Starting 5: Duke beats North Carolina in a thriller, Auburn takes down LSU in overtime and a classy ejection
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 Tipoff
I told y’all on Friday that you wouldn’t want to miss the Duke-North Carolina game on Saturday. I don’t often pat myself on the back (OK, fine, it’s one of my favorite things to do), but I will today. That game had everything!
Duke looked like it was going to lose to a North Carolina team that was 10-12 entering the game, but then things got absolutely crazy!
First, to send the game to overtime, the Blue Devils perfectly executed a missed free throw, with Tre Jones sinking this incredible jumper:
Then, in overtime, Jones got a little too confident, shooting this wild shot that didn’t even hit the rim (off another missed free throw). However, Wendell Moore was there to clean things up just before the clock expired:
I don’t love that hero ball from Jones, but Moore saved the day and the Blue Devils avoided a bad loss. Then, they hosted No. 8 Florida State on Monday night and escaped with a win in that game, too. What a stretch the Blue Devils are on!
They did get a bit of a friendly call from the refs, though. Somehow, this was ruled a foul on a Florida State player:
They called this a foul on the dude that got elbowed in the face pic.twitter.com/6x1Ri7gcNR
— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) February 11, 2020
Oh well, nothing can be done about that now. The Blue Devils are now 11-2 in ACC play and only a game behind Louisville in the race for the regular-season title.
Now, let’s turn our attention to the SEC.
2. Home-Court Advantage
The Auburn Tigers have had a couple of incredible home games the past 2 Saturdays. First, they beat Kentucky, then, this Saturday, they took down LSU in overtime.
J’Von McCormick played hero in this one, hitting a shot at the buzzer to beat LSU and send Auburn into a 3-way tie with LSU and Kentucky atop the SEC standings:
The Tigers rode guys like Bryce Brown, Chuma Okeke and Jared Harper all the way to the Final Four last year. This year, McCormick is playing the Harper role, Samir Doughty is like Brown and freshman sensation Isaac Okoro is the closest thing Auburn now has to Okeke.
Yes, their games are nerve-wracking for fans to watch, but Bruce Pearl has the fan base excited and Auburn Arena is as electric as it has ever been. That’s a lot of fun to see.
Now, for some other SEC-related stories:
- Florida continues to be one of the most disappointing teams in the entire country. Yes, the Gators are still solidly on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament, but that says more about how week the bubble is this year. After a loss to Ole Miss on Saturday in which they only scored 51 points, the Gators now face 2 must-win games this week, starting with a trip to Texas A&M. Things could get ugly in Gainesville if Florida loses that one.
- Look, I know Mizzou beat Arkansas in overtime on Saturday, and that was a huge win. I actually enjoyed watching most of that game. However, this is absolutely unacceptable:
Shot. Clock. Violation.
Arkansas going into a timeout with 2.5 left to score or we’re headed for yet another OT game. pic.twitter.com/x3TVbtxGmt
— Nikki Chavanelle (@NikkiChavanelle) February 8, 2020
- How do you not even get a shot off there? That seems like the players weren’t aware of how much time was left on the shot clock, which points to lackluster coaching. The Tigers were lucky to overcome that egregious error.
- Finally, I’ll leave you with a great moment provided by South Carolina coach Frank Martin. He did the right thing by laughing at himself. He may be intense on the court, but off it, he seems like a genuinely fun and interesting guy:
I need you to stop what you're doing and watch this clip of Frank Martin from after today's win over Texas A&M. pic.twitter.com/BY32coqzIk
— Cam Gaskins (@CamGaskinsTV) February 8, 2020
Now, let’s move on to what’s happening around the rest of the country.
3. Road Game
Michigan State started off the year as the No. 1 overall team in the AP Poll. With Cassius Winston returning to run the point, that made sense. He was one of the best returning players, after all.
The Spartans immediately suffered a loss, losing on opening night to No. 2 Kentucky. Since then, they’ve remained in the top 25, but in Monday’s updated poll, the Spartans were nowhere to be found. Since 1968, this is only the second time a preseason No. 1 team has fallen all the way out of the AP Poll.
The bad news for Tom Izzo’s crew is that they’ve now lost 3-straight games (at Wisconsin, vs. Penn State and at Michigan) and now face a tough game at No. 22 Illinois and then host No. 9 Maryland. That’s just brutal.
