The Rundown With Lapoint: Big 12, FSU Humiliated, Sun Belt on the Come Up

Nathaniel Lapoint: The Rundown with the kid who never played a down

The Humiliation of the Big 12

What an amazing week for everyone in college football except for the Big 12. The Big 12 got absolutely bullied this weekend by the Sun Belt Conference. The losses started in Des Moines, where the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns absolutely took it to the 23rd-ranked Cyclones and Brock Purdy. Let’s keep in mind that a lot of college football analysts had picked Iowa State as a potential opponent for the Oklahoma Sooners in the conference title game. The Cajuns’ special teams made sure all those analysts ate their words on Saturday, beating the Cyclones 31-14 with a pair of long touchdowns coming on kickoff and punt returns. Louisiana special teams alone would have tied former Heisman hopeful Brock Purdy on Saturday. 

The Cyclones weren’t the only Big 12 team to get stomped out by teams in the Sun Belt. Coastal Carolina for the second time in two years rolled the Mad Hatter and the Jayhawks in Lawrence. The Chanticleers put up 28 unanswered points to take a 28-0 lead into the half and went on autopilot in the second half on their way to a very comfortable 38-23 win. 

Luckily not everyone in Big 12 scheduled Sun Belt teams but one more unlucky member of the conference did schedule a game with a Sun Belt opponent and that was Kansas State. The best team in Arkansas – no that’s not a typo – went into the Little Apple, and showed the rebuilding Wildcats how to play football. Final score Arkansas State 35, K State 31. Arkansas State had a dominant performance from wide Receiver Jonathan Adams Junior, who caught 8 passes for 98 yards and three TDs. They also saw four different players complete passes en route to victory. 

Florida State Suffers Embarrassing Loss To Hapless Yellow Jackets

For anyone who stuck around through all of the lightning delays in the FSU GT game, you were in for a treat. In the first half, the Yellow Jackets threw two picks inside the red zone and had two field goals blocked. The exact same team that couldn’t do anything right especially in the kicking game came back from a 10-0 deficit at half time to beat the Seminoles in Tallahassee 16-13. Georgia Tech was picked to be the worst team in the ACC this season and turned in one of the worst performances I’ve ever seen by a Power-5 team in the first half and still won. The world of college football needs to apologize to Georgia Tech for talking that trash because this team went on the road in Week 1 of conference play – in the weird world of corona college football – and handed FSU one of the most embarrassing losses I’ve seen in years. This GT team left 21 points on the field ( 2 INT inside the 20, 2 missed FG, 1 missed PAT) and still won.

Florida State – you are quickly becoming a basketball school…

Duke is in business, and Notre Dame looks ordinary

Don’t look too much into the Duke Notre Dame game because both teams have a lot of potential this season. However, there are a few takeaways from the season opener in South Bend: Duke’s O-line isn’t that bad. In the first half particularly, they looked very competent at opening up running lanes against Notre Dame’s vaunted defense. They also only gave up three sacks in the game, which is not bad considering the overall expecations of this unit. This is a good sign for the Blue Devils because quarterback Chase Brice won’t be able to do anything with a terrible line. Chase Brice is going to be a good QB in Durham – he just needs time to settle in and become comfortable with his new team. This season is not geared towards transfer quarterbacks having success especially early in the season. If you’re a Duke football fan, if they come out of hiding before basketball season, don’t worry: you’re in good hands. 

Now for Notre Dame. The defense looks solid, but Jay Bramblett was arguably their best player and he’s the punter and Ian Book needs receivers… badly. Having lost his top three receivers from last year, Book turned in the 2nd worst performance of his starting career by quarterback rating. These Fighting Irish are solid and in a year without the Pac=12 and no Big 10 (as of now), they could have some success, but this team is not special in my eyes. 

Texas State Makes Me Sad

The Texas State Bobcats have made me so sad this season. I’m not disappointed in them – they just make me sad because they play well and are so close to snaring a result, but they can’t get out of their own way. In Week 1, the Bobcats almost took down SMU in Dallas but came up just short. As if last week’s loss to SMU wasn’t bad enough, this weekend, after battling back from being down 31-14, to UTSA midway through the third quarter. They tied it up on a 91-yard punt return with 1:16 left in the 4th, with an opportunity to take the lead with the extra-point, 42-41. Things were looking good for the Bobcats until kicker Alan Orona hooked the PAT to send the game to OT. Both teams scored in the first OT but in the second OT, Orona missed the game-tying 20-yard field goal, and UT San Antonio won 51-48. I’m not even a Texas State fan, but this team tears at my heartstrings and makes me sad every week.

The Sunbelt is making moves this season

The Sun Belt is on the up and up and if anyone tells you otherwise its because they don’t watch college football. Not only did they win three games against Big 12 opponents this past weekend, Appalachian State looked great in their opener featuring their third head coach in three years, and the South Alabama Jaguars also looked very good this weekend suffering a tight and controversial loss in Mobile on Saturday night against Tulane, as some questionable calls did not help their case. With the American conference struggling early this season look for Sun Belt to make a move at that Power 6 spot if this trend of great Sun Belt football continues.

