C’mon. You’re not surprised.
You know what happened on Saturday …
3 things from SaturdayAnother No. 1 (Kansas) falls, but there’s a reason for this chaos
The fluctuation at the top of college basketball is the theme of the 2019-20 season. We’re not surprised. Right now, No. 1 means you’re kinda No. 1, we think, but we’re definitely not sure. It also means you should probably prepare postgame comments to explain your team’s abrupt fall from that slot in your next game.
It’s convenient to suggest that Kansas never deserved the No. 1 spot (thanks, Twitter), but the truth is the Jayhawks had won nine in a row (including games against BYU, Colorado, Dayton) after a season-opening loss to Duke in the Champions Classic. They entered Saturday’s road game against Villanova as a strong team. But Devon Dotson couldn’t get his shot to fall in the final seconds of his team’s 56-55 loss.. It was an ugly affair. Neither team registered more than 90 points per 100 possessions. They combined to shoot 13-for-54 from the 3-point line.
But we’ll have a new No. 1 on Monday — probably Gonzaga — for the sixth time this season. And it’s not even January.
Fine. That’s the storyline of the season. There is an explanation, however, for some of the madness. In most years, the best teams in the one-and-done era have been led by the rosters stacked with NBA talent. That’s not the case this season.
Last year, the top 10 teams in the final USA Today Coaches’ poll produced 16 first-round picks. And standouts such as Admiral Schofield, Kyle Guy and Carsen Edwards were selected in the second round. Per the latest ESPN.com mock draft, the most recent Associated Press poll’s teams have just five players total who are projected first-round picks in next summer’s NBA draft. The powerhouse programs can’t overwhelm opponents this year.
That’s why the weekly rankings fail to tell the truth. Forget the rankings. The Jayhawks were only 1.5-point favorites entering the game. Vegas knows. There is little separation in college basketball right now because the blue-chip programs look like everyone else.
D.J. Carton scores 15 points while Kaleb Wesson adds 10 points to help Ohio State outlast Kentucky.
The task for John Calipari with this Kentucky team seems unique
Kentucky has reached the Final Four under John Calipari four times (2011, 2012, 2014, 2015) and won a national championship (2012). Those teams were obvious juggernauts, or at least they were teams that appeared to have that potential early in the season. The teams that didn’t make runs to the national semifinals still had future NBA prospects with next-level skills. The latter reality has made it easy for Calipari’s teams to stumble into wins against lesser opponents, even when they didn’t play well.
Sure, an evolving Kentucky team might lose to a contender, but not Utah and Evansville. The Wildcats’ 71-65 neutral-site loss to Ohio State on Saturday in Las Vegas won’t impact their résumé. At this juncture, however, this might be the least intimidating team Calipari has coached at Kentucky since the NIT run in 2013.
Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery combined to score six points in Saturday’s game. Nate Sestina (17 points, 5-for-8 from the 3-point line) looked good after missing multiple games due to injury. But Calipari doesn’t have any guarantees on this roster. Whom can he play through going forward?
In the past, Calipari had to shape his teams over the course of a season. But he might not have the pieces to mold this team into anything more than a squad that exits the NCAA tournament in the opening weekend and disappoints its rapid fan base.
Lamonte Turner’s college career is over, and things could get rocky for Tennessee
Turner has been a talented player for Rick Barnes at Tennessee. But after the Vols’ game Saturday, the senior announced he would undergo season-ending shoulder surgery. He had struggled all year, connecting on just 35% of his shots inside the arc and 23% of his 3-pointers. It was clear he wasn’t 100%.
But Turner made his announcement to the media before he told Barnes. Tennessee thus didn’t have a statement prepared for Turner’s announcement. Blame Turner’s heart. It seemed like an emotional moment for a veteran player who just couldn’t do it anymore. He was averaging 12.7 points and 6.7 assists per game this season. His absence changes the ceiling for a squad that has lost its most recent matchups against major-conference opponents.
3 things for the coming days
It was sad to see the big man, who is averaging 11.7 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.0 block per game, leave in the first half of Utah State’s 65-62 win over Florida with a knee injury. He had already missed multiple games with a knee injury this season. Utah State officials didn’t have any update about his status after the game. He’s a critical player Utah State can’t afford to lose.
Loyola-Chicago is fun again
Here’s a reason to watch Davidson vs. Loyola-Chicago on ESPN+ on Sunday: Cameron Krutwig is pretty good. He was a freshman star on the Loyola-Chicago squad that reached the Final Four two seasons ago. Now, he’s the leader of a team that has won five in a row, including Wednesday’s 78-70 win over Vanderbilt. Krutwig had 22 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in that game.
Pay attention to Dayton
The Flyers will face Grambling on Monday on ESPN+. Dayton lost to Colorado on Saturday in overtime, but Obi Toppin is a fascinating talent. He forced overtime with a clutch 3-pointer and maybe had the dunk of the year against the Buffaloes. He alone is worth your time.