If you had to pick two teams today that could/should be in the Final Four they would be Villanova and Purdue.
The Wildcats dominated UConn in Hartford. Jalen Brunson scored 23. There is really nothing negative to say about the Wildcats. Villanova shares the ball and answers every challenge. Purdue absolutely crushed Iowa in Iowa City by 23. The Boilermakers are rolling. Both of these teams deserve to be No. 1 seeds today.
2. Duke is back to playing like it did in November.
The Blue Devils can rotate elite scorers with Marvin Bagley III, Gary Trent Jr. and Wendell Carter Jr. Duke has had a good schedule so far to get healthy with two games against Pitt. While the Blue Devils' defense isn’t as stingy as say Virginia (hardly), they can outscore you and pound you inside. That can be enough to win against most teams.
3. Trae Young cannot take Oklahoma to the Final Four, let alone a Big 12 title by himself.
The sensational freshman and Player of the Year favorite scored 48 points and had eight assists in an overtime loss at Oklahoma State. But he took 39 shots! He also had seven turnovers. He had 12 earlier in the week in the loss at Kansas State. Young has to get that under control for Oklahoma.
4. Kansas should be favored to win its 14th-straight Big 12 title.
The Jayhawks beat Baylor behind Malik Newman’s 24 points, improving their record to 6-1 in the Big 12, including a win at West Virginia. Sorry, but the rest of the teams in the conference had their chance to stay with the Jayhawks. The league is too good and balanced for someone else to stay on pace. Texas Tech and Oklahoma now have three losses. West Virginia has two, putting immense pressure on the Mountaineers to win at Kansas on Feb. 17. The Mountaineers beat Texas and Texas Tech lost to Iowa State on Saturday.
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The Wildcats swept home games this week against Oklahoma and TCU to move to 4-3 in the Big 12 and 14-5 overall. The TCU win gives Kansas State its second quadrant 1 win.
6. Wichita State is finding out the American is not the Missouri Valley.
The Shockers lost at home to SMU and then again Saturday at Houston. Catching Cincinnati may be moot.
7. Houston can be a dangerous team if Rob Gray goes off like he did against Wichita State. He scored 24 points and he has the range to be tough to guard. The Cougars are now a threat to challenge Cincinnati with two games to go against the Bearcats.
8. But Cincinnati has the look of being a lock to win the American.
The Bearcats were dominant again in the league, rocking East Carolina by 26.
9. SMU had a season-changing week.
The Mustangs knocked off Wichita State on the road, and then beat Tulane handily.
10. UCF can’t catch a break.
11. Ohio State needs Kaleb Wesson to remain productive. The Buckeyes' big man scored 15 points and had eight boards in the win over Minnesota at Madison Square Garden. Keita Bates-Diop is a Big Ten Player of the Year favorite but Wesson gives Ohio State the anchor inside they desperately need.
12. Rhode Island is a lock to win the A-10.
This is getting repetitive but must be hammered home. The Rams are the same team at home or on the road. They won at Dayton, the same spot where St. Bonaventure lost. Don’t be surprised if the Rams run the table in the A-10.
13. Dylan Windler had himself a great game for Belmont.
He scored 31 points and made seven 3s in the Bruins' Ohio Valley showdown win over Austin Peay. Belmont remains atop the standings at 7-1.
14. Welcome back to the NCAA-bid discussion, Providence.
The Friars swept a pair of home games against Butler and Creighton. Suddenly, the once-struggling Friars are 5-2 in the Big East.
15. Arizona is the clear favorite in the Pac-12.
Old tweets will haunt me, I’m sure. Arizona State looked like the team to beat when the Wildcats were struggling. Well, all is well again in Tucson. Arizona swept the Bay Area schools, beating Stanford behind Dusan Ristic’s 18 points.
16. The most impressive road win may have been Xavier beating Seton Hall by nine in New Jersey.
Xavier did get humbled at Villanova. But the Musketeers and J.P. Macura (27 points) are back to looking like an Elite Eight-type team.
17. South Carolina failed to create momentum.
The Gamecocks knocked off Kentucky at home earlier in the week, only to lose to a quality Tennessee at home by seven. The Gamecocks have a mountain to climb to get back to the NCAA tournament picture, and losing home games is not in the equation.
18. Auburn proved it's a contender by beating Georgia.
The Tigers didn’t let the Alabama loss affect them a game later by dispatching the Bulldogs by 13 behind Bryce Brown’s 26 points.
19. Texas A&M isn’t dead yet.
The Aggies held Missouri to 49 points for their second straight win in the SEC.
20. Arkansas always makes these games interesting.
The Hogs, behind Jaylen Barford’s 23 points, outlasted Ole Miss 97-93 at Bud Walton Arena.
21. Clemson did what a contender does and won at home.
The Tigers beat Notre Dame 67-58 to move to 5-2 in the ACC, days after losing at North Carolina (which also had a solid week by beating the Tigers and then Georgia Tech at home).
22. Florida State separated itself from Virginia Tech.
The Seminoles got a much-needed win over the Hokies to move a game ahead in the standings. FSU looks like it will be on the bubble. Virginia Tech does not.
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The Buffaloes couldn’t get a home sweep of the Washington schools. The Huskies won in Boulder to move to 4-3 in the Pac-12. Colorado dropped to 4-4. That’s not an NCAA tournament look.
24. The Mountain West is going to have a nightmare scheduling makeup games for Air Force.
The Falcons had to postpone Saturday’s game against Fresno State due to the government shutdown. The Falcons had just won two games in a row on the road. Air Force is at Utah State on Wednesday and hosts Boise State on Jan. 27. If the shutdown lasts another week it could be disastrous for rescheduling these games in February.
25. Don’t look now but USC is 6-2 in the Pac-12 after sweeping the Oregon schools on the road.
For all the Trojans’ issues this season, USC has found a way to be in contention nearly halfway through league play.
26. Florida is now the team to beat in the SEC.
The Gators don’t do things easily nor without drama. But the Gators' 66-64 win at Kentucky puts Florida at 6-1 in the SEC, atop the standings. Florida already has three road wins in the SEC. Kentucky shockingly now has two losses in a row in the SEC and dropped to 4-3 in the league.
27. Alabama can win without Collin Sexton.
The Tide won two in a row this week without the star freshman (abdominal strain), beating Auburn and Mississippi State at home. Alabama is now 5-2 in the SEC and in the thick of the conference race after winning four in a row.
28. Conference USA just got a lot more interesting.
Middle Tennessee State won at Western Kentucky 66-62 to move into a first-place tie with the Hilltoppers at 6-1. Western Kentucky returns the game on March 1 — a game that could decide the regular-season title and No. 1 spot in the Conference USA tournament. Of course, Old Dominion needs to lose, too. The Monarchs are tied at 6-1, too, after winning at Florida Atlantic. ODU’s only loss is to Western Kentucky. The Monarchs host Middle on Feb. 1. They don’t have to go to Middle Tennessee but do still go to Western Kentucky.