Three Quarterbacks who had great opening weekend games that I could care less about:

Spencer Rattler: We have heard for a long time now that Spencer Rattler is a good QB and let’s be honest Lincoln Riley is one of the best QB coaches in the country. I very much expected Spencer Rattler to have a great debut against Missouri State which he did throwing for 290 yards and 4 TD in his one half of play. Sooner won 48-0

Sam Ehlinger: The Heisman hopeful from Texas opened his 2020 campaign against the always impressive UTEP (lol not). Ehlinger hung 426 yards and 5 Touchdowns on the Minors in his one half of play. Horns won 59-3. 

Trevor Lawrence: The likely 2021 first overall pick in the NFL draft also started his season on the road Saturday against the Demon Deacons. Lawrence threw for 351 yards and 1 TD and ran in 2 TD against Wake en route to a 37-13 win. Lawrence and the Tigers looked like they never came off of autopilot and cruised to an easy opening win over Wake Forest.

Thomas: Best and Worst Atmospheres in College Basketball

Yesterday, we looked at the best and worst atmospheres in each Power 5 conference in college football, and today we’ll do the same on the court, checking in on the best college basketball atmospheres in the power-6 conferences (including the Big East). 

Big East

Worst Atmosphere: DePaul

A really bad team makes it hard to bring in fans, and the Blue Demons exemplify that, with easily the lowest per-game attendance in the Big East. They were just 3-15 in conference play this past season, have not made the NCAA Tournament since 2004, and they’ve had a share of last place in the Big East in ten of the past twelve seasons. Safe to say the student body isn’t exactly coming out in droves for most of their games. 

Runner Up: Georgetown

Best Atmosphere: Creighton

It was a tough race at the top for the best atmosphere in the Big East, but the nod goes to the Blue Jays who are in the Big East, despite hailing from Nebraska. Nebraska loves their college sports teams – the Cornhuskers were ranked the top Big 10 football atmosphere yesterday – and Creighton is no exception. It didn’t hurt that Creighton was really good this past season, but as the Blue Jays rallied down the stretch to claim the Big East regular season title, CHI Health Center Arena was roaring in Omaha, led by the notorious “Creighton Blue Crew”.

MEMPHIS, TN – FEBRUARY 4: Fans of the Memphis Tigers “Blue Crew” cheer on their team during a game against the Xavier Musketeers on February 4, 2012 at FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee. Memphis beat Xavier 72-68. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

Runner Up: Marquette

Pac-12

Worst Atmosphere: Washington State

The Cougars are much more of a football school – whether it was Anthony Gordon throwing a million touchdowns, or the iconic Gardner Minshew taking snaps under center, Washington State has had some studs on the gridiron. The same cannot be said on the court, where the Cougars haven’t placed in the NCAA Tournament since 2008. ‘08 was also the last year they posted a winning record in Pac-12 play. Coming of entertaining football seasons, basketball just isn’t much of a product to be watched in comparison. 

Runner Up: USC

Best Atmosphere: Arizona
The Wildcats have the second-biggest arena by capacity in the Pac-12, yet they were one of just two teams to produce a sellout in 2019, and the only team to record multiple, as Arizona home games saw capacity crowds flood through the gates four times last season. The Wildcats are traditionally a contender for Pac-12 glory, and they’re fans get hyped down there in Tucson. Easy call here. 

Runner Up: Washington

Big 12

Worst Atmosphere: TCU
The Horned Frogs aren’t even a top-3 program in their own state, so it’s hard to generate a lot of excitement at their games. Their crowds are among the smallest in the Big 12, which has several teams that just pack crowds into their arenas night after night. It was a battle for the bottom between two Texas programs, and TCU loses out as the worst atmosphere in the Big 12. 

Runner Up: Baylor

Best Atmosphere: Kansas

Was there any doubt? Kansas is one of the toughest places to play, and with a horrific football program, gamedays at Allen Fieldhouse is where it is at, if you’re part of Jayhawk nation, or just a fan of great college basketball. The long-time dominant force of the Big 12, Kansas has one of the best homecourt advantages in college sports, backed by a rocking and raucous crowd every night. 

Runner Up: Iowa State

Big 10

Worst Atmosphere: Rutgers

We spat all over Rutgers in football, and unfortunately for the Scarlet Knights, we have to the same here. At least in football, they can be considered the best college team in the state (as sad a statement as that is for New Jersey), but they don’t have that notoriety in basketball, as Seton Hall is a far superior team most seasons. Rutgers was actually not horrible this past season, but years of struggles makes any athletic atmosphere less than electric at Rutgers. 

Runner Up: Northwestern

Best Atmosphere: Wisconsin

Maybe a bold pick, but the Badgers actually in the Top-5 for average attendance per home game. The Badgers are a few years removed from their era of March magic, making a couple of Final Four runs and beating undefeated Kentucky in 2015, but Wisconsin still packs in fans for home games to cheer on a team that is often in Big 10 championship contention. 

Plenty of passionate basketball fans up in Wisconsin

Runner Up: Nebraska

ACC

Worst Atmosphere: Wake Forest

In a basketball-crazed conference, the Demon Deacons’ consistent struggles on the court struggle to bring fans to their ACC contests, where they are oftentimes uncompetitive. Wake pulls an upset here and there, but they are not consistent enough in their success to entice too many fans to come through the gates. 

