Starting 5: Another upset-heavy Saturday, Kentucky wins SEC title and a shakeup in the ACC
Welcome back to the Starting 5. The Starting 5 is written multiple times per week by Adam Spencer to keep you up-to-date on all the news and events in the world of college hoops. You can follow Adam on Twitter at @AdamSpencer4.
1. The Opening Tip
At this point, we have to ask — does anyone want to be the 4th No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament? It seems as though Kansas, Gonzaga and Baylor are set as top seeds (although Baylor is struggling at the moment and could certainly fall), but that 4th spot is up for grabs.
After Baylor lost to Kansas, Gonzaga fell to BYU and San Diego State lost to UNLV last weekend, this past Saturday saw Duke lose to Wake Forest, Florida State lose to Clemson, Maryland fall to Michigan State and Baylor lose (again), this time against TCU.
ESPN bracketology expert Joe Lunardi still has Kansas, Baylor, Gonzaga and San Diego State as his No. 1 seeds. Meanwhile, he has Dayton, Seton Hall, Maryland and Florida State as his No. 2 seeds.
If I had to pick today, I’d have Kansas, Gonzaga, Baylor and Dayton as No. 1 seeds, but that could change in the coming days, especially if the chaos atop the AP Poll continues. Duke bounced back with a win over NC State on Monday night, including this insane alley-oop:
CASSIUS STANLEY! A ridiculous alley-oop jam. pic.twitter.com/NDxtlntS5x
— The Comeback (@thecomeback) March 3, 2020
Could the Blue Devils still work their way up to the 1 line? It’s possible, especially if they manage to win the ACC Tournament. Stay tuned, because the next few days are going to be wild!
Now, let’s take a look at some SEC-related stories.
2. Home-court Advantage
The SEC regular-season race is over, with the Kentucky Wildcats winning the title. That came after a big win over Auburn on Saturday. The Wildcats now have an impressive 14-2 SEC record, while Auburn and LSU are 3 games behind at 11-5.
Immanuel Quickley is likely the SEC Player of the Year, and he’s done it by becoming a consistent scorer for the Wildcats. Even when his shot isn’t falling (he went 3-for-10 from the floor against Auburn), he can impact a game. He finished with 18 points (11-for-11 from the free-throw line) and 12 rebounds:
Immanuel Quickley has become a lethal scorer. His ability to get to the FT line (along with his shot) has improved vastly. IQ drew 5 fouls Saturday, allowing him to score 18 points on just 3 FG!
He leads the NCAA in the last 10 games shooting 93.4% from the FT line (min 50 att) pic.twitter.com/zN7Jmu3gz0
— Kentucky Wildcats Breakdown (@GoCatsBreakdown) March 2, 2020
The Wildcats are starting to look more like a Final Four team, but they’ll need to keep playing well starting on Tuesday against Tennessee. There’s still a lot of basketball left before we get to the Final Four in Atlanta.
Now, for some other SEC stories:
- I know Florida is 10-6 in SEC play and firmly in the NCAA Tournament picture, but it seems like Mike White should be on the hot seat heading into the postseason. The Gators entered the year with legitimate Final Four hopes, but the talented freshman class has never quite put it all together on a consistent basis. This team has been a roller coaster all year and if the Gators don’t pick up some hardware during the postseason, Florida fans won’t be too happy. After trouncing LSU early last week, the Gators lost at Tennessee on Saturday. How bad was that loss? Well, John Fulkerson hit his first-career 3-pointer for the Vols:
— Vol Network (@VolNetwork) March 1, 2020
- Oh, and Tennessee scored exactly 0 bench points in the win. Not a good look for the Gators.
- LSU, on the other hand, bounced back nicely. The Tigers took down a tough Texas A&M squad, limiting the Aggies to only 50 points. It was a great defensive effort, and after scoring only 3 points against Florida, Skylar Mays got back on track, leading all scorers with 24 points:
Skylar Mays led the Tigers to their 20th win of the season after a 64-50 victory over Texas A&M
— LSU Basketball (@LSUBasketball) February 29, 2020
- That’s the kind of effort we need to see from Mays moving forward if LSU is going to make a deeper run in this year’s SEC Tournament.
