The showdown we had all been waiting for finally happened.
#1 Baylor hosted #3 Kansas in the rubber match of the year. Unfortunately for the Bears, they failed to complete the season sweep and secure the Big 12 title, losing by three in a close one. The loss pushed Baylor out of the top spot and propelled Kansas all the way to the top.
The rest of the top 10 was thrown into chaos as well. Gonzaga lost to BYU by 13. San Diego State lost at home to a very mediocre UNLV team, ending the Aztecs bid for a perfect season. Duke was beaten in overtime by Wake Forest, which seemed impossible considering how badly Duke manhandled the Demon Deacons earlier in the season (31-point win). Only Dayton, Florida State, Kentucky, and Creighton were fortunate enough to survive.
With just a couple weeks until most of the major conference tournaments tip-off, it’s going to be a hectic few weeks as the top teams look to hold on to their high seeds, close out their conference titles, and prepare for the Madness in March.
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The Top 10
#1 – Kansas (25-3)
The Jayhawks extended their win streak to 13 games after last week’s huge road victory over #1 Baylor. Coming into the game, Baylor was a slight favorite and had the advantage of playing in front of their home crowd on Saturday.
In their previous matchup, Baylor suffocated the ultra-talented Kansas Jayhawks, but this time around, Kansas found a way through the Baylor scheme, by just going over the top on pick and rolls and lobs to Azibuke.
Azibuke had eight total dunks in the game and finished with 23 points on 11-13 shooting and 19 rebounds. Baylor had no real answer to him and the Jayhawks were able to hold off Baylor late and secure the road win. On Monday, Kansas got off to a slow start, but put it into overdrive midway through the first half, blowing out Oklahoma State by 25 points.
Next up for Kansas is their in-state rival, Kansas State and then a nice, soft home game Wednesday against TCU. In case you forgot, Kansas State was the team involved in the major brawl with Kansas the last time the two met, so it should be a very interesting game.
#2 Baylor (25-2)
For as good as Baylor has been all season, they had no answers for Kansas’ Udoka Azibuke last Saturday. The Kansas big shredded the soft interior defense with 23 points and 19 rebounds. Jared Butler kept the game close for Baylor in the second half, but Baylor just couldn’t do enough to slow Azibuke and the Kansas offense when they needed to.
On Tuesday, Baylor hosted Kansas State and boat raced them to a lopsided victory. Baylor’s 19-point victory came as a result of solid shooting (49% from the field, 46% from three, and 89% from the line). The Bears also forced 18 turnovers in the game. Next up for the Bears is TCU on Saturday, followed by #22 Texas Tech on Monday. The Bears will likely need to win out to split the conference title with Kansas.
#3 – Gonzaga (28-2)
Gonzaga finished off a bumpy week with a big win against San Diego on a night Adam Morrison’s jersey was hoisted to the rafters. Thursday night got off to a rough start for the Zags as they trailed San Francisco by nine at the half.
In the second half, Gonzaga took control and outscored the Dons by 26 to finish off a big 17-point victory. Killian Tillie’s return was highlighted by a 22-point performance, as the Zags crept one step closer to an undefeated conference title.
However, Saturday night’s showdown in Provo proved to be too much for the Zags as BYU just had too much going right for them in the shooting department to let the game slip away from them. BYU went 53% from the field and 41% from the field. Despite the +8 rebounding advantage, Gonzaga was just +4 on turnovers and shot the ball poorly from deep (5-25).
Following the 13-point loss at BYU, Gonzaga crushed San Diego by 35 at home. The Zags shot 52% from the field and buried San Diego on the boards (+24). It was a resounding win and one that should give them momentum heading into their conference tournament.
#4 – Dayton (26-2)
Dayton hasn’t been playing the most aesthetically pleasing basketball lately, but every game is full of amazing moments for Obi Toppin. On Saturday, Dayton topped Duquesne, 80-70. Obi Toppin had a marvelous night, going 11-16 from the field and 3-5 from deep.
The Flyers were neck and neck with the Dukes until around 15 minutes remaining in the game when Jalen Crutcher went on an 11-point scoring burst. After that, Dayton comfortably controlled the remainder of the game. Dayton shot 51% from the field and held the advantage on the glass (+7).
On Tuesday, Dayton pulled off a less-than-impressive victory on the road against George Mason. Dayton was 50% from the field, but just 18% from three and +1 on rebounding. George Mason shot a meager 39% from the field and 15% from three.
Tonight, Dayton will face Davidson, followed by Rhode Island on Wednesday. As of now, Dayton has clinched at least a share of the conference title and will need just one win in their final three games to clinch it outright.
#5 – San Diego State (27-1)
I’m sure I wasn’t the only person to jinx the Aztecs last week. San Diego State trailed by 14 with just over ten minutes to go last week against UNLV, before ultimately coming up short. The loss snapped a nice 26-game win streak and ended San Diego State’s hopes of an undefeated season. If it seems like the Aztecs have been playing tight basketball lately, they have.
Tuesday’s home game against Colorado State nearly ended in heartbreak as well. With eight minutes to go, the Aztecs trailed by seven, but Malachi Flynn pulled them back in front late, and San Diego State was able to salvage their week and avoid another big upset. This Saturday, the Aztecs will take on Nevada in their season finale.