Runner Up: Boston College

Best Atmosphere: Duke

This is an absolute no-brainer. With a 9,314 seat arena, the Duke Blue Devils pack in 9,314 fans to every home game, with the thundering cheers of the “Cameron Crazies” leading the way. No matter where you sit, you’re close to the action, and you really can’t beat the atmosphere in Durham on gameday, where they also host the biggest rivalry in college basketball once a year. 

Runner Up: Virginia

SEC

Worst Atmosphere: Texas A&M
When basketball season is sandwiched between football at Kyle Allen Field and baseball, where the Aggies have one of the most vocal fanbases, the action on the court tends to play second fiddle to their primary sports. The Aggies don’t have extremely small crowds, but the SEC has some of the best atmospheres in the country, and they simply don’t bring enough tradition to the table to rise out of the cellar. 

Runner Up: Ole Miss

Best Atmosphere: Kentucky

The Wildcats have NBA draft lottery talent playing every single year, and fans are bunching together at the gates trying to get into Rupp Arena. One of the most historic programs in the nation, Kentucky is a must-see team on any die-hard college basketball fan’s to-do list. 

Runner Up: Tennessee

ACC Coastal Quarterback Rankings

The ACC Coastal division, as it has been for several years, is both the little brother of the ACC and completely wide open. The division has sent all seven of its teams to the conference title game in the past seven years, although none of them have emerged a winner. That trend figures to continue, as the winner of this division will have an uphill battle against Clemson, assuming the Tigers hold serve in the Atlantic Division. However, this should make the regular season highly interesting, as no team is truly incapable of making a run within the division. A key part of each team’s ability to make such a run will hinge on their quarterbacks, so let’s take a look at the rankings for the ACC Coastal signal-callers.

7. Chris Katrenick, Red-shirt Junior, Duke

Katrenick was a true backup in 2019 behind senior Quentin Harris, who started all 12 games for the Blue Devils. The former three-star recruit is a 6’3 red-shirt Junior from Algonquin, Illinois. He is just 8 for 25 passing in his collegiate career and is not in the best situation to succeed in Durham. Duke was 114th in total offense in 2019 and just 5-7 on the year. The sample size is very small for Katrenick, but with a lack of experience and not much offensive talent around him, it might be an uphill battle in 2020.

6. Brennan Armstrong, Red-shirt Sophmore, Virginia

Another guy who spent last season servicing as a backup. Unlike Katrenick, Armstrong is getting put into a good situation, as the Cavaliers spent most of 2019 ranked inside the top 25 and played in the ACC championship game. The former three-star is a  6’2 southpaw from Shelby, Ohio, and he looks to pick up right where last season’s starter Bryce Perkins left off. Perkins threw for 3538 yards in 2019, breaking the school’s passing record. Armstrong showed promise in his limited action in 2019 completing 15 of 20 passes for 196 yards. He could succeed in 2020 but he finds himself at #6 on the list largely due to his lack of experience. 

5. James Graham, Red-shirt Sophmore, Georgia Tech

Graham and the rest of the Yellow Jackets really struggled in their first season away from Paul Johnson and the triple option. In his red-shirt freshman season, Graham was the main guy under center in Atlanta. He came to Tech as a four-star commit out of Fitzgerald Georgia with big upside as a dual-threat QB. After a red-shirt year, he only completed 45% of his 193 passing attempts in 2019. He finished second on the team in rushing with 290 yards. Graham will look to make a jump in his second full year under center for the Jackets.

4. Hendon Hooker, Red-shirt Junior, Virginia Tech

After injuries left starting QB Ryan Willis sidelined, Hooker was forced into action in his red-shirt sophomore year making eight starts for the Hokies. At 6’4” the former four-star for Greensboro, North Carolina, is a very dangerous dual-threat quarterback who was second on the team in rushing a season ago with 520 yards. Hooker is also a very accurate thrower who completed 61% of his passes while only getting picked off twice. Coming into the season as the starter, Hooker is set up for success with more control of the offense on a team that is favored to win the ACC Coastal. 

3. Kenny Pickett, Senior Pittsburgh

It took us all the way to number three on our list to find a guy who has not taken a red-shirt season in his college career. In his true junior season, Pickett’s number took a massive jump, turning himself into one of the top passers in the conference. Pickett went from averaging 140 yards per game passing in 2018 to nearly 260 yards per contest in 2019. He was a three star-recruit coming out of Oakhurst, New Jersey, and tossed for nearly 3,100 yards in 2019, the fourth-most in the ACC. If Pickett’s numbers continue to raise he could be a late-round steal in the 2021 draft. 

2. D’Eriq King, Red-shirt, Senior, Miami

Don’t look now, but the U has a quarterback. King said enough with the University of Huston just four games into the 2019 season and decided to red-shirt to keep a year of eligibility, before choosing Miami in January. He is a very dangerous dual-threat QB who rushed for 674 yards in 2018 to go along with 2,982 passing yards. He accounted for 50, yes 50, Cougars’ touchdowns in 2018, the most in a single season in school history, and he also sat out the last 2 1/2 games with an injury. If King can put up anywhere near the production for his historic 2018 season, the Hurricanes will get what the so desperately crave: national relevancy

1. Sam Howell, Sophomore, North Carolina

Sam Howell had one of the best true freshman seasons in the history of college football in 2019. He was second in the ACC in passing with 3,641 yards, and he set the FBS freshman record as well as the UNC school record with 38 passing touchdowns. He was the 2019 ACC Rookie of the Year and took the Tar Heels from two wins in 2018 to seven wins in 2019, punctuated by a 55-13 beatdown of Temple in the Military Bowl. The sky is the limit for Howell in 2020, as the sophomore will look to build off of his incredible first-year campaign.