Can the Spartans navigate that gauntlet? We’ll find out soon enough. Now, for some other news from around college basketball:
- First off, I want to give a shout out to Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton Jr. After getting ejected during a loss to Baylor, he went over and shook the coaches’ and players’ hands on the Baylor bench. That’s such a baller move:
- That was all class and I hope it happens more often. Baylor totally deserves to be No. 1, and Boynton was showing the Bears some respect. Very cool move.
- If you haven’t heard of Tyrese Haliburton, I don’t blame you. He’s playing at Iowa State, but at 10-13 overall, the Cyclones are really struggling. However, Haliburton is playing like a top-10 NBA Draft pick, averaging 15.2 points, 6.5 assists and 5.9 rebounds per game. Now, though, he’ll be out for the year after breaking his wrist on Saturday. That’s a big-time loss for Iowa State and college basketball in general.
- I don’t have much to say about this, but you have to see this dunk from the BYU mascot:
— Eric Watson (@erwatso9) February 9, 2020
- Every single part of that dunk is impressive, from the cheerleaders throwing him to catching the ball in full mascot gear to throwing it down. Long live Cosmo!
- Apparently, you should never, ever touch Bob Knight’s hair. I’ve heard the legendary coach was joking, but he doesn’t really look like he’s joking when he grabs Dickie V here:
Bob Knight is so insane that I legit don’t know if this is him having fun with a friend or if he was about to murder Dickie V on ESPN. pic.twitter.com/IIjnfHwl1p
— Ryan (@RRinehart2012) February 8, 2020
- That weird moment aside, Knight made his first return to Indiana in decades, and the atmosphere was certainly electric, though the Hoosiers lost to Purdue.
Now, let’s take a look at the days ahead in college basketball.
4. Outlet Pass
The games are getting more important, and this week’s slate has plenty of exciting action. Here are the 5 games between now and Friday that I can’t wait to watch:
- Rhode Island at No. 6 Dayton (Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. ET on CBSSN) — Dayton is 10-0 in Atlantic 10 play. Rhode Island is 10-1. They’re the top teams in the conference, and this game could decide the regular-season champion.
- Michigan State at No. 22 Illinois (Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN) — It’s crazy to see the Spartans out of the top 25 this late in the season. However, after a loss at Michigan, that’s exactly where we are. Both of these teams need a win to keep pace with Maryland atop the Big Ten standings. Champaign will be rocking on Tuesday night.
- No. 3 Kansas at No. 14 West Virginia (Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN+) — Having this game on ESPN+ is a bit confusing, but it will be a great game nonetheless. Kansas has lost 5 of its last 6 games at West Virginia, so this is a nightmare road trip for coach Bill Self.
- No. 23 Creighton at No. 10 Seton Hall (Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. ET on FS1) — Seton Hall has a 3-game lead in the Big East standings, but Creighton is one of the teams with a 7-4 conference record. This game should be a lot of fun.
- No. 16 Colorado at No. 17 Oregon (Thursday at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN) — The top 2 teams in the Pac-12 will square off in Eugene on Thursday night. The Pac-12 really needs a team to continue to climb the rankings, and whoever wins this game will move up in the AP Poll. Can Oregon PG Payton Pritchard continue to play like a Player of the Year candidate?
It’ll be fun to see what sort of upsets this week’s games bring. We’re really getting to the stretch run here!
5. Buzzer Beaters
Now, before we get out of here for the day, let’s answer a couple of random questions. Here’s the first one:
Assuming both San Diego State and Gonzaga are No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament, who should be placed in the West region?
The West region will have its Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games played in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, the other 3 regionals will be played in Indianapolis, Houston and New York. So, yeah, the Aztecs and Bulldogs will both want that Los Angeles spot. If San Diego State goes undefeated and wins the Mountain West tournament, it should get the No. 1 overall seed and head to Los Angeles for those rounds of March Madness. If not, I’d give it to Gonzaga. It’s that simple.
Who would you pick as the SEC Player of the Year right now?
It has to be Nick Richards at this point. Auburn has too many options and LSU is a multi-threat team as well, so if anyone stands out on those 2 squads, it’s probably Skylar Mays. Then there’s Reggie Perry at Mississippi State, but Richards just dominated against the Bulldogs in a Kentucky win. I’d go with Richards at this point in the season, but there’s still time for the other guys.
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.