Exactly a month away from Selection Sunday, let's dive into what happened in college basketball this weekend.
Kentucky is in the mix for a No. 1 seed
Perhaps Kentucky's recent slip-up against LSU will wind up being a good thing. The Wildcats dominated Tennessee on Saturday, winning 86-69. The Volunteers are ranked first in the AP poll; UK is fifth. It will be fascinating to see what the voters do with the Wildcats considering they beat the No. 1 team handily, but also lost this week.
Kentucky has arguably been the best team in the country since mid-December, and it looks to be on track for a 1-seed in the NCAA tournament now. The Wildcats are 21-4 with wins over Tennessee, North Carolina, Kansas, Louisville, Auburn, Florida and Mississippi State. That's an incredible resume, and Kentucky looks the part when you watch them.
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All of the recent P.J Washington hype is warranted. Kentucky has struggled with offensive spacing for years. But when your 6-8 bulldozer of a power forward is also making 43.4 percent of his 3s, it short circuits that problem. Washington has scored at least 20 points in his last four games.
Kentucky is uber-talented, and just as importantly, the pieces fit perfectly. This is John Calipari's best team in a while.
Kansas is still very much in play for the Big 12 title
Iowa State beat Kansas State and Kansas demolished West Virginia. Here's a look at the top of the Big 12 standings:
Remember, the Jayhawks just need to tie for first in order to extend their streak. And Kansas' next two games are at Texas Tech and home to Kansas State.
We'll know a lot more about the Big 12 race after those two games, but it's so hard to pick against Kansas right now. It's not the national title contender we expected it to be, but it's now won three straight. The rest of the Big 12 is all too aware of the Jayhawks' dominance over the last decade-plus. That mental edge has to matter.
This is the most interesting conference race in the country right now.
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We were reminded of how fun the madness of the sport is
Sure, we all know how fun college basketball can be. But Saturday provided a helpful and entertaining reminder of just how fun.
Both of the below shots were nuts. Joe Wieskamp went off the glass from the corner to push Iowa over Rutgers in the final seconds:
HAIL MARY FOR THE WIN!— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) February 17, 2019
Joe Wieskamp goes off-glass from the corner! @IowaHoops pic.twitter.com/0Nxwk7KWyf
But that wasn't even the shot of the day. Down two, South Dakota State's David Jenkins sank a half-court buzzer beater for the win over North Dakota State:
Rivalry matchup on the line... How about a half-court BUZZER-BEATER?! @GoJacksMBB pic.twitter.com/q5qUrmTPGS— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) February 17, 2019
Pure madness. Hopefully we see a bunch of shots like this come March.
R.J. Barrett would be good enough to win the Naismith — most years
Zion Williamson is the best player on Duke, and in the country. That much is obvious. And while Barrett can be a bit ball-hoggy at times, that feels like nitpicking when you consider everything else he brings to the table.
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Barrett went for a triple-double against N.C. State, scoring 23 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and dishing 10 assists. The assist total is most promising for Duke; he has the vision to be an elite passer when he chooses to play in that mode. Barrett is such a talented scorer that he doesn't need to have tunnel vision in order to put up points. He's been more accurate from 3-point range, lately, too; he's canned nine of them in his last three games.
RJ Barrett flashed his all-around talent with his first triple-double! pic.twitter.com/agK1mSRWN0— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) February 17, 2019
Barrett is now averaging 22.7 points, 7.4 rebounds and four assists on solid efficiency for what will likely be the No. 1 team in the land come Monday. Most years, that's a Naismith winner.
Of course, Williamson was remarkable on Saturday, too with 32 points. But Duke wouldn't be nearly as scary as it is without Barrett.
This was never supposed to be the year Ohio State did damage, and Sunday reinforced that
Credit the Buckeyes for being feisty, and they'll still probably end up in the NCAA tournament. Ohio State plays tough teams well. It led Michigan State by six at the half on Sunday.
But the Spartans dominated in the second half, winning 62-44. The Buckeyes are now 6-8 in the Big Ten after an ugly loss to Illinois on Thursday. It was easy to get sucked into Ohio State after a 12-1 start, but you have to remember: the Buckeyes lost so many key pieces from a 2017-18 team that overachieved itself.
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OSU lost Keita Bates-Diop, Jae'Sean Tate, Andrew Dakich and Kam Williams and didn't replace them with any marquee transfers or recruits. Those will come in 2019-20.
Chris Holtmann is still one of the better coaches in college basketball, but it's not terribly surprising that Ohio State has struggled in Big Ten play. The Buckeyes should be contending for conference titles starting next year.
St. John's may be inconsistent, but it's not a team anyone should want to play
St. John's looked... let's just call it 'suboptimal' in the first half against Villanova. The Red Storm trailed the Wildcats by 11 going into the break.
But the Johnnies rallied back, notching a 71-65 win at home. The Red Storm are incredibly tough to guard; Marvin Clark is a matchup nightmare. A lot of teams tout the idea of playing five out, but usually have one or two guys in the lineup who aren't real threats from deep.
Clark plays opposing centers off the floor, and the Red Storm's backcourt of Shamorie Ponds and Mustapha Heron is one of the best in the country. Ponds went 2-for-13 against Villanova, by the way, and St. John's still won. They have plenty of ways to beat you.
It's all about consistency for Chris Mullin's squad. It's easy to see them bowing out in the first round of the NCAA tournament, or making a deep run.