What’s Trending: Shuffling Of The Top Five

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on February 24th, 2020

What’s Trending is a column examining the week that was in college basketball social media. Matthew Eisenberg (@matteise) is your weekly host.

Prior to Saturday’s game in Waco, Kansas had won 11 consecutive contests since its loss to Baylor in Lawrence. The rematch between the Big 12’s two best teams also pitted the #1 and #3 ranked teams in the national polls against each other.

In the first match-up, Baylor held Udoka Azubuike to only six points on 3-of-6 shooting, and Devon Dotson to just nine points before he left the game with an injury. Kansas, however, was quick to establish both of its stars in the rematch. Azubuike contributed 13 first-half points on 6-of-7 shooting en route to a game-high 23 points, and, as a team, the Jayhawks scored 42 points in the paint — 16 more than they had in the first match-up.

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After the impressive win, Kansas seemed to solidify itself as the “team to beat” in the eyes of many national media. A year removed from having its run of regular season Big 12 championships ended, Kansas is now in prime position to again finish at the top of the conference.

As dominant as Udoka Azubuike was down low against Baylor, there are still reservations in the one-game setting that is the NCAA Tournament. He remains a sub-50 percent free-throw shooter who has scored 12 or fewer points in 14 games this season. Hack-a-Doke will be present in the NCAA Tournament, so the question is whether he will let that impact his ability to alter a game defensively and on the glass?

While Azubuike and Dotson make all the difference on the floor, the other thing that few can argue with is the genius that is Bill Self on the sideline. According to Synergy Sports data, the Jayhawks rank in the 97th percentile in side out of bounds sets and in the 85th percentile in after time out efficiency. Self’s ability to tweak things can make all the difference for what is already an immensely talented team.

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While Kansas was able to pass its road test on Saturday, Gonzaga did not have the same luck, falling in Provo against a hot BYU team. After shooting 62 percent on its two-point attempts in its first match-up against Gonzaga, BYU made another strong 63 percent of its shots from inside the arc in this match-up. With 11 made threes on 40.7 percent shooting from deep, BYU posted 1.25 points per possession total on its way to 91 points.

After missing the first game between these two teams, BYU’s Yoeli Childs was a man on a mission Saturday night. Childs is now averaging 21.5 points and 7.6 rebounds per game over his last 10 contests. His ability to take over a game alongside TJ Haws’ efficiency make BYU a very tough opponent.

The lone undefeated team in the nation, San Diego State, found itself down 14 points with just over 10 minutes to go in its weekend game against UNLV. While the Aztecs were able to cut the lead to just two in the final minute, they were ultimately unable to climb all the way back.

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Earlier in the week, Duke faced its own problems at NC State, as a 4-of-17 night from beyond the arc set the tone for a squad that placed only two players — Tre Jones and Vernon Carey — in double figures. Duke was quick to fix things against Virginia Tech over the weekend, however, when four players logged 10 or more points while the bench chipped in 27 points.

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One of the crazier games of the week came in Tucson on Saturday between Oregon and Arizona. After Josh Green missed a pair of free throws in the final seconds of regulation of a tie game, teammate Christian Koloko missed another pair as Arizona trailed by a single point. Oregon escaped the desert largely thanks to the play of Payton Pritchard‘s career-high 38 points.

The Oregon win dropped Arizona to 9-5 in Pac-12 play, pushing Arizona State’s 10-5 conference record to the top spot in the league. The Sun Devils have now won seven straight as they prepare for a trip to the Los Angeles schools. Remy Martin ranks second in the conference in scoring while teammate Romello White is tied for the conference lead in rebounds per game.

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As hot as Arizona State has been out west, Creighton has been equally impressive in the Big East. The Bluejays have won nine of their past ten games, a stretch that includes wins at Villanova, Seton Hall and Marquette. On Sunday, Greg McDermott’s team beat Butler by 22 points, as Creighton made a season-high 15 three-pointers, the 14th time this season that the team has made 10 or more in a game.

This week’s version of “North Carolina collapsing in the final seconds” comes courtesy of a Notre Dame final possession kick-out which leads to a game winning three out of the hands of Nate Laszewski. It was North Carolina’s sixth ACC loss by three or fewer points (or in overtime).

Matthew Eisenberg (110 Posts)


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