2020 March Madness Simulation Starts Final Four on Saturday

After 8 days of simulation, we reached the conclusion of our Elite Eight, and starting Saturday evening, we will play out our Final Four, with the national championship on Monday night. How did we get here? And who is going home with the title? Let’s find out. 

South Region – 3. Duke

Duke’s road to the Final Four was made possible by a series of upsets in the top half of the bracket that took out many of their top challengers. Between #1 overall seed Kansas, 2019 Final Four member Auburn, and a strong Maryland squad, it didn’t appear to be a favorable road for Duke. However, courtesy of 13th-seeded Vermont and 9th-seeded Wichita State, all three of those teams were gone by the Sweet 16 making Duke the favorite. 

The Blue Devils had no issues in their opener, opening up a 14-point lead on Northern Kentucky and never saw that lead dip below twelve in the final twenty minutes, winning 76-54. Their Round of 32 battle was much more challenging, as Ohio State looked primed to pull off the upset. The #6 Buckeyes led by 10 with five minute to go, but a late Duke charge forced overtime, where the Blue Devils took over, holding Ohio State to four overtime points and winning 107-102. 

In the Sweet 16, Duke was matched up against second-seeded San Diego State. The Aztecs were the higher seed, but the Blue Devils were the betting favorite, and they showed why, opening up a nine point lead at halftime and gradually squeezing out their mid-major opponent. San Diego State came within three at one point, but Duke stayed ahead and pulled away, winning 83-72. 

The Elite Eight rolled around and Duke got a very unexpected opponent in 13. Vermont. The Catamounts came brutally close to an upset last year of Florida State, and this year, helped along by Wichita’s upset of Kansas, they had rampaged through the top half of the bracket. They did the same to Duke in the early going, leading 50-37 at halftime and 62-50 with 12 minutes to play. The Blue Devils’ offense picked up, cutting the deficit to six with 8 minutes to play, and then five with four to go. With 2:54 to go, Trae Jones hit the first of his clutch shots, draining a triple to tie the score at 76-76. At 80-80, Duke got the ball with 33 seconds to go and the shot clock off. The Blue Devils let the clock drain before getting the ball to Jones who knocked down the game winner with a buttery step-back jumper. It wasn’t over, as Vermont connected on a full court pass and was fouled on the layup, but they hit just one of two free throws, and Duke survived 82-81 to advance to the Final Four. 

West Region – 1. Kentucky

Kentucky looked nothing like a Final Four team for much of their tournament, as they have truly embodied the ‘survive and advance’ method. Even in the first round, against #16 Siena, the Wildcats only opened up a 6-point halftime advantage, and Siena was as close as four in the second half before Kentucky pulled away to win 87-70. In the Round of 32, the Wildcats looked dead in the water, down twelve to Arizona at half and being outplayed for much of the game. But Arizona never pulled away, and Kentucky pulled back to force overtime, and then Immanuel Quickley hit a runner at the buzzer and Kentucky advanced, 86-85. 

Kentucky got what should have been a welcome gift in the Sweet 16, getting to face #12 Eastern Tennessee State instead of defending national champion Virginia or powerhouse Villanova. However, the game was anything but easy for the Wildcats, who tussled back and forth before hitting another buzzer-beater, this one courtesy of Tyrese Maxes, in a 78-76 win. Their Elite Eight contest was actually probably Kentucky’s best game, or at least their best half, as after trailing Seton Hall by three at half, the Wildcats stormed back to take a 12-point lead. After the Pirates cut it to six, Kentucky held Myles Powell’s squad to just one layup in the final four minutes, winning 80-71 to earn a match-up with Duke in the Final Four.

East Region – 1. Dayton

Dayton had to deal with a lot of pressure as a first time one-seed and our #2 overall seed, but the Flyers handled it admirably, cruising through most of their opening weekend. Obi Toppin was held somewhat quiet by #16 NC Central in the first round, but it was all they could do to silence the AP Player of the Year, and virtually everyone else was open for Dayton, who cruised 77-55. In the Round of 32, Toppin scored 24, and Dayton led wire-to-wire and ended the surprising run of #9 Notre Dame, who made the tournament by virtue of a Cinderella run through the ACC Tournament.

 Dayton trailed for the first time in the Sweet 16, down by two at halftime to a massive underdog in #12 New Mexico State. Both offenses exploded in a thrilling second half, but Dayton couldn’t surge ahead, and the game went to overtime at 80-80. There, however, the Flyers claimed ten of the first eleven points in the period to seize control and take down the Aggies, 93-86. 

The Flyers played a somewhat strange Elite 8 contest against Florida State. They got off to a hot start and led throughout the first half, but the Seminoles narrowed the gap to five points at the break. With 12 to go, Dayton hadn’t surrendered the lead, still up two points. At the Under-4 timeout, Dayton still led by four, and at no point had Florida State so much as tied the game. But at the same time, Dayton didn’t lead by more than five points throughout the half. In the final minutes, the Seminoles came within one point several times, and a game-tying three rimmed out. Trey Landers had 21 and Dayton won an 88-85 game in which they never trailed and never led by more than two possessions in the final 35 minutes. 