- Arkansas needed to beat Georgia on Saturday and came up short, losing 99-89 in Athens. The Razorbacks’ NCAA Tournament bubble might have burst with that loss, but that’s not why we’re here. No, instead, look at yet another fantastic Anthony Edwards dunk:
Anthony Edwards has been playing like a no. 1 pick‼️ pic.twitter.com/BN3ufNAze9
— B/R Hoops (@brhoops) March 1, 2020
- Finally, let’s discuss Vanderbilt. The Commodores are 1-15 in SEC play. That’s a full 4 games behind Ole Miss and Georgia at the bottom of the conference standings. I feel bad for Vandy, which has lost Darius Garland and Aaron Nesmith to injuries the past 2 years. Hopefully, their luck starts to change next year.
Next, let’s take a look around the rest of the college basketball world.
3. Road Game
The Big East race for the regular-season title will be one of the most interesting in the country. Seton Hall could wrap it up Wednesday if it beats Villanova. However, a loss in that game and the Pirates could be battling for an outright title vs. a shared title with Creighton in the final game of the year Saturday.
Seton Hall star Myles Powell should be getting more Player of the Year buzz than he is, but he just keeps balling. Look at this insane shot he made against Marquette over the weekend:
For those that believe that Myles Powell is strictly a shooter… pic.twitter.com/c3Q0WPDJ2g
— Aram Cannuscio (@AC_Unit_) February 29, 2020
If the Pirates win out in the regular season and win the Big East Tournament, there’s still a chance they could make it to the NCAA Tournament as a No. 1 seed. With Powell playing the way he’s playing lately, it would be unwise to count Seton Hall out.
Now, let’s move on to some other big stories from around the country:
- UCLA has quickly become one of the most interesting stories of the entire season. The Bruins have won 7 games in a row, including a sweep of Arizona State and Arizona last week. Chris Smith led the way for the Bruins with 17 points in the win over the Wildcats, and you can see how versatile he is as a scorer here:
Chris Smith, the 6'9 20 year old Junior from UCLA has MASSIVE scoring potential. Used a series of pro moves to close out the game against Arizona last night after a slow start. Oozing with potential and confidence. Scores at every level easily. #NbaDraft steal pic.twitter.com/yfqxYoC8rs
— Freddy Ruger (@FreddyRuger10) March 1, 2020
- The Bruins have a half-game lead over Oregon for the Pac-12 regular-season title at the moment. They’ll play USC to close out the regular season Saturday, so we’ll see if they can keep their impressive run going.
- The Big 12 is a bit of a mess right now. I mentioned Baylor’s struggles earlier, but the Bears aren’t the only ones who have had a rough stretch. Over the weekend, Texas Tech lost to Texas, and Monday, the Red Raiders fell to Baylor in overtime. Now, they have lost 3 consecutive games at a horrible time for their NCAA Tournament seeding. Meanwhile, West Virginia has lost 6 of its past 7 games, including 3 in a row. Kansas is rising, but the rest of the Big 12’s top teams are faltering down the stretch.
- Illinois star Ayo Dosunmu is vastly underrated by fans outside of the Big Ten. He’s among the best finishers in all of college basketball and can do things like this in the paint:
Best second jump in the B1G?
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) March 1, 2020
- He’s a huge reason the Illini are still in the hunt for the Big Ten title, but Brad Underwood’s resurgent squad has a difficult road ahead. We’ll discuss their game against Ohio State on Thursday in a second. Then, they end the year against Iowa on Sunday, which won’t be easy. If the Illini are going to claim even a share of the B1G regular-season title, they’ll certainly have to earn it.
