Titus’s Top 12 NCAA Power Rankings: Why Villanova Is a National Title Contender

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We have a lot to get to, and there’s no telling how much time you have to read this before Adam Woodbury tries to poke out your eyes, so let’s dive right into the power rankings.

12. Whoever Is the Second-Best Big 12 Team

This is getting silly. The knock on Baylor was that the Bears weren’t good on the road. Then they went into Morgantown and shut down 15th-ranked West Virginia on Saturday. This is great, I thought. Now I can put an actual team in my power rankings. And then Baylor followed up its first big road win of the season by losing badly at home to Oklahoma State on Monday, because of course it did. So there goes that plan.

But wait  what about Iowa State? The most powerful power rankings in college basketball gave the Cyclones the “second-best Big 12 team” label last week, so isn’t it theirs until they lose it? Well, Iowa State doesn’t want the no. 2 spot, either, or at least it didn’t appear that way when the Cyclones refused to play defense at Oklahoma on Monday. So now we’re left with the two Oklahoma teams battling for the fleeting honor of being the conference’s second-best team. Oklahoma State’s last three games were wins at Texas, vs. Kansas, and at Baylor, which is a stretch as impressive as any team in America has pulled off all season. But Oklahoma has won five straight, with two wins over the Cowboys in the last month, so I guess the Sooners get the nod.

Can we please get this sorted out soon, Big 12? I know it’s fun for fans to turn on a Big 12 game and have no idea what outcome to expect. But what about MY needs? If it wasn’t already obvious, hopefully the Marshawn Lynch saga proved that sportswriters are the most important people in the world and everyone should bend over backward for us. I mean, I know that the Big 12 is a great conference, but the truth is that I actually don’t know that. I only think that. I don’t really know if the Big 12 is full of great teams that aren’t shooting up the polls because they beat the hell out of each other. Maybe the Big 12 will go nuts in the NCAA tournament and get six teams in the Elite Eight. Or maybe the conference is just OK, none of the teams is that great, and we overestimate them because they put on a good show. Or maybe all of these teams are awful. I mean, a five-game winning streak is like a miracle in this conference, and good teams can typically win five straight without breaking a sweat. So which is it? I have no idea. And this is a problem because it’s my job to have an idea. So please get your shit together, Big 12. You’re making me look like an idiot.

11. Utah

wright-delon-utahLeon Bennett/Getty Images

It’s hard to get a good read on Utah. When the Utes are clicking, they’re unstoppable. In their Pac-12 wins this season, the Utes are sporting a dominant 24.6-point average margin of victory. Gonzaga and Arizona dominate the West Coast basketball conversation, and rightfully so. But despite the Utes’ 18-point loss at Arizona last month, I think Utah isn’t far behind the Zags and Wildcats.

But then there’s the question of how Utah’s losses to Arizona and UCLA exposed the weakness that may ultimately doom the Utes. That weakness is the limited nature of Utah’s half-court offense, where it only seems capable of scoring with 3-point shooting. Utah’s defense is good enough to win a national title, the Utes can put a ton of points on the board in transition, and nearly every non-center on Utah’s roster is a 3-point threat. But what happens when Utah’s opponents get back on defense? What happens when the Utes have to run half-court offense every trip down the floor? What happens when the Utes go cold from deep? Can Utah win a game with a final score in the 50s? Hell, can it win in the 60s? The Utes are 4-4 when scoring 70 or fewer points this season. They’re 1-4 when scoring 60 or fewer. Utah is great when it’s comfortable, but the lose-one-game-and-go-home format of the NCAA tournament favors teams that can play multiple styles, and so far Utah doesn’t appear to be that adaptable.

10. Arizona

Arizona has played 10 games outside of the McKale Center this season. None of those games was played against currently ranked teams. And yet seven of the 10 turned out to be Arizona losses or wins by seven or fewer points. As the driver of the “it’s Arizona’s style to play close games, so everyone calm down” bandwagon, when should I consider letting go of the wheel? Because I went to the future and saw how the bandwagon will look in March if Arizona doesn’t improve between now and then, and here’s what I saw:

I’ve been willing to give Arizona a pass because this team is mostly the same as last season’s group that also played a ton of close games and eventually came one shot away from the Final Four. But I can’t keep ignoring that by this time last year, Arizona had away or neutral-court wins over San Diego State (Sweet 16 team), Duke (which spent most of the season in the top 10), Michigan (Elite Eight team), UCLA (Sweet 16 team), and Stanford (Sweet 16 team). That’s four Sweet 16 teams and a 3-seed. The big non-McKale wins for this year’s team are Stanford, San Diego State (both are projected 9-seeds), Kansas State (projected NIT) — aaaaaand that’s about it.