Midwest Region – 3. Oregon

After a dicey first game, it’s been largely smooth sailing for Oregon, who did also benefit from the 1-seed in their region falling before the Elite Eight. The Ducks trailed at halftime in the first round to Eastern Washington, but they crawled back to take a small lead, icing the game when Pritchard executed a silky crossover and drilled a jumper for an 86-82 lead with 7 seconds left and the shot clock about to expire. Oregon advanced and got to face #11 Clemson in the Round of 32, but the Tigers never challenged the Ducks, who cruised 78-63, heading into the Sweet 16 with very little second-round drama. 

Against a strong Baylor team whose late-season slide cost them a #1 seed, the Ducks got an early advantage and then clung to a one-point lead at the break. Oregon got up by as many as eleven in the second half, before watching Baylor pull within 69-66 with 1:48 to play. The Bears didn’t score again, and the Ducks went 6-8 at the free throw line to close it out, advancing to the Elite Eight, 75-66. 

Against #4 Louisville, who upset #1 Gonzaga in the Sweet 16, Oregon got off to a horrific start, trailing 25-12 just twelve minutes into the game. However, the Ducks rebounded and ended the half on a 23-12 run to make it a 37-35 halftime deficit. They started the second half on an 8-0 run before the game settled into a tightly-fought battle, with Oregon leading 75-71 with four minutes to play. From there, the Ducks locked down once more, not allowing Louisville a single point in the final four minutes. They recorded two steals, forced two more turnovers, and blocked a shot while ending the game on an 8-0 run to win 83-71, forging on to the Final Four.

25% of our bracket entries still have a champion in the field, with Duke the only team that nobody picked out of the four remaining squads. Who’s bringing home the national title on Monday night?

This Day in March Madness History: Lehigh Stuns Duke

It’s yet another day without sports. I can’t really count them, they’re such sad days. So to pass the time, I am recounting some of the most classic games in March Madness history. I will also include a YouTube link to watch the game I have referenced for your enjoyment. We’re all in this together, trying to get through the sports shutdown, so here are my efforts. 

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY
March 16. 2012
15. Lehigh def. 2. Duke 75-70

  • The Set-Up
    Lehigh came in as the automatic qualifier for the Patriot League, and they were rewarded with a match-up with Duke, one of the nation’s powerhouses. Duke was two years removed from winning a national championship, and at 27-6, they figured to challenge for another title in 2012. Having lost in the first round only once since the 1996 season, the game versus Lehigh seemed like a mere stepping stone in their path to the championship, or at the very least a potential Elite Eight showdown with Kentucky.
    For Lehigh, being a 15th-seed was actually an improvement on the 16th-seed they’d been given in their four previous tournament appearances. They had never gone dancing and come away with as much as a single victory, so there seemed to be little reason to hope. 
  • How it went down
    Duke vastly underrated Lehigh and future NBA star CJ McCollum who scored 30 points in the first-round contest. The Blue Devils trailed much of the first half, but they surged into the break to take a 30-28 lead. The Mountain Hawks felt good about their position, given they had shot just 38% from the field and trailed by two points.
    The two squads tussled back and forth for the first twelve minutes of the second half, with neither team able to seize a commanding advantage. The longer the game remained in doubt, the more momentum Lehigh seemed to seize. With 8:21 remaining on the clock, Lehigh’s Mackey McKnight drilled a triple, pushing the Mountain Hawks ahead for good. They extended their lead up to 61-54 with two minutes to go, forcing Duke to start fouling. The Blue Devils closed within three twice, but McCollum came up big at the charity stripe, including in the final second, when, up three points, he drained two free throws to push Lehigh’s advantage to 75-70, which was the final score. 
  • The Aftermath
    Lehigh’s miracle run ended after one victory, as they lost to Xavier, the region’s 10th seed, in the Round of 32. The Mountain Hawks were the 6th team to pull off a 15th seed over 2-seed upset, but ironically, they weren’t even the first that day, as 15. Norfolk State had stunned 2. Missouri that afternoon. Lehigh has not made the NCAA Tournament sense.
    Duke was obviously eliminated, but they essentially saw history repeat itself two years later, as they lost to 14th-seed Mercer as the third-ranked team in their region. They won a national title in 2015, however, and have currently made the Elite Eight in their past two seasons.
  • Future NBA Notables
    DUKE
    Mason Plumlee
    Seth Curry
    Austin Rivers
    Quinn Cook

LEHIGH
CJ McCollum

February 28-March 1: Nathaniel Lapoint’s Weekend Takeaways

The college basketball world continues to get crazier. A streaking Creighton team lost by 20 to one of the worst Power-6 teams in the country; Michigan State went into Maryland beat the Big 10 leaders, Baylor was stunned by TCU, and that was just a few of the headlines. I can’t unpack the whole weekend in a few bullet points, but here’s three of my takeaways. 