- Speaking of Ohio State, the Buckeyes just beat Michigan in a big rivalry game Sunday. It was a battle between 2 teams that had rough starts to Big Ten play before coming on strong late. Now, the Buckeyes are solidly in the NCAA Tournament picture while the Wolverines need another win or 2 to feel good about their chances. Duane Washington Jr. led the way for the Buckeyes on Sunday, scoring a game-high 20 points and knocking down 5 3-pointers, including this one:
— CBS Sports CBB (@CBSSportsCBB) March 1, 2020
- If he can keep hitting shots like that, it’ll be tough for opponents to slow down the Buckeyes.
- And, finally, here are a couple of really awesome Obi Toppin dunks against Davidson:
Consecutive massive throwdowns for Obi Toppin. Sheeesh. pic.twitter.com/x5mu9S57vK
— Kyle Boone (@Kyle__Boone) February 29, 2020
- He’s probably your National Player of the Year. I, for one, can’t wait to watch the Flyers play this postseason.
Now, let’s take a look at the next few days across the college basketball world.
4. Outlet Pass
Some conference tournaments are underway this week, but the finals won’t be until the weekend. Fortunately, around the rest of the country, there are some huge matchups taking place. Here are the 5 games I can’t wait to watch over the next few days:
- No. 14 Villanova at No. 8 Seton Hall (Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. ET on FS1) — Seton Hall has a 2-game lead over Villanova and Creighton in the Big East standings with 2 games remaining. Interestingly enough, the Pirates will face the Wildcats on Wednesday and the Blue Jays on Saturday. Creighton will certainly be rooting for Villanova in this one.
- No. 23 Illinois at No. 19 Ohio State (Thursday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN) — Ohio State has turned things around after a rough start to Big Ten play. However, the Illini are 12-6 in league play, which puts them only a game behind Maryland atop the B1G standings. Can Brad Underwood’s squad pull off the upset in Columbus?
- No. 3 Dayton at Rhode Island (Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET on CBSSN) — The Flyers have the Atlantic 10 title locked up, but the Rams are on the NCAA Tournament bubble. Expect this to be one of the biggest games in Rhode Island history. Should be fun!
- Texas at Oklahoma (Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN2) — The Sooners and Longhorns aren’t just intense rivals. They also have identical 18-11 overall records and 8-8 Big 12 records. This is a major game for the NCAA Tournament bubble. The winner will be feeling confident while the loser’s tourney hopes will go on life support.
- No. 16 Michigan State at No. 20 Penn State (Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN) — These 2 teams are safely within the NCAA Tournament field, but there’s a lot to play for in terms of Big Ten tourney seeding. Michigan State is fresh off a road win at Maryland. Can the Spartans keep the road magic going against the Nittany Lions?
Welcome to March, folks! Every game is so much more important now.
5. Buzzer Beaters
Now, to finish off today’s column, let’s answer a couple of random questions. Here we go:
What mid-major teams have legitimate chances to make it to the Final Four?
This is a year when March Madness should certainly live up to its name. San Diego State, Gonzaga and Dayton all are in contention for No. 1 seeds. Meanwhile, if we consider the Big East a major conference, I’d say the other mid-majors with a chance to make it to Atlanta are: BYU, Northern Iowa and Wichita State. Do I think any of those 3 will make it that far? No, but do keep an eye out for the first 3 teams mentioned above.
What show’s individual episodes (other than “The Office”) would you most want to see in a March Madness-type bracket?
As many of you will recall, we at SDS did a “The Office” bracket last March, with the guys on the podcast breaking everything down. If I had to pick a different show to do something similar with, I’d go with “The Simpsons.” I’d limit it to the first 12-15 seasons, but those are some iconic episodes with plots many people who grew up as part of my generation will remember fondly. I think that could be a lot of fun.
Hoops Odds by BetOnline
Let’s take a look at the latest odds to win the 2020 NCAA Championship. Head over to BetOnline to see the full list.
- Kansas: +600
- Gonzaga: +700
- Dayton: +1000
- Baylor: +1200
- Duke: +1400
- Kentucky: +1400
- San Diego State: +1400
- Louisville: +1600
Enjoy the Starting 5? Have a question? Want to yell at me about something? Follow me on Twitter @AdamSpencer4 or email me at ASpencer@SaturdayDownSouth.com.