It’s basketball’s turn to be the focal point of college athletics.
No more fields of 100 yards. It’s now courts of 94 feet.
The only thing basketball and football have in common is a 3-point field goal.
The 2015-16 season has been underway for two months and if you’ve been paying attention elsewhere, here’s a quick look at what you missed and what you can expect for the next two months as we head to Houston for the Final Four.
North Carolina started on top and was there until losing at Northern Iowa (Yep. The same school that sent Kansas home in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2010). Kentucky took over the top spot, which it held all last season. The Wildcats lost at UCLA and Michigan State moved to No. 1. The Spartans lost at Iowa and that allowed Kansas to move to top of the poll. The Jayhawks’ two-week run will probably be over this week after Tuesday’s loss to West Virginia.
There are only two schools left with a `0′ on the right-hand side of the record.
No. 10 SMU (15-0) and No. 19 South Carolina (15-0) have both avoided taking a loss this season.
For SMU, pursuit of an undefeated season is their ultimate goal because the Mustangs have been banned from this year’s field of 68 because of NCAA violations.
SMU’s Larry Brown and Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, both members of the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame, missed nine games each this season, suspended for NCAA rules violations. The Mustangs went 9-0 in the games Brown missed while the Orange were 4-5 without Boeheim. Syracuse was ineligible for last year’s NCAA Tournament.
There will be no arguing.
No. 1 Kansas 109, No. 2 Oklahoma 103 in three overtimes. That the game was in Allen Fieldhouse only added more luster to its instant reputation.
The Jayhawks had chances to win in regulation and after the first two overtimes but it was the third extra session that decided it.
Every time a new 5 minutes was put on the clock, those watching kept finding a place for the game in basketball history and it rose quickly.
Buddy Hield, who had a career-high 46 points for Oklahoma, made two crucial turnovers in the third overtime and then missed a potential tying 3 at the buzzer.
Perry Ellis had 27 points and 13 rebounds for the Jayhawks and he summed it up perfectly when asked how the Jayhawks pulled out the win in a game that tired even the best of the athletes: ”Just heart.”
This one can start a lot of arguments. There are several names that deserve consideration, if not the title: Buddy Hield, Oklahoma; Perry Ellis, Kansas; Brice Johnson, North Carolina, Melo Trimble, Maryland; and Kris Dunn, Providence.
Darnell Valentine of Michigan State gets the nod from here mainly because of how much the Spartans missed him when he was out three weeks after having minor knee surgery.
Valentine, a 6-foot-5 guard, was averaging 18 points, eight rebounds and seven assists when he was injured in practice. The Spartans went to overtime to beat Oakland, and went down to the wire to beat Minnesota. Then there was the loss to Iowa, the Spartans’ only one of the season.
He returned Sunday against Penn State and the Spartans are back to being a national contender again.
With apologies to Buddy Hield’s 46-point effort in Oklahoma’s triple-overtime loss to Kansas, the best performance of the season has to be North Carolina’s Brice Johnson finishing with 39 points and 23 rebounds in the win over Florida State.
Whether you have found somebody with better numbers, LSU’s Ben Simmons is must-watch TV whenever he’s on. The smoothest swingman since Magic Johnson does it all on the court and that’s not a cliche. He really does everything on the court.
There has already been one coaching change. Dave Rice resigned in his fifth season at UNLV. The Runnin’ Rebels had two wins over ranked teams (Indiana and Oregon) but they were 9-7 overall and 0-3 in the Mountain West Conference. Assistant Todd Simon took over on an interim basis.
With the Big 12, Big Ten, the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Big East all top heavy with good teams, there are going to be a bunch of ”must-win” games between now and Selection Sunday.
The Big 12’s Kansas and Oklahoma have the rematch of their epic first meeting on Feb. 13.
Michigan State and Maryland won’t play each other because of the unbalanced Big Ten schedule but there will be a rematch of Michigan’s upset of No. 3 Maryland on Feb. 21.
North Carolina and Duke meet twice as they do every season and if you only had two games to attend the Feb. 17 meeting at Chapel Hill and the March 5 game at Durham would be a great tandem. Miami and Virginia will both have a lot of say who will be the top seed in the ACC Tournament.
The Big East may not have football like the Power 5 but it does have Villanova, Xavier and Providence in the Top 12 and the conference plays a full round-robin so there’s still four games among those three to come including a Providence-Villanova home and home.
THE BIG FINISH
All the bubble talk and RPI ramblings will end on Selection Sunday, March 13.
The NCAA Tournament starts that week and it all ends in Houston on April 2 and 4.