Duke needs to figure it out

  • After beating Notre Dame by 34, the Blue Devils were 22-3, and streaking fast, heading towards a possible #1 seed. Fast forward just over two weeks later, and Duke has lost three of four, all to unranked teams on the road. They lost by 22 to NC State, a bubble team at best, to Wake Forest, one of the worst teams in the ACC, and then to Virginia. The UVA loss on its own is not horrible, but Duke has now lost three straight road games, and in their two away games prior, they barely survived BC and UNC, another pair of basement dwellers. Championship teams can win away from home, and Duke is looking more and more incapable of that by the day. 

Dayton is ridiculously good

  • They had two early losses, and the Flyers flew under the radar due to the dominance of traditional mid-major powerhouse Gonzaga and the stunning success of San Diego State. But with both of those squads losing games recently, Dayton has flown into the mix for a #1 seed, and they are most certainly a team to watch as March Madness commences. They’ve won 18 straight and are passing every potential test with flying colors. As for the ‘championship teams win on the road’? Dayton is 8-0 in true road games, and their two losses are neutral court defeats by a combined 8 points to #1 Kansas and Colorado, who has been in and out of the Top 25 this season. Beyond that? Dayton has looked almost flawless; I wouldn’t want to be facing this squad in a couple of weeks. 

Michigan State is peaking at the right time

  • Michigan State has underwhelmed for much of the year, but with their most important basketball yet to be played, the Spartans seem to have found their form at the right time. Michigan State had lost four of five, punctuated by a February 15th loss at home to Maryland. Michigan State got some of their mojo back with a 21-point road win over a hapless Nebraska squad, and then they got a big home win over Luka Garza and the #18 Iowa Hawkeyes. Then came a road date with the Terrapins, just two weeks after their tough home loss, except this time, the Spartans picked up a victory by double-digits. The Spartans are getting lots of scoring outside of star guard Cassius Winston, and they are headed in the right direction with the tournament approaching.

Tuesday Top 25 Takeaways: SDSU struggling, Duke a pretender?

While college basketball usually has a lot of conference action on Wednesdays, Tuesday boasted a large slate of match-ups involving ranked teams, highlighted by a Top-25 showdown between #18 Iowa and #24 Michigan State, and Wake Forest’s shocking upset of #7 Duke. With that being said, each of our podcast personalities came up with a takeaway or two from Tuesday’s packed schedule.

Andrew Degeorge

  • Tom Izzo needs to calm down

An emotional coach on the sideline can generate a lot of opinions, but Tom Izzo’s frustration with the referees on Tuesday seemed more reflective of his frustration with the under-performing Spartans. Michigan State pulled out a win on Tuesday, but hovering at the edge of the Top 25 is pretty disappointing, and Izzo may be boiling over. Michigan State’s season isn’t dead yet though, so Izzo needs to calm down a little bit as the Spartans head for the postsesaon.

  • Xavier Tillman figures out how to slow down Luka Garza

Izzo called Tillman one of the best defenders in the country after this game, and the praise was justified. Playing a red-hot Luka Garza, Tillman matched up against the Iowa star and made him earn every point. After Garza dominated other Michigan State defenders in the first half for twelve points, Tillman took over in the second half. Although the Hawkeyes’ stud notched eight more points, he missed seven second half shots, shooting just 38% for the whole game. Tillman also notched a couple of huge blocks to help the Spartans grab a much-needed victory.

Nathaniel Lapoint’s Takeaway

  • Duke is really overrated

Duke had been looking really good, but then they lost by 22 points to NC State. However, the road loss to a desperate bubble team could be excused, and Duke looked to bounce back with a dominant victory over Virginia Tech. Then came last night. The Blue Devils were up nine with under 90 seconds remaining but allowed one of the worst teams in the ACC – Wake Forest – to come back, tie the game, and then win in double overtime. Duke gave up 113 points in the loss, an embarrassing total considering Wake Forest’s feeble performance this season. With two straight ugly losses to unranked teams, it may be time to start questioning how legitimate this Duke team is.

Cal Christoforo’s Takeaway

  • SDSU needs to wakeup

It’s really hard to finish a season undefeated. So while SDSU’s loss to UNLV was a tough blow to their hopes for a #1 seed, it’s at least understandable. Everyone has an off night. But then the Aztecs came out on Tuesday, presumably fired up to play after a loss, and laid a first-half egg. They trailed a mid-tier Colorado State team at halftime on their home court, and needed a comeback to secure a 6-point victory by the end. San Diego State seems to have gotten a little bit too comfortable, and they need to wake up. There will be better teams than UNLV and Colorado State in March.

February 18, 2020: NCAA Basketball Power Rankings

One of the raging debates in our Power Rankings is who is better: Kansas or Baylor. Although Baylor, and their road win over Kansas, has the better resume, our ballots reflect a split on who we believe is the more talented team. Those debates could be put to rest when these two powerhouses, undoubtedly the class of the Big 12, square off for one more regular season match-up. For now, our rankings continue to reflect a lot of turmoil, as a tough week from Louisville sent them plummeting, but for the second straight week, four teams got first-place votes. Check out the biggest fallers, risers, and then the full Power Rankings below.