Sure, this year’s team can’t control how strong its schedule ended up being. It’s possible that if Arizona had more opportunities to beat NCAA tournament teams, it’d have more away-from-home marquee wins. But that hypothetical becomes harder and harder to believe every time Arizona loses to Arizona State and UNLV teams that are barely above .500. A program can get by without very many quality wins or a few bad losses, but it can’t have both.

So how good is Arizona? If last year never happened, would you believe in the Cats’ national title chances? By my count, Arizona has two wins  Gonzaga and Utah  that put it in the contender discussion. But even then, I can’t shake the belief that Gonzaga outplayed Arizona in their game. And besides, both of those games were at home. How do we know that Arizona is actually better than Utah and Gonzaga? How do we know the Cats didn’t win those games just because it’s impossible for visiting teams to win in the McKale Center? I’m pretty sure Arizona won’t be able to play all of its NCAA tournament games in Tucson, which is why its last two road trips of the season are pivotal. Four emphatic wins would go a long way in silencing doubts. Another loss or two, though, and Arizona fans might as well put their liquor on ice and prepare to drink away the pain of another disappointing March.

9. North Carolina

smith-dean-uncRobert Willett/Raleigh News & Observer/MCT via Getty Images

The outpouring of stories from people who knew Dean Smith well has been amazing in the days since his death.1 (Here’s my favorite.) I always liked Smith’s teams when I was growing up, but who didn’t? When I was in fourth grade, being a ladies’ man meant wearing baby-blue gear with Jordan logos on it and mimicking Vince Carter dunks or the Ed Cota Floata at recess. Back then, North Carolina basketball was the coolest freaking thing in the world. At the time, that was pretty much all I knew about Smith.

As I got older, I learned to appreciate the coach as more than just the guy who coached Michael Jordan. I learned about the innovations he helped bring to the game, most notably the four corners and secondary break on offense, and the run-and-jump and the point zone on defense. I learned about his coaching tree and how he made North Carolina basketball the institution it is today. I realized he was a living legend whose basketball mind could rival anybody’s. And then he died Saturday night, and now I’m learning about the man he was.

You couldn’t turn on sports TV or radio the past few days without hearing Dean Smith conversations. Every program would have an interview with someone who played for, coached against, coached with, or simply knew Smith. And while the stories these people told all had different details, the gist was always pretty much the same: “I was a nobody when I first met Coach Smith. I was scared to talk to him because I thought a peon like me would be wasting his time. But he instilled confidence in me, taught me everything I know about the game, and taught me a hundred times as much about life as he taught me about basketball. And when I moved on with my life, Coach was always a phone call away if I needed him. He was a father figure, a role model, and a hero.”

That Smith was involved in Division I basketball as a player or coach for almost 50 years and nobody who played with or for him in that time has a bad word to say about him is more admirable than anything he ever won. He’s so well liked by everyone who came through Chapel Hill that if you asked Rashad McCants about Smith, even he’d probably say, “He didn’t completely suck, I guess.” And if anyone thinks these stories are all positive because no one would dare speak ill of the recently deceased in public, just imagine what will happen when Bob Knight dies.

One last thought: Smith’s death triggered one of my first “I’m getting old” moments. I hear names like Adolph Rupp, Vince Lombardi, and Knute Rockne, and I don’t think of these legendary coaches as real people. They’re just names I’m supposed to know. It’s weird to know that there are children today who will one day think of Smith the same way I think of Lombardi. I’m old enough to remember watching Smith coach in the Final Four, yet to some people he may only be that dude who won a couple of titles at North Carolina a lifetime ago. I can already see myself getting mad at my grandkids in 50 years. You kids don’t understand! Dean Smith isn’t just some answer to a trivia question. The guy was a teacher, motivator, inspiration, genius, father figure, university ambassador, kind heart, and badass basketball coach all rolled into one. What are they teaching you in school these days?

What I’m saying is this: I hope the legacy of Dean Smith the person lasts as long as the legacy of Dean Smith the coach.

