Let’s be honest.
Everything that happened in men’s basketball was secondary to No. 6 Baylor’s 74-58 road win over No. 1 Connecticut on the women’s side on Thursday night.
But the men’s slate offered an impressive collection of games.
3 things from Thursday
Arizona-Oregon: Game of the year?
Here’s all the crazy stuff that happened in No. 9 Oregon’s wild 74-73 overtime victory over No. 24 Arizona on Thursday night in Eugene, Oregon.
Controversial non-calls? At least two. At the end of regulation, Payton Pritchard appeared to foul Zeke Nnaji on a potential winning shot. Arizona coach Sean Miller had to be restrained on the bench before overtime, as he protested the call. There was contact. And if a foul had been called, Nnaji would have gone to the free throw line, where he entered the game with an 80% success rate. Nnaji was also involved in a key non-call in overtime when he reached out to secure a pass and appeared to be shoved. It looked like a foul. Bill Walton thought it was a foul. No call.
Exciting matchup between two of the top guards in America? Yep. Nico Mannion finished with 20 points and three assists (six turnovers, too). And Pritchard had a Wooden Award-level performance with 18 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals (plus another four turnovers). With the game on the line, it was Pritchard on Mannion. We don’t see enough of those premier, one-on-one matchups in the NBA. But Thursday’s game delivered.
Wild runs that impacted the game? Arizona had a 10-point lead in the first half (32-22) before Oregon’s 12-4 run before the break. An 8-0 Oregon run in the second half was also countered by a 9-0 Arizona run. It honestly had the vibe of an elite game with the momentum swings.
Poor finish? That award goes to Arizona, which went 0-for-2 in the final 17 seconds of the game and lost on a turnover as Josh Green fumbled the inbounds pass from Mannion at the buzzer in overtime.
Wichita State breaks Memphis
An imposing Wichita State squad should never surprise anyone who has witnessed the success the Shockers have enjoyed under Gregg Marshall. In 2018-19, they completed the worst season in a decade under Marshall. That “bad” season featured 22 wins.
This group lacks the star power of past Wichita State powerhouses. But the Shockers are balanced. And although they couldn’t match the athleticism of a team such as Memphis, they were intentional about making a statement, stamped by a 19-point lead in the second half. Memphis made a late run, but the 76-67 Wichita State victory wasn’t as close as the score suggested.
Jamarius Burton (16 points) led a team that had eight players score at least six points in the win. The Tigers committed 18 turnovers.
Thursday’s matchup was discussed as a test for Penny Hardaway’s squad, which had a number of sub-100 victories on its résumé and a win at Tennessee that means less by the day. Not only did Memphis lose, the Tigers seemed broken midway through the game. Tigers not named Precious Achiuwa or Tyler Harris finished 6-for-20 from inside the arc. Achiuwa had 22 points. The other four starters combined to score only nine points.
And now every question about Memphis, riding a two-game losing streak, seems valid, not because of a road loss to a top-25 team but because the Tigers were pummeled for the bulk of the game. And Wichita State now looks like an ever more daunting opponent for the field in the NCAA tournament.
Double OT in Ann Arbor demonstrates Big Ten’s beautiful mess
On any other night, Michigan’s 84-78 double-overtime win over Purdue would have been the headliner. But Arizona-Oregon ruined that. Still, the matchup provided a glimpse of the turbulence we’ll see throughout the Big Ten slate.
Purdue is now the best 9-7 in America and it’s not close. That mark includes overtime losses to Florida State and Michigan, a pair of wins that would have enhanced the team’s résumé. Trevion Williams had 36 points in the loss Thursday. The Boilermakers had a good chance to secure a road win over Michigan on Saturday but lost in the final moments. Michigan moved past its lopsided loss to rival Michigan State on Sunday. That’s the Big Ten. That’s college basketball.
3 things for Friday and Saturday
Scott Drew and the “perception” of coaches
It’s not uncommon to hear college basketball fans cite Baylor as an example of a program that has, at times, missed the mark in relation to its potential. Yet, Drew’s achievements in Waco, Texas, are enviable, and he continues to put together a run of consistency that some of the bluebloods have failed to match.
Last season, his team battled significant injuries and entered the final stretch of Big 12 play with a chance to win a slice of the league’s title. This season, Baylor is still awaiting the true return of Tristan Clark, who is not yet 100 percent since last year’s season-ending knee injury. Drew has turned to Freddie Gillespie, who logged just 16 total minutes as a freshman at Division III Carleton (Minnesota), and now has this Bears squad positioned to compete for a top-three seed in the NCAA tournament. A win at Kansas on Saturday would change the conversation about Baylor and its national title hopes.
Off-the radar Big 12 freshmen take center stage in West Virginia-Texas Tech
Kansas and Baylor have dominated the conversation about the Big 12 race, but both West Virginia (3) and Texas Tech (7) have been assigned admirable seeds, considering everything they collectively lost from a year ago, in Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology.
The Red Raiders will travel to Morgantown, West Virginia, on Saturday to face the Mountaineers in a matchup with implications in both the Big 12 title race and the NCAA tournament field. For fans, it’s an opportunity to catch performances by a pair of the most important freshmen in America.
Texas Tech’s Jahmi’us Ramsey is averaging 17.7 points and making 48.3% of his 3-pointers. Wow. West Virginia’s Oscar Tshiebwe is a rim-rattling, 6-foot-9 talent who is two games removed from a 17-point, 17-rebound performance in a loss at Kansas on Saturday. It should be a fun game for two of the top young players in America.
Can Butler end its drought at Providence?
Friday’s schedule will feature an interesting game involving a Butler squad that’s listed as a top seed by Lunardi and a Providence squad that has won four in a row over a solid set of opponents (Texas, Georgetown, DePaul and Marquette). Also, the Friars haven’t lost to Butler at home since the 2014-15 season. Kamar Baldwin & Co. should win, but the Bulldogs certainly know there are no guarantees on this road trip.
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