Biggest Risers: Dayton, Maryland

Biggest Faller: Louisville 

Joined the Rankings: Penn State, Kentucky, 

Dropped Out: West Virginia, Seton Hall

Honorable Mention

  • Villanova
  • Penn State
  • Kentucky 

#10 – Louisville Cardinals (Last Week: 4) 

  • The week before, Louisville slid from the #2 slot to #4 after a shaky home win against lowly Wake Forest. A general feeling that the Cardinals were slipping manifested itself in two ugly losses this past week, losing on the road to a bad Georgia Tech team and then being manhandled by an unranked Clemson team that is just 13-12 on the year. The enormous struggles resulted in a 6-spot slip for Louisville, who hosts Syracuse and UNC this week with a chance to regroup. 

#9 – Auburn Tigers (Last Week: 9)

  • Auburn has an amazing ability to win close games, as they demonstrated with yet another overtime victory versus Alabama this week, at the time their third extra-time win in a row. However, the clutch Tigers followed it up with a miserable showing in Missouri, dropping an 85-73 decision that drops Auburn one spot this week. They’re still in second in the ACC and have just three losses, so they stay in the rankings, but they have to watch these blowout road losses. 

#8 – Maryland Terrapins (Last Week: 10)

  • Maryland was a popular pick to be upset by Michigan State last week, but they handled the Spartans en route to their eighth straight victory, leading them to be our co-biggest riser of the week. The Terrapins are cruising, and they could see themselves rising more in the future if they survive a big road test against Ohio State this weekend. 

#7 – Dayton Flyers (Last week: 9)

  • The other biggest riser of the week, Dayton locked down two more wins last week, taking down a shaky UMass team on the road as well as dismantling Rhode Island, the second-place squad in the Atlantic 10, in a game which the Flyers led by double-digits the whole way. That, combined with a couple losses from Top-10 teams boost the Flyers to #7 in this week’s rankings. 

#6 – Florida State Seminoles (Last Week: 7)

  • FSU beat a decent Syracuse team at home, holding off a valiant comeback from the Orange to stay unbeaten on their home court. The Seminoles are pretty much out of the running for a #1 seed, but a home game versus Louisville gives them a chance to prove themselves once more. They rise up one spot this week, largely due to Louisville’s collapse. 

#5 – San Diego State Aztecs (Last Week: 6)

  • This team refuses to lose, and they tacked on two more impressive victories last week, turning a stiff challenge from New Mexico into a 23-point blowout, and visiting Boise State – a 12-1 team at home – and decimating the Broncos 72-55. They’re the standard in the Mountain West, and it’s not close. This team is for real. 

#4 – Duke Blue Devils (Last Week: 5) – 1 First Place Vote

  • After losing a home contest to Louisville, our podcast spent time discussing whether Duke was in trouble. Since then, Duke has won seven straight including a ranked win over Florida State, a rivalry comeback versus UNC, and two 30+ point victories. Duke had just one game since our last Power Rankings and they manhandled Notre Dame, a team whose last seven losses were by a combined 15 points, by a stunning 94-60 score. This team is looking a serious threat to go all the way. 

#3 – Gonzaga Bulldogs (Last Week: 3) – 1 First Place Vote

  • As per usual, Gonzaga gets a first-place vote, but they are unable to gain ground on their Power-6 counterparts atop the rankings. The Bulldogs played just one game last week and cruised past a solid Pepperdine squad on the road. It was a good victory, but Gonzaga won’t be able to truly prove their legitimacy until the NCAA Tournament. 

#2 – Baylor Bears (Last Week: 2) – 1 First Place Vote

  • The Bears, despite their 23-1 record and 22-game winning streak, stay at #2. Our ballots were split, with two putting them above Kansas, and two placing them below. They got one first-place vote, as did their Big 12 rival, and ultimately a razor-thin 1-point margin separated the squads. The gap should be more definitive after they play each other this weekend. 

#1 – Kansas Jayhawks (Last Week: 1) -1 First Place Vote

  • Once again, the Jayhawks reign supreme in the power rankings. The rankings are based off how good we think the teams are, not necessarily our resume, and, albeit by a tiny margin, our ballots reflect that Kansas is the better team. After a big road win over West Virginia and blowouts versus Oklahoma and Iowa State, the Jayhawks have a chance to back up that belief and improve on their 23-3 record when they visit Baylor this week.

ACC Status Report: Syracuse and NC State rise, Irish and Cavaliers fall

I don’t think there’s been much shift at the top in the ACC – I still view Louisville, Duke, and Florida State as the three favorites, but there were some performances that merited a second look as teams jockey for conference tournament position and potentially a spot in the NCAA field come March.