8. Kansas

Noooooooooooooooooo!!! What the hell was that?! I thought Kansas had this out of its system. I thought we were past the days of folding under pressure. The Jayhawks bigs were finally playing hard. Brannen Greene had emerged as maybe the best shooter in America, giving Frank Mason another reliable scoring threat to help him carry the load. And speaking of Mason, I thought this was supposed to be the BITCH I’M FRANK MASON era. I thought Mason was such a badass that he would be the first Kansas point guard since Sherron Collins to be universally liked by Jayhawks fans. And that’s saying something, because Kansas fans don’t even hate Missouri point guards as much as they hate Kansas point guards. I had finally convinced myself Kansas would run away with the Big 12 title, and I was even starting to believe in Kansas as a Final Four team. And then it went and dropped a steamer in the second half of Saturday’s Oklahoma State game, leaving us right back where we were after the Temple embarrassment.

And look, I know that Kansas only lost by five to the Cowboys. But anyone who watched the second half of that game could see that if those two teams had played another 10 minutes, Oklahoma State would’ve won by 30. That’s my hang-up with this game. It’s not that the Jayhawks lost, because road losses happen, especially in the Big 12. It’s how Kansas lost. It’s the turnovers, the lackadaisical defense, and the unwillingness to stop the ball in transition. It’s Kansas’s “pfft, whatever” attitude as the Cowboys made their comeback. It’s that nobody seemed to care that OSU’s Anthony Hickey was doing whatever he wanted! Hickey wasn’t lighting the Jayhawks up as much as he was annoying them. He pressured the ball defensively, pushed it in transition, and bounced around the court like a hyperactive puppy. Hickey was a gnat buzzing right in front of Kansas’s face, and instead of smacking him out of the way, the Jayhawks just stayed in bed and yelled for their mom to come help. In 20 minutes of basketball, all the confidence I’d built in the Jayhawks over the last month went right down the drain.

7. Louisville

Last week, I asked if Louisville fans enjoyed watching this team play. We can all agree the Cards are a good basketball team and that they play hard. But are they fun to watch? Most Louisville fans replied by telling me that following this team has been rough, and that they long for the smooth caress of Peyton Siva, Gorgui Dieng, Russ Smith, and Luke Hancock. Well, Saturday’s game at Virginia didn’t do much to help the suffering Cardinals fans. You could throw five traffic cones on the court to guard the Cards and I swear they’d still throw the ball into the stands as often as they put it through the basket. So it was little surprise that Virginia’s defense in the first half basically threw a stick in the spokes of Louisville’s wheels, causing the Cards to face-plant so hard that Louisville fans probably had to laugh to keep from crying.

But there is good news! The Cards continue to play phenomenal defense. At this point, it’s clear Louisville has adopted a “we may suck on offense, but at least you will too” identity, and I have to admit it’s working. Against Louisville, the Hoos shot 33 percent from the field, went 2-for-14 from the 3-point line, and were held under 55 points for just the third time all season. And Louisville’s offense wasn’t that bad in the second half. It certainly came to life in the final minutes. Terry Rozier and Chris Jones got to the rim. Wayne Blackshear hit a couple of 3s. Montrezl Harrell finished a nasty alley-oop because that’s what Montrezl Harrell does. It was too little, too late, but for their guys to be that competitive in a road game against the best team in the ACC after playing a terrible first half, Louisville fans should almost be proud.

Halftime

vitale-dick-williams-jayGrant Halverson/Getty Images

It’s halftime, which can mean only one thing: It’s time for Dick’s Degrees of Separation, the most mildly amusing Internet game involving college basketball! You know the drill: I give you the endpoint of a Dick Vitale tangent and you pick the path he took to get there. Let’s get down to business.

During Saturday’s Louisville-Virginia game in Charlottesville, how did Dick Vitale and Dave O’Brien end up talking about Notre Dame?

A. During a break in the action, Vitale mentions that Herb Magee, longtime coach of Division II Philadelphia, won his 1,000th career game earlier in the day. After congratulating Magee, Vitale reminds viewers that Mike Krzyzewski won his 1,000th career game not long ago. Vitale then says that the most impressive coaching achievement to him is Morgan Wootten winning almost 1,300 games at DeMatha High School near Washington, D.C. Vitale asks O’Brien if he can think of anything Coach K and Wooten have in common. When O’Brien comes up empty, Vitale says Notre Dame coach Mike Brey has coached under both men.

B. As both teams struggle to make perimeter shots, Vitale jokes that he and sideline reporter Doris Burke could shoot better than Virginia and Louisville. Vitale then says he was obviously joking about himself, since he’s 75 and only has one eye. But he was serious about Burke, and he reminds viewers how good she was as a player at Providence. Burke then tells Vitale she was at Providence at the same time Rick Pitino was coaching the men’s team. Vitale confirms this before saying the Providence men are having a good season, with a win over Notre Dame in November.

