College basketball: What we learned about Oklahoma, Michigan State, West Virginia and others on Saturday
Here's what we learned on a busy Saturday in college hoops (in no particular order):
About Texas Tech: Keenan Evans and Texas Tech are national contenders. Evans scored 20 points in the team's 72-71 victory over West Virginia in Lubbock. The senior guard is averaging 17.3 points a game and should be given consideration for any All-Big 12 honors as well as All-American lists. The Red Raiders now own wins at Kansas and over West Virginia. Texas Tech has a great shot to have a very high seed by picking up its third win in quadrant 1. Chris Beard also strengthened his coach of the year candidacy.
About West Virginia: The loss doesn’t diminish Jevon Carter’s candidacy for Big 12 Player of the Year or National Player of the Year, either. Carter scored 28 points against the Red Raiders. Oh, and the addition of Esa Ahmad is no joke, either. The junior forward scored 18 points off the bench in his first game playing for the Mountaineers this season.
About Oklahoma: The Sooners aren’t just super freshman Trae Young. Young scored 43 points with 11 boards and seven assists in the 102-97 OT win against TCU. But classmate Brady Manek scored 22 to complement Young. If the 1-2 punch continues, this team can make a deep, deep run.
About TCU: The Horned Frogs have already had to play Oklahoma twice and Kansas in their first five Big 12 games. They’ve played three overtime games, one of which went to double OT, and they lost two of them. The Horned Frogs are 1-4 in the Big 12. Don’t be surprised if TCU still ends up in the second weekend in the NCAA tournament once it gets rid of playing conference teams.
About Michigan State: The Spartans simply can’t be national champs — let alone Big Ten champions — if they turn the ball over 18 times, like they did in the 82-72 loss to Michigan in East Lansing. That has to change.
About Michigan: When healthy, Mo Wagner is a stud. He scored 27 points and had four boards and two blocks for the Wolverines in a season-changing win against Michigan State. Remember, Michigan had lost at home earlier in the week to Purdue.
About Purdue: The Boilermakers are the best team in the Big Ten right now and that was made even more obvious by winning at Minnesota 81-47. And Purdue is arguably one of the two or three best teams in the country — here in mid-January. Experience matters. Playing in the World University Games helped. Coach Matt Painter, our NCAA.com midseason Coach of the Year leader, maintains the pole position for the award.
About Minnesota: The Gophers have lost three in a row and are in a complete free fall. I fell for this team after its game against Providence on Nov. 10. But this isn’t the same Minnesota squad without Amir Coffey and Reggie Lynch. This is Richard Pitino’s toughest challenge as a head coach in his young career.
About the A-10 race: It may be over. Rhode Island smacked St. Bonaventure 87-73 in Kingston. The Bonnies are now three games behind the Rams. Duquesne and Davidson have only one loss each (and the Dukes, who beat La Salle in triple overtime, are one of the surprises behind first-year coach and perennial winner Keith Dambrot). But the Rams are clearly the best team. Barring a collapse, they are going to win the regular season title.
About Texas A&M: The Aggies are a shocking 0-5 in the SEC after losing 75-62 at Tennessee. The timing couldn’t have been worse for the Aggies to get healthy and rid of suspensions to go to Kentucky and Tennessee. The Aggies actually still have opportunities to rectify the season with games at LSU, at Kansas, at Auburn, at Georgia and home against Arkansas and Kentucky. But it looks like it’s win the SEC tournament or bust. This team still has the talent to make a run in St. Louis for the bid.
About Tennessee: The Vols feel like they are ready to get on a roll, especially if they can navigate two road games at Missouri and South Carolina. They’ve won three in a row, jump-started by beating Kentucky at home.
About the rest of the SEC: This is going to be a wild ride. Auburn won at Mississippi State to stay unbeaten in conference play, but Ole Miss beat Florida to move to a surprising 3-2 and continue to be the spoiler that Andy Kennedy’s teams tend to be in conference. South Carolina is finally finding its footing and joining the Rebels as a troublemaker for teams seeking bids by knocking off Georgia.
Arkansas got its most important win of the season by stopping a three-game slide by beating Missouri at home in advance of a trip to Florida. Kentucky can win without needing to make 3s (3-of-10 against Vanderbilt). The Wildcats are also going to be just fine in the big picture after a 74-67 road win at Vanderbilt. This team still has not had a two-game losing streak this season. Don’t be surprised if they don’t have one this season.
About Kansas freshman Silvio De Sousa: He played in his first game of the season in the Jayhawks’ 73-72 win over Kansas State. He played four minutes, had one turnover, one foul and didn’t take a shot or score. What does that mean? Chill! He didn’t practice in the first semester. He’s not the savior. He may help them at some point, but not now. Give him time to get adjusted and for coach Bill Self to get comfortable using him.
About Arizona State: The sense of urgency has to come back like it was in the non-conference. The Sun Devils have staved off being swept in back-to-back weekends with a late run. They did it last weekend at Utah after losing at Colorado. They did it Saturday against Oregon State, winning 77-75, after losing at home to Oregon.
About Arizona: The Wildcats are the team to beat in the Pac-12. I once said it was ASU in the non-conference. I believed it then. I don’t now. I still think the Sun Devils can be a major player in March, but the league goes through Tucson after the Wildcats swept the Oregon schools.
About Xavier: The Musketeers can bounce back. Xavier was dipping a bit after losing two on the road. They roared back to beat Creighton by 22 Saturday, forcing the Bluejays to 10-of-27 shooting on 3s.
About the ACC: Clemson isn’t going away and appears to be more of a threat for the title than Miami after beating the Hurricanes 72-63 and moving to 4-1 overall in ACC play. This comes after a one-point loss at NC State. North Carolina’s Joel Berry II is still one of the best closers in the game after he converted two free throws to beat Notre Dame 69-68. (Clemson is up next in Chapel Hill, where the Tigers have never won!).
Marvin Bagley III continues to be next-level after posting 30 points and 11 rebounds in Duke’s 89-71 victory over Wake Forest. Florida State is no longer all about defense. The Seminoles are actually much more of an offensive team, scoring 101 in a double-overtime win over Syracuse. The problem for this Seminoles team is that it doesn’t defend like a traditional Leonard Hamilton team. FSU gave up 100 points to Duke last month.
About Austin Peay’s Averyl Ugba: Well, I didn’t know much until I was pointed to his 35 points on 17-of-21 shooting, along with 11 boards, for his fifth double-double of the season. The Governors beat Jacksonville State on the road in Alabama 87-67. Austin Peay is now 10-8 (5-1 in the OVC). The senior forward, who played at Grambling last season, is averaging 13.1 points and 7.2 rebounds this season.