  • Biggest Risers: Syracuse, NC State
    After initially listing Virginia as a dark-horse candidate, I believe the Wolfpack became the ‘best of the rest’ in the ACC outside the aforementioned top 3. This past week, they ended Clemson’s surprising hot streak and edged Virginia on the road.
    I also think Syracuse made a statement this week – in my eyes, the Orange definitely put themselves squarely in consideration for an at-large bid come March. I still don’t see them contending for an ACC title, but they had some really gutsy wins that have them riding a four-game winning streak. They beat Virginia Tech on the road, and then they proved they could win without Buddy Boeheim, beating the Irish on the road 84-82. It was an impressive performance from a team that had lost to Notre Dame at home just two weeks earlier.
  • Biggest Fallers: Virginia, Notre Dame
    Both of these squads played victim to the risers this week. The defending national champions started conference play 3-0 and had me thinking this could be a team that would make another deep run, but they’ve lost four of five, including at home to the Wolfpack and the Orange. Their trademark defense keeps them in games, but this team has lost a lot of offensive firepower, and while they’ll likely make the tournament, I’m highly doubting they make a run.
    The Irish’s quest to reclaim some respect in the ACC took another hit with their home loss to Syracuse. They are 2-5 in ACC play, with the last four of those losses coming by a combined 11 points. With a star in John Mooney, the Irish are staying competitive, but they lack the finishing touch of a perennial winner, and that may plague them if they can’t figure it out soon.
  • QUICK HITS
    The ACC is still one of the best conferences, if not the best conference, in America, and they are loaded with Final Four contenders at the top of the standings. I see the ACC putting 8 teams in the tournament, and my prediction is that those teams will be Duke, Louisville, Florida State, NC State, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, Virginia, and Notre Dame. Right outside the picture, I have Clemson and Pittsburgh.
    I’m declaring 4 ACC teams dead in the NCAA Tournament picture, and those teams are UNC, Miami, Wake Forest, and Boston College.
  • Biggest Upcoming Games
    Notre Dame @ #5 Florida State
    Pittsburgh @ Syracuse
    Clemson @ #6 Louisville

College Basketball Headlines: Duke Upset Headlines Crazy Day

Wow. What a weekend of college basketball. Three Top-5 Teams lost on Saturday as #3 Duke lost a tough one at home to #11 Louisville, while #4 Auburn and #5 Butler both lost decisively on the road to unranked opponents, with Florida and DePaul doing the job respectively. Along with those upsets, here’s the rest of the headlines from a  crazy Saturday of college basketball. 

Unexpected Heroes Highlight Unexpected Results

To pull a big road upset, a team often needs some unexpected contributions, and the Louisville Cardinals took that to a new level. Cardinals’ guard David Johnson was averaging 3.7 points per game, but he balled out for Louisville on Saturday, posting 19 points to go with seven assists, and four rebounds. Johnson’s stunning day outweighed a big performance from Duke’s Cassius Stanley and lifted Louisville to the 79-73 victory over Duke, who will be sure to drop in the polls after two losses this week. 

Auburn came to Florida and, after starting the year 15-0, the Tigers looked nothing like a top-5 team. The Gators got their own unexpected contributions, as Omar Payne, averaging 4.7 points per game, dominated Auburn to the tune of 19 points and 11 rebounds. After gleaning a 28-23 halftime edge, Florida ran away in the second half for a 69-47 victory. The Tigers are starting to slip badly after two blowout road losses, while the Gators look to be climbing back towards the team many thought they would be in the preseason. 

Depaul hosted a vulnerable Butler squad on Saturday. The Bulldogs were coming off a demoralizing home loss to Seton Hall, and they failed to come out of the gate fast, falling behind by ten at halftime. From there, DePaul closed it out, leading by as much 17 in the second half, eventually knocking off Butler 79-66. 

Not only did three top-5 teams lose in one day, they all suffered losses previously in the week, so expect some major shakeup in the AP Poll (and our Power Rankings) tomorrow. 

Three top-5 upsets stole headlines, but Kansas State topping West Virginia in dominant fashion was an absolute stunner. AP photo

The Other Upsets

While the upsets of Duke, Auburn, and Butler stole the headlines, there were some other notable upsets that occurred on Saturday. Kansas State dominated West Virginia, converting a  42-25 halftime lead into a 16-point victory. Cartier Diarra scored 25 for the Wildcats in a significant upset, as Kansas State improved to 8-9 and earned their first Big 12 win, dropping West Virginia to 14-3 in the process. 

Houston went on the road and earned a statement win over Wichita State, as no Shockers’ player had more than seven points, and Houston used a strong defensive performance and a steady offensive outing to put away the 16th-ranked team in the nation, 65-54. 

Arizona held serve on their home court, as the Wildcats played host to the #20 Colorado Buffalo, but Arizona didn’t let their visitors stick around in the game too long. ‘Zona outscored Colorado by eleven in the first half and ten in the second, earning a statement victory, 75-54. Most impressively, Arizona spread their offense around, with no scorers notching more than 13 points. Zeke Nnaji had 12 points and 12 rebounds to spur the offensive attack. 

And last but not least, in Big 10 play, it was Penn State dominating the skidding Ohio State Buckeyes. The Nittany Lions scored at will, putting up 42 points in the first 20 minutes, before heating up further and lighting up the scoreboard for 48 more in the second half. The Buckeyes drop to 2-5 in Big 10 play, and they could very well slip out of the rankings – barely two weeks after being a #1 seed in Joe Lunardi’s bracketology. 

Strong Road Performances Separating Elite Teams

Homecourt is a huge advantage, and its impact has become a noticeable trend throughout college sports. The home team is always expected to win more games, on any given day, but there are teams who look competent and capable of playing on the road – like Louisville on Saturday. But there are also teams who look like world-beaters at home but turn into limp noodles on the road. The Big 10 offers several examples of this, with Ohio State –  the #20 team in the nation – playing putrid basketball on the road, to the tune of a 1-4 road record. Michigan is 11-6, but they are 0-5 in true road games, and Penn State, a formerly ranked team, is 1-3 on the road. In an age where homecourt advantage is becoming ever more prevalent, the ability to win on the road will define which teams are capable of a deep run in March.