C. Early in the second half, Vitale and O’Brien realize that Justin Anderson still hasn’t played. A camera pans to Anderson on the bench as O’Brien explains that Anderson’s shooting hand is wrapped up. Burke adds that Anderson is questionable to return. O’Brien touches on what Anderson’s absence might mean for Virginia, prompting Vitale to say Anderson is one of the best players in the ACC. Vitale then says Jahlil Okafor is also among the ACC’s best, before raving about how impressed he was to see Duke beat Notre Dame by 30 earlier in the day.

6. Gonzaga

Gonzaga survived semi-scares at Santa Clara and San Francisco this week. Like clockwork, the anti-Gonzaga chorus warmed up their pipes and sang their typical tunes:

This is where I’d usually employ my patented three-pronged approach to defending Gonzaga:

1. Gonzaga plays as tough of a schedule as it can. Few big-time programs will play the Zags because they have nothing to gain from a dangerous matchup with an elite mid-major. If Gonzaga was 19-4 and only played a couple of power conference teams, we could talk about their schedule. As it stands, the Zags played a solid schedule and their only loss was in overtime at Arizona (where it’s nearly impossible for road teams to win), in a game in which Gonzaga outplayed the Wildcats. If fans of major conference teams are so desperate to see the Zags play a tougher schedule, why aren’t they pressuring their athletic directors and coaches to schedule Gonzaga? Because it’s easier to whine about how the Zags play nobody, that’s why.

2. Gonzaga wouldn’t finish in the top half of the Big Ten? Awesome. I like irrelevant speculation, too. In fact, I’ve always said that if I wouldn’t have eaten so many Pop-Tarts in high school, I would’ve been in better shape, put up insane stats, gotten offers from every school in the country, become an All-American, gone no. 1 in the NBA draft after my freshman year, won 16 NBA titles, and retired as the greatest athlete of all time. Damn you, Pop-Tarts, for your genius idea to combine brown sugar with cinnamon!

3. Past performances in the NCAA tournament mean nothing for this year. This Gonzaga team has a completely different makeup than the ones before them. And even if they didn’t, what does Ronny Turiaf, Blake Stepp, Cory Violette, and Adam Morrison getting upset by Nevada in 2004 have to do with this group? Mid-majors aren’t winning national titles, but plenty of them have come pretty close. Does this mean the Zags will definitely make the Final Four? Of course not. They might lose by 30 in the first round. But until that happens, they deserve to be treated as their own team and not just another in a long line of overrated Gonzaga teams.

That’s how I’d usually respond, because close wins in back-to-back road games don’t mean Gonzaga sucks. You could put Kentucky in the SWAC and the Cats would probably still have a handful of close games. That’s just how conference play works.

But I’m not letting the Zags completely off the hook. I’m applying the same set of standards to Gonzaga that I gave to Arizona. It’s understandable to sometimes let lesser opponents hang around longer than they should, but not if it becomes a habit. In three of Gonzaga’s last four road games, the outcome has been in doubt deep into the second half despite Gonzaga playing Pepperdine, Santa Clara, and San Francisco, who have a combined 35-39 record. Where is the game away from the Kennel that Gonzaga fans can point to and say to the rest of America, “That is why we’re national title contenders”? The Zags have some decent road/neutral wins, but they’ve yet to make a real statement with a road victory, which is why their February 21 game at St. Mary’s can’t get here soon enough.

5. Villanova

The most impressive win in college basketball this past week that nobody is talking about is Villanova’s revenge thrashing of Georgetown. In last week’s edition of the most powerful power rankings, I touched on the remarkable balance in Villanova’s offense. And while that balance was evident Saturday  six players scored between eight and 15 points  Villanova’s defense deserves the most praise. The Wildcats held Georgetown to just 30 percent shooting, including 6 percent (!!!) from the 3-point line. D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Joshua Smith  Georgetown’s top scorers  combined for nine points. Villanova’s Dylan Ennis, a 6-foot-2 combo guard, had more blocks (three) than Georgetown’s entire team (zero). Outside of the Wildcats’ 20 turnovers, the win over Georgetown was basically a perfect game for Villanova, which shot 47.8 percent from the field and went 12-for-24 from behind the arc.