#6 – Florida State (23-4)
Florida State has lost just one game since January 28th and that was a close game against Duke. The Seminoles traveled to Raleigh last Saturday to take on the NC State Wolfpack. The Seminoles had trailed by as many as seven in the game but rallied to take the lead early in the second half. It was a good road win for Florida State as they shot just 41% from the field and 26% from three. The key was the free throw shooting as the Noles went 18-29 from the line.
The percentage wasn’t great, but just getting to the line was critical to keep the Wolfpack behind the eight ball from foul trouble and an “easy points” perspective. Florida State’s rebounding (+5) was again the key as the Noles set themselves up nicely for a Monday showdown against Louisville.
In Monday’s game, the Noles were able to complete the season sweep of the Cardinals as they used a big second have surged to take the lead and pull away from the Cardinals. Florida State again ruled the boards (+7) and shot very well from the field (51%). Trent Forrest led the team with 16 points, going 6-9 from the field and nabbing three steals. This Saturday, the Noles will travel to Clemson and then travel to Notre Dame as they look to close out their run for the ACC title.
#7 – Duke (23-5)
Following a crushing road loss at NC State, Duke rebounded nicely against the Virginia Tech Hokies. Duke got off to a very hot start and cashed in with a lopsided rout of the Hokies, 88-64. Duke was +9 on the glass and amazing from three (42%). Cassius Stanley carried the torch for Duke offensively, going 5-7 from deep and pulling down seven rebounds. The win was seemingly great for Duke, as their next opponent seemed like an easy win.
In their first matchup, Duke won by 31 points and never seemed even slightly bothered. This time around, Wake Forest came out hot and didn’t cool down. The Demon Deacons shot 52% from the field and 55% from three, but the big story was foul trouble from Duke and the free throw count from Wake Forest. Wake Forest attempted 50 free throws in the game, making 37 of them. Duke had three players foul out and another three finished the game with four fouls each.
The inconsistency in personnel led to some chemistry issues and an abnormal amount of turnovers in the game (16). Chalk this loss up to hot shooting and clumsy defending as Duke will look to bounce back this week when they travel to UVA on Saturday before a quick turnaround against NC State on Monday.
#8 – Kentucky (23-5)
Kentucky has now won seven in a row, following wins against Florida and Texas A&M. The Florida game was a big coming-out party for Immanuel Quickley. If you didn’t know a lot about him before, you do after watching this game. Quickley went 4-6 from deep and netted 26 points in the win as Kentucky used an efficient effort to edge the Gators at home.
On Tuesday, Kentucky cruised to a comfortable victory after taking control of the game midway through the first half. Kentucky owned the boards (+8) and shot very well (52% from the field and 50% from three) but struggled to control the ball (17 turnovers). The win essentially ended Texas A&M’s hopes for an at-large bid and setup Kentucky for a chance to clinch the SEC title with three games to go. Next week, Auburn and Tennessee will look to ruin Kentucky’s chances of a conference title.
#9 – Maryland (23-5)
On Sunday, Maryland stumbled on the road against Ohio State, losing by seven. It wasn’t a complete shocker, given Ohio State was a three-point favorite at home, but the result was still disappointing for Maryland. Though Ohio State barely shot better than Maryland, the big story was rebounding as Maryland was outrebounded by nine, and Ohio State was stellar from the line (23-28).
The bigger story on the week was the comeback on Wednesday against Minnesota. At one point, Maryland trailed by 17. Darryl Morsell hit the go-ahead three with under two seconds left and Maryland survived a big road scare and kept their hopes of winning the Big 10 alive.
Maryland’s rebounding ability kept them in the game (+9) despite their poor shooting effort. This Saturday, Maryland will host #24 Michigan State and then go on the road to face Rutgers on Tuesday.
#10 – Creighton (22-6)
Creighton has won nine of their last ten and rolled into the top 10 this week, despite only playing one game over the past ten days. Last Sunday, Creighton hosted Butler in a big home game, looking to avenge a 14-point loss from earlier in the season. Creighton shot out of their minds in the game, pulling away late in the first half and never letting off the gas the rest of the way.
Creighton shot 50% from the field and 58% from three. Butler won on the boards (+4), but that was their only bright spot in the game. The Jays forced 16 turnovers and Marcus Zegarowski led the scoring with 25 points. On Sunday, Creighton will travel to St John’s before heading home to host Georgetown on Wednesday.
Best futures for Conference Tournament Champions
American Athletic Conference winner: Memphis +650
No one is high on Memphis as of late. After all, they’ve lost four of their last six. The thing about Memphis is, they are one of the most talented teams in the country but they aren’t maximizing any of their talents. At this point, Memphis is going to be on the outside of the NCAA tournament.
They need to win their tournament to have a shot at getting into the Big Dance. It’s a desperation tournament for Memphis and I think they’ll have a good shot at putting something together in the Conference tournament. +650 odds are just so good for a team with that level of talent.
Southeastern Conference winner: Kentucky +180
Kentucky is coming together at the right time. Like Memphis, the talent level of the team exceeds every other team in the conference. John Calipari has a history of drastically improving his young teams as the season goes on, and this team is no different. Winners of seven straight, Kentucky should have a nice path to a Conference championship as the #1 seed in a down year for the rest of the SEC.
West Coast Conference winner: BYU +450
This is purely a value bet. BYU beat Gonzaga by 13 last week and has shown they’re a problematic matchup for the Zags. If they were to face each other head-to-head in the conference final, there’s no way you’re going to be able to get odds anywhere near +450 for the game. I look at this conference as a two-horse race and I love the odds for BYU.