Just like it’s impossible to determine the order of Villanova’s best players, it’s impossible to determine whether the Wildcats are better on offense or on defense. This bodes well for Villanova’s national title chances. Since Kenpom.com debuted in 2002, every national champion but one has finished among the top 25 teams in both offensive and defensive efficiency. The lone exception was UConn last season, when the Huskies offense ranked 39th and utilized the Shabazz Exception en route to a national title.2 As enticing as it can be to get hyped over teams with high-octane offenses or shut-down defenses, recent history suggests that you can’t win a national title without excelling on both ends of the court. With that in mind, consider that the only teams currently ranked in the top 25 of Kenpom’s offensive and defensive efficiency ratings are Kentucky, Virginia, Arizona, Utah, Kansas, and Villanova.3

4. Virginia

Whether you think Virginia’s best player is Justin Anderson or Malcolm Brogdon, or whether you believe that every cog in Tony Bennett’s machine is equal, there’s no denying that Anderson is crucial to the Hoos’ success. Now that Anderson is out at least four weeks with a fractured finger, I imagine that the same Virginia fans who I described as “emotionally fragile” last week are huffing into paper bags and praying to one of the 4,000 Thomas Jefferson shrines on campus the grounds. I hope this isn’t the case, though, because there’s an obvious analogy for Anderson’s injury that ought to cheer up the Virginia faithful.

Think about it — Anderson’s nickname is Simba. SIMBA. The entire point of The Lion King is that life goes on and when the big dog goes down, the next guy in line must step up. Remember how we first met Simba? Remember how a little song called “Circle of Life was playing?

Let me spell it out for you: Joe Harris was Mufasa. Scar (Coach K, I guess?) sent a stampede of wildebeests to kill Harris (and by that I mean that Harris graduated). Simba (Anderson) coped with Harris’s death by wandering around in the wilderness (otherwise known as visiting a shooting coach in Chicago during the offseason). Somewhere along the line, he met Timon and Pumbaa (Marial Shayok and Isaiah Wilkins), convinced himself he had to return to Pride Rock (John Paul Jones Arena), and brought his two new friends with him. He saved the kingdom when the elephants, giraffes, and zebras (Virginia fans) thought it was doomed. Simba then became the new king and ruled under the guidance of Zazu (Brogdon).

Now that Simba has gone down, should the elephants, giraffes, and zebras freak out again? Of course not! Not when Rafiki (Bennett) is about to continue the circle of life and anoint someone to step up in Simba’s place. And oh, would you look at that  Simba and Nala (Evan Nolte, I guess?) had their own little cub named London Perrantes this whole time. Go ahead and spread that grapefruit juice on London’s head and sprinkle a little sand on top, Rafiki. The elephants, giraffes, and zebras are ready to meet their new king.4

3. Duke

jones-tyus-dukeChuck Liddy/Raleigh News & Observer/TNS via Getty Images

Duke is going to destroy your bracket this season. If you’re someone who watched Duke close the Virginia game on a 20-7 run or hang that 8,938-6 run on Notre Dame on Saturday, then you’re probably convinced Duke is at least the second-best team in America. Nobody — not even Kentucky  has been jaw-dropping impressive as many times as Duke has been this season. People who were won over by these performances might as well put the Blue Devils in the Final Four right now.

Then again, if you watched Duke struggle to beat 11-13 Georgia Tech, or if you watched Duke barely escape 13-12 Florida State on Monday night, then you might wonder if the Blue Devils will even survive the NCAA tournament’s first weekend. No matter what you think will happen to Duke in March, the Blue Devils have played in a way to suggest that the exact opposite will happen. No team in college basketball has such an enormous chasm between best-case and worst-case scenarios as Duke, which is why no team is such a sure bet to wreck people’s brackets come March. Who would’ve ever thought that a young team that shoots a ton of 3s, isn’t consistently great defensively, plays in the best conference in America, and is the one team in college basketball that everyone wants to destroy would be so up-and-down?

2. Wisconsin

Six thoughts on Wisconsin:

1. Sam Dekker is playing the best basketball of his career. If you’re a Wisconsin fan who has a love-hate relationship with Dekker and your Dekk-ometer isn’t on full-blown “LOVE!!!” right now, something is seriously wrong.

2. As of today, Frank Kaminsky is my national player of the year and it’s not close.

3. Bronson Koenig isn’t going to be good  he’s already damn good. There’s so much to love about Koenig’s game, but I can’t get over his confidence. The dude is a sophomore for Bo Ryan and throws behind-the-back passes, crosses up defenders in isolation, and doesn’t hesitate to pull the trigger with a hand in his face.

4. That said, there is no Koenig vs. Traevon Jackson debate. As long as he’s healthy, eligible, and isn’t dribbling off his foot every time down the court, Jackson is Wisconsin’s starting point guard.

5. It was brought to my attention recently that some Wisconsin fans are disappointed with how Duje Dukan and Vitto Brown are playing. I get why, especially in Dukan’s case, since he’s a senior who can stretch the floor but has been in a shooting slump the last few weeks. But this strikes me as Buzzcuts fans just looking for a reason to complain. It’s not like either of those guys is fouling a bunch, turning the ball over, or jacking up 10 shots per game. Brown’s job is to eat minutes so Kaminsky and Nigel Hayes can rest, and he has done that perfectly. Dukan’s role is a little more important and maybe he’s been a mild letdown, but he hasn’t been a failure.

6. Get ready to help me push the “Wisconsin deserves an NCAA tournament 1-seed” bandwagon, Buzzcuts fans. I’m not ready to do it yet, but if Wisconsin runs the regular-season table from here, it’s on.

1. Kentucky

booker-devin-towns-karl-anthony-kentuckyJoe Robbins/Getty Images

Watching Kentucky play this week was like watching someone juggle 20 torches. And even though the Wildcats were so sloppy that they basically stuffed lit torches down their pants, Kentucky somehow avoided going up in flames. After two more close calls, every non-Kentucky fan in America has the same reaction.

I’ve already criticized Arizona and Gonzaga for playing down to the level of their competition too often. But unlike Arizona, Kentucky keeps winning, and unlike Gonzaga, Kentucky is getting close calls from talented teams. This is why I think the near losses make Kentucky’s undefeated record even more impressive.

Sure, Kentucky’s defense hasn’t been great the past two games, but think about what it was up against. We always hear about how teams like Duke, North Carolina, and Kansas get every team’s best shot whenever they take the court. Well, Kentucky has to deal with that same high-profile pressure, only it’s amplified by the Wildcats’ unblemished record and the hype that has surrounded them since October. So while the effort teams bring against Duke may be a 10 out of 10, Kentucky has to deal with opponents bringing an 84-out-of-10 effort. Florida and LSU are two talent-laden teams whose disappointing seasons could’ve been turned around by beating Kentucky. Mix the talent and desperation of the Gators and Tigers with raucous home crowds, the players’ nothing-to-lose attitudes and excitement over a chance to beat one of the best teams ever, and the pressure on Kentucky to stay undefeated, and suddenly it’s not so shocking that Florida and LSU gave the Cats all they could handle.

One last thing: I thought Karl-Anthony Towns was underwhelming in November and December. Part of the problem was that he was a freshman on a loaded team who only played half of each game, so it was probably hard for Towns to figure out where he fit in. Even with those caveats, though, I thought he should have done more to make his presence felt on the court. But over the last six weeks, Towns has blossomed into a force on the low block and a consistent back-to-the-basket scoring threat, which is something I didn’t think Kentucky had. I know the platoon system is barely still a thing, but if I were John Calipari, now would seem like a good time to take it behind the barn and put it out of its misery. Towns should play at least 30 minutes per game.5

The Dunk of the Week

I watch so much basketball that it takes something insane to make me jump off my couch and say “holy shit” as I pace around my living room. The last time it happened was when Paul George dunked on Birdman in the 2013 NBA playoffs. Well, that was the last time, until Willie Cauley-Stein’s dunk against Florida on Saturday became the new last time.

Time slowed down when I watched that dunk unfold live. In the half-second between when Cauley-Stein caught the ball and when he flushed it, I remember thinking, There’s no way he makes this, but it would be insane if he did. I was certain the play would end up with those of Vince Carter, Greg Oden, and Victor Oladipo in the what-if section of the dunking hall of fame, which is why I was so stunned to see it go down. If I could sum up the emotion I felt with one image, it would probably be this.

cauley-stein-dunk-react

The Dick’s Degrees of Separation answer is C. See you next week.

Filed Under: College Basketball, Titus’s Top 12 NCAA Power Rankings, Big 12 Basketball, Utah Utes, Arizona Wildcats, North Carolina Tar Heels, Kansas Jayhawks, Louisville Cardinals, Dick Vitale, Gonzaga Bulldogs, Villanova Wildcats, Virginia Cavaliers, Duke Blue Devils, Wisconsin Badgers, Kentucky Wildcats

Mark Titus is the founder and author of the blog Club Trillion. His book, Don’t Put Me In, Coach, chronicles his career as a walk-on benchwarmer for the Ohio State basketball team and is on sale now.

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